Guerilla Union has gone way beyond mere concert promotion
By Alex Distefano
Formed in 1998, Guerilla Union began as a concert promotion company, but it has since evolved into much more. The company is the driving force behind such massive hip-hop events as Spring Gathering, Rock the Bells, Paid Dues and Cypress Hill’s Smokeout. Guerilla Union has also ventured into the world of fashion, technology, media, independent art and medicinal marijuana advocacy, proving that hard work combined with a DIY grassroots ethic can lead to success in multiple arenas, Guerilla Union founder Chang Weisberg recently spoke with CULTURE about the lineup for the 8th annual Rock the Bells, his passion for hip-hop music in a live setting, his promotion work and his latest take on marijuana.
Tell readers the origins of Guerilla Union.
Well, at first it was all about concert promoting. I’ve been doing it with a lot of cool people for many years. It involved putting together concerts featuring all kinds of music, and we also dealt with clothing and merchandise. In ’98, we formed [Guerilla Union]; and subsequently it was the same year that we started the Cypress Hill Smokeout festival. Now we are involved in tons; from the Dragon Fest to Paid Dues—an independent hip-hop festival—and, of course, Rock the Bells, which is huge. It took a lot of hard work, but it’s definitely paid off. We’re just happy to be one of the most recognized promoters in the U.S, with the magnitude of work we do . . . But we just took what Lollapalooza was doing to the next level and kept it going. I love what Perry Farrell did, and I look up to him. We are fortunate to work with such great artists like Cypress Hill and Snoop Dogg and many more.
Tell us about this year’s Rock the Bells. Can you give us the scoop on any surprise guests?
Well this year we have another amazing show. I think there are 10 records being performed in their entirety, which is always cool. I’m looking forward to all of them really; Nas doing Illmatic and Lauren Hill performing the Miseducation album; Cypress Hill’s Black Sunday. And in particular, I’m looking forward to seeing Mobb Deep play The Infamous and Souls of Mischief play 93 ’Til Infinity. Those are a little more obscure, but that’s just my opinion.
Tell readers about the recent Spring Gathering Music Festival and Medical Marijuana Expo in San Bernardino. Did you encounter any problems with law enforcement?
It was different in that people with doctor’s notes could legally use marijuana at the show . . . There were no incidents at the concert. This type thing would not have happened two years ago.
I heard that you have a NorCal medical marijuana and music event planned for the future. Can you tell us more?
We are currently making the plans to hold two events in the next 12 months up north. The first one will be in the Bay Area this fall. It’s not solidified yet, but its well on its way. This is something we’re very excited about as well; and Northern California is so much further ahead with the acceptance of medical marijuana and use in general, so we’re going to set our sights high.
Guerilla Union head honcho Chang Weisberg isn’t shy about his canna-activist views. The more-than-a-concert-promoter maintains that the medical marijuana movement will eventually lead to full legalization. “We are in prohibition now, just as was once the case with alcohol,” he says. “But the hypocrisy is clear: alcohol and tobacco cause more of a serious health threat than marijuana ever will. These drugs kill. Yet marijuana doesn’t. But the fight goes on. Marijuana will not go away.”