With more than a decade in the game and eight studio releases, there isn’t any question that no one works harder than the Kottonmouth Kings. The band stays focused and true to their roots and dedicated following with their latest album and tour entitled Koast II Koast. Jason Price of Live-Metal.Net recently caught up with Daddy X and Johnny Richter after a smoking two-hour performance on the first leg of their headlining tour. Daddy X spoke at length about what sets the band apart from the mainstream, the rewards of running an independent label, the band’s ties to today’s marijuana rights movement and what the future holds for the Kottonmouth Kings and Suburban Noize Records.
Live-Metal.Net: For those who aren’t familiar with the Kottonmouth Kings, how did you get your start?
Daddy X: We have been playing for almost 12 years now. We formed in Southern California. That is where we are from. Basically, we just got together as a bunch of friends who all kinda knew each other from around the way and just got together and started making music. I had a home studio and, actually, I used to share a place with a guy named Rob Harris who was a DJ. He was killed in a skydiving accident. We actually started there. We had a home studio in our apartment, so we made music there and that is how it all started. That is what we started the roots with.
How do you feel that separates the Kottonmouth Kings from other more mainstream hip-hop?
Daddy X: I think what separates us is that we break down barriers. We integrate a lot of different styles. We created this form of music called “rip-hop” which incorporates punk and hip-hop. Then we have straight hip-hop stuff, but we approach it in a very grassroots, independent kind of way. I think that is different from what a lot of hip-hop groups do. We do a real grassroots sort of thing. We have our own label, Suburban Noize Records. Musically, I think we are a lot more diverse. Most hip-hop groups are one dimensional and I think that we have different layers. When we make records, we cover a lot of different ground musically.
So you have been together for 12 years now. In your opinion, what’s the biggest milestone for the band since you started out?
Daddy X: I would say just staying together. Since we have our own label, we are a completely independent and self-empowered group. I think the biggest milestone is being able to survive in the music industry without any kind of attachment to any major label and being completely independent, making a living doing this and putting out record after record. The biggest milestone is just survival.
When you started out, did you ever expect to reach the level of success you have achieved?
Daddy X: You know, we didn’t really have expectations of any kind, other than just having a good time making records and playing shows. As far as us being self-contained, independent, having a career and being self-sustained as a company, that was the plan the whole time. That is why we started Suburban Noize Records for in the very beginning. We wanted to be self-empowered. I had had some different experiences in groups and being on major labels and then all of a sudden your funding gets cut or you lose your deal and that cripples most bands. My background is in the punk rock world, so I knew the importance of being self-empowered. I didn’t know that our music would catch on with people the way that it has. I didn’t know that the lifestyle was going to be what it has become. Every time we come out we add more songs to the set, get rid of some old ones. We try to incorporate the songs from every stage and phase of the band into the set.
You play a two-hour set …
Daddy X: Yeah, we play a two-hour show. Of course, it covers a lot of stuff. We have a lot of records out and covers a lot of material. Even after the show tonight, people will ask “Why didn’t you play “Peace Not Greed” or “Suburban Life” or why didn’t you play this song?” We have 300 songs and we play 30 a night. We can’t please everybody, but we do cover as much ground as we can when we put the set together. We change it up every night and play different songs to??keep it interesting. We keep our staple of our set the same, but we have interchangeable songs every night.
How do you feel that you have evolved as a band through the years?
Daddy X: I just think it has evolved by taking on a life of it’s own, as far as the lifestyle and the whole movement around the country. Musically, I think that everyone has evolved by just getting better at their craft after doing it for 10 years. You just get more dialed in and focused. Everyone understands their role when we go into make a record and when we play live. We have really good chemistry with the six people in the band and everyone plays their role, therefore there is good synergy in the band. A Kottonmouth Kings record is going to be a Kottonmouth Kings record. It is just six guys getting together and making records. It is what it is. People either like it? or hate it.
What is the biggest misconception about the Kottonmouth Kings?
Daddy X: I think that the biggest misconception is that we are a misfit stoner band [laughs] or something like that! A lot of people don’t understand that we are a very progressive business. We have our own merchandise company, our own record company, we produce our own records and produce our own videos. I encourage anybody whether you are in construction, journalism, making a magazine or whatever your craft is to try and be the best that you can be at that craft. Be? self-empowered and in control of your own destiny as much as you can be.
