The Evolution of Cisco Adler

The former party rocker discusses his worst psychedelic trip, favorite pot shop in Malibu, and new music.
Cisco Adler
Courtesy Allie Adams

Set against the Long Beach waterfront where urban sprawl meets coastline, ska meets hip-hop (and everything in between) at Cali Vibes Music Festival. The reggae-adjacent, three day party is produced by the Coachella overlords at GoldenVoice—an ode to the Cali Reggae scene and its progenitors which has cemented itself as the premier North American festival of the niche music genre. 

Backstage, Cisco Adler fist bumps me. He’s different from how I remember him in the 2008 “Buzzin’” music video. He still sports the long hair and devil-may-care demeanor, but he’s no longer the Peter Pan of the party rock scene flanked by bikini-clad babes drinking beer on a boat. 

He’s grown up. A dad, husband, yet still a musician… and still a stoner. 

We walk back to his green room trailer and sit across from each other, the strap from his patchwork overalls slipping from his shoulder. 

HT: You know, when I think of the name Cisco Adler my mind immediately goes to the Indie Sleaze era of the mid 2000’s, but you’re actually a pretty heady guy and you’ve transitioned to this folky, almost jam-band sound.

CA: It was a very natural progression, just riding the wave where it takes me. I always want to be evolving into what I want to be when I’m old and gray. I can’t do backflips off the drums forever… I’ve had sort of three musical chapters and that was chapter one. Chapter two was the Shwayze stuff, and now this chapter is kind of me coming home to who I really am.

HT: And you’re in your Dad Era.

CA: I am and you know what I haven’t played live but a few times in the past ten years. It’s time now, though, because my kid’s ten and I want to be the best me. I want him to see the part of me that I put on hold for him, for me, for my wife. 

HT: You have some new music coming out with Mihali [formerly of Twiddle]. How did you guys link up?

CA: I love him, I just walked over to watch him play. I had to be late for this interview because I had to see a few of his songs. His manager hit me up and was like ‘I think this would be an interesting fit’. It was a perfect match and it was more of a collaboration; it wasn’t me so much influencing him as a producer, but more of me playing the guardrails. And making sure he doesn’t lose sight of the fact that he’s a guitar virtuoso, while helping him write catchy, tight songs that can still flex in that way. 

HT: What does that creative process look like when you guys get together?

CA: Some weed [laughs]. And colorful clothing. We connected real quick, we were fast friends. It’s just fun. The last time we wrote three or four songs in the week we were together and we have another one with DENM that the three of us wrote. He’s another artist I love. That was all at my home studio in Malibu—Mihali just wanted to get out of Vermont and soak up the Cali vibes. 

HT: The world needs to know if you’re a bong guy or a joint guy or a spliff guy or a dab guy.

CA: I’m a bong guy. I like to smoke doobs when I’m out because a bong when I’m out would be weird. I have my own bong in the studio and I don’t share it, but I have several other ones for other people when they visit. Maybe I’m just a germaphobe. I smoke all day so I think a hundred joints a day would be excessive.

Courtesy Allie Adams

HT: Your lungs wouldn’t like that. Neither would your wife, probably.

CA: It’s crazy when we first got together I smoked in the house! I don’t even know how she dealt with that. I now relegate it to the studio, but bless her heart. 

HT: Do you have a favorite shop or brand? 

CA: High Tide, what’s up y’all! I just really like good high-level sativas and I’ve started to think maybe I need to veer over to the organic outdoor weed, maybe not the 45% THC stuff anymore. I love the High Tide family and I just like people that smoke weed, in general. We’re good people, we’re chill. We like colors, we like sounds, we like the sunshine. 

HT: It’s a high vibrational plant, man.

CA: I wanna start growing it. I wanna be a farmer, I’m gonna start with one little plant and we’ll see how I do. Historically, I’m not the greatest at that. I can grow tomatoes really well, weed not so much.

HT: We can follow up next year and see how far you’ve gotten. So, do you do psychedelics?

CA: I have, a lot. I used to pick them in Hawaii out of the cow shit in high school. My high school was up on a hill and when it rained the whole school would run across the field to the cow pastures and sort of Easter egg hunt. We’d come back in, tripping in science class.

I like mushrooms once a year, once every two years now. Just to check in with the gods. I won’t do acid anymore.

HT: What was your worst trip ever?

CA: I was in college and my girlfriend was back home [in Hawaii], I started tripping, we broke up mid-trip. All hell broke loose. An avalanche of emotions, a lot of tears. I needed to go get some weed so I went to a frat house which, I don’t know if it was actually like this because I was tripping, but it was like a fucking war zone. Guns going off, loud bangs, I narrowly escaped. But I think we’re all better for our bad trips. 

HT: Your outfit is kind of tripping me out. Who are you wearing?

CA: This is Magnolia Pearl, everything. It’s really like it was made just for me. 

HT: In the spirit of the Bob Marley movie, who would you choose to play Cisco in a biopic about your life?

CA: Fuck, that’s hard. Timothee Chalamet? He’s got a better jawline, but I’m sure he could grow a sleazy mustache and pull it off. But I also have five little brothers, so maybe one of them. 

HT: I don’t mean this to be an asshole, but your dad is Lou Adler. Do you think you would have pursued music had your dad not been who he is? 

CA: You’re not an asshole. I don’t know the answer to that question because music is so deep in my blood and maybe that’s why it was so natural for me. What I do know is that there’s no Cisco without music. 

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