The Black Lips love to get crazy . . . and hazy
By Victor Hussar
The Black Lips are famous for its high-octane brew of hardcore, country and American rock. The band is also infamous for its shocking live performances where onstage nudity, urination and vomit are all possibilities.
With Arabia Mountain, the group’s sixth studio album, The Black Lips are delivering the provocative power of its independent music to fans all over, including countries as far off as Japan, Norway and Croatia.
Cole Alexander, rhythm guitarist for The Black Lips, spoke to CULTURE about life, music and being controversial.
The Black Lips seem intent on playing all over the world, from Turkey and Estonia and Russia. Will you be visiting new locations for the Arabia Mountain tour?
We were trying to get to the Middle East. We were told we could visit the Kurdish region of Iraq, and we also want to hit up Lebanon. I’d like to go play in Antarctica.
Is it possible to perform there?
We talked to a few scientific institutes about doing a show there. They have stages and everything.
What do you think of punk music today?
A lot of it is pretty watered-down. There are only a handful of legitimate punk bands around today. I’ve heard some great bands in a lot of little towns, but they don’t get heard anywhere else. Besides, if a band pays too much attention to their success they can’t really be punk.
I noticed you guys recently played at The Glass House in Pomona. That’s one of my favorite places to see shows. What made you choose that particular venue?
We always play there. That’s our all-ages-suburban-outside-of-L.A. show. All the skater kids come out. The audience has a lot more energy at The Glass House.
Let’s talk about Arabia Mountain. How did you approach this album differently than your previous albums?
It’s just a rock ‘n’ roll album. It incorporates hip-hop, country, blues, psychedelia. There [are] so many different facets. Sometimes you record a song one way and it comes out better, so we spent a lot of time on it. We felt like we didn’t really grow up enough after our last album.
Do you plan the onstage craziness, or it is it something that just happens?
We don’t really plan any of it. We don’t want to cater to expectations. I’m not going to pee or vomit if I don’t have to. Sometimes we just stand there and play, without doing anything crazy, and it shocks the audience more.
Would you like to describe some of your experiences with marijuana?
I enjoy marijuana, but I prefer hash. I’d like to see people get more into hash than marijuana. To me hash is like coffee and a cigarette. I don’t feel as high. I guess it’s like a sippin‘ whiskey.
What’s the marijuana scene like in California compared to other states?
Right now California is the king of weed in America. There’s weed in Georgia and New York, but here it’s much more casual.
All Tomorrow’s Parties
If The Black Lips considers itself punk, then it should come as no surprise that the band’s got something to say about the political drama surrounding cannabis? As axe-man Cole Alexander puts it: “I think there’s a lot of money pumped into the DEA so they have to employ people. If it gets legalized, then the money goes to the people instead of to the government. Some Republicans should get into it as an issue because it means smaller government. For instance, Republican Sen. Ron Paul [R-Texas] wants to decriminalize marijuana, but so do a lot of Democrats. They both have more in common than they realize.”