Long Live The Kings! The Kottonmouth Kings that is. The rap, rock, punk rock group from Placentia, California has had an extremely productive, over fifteen year career in music so far. Despite the group’s success it’s not come easy as they are probably one of the most consistently hard working musical acts around. Since 1998, The Kottonmouth Kings have released nine studio albums, the latest being Long Live The Kings which just came out on the 4/20. To promote the new record the group has a massively busy summer and fall ahead of them including a spot on the latest Insane Clown Posse tour. Recently I had the opportunity to speak with one of the group’s frontmen Brad Daddy X Xavier about all things KMK.
Your brand new record Long Live The Kings just came out this past Tuesday appropriately on the 4/20. What are your feelings on the record now that it’s done and out there?
Brad: This record was almost a milestone in our career because Kottonmouth Kings have been doing this for fifteen years and this record was different than all the others because we added a new member, the amazing and incomprehensible Dirtball. Dirtball’s a label mate of Kottonmouth Kings on our label, he’s just such a ferocious MC and a great guy, I felt like Kottonmouth Kings needed some new energy, I kind of wanted to reinvent it a little bit so I asked Dirtball to join the group. We secluded ourselves up in the mountains up in Southern California for eight months and just went to work and recorded over fifty songs, I think this is the next dimension and the next era of the Kottonmouth Kings and I think it’ll definitely set the standard for where we’re going. It’s a super important record as far as Kottonmouth Kings entering the next chapter in the saga.
You mentioned there Dirtball and of course Long Live The Kings is the first Kottonmouth Kings record featuring Dirtball. How did Dirtball end up joining the group and what’s it been like writing and performing with him?
Brad: Well Dirtball, like I said, he was a label mate of ours on Sub Noize for years, probably seven years and he put out a string of phenomenal solo records, Raptillion, Crook County to name a couple and he’s working on a new one called Nervous System. We had done songs with him and toured with him so many times before but as far as MCs are concerned, you know from my estimation I would put Dirtball in the same league as I would a Tech 9 or an Eminem or any of the top echelon MCs, I mean he’s that good as his craft. I just felt like I wanted to interject some new energy and Dirtball was just in every way from personality to skill to everything he was just the perfect fit. Of course when we got in the studio and really started to dig in to song writing together it really became evident that it was going to work because he’s just so talented on such another level.
As a producer no matter what kind of song or beat I threw his way he just devoured it, he had an open mind, he was open to mellow stuff to punk stuff and of course hip hop, that’s his forte. He just devoured any style I threw at him and it seemed to fit together so well with the other voices. We had done songs with him in the past and I really liked the way the voices worked together on songs we’d done in the past. I knew it was going to work, it was just a matter of was he going to be willing enough to step in to a band that’s been together fifteen years and a band that has all the drama that comes along with a band that’s been together fifteen years. He was a champ about it, he came in and he’s been professional and he’s just kept his eye on the ball and he’s really been a great equalizer in the band. I think it was either us just calling it quits or us trying to reinvent this thing and take it to another place.
What was the writing and recording process like for the new record? How many songs did you write and where did you record it?
Brad: I have a home studio up in the mountains of California and we recorded it there. We rented a cabin next door which was cool so all the guy could just come stay up there for extended periods of time. We recorded close to fifty songs for the album and um, twenty actually made it on the album but then there’s bonus stuff like if you go to Best Buy there’s a bonus disc, if you go to the Subnoize website there’s a separate bonus disc and then if you go ITunes there’s more, a different bonus disc. So a lot of those songs found homes and if you look hard enough, the biggest fans will go try to seek out all the songs you know… And um, yeah man it was a great experience, we wrote a lot of songs, close to fifty songs, we were very comfortable making the album, we would wake up in the morning, get the coffee brewing and the beats would start coming up and we’d start writing songs. We’d barbecue together at night and keep writing songs into the night, it was a great experience. It was really the most time we’ve spent on a record in a long time, we really enjoyed the recording process, we got to stretch out and do all different types of things, we did acoustic stuff, we did punk stuff, we did tons of hip hop stuff so it was a fun record to make.
Who did you work with to produce Long Live The Kings or did you guys just do it yourself?
Brad: Yeah like all of our records they’re all kind of self-produced. That’s the thing with Kottonmouth Kings and Sub Noize, pretty much everything you hear is self-produced, self-manufactured, self-recorded, self-promoted, self-marketed, it’s true independent music, there’s no big wizard behind the curtain making magical beats or writing songs for us, what you see is what you get, it’s us.
There are of course eight members in the Kottonmouth Kings. How does the typical Kottonmouth Kings song get written? Do you all work together or is it just a couple of you guys who do most of the work?
Brad: Well here’s what you got to understand with Kottonmouth Kings, the people who make the albums are, there’s really just three or four of us who make the records, the other guys just play live. Now that Dirtball is in the group, myself, Dirtball, D-Loc and Johnny Richter, we pretty much make the albums. And then Bobby B our DJ will come over and scratch after the songs have been kind of done, he’ll lay some scratches over the top but for the most part, the other guys just perform with us live.
