Monday, January 31, 2011

Smoke, Grind, Sleep: Why Blastbeats and Bongs Are Best Buds

…what, man?
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.


Ryan Page said...

Great article. I sometimes forget about the drug/music paradigm as I gave up on most of it a while ago. Honestly I think the weirder aspects of... uhhh stonergrind could be coming from other directions as well. I've often noticed that the other guys in my band are less rigid assholes than me because of their weed smoking, but I don't think they necessarily propose weird ideas because of it.

Personally it's when i gave up drugs (with the exception of alcohol which I barely have time for...) when my music started getting really fucking weird... I think there's a certain element of the ultra-self consciousness of being high that sometimes leads to self censoreship (in sort of a negative way) or weird decisions musically.

That said, I tend to be much more tolerant of music in general if i am somewhat intoxicated...

Alex Layzell said...

Fantastic article, almost documentary style. And I think you have highlighted the most key point, that it all is about moderation, and knowing whats good and whats bad for you.
I personally don't like drugs, but I can see their appeal, I like to be in a state of control of myself all the time, and although I drink and smoke all the time, and in vastly excessive amounts, I never purposely tip myself over to loose that control, and perhaps that's why when people take weed it gives them an edge to do something they normally wouldn't do, and hence sometimes something good can come out of it.
I am all for people taking marijuana, although I think that some people take it too far, like Cephalic Carnage, they can't function normally without it, not to mention a friend of my friends was beaten up by Cephalic Carnage and their roadies to get his weed.

DesiccatedVeins said...

I really liked this piece, and I think what made it stand out was the objectivity. The fact that you came at it from the "I don't care about smoking, but these dudes really do" angle instead of "I like weed and grind, they like weed and grind, I'm going to write about it" (like many of us would have) made it an investigative piece instead of just a profile of weedgrind bands, and made me genuinely interested as a reader to get to the end of the piece. It also made me wish I still had a weed connex around here, especially because all of my classes are cancelled due to the blizzard.

Note to self: NEVER go to a Cephalic Carnage show (or more importantly, never bring good weed to a Ceph Carnage show.) I actively dislike Pantera, but at least you knew Dimebag was trying to smoke you up, not beat you up.

DesiccatedVeins said...

Also, weed grind bands are largely about the sonics (not The Sonics) rather than the speed of the music. Guitar tone becomes really important, because like Pop Redux's drummer said, certain nasty tones and distortion just sound extra awesome. That's ALSO the reason that the mix for BT's Sounds of the Animal Kingdom was fucking terrible, though; I could never imagine mixing a record high.

Bill Willingham IV, Esquire said...

@ DV: Haha, they're not going to kill you for your weed. That song is supposedly a rant some drifter got on about cops busting into his house without a warrant and how he killed them with 1) a sword and 2) some kind of cord (I think).

Very interesting article.

Personal, erm, research, back in the day revealed that different strains produced different results. Some stuff brought on lethargy, and some stuff made one want to lift weights and listen to metal.

orfee said...

yes Andrew, you've been thinking about this all wrong, if there's seeds in your dimebag, seek out someone else.


DesiccatedVeins said...

Haha, I never actually took "Kill for Weed" seriously, but Alex Layzell's comment made me remember that I'm a small dude, and most anyone could beat me up and take my weed/other shit if they felt inclined to do so. I'm also not a big Cephalic Carnage fan anyway, so it was more or less hypothetical.

Bill Willingham IV, Esquire said...

Oh, I just read the last part of Alex's comment. Oops, not sure how I missed that. *sober, honest* Obviously that's super-lame if it's true.

I quite like their music, though. Not much to do with grind anymore, but it's fun.

Bill Willingham IV, Esquire said...

@ Andrew: You have indirectly caused me to check out Disassociate, who sound pretty cool.

Streak intact, even unintentionally.

PatrickDM said...

@bill esquire

was just checking out cellgrafts blog and saw that you commented about going to school in tuscaloosa. did you go to univ of bama?

Andrew Childers said...

duuuuuuuuuuude. disassociate were fricken legendary. a band that never got the level of success they deserved. shit, i bet there's not a band that passed through nyc in the 90s that didn't know ralphy boy. from all i've heard, he's an amazingly supportive figure.

also, thank you all for your kind words. this is the story i felt probably the least comfortable with given my lack of first hand knowledge.

Bill Willingham IV, Esquire said...

@ Wet: Yep. Undergrad and law school, actually. Was there for 7 years. Roll Tide, muhfuckazzzz.

I think I kept the Downtown Pub in business, haha. You have any connection to T-town?

@ Andrew: I found a copy of the last Disassociate album (actually, lots of copies) on Amazon going for fucking crazy low prices. Like, one cent. I've seen that happen before, what on earth causes it?

Unknown said...

I have a hard time believing an internet rumor about violence from people I've hung out with and were awesome.

Andrew Childers said...

bill, this whole story actually started with disassociate. lo res viscera posted one of their albums and i set off to see if i could track down any members of the band. i failed. but if i had interviewed them, their fondness for the ganj would definitely have come up. but tis not to be. so here's the next best thing.

Zmaj said...

Hah, speed + weed! Awesome work, man. :) Kudos for making the topic so fascinating, considering that it ought to have a fairly hard time being(/becoming) interesting to anyone other than the stoner(s) in question.

Alex Layzell said...

Fair enough, I don't know how true the statement is or the circumstances surrounding it, but I do trust my friends. I shall see if I can get a name place and time on it.

@Everyone Else
The people have spoken, time to get some Disassociate.

PatrickDM said...


I went to mississippi state right down the road. I knew a few people @ bama and my mothers side of the family are all alabama fans, except one uncle who went to auburn.

Bill Willingham IV, Esquire said...

@ Wet: I had a few friends from highschool that went to Miss State, and I used to hang out in Meridian when my brother was doing a co-op with Mississippi Power(violence). Small world.

My girlfriend is a staunch Auburn fan, haha. I always pull for them outside of the Iron Bowl, though. SEC!

On topic: I found Mr. Green's comment about riffs/distortion and concrete to be particularly on-point. I know what he's talking about.

Sometimes there's nothing better than being spaced and feeling like you've just been engulfed in riffs and noise.

My only experiences actually playing in a state were just noodling around on a guitar with my friends in college. I remember I had plugged my headphones into the amp once. Sometime later I was thinking, "What the fuck am I listening to? This just sounds like one long, shitty solo. There's not even a drummer! This guy is awful." Oops.

Sigh. School daze.

PatrickDM said...

@ bill
I grew up about 40 min away from meridian in scooba. SEC! indeed.

@ everyone

back when I didnt have a job that drug tested, i found smoking a little help me really concentrate while playing guitar. Def, helped the creative juices flow. Sometimes smoking caused me to think too much about music and i'd forget everything else around me.

Unknown said...

I think I came off strong, sorry man. I just meant things like that tend to get extrapolated.

Chargerrr said...

Wicked article bro. Loved reading this. Strikes so truly.

Elizabeth J. Neal said...

The kindergarten kids like to smoke them after school," says Yusuf.Yusuf is a street vendor in central Jakarta selling homemade dry ice pipes for Rp 1,000 ($0.10). He also sells ice creams from a portable cooler. should i get a glass or acrylic bong