Thursday, August 27, 2015

Children of Bodom will play Miami's 70000 Tons of Metal Cruise in February

In a top secret location in Helsinki, Finland, Children of Bodom recorded their Halo of Blood at the Danger Johnny Studio with Mikko Karmila and Peter Tagtgren. Their album Halo of Blood lit up the DTE Energy Music Theatre on the Mayhem Festival in 2013 when they headlined the Musicians Institute stage alongside Rob Zombie, Mastodon, Machine Head, Five Finger Death Punch and more. Since, they have continued to crank hard-hitting music that inspires people to mosh and vent their frustrations, and you can pre-order their new album I Worship Chaos through their website, or plan a trip to Florida for February 4th when they will be performing at the 70,000 Tons of Metal Cruise in Miami alongside My Dying Bride, Lacuna Coil and a slew of other mteal bands that will leave you thrashing so hard you make waves in the ocean.

Author Marisa Williams: What is your home town, and is that where you live now?

Alexi Laiho of Children of Bodom: We come from Helsinki. I live half time there and half time in Los Angeles. Basically, most of the time, I'm on the road anyhow. I move around a lot, but I like it better like that, because I get restless.

Marisa: How did you get started in music? Did you come from a musical family? What were your biggest musical influences?

Alexi: My family was very musical. Everyone played an instrument. My dad played the keyboard, and my mom played the keyboard, as well as the flute. My sister played piano, and I started piano at five, but it didn't pan out, so I picked the up violin at seven. I got that down pretty fast, and I played that for four or five years. I got my first guitar at 11. When I got the guitar, I didn't give a shit about violin anymore. I started going to music schools when I picked up violin, so I took musical theatre as a kid. At 13, I got into this music school and went there for five years. When I was super young, my dad was playing either classical or classic rock. That's pretty much what was played in our house, everything from Credence and the Beatles to Mozart and Bach. My sister got into hair metal. She'd play me the tapes, and I got into that at a young age. At seven, I was into WASP, Guns n' Roses, Skid Row, Poison, and I still like those bands; they're awesome.

Marisa: That's so funny you should mention WASP. One of the coolest things I saw was the one drummer from WASP, Stet Howland, playing this small little bar in Fort Myers, Florida. He was playing in a cover band, but he did this 20 minute drum solo using beer bottles. It was amazing and just completely unexpected. When I talked to him, he said he was actually making more money playing covers than he was touring with WASP on the last run he did with them.

Alexi: That's pretty cool. At least he's still playing something. That's what's important.

Marisa: Yea, just had to throw that in there, but I'll get back to business. How do you go about writing music? What comes first for you: drums, guitars, vocals or something else? Has the process of writing changed for you over the years at all?

Alexi: It changes a lot. How the song comes about, it's usually with a guitar riff or keyboard. Sometimes, I'll get a melody playing in my head, and I'll take a guitar and start playing. I'll figure out the chords, so it changes a lot, but as far as the song writing process, it hasn't changed that much from the first album. I'll read the music, like riffs and stuff, take to the other guys, and we jam on the riffs for a little bit, putting the song together as a group. So, they help with the arrangements and stuff, but I write everything, and it has always been like that.

Marisa: What's the coolest thing about your latest project?

Alexi: That it rocks. This time around, the whole session was pretty smooth. There were no obstacles of any kind. I mean, there's always something going on, but this time around, it was pleasant. It's always stressful, but it was fun anyway. I had fun with the vocals and stuff. Peter was there to produce and record. We'd have a schedule to start around 6 p.m., and we'd wrap up around 8 in the morning. It's a cool thing to do your vocals at night. It feels more natural that way.

Marisa: You sound like a guy after my own heart. I always write at night, so I can feel ya on that. Anyhow, what is the biggest difference between playing in the United States, versus playing Europe?

Alexi: It's really... it's really not that different. The States, in general, it's more about circle pits. In Europe, we have that, too, but they're into singing along, more like waving their fists in the air, being super fucking loud, it's insane. Japan is different. They go crazy during the song, but after the song, it's like dead silence; nobody says a peep. The first couple times we played, it felt kinda awkward. You know, people always yell random stupid things in the middle of the song, so it's never quiet, but it is in Japan. They're so polite, they don't want to say anything in between songs.

