San Francisco, California’s stoner rock powerhouse, Acid King, is set to kick off a tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of their 1999 album Busse Woods tomorrow night in Portland, Oregon. Busse Woods, named for a forest preserve that band founder Lori S. and her friends would frequent as teenagers, is probably the bands most loved album. “Stoner rock” is a lazy and convenient descriptor for the album that indeed tugs on the heartstrings of metal and 70’s rock n’ roll, but stands out on its own with its loose grooves, fuzzy guitars, and Lori’s impressive vocals. Indeed, the album owes as much to Hawkwind as it does Black Sabbath. RidingEasy Records has recently released a newly mastered re-issue of the album on CD and gatefold vinyl (including lyrics and a bunch of previously unseen photos) and the tour will see the album played in its entirety. For the tour, Lori will be joined by bassist Rafa Martinez (Black Cobra) and drummer Bil Bowman.
We’re grateful for the chance to talk to Lori about the album, the tour, true crime, and our own frustrations with the term “stoner rock.” Nevertheless, we expect all you “stoner rock” nerds to be out at the show for the celebration of Busse Woods. Bring a straight-edge friend along with you, because getting high is no prerequisite for appreciating the glory of this album.
Acid King plays Gas Monkey Bar n’ Grill with Wizard Rifle and Warish on Monday, October 7th. Click here for tickets.
Acid King photo by Ray Ahner.
You’re playing the album in full, have you done that before? And are you playing the album in its original sequence?
Lori S: No, we haven’t. No. We’re not playing in the exact order on the record. The songs are going to be a little mixed up from the actual record, but we’ve never played a full release before like this.
Are there any songs that got neglected over the years that you’re looking forward to playing?
Lori S: We never played “Carve The 5” live, ever. So, it’ll be the first time it’s ever played. “Drive Fast, Take Chances,” I’m really looking forward to playing. We haven’t played that for probably 15 years or maybe even more. I really like that song and so I’m looking forward to playing that for sure. I’m looking forward to playing all of them actually. We play “Busse Woods,” “Silent Circle,” and of course, “Electric Machine,” but “39 Lashes,” “Carve the 5,” and “Drive Fast, Take Chances,” we haven’t played in forever.
When was the last time you visited the Busse Woods location?
Lori S: My mom still lives around there, actually. So, it’s been awhile. Yeah, I think we drove by there and drove in there just to see what it looks like now. It doesn’t look anything like it did. So, obviously you still drive in and there’s still parking places, but definitely – in my mind – doesn’t look the same as it did back then. So, I’d say probably within the last 10 years, I popped over there, just to check it out.
Well, that’s depressing. I thought it was part of a state park or something.
Lori S: Well yeah, it is. But, obviously the trees or just the way it was…but, you know what? That’s a long time ago, too. Twenty years ago is when I wrote the record and cut off another 20 or so when I was hanging out at that forest preserve. That’s a long time.
So, it wasn’t like there’s a McDonald’s there now?
Lori S: Oh no, no. It’s still a forest preserve. It’s still a forest preserve for sure. Yeah, still all the same.
But, not necessarily like stepping right back into your teenage years?
Lori S: No, I didn’t feel like I was stepping back into my teenage years when I drove into it.
Last month, the Ricky Kasso documentary, The Acid King, premiered. I know you did an interview for it. Have you’ve seen the finished film?
Lori S: No, I haven’t. I just saw the trailer. I probably saw maybe, probably 15 or 20 minutes of the film that he sent me to look at. But no, I haven’t seen the whole thing yet. I read the book, I read his book.
Same guy who did the book is doing the film?
Lori S: Yeah, he did. He wrote the book and then he did a film pretty much right away. So, he’s trying to get some funding to get it streamed, get it out there on Amazon and so forth. But yeah, I saw most of it.
What’d you think about what you saw?
