Justin Kreutzmann on Music, Film, and a Lifestyle Inspired by The Grateful Dead

Halloween has recently passed and director Justin Kreutzmann has just trick-or-treated with his children. It’s the kind of father/kid bonding time that most children long for and enjoy. In the case of Kreutzmann, he’s simply passing along the gift of showing up as a father to his kids in the way his father provided fatherhood to him: By having fun.

When we connect by phone, the Long Strange Trip producer is ecstatic at the release of his latest film, Let There Be Drums!, which explores the history of drummers in famous bands and the drummers’ relationships with their children.

Over the course of our conversation, Kreutzmann dives into the origins of his filmmaking aspirations, the influence of the Grateful Dead lifestyle on pursuing his passions, the art of storytelling, and his firsthand look at the normalization of cannabis culture within the 70s Deadhead psychedelic movement.

High Times: Coming from such a prolific music family, how did filmmaking become your path?

Justin Kreutzmann: It became my path the minute I watched Apocalypse Now.

If you’ve seen the film, Mickey Hart tells the story of Francis Ford Coppola coming to Winterland and being blown away by the drum section. Coppola was in the middle of putting together Apocalypse Now and figuring out the score, and as anyone who has seen the film knows, it was a massive undertaking. So Coppola was really inspired by the drums and asked Mickey if he and dad [BIll Kreutzmann] could contribute to the percussion. Of course I was seven at the time and didn’t know any of this—I just knew we were going to Mickey Hart’s studio in Nevada and we were going to watch this movie.

We sit down and it’s the Grateful Dead and all of the Coppola people and they put on the six hour version of Apocalypse Now. Francis sits next to the TV and describes the entire movie in terms of rhythm and what percussion sounds the jungle was making at certain points and I just loved it. With the Grateful Dead being so free and easy, you could watch something like Apocalypse Now without parental supervision. It was an amazing experience and even though ninety-percent of it probably went over my head, I looked at Francis like, “I don’t know what he’s doing, but I want to do that. That looks like an amazing job.”

So dad bought me a Super 8 camera and literally one of the first things I shot were the Grateful Dead New Year’s Eve shows in 1977. That’s how I started because you shoot what’s around. You shoot family home movies. I wish I’d shot more, but I was a shy little kid running around with a camera and the Grateful Dead scene—I know this will be a shock to everybody—wasn’t really one where it was like, “Yeah, come backstage and shine a light on all the stuff we’re doing.” You had to be stealthy, pick your moments, and not get yelled at. From seven or eight years old, [filmmaking] is what I wanted to do and I never had a fallback option.

Being around the Grateful Dead, it was very much encouraged to follow what inspired you and to do a job you love because otherwise life would be too hard. Filmmaking for me checked all of those boxes.

Still from Let There Be Drums!

High Times: Having your father do what fueled him—how impactful was that on you in terms of staying the course and pursuing filmmaking?

Justin Kreutzmann: It was the most impactful thing ever. I saw what my dad did for work and [what he had to do] to play and make it great. I saw the effort he had to put in. I also saw the fun he got out of it and the rewards—certainly financially—but more the ten-thousand people dancing and cheering [for their music]. I also got to see his part in the band and understand the team effort.

I was in the studio when the band first started rehearsing “Terrapin Station.” For anybody who knows that song, there are a lot of parts, and so it was a long day sitting there watching the Grateful Dead figure it out. It was like Apocalypse Now—it was big, it was epic and I saw it getting more cohesive. The reward six months later was watching the band play these parts on stage and people freaking out. Being able to follow the whole process was really important.

With filmmaking, there’s the writing of it, the shooting of it, editing it, showing it to a theater—I equated it to doing what my dad did in the Grateful Dead and used the examples from him but just applied it to the film world. It’s all about the rhythm of the cuts. You can be deaf and watch a film and still love it because of the rhythm, the pace and the way the beats are landing.

A hard cut in a film is like the “one” beat. But also within that cut, there might be something that is landing on the “three.” You get into these rhythms that are not so pronounced but that can be very subtle and the audience can be moving along with it even if you’re not telegraphing your punches. We all know when you’re watching something and you turn the sound off and you’re just kind of bobbing your head because you can feel what it probably sounds like.

High Times: So whether it’s a film audience or a music audience, it’s more about connecting with them on an undercurrent that transcends sound.

Justin Kreutzmann: You’re telling a story. You never lose sight of the story you’re trying to tell but you’re telling that story visually, through sound, through music and the rhythm of the cuts. A lot of the really fun stuff is when somebody sees something in there that you didn’t even intend but they get something else out of it.

High Times: Along your career journey of understanding music and film, was there ever an experience or collection of moments that validated your initial impulse at pursuing your own filmmaking hero’s journey?

Justin Kreutzmann: There were two points. The first was in 1981 when we did a parody of the Rolling Stones tour produced by Bill Graham where all the guys in my sixth grade class dressed as The Rolling Stones under the premise that we were staying over at Bill Graham’s house. My teacher set up a screening for everybody in the grade—and while it was probably a terrible film—just watching it, having the kids cheer, and having that moment where your peer group recognized what you did creatively was so inspiring and gave you that first hit of validation.

The second one was realizing, “Hey, I might be able to feed my family,” and that filmmaking was something I could do as a career while not having to go through drastic measures to try and put food on the table. When you’re getting going, you hope it’s going to work, you have big dreams, but you have that fear of, “What if I’m no good at what I love to do?” I’m not sure how good I am, but at least I’m able to feed and clothe my children. My wife can take care of herself but we’re all getting by and we’re all having a very nice life.

Still from Let There Be Drums!

High Times: There’s something really beautiful about picking a path that speaks to you—like with the members of Grateful Dead—and leaning into it. When you do that, everything else sort of falls into place.

Justin Kreutzmann: One-hundred percent. You also have to realize, growing up in the particular music scene that I did—the Grateful Dead did it their own way. Those guys were the same way back at home as the way they hit the stage. While they would have loved hits, they didn’t go out of their way to get them. They played the music they wanted to play, they had a million-to-one shot, they got really lucky and they were talented enough to make a great career. But it could have gone the other way. This was not particularly commercial radio music, and just watching people do exactly what they wanted to do musically and believe in themselves—even if only ten other people got it—that was great. But ten-million people got it, so that was better.

Growing up, the Grateful Dead didn’t have that private plane, cover of People Magazine, big celebrity thing. They were successful in doing their own thing, but it wasn’t like they couldn’t go out to dinner to a restaurant—it didn’t really impact their personal life, and in that way you kind of had the best of both worlds.

You watch the Rolling Stones and you think there’s no way Mick Jagger could go down to a 7-11 and buy a Slurpee. Maybe he could, but the assumption is he wouldn’t be able to without getting recognized. I have a lot of friends with whom we always joke we’re in the “famous father club,” friends whose dads were in The Beatles or whose dad was Bob Dylan. If your dad is Bob Dylan, everybody knows your dad—which can be tough—but Jacob [Dylan] is literally one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet in your life. Same with Sean Lennon and all those guys who would seem to have carte blanche and not be part of our world are actually really nice guys. It’s really fascinating because I always look at their dads and to me, The Beatles aren’t human, they’re this other thing that happened in the world—in a good way. The Grateful Dead were a few down-to-earth guys and The Beatles were on this mythical plane making this music that everybody loves.

High Times: In terms of your documentary Let There Be Drums!, what creatively inspired you to go on this journey and why this film?

Justin Kreutzmann: It’s something I’d been thinking about in the back of my mind for some time, something that I thought I could do well. Because of my dad, I had grown up around a lot of drummers, knew a lot of drummers’ stories, knew a lot of them personally—and originally, it was a lighthearted thing. Everybody’s got a drummer joke. Just ask [Jerry] Garcia, just ask Pete Townsend. Everybody’s got a really bad drummer joke that doesn’t end well for the drummers. So I thought we’d do this comedy of the sort of stereotypical hotel-smashing animal from the Muppets type stories. But the minute we started doing the interviews, it just went somewhere else. I blame Taylor Hawkins for this because he was the first guy to say, “Okay, I don’t know if this is for the documentary, but how stable was your home life growing up?” He started asking me questions and so instead of the interviewer/interviewee, we’re trading stories.

I’d have my list of twenty questions and the answers were all great, but the minute it went off and got more personal or into areas they don’t get asked a thousand times, it got more interesting. So when I got in the editing room, the film really told me what kind of film it wanted to be. There’s a lot of really interesting drum stuff in it, but there’s more interesting emotional and family stuff, and the connection just happens to be that it’s families of drummers.

Most everybody has a father, most everybody has a family, and most everybody can relate to issues and family stuff. I just sort of showed it in the context of being a kid of a drummer, like through Jason Bonham and Mandy Moon. I mean come on, if your dad is Keith Moon, I want to hear what that’s like. That’s really unique. Mandy’s not a drummer and she was the first interview we did for the film. I think her interview along with Taylor’s really set the tone. She wasn’t going to tell me about her dad’s technique or how he played shuffle. The stuff that really spoke to me emotionally is what ended up in the film and became the focus.

Still from Let There Be Drums!

High Times: And drumming just happened to be the way in, but really it’s a much deeper narrative that you’re telling.

Justin Kreutzmann: I’m glad it worked out that way because if the pitch had been, “Hey, we’re going to do a film about our famous drummer dads,” that blows. Because it just sort of happened organically, it ended up being much better. Seeing the different pairings of dads who are here, dads who are no longer here and all that kind of stuff—that was all in the mix. You couldn’t just put that next to a funny hotel smashing story. There’s more to it than that. And also, everybody was being so freaking real with me—there was no way I couldn’t be real when it was me and my dad. We were as real as everyone else was, and that’s what I really love and respect about all of the people in this film.

High Times: Were there any commonalities across all of the interviews that you picked up on?

Justin Kreutzmann: The connective tissue between a lot of the things—and Jason Bonham says it really well: “When your dad’s in the band, you’re like whatever. It’s not like you’re in The Beatles.” He has this great line where he goes to see his dad sellout a stadium in Florida and he asks, “Who’s on the bill? There’s no way Led Zeppelin could do this.” It’s love and respect but just a total kid thing of “this is just something that your dad does,” but your dad just happens to be in Led Zeppelin, but you’re still not impressed because you see him all the time. So that was a very common theme that came up.

High Times: What role did cannabis play for you growing up? Were there any commonalities there?

Justin Kreutzmann: Obviously growing up in the 70s in the Grateful Dead world, cannabis was plentiful, loved, and respected. It wasn’t like all drugs bad, no drugs good. Cannabis, LSD—they weren’t considered drugs. Heroin, crack—that was the bad shit. Even alcohol. But cannabis was just like cigarettes. It’s what everybody did, it was around, and we knew a lot of people who grew it.

I myself was never a weed guy. It was too strong, it made me too freaked out, and so I missed that train. But I’d have to guess I was around enough that I probably had a ten year contact high just from being near the Grateful Dead.

I remember the Grateful Dead were playing Stanford and it was the second set. I was sitting on a road case by Jerry’s area and he walks out with the rest of the band and he’s got his roach in his hand and he just hands it to me. It’s bright daylight at Stanford, everybody could see me holding his joint like he was Indiana Jones at the ark. Part of me really wanted to take a hit but then I looked around and realized ten-thousand people could see me, so I quickly handed it to somebody else.

I’m a sober guy, so I play it pretty clean, but I don’t have a chip on my shoulder. I do love the smell wafting over because it reminds me of home and I wish I was one of those guys [who was able to do it]. I did some videos with the band Slightly Stoopid and they just looked like they were having so much fun. The guys would talk about how they would get edibles for their dads, which I thought was so cool. It works for them and it’s creative and it’s fun, but I’m a father and a husband now and I don’t want to “poke the beast” as they say. Mad props for people who can just have a good time and get a little stoney.