Marisa: What is the scariest thing about being on the road?

Alexi: I feel really safe on the road. I feel safer when I'm on the road, versus just being off. I don't know about scary, but annoying... It annoys the shit out of me when you have to fly to places; airports and flying in general is a pain in the ass, everything around it. I hate it, fucking hate it, but then again, most of the tours, we're in the tour bus, so it's all good.

Marisa: Best or worst tour moment?

Alexi: I'm sure there's a bunch of them, but the best stories are the ones you don't remember, because you're too fucked up. That's that. Worst, like I was saying, worst moments happened at the airports. Like you get stuck somewhere after being up for 30 hours, stuck in Mexico or God knows where, and you're so overwhelmingly exhausted, but you have to go straight to the stage. With the music business, you can't just call your boss and say you're sick; you have to get out there and get it done. After being up for 40 hours, it's not exactly good time, but when you hit the stage, you forget for an hour and half. Being on stage is always fun.

Marisa: What's your favorite place to travel to, and is there anywhere you have not been to that you would like to go to?

Alexi: We have covered pretty much the whole world except for Africa, and I would want to play South Africa for something new. Favorite places, of course, there's Japan and certain cities in the States, of course. I measure it by how awesome the crowd is, so a lot of Canadian cities - that's one country that's always good for us. There's a lot of places, and there's a lot to go.

Marisa: What's your biggest musical fantasy?

Alexi: Well, it would've been awesome to tour with Pantera back in the day; it's not going to happen now, but fantasy...

Marisa: If you were an unicorn, and you could be any color but white, what color would you be and why? Would you have any special powers?

Alexi: Well, I would be black with hot pink stripes, and my special power would be to drink as much as I want and never have hangovers. That'd be one rad unicorn.

Marisa: If you were yogurt, would you be mixed fruit, fruit on the bottom, what flavor and why?

Alexi: I would make a White Russian yogurt, Kahlua on the bottom, fuck yeah.

Marisa: Describe yourself as either a dog, a cat or a cartoon.

Alexi: I guess I'm like partially like a devil duck, because I have a short temper, and I feel it when I'm amped. As far as a cat, they're lazy, and sometimes I love being lazy, so I'd love to just lay on the couch and do nothing; that's an awesome way to spend some free time. The dog, I don't know, I love to run around and other stuff. I like to keep moving.

Marisa: Do you collect anything?

Alexi: No, not really. I'm really into cars. I have five cars all together, but I wouldn't call it collecting, because I do drive them. I've never been into collecting things, but as a teenager, I collected cigarette packs - but I don't do that any more.

Marisa: Do you have any hidden talents or special skills?

Alexi: Hopefully. I don't know what they are yet, but I guess I'll find out if I do or I don't.

Marisa: What's the most important thing to remember?

Alexi: A year ago, I'd say don't go anywhere without any alcohol, but that's not the case anymore. Let's pretend that it is a year ago though, and we'll use that as an answer.

Marisa: What's your most insightful moment?

Alexi: I guess when I discovered guitar and what it sounds like. I don't remember the exact moment, because I was a kid, but that must be it.

Marisa: If you were not doing music, what would you be doing?

Alexi: Probably living in a box somewhere. Most likely.

Marisa: What are three things you must have with you when you are on the road?

Alexi: Music, so iPod, if instruments don't count, because that's way too obvious. A bottle of something, anything, with alcohol in it, and something to wash my hair with. It goes a long way.

Marisa: Any advice for musicians starting out?

Alexi: Keep on practicing and be committed, if you want to make it. You have to be committed. You can't let anyone, or anything, come between you and the music; end of fucking story.

Marisa: Closing thoughts and additional comments?

Alexi: Pretty sure we covered everything and then some, so I think we're good.

For more information on Children of Bodom, visit; for information on the 70,000 Tons of Metal Cruise, visit The author of more than 100 books, Marisa Williams earned her Master's in Writing at the Johns Hopkins University. For more by Marisa, visit, and

Rob Zombie's Nightmare Will Scare

The first time I heard Rob Zombie's name was on Headbanger's Ball. The late night MTV metal show host gushed on about how White Zombie had been around for nearly a decade unnoticed. Recalling those rip-roaring cars, the crazy animation of the “Thunderkiss '65” video, and even the animation on the Beavis and Butthead movie – and who would have predicted what the future would hold at that point?

