By this point in the 21st century, it's shocking to hear about a musician who doesn't extol marijuana's virtues. Music-making and weed go together like sex and lube. Sure, you can make it without the extra help, but why deprive yourself if it works for you? Players from many genres love to partake of the sacred herb, so The Stranger talked to four artists from different realms to find out how and why weed emboldens them on their quests to generate great sounds.
SassyBlack (aka Catherine Harris-White) is a producer/vocalist who used to rap, sing, and make beats for THEESatisfaction, one of Seattle's most interesting hip-hop groups. On her own, she's moved more into introspective R&B while maintaining a lyrical approach that's witty and emotive.
She says she typically vapes one of two sativa blends while creating: Dutch 47 and Ancient Mahogany Gold, a blend on which she collaborated for her new record (also called Ancient Mahogany Gold) with Heylo Cannabis. "I also smoke flower," Harris-White says, "and some of my favorite strains for that are Powderhound from Lazy Bee Gardens and Lodi Dodi from Soulshine Cannabis."
Harris-White says, "Cannabis complements my creativity rather than enhances it. I am already creative by nature, and weed helps me focus on those traits as well as open up to see past my inner critic (who is pretty intense) and write/sing/produce more freely." She also will use a good CBD or CBG to help calm her anxieties, while consuming a sativa to sharpen her focus to aid in accomplishing tasks. Weed is "a sweet gift from the universe," she concludes.
Ben Rew is cofounder of GreedTone Amplification, a former frontman of hard rockers Camarosmith, and founder of the '00s indie label Dead Teenager Records. He's also written music for TV shows and commercials, and worked in music supervision in LA from 2006 to 2014. He prefers to microdose on weed until he enters a "weirder than usual, looser, Brian Eno/Velvet Underground" headspace. "I use whatever looks and smells the most like some awesome fruit," Rew says.
He says weed helps him become "more open to exploring the space around the notes instead of focusing on the next note. When you write for TV and film or for other musicians, you write what they want. For example, 'Write something like Glitch Mob and Run the Jewels' or a 'Death Cab for Cutie and Radiohead vibe.' You put your spin on it, but it's in their structure, their idea. So you do that for 10 years, and you get lost as far as relying on your own ideas and instincts. [Pot] stops the internal judgment long enough for something new to come through and gestate long enough that it can become something. I like to free-form write with it—feel instead of think." Beyond its creative applications, weed helped Rew to deal with the anxiety of a serious health problem.
Chloe Harris (aka Raica) has reigned as one of the city's most innovative electronic-music producers and DJs for the last two decades. She also co-runs with her husband one of the world's most adventurous labels, Further Records. And she's a mother of three. Obviously, she has her hands full, so she vapes now because it's "not messy and takes very little effort. I really love the Cream cartridges; they're quite strong. Leafwerx Ultra Refined are my backups." Harris also enjoys a bong with ice and Olala lime drinks.
When working on Raica tracks, Harris—who's smoked weed every day since 1997 except during her pregnancies—says the drug facilitates her ability to "go into the music. It's cloudy and thick and heavy, and you feel it all around; it makes music seem more encompassing. Also, the mistakes I make are easier for me to remember than if I have a gin and tonic. It makes me focus on details more and helps with the color of the sounds. I can spend hours shaping and manipulating a sound."
She adds, "I have always used it for any creative process, from art to cleaning the house to coping with the reality of a fucked-up man's world, where I was never sure I could fit. I didn't know who to ask about how to DJ, and so weed helped me meet a couple other people who DJed and raved, and that's how that all worked for me."
Weed actually persuaded Harris to quit consuming other drugs. And she touts its relaxing properties while also hailing its ability to enhance the listening experience. "Pretty much any of the music I've made has been on weed, other than a couple songs while being in the hospital with [son] Cam. It's the best thing on the planet."
Shawn Holley, guitarist/vocalist for the noisy, melodious rock band Mythological Horses, confesses that he doesn't get out of bed until he's smoked at least an eighth of weed. Local music legend Tad Doyle bestowed upon Holley the nickname "Wax Lung." Out of all the musicians interviewed here, Holley is the heaviest user: He chain-smokes joints.
While on tour eight years ago, Holley suffered brain seizures that hospitalized him. He had a mild form of epilepsy as a child, exacerbated by an accidental acid overdose. Now he takes epilepsy medication and CBD to deal with his mind, and pot to deal with his perception of reality.
Weed also helped him kick other drugs. "I have 17 years clean from heroin, and if I didn't hate it and junkies so much, I would probably still do it just to calm my mind down. That's why I consume so much weed; I need the sedation without picking sores off my face and shitting myself. But without weed, I'm shaking, sweating, gripped by anxiety, and a total asshole. I smoke and put my headphones on and listen to Dinosaur Jr., but weed is my way to keep my mind from reaching total cartoonland daily."