Follow @justinkreutzmann and check out https://greenwichentertainment.com/film/let-there-be-drums/ for access to his latest film Let There Be Drums! available now

The post Justin Kreutzmann on Music, Film, and a Lifestyle Inspired by The Grateful Dead appeared first on High Times.

TV de Culto, Psicología del ‘Yo’ y Animación Nerviosa: Hablamos con Jonathan Katz, Creador de la Serie Dr. Katz

Nota por Hernán Panessi publicada originalmente en El Planteo. Más artículos por El Planteo en High Times en Español.

Síguenos en Instagram (@El.Planteo) y Twitter (@ElPlanteo).

Sobre el andamiaje de la vida cotidiana, el 99% de los problemas que brotan desde nuestros pensamientos se expanden gracias a su carácter egocéntrico. Una configuración monstruosa del “yo”, digamos. Y eso lo sabe bien el Dr. Katz, Analista Profesional, un psicoterapeuta que invita a dejar de pensar tanto en uno mismo y a apuntarse en unas sesiones privadas algo “especiales”.

En tanto, la psicología y la mente humana pueden convertirse en material catódico para revolver en miserias, angustias y traumas que, en forma de animación, devienen en comedia. Pacientes neuróticos, frustrados, comediantes de mucha y poca monta: todos rotos, todos con egos peculiares, todos problemáticos por igual.

Contenido relacionado: Drogas, Hangout, Fiestas y Radiohead: La Historia de Robin, la Serie que Nunca Viste pero Deberías

“Creo que el programa era realmente sobre el Dr. Katz, Ben [su hijo] y Laura [su secretaria]. Los pacientes eran más bien una herramienta de marketing”, aclara Jonathan Katz, el auténtico Dr. Katz, creador de la mítica serie animada que brilló entre 1995 y 2002, en conversación exclusiva con El Planteo.

Más o menos de eso iba la retorcida, flashera y terriblemente cool serie de 6 temporadas que, por América Latina, se vio gracias al extinto canal Locomotion y que, por estos días, aún tiene sobre sí una estela peculiar.

Una comedia para gente ‘especial’

“No sabía que Dr. Katz había sido un programa de culto en Latinoamérica”, se sorprende Katz. “Mi comedia no es para todo el mundo”, escribió en la biografía que figura en su sitio web personal. Casi como un disclaimer de su propia existencia.

Sin embargo, amén de asumir un espacio underground dentro del ecosistema humorístico, Jonathan Katz pasó unas ocho veces por Late Night with David Letterman, uno de los shows más populares de la televisión de Estados Unidos. Y su programa, Dr. Katz, fue parodiado por pesos pesados de los cartoons norteamericanos como South Park, Padre de Familia, Duckman, entre otros.

Animación nerviosa

Por caso, la serie estaba animada con un singular formato garabateado y nervioso gracias al Squigglevision, un rarísimo estilo de animación creado por Tom Snyder, socio de Katz en la producción.

Contenido relacionado: Dirigió un Videoclip para Dua Lipa y Elton John y Ahora Visita Argentina: Conocé a Raman Djafari, el Artista de los 500 Millones de Views

Allí, todas las personas y objetos animados eran coloreados y tenían contornos ondulantes, mientras que la mayoría de los objetos inanimados se yerguen estáticos y usualmente de color gris.

dr katz

“Eso fue una invención de Tom, quien tenía una empresa de software educativo y que, a través de esos productos que creó, descubrió el mundo de la animación. Yo no estuve involucrado en el proceso de animación”, recuerda Jonathan Katz.

Un deseo: la vuelta de Dr. Katz

A pesar de que el personaje de animación se llame igual, luzca idéntico y tenga un oficio parecido (uno atiende comediantes, el otro es un comediante), Jonathan Katz se desmarca del Doctor de la serie: “No puedo distinguirlos demasiado, pero uno es una persona real y el otro es un personaje inventado, de dibujos animados”.

dr katz

Pese al éxito, Dr. Katz, Analista Profesional fue cancelada a comienzos de los 2000. “Aunque fue un programa de culto, dejó de ser atractivo para el grupo demográfico que, en ese momento, perseguía el canal Comedy Central”, cuenta.

Contenido relacionado: Gabriel Lucero de Gente Rota: ‘Como No Me Quería Deprimir, Me Puse a Animar Audios de WhatsApp’

Entretanto, Jonathan Katz piensa “a menudo” en hacer una versión live action de Dr. Katz, Analista Profesional. ¿Y volvería con la serie animada? “¡¡¡Absolutamente!!!”, aclama.

Dr. Katz te firma la receta

A la sazón, en tiempos pandémicos y de pura histeria de las redes sociales, Jonathan cree que, a pesar de todo, en caso de retornar con su show y sus dramas de diván, “la serie probablemente sería igual, salvo por el hecho de que todos han envejecido”.

dr katz

En la actualidad, Jonathan Katz está metido en nuevos menesteres. De su boca: “Como la mayoría de los estadounidenses, tengo un podcast”, bromea. “El mío se llama Hey We’re Back”.

Contenido relacionado: Conocé a Marijuanaman, el Superhéroe Cannábico de Ziggy Marley: Hablamos con Uno de sus Autores

Y en sintonía con el avance de la discusión pública por el uso de la marihuana medicinal y recreativa y, fundamentalmente, con la cada vez más democratizada prescripción médica de cannabis, Jonathan Katz cree que el Doctor probablemente “nunca haya fumado porro” pero asume que “sí, absolutamente, recetaría cannabis a sus pacientes”.

The post TV de Culto, Psicología del ‘Yo’ y Animación Nerviosa: Hablamos con Jonathan Katz, Creador de la Serie Dr. Katz appeared first on High Times.

Darryl Jones Is Validated

Darryl Jones is in France when we connect via Google Meet. The legendary bassist who’s played with everyone from Eric Clapton to Sting to Miles Davis to Madonna—and most notably, The Rolling Stones—has just finished recording with a French artist and is now taking some time following the session to chat with High Times.

Despite the nine hour time difference, Jones does his best to stay on point, which comes naturally for a man who—as articulated in the new Eric Hamburg documentary Darryl Jones: In The Blood—has been known to fall asleep in recording sessions and still play bass accurately and effectively in his sleep.

It’s that kind of connection to his instrument, this higher-power otherwordly connective tissue that makes Jones more of a vessel communicating spiritual messages from the divine through song than someone who takes the stage to entertain you. Jones plays to entertain himself first, and as a result we as listeners are entertained.

Over the course of our conversation, Jones opens up about his spiritual connection to music, the inspirations that have propelled his career successes, how cannabis can be a useful creative adjunct, and how believing your dreams are possible is half the battle to achieving them.

High Times: Growing up in a musical household in Chicago, when did you realize music was your path?

Darryl Jones: There was a talent show and the curtains opened on the last act of the talent show and this guy who lived a few doors down—who later became my first teacher—was on stage with a band. I guess it was the fact that they were older guys who I knew—four or five years older than me—and the response from the audience…I decided at that moment that I was going to be a musician and I was sure of it as anything I’ve been sure of in my life. I was also nine years old.

High Times: You mention in the documentary that performance can become a spiritual experience. Did you also have the understanding of what music could be at nine years old?

Darryl Jones: I didn’t know whether I had talent or not, I was just a quiet kid who saw music as a way to sort of bridge that. Angus Thomas—who is also in the movie—ended up being a great teacher and was a little bit of a neighborhood hero for me as well.

I didn’t know Angus played bass—I only saw him holding a guitar. When I decided to ask him to teach me to play he said he was a bass player. And I said, “Well, I want to play bass.” I had no idea at the time that I was suited for that—for all kinds of reasons—coming from a really stable family and I think maybe that had something to do with it. Bass players need to have a certain solidity in most kinds of music.

But it was just one of those things, man, where I don’t know if I found it or if it found me.

High Times: Well that’s very kismet in nature.

Darryl Jones: It’s very spiritual but I wasn’t meditating or doing visualizations. That came later.

High Times: As in what came later was the awareness around how you are both communicating through the instrument but also connecting to something else within that dynamic.

Darryl Jones: Exactly.

High Times: It seems then there’s this pervasive theme throughout your musical journey where an unseen connective tissue inevitably impacts the music that you’re creating with others.

Darryl Jones: I do believe that’s so. First of all, my mom is a pretty special woman and my dad, too—interested in physics and stuff like the infinite field of possibility—and I got taught about that stuff pretty young, though not as young as when I started playing.

I went and saw Miles [Davis] play about nine months before I was asked to join the band and I remember getting very emotional about it, watching what was happening on stage and thinking to myself, “I could do that gig.” I don’t know how a person does what I did without finding a path and having the path come up to meet your feet or something.

High Times: Was there a solitary experience—like with the talent show—or were there a collection of moments over the course of your career that continued to validate that music was the path you needed to be on?

Darryl Jones: I don’t even know that I saw it that early on but I do know that whatever I saw those guys doing on stage and the response that they got from the crowd…it woke something in me.

Like I said in the movie, music became my lifestyle. There were periods in my life where I practiced for ten or twelve hours a day—there were short periods where I did that—but more than anything I just played a lot with a lot of different musicians, and those validations [that you’re talking about] came one after the other.

Early on, I remember a friend of my mother’s—not long after I took that first lesson with Angus—came over and my mother said, “Get the guitar and play us the song that Angus taught you.” I remember even at that age looking at her, and she was impressed. The fact that [Angus] didn’t let me off the hook when he was teaching me the song—he really made me play it right, a very simple version of “Thank You For Letting Me Be Myself” by Sly & The Family Stone—maybe I had some aptitude for it, but instead of being the kind of kid who was like, “Oh, I can play already,” I remember thinking, “If you think I can play now, I’m just getting started.”

In addition to Angus, my father had pretty much already taught me how to read music and then I went to a high school that was a really incredible performing arts school. I don’t know how to describe what happened, but as you say, things just seemed to continue to validate what I was doing and then Miles Davis calls my house—or his nephew does—and then off we go. That’s enough validation for a lifetime.

High Times: And then to go from that wavelength to playing with The Rolling Stones.

Darryl Jones: Yeah, I was in Europe, seeing a woman in Italy and she was playing the Steel Wheels record, going on about how great it was. I was like, “Yeah, it’s okay.” But the more I listened to it, the more I thought to myself, “You know, the way I play could work with them.”

I wanted to play with Keith Richards. He’d hired another friend of ours to play bass and so that avenue got closed off, but like I said in the movie, a friend of mine—Sandy Torano—said hey man, “Bill Wyman’s leaving.” I remember kind of looking up at the sky like, “Okay, I guess that’s what’s going to happen,” and it did.

High Times: In terms of In The Blood, what inspired the collaboration with Eric Hamburg and how did the documentary come to be?

Darryl Jones: [Laughs] That was all Eric. Like any musician, I have a certain amount of ego but not enough to say, “Ooo, let’s make a movie about me.” Eric approached me and said he was a Stones fan, had read up on me and my career before The Stones and wanted to make a movie about me.

Eric was a co-producer on Any Given Sunday, the Oliver Stone film about the backstory of football players. Originally he was saying, “I want to do that kind of story as a full feature length film,” except when I go to companies to talk about it, they say, “You should probably start with a documentary.” And he was like, “So, I’ve decided I think we should do the documentary on you. Maybe one day down the line we’ll do a full-length feature film on what it’s like to be a musician on the level that you are,” in the same way he was able to bring the idea to Oliver Stone about football players and their backstory.