Back then, when I was a teenager, I certainly would not have thought that I'd later be touring the country on Ozzfest because of Rob Zombie. The younger me probably would not believe that I would become a journalist, let alone that I'd get pulled on stage by Rob Zombie while covering a concert. The facial recognition from being on stage in front of about 45,000 people, face plastered on the big screen, led to a crew of people following me around and culminated in a job on the 2002 Ozzfest tour.

I attempted to comfort Rob's tattoo artist poolside one somber day. We were chased out of our hotels from the swarm of reporters; literally, 20 minutes after a performer was found dead, helicopters landed. My co-worker and I zipped to get away from the craziness and had dinner with Rob's tech Grape.

Over the years, it's like meeting extended members of the family, such as when I was introduced to Shauna. It was when I was living in New Orleans, before Hurricane Katrina, and Corrosion of Conformity's Pepper Keenan knew that I was new to the area and in the biz. He introduced us when we had been drinking at her bar, The Saint, and I remember the cats I loved to see freely roaming her bar.

I recall more than a few stories with plot settings of either her bar or Pepper's bar from back in the day. I shake my head and smile, recalling a patchwork of various times and people. Those stories are for another time, as it's like when Kirk Windstein swore me to secrecy the details of hanging out at the Black Label Society balcony party with him and Frey from Valume Knob, and Pat, now of Down.

That was more than a decade ago. How many times have I seen Rob Zombie since? More than a few.

Right after I started studying for my Master's at Johns Hopkins University, I covered the show at DC's 9:30 Club. People were thick. It was more of an intimate club setting that was packed to the gills.

Compare that to last year in Wisconsin at Rock USA Oshkosh, where he was one of the headlining acts. Totally different stage set up and atmosphere with the outdoor festival. This was set up for camping, complete with carnival games, a ferris wheel, the zipper, and ziplining across the festival grounds.

This year when I saw him in Toledo, Ohio, it was just him. His opener was a DJ. Madonna style.

Of course, many who have seen my business card, which is also the picture used on the cover of my thesis from Johns Hopkins University, might have heard of the time I crowdsurfed at Ozzfest. It was not the year that I had toured, but after, when Rob toured again, and I covered Columbus, Ohio. The internationally-known photo was taken while crowd surfing during the same the song he had originally pulled me on stage for, “Living Dead Girl,” but since people on stage knew it was me crowdsurfing, they had drenched me with a fire hose, killing my camera at the time – but I was able to save the card.

The epic photo has caused a lot of controversy. It led to a half dozen of my books being censored and pulled from publication by the publishing company. Some have almost viewed me like a villain.

Maybe I can identify with some of the bad guys from Rob Zombie's films. They are bad people, and by all rights, you should really hate them for the bad things that they do to people, a.k.a., killing them; however, there's just something about them that you like. Rob Zombie shows the perspective of the bad guys in his films, and that's what sets some of his work apart from others in the horror genre.

That love of horror can be seen in his stage show, with massive images of villains and hot chicks. Embodiment of images from satanic cultures and shock value are things that get the blood pumping. Pulling from those various influences, a persona arises, a stage persona, a movie persona and just Rob.

There's so many images that can be conjured in the mind of what Rob might possibly be like. Ask my friend's son, and his response is based on the Halloween mask of Rob and his music. Scary and cool.

The little five-year-old loved that Rob's music had race cars in it. He was terrified of the mask when he stumbled upon it in the Halloween store though, inching backwards slowly. He never saw the movies.

He didn't have to see the movie. He was scared enough by the mask, asking me if that's what Rob really looked like in person. I had to comfort him, explain that it is just a mask, just a prop, because Rob likes scary movies, but no, he's not that scary in real life; he's actually a pretty nice, chill guy.

Rob's appeal has grown to be that broad. A child can like the smallest element of a race car in the music, movie buffs appreciate him pushing boundaries in the movie industry, metal heads like the mosh pits. Not matter what it is that draws you to liking him, the once obscure is now a family-known name.