Lori S: I liked it. The original book (Say You Love Satan by David St. Clair), although it was an accurate depiction of the general story, they really sensationalized it and made it about satanic murders and stuff like that. That was really just a lot of sensationalism to draw people’s attention to the story. They didn’t really know the history. They didn’t go into the history. You didn’t really get to know who Ricky was. You didn’t get to really know him as a kid and how he ended up to be that way. So his book, Jesse Pollack’s book and movie, go into it much deeper, more levels of the backgrounds of those teenagers and stuff that.
Not that you could ever get a sense of why somebody would go and kill somebody, but you’d at least understand how – when they’re so messed up on mescaline. They made it seem like this innocent, like, “Oh, they’re just kids hanging out smoking pot,” and that really wasn’t the case. They were really, really messed up on a lot heavier drugs than the original book lead out to be. So, it gave you just a better background and history of how this could have happened and why and how it wasn’t Satan.
It was somewhere around 26 years ago that you named the band “Acid King.” Did you have an interest then, and maybe still now, in true crime stories?
Lori S: Yeah, I’ve definitely read a bunch. I have the Zodiac Killer and the greatest hits. I’ve seen many true crime movies and I’ve read many true crime books, but clearly my closet isn’t completely filled with everything, but I’ve definitely seen my share, that’s for sure.
It seems in the last few years there’s been a boon in interest for true crime stories, I would say largely thanks to these really good Netflix series that have come out.
Lori S: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, the fact that Charles Manson is still relevant, never ending. They’re really doing another documentary about Charles Manson?!? How many do there need to be? So, obviously there’s a new group of people that are still keeping the stories alive. I think the same thing about the Acid King. Really? You’re writing a book and a movie about the Acid King, this kid from the 80s? I think everybody would be pretty surprised that he’s getting so much attention so many years later. It’s not the only person in the world that ever killed anybody, but for some reason that story just resonates with people, because Busse Woods…stoner hangout where kids that had nothing to do in the suburbs hung out just like me, except for we didn’t smoke crack and kill people.
You make it sound so mundane (Laughs).
Lori S: (Laughs) Yeah, we just did acid, just smoked pot. We didn’t do heavy drugs and commit murder. But, the same regard is, I think it’s something people can relate to. Minus the murder part. Bored teenage suburbs, what do you do? Where do you go when you want to get away from your parents and you don’t have anywhere to hang out? Where do you hang out to get away and be alone and do those things your parents don’t want you to do?
I’ve always been a little uncomfortable with the term “stoner metal” or “stoner rock” for various reasons and I was curious how you feel about that label?
Lori S: Yeah, I fought it for a long time, in terms of not wanting to be associated with that label, not wanting to be pigeonholed in that label. I always thought it was the kiss of death. Like grunge, the minute you’re in this category, that’s it – your career’s over with. I’m not a stoner. You know what I mean? I am an occasional edible eater, very infrequently do I smoke it. I’m not a stoner, so we always said that that term was really about the audience and not necessarily about the band.
I just feel that maybe that term is more about feeling you’re stoned. But, the same thing can be said for Grateful Dead. Deadheads are a bunch of stoners, why isn’t that stoner rock? That’s fucking stoner rock. So yeah, I don’t know where that term came from exactly. Now I embrace it more than I used to. I don’t care so much anymore. Then there’s stoner doom. Now there’s stoner doom, stoner metal. Now that’s got subgenres within it. It’s like, “Oh for fuck’s sake, I don’t even care anymore.” Yeah. I just stopped caring.
It just seems so reductionist. What are you trying to say? I have to be high on weed to appreciate it? Because that’s pretty lame.
Lori S: Yeah, absolutely. No, I agree. I was never a fan of that at all and I’ve just become ambivalent to the whole thing and now I just don’t care. I’m like, whatever. Whatever you want to call us is fine. It’s grown so much now, too. Back in the day when they coined that phrase, there wasn’t that many bands. It was a very small handful. Now there’s so many and then they’ve gotten so big. Sleep and Electric Wizard are playing these huge venues now. So, it’s not just this little small group of bands. It’s grown so much.