I literally walked into the screening/premiere in Los Angeles and just said, “Thank you, thank you for bringing it to me.” I was at least smart enough not to say “No.”

There’s some stuff in the movie that I’m not completely comfortable with, certain representations, certain things that I say. I don’t consider myself a singer by any stretch of the imagination, but it is something that I’m learning—and like I say in the movie—you don’t necessarily have to be a virtuoso to get your point across. So I’m just learning how to do that better using lyrics. If you write authentic lyrics that really do outline your experience, it makes it that much easier to perform those things authentically.

High Times: What would be the difference between communicating with lyrics versus bass?

Darryl Jones: It’s just another tool in the artist’s quiver. I love words, crafted lyrics, poems, or stories, and the artists I really admire are generally talented or at least are craftsmen in more than one area. I think of somebody like Sting who I worked with and watched from the beginning of his career. It was exciting for me to see a guy who played bass stand in front of the band and be the guy who wrote a lion’s share of the lyrics and music.

So I guess it’s all of those influences. It’s the possibility of trying these things. Miles used to tell me, “You know, Darryl. One art helps the other.” He encouraged me to draw, to cook, and to just be involved in creative endeavors because one really does help the other.

Courtesy of Shore Fire Media

High Times: So if you’re cooking—while you might not be in the studio laying down a track—the inspiration from cooking is informing on some level what you would lay down when you are in the studio.

Darryl Jones: Yeah, because it’s still a little of this and a little of that. You taste or you listen and you say, “Okay, it needs a little of this, it needs a little of that.” And then there’s always the good fortune of the happy accidents where you add some stuff that doesn’t seem to go together, but you’re thinking, “Well, maybe it will work,” and then it ends up being something that is both a little bit groundbreaking and completely unique to you. I think that’s a big part of it for me, just trying to find and mine my own uniqueness.

High Times: And wasn’t it Miles who said, “There are no mistakes”?

Darryl Jones: He did say that, but that’s coming from a real heavy place.

I remember asking him when I was in the band, “Miles, what do you play over a C-7 chord?” And he was like, “Well, if you can play something over C-7, you can play it over an F-Sharp-7, and if you can play it over an F-Sharp-7…”, and by the time he’d finished talking, it was every note in the scale. And believe me, I’m still trying to wrap my mind around that.

If you think about it, if you play a wrong note, it’s a tension. It’s turning things a certain way and creating this tension, and if you know some other notes to help relieve that tension, and you know when to do it to get the feeling of tension and release—Miles just happened to be a master at that.

Even though he said [“There are no mistakes”] and it sounds really simple, it’s a really, really heavy thing and I would say it took him some decades to come to that place.

High Times: With respect to creative influences like cooking, how does cannabis play a role in your creativity?

Darryl Jones: I was talking to two friends of mine who are users of cannabis and I was saying that I liked how one or two well-placed tokes can open a creative door. One friend explained to me that many types of cannabis flip you into your right-brain and she said there are other ways to do that, too.

When you hear people talk or you’re in a movie and somebody uses a turn-of-phrase that kind of moves you, she said if you write those things down, just open the page and read those things and it will flip you over to your right-brain.

I have to qualify this and say that I don’t suggest [weed]—particularly for young people—not until you’re thirty-years-old or so because we’re now finding out that it may be better for you to let your brain do what your brain does until you hit that age. But for me, I did start before that, and it’s opened up a creative window for me both in terms of music and in terms of imagining, visualizing, and seeing the possibility of things in a way that you might not have as easily without it.

I do not want young people to decide, “Oh, that’s a cool thing that he did, it’s worked for him so I want to do it.” Everyone is different, but for me, it has been a help and it has opened up some creative doors.

High Times: Well it comes back to intent. If you’re young and you’re trying to “fit in,” that’s a different mentality than saying, “I want to think about a piece of music differently,” “I want to hear something differently,” or “I want to broaden my horizons of what’s possible.”

Darryl Jones: It’s very much been a tool of that for me for many, many more years than it was a thing at the beginning that you did to feel a certain way or to fit in or anything like that. It’s become a much more personal thing for me now.

I like to be at home and I like to be in control of my circumstances and feel comfortable and safe and then it seems to be something that allows me to go to these places. But again, there’s more than one way to do that. When I abstain from [weed], give that about ten days and a lot of stuff starts coming up as well. So there’s more than one way to get to that place, but if I’m honest, cannabis has been a useful adjunct.

High Times: Along the journey from Miles to Sting to The Rolling Stones, did cannabis ever unify you guys in a way that helped take things to another level?

Darryl Jones: It was more personal. I never used that substance with Miles—I don’t think that he did. He certainly didn’t by the time that I met him. Some of the other guys—you know, playing in a rock and roll band—we’ve of course enjoyed some “high times.” But music is such an intoxicating thing that it’s very rare I mix those two things together.

High Times: When they said in the documentary that you play “deep in the pocket,” what do they mean by that?

Darryl Jones: It’s like the music that makes you dance is “in the pocket.” On the most basic level, it just means it has a certain kind of repetitiveness that is well metered and allows you to move your body in a way that we like to move our bodies as humans. On a more spiritual level, it is about endowing what you play with love or a certain kind of intention. It’s almost like allowing yourself to be used as a lightning rod.

High Times: Like a vessel.

Darryl Jones: Exactly. So it’s not so much, “I’m thinking about everything that I’m doing and I’m making these choices based on my intellectual capacity,” it’s more like “I’m just opening myself up to that and allowing it to play through or come through me.”

It’s the same thing many athletes experience. If you’re thinking too hard about this ball coming at you ninety-miles-an-hour—and there are so many ways I can miss it—it’s way harder to hit it. But if you have prepared and worked on the mechanics and you’re standing there and kind of let go and let that higher part of yourself take over, I think you’ve got a much better chance.

But again, we’re talking about really minute degrees of letting go and being in control. Of being in touch with your intention and also allowing the intention of the universe to come through. It’s like walking a tightrope or surfing a wave, and it doesn’t happen all the time and it happens differently the many times that it happens. I’m a musician because I love walking that tightrope. I love looking for that inspiration from that higher part of me or whatever you want to call that.

High Times: Is all of the preparation and honing of the craft really just getting down to the place internally where you are most clear from all the other clutter? Whether you’re in a small, intimate venue or a sold-out arena, is it more about getting to that clear space internally?

Darryl Jones: People say to me, “Do you love playing stadiums or clubs?” I love all of it because it’s something different and it creates a different kind of launching pad for all of these things that we’re talking about. In a way, I don’t exactly have language for what we’re talking about.

Somebody said to me once, “The definition of a thing is not the thing.” It’s us trying to describe the thing or develop some focus or understanding of it.

But you’ve been there, you’ve gone to see a band and seen something magical happen on stage or gone to a sports game and seen the team snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat. You know that feeling, but for us to talk about it, how do we talk about it?

Courtesy of Shore Fire Media

High Times: If there’s alignment say with The Stones with all of you on stage between all of you as band members, and then you take that to a personal level and you’re all in that “vessel mindset”—if you replicate that out across the stage, that’s a different experience than if everyone is in their head thinking about how they’re going to react to the ninety-mile-an-hour fastball.

Darryl Jones: And then you add in the audience to that and it’s weird because we don’t get on stage and play for the audience, but having the audience there changes the dynamic. Sometimes we’ll rehearse for two or three weeks and we’ll realize the only thing we can’t rehearse and the only thing we need now to be ready to go on tour is an audience. We need that connection.

We played in 2006 on Copacabana Beach in front of what some people estimate was one million to two million people. I’ve played in front of one hundred thousand people quite a number of times over the last many years, not only playing with The Stones, but with some of these other acts that we talk about in the film.

Playing in front of that many people was a completely different experience. It was playing in front of a big crowd but the kinetic energy coming from that crowd—our feet never touched the ground and it seemed like the gig was over in about fifteen minutes when it was really two hours and fifteen minutes.

Again, we don’t go, “Oo, let’s play and try to impress the audience.” We’re playing and dealing with the music as a band. As individuals first and then as a band, and the audience is like the other band member or the other ingredient. It’s hard to talk about but you feel it.

I think about people in the audience who come to me and say, “Man, that was the best gig. I’ve seen two-hundred Stones shows—that was the best gig I’ve ever seen.” You can feel it in their expression and you can even see it on their face that something was really magical to them that happened, and the same thing was true for us.

High Times: Have you ever performed a show where there was alignment between you guys on stage and the audience—where you knew it was an amazing show for everybody?

Darryl Jones: Oh yeah. We played São Paulo and played a tune “Midnight Rambler,” which is kind of a jam. These different sections that we go to are queued by certain things that Mick [Jagger] sings or plays on the harmonica or certain licks that Keith plays. So we’re playing the tune and at some point the audience started singing “do-dooo-do-do,” the theme from the Muddy Waters song, “I’m A Man,” and literally we stopped playing and listened to the audience jam. And that happened twice during that song where [the audience] was so loud and so enthusiastic singing this lick that we literally just stopped playing and just took it in and literally, we became the audience and they were the band. It was really something very special.

High Times: In terms of something being special, what do you hope the audience takes from In The Blood?

Darryl Jones: I hope that people are inspired by it, particularly young people. I don’t think I would have been as successful as I’ve been if something hadn’t supported my dreams and the possibility of these things happening. I think that everybody needs that. Everybody needs to have somebody look at them at some point and say, “There’s all this great stuff that you can do.”

My mother used to say, “The world is your playground. Wonderful things can happen.” My brother and I would say, “But how?” And she would say, “That’s not your business. Your business is to wake up everyday and do everything you should be doing to put yourself in the situation you want to be in. That’s your business, that’s the work you have to do.” I just hope that young people—or anyone who has dreams in their life—sees the film and says, “It’s possible, dreams do sometimes come true.” Like my mom said, “Shoot for the stars and if you fail, there’s still the moon.” Above anything else, I hope people are inspired by it and that it brings some light into people’s lives. 

High Times: I think it does, especially how you start by saying music can be a spiritual experience. Hopefully people will reflect on what for them—if not music—is their spiritual experience.

Darryl Jones: It could be sweeping the floor. My mother—again, I speak about her because she was such a big influence on me in this area—said that the thing we have in common with our creator is that we have the same quality. We do not have the same quantity perhaps, but we do have the same quality, so that means we are little creators and that if we align ourselves properly and not get attached to outcomes but get attached to the work that you’re doing to get to where you want to be, then it’s possible that your dreams can come true.

That’s why I tell young musicians when they walk up to me and say, “How do I get a big gig?” And I say to them, “Well what kind of gig do you want?” “I don’t care, I just want a big gig.” It’s like, no, you have to make some decisions, you have to decide. You have to point your arrow at least in a certain direction. I’m not saying you’re going to hit your target every time, but at least be open to what comes from that, it’s like exercising that muscle.

I dreamt of playing with Miles nine months before I started playing with him. Somehow through the field of infinite possibilities…now, I was friends with his nephew, and that’s a connection, but how did I meet him? You can keep going back to try to get to the “beginning” of it but I think it does have something to do with dreaming and preparing yourself as best you can.

High Times: You’re talking about manifestation.

Darryl Jones: Yeah, though I’m not preaching the “abundance gospel” in that you’re “good” if you get the stuff you dream about and you’re “bad” or not in touch with God if you don’t. I’m just saying there’s a path that exists that can enrich your life whether you gain these things or not. I know that’s easy for me to say because I’ve really been blessed to have my career moving in the way that it has but even still, I’m not finished yet. There’s more, and I think more people ought to think that way or at least try it.

When I think about visualization, there were times when I’d think about stuff and visualize it and then that stuff happened. I’m just saying, the mind is a terrible thing to waste.