Now he's preparing for the Great American nightmare, where you can be scared like a little child. This is not just your average haunted house, as it has Captain Spaulding's 3D Clown School, the Bloody Boulevard with roaming freaks, and even concerts by Rob Zombie on October 2nd and 4th. Come on down to the Odeum Expo Center in Villa Park, IL, between Sept. 25 and Nov. 1st for a real fright.

Weekdays, the haunted spectacular will be open from 7 – 10 p.m., open until midnight on the weekends. On Oct. 2nd and 4th, the doors will open at 5 p.m., with the concert starting at 8 p.m.. The haunted house, waiting line and box office are all indoors, so don't hesitate to visit on a rainy day.

Don't plan on wearing flip flops or high heels, as you never know when you might need to run for your life. This is also not recommended for the youngsters under 13 that are prone to having nightmares. Still, getting scared by Rob Zombie's collection of freaks and ghouls is the perfect start to Halloween.

For more information on Rob Zombie's Great American Haunt, visit For more on Rob Zombie including his upcoming concert in Erie, PA, visit For more by Marisa, visit, and

Censored yet again: the other Cannabis Cup article...

For those of you who don't know me, I hate to get censored, despise it.  Unfortunately, it happens all the time.  This is the latest article to get censored and pulled from another publication, so I'll publish it here myself:

Michigan's High Times Cannabis Cup:

“Dude! Zombies! Where are the signs saying 'beware of zombies?'”

Herds are barely able to toddle. They slowly shuffle. Careful, as they are not the fastest to respond.

Gaits may be a little off. Some limp or waddle. This only adds to the zombie effect.

Many have health issues that led to them ambling slowly toward the convention. Ask and hear stories like the girl who slammed her face into the steering wheel in a car accident, the girl who was told she would never walk again after a cliff diving accident, and the guy hit by a car going more than 55 MPH. Each of them were lucky to survive, and continue to live in chronic pain with a host of health problems.

Luckily, a medicinal herb helps them. This conventions celebrates that magical plant. It's the Cannabis Cup in Clio, Michigan, hosted by an old school pro-marijuana publication called High Times.

Okay, so some people might just feel like a zombie after sampling a few free dabs, practically drooling on themselves and a little out of it, but that's why it never hurts to have a designated driver. One does not have to be a medical marijuana patient to attend the Cannabis Cup, only those who plan on medicating in the designated outdoor area. Looking around the crowd, one might notice a plentiful amount of locked cases that people are carrying, but remember, even medical patients should keep their legal medication in a locked container in the trunk when it is being transported to such an event.

The best is judged. Walk around, sample products, and pick a favorite booth. Then, cast a vote.

Along the journey, get greeted by a sexy version of Alice in Wonderland, see a guy in a pot leaf suit, get approached by a giant bud smoking a joint, and follow a man in a clear box with LED lights illuminating. Try to make it all the way around the Herbal Solutions table. Try not to tap out too soon.

Like it Raw? Good, grab a Raw paper. The one cone takes about an ounce to fill.

Check out the Tommy Chong products. Pose with a cardboard cutout. Download their playful app.

Attend a seminar. Hear war stories. Learn cooking techniques.

Chill out at the concerts. Dance with new friends. Become one with the music.

Get a VIP gift bag. Head back to the VIP tent. Get a free caricature drawn.

Is that Danny Danko? What's he rolling? Puff and pass.

The free weed seminar consisted of the steady work of rolling, followed by the continuous passing of the samples to be puffed. Rolling techniques vary. Sometimes, it's great to get an up-close look.

There's fun and frivolity, but there's also a political side to things. Various donations are set up for children suffering from cancer. Reading their stories is absolutely heartbreaking; they're so young.

A six-time cancer survivor confided that cannabis was the only thing that helped her through chemotherapy. “I wouldn't be able to hold down food or have any type of an appetite without it.” For so many, it can be a bigger help than all the pills that doctors readily and constantly prescribe to people.

Each person has a different story. Nearly every person at the event had battled in a personal war. Though each had their own reason for their interest in cannabis and attending the event, all were cool.

The vibe is chill and welcoming. The only thing to be scared of it the rain that flooded the second day of the event, especially when there were whispers of tornado warnings. Many did not stick around.

