Reef ‘N Roll: cannabis music

Welcome to our inaugural cannabis culture music section! How fitting this union of marijuana lifestyle and music. No doubt a connection made way back, long before the Beatles and reefer madness jazz clubs.
Remember back when you were floating in the neither here nor there, anxiously awaiting the viscous trip down and squeeze out the birth canal? Remember that pesky McKenna-like elfin voice, babbling pre-natal baby gibberish, reminding you not to forget long ago, when you were an Old Wrinkled One puffing large from the stone chillum, watching the drummers and dancers playing with each others’ rhythms around a blazing fire. Remember that?

Well, maybe not. But today it’s more like lounging at home with friends, listening to Sublime’s “40 Ounces to Freedom”, passing around the smoke-filled bong, relaxing before tomorrow’s Grouse Mountain, back road, fat-tire shred.

The point is that both music and marijuana are sacred, and their histories are far beyond antiquity. They are and were integral parts in the ways of life of many cultures throughout the world. Marijuana smokers and musicians create their own communities, and more often than not the two overlap and enhance one another.

Marijuana and music help maintain harmony with both the visible and invisible of our communities, in many situations they ensure our communities’ respective survival. Could you imagine a world without healing herbs or your favourite music, or both? Freaky stuff!

Last winter Montreal’s Grimskunk whirled into Nelson, and I was fortunate enough to witness the transformation of “Kick me down some hugs” into “watch me mosh like my dreads are on fire.”

Grim Skunk	Photo Denis BabinGrim Skunk Photo Denis Babin(I interviewed Grimskunk bassist Boris in mid-February, 1998)

CC: How long have you played bass?

Boris: The better part of my life, perhaps 15 years. We’re all founding members in the band. We’ve been together for about 9 years.

What are Grimskunk up to right now?

Right now we’re gearing up to go into the studio in March to produce our next album, (at press time entitled Fieldtrip.)

How has your sound evolved from the late eighties to now approaching the millennium?

Well, if you want to put it into a temporal context like that, the earlier stuff was a bit more silly, we didn’t take ourselves too seriously. We’ve grown quite a bit since then.

We’ve had outside influences of many other bands. Touring, in Europe in particular, has added to the baggage of sound we draw from. Back in the early days we were in the hardcore scene, and we still are. It’s just that we’ve added to it, you know, more electronic music. Why not use it? It’s been our formula from the beginning to be open to other styles.

So that’s something new you’ve been working with, electronica and electronic gear?

We like cool sounds, and unfortunately we can’t hire a sitar player so we gotta sample it.

Tell me about your cannabis culture philosophy and how it has evolved

It seems it’s become trendy for bands to be pro-pot. Yet it’s not like we’re riding that trend, we’re actually driving the bandwagon. We were doing it back in 1988, it was part of our culture, part of our friends. You know, 18 and hanging out and smoking spliffs and then jamming.

Now I’m more into a political initiative called Bloc Pot, a political party which is looking to amend the application of marijuana laws in Quebec. It’s a personal thing.
I’ve been arrested, paid thousands of dollars in fines, I can’t go to the states, I have nothing to lose in going public.

More people have to do this, and a lot of people are afraid to. We are definitely known in Quebec, for how do you say, announcing the benefits of marijuana.
Perhaps we could segue into the Indica label.

A year ago, our manager, Simon, who recently passed away, helped us get the ball rolling. We’ve now put out an international compilation called “Inhale”, which is lots of bands we’ve come across through touring, from Canada, USA, Norway, France, Argentina and Australia. It’s basically people we’ve found working the same way as us.

We’re an independent label and we’re tired of getting dicked around by corporate fucks. We have a good relationship with our distributor and we’re taking bands that we like, we’re signing stuff we think is great. We have this band, “Race” from Hamilton, they’re still a young band but they are really heavy. We all fall flat on our ass when we hear it.

I have yet to see them.

They are 200 times more impressive live. They have a stage presence and a way to get the crowd going.

How many fatties do you guys smoke on the road?

Well, two of the guys don’t really smoke, and I smoke less than I used to. I’ve learned I can get just as high with a lot less. On the road we go through some droughts, it can be pretty rough in some areas.

