Johnny Richter, the newest member of the Kottonmouth Kings, waxes poetic on his music, politics and pot after their Oct. 1 show at the House of Blues, one of the many stops on their latest tour.
The Kottonmouth Kings brought their unique blend of rhythmic hip-hop and punk rap to a packed house at the House of Blues on Oct. 1.
Their unconventional sound combined with the Euro-dance stylings of member Pakelika, also known as "The Visual Assassin," helped the Kings give a fierce performance that rocked the audience.
Joining their ensemble this time around was new member Johnny Richter who, like the band, originates from Orange County, Calif.
After the show, Richter shared some of his thoughts with the DePaulia about marijuana, Kottonmouth Kings and, well, marijuana.
DEPAULIA—The Orange County music scene has spawned such bands as No Doubt, Korn, Reel Big Fish, Social Distortion, and the Deadlights. How do you feel being grouped with these bands?
Richter—There [are] great, huge bands coming out of OC I don't even know what it is. There must be something in the soil or the herb we're growing out in OC because ... I don't even know.
You know what it is? It's that SoCal. Mentality. It's that whole do-it-yourself attitude—DIY. It's that punk rock, do-it-yourself, get-out-and-do-it, get-it-done, don't-wait-for-it-to-happen, make-it-happen-It's that whole attitude. I think that it was embedded in a lot of the OC groups that just helped them to persevere over the hardships, the longevity of doing it. Look at No Doubt. They toured forever. They were a band for 11 years before they reached platinum status or before they went all huge. We've known them for years. They come to our shows. They're real cool people. It's that OC [thing].
DEPAULIA—Your band is self described as anti-political.
RICHTER—Well, you look at a lot of the politicians out [there], and they're not really talking about the subjects that we like to hear about. There are a lot of personal freedom issues and the whole drug war issue—there's just a whole lot of things that are not really getting taken care of in our eyes. And they say we're in a democratic society where you can vote, but you can look at a perfect example when California voted in the proposition 215—the medical marijuana. They voted it in. As a vote, it went in as a yes. Still, the courts seem to stop it and people get hassled for it to this day. It didn't pass. We passed it, but it didn't pass.
Voting doesn't work. If they don't like what you say, then they stop it in the courts. It's getting a little more lenient, but it's still not to the extent in which we voted it in as medical use yet.
DEPAULIA—There's a lot of passion and meaning behind your songs, but they're not political?
RICHTER—They're political if you look at them. Our songs are like, you can just kick back, smoke a "fatty," listen to the songs, feel the music and just go out and party and rock and hang out with your friends and get all f—ed up and listen to it.
Or you can actually sit back and listen to what's really being said in the contents of the lyrics, and you get another message from it. It's good for both ways. It's good for enlightenment, and it's good for just having a good time too.
DEPAULIA—Do you feel some people don't take you seriously enough?
RICHTER—I don't really spend time even thinking about it. I'm living my life the way I want to live it, supporting and representing what I believe in and I really don't have the time in my life or in my schedule to worry about what other people think about me.
DEPAULIA—So when Rolling Stone describes you as the band that embodies "nearly every hiphop honky cliche ..."
RICHTER—Oh, yeah...the whole Rolling Stone issue. That's a racist [article] if I've ever seen one in my life. If they had thrown those types of cliches at any other nationality group besides a white group ... they happened to use like four or five different white cliche words for us...and it's pretty funny and racist and closed-minded of that writer who wrote that as far as I'm concerned.
He says all that, and he goes on to say—it's almost a two-faced article if you really read it—he talks [about] all the honky cliches and everything and then at the end of his record he goes, "but at the end of the day, these guys really can rap. And as far as the punk rock, skate, surf, SoCal mentality genre, these Kings rule." And that's a quote from the piece. It says, "These Kings rule." (His paraphrase in quotes.)
He calls it a guilty pleasure, as in saying you're not supposed to like it, but you do for some weird reason. Why aren't you supposed to like it? 'Cause they're white kids doing hip-hop? Why can't you look past that?
I find it pretty sad that in a magazine like Rolling Stone they still employ such closed-minded people as that, because the bottom line is he says we can rap. He says that it engulfs you in a way to where you want to hear it again.
DEPAULIA—And you describe your music as "hip-hop punk rock"?
RICHTER—Nowadays you've got to classify. You've got to categorize what music you're in. You've got to be in hip-hop, or you've got to be in punk rock, or you've got to be in thrash or metal or country or reggae or something like that. Southern California is a melting pot of all different styles of music and living and vibes. So many different things influence us. I grew up listening to classic rock, hip-hop [and] punk. I've grown up listening to everything. I've listened to jazz. I even find symphonies interesting.
