Twenty-seven-year-old Glasgow Caledonian University student Veronika Vajdovà has been painting and creating art her entire life. However, it wasn’t until she began submitting pieces to the Natural Cannabis Company’s annual High Art competition, a cannabis themed visual art contest, that her work began attracting international attention. Her contribution to the 2018 installment of the competition, Metamorphosis, was among the most interesting and beautiful pieces submitted, and the piece garnered a great deal of praise from her peers.
Recently, CULTURE had the opportunity to catch up with Vajdovà and hear about her art, her inspirations and the message she is trying to get across with Metamorphosis.
To start off, can you give us a little background on yourself and how you became interested in painting and graphic art?
Well, I’m originally from Slovakia, and I’ve always been interested in art, but in my family it wasn’t always something I was encouraged to pursue. So I always kept trying to find something else I was interested in, because everyone was telling me that art was just something you do as a hobby, and I ended up studying medicine. However, after studying for a few years I realized I was spending more and more time on art and that it was something that interested me a lot. So, I decided to quit medicine, found a 3D Animation and Visualization course in the U.K., and so that’s where I am and that’s what I’m studying currently.
Recently, your piece Metamorphosis was picked as a finalist for the High Art competition. Can you tell me a bit about the painting and what inspired it?
The topic this year was “freedom,” and I come from a country where marijuana is illegal, and in the U.K. it’s the same situation. So, with Metamorphosis I wanted to say with it was that there are way too many things that I feel should change and that nobody seems to be dealing with the situation. Instead, everybody is connecting the idea of change to something bad. In my country, you can hear people talking about how legalization, even for medical marijuana, would just lead to more people taking other drugs, and no one realizes that we already have other legal drugs. If you just think about alcohol and how much trouble it causes in families, and it is something legal. So, what I was trying to say with that piece, is that change doesn’t have to be something negative; change can be beautiful, and it can lead to something positive.
“You know, when people talk about their experiences with marijuana and creativity, that’s inspiring to me.”
What has been your experience submitting to High Art so far?
Well, it’s been a few years since the contest started, and I think I submitted my art to the first or second year of the competition. Back then, it was actually the first time I had the courage to submit my art to a competition, and I think I became a finalist that year. I was shocked that I made it that far, and it’s one of the things that pushed me to make the change from medicine to art full-time.
You mentioned that in Slovakia and the U.K. cannabis laws are still pretty restrictive. Do you see attitudes starting to change over there especially with successful legalization efforts in Canada and the U.S.?
Well, people do talk about it, especially if something happens in bigger countries like the U.S., Canada or Mexico. You can see that some people who just a few years ago wouldn’t have thought about it or have an opinion that would be completely negative are no longer thinking in negative terms about it. I think what’s helping is people going on YouTube or the news and talking about their own experiences with medical marijuana. Especially when people talk about their experiences with chronic pain or illness, it makes people think about it more.
Is cannabis something that inspires some of your work?
You know, when people talk about their experiences with marijuana and creativity, that’s inspiring to me. Every year I check to find out when the High Art competition is happening, because I always love their topics and find them to be very inspiring. It’s usually just one month that people can submit their work, and I just love browsing through other people’s art and checking it all out. There’s just something about the High Art community that’s so nice and relaxed that it inspires me too.
Photo Credit: Lex Ryan
Many artists work hard for years to make it in the extremely oversaturated producer/DJ scene, so it’s a major testament to LP Giobbi’s success that she caught the eye of Sofi Tukker at a show, got invited on tour and has been a smash hit ever since. Far from a one-hit wonder, however, Giobbi is hustling all the time with non-stop touring and shows. She took a break from her busy schedule to chat with CULTURE about her ethics, dreams and success so far.
How did you first get your start?
A while back, I was asked to play with an all-girl electronic band. I didn’t know much about synthesizers, but if you know music theory and how to play piano, you can figure out the rest. So I spent the next four years in a garage teaching myself sound design and synthesis, how to play synthesizers on-stage, and how to produce and use Ableton and other programs.
Finally, I ended up playing a gig at a live music festival, because they needed someone to fill in. It turned out to be a horrible gig, but Sofi Tukker was there, and she asked me if I would want to go on tour as a DJ. I said I wasn’t really a DJ, but she said, “Are you coming or not?” So, I had to go!
“I think that female freedom to choose whatever career path you want, freedom to choose what you want to put in your body, and in general the freedom to choose for a woman, I think it’s all very tied.”
How did that lead into you doing more of your own projects?
It’s really exciting, because playing music on-stage gives me an idea of what I want to do and the kind of music I want to play. I started making music while I was on the road and started playing it out, and I was able to test what was working and what wasn’t. It’s really fun to get to see what works in a live setting.
Do you have anything specific you’re working on right now?
I have some new music [that came out at the end of October], and I’m super pumped. It’s very tribal and hard-hitting, and I collaborated with some amazing artists. There’s a lot of music I’m working on right now, and I can’t wait for it to come out.
Photo Credit: Xander Wright
Do you have any tours going on currently?