High Times: If we’re all energy and—just as there’s gravity—perhaps there are certain “rules” to the universe when it comes to energy creation, in this case rules that affect how our reality is shaped.

Darryl Jones: My mom bought these tapes—which I forget the name of—but one of the things the guy was saying was when you look at people who are really high achievers and you ask them, “What does your dream house look like?”, they’ll tell you, “Oh, the pathway to the house curves to right, and then curves to the left, and then when you get to the door it’s such and such, and if you ask people who are not as high achievers, they’ll just tell you, “Oh, I just want to live in a big house.” This guy was saying that when you imagine the things you want for yourself, you are creating a magnetic field in the real world because electrical impulses are doing something. I don’t know if that’s true or not but why not exercise that muscle and see what happens?

High Times: You said you dreamt of playing with Miles prior to playing with him. Did you have the same experience prior to playing with The Stones?

Darryl Jones: I did want to play with Keith when I heard the Talk Is Cheap record. I was doing more electric jazz stuff at that point, and because I grew up in a household where there was more than one kind of music, I just felt the direction Keith was moving in was a really cool direction. Bootsy Collins is on that record. Keith Richards and Bootsy Collins? I dig that, I dig shifting these idioms and being involved in these different kinds of things. Why limit? I hope one day I can get my act together on acoustic bass and play some acoustic jazz with some great cats. I really feel like what else is a life for but for it to be your artistic creation?

High Times: And the living out of that artistic creation.

Darryl Jones: Exactly. We’re talking about real lofty stuff but consider it at least. It could be that something wonderful is about to happen. It’s exciting to move toward something that you seek for yourself.

When I think about some of the musicians I encountered—particularly when I was very young—I think many of them thought more that it might not happen. I think I was just a little bit different in thinking it might happen. I think I just always thought it could happen, that I could be a successful musician.

One of my aunts came to visit and said, “Darryl, this music thing is really nice but you might want to think about getting something to fall back on.” I remember getting kind of angry at her for telling me that. She wasn’t doing anything bad, she was just telling me about the real world, but when she said “You should find something to fall back on,” I thought to myself, “I’m gonna fall back on some funky ass bass!”

Follow @darryljonesbassist and check out www.darryljones.com for tickets, tour dates, and his new documentary Darryl Jones: In The Blood.

The post Darryl Jones Is Validated appeared first on High Times.

Brian Moreno Thinks Differently About Aliens And So Should You

In late September 2019, a group of individuals banded together around a Facebook event to breach the heavily guarded gates that surround the enigmatic structure known as Area 51. Among those in attendance were comedian, writer, and director Brian Moreno who had hired a cast and crew to capture footage of the experience.

In his new film Dreamland: A Storming Area 51 Story starring Moreno and fellow comedians Andy Kozel, Giff Pippin, and Natasha Pearl Henson, Moreno unpacks the origins of the event and what really went on during those mysterious fall days in Nevada.

When we connect by phone, Brian is optimistic the movie will be well received and divulges some of his filmmaking processes, his affinity for the term “alien,” and why he thinks being on stage and making movies is similar to cannabis horticulture.

Courtesy of Brian Moreno

High Times: You have been a comedian for most of your professional career. Where did the drive to be a filmmaker come from?

Brian Moreno: The first thing I ever wanted in the entertainment industry was to be a filmmaker. Being a comedian was actually secondary.

Like most young people, at first I thought I was going to be a famous, groundbreaking actor. When that doesn’t pan out for you as quickly as it does in your mind, I started to spread my wings and get into comedy and comedy just took over. When you’re a working comedian and traveling, it’s really hard to do anything else.

I’d had some success making short-form videos and knew the only way I’d get respect as a filmmaker would be to actually make a film. Something like Dreamland—a run-and-gun type shoot—with a story that was only in my brain, you’re not going to get funding for it unless you have some sort of proof-of-concept. And I didn’t. So I had the idea and it snowballed from idea into a film.

You say in the trailer you “Ended up making a movie you didn’t intend to make.” Do you feel that way with the final product?

That’s a line in the movie I think about all of the time. When I cried in that scene, I was overwhelmed because I knew with [the footage] I had, I could make a movie. I didn’t know if it was going to be the movie I envisioned because this is a feel-good documentary. As much as it is a comedy and a documentary, it’s a feel-good documentary, and you don’t find many of those.

Because this is a comedy, people are going to look at it differently, but I think to tell a story like the one we did, it’s not even about the storming of Area-51, it’s more about different colors of the rainbow coming together. The storming of Area-51 is just a vehicle that drives the story.

In that way, Area-51 is more of a backdrop than anything else.

Yeah, so that’s why if you’re into aliens, UFO-ology, or Area-51—or none of that—there’s something in this movie for you.

Courtesy of Brian Moreno

Aliens have long been associated with your persona. How did your fascination with aliens originate?

I try to explain this to people all the time. My fascination with aliens was never because of aliens. What attracted me to the word “alien” and why I always had an association with “alien” is because it means “foreign” or “different.” I always felt foreign or different compared to my surroundings, so that’s where the “alien” moniker came from.

As I became more and more informed about the mysteries of our universe, the alien theme and subject kept coming back up. A lot of people think I started out as an alien lover—and as much as I am an alienhead and UFO-lover—it all started out with the word “alien” just meaning “different.” That’s what I felt I related to the most.

With that being said, Dreamland I believe is one of the most comprehensive UFO documentaries—that’s also entertaining—that’s ever been made. A lot of the information I try to pack under the guise of comedy or within the storyline was done on purpose so that every individual character could represent a color of the ufology rainbow.

There are the people who are in total disbelief, there are people who just kind of dabble, there are people who think there might be a little bit of life out there but don’t exactly know what, and there are people who are hardcore believers. The parallel I try to make in the movie is that the people who believe in the UFOs and aliens and the space beings—there’s a parallel to what they’re doing and anyone who is religious. You can believe whatever you want, but if you put your faith into religion, you’re putting your faith into something that’s unseen, not understood, and can’t be explained. A lot of that is just blind faith in the same way a lot of these UFO enthusiasts believe. No matter where you stand on aliens or UFOs, there should be a relatable character to your point of view.

So the way into the movie for most will be through the characters, not so much from the alien-ness of it all.

Absolutely, and I think people will pick up on that immediately because of the Blair-Witchean way I open the movie, where it almost seems like it’s found footage.

However, there are people and there are critics. All of the test audiences who have screened the film seem to get it [and get the humor] but are the critics going to get it? I don’t know. It’s a really great question.

I am a cinephile and in terms of genre, this movie is cinéma vérité, which is basically the art of making a movie so that the audience feels like they’re a fly on the wall. That’s how this was made.

As much as it’s anxiety-inducing not knowing how the film will be received, at the same time, it’s got to feel pretty cool that it’s in its final form.

It does, but also—and maybe this is what made me a decent comic—I’m always thinking about what’s next or what I could do better. So yes, it is cool, and taking those moments to realize that is very important. I don’t know if I do that enough.

Courtesy of Brian Moreno

In terms of those moments, talk a bit more about the moment you realized you actually had something worthwhile.

It was the last night before we wrapped shooting and I knew I had an interesting film. But once I had the news footage added to [the edit], I knew for sure [the film] was worthy of distribution.

There are three elements to this story: The road trip, the news footage, and the interviews. Once I had that layered properly, I knew I had a real movie that told a full story, it just took two years to get there.

How similar or different is ‘Brian Moreno’ in the movie to Brian Moreno in real life?

I think the best way to describe it would be to compare it to the ‘Brian’ who is on stage as a comedian to the ‘Brian’ that’s in real life.

When I’m on stage and who I play in the movie—it’s pretty close to real—but there are aspects of oneself that when the camera goes on or the stage lights come on you, you tend to highlight or suppress. So there’s a character aspect to it, but I would say a lot of it is me just acting like me, if that makes any sense.

For this to be a real documentary, one of the things I really had to hit on was that there wasn’t a script and I wasn’t really coaching the players. I allowed the players to play within the framework of the universe that I’d built. So whomever it may be that you’re watching in the movie, they’re playing a character of themselves because the camera is on and these are the choices that they are making. What is “real” anymore? I don’t know.

Courtesy of Brian Moreno

 In terms of “reality,” how did psychedelics and cannabis play a role in your creative process and the making of this film, and how were both referenced within the movie itself?

I’m a longtime believer in what cannabis can do for the creative process. This movie, however, was a little bit more dependent on the mushrooms that were taken the final night of shooting.

The movie was a very run-and-gun type shoot where the crew had no idea what to do until I told them. The first night, there was a lot of stress in getting set up because getting [to Area 51] was so daunting and we got there so late. We then shot the entire next day with everyone sober, with the exception of a few people from whom I had to hide the liquor. I had brought weed and mushrooms with me because I knew if I could have a bonding experience with everyone on the crew, the testimonials that they would give from day one to day two would be a one-hundred-and-eighty-degrees difference.

The crew believed me that we had a movie, so that was good enough for them to loosen up. The [cannabis and mushroom-fueled] experience that we all had together…I don’t talk to some of the cast and crew anymore, but I know that’s a memory they’ll never forget. The next morning when they got interviewed, you can really see the difference in not only perspective—which I think mushrooms help with—but you can see the difference in the way they would speak about an event that was a bust.

Let me be clear, a lot of people are going to be like, “Oh, that event was a bust.” Yes, this is a failure story, but there are so many little successes within the overall failure.

I think the mushrooms and the weed were responsible for the cast and crew coming together not only as a family, but as one cohesive unit. It’s why I think everyone should trip mushrooms at least once a year—because it helps clear out the ego. If you see the difference in the testimonials from the cast and crew from day one to day two, the biggest difference is the removal of ego. When you see that transformation, it’s actually a beautiful thing, and is some of the subtext within this documentary.

Filmmaking aside, you’re also a cannabis plant-dad these days, is that accurate?

Oh totally. I’ve been attempting to grow weed ever since I was picking out little stems and seeds back in my college years. The thing about cultivation is it used to be so difficult and there used to be so many obstacles to overcome to be able to grow your own weed—and grow it well.

Now, in states that are legal—and this is one of the reasons why Amazon is pushing for legality—there’s a huge market for all of the cultivation equipment and gear. I’m big into gardening and horticulture and believe anyone who enjoys partaking [in weed] should try growing a plant or two in the summer because It’s a really cool plant to see grow. If you told me it came from aliens I would totally believe it.

Is there a correlation between the skills required to grow buds, perform comedy, and make a movie? Are any of the skills transferable?

Absolutely. With biology and growing you have to remember that sometimes there are so many factors out of your control—just like in comedy, just like in making movies. You just have to let the universe take its course. You have to be able to let go of the reins and trust. Trust your instincts, trust other people—you have to constantly learn from your mistakes.

There are only a few things I think I’m good at in this world: Telling stories, growing things, and making jokes. All of those things take a lot of thought, time, and effort, and it’s all very much like planting a seed. You water it, you let it be, and then you come back to it. You pluck a few leaves and maybe you give it some fertilizer. Then you have to leave it alone again for a little bit. You can’t obsess over it because then you’ll suffocate it. The gestation of a seed is very much like the gestation of an idea, a joke, or a movie.

Follow Brian Moreno @morenothealien and check out https://www.dreamlandarea51movie.com for more information on how to watch Dreamland: A Storming Area 51 Story beginning September 13th.

The post Brian Moreno Thinks Differently About Aliens And So Should You appeared first on High Times.