It seems stoner…whatever…rock is more popular now than when you formed the band?
Lori S: It absolutely is. Like you said, this term didn’t even exist when we started the band. There was no stoner anything. No doom. It wasn’t really a category for bands like ours, like Monster Magnet, Kyuss, back in those days, what is it? Kyuss was generator rock before desert rock came around, and so it was the bunch of bands that record stores, record labels didn’t know what to say because it wasn’t traditional rock, it wasn’t really metal. It wasn’t space rock. It was kind of psychedelic rock. It was like, what do you do? Which I guess is why they came up with that term. But yeah, I can’t exactly tell you why that all of a sudden this music’s gotten so popular.
It’s just really weird. Especially seeing Sleep play to 3000-3500 people in our hometown, when we all played to 50 back in the day. I don’t know. It’s awesome. I’m going to cash in on my 15 minutes here while I have it. But yeah, I guess social media? The fact that back then your press only went so far, because you only had magazines, fanzines, college radio stations. You just didn’t have the outreach you do now. Now you put something on iTunes or Spotify or Bandcamp and it goes all over the world internationally. On top of that, it suggest bands. If you like Sleep, then you might like Acid King. Everything’s spreading.
You don’t have to search for it. It’s there in front of your face. It’s really easy to click. Oh, maybe I’ll like Acid King, let me click on that and listen to their song. You’re not going to a record store and thumbing through records or talking to the local person. You’re not buying magazines and flipping through the reviews to see like, Oh, if you like Lynyrd Skynyrd, you might like…whatever. So, it just made it a lot easier for this music to spread. I want to say one thing though, that I think what was a big assistance in spreading this music is that band, Sword. They were in a video game a long time ago, years ago, and back then, they sounded very much like Sleep. It’s the same situation where you have these bands like ours doing this music for a long time, and then somebody comes around that’s brand new, plays what you’re playing, and then they somehow get more popular than you do.
Just like how The Ramones felt about The Sex Pistols or The Clash. Oh, The Ramones have been playing this forever, and then comes The Clash and they’re getting all this money. So they got, I can’t remember what video game it was, but it became very popular. A lot of kids played that video game and just by them being on there and then having, just like I was saying, the social media and iTunes and so forth. I think that that situation was a big part of it.
Can you tell me an artist or an album outside of stoner metal, something other than Master of Reality, that has inspired you and the band that people might be surprised to hear?
Lori S: Well, it’s not a secret that I love Mark Lanegan. I’ll probably talk about it in any interview with people that asked me. But, that’s definitely not part of the stoner rock genre, although he played the same bill as we did at the Stoned and Dusted show that was in Joshua Tree. That was so cool. That was a nice treat. I love folk music. So, that’s not very metal, that’s not very stoner rock or stoner metal. I grew up with it. My dad listened to it, so perhaps that’s why I somehow do.
The last album, Middle Of Nowhere, Center Of Everywhere, came out about four years ago. I was curious if y’all have given any thought to working on a new album?
Lori S: Yes. In between all of this, going to Europe and practicing for Busse Woods. I have some riffs, some new songs, that we messed around with, but we haven’t really spent a lot of time doing it. So, after this is done, next year we’re going to start slowing down on live shows and only playing certain select shows and really focusing on writing new music. So, I don’t want to have it to be another 10 years in between records.
Based on what you’ve got so far, do you have any idea what direction it’s going to head in?
Lori S: I would say that it’s going to be more of an extension of Middle Of Nowhere, Center Of Everywhere. I’m really digging using more layers of atmosphere and stuff like that instead of having straight-forward rock. More ambience.
Acid King plays Gas Monkey Bar n’ Grill with Wizard Rifle and Warish on Monday, October 7th. Click here for tickets.