It’s no secret that weed occupies a special place in American music culture. Whether we’re talking about stoner garage rock or blunts and hip-hop, most artists aren’t shy about speaking on marijuana’s creative power. For many musicians, it alters their creative consciousness, enabling them to access an artistic space they would be unable to experience otherwise. As Arca collaborator Jesse Kanda told The FADER last year, Alejandro Ghersi’s alter ego Xen (and the inspiration behind his 2014 album of the same name) emerges when they smoke together.
While icons like Snoop Dogg (never Snoop Lion) are pretty open about their love of ganja, that kind of candor hasn’t always been the case in Latin America. Fifteen years ago, there was still a pretty big stigma surrounding artists who smoked, and those who did were the exception to the rule. Bands like Molotov have always embraced the way weed influences their creative process, but their involvement in a recent scandal surrounding Mexico’s first weed and lifestyle magazine proves they haven’t totally escaped critics. These days, the stigma has somewhat dissipated, so we decided to reach out to some of our favorite musicians and see what they had to say about weed and creativity. From taming their inner critics to allowing them to vibe with collaborators, here’s how these 11 musicians work weed into their creative process.
Weed Week is a cross-platform collaboration with our friends at Latino USA. All week long, we’ll be diving into the many ways cannabis culture and policy intersect with Latino communities – leading up to Latino USA’s marijuana-themed episode “Smoked Out,” airing on Friday.
“[Making music] is more fun with marijuana, because you laugh more, and you kind of lose contact with reality – which is the disease we all suffer from. You can get in touch with your mind, and concentrate better on your own ideas, which is what I think we’re all seeking. Sometimes you can’t smoke, because you need to drive in the city, or ride a bike, or take a math test – but the rest of the time you’re in this individual bubble of frenetic solipsism, all thanks to a little plant you can grow in your own house. I’m not trying to say that weed will turn you into a zen monk, but, well – you laugh, they beat you at poker. And who cares if they beat you when you’re already flying?? It almost makes me want to cry. Viva la marihuana, viva all of the drugs, down with laws and borders, free will, brotherhood, mass murders, and the end of the world!”
Dengue Dengue Dengue
“La maria helps us tap into a creative channel, forget what is happening around us, and just flow. It helps us guide ourselves more by our instincts than our reason, and that definitely leads to better music.”
Pepper Kilo of Füete Billete
“Personally, weed doesn’t influence my creative process with Füete. I smoke weed because it helps me navigate society more easily. I’m a very anxious person, and a lot of the times when I go out I let dumb things affect me. But if I smoke, I don’t get upset and I can tune it all out. Plus, it feels great, I laugh a lot, food tastes better, and music sounds more dope!”
Maria y José
“Here’s how smoking weed helps me. Every day I work on beats, harmonies and melodies. Once I already have an idea with lyrics in mind, I usually start the song using the material I already have. Smoking helps me clear all the dumb stuff out of my head, so I can focus and make the song complete. It allows me to get rid of any prejudices, or concerns about what other people might think, and just concentrate on making the song that comes out of me, that is me.”
“Weed helps me find the essence of what I want to communicate to others through sound. It’s what I use to figure out how to show my feelings to others. To compose songs, I like to leave my mom’s house in Chillán, go somewhere I can feel very alone and free, smoke a joint and just unwind with myself – that’s my ideal. I’ll also write lots of poems without over-thinking them too much. Sometimes one of the phrases in the poems turns into lyrics. I also like to work with a producer friend who I really get along with and smoke a lot together, trying sounds and effects. Marijuana really helps you feel a beautiful spiritual and musical connection with another person…it’s like making love with your brain and giving birth to a child later.”
“Alejandro is very multi-sided as a personality, and he can sometimes become what we call Xen, jokingly. And it’s this very sassy, confident, very feminine side of him. And it’s like, ‘Ohhhh, she’s out,’ we say—mainly when we’re smoking weed, just fucking around. ‘Xen’s out.’ And he’s, like, going crazy, changing his outfits or whatever. That’s Xen inside of him. It’s this kind of ghost. A spirit. Alejandro’s spirit.” – Jesse Kanda, on Arca as told to The FADER.
“I use weed as a reference point. Usually I work sober, and then I re-edit while high, and finally I give the song a last listen, so I can structure it while sober. But yes, [weed] is very important. It also helps me communicate with collaborators. We brainstorm, and weed helps us understand each other and get on the same page.”
“I’m a pretty anxious person in general, and everything stresses me out. When I smoke and write music, it really relaxes me, and allows me to focus on just one thing instead of the millions of things that usually run through my head. I don’t know if I’ve ever written not stoned, and I don’t know if I ever want to.”
“Sometimes [weed] is a double-edged sword. It can help me a lot when I start a new track; I’ll play with rhythms or sounds, and can build the base of a song pretty quick (I’m not saying I can’t do this without weed, but with weed it tends to flow really fast). But on the other hand, when I have to mix the track high, I can get overwhelmed or bored really fast – it’s like my ears get tired faster than when I’m sober. Bottom line: when I’m stoned my strengths are improvising and making noise. Especially when there’s a jam session or some type of collaboration happening.”
“Smoking a joint relaxes me and allows me to concentrate on what I’m doing – sometimes too much.”
Felipe Pérez, 424
“We’ve always liked to get away [when we write music], escape from the city. And combining weed with natural surroundings makes you feel really at peace, it opens the door to let your creativity flow. I’ve also noticed that we have a predilection for certain beat tempos in our music, and I’m always telling the band members who don’t smoke that they play like stoners regardless. For many people, myself included, weed can be a tool that strengthens the creative process.”