Weed & Friendship: The Perfect Formula

Colson Baker (known professionally as Machine Gun Kelly) and Derek Ryan Smith (known professionally as Mod Sun) are childhood pals who like to make stuff. From hit music tracks to feature films, the duo has had great success creating together and individually. But when it comes to their creative partnership, there’s a certain type of magic that can only happen when you’re working with your best friend. According to Baker, he and Smith always have a rotating harmony when working on various projects. “It’s such a good yin-yang situation between us that we meet in the middle every time. We were given the blessing of if my tank was empty, he was full, and if he was empty, I was full.”

When we connect over Zoom, Baker and Smith are eager to share their movie-making insights and their weed smoking exploits, especially with respect to their latest film, Good Mourning, which they both wrote, directed, and starred in. Good Mourning follows London Clash (played by Baker) who wakes up to a message from his girlfriend that reads “I wish I didn’t have to do this thru text. Good Mourning.”—an assumed breakup text. This alarming possibility arrives on the same day that London has an important meeting that will determine the future of his acting career. His day becomes a wild adventure that forces him to choose between his love life and landing the big role. The ensuing conversation is further proof that the combination of both weed and friendship is the perfect formula for any successful creative pursuit.

Courtesy of High Times / Brigade Marketing

High Times: Growing up, did you guys ever envision writing, directing, and starring in your own feature films?

Derek Ryan Smith: I did. It was a goal I’d had since I was very young. I probably would say “movie” [instead of feature film] but—

Colson Baker: Yeah, I was gonna say. Every IG Story post that Mod’s done since the start of Instagram has said the word “movie.”

I was always that kid with the giant chunky camera—before they started inventing the smaller ones—filming skate tricks or smoking out of an apple. I was always documenting when I was younger. It kind of felt like everything was leading up to Good Mourning.

On that tip, Good Mourning isn’t your first movie collaboration together. What was the inspiration behind this one and why was it important for you guys to make it?

CB: It’s a very meta movie that came from a real situation that I was spiraling about, which is exactly what the character London was doing in the movie: Misreading a text message and not being able to get the answer back, so asking your friends “What does this mean, what does this mean?” And them just giving you terrible advice.

My favorite parts of the movie are the moments we wrote down that ended up coming to life later. Like the Batman reference. It’s London’s audition—it’s his big day getting his Batman audition—and this was before we even found out they were going to make a new Batman with Robert Pattinson. It’s funny [our] film comes out right after The Batman is the talk of the town.

It reminds me of—and I can’t believe I’m quoting this—Not Another Teen Movie, or Scary Movie, or any of those movies where they reference pop culture moments happening at the time. We didn’t intentionally have any knowledge of these things. Same with the Fake Drake.

DRS: The Fake Drake thing is just mind-blowing to me. I’ll never get over that.

CB: The fact that there wasn’t this viral Fake Drake thing happening when we wrote the movie…[it happened for us] because the role was originally supposed to be Drake. We couldn’t see [the character] as any other person. Drake was going to do the movie, but then because of scheduling, he could only make it one day. But we didn’t have the house that day, and the other day he was back in Toronto. He was like, “If you get a jet, I can make it,” which would have cost the entire budget of the movie to get him via jet to Los Angeles for this five-second shot. It worked even better with the Fake Drake.

DRS: That was my final straw. When I saw the Fake Drake viral thing, I was like, “Dude, stop.” I couldn’t believe it.

CB: Everything manifested from this film. It was a trip.

Do you think in some ways, you guys putting Fake Drake into the film helped it manifest in real life?

DRS: We wrote that skater boy bit and then all of a sudden now I’m engaged to Avril Lavigne [laughs], so I don’t know.

CB: The manifestation from this movie almost feels like it needed to come through some type of vessels, and we ended up being the vessels. Stoner comedies—especially for the new generations—are almost nonexistent, and they’re definitely nonexistent in the sense of actual stoners writing and directing them.

We were not smoking fake weed on set. We had pounds and pounds.

DRS: Shhhhhhhh.

This is High Times, you’re good. We want this information.

DRS: Okay, good.

Courtesy of Brigade Marketing

CB: I reached out to Berner and he sent us a pallet of Cookies and every accoutrement you’d need to get high.

DRS: Whoa. What word did you just use?

CB: Every possible way you could smoke weed, he had it in the package. We knew we had to add to the legend of each classic stoner movie having either a [weed] game that you learn or a new way to roll that you learn. We probably have a 10-minute smoker’s montage in the movie, so if there isn’t one [legendary]…

DRS: Please be “the smorkle.”

CB: It’s either “the smorkle,” “five fingers of death,” or the giant Snoop Dogg joint. I’m hoping one of those lands in the classic stoner archives.

The takeaway being, if one kid emulates your smoking techniques, you guys have done your job.

CB: Absolutely. And by one kid, we hopefully mean one million. But yeah.

What’s the difference in your creative process between making a movie like Good Mourning and making an album?

CB: If we fuck our albums up, that’s just on us. If we fuck the movie up, we embarrass the cast, we embarrass our financiers, we embarrass ourselves.

DRS: Putting your art in other people’s hands is a different kind of monster to sleep with at night.

CB: Or them putting our art in our hands, but them being the ones giving us the money to do it.

DRS: It’s definitely a whole different experience and takes a whole different side of trust to happen. It’s one thing to trust in yourself, it’s another thing to trust in everybody on set.

Is there anything from the music world that you bring into your creative process when you’re making a film?

DRS: I think we might not have believed that we could start a script and finish it if we hadn’t learned how to write a song and be able to finish that. Or if we didn’t know how to finish an album. I think [finishing music] unlocked something in our brains to see something through until the end.

We live in Los Angeles, so how many people are outside this window right now like, “I’m working on [a] script.” And it’s been 30 years, you know?

CB: The other thing I took from music to movies was how collaborative music is. They don’t really bring that into movies too often outside of the Adam Sandlers and the Seth Rogens. There’s a few people who learned that reaching out and being collaborative on films is possible—that you can actually just pick up the phone and ask to collab on films the same way you can ask to collab on songs. That was something we came in with on this.

DRS: We filled this movie with amazing actors and people who have never acted before. People who we just believed could do it. 

You’re not only indoctrinating—hopefully—millions of people to new smoking techniques, you’re also breaking in the talent of your friends in a new lane for them.

CB: One-hundred percent. It was an honor to have the established comedians come in and bring their comedy to our film because some of those lines that Whitney [Cummings] and Pete [Davidson] said, you couldn’t write. Those were strictly from comedic genius brains.

Courtesy of Brigade Marketing

People like GaTa—who we’ve watched on a great series like Dave be GaTa—we were able to give him a character to play that’s the complete opposite of GaTa. People like Megan [Fox], Dove [Cameron], Zach [Villa]—we got to watch them explore characters we haven’t seen them portray before. Like, I’ve never seen Dove in a stoner movie, right? She’s coming from a completely different end of the spectrum in film and TV.

And then Boo [Johnson] who’s this rad skater from Long Beach coming in and having a main role in a movie when he’s never acted before. I now have high hopes that I’ll see him in something else.

You mentioned you were well taken care of with weed on set. How does weed impact your creative process?

DRS: I think with [the Good Mourning] script, it was the genesis to everything. Writing a script can feel like homework and we did not go to college. We were done with school when we finished high school, and I’m pretty sure both of us barely finished high school. [Writing the script] kind of felt like a job, but being able to smoke weed with your best friend all day kind of gave it that cushion to be fun.

CB: I think the act of rolling [papers] is almost like a stress ball or something. It’s less even the smoking and more that you’re able to roll something while you’re writing and you’re sitting in one place. Having something to do with your hands is great. It’s either that, or punching each other in the face. I don’t know if that would have been as productive, but it also would have been satisfying.

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Was there any particular strain you guys gravitated toward?

CB: Growing up, I loved Green Crack. I will never forget when I smoked Green Crack for the first time and I was driving in a car that still had snow on the roof of it. In Cleveland, it snows a bunch, so it’s not like you brush the snow off the roof, you just leave it on there and get it off the windows. I was so high on Green Crack and my mouth was so parched that I just reached my hand out of the window and grabbed a giant glob of snow and ate it. It was the most refreshing water taste ever.

DRS: Mine was Jack Herer.

DRS and CB: Ohhhhhhhhhhhh!

CB: Jack Herer, dude! That was the go-to sativa.

DRS: That was the designer weed when we were young.

To that end, do you guys have any plans to create your own strains or partner with any brands?

CB: My friend has a great weed company called Rapper Weed. I think the name is genius, but I don’t have any part in it. I just think it’s a great name.

DRS: I still have plans to write a book where every page is a paper that you can smoke.

CB: Oh, that’s sick.

DRS: You can really digest the writing.

You could have your own smokable library.

CB: Yeah, that’s hard. You could light that library on fire. It’s a new twist on Fahrenheit 451, dude. It’s the less-dark version of that.

What was the most challenging aspect of making Good Mourning?

CB: It would have to be never actually having a cast until the day we would shoot. Even when we had the main cast casted the day before we had to shoot, there was always cameos or characters in the script where we were like, “Oh shit, we forgot there’s ‘Unknown Person #2’ that we always wanted to be so-and-so.” We were calling in favors left and right.

DRS: The hours were pretty crazy. [Colson] also had to show up an hour-and-a-half earlier than me every day to cover up his tattoos. And I think just directing the energy of a bunch of people in the same room and keeping the vibe where it needs to be to get the right shot.

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CB: We had to break up the weed montage into two days because there was so much smoking. A lot didn’t get used, but one day the smoke set off the fire alarm in the house, which originally was okay because we’d turned the sprinklers off. Or so we thought. One of the sprinklers was actually left on and it sprayed all over the camera equipment and wouldn’t stop. It was like a fire truck hose was going off.

Did that burn a day?

CB: It burned a lot of the day.

DRS: We flooded the house we were in pretty much.

But you still made a movie.

DRS: Somehow. Somehow we did.


This article appears in the August 2022 issue of High Times. Subscribe here.

The post Weed & Friendship: The Perfect Formula appeared first on High Times.

From the Archives: Werner Herzog’s Strange Visions (1985)

By Robert Seidenberg

They were ready to play ball. The sides were picked—cast and crew of Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas versus cast and crew of Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise. This game of softball at last fall’s Telluride Film Festival in Colorado would prove to be one of the festival’s fiercest competitions. To ensure a fair contest, Werner Herzog was asked to umpire. But Herzog—who, with Wenders and the late Rainer Werner Fassbinder, is West Germany’s most talented and best-known contemporary filmmaker—declined the invitation.

The 42-year-old director is an avid sports fan and agile athlete, but he confessed to an ignorance of the game’s rules. It was obvious, he said, that softball pits one person—the batter—against the opponent’s entire team. Consequently, and regardless of the rules, Herzog would have to side with the one. He could not officiate fairly.

Scruffy with 10 days’ beard growth, his rumpled hair standing on end, Herzog chuckled as he recounted this tale during a whirlwind promotional tour for his most recent film, Where the Green Ants Dream. But when I suggested that this anecdote provided the perfect taking-off point for a discussion of his work, he turned very serious and his deep-set melancholy eyes took on the expected intensity of a man who once claimed to have no understanding of irony.

Many of Herzog’s films—which total 14 features and 14 documentaries—concern an individual or group in conflict with a more powerful other. Invariably, the director sides with the underdog. Although Herzog insists that this theme not be overemphasized by critics (“because then the films couldn’t develop other dimensions”), he admits to its presence.

“Of course I have quite often in my films sided with lonesome people who have been in collision with certain other forces that are far superior to one single person,” the director explains, seated in the conference room of Orion Pictures’ Manhattan office. “The best example is The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser. The real title is Everyman for Himself and God Against All, and that gives some sort of hint of my attitude. It’s almost like a motto for my life and for my work.”