How long have you been involved with the pro-marijuana rights movement?
Daddy X: I think from the beginning, the first couple records when you listen to it is more like a party band, celebrating and having a good time, which we still do! It is still an element of the Kottonmouth Kings to party and have a good time. As you go around and see how many people’s lives have been effected by being arrested for growing or even possessing. We still have zero tolerance in some states. You hear stories about people being locked up or thrown in jail or losing their family for growing a plant or possessing a plant. When you hear that, it all of a sudden adds another level of responsibility. So you try and right conscience lyrics that express the injustices about it. It seems that we live in a society and times when what’s right is wrong and what’s wrong is right and we have all the values twisted. We are getting so far away from living in balance with nature and living in harmony with Earth. There are some great things that come with the advancement of technology, of course, but kids are being raised on videogames.
They are getting so far away from going outside and understanding the cycles of nature and playing outside. We will send 18-year-old kids overseas. Pay them, arm them and send them to the Middle East to fight. I understand defending your country, but when you are sending a kid into harm’s way for maybe what is not a valid reason? It’s a pretty heavy thing. That same 18-year-old kid could come home, plant a seed in his backyard, water a plant and watch it grow, then the? feds come in and throw him in a cage. To me, it is the hypocrisy of morals. There is a big double standard of morals in this country.
As far as the plant is concerned, how can a plant be a crime? I believe in freedom. I just don’t believe that a plant should be illegal. We have a song called “Who’s the Criminal?” It basically says, “You’ve got the bombs and guns to kill off mankind, I’m growing a plant, who’s the criminal?” You come into my house and you have a gun to my head and I have a plant. Who is the real criminal?
If Jesus or the creator or whatever creator you believe in if you even believe in a creator or high power, if a higher power that created human beings, every walk of animal or plant species on the whole planet and that force created that plant, then how can it be illegal? It is a plant that grows naturally.
Just because something is the law doesn’t make it right. In this country over a hundred years ago, slavery was legal. In Germany, it was illegal to be Jewish. There are points in time when there are laws, doesn’t make the laws just. We hear tons of horror stories about people who have had their lives ruined because of marijuana charges and offenses.
So with the political climate what it is today in America that makes the Kottonmouth Kings a rather political band, doesn’t it?
Daddy X: I don’t know if we are political. I just encourage every individual to question everything and to come up with their own conclusions. As far as being a political band, if we can lend our influence to certain causes like NORML and Cannabis Action Network and any organizations that are trying to reform marijuana laws, we will try to contribute how we can, when we can. At the end of the day, we are a group, we are entertainers. So there is a level of politics, but we are definitely not a political party. We are just a band.
When if ever do you think we will see marijuana legalized in the United States?
Johnny Richter: Well, we can only hope. It is definitely becoming more accepted in certain places, but it is still zero tolerance in a few states. A few counties have these good ol’ boys that are a little crazier than the L.A. cops, we have been told. In some areas they just tend to look away when people just have a small amount for their personal use. In a small towns, you know they have nothing else to worry about, so a little doobie turns into something like a murder. All we can do is keep working and fighting for the legalization. At the same time, we are fighting for the freedom of our mind and the freedom to make your own choice.
Since you are so outspoken about your views, do you feel that it makes you a target for harassment by the powers that be?
Daddy X: Last time I checked we still have freedom of speech. I don’t think there are any laws outlawing freedom of speech. I think that most cops, except for some states in the South and the Midwest where it may be a little backwards, you may run into some ignorance. For the most par,t even cops that come to the shows on the West Coast, I don’t think that they care too much about a person using marijuana for just their personal use. That is only one dimension of the Kottonmouth Kings. We sing songs about positivity. We get feedback all the time from out fans about our lyrics and how they affected their lives. I had a kid tonight come up and tell me that his 13-year-old brother died in an ATV accident. He said, “Hey, I just want you to know that ‘Tangerine Sky’ was one of the songs that we played at my brother’s funeral.” We hear that kind of stuff all the time. That is the kind of thing that really touches you, that your music is having that kind of a positive impact on people.
Tell us a little about your new album Koast II Koast. What can we expect from this release?
