Reprinted without permission from High Times, July
POUNDING FOR POT: SOUNDGARDEN'S MATT CAMERON
Soundgarden: The name conjures up an image of a lily-white gazebo peopled with angelic muses-hardly a vestibule of metal, that rock 'n' raunch genre home to grease monkeys and glamsters alike. But think again. Seattle's Soundgarden not only rock - they rule. With the successs of their two A&M albums, Badmotorfinger (1991) and Louder Than Love (1989), Soundgarden have become standard-bearers for a new generation of musical purists-something sorely lacking in this tawdry scene.
How did a band that refuses to put a guitar solo in every song and is as far away from hairspray and spandex as, well, Seattle is from New York, land the most coveted opening tour slot of 1991 (for Guns N' Roses)? The answer is in the music: thundering, crunching, low-D chords; odd-but-rockin' time signatures; highly sophisticated drumbeats; and the trademark wail and subtle stylings of vocalist Chris Cornell. It all adds up to a conglomerate of sounds heavier than the heaviest metal and fresh enough to prick up even the most jaded ears.
Music this ground-breaking can only be made by musicians far from the industry's norm. Matt Cameron, Soundgarden's drummer extraordinaire and official band stoner, took time off during the group's February Skid Row tour to chat with 'High Times' about the Seattle herb scene and other musical topics. He came across as clever, considerate and fiercely dedicated to his art. Who said integrity-fueled Rock-n-Roll has to be a contradiction in terms?
High Times: Let's talk about pot.
Matt Cameron: I'd rather talk about pot than music anyday. We talk about music in every fucking interview, so this is a nice change.
HT: When was the first time you got high?
MC: When I was 15, and I didn't like it. But the second time, when I was 16, I loved it. The main thing I did was listen to music. And that just totally opened my head up. I decided at that point that it was a really good thing, but that I would wait until I had more time on my hands.
HT: When was that?
MC: When I was 17, and out of high school. A lot of my friends got stoned in High School. Coming to class stoned didn't seem like a really good way to go to school. So I was pretty coherent all through school.
HT: Why do you get high now?
MC: I normally do it for a sense of well-being. We have this pot up in Seattle that's amazingly potent. There's a cancer research center at the University of Washington where they grow pot for their chemotherapy and glaucoma patients. Over the years, certain students have taken clippings from these plants and started growing them around the Seattle area. All the growing done in Seattle is indoor. When I'm home and get pot, it's normally so strong that I can barely move - I just hang out at home and veg. The mushrooms we have in Seattle are fucking amazing, too.
HT: Do the other guys in Soundgarden get high?
MC: On long drives Ben and Kim and I will smoke out, but they normally are drinkers. Chris will take a hit every now and then, but it's pretty rare. He stays pretty clean on the road.
HT: Do you get stoned when you play?
MC: Sometimes. I think it helps when I'm at home and I'm in the right mood to create. A little pot, coffee and time is normally a really good combination for me. Sometimes it helps open up a different side of my creative brain that might not open if I'm not relaxed enough. For the most part, it's always been helpful.
HT: Have you ever played a gig stoned?
MC: Oh, yeah, The first Guns N Roses show I was a little bit baked. It wasn't that great of an idea, actually, thinking back on it.
HT: How was the GNR tour?
MC: It was kinda tense. It definitely wasn't a low-key situation. It was our first arena tour, so it took us a while to adapt to that kind of crowd. But it was cool playing 45-minute sets and not pacing ourselves. There were a few nights I thought we were really good, but overall it was probably one of our most disappointing tours as far as the way we played. With Skid Row, it's better; it's not as tense. They're cool guys.
HT: Do they get high?
MC: Yeah. (Lead singer) Sebastian (Bach) does. He smoked out last night.
HT: I had a weird experience at the GNR show in New York. We had to wait for two hours for them to go on. They had the lights flashing on different women in the audience...
MC: Taking off their clothes.
HT: Right! What was up with that?
MC: They did that pretty much every night. It was just backstage entertainment, because all that stuff was coming through on the monitors. It was just kind of a "rock" thing to do. I watched it one night, and I thought it was pretty funny, but it was definitely a strange scene. The women who do stuff like that are pretty stupid in the first place. A big rock circus is what it was.
HT: What do you think about groupies?
MC: The whole groupie scene we pretty much steer clear of.
HT: Have you ever been busted?
MC: No. But on one of our first van tours, we got pulled over as soon as we crossed into Louisiana by these undercover DEA cowboy dudes. They searched the van, and our sound man had a smidgen of pot. They took all of our money, all the stuff they thought was evidence -- vitamins and stuff. They thought we were selling pot. So they left us pretty much high and dry for a gram of pot. That's been the only legal problem I've encountered.
HT: Do you think pot should be legalized?
MC: It seems like it pretty much IS legal in a certain way. You have places like Ann Arbor, Michigan where it's only a $25 fine for carrying pot. I think it should be legalized, but I also think there should be certain guidelines for it. I wouldn't want really young kids to start smoking pot.
HT: What about legalizing harder drugs?
MC: I'd be apprehensive to say I would be for legalizing heroin and cocaine.
HT: Do you know about the whole hemp issue?
MC: Yeah! There was a hemp concert in Seattle that I just kinda stumbled onto. I was just riding my bike one day and there was this guy in the park talking about hemp at the top of his lungs.
HT: If High Times put on a benefit concert for legalization, would you wanna play?
MC: I sure would. But if my bandmates don't, then I'll just go up there and do a drum solo!