When you listen to a Kottonmouth Kings record, we don't go in [planning] for like, "Alright let's do this first. We're a hip-hop group. Let's write it like this." Or, "We're trying to put a punk rock edge on it. Let's do it like this." We go into the studio and we make music that pleases ourselves and that expresses ourselves in the way that we want to express ourselves, and it comes out in the form that it does. It's labeled as SoCal hip-hop punk rock, but we just call it Kottonmouth Kings. That's just us.
DEPAULIA—You had big hits with "Suburban Life" on the Scream 2 soundtrack and "Dogs Life" on the Lost and Found soundtrack. What are your feelings on MTV and popular radio?
RICHTER—When you look at it, MTV.... I don't know how big of a part they play in the whole following of the Kottonmouth Kings. Yeah, they've aired the videos before. They aired the last single we had, "Peace Not Greed," off of the new album "High Society," but it seems to be aired after midnight maybe three times a week. I've seen those videos a combined six times on MTV between the three of them. I wouldn't say they really have that big of an effect on it.
Radio's hard to get to as far as it's played [on] the late night shows where the DJs have more control over what they're playing. And that's what they like to play. We go and do a lot of radio interviews and the disk jockeys there are just fired up. They're stoked that we're coming in. They love our stuff, and they play our stuff on the radio.
It was just the whole fan following and all that. We don't really like to call them fans. We call them our brothers. We're all one. We're all together and friends when we hangout. I'd say it was more built on word of mouth and touring because [they] had the biggest play in it.
DEPAULIA—You've been compared to Everlast, Insane Clown Posse, The Offspring, Rage Against the Machine and Voodoo Glow Skulls. Rolling Stone compared you to Cypress Hill.
RICHTER—Perfect. I love it. Compare us to who you want. We like all those bands. That's great they want to give us the hardness and the political activism of Rage Against the Machine [or] the stoner vibe of Cypress Hill. But also with the Cypress Hill and the Everlast you get the hip-hop credibility and quality with that as well.
We actually had Sen Dog from Cypress Hill on our new album "High Society" on a song called "We the People." It's cool they want to compare us to that. We like all [of] them. They want to compare us to great bands like that, that's cool.
DEPAULIA—For [the album] "High Society" you have edited and explicit versions?
RICHTER—Like K-mart and WalMart, they won't sell your product unless you have it edited, take all the cuss words out or bleep them out [to] get that sticker off of it.
That's the hand of [the government] coming down and limiting musical freedom, more .or less taking away our freedom of speech and musical genre. [It's] saying they're not going to play your stuff because of the sticker, yet you can probably go buy a Bible at these stores. You can go read about murder and genocide and incest and a bunch of other dirty rotten things, but you can't go and buy an album even though it has a sticker on it.
If you open up the jacket on the Kottonmouth Kings record, it turns into a poster with a picture of the band and we're holding a platter up. And the platter is full of Kingsmen, which is a homegrown marijuana strain that we made, and we had to alter the picture just to sell it in stores. Even though it's not shown on the cover—it's inside the thing—we had to change it because they would not sell our product with a picture of a natural plant that grows from the earth inside it.
So we had to alter our graphics inside our CD to meet their standards, which I think is really ridiculous. It's a freaking plant. Get over it. It's just a seed. It grows in the dirt with water and sun, just like anything else.
It's like telling me: So a bird is flying over and he happens to drop a marijuana seed in my backyard, and I'm out of town for two months. And that seed gets water and sunlight and grows up to be a plant, and I come home. And the next day a cop comes and arrests me for having a marijuana plant in my backyard even though I had nothing to do with it. I don't grow it. I didn't have to bubble any water or do it in a chem lab to make it or mix it. It just grew up naturally like it would anywhere else on this earth. Yet they can put you away. I'm not saying that it happened to me, but I have been arrested for possession of a very small amount of marijuana, which is as ridiculous as I can see. Twenty dollars worth of weed cost me $1,500 in lawyer fees. It's getting kind of ridiculous.
Why drink and drive when you can get high and fly? I haven't heard about a stoned person going 130 [mph], zigzagging in and out of traffic. You might find him going 55 in the slow lane, just chilling out, driving, but he [isn't] the drunk person going around killing people in all these accidents. There's not even one human death solely attributed to marijuana use in the history of medical research. But yet how many people die from alcohol-related crashes [and] liver poisoning from all the alcohol they get? Their intestines or their stomachs [are] all messed up from all the f— ing liquor. I mean, come on.
