While they have often been imitated, no other band has been able to match the punk rock attitude, hip-hop style, and ferocious independence of the Kottonmouth Kings. Since the release of Royal Highness in 1998, Brad X, Johnny Richter, DJ Bobby B, Lou Dog, The Dirtball, Dustin Miller and the rest have delivered album after album of highly-stylized, deliciously unique music for audiences who crave something too controversial for the mainstream.
The group was first formed in Placentia, California in 1994. Orange County is a place of surf and sand, but like any other city there’s guns and drugs along with the good times. Those good times can involve marijuana, a subject that can be too taboo for radio, which is how the band ended up owning and operating their own independent studio to make their own music, something Brad X is glad they did.
“It gives us total creative freedom,” he says. “We do it all on our own terms. The band and I have a full set-up including cameras, a green screen, recording equipment and everything we need to produce and mix our own records. We do it all ourselves.”
This do it yourself attitude is a hallmark of the punk music movement, ever since Richard Hell starting decorating his clothes with black markers, rips and safety pins. Decades later, not relying on the mainstream means relying on your own wit and resources, something the Kottonmouth Kings have always done.
“I first got my exposure to music because of punk rock. Do it yourself has always been how we do things. Technology has really leveled the platform for independent artists like us. It’s still the Wild West out there on the Internet,” Brad X says.
2011’s Sunrise Sessions was a smash. More dedicated to cruising than rocking, fans and critics alike gave the melodic, almost introspective album lavish revues. A year later, do they feel like they have a hard LP to follow?
“The recording of that album went on for almost two years. It started out as an acoustic, completely organic production. It definitely had a slower vibe because we were setting out to make a more mellow record.” Brad X says.
In contrast, their latest album, Mile High (to be released on August 14th) is calculated to be a barn burner. “This one is a complete polar opposite. We have slamming beats, big rhymes, huge jams…its Kottonmouth Kings on steroids,” Brad X reports. “We’ve been working with this new type of bass, it has a really powerful, original sound to it, and it’s going to blow stereo systems away.”
While the ‘Kings enjoyed creating Sunrise Sessions, Brad X admits it might have given some fans the wrong impression. “I think maybe people thought that as we were evolving and becoming more melodic we were also getting too mellow.” Mile High is a scorching reminder that the group is still aggressive. “We still have a lot of fire, a lot of passion. We have a long way to go. Sunrise Sessions was cool. It was a left jab, but Mile High is a right hook.”
Brad X reports that the album will show a big punk rock influence combined with dubstep, reggae and rock. The Kottonmouth Kings has spent hours perfecting the beats, jams and bass lines that will end up in the album, inviting artists like Saint Dog, Twiztid, and Mickey Avalon to get in on the action.
“There are eighteen tracks on this album,” Brad X says. “The beats are just insane with this one. We have a couple of punk tracks like the song, ‘This Addiction,’ and hard slammin’ party songs like ‘Roll It Up.’ There’s another heavy song called ‘Boom Box’ that we just shot a video for."
It’s great when your favorite band puts out another LP, but you always want more of the same to go along with some of the new. “As much as Mile High is turbo-charged, the overall sound and lyrics is still vintage ‘Kings,” Brad X says. “It’s progressive, though, and the guest artists introduced many new elements to the album.”
The Kottonmouth Kings have put a lot of new elements into their tour as well, Brad X is proud to report, from the scary stylings of Prozac to the underground hard-hitting power of Big B. There’s even a jolt of country hip-hop thanks to The Moonshine Bandits.
“We are always pushing ourselves to keep from being stagnant,” Brad X says. “I’m not really big on nostalgia. I’m really into embracing the future, living for today, but going through it all and then looking back at our past to get something out of it.”
The artist is serious about his statement. The band has been through a lot together, including failures and successes, but Brad X acknowledges that the pain has made them all stronger. “Some of us have lost friends and family, but we’ve also traveled the world and have had great experiences. All of that is reflected in our show. Music gives us resilience and perseverance.”