Like many musicians, Andy and I liked a smoke. Yea we smoked fags, well roll ups to be exact but we also smoked quite a bit of weed (AKA Marijuana, Cannabis, hash, hashish, puff, pot etc). I wasn’t really planning on discussing this aspect of our life as it’s not really something I want my aunt Doris to read about, but I’ve been very truthful in this blog up to now, (Ok well aside from claiming I have an aunt Doris) but I think it’s worth mentioning as it played quite a large role in our life at this point, and as a lot of young musicians read this blog it may prove insightful. But please note all of the following is based entirely on my own opinions and experience, I do not proclaim to speak for all cannabis-smokers or musicians. I also neither condone or encourage the use of cannabis – this is just an insight, ok?
So at this point in time (around 2002 I think?) I was songwriting most days for Sony. Most of the musicians we knew at the time were also big tokers (pot smokers) – it kind of went hand in hand with the territory. We didn’t drink much alcohol and we’d left class A’s behind in our uni days but weed remained a firm staple in our daily diet. When we first started smoking weed back at uni it was just a nice high; we’d get the giggles, get the raving munchies like you do and occasionally ‘whitey’. For those with little knowledge of weed, having a ‘whitey’ is when you either smoke too much or have a particularly strong spliff and all of a sudden the nice little buzz you are feeling suddenly turns rogue: you start to feel clammy, the room begins to spin and you either want to throw up or find somewhere to pass out as fast as possible. It’s not so bad if it happens in your house / next to your bed … but when it happens at a party, or when you’re out and about looking around a museum in Amsterdam at 1pm in the afternoon say, it’s a horrible experience.
But when you’re a full time musician, smoking weed can be a bit of a slippery slope. If you’re a disciplined person you may keep a handle on it, but if you’ve got an addictive nature (like I have) it can be tricky for sure. When you don’t have to get up in the morning to attend an office job, or indeed any regular job – when your job is making music there is nothing to stop you from enjoying recreational substances at any time of the day. Being an ‘artist’ almost gives you license to do what you feel is necessary, for your art. Roll up to your office job stoned out of your eye balls and yea, you’d be fired on the spot. Roll up to your record label or producer’s studio stoned, they’ll probably just put the kettle on and order a pizza for you when necessary. So you can see how easy it might be for such a habit to become a regular occurrence. When you’ve a day of music ahead, instead of lighting up a ciggie with your morning coffee, you’d light up a spliff instead, and the rest of the day can go either way – totally inspired or a total write off.
The guy we bought our weed from lived in North London. Let’s call him Pasty Dave. Pasty Dave was the same guy Amy Winehouse bought her weed from (so he said). She didn’t live far from his house and it was around about this time she was just taking off. He was a nice enough guy, bit of a cockney geezer, and a bit peaky looking due to the vast amount of reefer he smoked. But his house was like the V&A museum! it was filled to the rafters with antiques and grand portraits … his other business I suspect. The dealing was clearly taking its toll as he became increasingly paranoid over time, and on a few occasions we’d be told to meet him around the corner, where all of a sudden you’d see him poke his head up from behind the bushes like a squirrel.
Thing is, when you smoke weed regularly it doesn’t have the same effect as when you smoke it as a one off. You become acclimatised to it, so we could function quite normally. That also means you end up smoking more which in turn means you have an expensive habit on your hands. So while we could function quite normally we did still get the munchies, I’ve no idea how we both weren’t the size of a house … but what it also did make was us paranoid. If we smoked earlier in the day we’d be fine holed-up making music, but answering the phone say, or leaving the house would usually go down like this:
Jode: Oh no the phones ringing!
Both stare at phone.
Andy: I’m not getting it. Who is it?
Jodie: I don’t know. I’m not getting it.
Both stare at phone.
Andy: I can’t get it. I’m stoned.They’ll know!
Jode: nor can I!
Continue to stare at phone until it stops ringing. Then the same thing would happen if we ran out of loo roll. Despite the shop being a 10 second walk from our house, it would still go down like this …
Jode: Oh no we’re out of loo roll!
Andy: I’m not going out. You’ll have to go …
Both stare at empty loo roll cardboard.
Jodie: I can’t go out, there’s no way I’m going out …
Andy: I can’t go out. I’m stoned.They’ll know!
Continue to stare at empty loo roll cardboard until one of us caves (which was usually driven by the fact that we had the munchies and the shop had goodies) so after a game of stone paper scissors the loser would stick on dark glasses and brave the outside world looking like the worlds worst undercover agent. I don’t know why we were worried, the shop guy always knew we were stoned … the dark glasses, two tubs of Haagen Daz, kingsize rizla and family pack of Doritos were a bit of a giveaway. Besides, he didn’t care, he was clearly a stoner himself.
Unless everyone else in the room is also stoned it can be a pretty unsociable drug. But like I said before, people react differently on it. When Andy smoked he could be really hyperactive and creative … occasionally he’d listen back to what he’d recorded the following day and it would go in the bin, but still … it would sometimes open doorways creatively. For me however, it would often go a different way. I could sit at the piano and write a great song / chorus / chord progression … then I’d call out and say:
“Hey And! come here and check the song out, it’s great!”
In 5 seconds Andy would walk into the room and say “Ok great, let’s hear it”
Then I’d look down at my hands, look up and say ” ….. oh I’ve forgotten it.”
It also affected me vocally. Now don’t quote me on this but a little bird once told me that Kate Bush used to like a smoke, and the more she smoked the higher her range became, supposedly. But for me it was the absolute opposite. The second I had a pull on a joint (and I mean the second) my voice changed … my control would go AWOL, my top range would disappear and the low end would just get lower. Which would be fine if I was singing a dark, sultry number but for anything else, forget it. So there’s no way I could perform a gig after a spliff. Some musicians may perform better, and It’s quite likely I did perform after a smoke, but I could put money on it being one of the worse gigs I’ve ever done. I’ve also performed gigs after consuming quite a lot of booze … and while you still have your control / range to an extent the downside is, because you’re trousered your inhibitions go, and you make the mistake of thinking you sound and look like a rock god, when the reality is you probably sound and look like a bit of a knob. It’s well worth filming gigs like that, just so you know.
I once came across a quote by Charles Baudelaire which sums up Cannabis perfectly for me. He said “What hashish gives with one hand, it takes away from the other: that is to say, it gives the power of imagination and takes away the ability to profit by it.” I thought that was pretty spot on, and I’ve no doubt there are (and have been) thousands of artists / musicians currently sitting in their studios creating masterpieces that none of us will ever see / hear. For some creating is enough, and with hashish as your faithful sidekick you may not be in a hurry to launch into business mode anytime soon – not if leaving the house to buy loo-roll poses a problem. So why do we do it? well there are lots of reasons, and depending on what you want from life there are also reasons why it’s not really a healthy, sustainable habit. But I’ll confess to my own reasons in the next chapter.