By Mark Miller
Photo By Dave Vann
When Conspirator co-founder Marc Brownstein was asked backstage at The Independent in San Francisco what strain of pot he was smoking, the affable bassist held up a bud and smiled: “Tangelo Haze.” But drummer K.J. Sawka turned the tables on HIGH TIMES, asking what pot we had. (For the record, it was sweet sativa Candy Jack).
Between hits of Haze, electronica act Conspirator is touring the country to support their new album Unlocked: Live From The Georgia Theater (SCI Fidelity), featuring evocative originals like “Feed the Wolf ” and “Retrograde,” and the Pink Floyd-sampled cover of DJ Eric Prydz’ “Proper Education.”
The group occupies a unique niche in creating studio tracks via computer and then performing those songs live with four quality musicians. “Conspirator is this weird thing that doesn’t really exist out there,” Brownstein mused. “It’s a true hybrid between a DJ and a band.”
For the uninitiated, Brownstein and cutting-edge keyboardist and Conspirator co-founder Aron Magner also raise hell in The Disco Biscuits. Regarding the Biscuits’ future, Brownstein was cautiously candid: “For years, we – Magner especially – had this vision of the Biscuits becoming a destination-type thing [playing festivals], which is perfect for us. We play better shows taking off four months and then shredding for [a few] days. It’s exactly what we always envisioned happening, but maybe we didn’t prepare Biscuits fans for this.”
One of those upcoming Biscuits festivals is Mayan Holidaze, and Brownstein was in anticipatory awe: “What are the chances that your job is taking you to Tulum, Mexico, on Dec 21, 2012 – to be on the beach at the Mayan ruins as the Mayan calendar resets?”
The author of broken pot pipe ode “Nughuffer,” Brownstein is a legendary smoker in the scene, but he went on extended weed hiatus last year, explaining: “I was out of control, I needed a break. When [guitarist Chris] Michetti joined the band, we went wild for about three months straight during our first bus tour; it was a party.”
Brownstein is now “back on the train” and has resumed smoking: “There was not a lot of tolerance at first. It was like dropping acid – but now it’s back to normal.” And with his new perspective came this advice: “You wanna get high? Take a seven-month break from pot, dawg.”
Asked if cannabis serves as a creative catalyst, Brownstein expanded the notion: “Over the years I’ve used pot as an everything catalyst.” Michetti offered a slight variance: “I think it goes either way when jamming – but with writing, I use pot as a reward after working on a song.”
Before the band took the stage, we requested an instrumental version of the Biscuits’ “Portal to an Empty Head” and Conspirator obliged for the encore. Earlier in the show, the band played a sizzling “Liquid Handcuffs/Tom Sawyer” jam, and Michetti confirmed afterward they jammed “Tom Sawyer” because we discussed Rush during the interview – very cool.
How long before bands just let HIGH TIMES inspire their entire set lists?