How many people you know smoke weed and go home and beat their wife? How many people get drunk, go home and beat their wife? Look at the facts. It's kind of ridiculous. It's a freakin' plant, dude. Prohibition should have started with alcohol.
DEPAULIA—You've been doing Internet chats on sonicnet and getmusie.com. How do you feel about the whole free trade of MP3s?
RICHTER—Being the touring band that we are, f— it. You want to hear it, come to our show. There's a poster inside our CD. You want to get the CD, get the CD. My experience with burned CDs is they last about three weeks and then, they f— ing scratch, and you got to burn it again.
I've also known that real fans, if they may get it on the MP3, and they'll listen to it and they really like it, then they'll go out and actually buy the CD so they can learn more about the band. There's a lot of information in the CD and fans go buy that.
When I want something, I go buy the CDs from the record store because I know that that's the best product you can get. Personally, I don't own a computer. I don't go on a computer. I think it's made the world a smaller place, which is good in some sorts. But yet people are experiencing less human interaction because of it. It's making them [have] more secluded lifestyles for a lot of people, I feel. I really don't deal with it.
It's got its advantages as far as pulling up information. At the touch of a button you get what you need, but yet that does take away from going to the library [and] spending all the hours that people before them—for years and years and years and years-spent time and went to research it ... and went and looked in libraries.
You're not going to be able to stop it. I, for one, don't really use it. My phone's good enough for me. (Breaks into impromptu rap) Know how to type/S—, I can barely work my fax/You know what I mean/When I used to sell weed/Triple beam on the scene/When I'm wearing my sacks/
No electric skel-triple beam-old school/You know what I mean/F— Y2K/A11 the people getting all jumpy-tripping out/F— Y2K/ You people need to relax/Living like a drone/Trapped in a time zone/Time's burning away like the wick of a candle/Modern technology's too much to handle/Ramble scandals out there asking-labels us as vandals/Breaking laws they've laid/Never leading by examples/They're just f—ing it all up.
DEPAULIA—You've toured with some pretty big name bands, like the Urge and ICP.
RICHTER—The Urge is a great band. They're fun to tour with for sure. ICP is ... We did our stint with them [and] got kicked off once for playing around. We got all that rectified. No problem there as you're going to find out Dec. 1 when the Insane Clown Posse and Kottonmouth Kings kick off a nationwide tour for three months. We'll be heading all over the U.S. on their "Bizaar" tour supporting their new album, "Bizaar," and our new album "High Society."
DEPAULIA—Do you think that controversy seems to follow your band?
RICHTER—Our band's like this, dude: We're all about breaking down barriers, not putting them up. We're not about having controversy or problems with anybody else or any other bands. We have respect for all types of music and all types of musicians. You're doing what you're doing-right on. We're doing what [we're] doing. We click and it's all good. If not, hey, it's all good. We're not all 'bout creating controversy. The only controversy we're creating is for the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana. The only controversy we've got is with the government about that.
DEPAULIA—Your new album is 20 songs, 75 to 78 minutes.
RICHTER—Our new album is about as much music as we can put on a CD to be honest with you. We recorded actually a few more, but we couldn't fit them on the CD, and we didn't want to do a double album. We released just one album so we crammed as much music as we could on that. That was the end of three months of writing and recording. That's how long we actually spent on that whole album. We went into the studio blind and went with it, got beats, wrote together everything, made it, recorded, mastered—everything in three months. [We] just spent day in and day out in the studio—14 hours a day in the studio, recording it, writing it, working it, pre-production—all of that.
Twenty fat ol' joints rolled tightly on [the album]. That's the mode Kottonmouth Kings is in for 2000. Everybody's made their music. Everything's been heard. I don't know if it [has], but we figured we'd sell our sound. We feel our new album sounds like nothing else, and if you listen to it, we feel every track has a different sound to it. If you listen to the messages in all the songs, it's got that vibe for sure.
People ask me a lot if there's one favorite song on the album that I have. My answer always is that every song has an adventure and an experience creating itself. From building the track to writing the lyrics to actually doing it all in the studio and mixing it. Everything was a different experience and [has] a different feeling and vibe through it. I feel that every song is just as good as the rest in a different way.
DEPAULIA—What's the best part about being in Kottonmouth Kings?
RICHTER—No drug test.