The Noble Underdog

Though seen as weirdos, misfits, and cripples, the loners in Herzog’s pictures are actually the only ones with dignity; it is they who, when placed in extreme situations, speak of the human condition. In Woyzeck (1970), the title character is used and abused by all those around him—his wife, doctor and army officers. A general tells him, “You lack morals. You lack virtue,” but in reality he is the only virtuous character, a mere victim of the amoral. In Stroszek (1977), the title character, misled by the hope for and promise of quick riches, remains disillusioned and helpless. And in Kaspar Hauser (1975), the title character comes to civilization untouched by any society or education, is “civilized,” corrupted and eventually murdered.

The new movie, Where the Green Ants Dream, features Australian aborigines whose land is exploited by a large mining operation. They have lived on the land for nearly 30,000 years, but in the miners’ eyes, the aborigines are simply impediments to progress. And the odds stack high against them in this clash of cultures.

“In Green Ants this other force—and let’s name it, it’s our Western civilization—is not beyond control, but it’s out of control,” says the filmmaker, carefully choosing the precise words. “It has gone completely out of control and those people who are in control, who do things all right and insist on the dignity of their existence, are the aborigines. And therefore the film has its sympathy on their side.”

The movie is about not only the aborigines’ loss of sacred sites, however. “It is just as much a film on us,” explains Herzog in well-pronounced English whose occasionally awkward constructions reveal his foreignness. “It’s only more visible over there what is going on almost everywhere in the world.” And it is this destruction of cultures by encroaching Western civilization that occupies the director’s mind these days.

“There are things that are just a tragedy that we have to be aware of,” he explains mournfully. “I mean, in enormous proportions everyone is screaming about the fact that lions might become extinct or the last eagle might die out, but it’s much worse to see that a whole culture and a whole tribe is dying out. I’ve seen one aborigine who was the last and final and definitive only surviving member of his clan and language group, so when he dies it’s as if the last—I don’t know—as if the last French-speaking people is dying away. And it will never be spoken and heard again on this Earth. It’s irrevocably lost.

“And the young aborigines want to move into the cities. They want to have cowboy boots and appear like the heavy dudes with sunglasses, and they want to have transistor radios for the Hit Parade from the United States. And they will go away and they will only speak English. They will be of mixed blood quite soon and it will be gone. Or a tribe literally dies out like the last dinosaur or like the last mammoth. I mean, I say it just like that and we don’t even know what kind of disaster it means for the world.”

Hauling the Ship

Fear of another kind of destruction is what motivates Herzog’s filmmaking. He feels that our civilization is endangered—not by violence but by the extinction of meaningful images. In an attempt to replace wornout images, he has consistently discovered and presented breathtaking visuals. “A striving, a trying to articulate new images is present in all my films,” he told a 1979 workshop in Chicago. “We live in a society that has no adequate images anymore and, if we don’t find adequate images and an adequate language for our civilization with which to express them, we will die out like the dinosaurs. It’s as simple as that. We have already recognized the problems like the energy shortage or the overpopulation of the world or the environment crisis, but I think it has not yet been understood widely enough that we also absolutely need new images.”

Paradoxically, in his quest for new and more powerful images, Herzog has practically ignored the sort of concern for civilization that he so often espouses in his words and work. He is a visionary filmmaker; he has said that he is simply articulating dreams, dreams that are all of ours as well as his. But in trying to achieve his visions—which embrace and celebrate humanity—temporarily, during production, he devalues humanity. He risks the lives of others and himself; seems to court disaster; sets up harrowing tasks for himself and his crew; and insists that all subsequent suffering is somehow beneficial.

This was most evident during the filming of Fitzcarraldo (1981), the feature which preceded Green Ants, and it has been wonderfully documented in Burden of Dreams, a film by Les Blank. Herzog’s Sisyphean tale revolves around an Irishman in the wilds of Peru who, in order to bring opera to an isolated Amazonian port town, has a plan that involves dragging an enormous steamer over a mountain from one river into another.

The film’s production was plagued by death, disease, injury and native hostility, much of which could probably have been avoided had not Herzog been such a stickler for authenticity and insisted on unnecessary deep-jungle locations. Against the protests of cast and crew, the director demanded that they actually recreate the fictional portage. The crew’s engineer quit the film, claiming that the hauling methods were insufficient and could result in injuries or deaths. Les Blank, a friend of Herzog’s, wrote in his journal, “I’m tired of it all and could care less if they move the stupid ship—or finish the fucking film.” Klaus Kinski, who plays Fitzcarraldo, said of Herzog, “This much idiot no one has ever been in the world! He could use a model—people don’t care as long as they see it on the screen. But he wants to pull a real ship.”

Nonetheless, Herzog persisted in what he referred to as “a story of a challenge of the impossible.” He became as obsessed with hauling the ship as his fictional character, and the film became as much about the filmmaker as about Fitzcarraldo. Eventually, with the help of hundreds of native Indians, Herzog did manage to pull the ship up the slope—without any injuries. But during other portions of the filmmaking there were disasters. A plane crash resulted in deaths and critical injuries, but Herzog, as seen in Burden of Dreams, seemed practically unfazed, stating, “These are the costs you have to pay.”

Risky Business

Virtually none of Herzog’s films have been without risk to the physical well-being of their participants. A decade before Fitzcarraldo, he was in the same Peruvian jungle shooting Aguirre, the Wrath of God, about a mutinous band of Spanish conquistadors—a monstrous physical ordeal which he later confessed was “an undertaking way above my means. There wasn’t a day without catastrophe.” Making his first feature, Signs of Life (1967), in Greece during the military coup d’etat, he threatened to shoot a police officer who wanted to prohibit the discharge of fireworks. Filming Fata Morgana (1970) in Cameroon soon after an aborted coup, he and his cameraman were mistakenly arrested and held in a fetid jail for several weeks.

Herzog’s riskiest undertaking was unquestionably making the documentary La Soufrière (1977), a lovely study of the Soufrière volcano on the island of Guadeloupe before its presumed eruption. Luckily, while Herzog and two cameramen filmed the smoldering crater and the evacuated town, the volcano’s eruption was only partial. Had it been as predicted, the three men likely would not have survived. With this movie Herzog dramatically demonstrated, “Films are more important than life.”

Many of Herzog’s films are exceptional works. Their visual magnificence is undeniable; the passion of the undertaking is quite evident; and in most cases, a strong narrative supports, rather than overpowers, the feelings and thoughts evoked by the images. And Herzog continues to insist that all of this would be impossible without the troubles encountered during their creation.

“Often by confronting difficulties and details, you confront reality,” he explains. “Films are not made out of the minds of screenwriters. Disasters can be positive. The momentum of a disaster sometimes allows you to build up a beautiful scene.”

All films are difficult challenges for the director, including such quieter, calmer pictures as Land of Silence and Darkness (1973), a feature-length documentary of a deaf and blind woman who emerged after a 30-year depression to help others who were similarly afflicted. “It’s always a great strain to make films,” he says at the conclusion of I Am My Films, a 1979 film portrait of Herzog. “It can be measured in stress, sleepless nights and dollars. For 14 years I have been doing things not within my grasp. But if someone cannot take the strain and the humiliations, then that person probably can’t make films.”

Walking the Borders

Werner Herzog was born Werner H. Stipetic in Munich, Germany in 1942. To escape the Allied bombing, his mother took the infant to the small village of Sachrang in the Bavarian Mountains, where Herzog grew up with his divorced mother and two brothers. He was 11 years old before he saw his first film.

“The first movies I saw were two documentaries screened at school,” recalls Herzog, who now lives in Munich with his wife and two children. “We saw one film with Eskimos building an igloo and the other one was pygmies weaving a liane bridge across a river. And I was very much amazed to see that. I tried to look behind the screen to see if the pygmies were behind it. And later on I saw some Tarzan and Zorro and Dr. Fu Manchu movies and a few films of artistic value, but in my case many things happened quite late and quite abruptly.”

Herzog grew up speaking only Bavarian dialect, not even knowing what oranges or bananas were. And as he explained after being slightly startled by a ringing phone, he didn’t make his first phone call until the family moved back to Munich when he was 15 years old. “I still have a hard time with the telephone,” he admits. “I have to use it, but I don’t like it very much. I’m always somehow cautious, always a little bit scared of it.”

“At the age of 14,” continues Herzog, “there were some very drastic and big changes in my life. That’s the time I could say I started to think independently. Many things that decided and still decide my life I started then… filmmaking and traveling. I wanted to go to Albania, for example, but you couldn’t enter it. There were no visas at that time. It was completely isolated and mysterious. It attracted me very strongly because it was still somehow medieval and mysterious. So I walked along the border from Greece and on the Yugoslavian-Albanian border until I reached the Adriatic coast.”

At this time he also had an intensive religious phase and converted to Catholicism “against the wild opposition of my entire family.” It was also then that he first decided to become a film director, and he began to write scripts at school and submit them to unsympathetic producers.

“I never had any choice about becoming a director,” he says. “It was always clear. And yet strangely enough I had absolutely no idea how film was being made. But I was never scared of just doing it.”

An Instinct for Cinema

Herzog came to cinema as if it were his mission in life. And from the beginning his films have been unique, carrying the indelible Herzog signature. His approach to directing is anything but typical. For example, he never lets an underling wield the clapper slate which is used to label each shot on the set. He handles it himself because he wants to be “the last one who breaks the line in between the actors and the camera and everyone behind.” He often employs nonprofessional actors like Australian aborigines, South American Indians, dwarfs and midgets. And just as he cannot explain why as a young man from a remote mountain village he “knew” that he would direct films, Herzog cannot explain how he coaches his actors or even why his films turn out the way they do. But he is certainly proud of his primitive, self-taught approach, an approach based more on instinct than learned-and-memorized technique.

“While shooting my first feature, the leading actor came to me and wanted to discuss the concept of the central character and his motivations,” recalls Herzog. “At the time I was 23 years old, by far the youngest around, and I said to him, ‘I don’t know what to say to you. Those things don’t interest me. Go to the Turkish fortress [a major location] and lick the stones for two days and you’ll know.” And he never came back again. He actually spent three or four days in the fortress just touching the stones, looking at things, and he was content with that. But had I ever been assistant to a director or had I been at film school I would have tried to explain to him the motivations of this character and I don’t know what other bullshit.”

His collaboration with Klaus Kinski, leading man in Woyzeck, Aguirre, Fitzcarraldo and Nosferatu, is similarly unorthodox. “When Kinski does a scene,” explains the director, “I tell him, ‘Klaus, the dialogue was all right. You were always in frame. You were good. It looks perfect and yet, I don’t know, something is missing and I can’t even name it.’ And then I say, ‘Let’s do it once more and this time you are going to turn the pig loose.’ And then all of a sudden he’s sensational, unprecedented in this world.

“He knows that, for example, when you would normally call for a cut, I sense that there’s more inside of the man and he senses that I am going to run the camera. And all of a sudden there comes some additional things which have not been planned. There’s such a mutual trust in each other. I wait for something more and he knows I expect it from him. And some of the most beautiful things have been done in that way. But it’s very unusual. It looks probably quite strange when somebody professional comes on the set and looks at what I’m doing and how I’m doing it.”

To talk about Herzog is to talk about landscape. It is the overriding image in most of his films. In Signs of Life, three German soldiers on a Greek island are overcome by the geography and go mad. At the end of Nosferatu (1979), the phantom of the night rides off into the gloomy sky across a windswept desert. Heart of Glass (1976) ends with four men setting out from a rocky island in a tiny boat into a roaring sea surrounded by gulls. And the ravaged aboriginal land in Green Ants is an unforgettable sight, as are the Sahara dunes in Fata Morgana that resemble human forms.