People packed up a little early. That's the only bad part of having an outdoor event; there's not many places to hide in case of bad weather. Still, this only meant people were willing to dole out deals.

Ready to recoup any kind of cost, many gave out deals of more than 50% off, gave out free samples, and threw in added bonuses of things they did not want to carry through the rain when packing up. It's worth donning an umbrella or rain poncho, just to shop the last minute deals as people are closing up.

Pick up one of the glass pieces handcrafted by an artist at the event. Feet of flame spit from glowing glass. The artist blows into the long tube and spins, manipulating the the liquid before it solidifies.

It's easy to spend an hour watching the glass blowers. See the craft from start to finish. They're good.

Some glass has squishy faces like an old man trapped in the glass. Other pieces look like terrific animals from a fantasy world. Abstract pieces do not need rhyme, logic or reason to look awesome.

Learn how to grow and blossom. There's a host of techniques, and this convention has a slew of teachers. Ask around, and there's more than one person that can usually answer about any question.

Seminars have tips. Various methods are talked about. Each teacher has their own preferences.

Flowers line nearly every path. There's samples and displays of pot leaves with other flowers, too. No matter which path you take, it's almost like walking through a dense fog, being outside in thick smoke.

Seemingly each direction leads to a dab. Try some gummies, eat some nuts, suck on a lollipop, chow a brownie, a pretty cupcake, or scrumptious strawberry cake. How about some medicated hot wings?

There's so much to do, see, try and learn that it's almost overwhelming trying to fit in everything. There's regrets of things missed by the end. Of course, there's always Jamaica, Portland or California.

The High Times Cannabis Cup will be traveling to other locations throughout the year. Don't drag those feet and miss out. Check out the latest events at

For more by Marisa, visit and

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Michigan's Cannabis Cup

Ravenously hungry. Stopped more than a few times for food and snacks. Still feeling starved.

Watch out for the zombies! Herds shuffle along the road. They don't notice where they're stumbling.

Beware of zombies. They mumble and groan as responses. Beep the horn and see if they wave.

Most people were actually cool, even if some of those people were basically bonified zombies by the time they could hardly make it out the door. On the loud speaker, people were feeding into the fear and loathing, warning that the cops would be out in full force. Meanwhile, on the outside, a burner with a headful of dreds hears “Is This Love” blaring from the loud speaker of the cop car, police nodding their head to the beat, seemingly not phased to see a bunch of stoners leaving the High Times Cannabis Cup.

In the FAQ for the event, there was a specific question asking if there was free weed with an admission. The answer seemed pretty straight up; sorry about your luck. There will be nothing to see here people.

Instead, I think one of the first booths in the medication area was my favorite. Herbal Solutions had a big set up with plush white leather chill spots on the inside for owner Adam and friends, surrounded by a rectangle of tables, each side of the rectangle offering up a sample to try as people stumble by. A free dab sounded pretty enticing, and the thought of being able to try a few different things, make my way around the table did not seem like that big of a challenge for a seasoned professional to try to handle.

Au contraire, mon frere. First side is no big deal, two dudes side by side. Joke, chat and toke.

By the second side, the third dab in, get ready to tap out. Walk away. Catch your breath.

Tears water the eyes. Blink them away, but they stream down the cheeks. Wipe with the hand then.

Try to stand strong. Try to look cool. Try not to cough.

What was that? Four foot of glass? Memory is hazy.

There's no holding back a big cough after trying to teach that thing a lesson. There's a light-headedness and maybe a stumble backwards. Eventually, that dreaded cough comes out in full force.

Learn a lesson. Smaller hit next time. Don't try to be a hero.

Is it really only the second side still? There's another right next to it waiting to be tried. Then there's the table next to it with a couple more samples, and the next side, with a few more, all waiting still...

Suck it up. This is just the first booth. There's a whole haze more to feel your way through.

Overhear a phone conversation. A says it's the most smoke they've ever been in, and the other questions, “I thought you said it was an outside event?” A clarifies that they are outside; it's just thick.

The old speedway looked a little different from childhood memories. Instead of attending races with grandpa, it's now filled with a maze of smoke, free dabs, food that's begging to be eaten, and amazing wonders, new stuff and things maybe only heard about before. What's that metal and glass setup?