There’s a lot more touring in the works. Right now, I’m on this U.S. run with Sofi Tukker. When I have days off, I’m able to go play other shows as well, and that’s the first time I’ve really been doing that. And next, I’m going to Europe on tour, so I have things going on for the rest of the year.
I’m really excited, really because this is the first time I’ve added a few extra drum machines to the show. It’s been really fun to learn as I go and get to go on the road with some new toys.
“I don’t personally smoke, but I grew up with hippie parents who were Deadheads, and cannabis has always been a huge part of my life.”
Tell us about what Femme House is, and how are you involved?
When I first started producing, it was from sheer feminist stubbornness. When I first started playing music, I was surrounded by male producers. They were great, and I had a great experience, but I didn’t know many other female producers. So, I thought, “Oh my gosh, that’s a role I could have.” Living in LA, I was meeting so many talented women, and I just wanted to kind of change the narrative and get as many of the men in the room as possible.
We’re doing free monthly workshops right now in LA, and we’re extending to New York next year. It’s a safe space for women and nonbinary people to learn how to use Ableton and how to program drums and record vocals and basically just make a song. So far, we have some awesome support from Roland and Ableton, and it’s just been really, really overwhelming and completely inspiring to see all the support that we’ve gotten from these companies that I’ve always looked up to and respected. It feels like such a wonderful time to be doing this and to be providing these opportunities.
Has cannabis impacted your life?
I don’t personally smoke, but I grew up with hippie parents who were Deadheads, and cannabis has always been a huge part of my life. I always have been blown away that alcohol was so easy to access, and much more so than pot, because there are so many issues associated with alcohol.
Does cannabis advocacy tie in with the other things you advocate for?
I think that female freedom to choose whatever career path you want, freedom to choose what you want to put in your body, and in general the freedom to choose for a woman, I think it’s all very tied. I also think decriminalizing opens up doors for people that can help them medically, with depression, and with creative flow. I think it does a lot of good.
Is there anything else you wanted to mention?
There’s a really cool project I am doing with Sofi Tukker where we go into clubs and make them into neon jungles. People can rave all night and dress up like animals. It’s a really fun part of the culture that we’re building and the community that we’re building, and it’s all about finding your inner child and the fact that [when] one of us shines, the more we all shine. It’s a big, important part of my ethos.
Leisure and Laughter
Photo credit: Michael Rababy
Comedy and cannabis are two things that should be used responsibly. While they can both be wonderful, too much of a good thing can lead to bad jokes or burnout. Luckily, Dino Archie has just the right recipe for success. Shortly after appearing on Season 3 of Adam DeVine’s House Party on Comedy Central, he debuted on Jimmy Kimmel Live! He looks to life find inspiration for his routines, and he also looks to cannabis—but he doesn’t lean on it as a crutch to fuel all his material or creativity. CULTURE spoke with Archie about maintaining that perfect balance, his jokes and the power of cannabis.
How did you first get into comedy?
A buddy signed me up for an open mic in LA, because he thought I was funny. I was always a fan of comedy, and then I fell into it. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do something with. I wanted to write funny movies and comedy since I was in film school. Then I got a job as an assistant director, and we did a movie in New York. I would read lines with actors and improv, and I was good at that. Then I got a role in “that” movie, and the movie never really saw the light of day. But then, during the little screening we did, everyone laughed at my part. Then people were like, “You should do comedy; there’s something there.” So, I did; I kind of got the bug, and I never stopped doing it.
What are some of the major themes you usually tackle in your comedy?
I’ve done three comedy albums, and they’ve all had different themes. The first one was about love, and the second one was about not taking any shit from those who try and dictate how you feel. Now, I’m back to the theme of love. My new album is called I’ve Changed, and it’s about how as I get older, I realize I can’t be married to an outdated way of doing things. I have to learn how to be funnier, how to connect with people better. I want to be open to that.
“When I’m in conversation with another creative person, that’s when my best writing comes out.”
What gives you the inspiration for your material?
It’s everywhere. I can go on someone’s Twitter account, or I can go to my local coffee shop, and if I mess up my routine, go somewhere I don’t normally go, life will throw some funny shit at me that I wouldn’t normally notice. I try to be introspective, but also look for inspiration anywhere.
Photo credit: Beau Partlow
How does cannabis play a role in your life and your comedy?
I’m a lazy smoker. I grew up in California; weed was always around me, but I didn’t smoke or drink it until I went to Canada, to Vancouver. I really liked it, because in our culture, people drink a lot, and that can be very destructive, but weed opens you up to a different kind of vibe. It lets you slow down, stop and smell the roses. I live in LA, so it helps me not get mad at things like traffic, crowds. If I find myself wanting to lay on the horn and scream, I just go, “Hey, we’re all just trying to get somewhere.” Why not light up?
Does cannabis ever make its way into your comedy?
It’s not necessarily a part of my identity like some comics, but I think it just fits my vibe. Even before I smoked, everyone always thought I was high, because my eyes are kind of low; I’m not in a rush. It’s great when I want to have access to some different things and try some different material. It’s fun to smoke, but I don’t want to abuse it. I don’t have to get super high to get creative. I don’t want to be one of those people who does it too much, and then you can’t even smoke a joint around them. I try to limit myself, but I definitely enjoy it.