“Landscape is quite an important element in almost all of my films,” elucidates Herzog. “Many of my films, including Aguirre, have started actually with a landscape and then a story somehow intruded into this locale. But I take landscape more seriously than many other people in filmmaking. It’s sometimes almost like a central character, and it can be stage-directed. The river in Aguirre is like a central character in the film, or the jungle is like a central character.”

Often the first shot of a Herzog film is a breathtaking landscape which immediately transports the viewer to another time and place. And that these locales are often shrouded in mist makes them dreamlike. Kaspar Hauser begins with a misty wind blowing waves in a field of grain. Heart of Glass begins with a man, head in hands, sitting on a hill as a thick fog rolls over the forest below. Fitzcarraldo begins with the mist-filled jungle. And the stunning opening sequence of Aguirre features a long train of uniformed conquistadors wending their way down a mountain wall along the banks of the Amazon River.

But, again, Herzog is without explanation. He does not know why so many of his pictures begin with fog-drenched landscapes. Instead, he makes a claim that he uses so often it must be believed. “I would say that I follow my instincts, basically,” he states. “I don’t rationalize. I don’t put things together like an architect. And then inexplicably sometimes the fruits fall into my lap and I don’t know how I deserve it. Like the courtroom scene in Green Ants with the mute. How the man comes in, just his kind of look, how he keeps staring at the judge and walks and walks and walks and walks. If you say it in words, it’s nothing. And if you see it on film, you never forget that image in your life, I think.

“I know what I’m doing. I mean, I’m a craftsman and I’m planning things as well. But how does such a thing like that fall into my lap, I have no idea. Sometimes I know that there is a blessing on me.”

High Times Magazine, June 1985

Read the full issue here.

The post From the Archives: Werner Herzog’s Strange Visions (1985) appeared first on High Times.

Outspoken Cannabis Advocate Olivia Newton-John Dies at 73

Australian actress and pop music sensation Olivia Newton-John died at the age of 73 on Monday, her husband revealed, five years after the Grammy Award-winning singer publicly disclosed that she was using medical cannabis to treat cancer.

“Dame Olivia Newton-John passed away peacefully at her Ranch in Southern California this morning, surrounded by family and friends. We ask that everyone please respect the family’s privacy during this very difficult time,” Newton-John’s husband, John Easterling, wrote in a statement on her verified Instagram account. “Olivia has been a symbol of triumphs and hope for over 30 years sharing her journey with breast cancer.”

Newton-John was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, undergoing a partial mastectomy and chemotherapy to treat the disease. In 2013 cancer returned and spread to her shoulder, causing some tour performance dates to be postponed while she was treated.

The singer again postponed concerts for an international tour in 2017 due to serious back pain. In a Facebook message posted in May of that year, Newton-John revealed that cancer had returned once again, this time to the base of her spine, and she announced that additional tour dates would have to be rescheduled.

Singer Revealed MMJ Use in 2018

In a September 2018 interview with the Australian television news program Sunday Night, Newton-John said that she was using cannabis, which she called a “magical, miracle plant,” as part of her treatment.

“My husband’s a plant medicine man so he grew cannabis and made tinctures for me for pain and inflammation,” Newton-John said in 2018.

She explained that the pain caused by the disease was difficult to manage and sometimes caused her problems with mobility.

“The pain was the hardest thing,” said Newton-John. “I can walk, but I can’t go long distances,” adding that she prefers natural cannabis to treat pain and inflammation over other options. “It helped me a lot with pain because I don’t like taking prescription drugs,” she said.

Newton-John noted that the couple was taking advantage of cannabis policy reform in their home state, where personal cultivation of marijuana is permitted by law.

“In California, it’s legal to grow a certain amount of plants for your own medicinal purposes,” she said. “I’m very lucky that I live in a state where it’s legal and that I have a husband who is a plant medicine man.”

The award-winning vocalist added that she believed everyone should have access to cannabis for medical purposes.

“It’s kind and compassionate,” she explained. “It’s what should be available for everybody to use.”

Cannabis Advocate and Healing Force

As an outspoken cannabis advocate, Newton-John spent years lobbying the Australian government to legalize the medicinal use of cannabis. Her experience with cannabis and other alternative healing therapies including plant medicines led her to help create a charitable foundation and the Olivia Newton-John Cancer & Wellness Centre in Melbourne in 2012.

“I have seen the incredible beauty of the plants and their healing abilities… if I hadn’t had that experience, I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you about kinder therapies… your body wants to heal itself,” she said about the cancer center that bears her name, as quoted by the Daily Mail. “That’s why I’m excited to start this foundation.”

After news of Newton-John’s death broke on Monday, a spokesperson from Austin Health, which runs the cancer center at Melbourne’s Austin Hospital, released a statement announcing the organization will hold a memorial for the advocate.

“Olivia touched the lives of many people across Australia and the world, but none more so than our cancer services staff and patients at the Olivia Newton-John Centre, who she encouraged, inspired and supported every day,” the statement reads.

“We are incredibly grateful for the special relationship we had with Olivia for many years. Her generous support and gift provided hope and changed the lives of thousands of cancer patients here at Austin Health,” the statement continues. “She was the light at the end of the tunnel for many, many people.”

Newton-John started her career in the early 1970s with a series of soft-rock and country hit songs, eventually rising to super-stardom as Sandy in the hit musical film ‘Grease’  in 1978. In 1981 she released the hit “Physical,” a song that help fuel the aerobics dance and exercise craze of the 1980s. Throughout the 20th century and into the next, she continued to reinvent herself as an artist and advocate for cancer research and animal rights.

A star with an international following, Newton-John won four Grammys and several other awards over a career that spanned decades. In 1979, she was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II, an honor making her Dame Olivia Newton-John. In 2017, she reflected on her professional life in an interview.

“I’ve had many lives in music. I’ve had country when I started, then I crossed over into pop,” she told CNN. “I had ‘Xanadu’ and ‘Grease,’ many songs in between. I feel very grateful. I have such a large repertoire to choose from.”

The post Outspoken Cannabis Advocate Olivia Newton-John Dies at 73 appeared first on High Times.

Kevin Smith: The Art of Productive Stoning

Kevin Smith. Such an ordinary name for such an extraordinary man. For almost 30 years we’ve looked to him for comedy, podcasts, and comic books, while also admiring his acting and filmmaking in movies like Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and the movie that started it all, Clerks.

Kevin may have become a stoner later in life, but the wisdom he carries regarding it reads like a positive affirmation we should all ingest. Turned on to using cannabis for a higher good by his pal Seth Rogan, Kevin’s take on living a stoner lifestyle gives us one more reason to admire this multi-talented, ordinary name having man.

Coming off the heels of Comic-Con, and before Clerks 3 makes it’s anticipated debut on September 13th, we attempted to get some spoilers (Spoiler: we didn’t), discussed the sweetest currency, his strains with Caviar Gold, and cannabis being a running theme in his life, even when it was just for show. 

Do you ever sit there at Comic-Con and revel in your head like, oh my god I did this?

Kevin Smith: Like, literally. Revel is the right fucking word. I’ve been going to Comic-Con since 95’ and when I first got there the dream was like, this is where I wanna be accepted. I wanna be as integral to this institution as Stan. This is worth all the effort. Some people got lucky early, like I did with my career, and all they wanted to do was party, do drugs, and get fucked. All I wanted to do was become the King of Comic-Con. It took decades, and I don’t know if I’m the king, but I’m definitely Comic-Con royalty. So, I do revel in it because I think back to the conscious effort I put into getting here. The kids today would call it, “thirsty.” I’m sure the kids would also say that was cringe, but whatever. I do revel in it. It’s so gross to admit!

Come on, you put in the work in. You deserve the love. 

I think it helps that it’s never been obscene amounts. Ben Affleck is worldwide famous. I’ve seen that shit up close and it’s nuts. He goes to a mall and he gets fucking swamped. I go to Comic-Con and can be with the general public. It really comes down to a series of knowing smiles. I encounter people who maybe don’t come over like, I wanna take a picture or can you sign this? Instead, they give you eye contact and then a smile crosses their face. That feels fantastic. That means they’re associating me with some pleasant fucking memory enough to give me the grin. I love that shit. That’s the sweetest currency that spends the absolute most in my world.

You started smoking weed pretty late in life. What kept you away from it? Nancy Regan?

Yes! That was it! I was raised in the era of “Just Say No” when drugs were stigmatized. And that’s fine when you’re talking about cocaine or heroin, but they stigmatized weed pretty hard. I had an internal bias from childhood that went along with becoming a stoner. I was like, oh my god you’re going to become one of those lazy people who eats food and watches TV. I made this commitment like, hey, obviously you like this stoning thing and obviously at age 38, it’s doing something for you. If you’re going to do this, it always has to be tied to productivity. So you can smoke, but you always have to be creating. Smoke and record a podcast, smoke and shoot a movie, smoke and write—never just smoke and watch things unless you’re watching a thing you’re editing. Sure, sometimes you need a little inhale to invite joy. But kids, it’s not just for parties. It’s for progress, for productivity, and it clears away the inhibitions and allows you to think about dreams in a very real way.

Where did you adapt this “productivity only” mindset from?

Seth Rogen turned me on to being a middle-aged stoner. I worked with him on Zack and Miri Make a Porno and Seth is one of the most stoned individuals I have ever met. I may have him beat now though. He was always productive and even though he was smoking weed, he wasn’t “the stereotype.” He was shooting my movie, adlibbing three funnier versions of my movie in-betweens takes, and working with his buddy Evan Goldberg on a script that he was working on for after Zack and Miri. That dude was empire building and introduced me to the notion of “the productive stoner.” There are a bunch of us in Hollywood that smoke weed and get shit done. Seth shattered the stereotype so I decided to move forward with it even though I had a built-in bias like, if you do this, you are fucked! I had to make peace with it and slowly came out as being a stoner. Which is so weird because I made all the Jay and Silent Bob movies that had so much weed in them. It wasn’t until I became a stoner and watched all my movies again that I was like, now I understand why stoners like these movies!

Photo by Allan Amato

Welcome! Let’s talk Caviar Gold. Word around town is it’s pretty potent.

These joints will knock you the fuck out but I rail it into my heart and lungs, multiple per day. The brands I make with Caviar Gold are packed full of distillate so periodically, I’ll give somebody a joint and three days later they’ll be like, did you fucking drug me? Like, oh I should’ve warned you they’re pretty high in THC. I was just a massive fan and when we were making Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, that’s what I was exclusively smoking. They did this “Caviar challenge” where it was something like, smoke a Caviar joint in 15 minutes we’ll give you 1k in product. I’m not too rich to be like, no way! I took the challenge and failed, but I then met Caviar Mike through a friend and he’s a genius. I sat down and said something like, in the movie Jay and Silent Bob we make three strains of weed: Snoogans, Berzerker, and Snootchie Boochies. I love your product, would you make weed for me? And he did. We’ve been in business since 2019, the product is sensational, and it’s allowed us to travel around to weed legal states to do exhibits and stuff. It’s great for me because I never run out of weed. It’s also great because when people come over I can be like, hey, have a joint with my face on it!

Staying with joints, in the trailer for Clerks 3, you and Jay are hitting a giant ass joint and I’m trying to imagine, how much weed?!

Raw makes those papers and props to Raw because they’re not just a great stoner company, they’re one of the greatest American companies in existence right now. The guy who runs it is a perfectionist and artist. So, they made those giant ass cones. Did they work? Hands down they fucking work. Is it a wise use of weed? If you’re one of those people that grows and has access to copious amounts of weed, I would say it’s a once in a lifetime party experience. Great visual for social media, and it was phenomenal for our fucking flick. It looked ridiculous like you’re in Willy Wonka’s factory for heaven sake. If you’re going to try it, I say save it for a special occasion. A birthday or a shindig where you’re going to have 30 people around you trust. Talk about a communal smoke!