Learn about new things first hand. Technology has soared to new heights. Get a little higher.

About the time to rest is when it's time to attend a conference. Hear tales from the War on Drugs, learn a few new growing tips, try some new cooking techniques and hear the heartbreaking stories of kids. Donate to a few causes that reminds as bad as one thinks they have it, someone is always worse off.

Afterall, even though the High Times Cannabis Cup is one of those cool events that people just love to attend, there is actual a political purpose behind the event. It's about legalizing an herbal remedy that can help a number of sick people, myself included. I would have loved to report that I skipped around the event like Alice in Wonderland, but truth be told, I was recovering from surgery and basically felt like a zombie, barely able to stumble, because I have not regained normal gait since having my surgery.

Why am I a medi patient? I jumped off the side of a mountain when I was 19-years-old, and my West Virginia cliff diving experience left doctors saying I'd never walk again. Luckily, I can walk now.

I had shattered my pelvis, compressed my spine, messed up both my knees and ankles, my shoulder and all kinds of stuff. It's been over a decade, and I'm still finding out new things, like my spine is bulging to the left, which is why I am leaning to the left more. Doctors didn't know what to do with me when I had my accident, so they gave me a slew of medications, including one that gave me kidney stones and another called Vioxx that gave me a heart attack at 24-years-old. No, I was not one of those lucky ones that received some of that $4.5 billion settlement; I did not even have health insurance.

While there's people that want to knock Obama Care, I was finally able to see a doctor for the first time in more than a decade. People with insurance take that for granted, but when you've had a major injury at a young age and things keep going wrong and you can't see a doctor for a decade, you really appreciate just being able to walk in the door of an office and don't care if you have to wait an hour. To finally know what is wrong and be able to have someone help fix it is a godsend for people like me; even when you know what's wrong but have no way to fix it, after more than ten years, finally getting any kind of medical coverage is like seeing light after being trapped in darkness.

People don't understand that it's not just bums who did not have health insurance for years in this country. Real estate agents don't get benefits like health care, artists and musicians do not automatically receive health insurance, and there's plenty of others who can work as hard as they are physically able but do not automatically receive any sort health coverage. I wrote more than 100 books, but the million dollar fairy did not fly down with money and health insurance for me.

When I did not have any insurance, my pain did not go away. It's not like my physical ailments stopped hurting since I did not have access to doctors. Instead, after having various complications with pills that doctors shoved down my throat, I turned to hippies and yogi masters, and, of course, weed.

I'd rather smoke a joint than take a pill. I'd rather eat a brownie than take a pill. Too bad if you don't like it, because I've already had bad complications with pills, and you're not going to change my mind.

That's just my story. Want me to tell you about my friend who is a six-time cancer survivor? She swears by the cannabis, it being the one thing that helped her be able to hold down food through the vicious rounds of chemo; otherwise, she would not have been able to eat or keep on enough weight.

Though the Cannabis Cup is a fun event to attend, there's this lingering darkness that flickers in the form of fliers and posters asking for help with people who have it worse than anyone there, people in wheel chairs wheeling around, those little reminders that this little weed is actually helping the sick. For some, it is a beacon of light, a hope to possibly ease some of the suffering. When throbbing pain is so bad that the heartbeat can be seen through the red inflammation, cannabis helps take the edge off.

One of my friends smashed her face against a steering wheel in a car accident. Not only did she require plastic surgery and suffer a host of other problems, but she became a medipatient. My other medical patient buddy was hit by a car exceeding 55 miles an hour while he was riding in the bicycle lane.

There's a lot of opinions about medical marijuana use, but talking to real patients can open ones eyes. Sure, there's the cultural phenomenon, the whole hippie movement, but there's also healing properties, and not to mention all the other uses for the plant matter. One thing that surprised me was that there were not more hemp merchandise vendors on site showcasing more potential uses for the plant.

Don't get me wrong. There were lots of vendors, and plenty with hemp related stuff for sale. However, I would have thought there'd have been more textile vendors with hemp bags, clothing, maybe tie dye...

Maybe I got lost at that first booth. It took quite a while to work my way around it. Though many booths had multiple dabbing stations, the first booth had both dabs and the more traditional bong rips.