BC’s pretty nice to us. I myself enjoy hash quite a bit becasue in Montreal the joints of my youth were all hash.

Before I sign off, how are you with the industrial hemp issue? How does that fit in with marijuana for you?

Personally, and as well as our political platform (Bloc Pot) is concerned, the industrial hemp movement is great. I know all the benefits are wonderful for the planet. I’m 100% behind that, but I believe in attacking it at the heart of the problem, which is the prohibition of smoking marijuana. Once that’s solved you’ll be able to grow whatever hemp you want, wherever, without the ridiculous restrictions that are associated with marijuana use.

So I find it’s a partial victory, yet it’s also a smoke-screen by the government. “Oh we’re addressing the pot issue because we’re doing the thing with hemp and blah, blah, blah.” I’m like, fuck you! You’re giving me a little piece of candy and hoping I shut up but that’s not going to happen.

Marijuana prohibition is the problem. The hemp restriction will fall when the marijuana issue is addressed properly. There are more people smoking joints right now in Canada than there are people buying or wearing hemp clothes.

It seems at least that the decriminalization/legalization of medicinal marijuana is slowly moving ahead.

I think there’s a lot of wind in the sails right now. The climate is ideal, and I believe medical marijuana is the big issue. Medical marijuana is going to bring the recreational issue to light, and we’re going to get somewhere reasonable with this. I feel it’s coming.

I do as well.

(laughing) On the dawn of the new millennium!

Yeah man!

The marijuana millennium is coming!


Just before deadline in late April, I spoke with Grimskunk vocalist/guitarist Franz, for a brief update on their new album “Fieldtrip”. Franz assured me that the Grimskunkers assured me they had created something new for them, a lot more out there.

Grimskunk will be touring Quebec, Ontario and the Maritimes until June, and will come out West this Summer or early Fall.

CC CD Reviews

Grim Skunk Photo Denis BabinArtist: Groovy Religion
Title: Canadabis
Label: Handsome Boy

This cover threw me. I was expecting some happy power pop with heard-it-before odes to marijuana. Instead I was pleasantly surprised to hear Lou Reed singing with the Stooges in a smoky, people-swinging-from-the-rafters, fisherman’s pub in Halifax.

Singer William New sounds like he’s been around some, and sings his stories of marijuana and Canadian legends in a haunting, poetic rawness. Nice for one of those introspective Sundays.

Grim Skunk Photo Denis BabinArtist: Race
Title: Race
Label: Indica

It must be a daunting task mixing hip-hop, ska, dancehall and metal, but these Hamilton fellas seem to pull it off quite convincingly, especially in “Put up your dukes”, the heaviest dancehall inspired tune I’ve ever heard. Ronee’s rhyming is refreshingly old-school, lyrically conscious and deep throughout the disc.

The stand-out on this debut release is, hands down, the catchy ska insta-classic “It Was You.” I guarantee you’ll be singing along before the song is over.

The cover of the disc definitely hints at ganja content. Running from and dissing cops in “Just a Bud” or simply hanging “wit my bag of the chronic and my thrasher magazine, that’s right I ollie to the ball court and juggle a little green,” in “Greenday”.

Looking forward to album number two, hopefully with a little less metal guitar noodling.

Grim Skunk Photo Denis BabinArtist: (compilation)
Title: Under the Influence
Label: Mo Funk

Smoke a phat one and check the flow of Mo Funk’s third compilation from 1997. Still fresh enough to warrant a 1998 review, Nordic Trax is a seamless journey of ambient hip-hop, drum ?n bass, break beat and deep house from Vangroover, Washington DC, Toronto, San Francisco, Seattle and the UK.

Stops of interest include DJ Waxes’ tight scratching in Jeet K da Tripmaster’s “Transcend”, eerily humorous vocal samples on “Descender” from Tri-State Recordings and some smooth as butta divaness on “Inside” from Coco Love Alcorn and Kinnie Starr. I eagerly await some fresher tracks in the urban electronagroove domain from the boys at Mo Funk.

Future issues will see us exploring and receiving fresh tunes and old favourites, festivals, gigs, interviews and other such music-world happenings that pertain somehow to the culture of hemp and marijuana.