Yeah, I was curious about that because there’s so many of you guys so it’d be hard to all get together and write a song.
Brad: Yeah, trust me, it’s hard enough with just the four of us so you can imagine trying to get eight guys together. So yeah, it is streamlined and the song writing and recording process is simple because like I said, it’s just a small group of guys who actually make the records.
Now since your debut record Royal Highness came out in 1998 you’ve remarkably released eleven studio albums. With touring, promoting and recording, have you had any downtime at all the last decade?
Brad: Yeah we get down time, everything kind of comes in cycles, when you’re recording a record that takes a certain amount of time and then when the record gets ready to come out you got to promote it, you got to be on the road doing that, everything comes in cycles. The thing about Subnoize is that not only does Kottonmouth Kings have a full schedule but then everybody in the group, like Dirtball just finished his album Nervous System, Johnny Richter has a solo album that’s coming out this summer on Subnoize then me and Dirtball did an offshoot group called the X-Pistols which is just a turn and burn, balls to the wall punk rock album, we just finished that, that’s coming out late summer. We really take advantage of the fact that we own our home studios and we have a good label that we can put out music unfiltered, uncut, exactly how and when we want to put it out. We love doing music so everybody, when they’re not making records they’re probably making records just because it’s a passion.
Aside from your work in Kottonmouth Kings, you’ve also released a couple of solo albums, the most recent being 2006’s Family Ties. What’s going on with your solo career these days? Do you have any more plans to release any more solo material?
Brad: Well the X-Pistols, I really wanted to do a punk record because it just burns in my soul to do it, that’s the music I really love to do, the energy of it, I just want to burn off some steam. So the X-Pistols was going to be my solo record but then when we got up and started working on some punk stuff with Kottonmouth Kings and I started hearing Dirtball the way he was flipping on it, I just approached him like “hey I got this X-Pistols record, I pretty much have recorded all the music and dude I would love to get you on this because we can take punk rock somewhere it’s never been taken before.” So right after we got done with the Kottonmouth Kings album we just went right back into the studio for the X-Pistols record, eighteen tracks, it is ferocious, we just did our first show the other night at the Kottonmouth Kings release party and bodies were flying. The record is honestly one of my proudest accomplishments to date in my whole life, it’s almost like a lifetime achievement, to me it’s exactly hit the nail on the head as far as merging punk and hip hop, it’s pretty insane.
Looking back on all of the group’s work, what would you say is your favourite Kottonmouth Kings album and why?
Brad: Um, you know I would have to say my favourite album, it’s hard to pick just one, but definitely Long Live The Kings is the nearest and dearest to my heart, I really love this album. Cloud Nine is a favourite of mine and Rollin’ Stoned; I would say those three are my favourite records.
You’re about to embark on a huge early summer tour with Insane Clown Posse, Coolio, Kittie and Necro. How did this tour come about in the first place?
Brad: Well it’s pretty simple, ICP contacted us, we did a song with ICP on this new album called “Fuck The Police” and I think after doing that song we did a song for Blaze on his new record so we were doing some stuff back and forth between the two camps and ICP was putting together a Spring tour and they just called us up and asked if we’d be interested in going out with them. It just happened to fall right when our record was coming out so we accepted the offer so we’ll do the ICP tour and then late summer we’ll do an extensive Kottonmouth Kings headlining tour.
Now the group has always been very supportive towards the legalization of marijuana and you even have a couple of tracks, “Reefer Madness” and “Let’s Do Drugs” on the new album that touch on this issue. Do you see any positive developments happening towards legalization?
Brad: Oh absolutely, these are historic times that we are living in. In 2010 in California it’s on the ballot to be legalized there, fourteen states are recognizing medicinal marijuana right now and I would say another fifteen to twenty states, it’s on the ballot coming up in November. These are historic times, there’s a huge positive wave to crush and end marijuana prohibition in this country, I think the economy needs it, I think all the craziness happening over the borders with the drug cartels, it’ll put an end to that, cut out the black market. These insensible drug laws have disrupted so many good people’s lives, it’s just time for this to come to an end, marijuana prohibition has been going on for seventy-two years in this country and it’s time to end it. We are making huge steps all over the country right now, the movement is so strong and there’s so much momentum. I look at it as a civil rights issue and there’s a personal freedom and a choice for someone to make and I just think it’s time to end the prohibition, I think we’re going to see it happen here really really soon. If you care at all about true freedom, whether you smoke or don’t smoke marijuana get out and vote and become involved, that’s what I would encourage people to do.
What are the group’s plans like after the upcoming tour? What do you have planned for later in the summer and in to the fall?
Brad: You know I’m not really quite sure after the summer tour exactly what we’ll be doing, right now we’re just focusing on this tour with ICP and of course the headlining tour. After that we’ll kind of figure out where and what we want to do so we haven’t thought that far ahead. We’re just going to be out promoting Long Live The Kings, I think it’s a good record, there’s lots of songs for people to check out, there’s almost forty-five songs out there with all the bonus discs and b-sides so there’s a lot of music for people to digest and a lot of miles for us to travel and then we’ll figure out where we go next.