Call me old fashioned, but there's something tasty about a good bong toke. I enjoy looking at the bud more than the stuff that looks like ear wax. I like to see the actual product in flower state as I smoke.

With the wax, it's easy to get really excited. Of course, when you actually talk to the vendors, only a handful can actually tell you the name of the strain they are sampling. Of the few that know what they are talking about, one readily admitted, “yea, most of this is actually CBD, with very little THC in it.”

That's good for pain. Not so much for a killer buzz. Just be mindful of little tricks like that around.

As with anything, there are tricks of the trade. When vendors are handing out free dabs all day, they might try little things like that to save money. Perfuming happens, as does the hardening of buds.

“Wow! This bud's so rock solid, it hardly breaks apart!” The texture is also a little off on the fingers.

It looks phenomenal. It smells wonderful. Something is just a little off though.

It's like elbowing the crowd aside to get an edible gummy. So excited, grasp the package, and it sloshes. Back to the refrigerator; guess these sat outside in the sun a little too long, but it'll harden.

Keep the common sense hat on to avoid being disappointed. Attend the seminars and learn some stuff. Wander to the VIP tent and get a free caricature sketched out on special High Times paper.

Waiting in line, a guy asks for a paper. Hand him one. He hands back an awesomely dank bud.

He saunters over to Danny Danko. The editor is here for free weed. Roll and pass; roll and pass.

Steady work, man. Rolling and passing out joints to anyone around in the crowd, Danny had many people eager to share space by him. Everyone was pretty laid back, all things considered, and not to worry, if the first few puffs didn't kick start the buzz, maybe the next few dozen'll kick in high gear.

Don't get so high that you forget your phone in the bathroom. Call it once you're an hour down the road, only to have some dude answer it. Stuff like that puts you behind schedule, but life happens.

The worst part about the Cannabis Cup is that it eventually must end. This year, unfortunately, the latter part of the last day basically got rained out. With tornado warnings fueling the paranoia, many packed up early and did not look back, but others seemed oblivious to the rain and soaked it all in.

By the end, regrets build up. Shoulda went to that one seminar. Didn't make it over to wherever.

For some, voting was the issue. Some had the best of intent on voting but could not find the tent. Ask around, and few can give directions; most remember seeing it, but the majority forget seeing it where.

With that in mind, my criticism would be to have an easier to find voting area. Put it up front, by the bathrooms, or have more signs pointing people to where they need to go, because too many were oblivious to where they needed to go for that. Also, invest in air conditioning, at least for the classes.

People looked dazed. For some on Saturday, it wasn't from being high, but heat exhaustion. Try paying attention at a seminar once you slime past people to take the last seat, and notice the guy on your left is passed out to the point that you have to fan and revive him with a few cooling air gushes.

My advice for an event like this is if you see something you like and might want, do not hesitate. If supplies are limited, it might not be there when you get back. This applies not only to big ticket items, but to something as simple as a peanut butter cup; when it's gone, it's gone, and you'll want to cry.

That being said, don't be afraid to shop around either. Unless it's a once-in-a-lifetime-take-it-or-leave-it, then chances are if one person has it, another may as well. For example, in trying to find a small glass piece, the first display is $60, next booth is $20, but a few booths down has the same size for $12.

The nice part about the latter part of the last day being rainy meant that people were ready to deal. They were packing up their stuff early, knowing they would not be selling as much as they had anticipated, and some vendors were offering up deals to anyone willing to brave a few drops of rain. Not even looking to make a purchase, when prices drop to more than half off, with free bonuses added in from people not wanting to carry stuff through the rain, then yeah, interest is piqued all of a sudden.

It's worth walking through the rain to find a few last minute deals. Don a rain poncho. It's all good.

From people dressed like big buds to girls wearing only body paint, there was plenty to do and see at the High Times Cannabis Cup. Though admittedly reluctant, fearing the worst, I was pleasantly surprised by the Michigan Cannabis Cup in Clio. The cops were not hauling people off to jail left and right, but jamming to reggae music; there were not violent gangs that left me in fear; I did not witness anyone get manhandled or murdered; in fact, I did not really fear at any time at all and felt safe.