Daddy X: Koast II Koast is the eighth full length release. It has 24 songs. It is more of an all hip-hop record. There are a few “S.T.O.N.E.Y.” (Seek Truth Observe Nature Educate Yourself) style songs, but for the most part it is just a classic Kottonmouth Kings record.
What is the typical song writing process for a Kottonmouth Kings record?
Daddy X: D-Loc, Johnny Richter and myself pretty much write all the songs. We will just go in the studio and sometimes it will start with a concept for a song. Other times it is just a beat. We work with Mike Kumagai, who is an in-house producer at Suburban Noize. We will just start coming up with music. We all three just sit in a room and start feeling the beat and create songs. We have our own studios, so we aren’t really pressed for time. Even as we are speaking and as we are on the road right now, we are working on the next record. Kumagai is at home sending us out beats and we are writing. That is why you see Kottonmouth Kings on a cycle where we tour, then all of a sudden one of these guys [the band members] put out a record. Sometimes every year, sometimes two records a year. That is because we have our own label and our own studios and we have a formula or a method to the madness!
Surburban Noize is the label. What does the future hold for all the Suburban Noize Records?
Daddy X: We just hope to be able to keep our doors open and keep putting out cutting edge music. We have 24 artists on our label right now. The label is really able to sustain because people buy the records and support the music. Hopefully, we keep making records that are relevant to people, that people want to hear and offer an alternative to the mainstream. I hope that we continue to be able to have this platform. Running a business like this, like any business, we have a high overhead with all the employees. You got workman’s comp, taxes and all the realities of running a business that stack the odds against you. With taxes, you get taxed on taxed on taxed on taxed. So we are just hoping to keep the doors open and keep putting out records. It has taken us this far. The label has been in existence of about 12 years now and it feels that it has established in a lot of ways a solid foundation and we hope to keep building on it.
How is the tour going so far?
Daddy X: It is going great. We have all Suburban Noize bands out with us right now. Potluck just joined us, they are from Humboldt [California] and they have a new record coming out this summer. We have Dirtball, Big B and Chucky Styles representing the Sub Noize Souljaz and (hed)p.e. So it is all Suburban Noize family on this whole tour. It has been a great tour!
How has life on the road affected you and your music?
Daddy X: Well right now as you can see, I have my family with me. This is my wife Anna Rose and my daughter Skye Blue. They are out with me this week. I am a family man, so that is the hardest part. I am the only one with any kids in the band. The hardest part is being away from my wife and my daughter. They understand. We are fortunate because they come out every few weeks and we spend some time together and my daughter gets to see new places and see all kinds of great things. She has been to just about every state in the United States except for maybe two states. She has been to Japan and she is going to Europe this year and Australia. So, it probably isn’t a conventional lifestyle but we try to turn it into a positive and make it work to our advantage.
The Kottonmouth Kings have roots in both hip-hop and punk. How do you feel about the state of both genres?
Daddy X: Honestly, we can just be concerned with what we are doing and the records we are making. We just try and do it differently than what everyone else is doing. Basically, we have to satisfy ourselves first and then the people who buy the tickets to our shows and our records.
After this tour, what?s next for the Kottonmouth Kings?
Johnny Richter: Well, like you said, we are gonna finish off this tour, then we are gonna play some shows at home. Then we are gonna jump back into the studio and finish the Kingspade record, me and D-Loc’s side project. We are gonna finish that as soon as we get home! Then we are gonna start working some more on the next Kottonmouth record. We have a DVD coming out in the fall. It’s a live DVD with interviews in between. Every DVD we put out has a different vibe to it and we definitely haven’t done one like this yet. We are the “2006 Stoner Band of The Year” for High Times Magazine. They are taking us to Amsterdam in November, so we are going to the?Cannabis Cup. We are just gonna keep doing what we do, playing shows and making music. Hopefully, everything keeps building like it is.
That?s all the questions I have for you. Is there anything else you want to add?
Daddy X: Just check out the music and check us out online at? www.kottonmouthkings.com and the other artists on the label at www.suburbannoizerecords.com. Thanks for your time.
Johnny Richter: Check out Koast II Koast in stores now. If you like what you hear check us out on tour! Thanks!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.