Cypress Hill are back with their ninth studio album, Elephants on Acid. Produced entirely by the group’s track master, DJ Muggs, the record is what the group is calling “a psychedelic hip-hop album,” and an homage to the psychedelic era of the 1960s. Recently, I spoke with the legendary Sen Dog about the concept and inspiration behind Elephants on Acid, as well as his views on Cypress Hill’s role in bringing cannabis culture into the mainstream. He also shed a little light on what fans can expect at this year’s Haunted Hill gigs.
Let’s talk about the new record — congratulations to the whole group, because it really is an amazing album.
Thank you, man. I appreciate it.
I think it’s a really unique album, when you look at it alongside the entire Cypress catalog. What do you think?
I think it fits in well with the rest of the catalog, most of it being produced by DJ Muggs. The album fits in well with the rest of the material because it’s all related to it, in one way or the other. I feel like this album gave us an opportunity to go back to our roots, but at the same time show that we’ve evolved and grown as a band, and that we’ve matured as men and as people. These are significant things to me that stand out about the record…The whole process and attempt to still be Cypress Hill, in a day and age where so many things have changed musically, and not be willing to confirm to any of that stuff, and still be Cypress. The Cypress that people fell in love with many years ago, you know?
Definitely. I was excited when I first learned that Muggs was going to produce the entire album. That hasn’t happened since the Stoned Raiders album in 2001. Can you talk about what led up to Cypress going in that creative direction for this album?
When we finished touring for the last album and started thinking about where we wanted to go musically, a couple of us had solo records in mind…some different bands. But — real fast — B-Real said to me, “Yo, let’s go get Muggs for (Elephants on Acid).” You know, these guys are my brothers, we’ve known each other since we were 13 or 14 years old, and we’re still family, so I was like, “Yeah, let’s go do it.”
I got the sense after hearing the first single, “Band of Gypsies,” that a concentrated effort was made to make a really psychedelic record, with conceptual threads running throughout it.
Yeah, definitely. That’s the beautiful thing about working with Muggs. He always has a greater picture in his head. When he broke it down for us — like, doing a whole psychedelic hip hop album — I liked the idea right away, because I grew up listening to a lot of different music, and I learned about every kind of musical movement. The ‘60s, and the psychedelic era, is one of my favorites…everyone getting plastered on LSD, being free, all the artwork — I love it! So, to do a whole psychedelic hip-hop album, I’m not sure that’s really ever been attempted before. But, that direction…I was like “Yeah, let’s be weird again! Let’s be strange, like when we were coming up!” Because when we were coming up, we were different from everything — either to the left or to the right. So, it was fun to conjure up that concept.
I know Muggs went to a lot of different places to record these tracks — Egypt, Jordan, the Joshua Tree — were B-Real and yourself along for those trips?
No, we were on tour during that time. When we got back, we had tracks already from him, and then we did some stuff. Then B-Real got into some Prophets of Rage stuff, and I finally got my Powerflo record out, and started touring behind that. So, it was a thing where Muggs was going on these trips, doing his thing — DJ’ing, discovering new musical styles — and then we’d get together with him and record.
Cypress Hill was the first pro-marijuana activist group, celebrating cannabis culture more than 20 years before the first states began to legalize recreational use. As more and more states begin to legalize, do you ever think to yourself, “Hey, we had a hand in making this possible?”
Yeah…I mean, I try not to jump myself, or jump our band, by saying we had something to do with that. But, I think it’s common knowledge that Cypress Hill had a lot to do with the awakening of modern society on cannabis culture issues. Especially in a country that smokes a shit-ton of marijuana every year, but yet the laws are set up to imprison people for 15, 20 years in some states, for something as silly as one joint. So, it’s a great thing now that we have medical marijuana in some states, and other states completely legal marijuana — who would have thought that 20 years ago? But, the great thing about what we did was, we weren’t afraid of the backlash that would come from it. We were taking a really big risk — of being blackballed, or banned, or not invited on tours — because of our stance on cannabis.
Well, all of us who support the cause definitely appreciate it, and we thank you. So, what can fans expect from this year at the annual Haunted Hill shows?
Well, in New York we’re gonna have Madball play. I think it’s the first time we’ve had a hardcore band play Haunted Hill, so I’m really excited about that. You know, in Cypress, we always try our damnedest to come through, and come through correctly onstage, and make sure it’s an entertaining show for everyone, from first minute to last, so…I think that’s why people still come to see us today. So, you can expect new music, along with the energy, the smoke, and the sing-alongs!
Awesome, man. Well, good luck out on tour and with the new record.
Right on, brother! Thank you!
Cypress Hill will be returning to New York City for their annual Haunted Hill concerts on October 31 at the Gramercy Theatre, and November 2 at Warsaw in Brooklyn.