Odd as that may sound to some, as I know many who were reluctant to attend. There were naysayers who had said, “it's not worth it,” but to them I can only say that you missed out. Shoulda been there.

Shoulda tried all the free dabs. Coulda hada buncha bong rips. Too bad, so sad, if you missed out.

Guess you missed all the sexy people. Guess ya didn't get to dance at the band. You sit home instead?

This was one of those things that once you attend, you can't wait to attend the next one. Mark your calendars and start counting down the days until the next one. Travel to another location for more fun.

Negril, Jamaica and Portland, OR, are the next locations. November 12-15 is a nice time to travel to the tropics of Jamaica, as it starts to get cold in places like here in Michigan. Good excuse to travel.

Central California will be going off in October. Visit for more information. For more by Marisa, visit and

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Mayhem, Hell Yeah!

My mother always told me all that matters is health and happiness; you can't buy either one of them. When I had interviewed Tom Maxwell of Hell Yeah, he was having a little time off of the road after an injury. Little did I know that I would be seeing Tom perform at Mayhem, sitting with his hoof in a boot, and I surely did not expect to have my own health issues after covering Mayhem, but life happens.

Even though we were both excited about Mayhem, we had to talk health matters for a bit. “I shattered my ankle,” Tom said. “I wound up falling off back, hurt both sides of my ankle, had surgery, was in the hospital for three days. I went home on the third day.”

Still, he had a chipper outlook on the whole ordeal. “It's amazing. I'm not in pain. I had a surgeon in Germany. Flawless. My podiatrist looked at it back home and was super impressed by the quality. There's swelling and discomfort, and it may continue to swell into next year.”

He had mentioned, “even though I'll be back on the road, I'll be sitting down at the pedal board and throwing down as hard as I can. I'm at stage left usually, but I'll switch sides with Christian, hang out with Kyle. Plus, since I'll really be concentrating, I'll play the way we wrote it. Most of the time, sitting live is easier to play.”

His upbeat advice: “if you're handed lemons, make lemonade.” We chatted about the bands on Mayhem, how he had played with White Chapel previously. Hell Yeah had been playing the “Blood for Blood” record with some previous shows, but they are looking to promoted the new record now.

Our conversation changed upon reminiscing about how the Mayhem Festival last year coincided with a festival that Hell Yeah had played in Wisconsin, Rock USA Oshkosh. The Milwaukee stop of the Mayhem Festival was at a ballroom adjacent to the Ambassador Hotel, and Tom surprised me with his knowledge of the area. “I'm familiar with the Ambassador Hotel,” he said, “we tried to find the haunted room.”

Of course, the Ambassador Hotel is where Jefferey Dahmer had killed one of his victims, but Tom clued me into a darker past of the area, including the ballroom where Mayhem had been held. “Kids drown in the pool there, and in the 40's, it had been a shelter for neo-nazis. It has an insane history.”

We swapped stories of haunted history, then got back to the music. “I've pretty much been touring since last year. We have Mayhem, then Australia. We'll tour the album 16-18 months. Concentrate. In September, we'll come back, breathe, then me and Vinny will start out laying ground for the next record later this year, release next year.”

Like fueling up a tank, replenishing, this is the work of an honest record. They'll get deeper in songs. Music is like a machine taking them into battle where they will rage on for thousands across the globe.

In any battle, there are fallen heroes. We chatted about Dimebag for a moment, as I had brought up how he had collaborated with unexpected types, like from the country genre. I questioned Tom on whether this type of activity continued when working around his brother Vinny.

“We're involved with a lot of stuff. There's always fun people who want to collaborate. Usually, it's the same genre. We've not been approached by any country or jazz musicians to collaborate, but we're not pigeonholed,” he detailed.

He shared about the band comprised of his buddy Tommy Sickles from Nothingface. “Todd and Jason; one record, fun ways to keep grounded. There was one circulated of a string section that did a cover of “You Wouldn't Know” with nothing but cellos and violin. I'd love to add that to some of our music.”

As far as his biggest musical fantasy, Tom dreamed of headlining Download in a form of musical world domination, changing career for the better, pulling in 80,000 fans, and being supported by bands like Nine Inch Nails, Motley Crue and Ramstein. If you missed them on Mayhem, you can still check them out online. Visit,, and