Who’s the Highest Headbanger of Them All?
Heavy metal’s most outspoken (and out smokin’) marijuana advocates.
From Black Sabbath’s 1971 opus “Sweet Leaf” onward, heavy metal music and marijuana have proven to be a gloriously unholy creative communion. So prevalent has the power of pot become in metal that “stoner rock,” an offshoot tied most directly to the sludge and smoke of Sabbath itself, stands at the vanguard of the form.
Of course, where there are musical tributes to marijuana, there are musicians actively advocating and evangelizing the bevy of wonders associated with marijuana. The following metal artists have blazed new sonic paths in their hard-and-heavy field, and they’re quick to point out how inspirational and expansive blazing up a bong-load always is in their process.
The original front-growler of Cannibal Corpse and ongoing vocalist of Six Feet Under, Chris Barnes works his pro-pot-legalization activism into songs such as “Caged and Disgraced,” “Victim of the Paranoid,” and “4:20,” the last of which runs exactly four-minutes, twenty-seconds.
“I was lucky to grow up in a house where my dad and his wife were very, kind of, progressive, and he grew cannabis and sold it,” Barnes explained. "So I remember the original Acapulco Gold strains, and Panama Red, the real Red, that were eradicated… So, yeah, my first time I smoked it, I think I was 12 years old, so it was probably, like, '78 or something, '79. I stole a roach [the end of a marijuana joint] out of the ash tray, and me and my best friend took my mini bike and went trail riding and smoked a couple of roaches."
Barnes also credits Washington state’s legalization policy for prompting him to move to Seattle. “For over half of my life, I was saying publicly and to myself, if there was ever a place that had legal weed that I loved and would wanna live there, why wouldn't I be there?”
As the hardest-and-heaviest working man(iac) in metal, Phil Anselmo remains constantly active in multiple cross-genre groups include Down, Arson Anthem, Southern Isolation, and the pointedly pot-named Superjoint Ritual. Anselmo also runs the invaluable hard-rock-and-horror-movie wellspring Housecore Records, and he forever rewrote the course of metal as the vocalist for Pantera, alongside the late, great guitar god Dimebag Darrell Abbott (rest in peace).
Through the years, Anselmo has battled complications due to heavy narcotics abuse, but, wisely, he recognizes that cannabis is in a class by itself. In an interview on the topic, Anselmo observes:
“Weed is an awesome so-called ‘drug,’ but it’s not for everyone. And throughout certain periods of my life, it’s been that way for me too. Today, it treats me just fine though… and in truth, it helps my job. The world is one extremely huge opportunity, so if you smoke, get something positive done instead of laying around waiting for the pizza-guy to show up! Get off your asses and start a band! Draw a masterpiece! Or just be the best parent you can! Yes! Some of the greatest parents ever smoke! Smokers of the world unite! Let weed push us creatively and soothe us medically!"
In 1998, the Antichrist Superstar himself once notoriously performed “The Dope Show” on the MTV Video Music Awards in front of massive light-up letters that spelled out D-R-U-G-S. Whatever intoxicants Manson came off as advocating, marijuana was not among them for him at the time—but it certainly is now.
“I just used a medicinal drug that you people call marijuana,” Manson said. “I used to never smoke pot as a kid, but now I get it--now this is music and it sounds different. I've been meeting a lot of different people and they've been having an effect on my life. I like to smoke it and hang out with the gangsta rappers and the hip-hop crowd… So I started smoking blunts--so there you go, that's the new Marilyn Manson.”
Dixie Dave Collins
Dixie Dave Collins fronts stoner rock overlords Weedeater, and lest anyone think their name may be a sly double entendre in reference to gardening equipment, the singer and bassist dispelled all such notions, saying: “We actually got the name Weedeater because my dog ate my weed a long time ago. That’s where we got the band name from. But we’ve also been known to dabble in edibles and pot butter, and different ways to cook marijuana as well.”
Collins proudly smokes up in public all the time, and routinely speaks his mind on the specifics of how he gets high, which does, of late, very much include consuming edibles. Fans frequently shower Weedeater with weed itself as a result. “Because of the name of the band I think it’s just kind of built in,” Collins says, “people give us weed and weed food all of the time. We just recently finished up a tour where we did a bunch of shows in Europe and a bunch in the States, and we ran into a lot of good edibles over there, and over here, especially on the West Coast and the Colorado area. We were given enough edibles to get us all of the way home, so that was very nice.”
The 2010 masterwork Dopethrone by English doom brutalizers Electric Wizard, fired the genre up to new heights, the its very title to joint-toking demon on the cover to its monster-riffed occult rituals in weed-worship. As Urban Dictionary notes: “Electric Wizard are known for their extreme cannabis use. Weed is practically a member of this band.”
Electric Wizard is the brainchild of lead vocalist and guitarist Jus Osborn, who says he the group transformed from a mere Sabbath cover band to what it is today after he “cropped two kilos of weed” and he planned their recent U.S. tour based on the locations of his weed connections, noting, “We kind of tried to stay in cities where I know we could hook up. And so, we should be OK. Unfortunately, that’s why we’re not playing too many in the South.”
Philip “Land Phil” Hall
As the founder of death metal weed-wonders Cannabis Corpse, Philip “Land Phil” Hall may love making pot puns with titles such as “Gateways to Inhalation” and “I Cum Bud,” but his devotion to the sweet leaf is supremely serious.
“I grew up in a rural part of Virginia in a little town called Mechanicsville,” Hall said. “Me and my buddies probably started smoking weed when we were 15 years old, which is also when we were super-excited about death metal. We were listening to bands like Cannibal Corpse, of course, and Deicide and Obituary, and having our first drug experiences. I think smoking helped us appreciate the music a little more, so my love affair with weed and death metal officially started in my formative years.
When asked he about the moment he realized that death metal and marijuana mixed so perfectly, Hall replied: “I have been smoking weed for so long that is almost like asking what my favorite life experience has been! [Laughs] Being stoned and playing a show in front of hundreds of thousands of people has happened on occasion. Smoking weed with people that I admire in the music industry, like Chris Barnes, or just being stoned and enjoying the outdoors on my free time are things that I love about doing what I do. Or getting high and doing an interview like right now.”
Dorthia Cottrell weaves potent metal spells as frontwoman of stoner-doomsters Windhand, as well as in her genre blending, but equally psychedelic solo work. Marijuana is a key ingredient in her cauldron of inspiration.
Fans instinctively recognize that factor, and rewarded Windhand accordingly on their most recent cross-country trek. "So far, we have gotten a lot of weed shit on this tour," Cottrell said. "Weed candy, weed chocolate, weed taffy, sparkly hard candy with weed — it's all been really great.
“Like millions of Americans,” wrote former Black Flag singer and solo beast Henry Rollins in LA Weekly, “I have no interest in smoking marijuana but can't see any reason to keep someone of age from lighting up.” The famously intoxicant-eschewing Rollins is akin to magician and Libertarian activist Penn Jillette in fighting for the rights of others to enjoy and benefit by consuming a plant that grows naturally, while they themselves enjoy and benefit by not consuming it. Let freedom blaze.