What is your writing process like?
When I’m in conversation with another creative person, that’s when my best writing comes out. If I’m not around someone, I do talk out loud and work things out in my head. I just recently started writing things down more, because I’ll forget that shit. That combination is usually best.
When the bubble burst on the housing market in 2008, Amir K decided it was time to stop waiting on his dream of performing stand-up comedy. He moved to Los Angeles, California, hustled his ass off and made his dreams come true.
Amir came to the United States when he was five years old, after his father brought his family from a war-torn Iran—a sacrifice that caused Amir to postpone his true calling in life, comedy. But don’t fret, because this story has a happy ending. The actor and writer is perhaps best known for his roles on MADtv and 2017’s Hollywood Said No. CULTURE was fortunate enough to sit down with the energetic comic, and he was very candid about his comedic beginnings, his delay in entering the scene and his experience with cannabis. Spoiler alert, you may never look at LEGOs the same way again.
You’ve been doing standup for over a decade now. How did you get into it?
I was always a funny kid, and my fifth-grade teacher, Mr. Smith, encouraged me to do some performance things for the class. But I didn’t know what it was, because we’re immigrants. I came here with my family when I was five years old. I was transplanted into this whole new world, and I had to learn how things worked culturally and how people interact. The miscommunications in those situations provided me with a lot of material. I loved making my friends laugh. It helped me fit in, if we were all laughing, because we were all together. I learned that my connection to other people was through laughter, because humor can cross all borders.
How did your family react to your comic aspirations?
I kind of had to skirt around the issue. My dad brought us from Iran, through a war, sacrificing so much so that his family could have a better life. So, I felt I owed it to him to go to school, so that’s what I did, and I put my real dream and passion on the back burner. I would do the occasional open mic while I was at school at UCLA, but after college it would be another eight to 10 years before I would get back into it. And it’s funny, in hindsight I don’t think they would have ever had a problem with me doing stand-up if I just talked to them. They were just looking out for me and wanted me to be happy and make a decent living.
Why the lengthy delay?
After I graduated, the real estate market was booming, so I decided to do that. I made a bunch of money and eventually started an appraisal company. The whole time making up excuses not to do stand-up. I would always say I was going to get back to it, but I had a good job. Then the market tanked in 2008, and I was like “Fuck it! I’m going all in.” I moved up to LA, and I would pass out fliers to get people to come into the comedy clubs. If I got enough people to come in, they would let me do a set on the late show.
Society and its acceptance of comedy have changed significantly in the last 10 years. Have you had to augment your performance?
It really depends on where you go. I don’t mind playing anywhere, because I feel that if you’re funny, you’re funny anywhere. It transcends everything, and of course some places are more sensitive than others, but I don’t think you should change your show in any way if you are trying to pursue comedy for your personal satisfaction. I don’t want to do a stand-up set that I don’t enjoy because I’m afraid to upset somebody. I’m doing this because I love doing it, not to fit into somebody’s pre-conceived notion of what I should do or say. Most comedians have felt it, but I think there is a pushback happening right now in comedy, and in a couple years I think it will go back to normal where we are allowed to say whatever we want. Because we should be, we’re comedians not politicians. I think we are moving past the hypersensitivity. If you don’t like the stuff, don’t go. That’s why I prefer to work comedy clubs. Because the audience knows that they are there for a show and to be entertained. They are paying to hear stories from a different point of view, and most adults are okay with that.
Can you tell us about the first time you were introduced to cannabis?
I had a cousin who was a few years older than me, and we would always skate together. We were skating at a gas station when I was in sixth grade, and he had a pipe made out of LEGOs, actual LEGO pieces with a piece of foil as a screen. Super unhealthy way to smoke, but we were just dumb kids trying to get high. I remember being super hyper-aware of everything going on. I was transfixed on watching my foot push my skateboard as I went around and around this gas station. One time my cousin got ahold of some hash, and we smoked way too much. It must have been a combination of the hash and my low tolerance, but I remember getting one of those big jugs of Gatorade, and shaking it after I took off the lid, not realizing what I was doing. So, there’s red Gatorade going everywhere in the kitchen, and I remember thinking that I was out of my mind. And as I got older, I remember a lot of my friends telling me I was the first person they got high with.
“That’s what makes cannabis the porthole to my creativity. It also lowers my guard on some things I might be hesitant to talk about on stage.”
What kind of role does cannabis play in your life now?
I use it now to deal with anxiety, or if I need to get a little extra creativity when I write. Or if I’m doing a late show at a club, I’ll smoke a little to get loose. Not so much that I’m out of my mind, but just enough to take a little of the edge off. It also helps me focus. My mind is like a rat’s nest, and sometimes when I smoke it helps quiet my negative thoughts and anxiety and allows me to be more present in the moment without worrying about a lot of other stuff. That’s what makes cannabis the porthole to my creativity. It also lowers my guard on some things I might be hesitant to talk about on stage. It lets my mind, just go. And when I’m really in the zone, the audience will go with me.
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