A few months ago, I was discussing the cannabis industry with Brendan Hill, drummer of Grammy-winning U.S. band Blues Traveler. The musician had opened a dispensary, Paper & Leaf, in Bainbridge Island, Washington, in 2015, so we were talking about going into the marijuana business and changing the stigma around it.
At one point, I decided to ask about both his first and his best joint. And damn, I’m glad I did!
As many blues bands, Blues Traveler is sort of an improvisational group, Hill commenced.
“We grew up listening to Led Zeppelin, Grateful Dead, the Allman Brothers Band, Santana and all those kinds of groups from the ’60s and ’70s that made music that was influenced by cannabis use,” explained Hill. “So, when Blues Traveler got together, we moved to New York recently out of high school, and we got into the club scene. So, cannabis was all around us, and it became part of our culture.”
Javier Hasse: How did cannabis help with your music?
Brendan Hill: What cannabis does for a musician or an artist is that it gets you into a very creative place very quickly, especially if you’ve practiced a lot and have good friends that you like to play with or perform with. That kind of social ritual of passing around a joint before you play just connects you even more and allows you to get on that same wavelength or flow-space, allowing new ideas to come to you.
It’s important to remember that you don’t need cannabis to play well. However, for certain kinds of improvisation, especially when you’re playing night after night, having just even little bit can help you get to that flow-space even quicker.
JH: Do you remember the best joint you ever smoked?
BH: We [Blues Traveler] went to a benefit event at Neil Young’s house in San Francisco, California. It was us, Marilyn Manson, Metallica and Neil Young. We were at a party after the event, in one of Neil Young’s teepees that he’s got on his property.
I just remember looking around thinking “this is so surreal, but so awesome,” not only because Neil Young had put together this event, which has such a good cause, but also because we were around this group of musicians that I really enjoyed listening to. It felt really cool being a part of that event.
Cannabis in a lot of ways brings people together and allows for that kind of spontaneity to happen. To me, that was one of my favorite moments for cannabis smoking.
JH: Finally, I asked about politics. (This was in December, before Donald Trump took power.)
BH: I’m hoping that, with the new administration, states’ rights are respected, and we’re able to continue as we are, keep that status quo.
Having said this, I believe that the medical portion of cannabis is the next thing that is going to be universally accepted. I think there is probably going to be a couple of studies—none that I know of exactly, though—that will whitepaper the effects of cannabis on, let’s say, glaucoma or Crohn’s disease or spasticity or whatever it is […] And, as soon as that happens, that kind of opens the door for more research.
Quotes were edited very slightly for clarity.