Kottonmouth Kings

Kottonmouth Kings
Maui gig: Thurs., Oct. 8, 8pm at Oceans Beach Bar & Grill, Kihei
Web site: kottonmouthkings.com

In California—where three initiatives have been filed with the Attorney General for the legalization of marijuana—the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) prepares to wrap its 38th annual convention, held in downtown San Francisco’s Union Square. This year’s theme: “Yes We Can-nabis.”

Meanwhile and elsewhere in the Golden State, Brad “Daddy X” Xavier, frontman of Southern California’s Kottonmouth Kings—a 6-man act of proud, pro-herb proponents whose name alone (mis)spells marijuana-supporter synonymy—is on the phone with me, en route to pick up his 10-year old daughter from school. “She’s great,” says Xavier.

We’re 20 or so minutes into the interview when he arrives at his destination. At a good stopping point in our discussion—about his desire for decriminalization and his viewpoints about honest, rather than “fear-based” dialogue (especially between parents and kids—Xavier pauses for a moment and I hear the open-shut sound of car doors.

“Hold on real quick…” he says.

“How’s it going sweetheart?” I hear in the background, the preface to a quick, loving exchange. “Here, say ‘hi.’”

“Who is it?” questions a high, petite voice.

“We’re doing an interview in Hawaii right now.”

“Hi!” says Xavier’s daughter, Sky Blue, sweetly—quickly followed by (with the tiniest of coaxing) an exuberant “aloha.”

Earlier, Xavier had told me he and his ‘ohana recently vacationed at the Hana Ranch. “Maui is such a beautiful place. We had a great time up there.”

Though Xavier has spent time here and once, “years ago” played along side Bad Religion while with his former band, the Humble Gods, this will be the first Maui show for the Kottonmouth Kings—just one of just two gigs scheduled in Hawaii.

This brazenly blazed band describe their sound as “psychedelic hip-hop punk rock”; many might know them from songs like “Bump” or “Bong Tokin’ Alcoholics.”

“We’re just blessed to come play music there—happy people want to have us,” says Xavier.

When I ask if his family will again be accompanying him, he sounds a little disappointed. “No, not this time. My daughter is in school. So we’re just coming out, handling business. We’re in the middle of making a record right now. We’ll be able to hang out for a couple of days, but then we gotta get back and finish this album.”

The album he speaks of is in addition to the LP Hidden Stash 420 that drops on October 13. It’s the fourth installment in the Hidden Stash series—this one ditching the Roman numerals for the aptly applied “420”—and is a two-disc set with 40 songs and a full-length DVD.

“This [upcoming] one is called Long Live the Kottonmouth Kings. We’re going to release it on April 20 of 2010, and we’re pretty much looking at it like this is the last record we want to make—so we’re pulling out all the stops for it,” says Xavier.

Xavier describes his house and studio up in the mountains and how they rent a cabin adjacent to his property where bandmates stay while they record.

“It’s definitely been the best [bonding experience] in maybe the last five or six years,” he says. “This is the first time we’ve gone away, had a space and actually lived together [to] write and record since the early days. It’s been pretty cool going back to that.”

Since 1994, the band has produced 12 major LPs; only two of which failed to crack the Billboard Top 200. Like Hidden Stash, each album title (such as their debut, Royal Highness, or 2000’s High Society or 2002’s Rollin’ Stoned) is a blatant testament to their zeal for THC. With a diehard fanbase and a well of underground success (they were the cover boys of the November 2006 issue of High Times and were named the magazine’s “Band of the Year” in 2009, when they headlined at the 19th Annual Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam), it seems odd they’re looking to call it quits.

“Well, you know, the future is always uncertain and the end is always near,” says Xavier. “You never know… it just feels like right now, I’m looking at it like it’s possibly the last Kottonmouth Kings album… I definitely have the mindset that this is the one we want to leave the mark on. We kind of want to rest our dynasty on the album coming up here.

“Obviously making records and making music is a passion of mine—something I love to do and something I’ll continue to do. I produce a lot of different bands besides the Kottonmouth Kings.”

When Xavier says he “produce[s] a lot,” he means it. By my count, his label, Suburban Noize, boasts a list of acts in excess of 34. Acts that include Hed P.E., Kingspade, La Coka Nostra, Mondo Generator and Unwritten Law.
And, while “the music business [is] kind of going down the tubes,” Xavier finds the label is thriving.

“The music industry started to turn… so many great artists all of a sudden needed homes, and we were able to facilitate that,” he says, explaining how the label does 50-50 partnerships with the bands it signs, an untraditional, independent model that seems to have found a niche in this digital age.

“[E]specially sometimes in the major label sense, the money trickles down before it hits the artist,” says Xavier. “So it’s a long food chain and the artist gets the scraps on the table. But we’re an independent label—there’s no big corporations behind us. It’s a grassroots label, and it’s powered by the people.

“It’s definitely a labor of love. We have a small, dedicated group of people that work at the label, [who] really believe in it and have a lot of passion for it. Hopefully [it] will continue to grow and we’ll be able to keep the doors open, keep doing what we’re doing, and keep this dream alive.”

Another dream they certainly won’t let die is the decriminalization of marijuana. “It’s pretty simple. It’s really a human being’s choice whether they want to act or interact with that plant,” says Xavier. “If the people’s will is to enjoy the plant, then let it grow free. Of course, if you abuse anything, it will abuse you. If you abuse alcohol, if you drink too much Coca-cola, if you eat too many processed foods, pharmaceutical drugs, whatever.

“I gotta make personal choices in [my daughter’s] best interest all the time. It’s something I absolutely openly discuss with her so she understands what it is, so she understands both sides, so she understands there are laws. Hopefully, she’ll make her own [educated] choices when she’s old enough.”

Speaking of his daughter, before I let him go spend time with her, I ask Xavier to describe his perfect day.

There’s a touch of happy surprise in his voice when he replies: “Oh! My idea of a perfect day is waking up on Maui with my daughter. Going hiking, going swimming, eating some good, fresh fruit—just living and being in the moment, with friends, family. No stress. No worries—and good music!”

Sounds like the high life to me. Maui Time Weekly