Admittedly, I am probably the worst person to even be asking this question because I know where Dave is, I don’t collect indigenous art and I’ve never seen my fingers go fing. What I’m trying to say is marijuana just holds no appeal for me, but I get its utility, especially if you’re jamming out super slooooooooow doooooooooooooom sooooooooooooooooongs. But I’ve always been fascinated by grind bands who have associated themselves with copious weed consumption. Given the drug’s effects include loss of focus and lack of coordination, it just always seemed an odd fit for a musical genre that demands speed and precision.
But maybe, given my limited experience, I’ve just been thinking about this all wrong.
“You have to relax to play. If I have too much coffee sometimes I can’t play,” drug crazed grindfreak Rich Hoak of Brutal Truth/Total Fucking Destruction said (half joking about the coffee thing).
Hash Smoking Grind Freaks
For all my misconceptions, grinders whose bands lay the weed imagery on thick as high grade resin, say marijuana definitely has a place in the creative process and when performing – especially drummers.“Drinking alcohol severely affects my drumming ability and makes my playing turn to absolute slop, even after only one beer or so,” Justin “Dr. X” Green, drummer for Population Reduction, said. “Ben [aka guitarist Peter Svoboda] and I have found that before a show, it's best if he doesn't smoke and I don't drink. If I drink, I can't physically play the songs. If Ben smokes, he can play but can't remember how the songs go. Weed doesn't affect my ability to play fast, but it increases the chances of forgetting where in the song I am if I get too ‘into’ a certain part or section. So I've found that moderation is really pretty key in using weed for its beneficial effects. If I get too stoned, then I'll play like shit, but light or moderate use can really help focus me and actually gives me energy before we play.”
Hoak and Green both said just the right application of THC allows them to relax, hitting what Hoak describes as a zen zone where muscle memory takes hold and he’s not so much consciously thinking about what he’s playing as flowing with the music.
“Things go by really fast,” Hoak said. To the point where he has to keep a set list at hand to mark his place in the music on occasion.
Beyond limbering up his performances, Green also said a good smoke helps him appreciate the music more, heightening his sensory perceptions.
“Another thing that weed has over alcohol for me is that it really makes the ‘texture’ and layers of music more apparent,” he said. “Certain riffs or distortion can sound or ‘feel’ like slabs of concrete, complete with microscopic grit. Maybe I just have a slight form of synesthesia, I don't know.”
Kill For Weed
Heeding Denis Leary’s admonition that “marijuana leads to fucking carpentry,” I can’t help but notice that plenty of bands that associate heavily with weed – Brutal Truth, Exit-13, Total Fucking Destruction and Cephalic Carnage – tend to take a more expansive view of grind’s potential. Not content with 90 seconds of blastbeaten fury, they sprinkle in free jazz and world music like seeds in a dime bag.
“Depends on what strain of weed you smoke! If you smoke some cherry lemon skunk you will be dooming out like Catheter, if you smoke pineapple or cheese you might be playing in a free form jazzy mood, if you smoke some piece maker you'll be grinding like Noiseear, smoke the new strain in Colorado called Cephalic’s Carnage you will not only be a little country you will also be rock n roll,” Cephalic Carnage’s Lenzig Leal said.
And Leal should know his shit. This is a band who had a dancing marijuana bush join them on stage at Maryland Death Fest for a rendition of “Kill for Weed.”“Brutal Truth party but we don’t have the connections to drug lords with truckloads of drugs like [the guys in Cephalic Carnage] do,” Hoak said.
As to the musical vistas sparked by blazing up, Hoak essentially invokes the scientific adage that correlation does not equal causation. He said the kind of people who are attracted to the weed lifestyle may already be self-selecting for more experimental strains of music.
“All the same sort of people have this same sort of attitude,” he said. “These are the people most attracted to smoking up and these would be the same people who would be more open to counterintuitive to the norm kind of music.”
Even for those who prefer their grindcore to adhere to more traditional conventions, marijuana can open up the doors of perception.
“Outside of playing live, I pretty much always write new material after smoking,” Green said. “Usually when I first smoke, within a couple minutes, grind riffs just start playing in my head, complete with drums and everything and there's all these new ideas to work with. For me though, the ‘instant creativity’ effect only works if it's the first smoke of the day, and only if I don't over-do it. If I've been smoking weed all day with friends and I come back to the house to write music, another bowl is just going to make me tired. So for me, taking one nice big hit in the afternoon gives me a bunch of energy and a lot of musical ideas (if I can remember them) but the more you smoke, the more tired and burnt-out you get throughout the day.”
Don’t Spare the Green Love
And maybe I’m just overthinking this because at the end of the day, a few bong rips can just be a bit of social lubricant.
“My drug use … had just been social use, what with it being such a good time getting together with the rest of the band and doing vocals, on those rare occasions when I'm in the same room with everybody,” Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s Richard Johnson said.
Hoak said weed became the lingua franca for Brutal Truth and New York institution Disassociate (who had a logo called Splifford ferfuckssake) back when the young bands split a rehearsal space.
“We would cross paths with them and smoke out as one band came in and one band came out,” he said.
“It varies from band to band, some cats like to smoke a few bowls before they play so they can all be on the same mental wavelength, some folk for extreme concentration and relaxation, some to block out the crowd, others for writers block or inspiration, but for Cephalic it’s just to be recreationally stoned, just for the fun of it,” Leal said.