Becoming a stoner kind of rewrote it all for you.

It really flipped the perspective for me. It allowed me to wear my heart on my sleeve. I would do the work but I felt like I had to be the “Kevin Smith” they thought they knew, or suspected I was based on the movies. When I go back to old interviews, I just want to punch the shit out of that kid. The whole world is a burden and he’s projecting this insouciance to try to match the vibe of the first movie he made. But that first movie he made phased him because it made all of his fucking dreams come true. How do you sit around and still maintain that the world is a shitty place when it’s not? Because you and your friends took a step towards art, all of that changed. That storyteller is incredibly self-conscious and worried about what he’s put together. This storyteller is a stoner and realizes that “worry is interest paid in advance on a debt that never comes due.” I stole that from David Mamet’s The Spanish Prisoner, but it’s absolutely true. I was really happy that becoming a stoner allowed me to be, me. In person, in public, when I’m working or not.

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Frenchy Cannoli’s Legacy Still Aligns With the Farmers

One of the most precious things the pandemic took away from each and every one of us was our ability to gather together. This absence of community these past few years is something that feels more acute in the world of weed. After all, we’re the originators of puff, puff, pass. To truly love the cannabis plant often includes a strong and unselfish desire to share that love with others. Departed hash master Frenchy Cannoli knew this better than most. Not only was he aligning with other artisans at the top of their craft to present hash as the ultimate expression of what cannabis can be, but he was also a master of bringing people together to collectively enjoy the fruit of the farmers’ labor. At the recent San Francisco, California premiere of a film based on his life, a friend reminded me of the many times Frenchy gathered us all together around the hookah. He’d stand in the center and apply the hash to the foil above a hot coal while everyone lucky enough to secure a hose puffed together in a circle. In terms of smoking cannabis, the experience of joining a Frenchy hash hookah circle felt as ancient as it gets. We all gathered around a fire and, in this case, smoked pure fire in the form of traditionally pressed hashish. Within his extensive writings on the subject of hash, Frenchy outlines that our relationship with the cannabis plant dates back to around 80,000 to 90,000 BC, the same time as the earliest use of fire. Hash, in the form of resin hand-rubbed from the plant or charas, is the oldest cannabis concentrate, and Frenchy believed humanity may have discovered its benefits even before the nutritional qualities of cannabis seeds or the many uses of the plant’s fiber.

“The hash is the final expression of the genetics,” he explains early on in the film. “It’s all about the trichome.”

Frenchy always credited the quality of the hash he made to the farmers who grew the cannabis. In the film, Frenchy Dreams of Hashish, documentary filmmaker Jake Remington introduces viewers to meet many of those farmers within their element. Most of the farms Frenchy worked with professionally grow outdoors under the sun in Mendocino County, one-third of Northern California’s famed Emerald Triangle, also made up of Trinity and Humboldt counties.

“All my life, it has never been [about] who made the hashish or charas, but where it was made,” Frenchy wrote in Weed World Magazine. “It is the plant always and only. It is about how far you are willing to go for the dank.”

Before finding himself embedded within the cannabis community in Northern California, Frenchy traveled throughout hash-making regions across the globe. The film brings viewers into his world within the Emerald Triangle. It was a world many of us present at the movie premiere at the Marina Theater last week were also a part of. When Frenchy passed away in July 2021, social media feeds exploded with photos of him. It seemed like everybody knew him. His energy was infectious, and his love of hash was undeniable. It made you feel good just to be around him. Before the social isolation brought on by the pandemic, the cannabis community in Northern California and beyond was an extremely tight in-person clique. So much so that I can’t remember the number of times I ran into Frenchy at events. Sadly, I learned of his passing through a text and could not attend his small memorial service because of COVID-19. While the service was kindly also streamed online, it was heartbreaking to have to grieve the loss of my friend in isolation from my community, something many of us who have lost someone during this health pandemic have also had to experience.

The movie premiere held on the holiday for cannabis concentrates, July 10 or 710, began with a brunch at the parklet of a restaurant initially opened by blues legend Boz Scaggs. Outside on the San Francisco street, we all fired up joints and enjoyed concentrates, the delectable aromas of which attracted the attention of at least one passerby. This event marked the first time I was able to gather with many people I have not been able to see since the hash master’s passing and was a joyous celebration of life.

Courtesy of FrenchyCannoli.com

As a producer of an artisanal craft product, Frenchy was very focused on imparting the importance a sense of place has on a product. He compared his craft to that of a winemaker and honed in on terroir, the way a particular region’s natural elements such as the climate and soil affect the tastes of agricultural products. In the same way Champagne is recognized as one of the best places to produce sparkling wine, he worked tirelessly to ensure people understood that one of the best places to produce cannabis is on the small farms in the Emerald Triangle. The film serves as a way to bring more people than ever before onto those farms. The older couple I sat next to at the premiere had never met Frenchy but were interested in old-school hash and had learned about the screening online. Inside the theater, they were able to travel into the forest of massive cannabis trees at the Mendo Dope grow and watch Leo Stone of Aficionado hand-pollinate his plants. Aficionado brought Frenchy to prominence within the cannabis community by betting on his hash making as a way to market the quality of their cannabis genetics.

“The way we work together is a little bit like a winemaker works with a vineyard,” Frenchy told me in 2019. “When you go to a dispensary and you show the flower and you show the resin that is growing on that flower, the guy is not going to look at your flower the same way. If you sell a package that brings credit to the person that gave you that resin, the game changes.”

After our initial meeting, I expressed to Frenchy that I’d like to write a story on the process of how to make hash and asked him to show me. He explained that it wasn’t a quick process and later invited me to participate in one of his Lost Art of the Hashishin hash-making workshops. These classes are depicted in the film as Frenchy stands before a room of students and expands upon the process of agitating the trichomes from the cannabis trim in the same way a farmer shakes off ripe fruit off a tree. When it’s perfectly ripe, it only takes a bit of agitation for fruit to be collected, and Frenchy felt similarly about the process of making hash. The ice isn’t doing the work, he explains in the film, it’s the current of the water that gently plucks the trichome from the plant matter. He would collect those trichomes and then—very important to his hash-making process—press them together. The pressing of the trichomes with a bit of force and mild heat condenses the glands into a solid mass and is the only way Frenchy felt anything called “hash” should be presented. He would roll the trichomes he collected into the shape of cannolis—explaining how he got his name—or Nepalese temple balls.

Courtesy of FrenchyCannoli.com

Frenchy was the type of person whose eyes always smiled. He was charismatic, warm, and often laughing. In most photos you’ll see him the way we did most often, with a full wide smile and deep laugh lines. The multi-hour hash-making workshop at the Meadow headquarters that I participated in back in 2015 was the time I witnessed him being the most serious. He wouldn’t tolerate people in my class talking amongst themselves even after hours of intense instruction and called to his students to pay closer attention. Frenchy was undeniably devoted to his craft.

“If you’re not deadly in love with the resin, then you’re going to get lost,” he said that day.

Within the film, Frenchy’s genuine love for resin shines through.

“The way we treat that plant, the way we work with it, will define the future,” he says in Frenchy Dreams of Hashish.

For Remington, the documentary is an effort to “highlight the ethos of sustainable farming and dedication to quality sungrown cannabis shared by Frenchy and his farmers,” but it’s also a way to show how the California’s cannabis industry’s transition from a medical to adult-use marketplace have unfavorably impacted the survival of the small farms Frenchy championed.

“During filming, California’s cannabis industry experienced waves of change that negatively affected and threatened the livelihood of the small farmers Frenchy worked with,” Remington says in a press release. “This maelstrom of bureaucracy and hypocrisy forms the context of the film in which Frenchy and the farmers’ fight for quality—and survival—intensified.”

Even though he is no longer with us in person, Frenchy’s spirit and message to preserve the cannabis heritage of the Emerald Triangle remain through things like the film and efforts of the ones he loved, most notably his wife Kimberly Hooks, also known as Madame Cannoli, and his apprentice Bell. Watch Frenchy’s social media channels for information about additional film screenings.

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Dan Aykroyd, Jim Belushi to Headline Blues’d & Infused Fest as The Blues Brothers

The Blues Brothers band, headed by Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi, are set to headline the Blues’d and Infused cannabis music festival Saturday, August 20 at Riverfront Park in Niles, Michigan. What was once a humble Saturday Night Live sketch, one of the first to become widely known, is now an experience that is probably better with cannabis involved.

The event is presented by Highway Horticulture Productions, a cannabis processing facility, and Float Nation Live at Riverfront Park in Niles on August 20 with cannabis-related festivities including local bands, vendors, food trucks, consumption tents, a dab tent, game area, misting tents, and more.

The two will provide a full 90-minute set with an 11-piece band, from a Hammond B3 organ player to a horn section and The Blues Brothers themselves. The duo is typically known for singing and dancing hits from the official Blues Brothers canon like “Soul Man” and “Sweet Home Chicago” plus classic tunes from the vast catalog of great American roots music.

“It is a show band,” Belushi told Moody on the Market. “We’re going to have fun. The Blues Brothers are going to rock the whole southern Michigan, I got to tell ya.”

Their Working Man’s Brand will be available on site with local retailers, including Sunset Coast Provisions, Green Stem, Higher Breed, NOBO, Fleurish, and Sun Provision.

“Jim is bringing credibility to cannabis,” said Highway Horticulture co-founder Nick Sayers. “It’s not just a celebrity brand here. It’s very substantive. He approaches it as medicine first, which is how we view it. So, we’re trying to expand it safely to new interests, not just trying to get everyone high.”

“Nick is one of the smartest men in cannabis that I’ve met,” Belushi said. “We talked to a lot of different growers. … Nick, to me, was the most honorable with the message that’s most common to my message on my farm, and that is the pathway to healing through cannabis.”

Belushi said he connected with the Midwest, as he grew up in Chicago, Illinois.

“Michigan, you know, is my next-door neighbor,” he said. “It’s Midwest, it’s hard working people. I grew up as a hardworking guy with my dad and his restaurant in Chicago. … It’s a working man’s state, and we’re delivering working man’s medicine.”

A limited-edition concert tee designed by Tree Street Packing will be available for attendees. VIP packages are available including a photo opportunity with Belushi and Akroyd, a dedicated bathroom and swag bags. Attendees must be 21 years of age to attend this event.

Courtesy of The Blues Brothers

Belushi, who now often takes over for his late brother John Belushi, and Aykroyd, are actively involved in the cannabis community through various ongoing pursuits, including reprising the roles of The Blues Brothers. Belushi performs as Zee Blues while Akroyd plays Elwood Blues. It was one of the first Saturday Night Live sketches to come to life on the big screen in 1980, ranking second at the box office, after only The Empire Strikes Back.

In 2015, Belushi invested into Oregon’s cannabis industry, involving himself in the process of creating his extensive cannabis cultivation operation Belushi’s Farm. Later, The Discovery Channel got involved and launched the series Growing Belushi. Since then, Belushi has more or less made a tour of sharing an inside look of his farming endeavors to the world. His name is now synonymous with cannabis in a commercial sense.

Belushi now has a stable cannabis brand that features strains from his farm, and is a board member for The Last Prisoner Project.

Bhang collaborated with The Blues Brothers for the first time last November to deliver nostalgia-inducing Bhang x The Blues Brothers Cannabis-infused Chocolates, with unique textures and unusual flavors. The collaboration features marketing and promotional support to the Last Prisoner Project, a non-profit cannabis reform initiative.

At the event, Belushi’s Farm and other related cannabis projects will likely be part of the agenda.

Tickets for the event are available here.

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