Ishmael is a Southern California based jazz and funk musician that shreds on the bass guitar and ukulele. He is a very creative and energetic artist that enjoys playing live shows and studio production. He is an intelligent, uninhibited man that is both intriguing and deeply interesting. He is a skilled musician and professional person that cannot always be open about his cannabis use. He has filled out one of our surveys to help us understand why he can't always share his marijuana use with everyone.
What makes you feel like you cannot be open about your cannabis use? Do you have a full time or corporate career that would frown upon cannabis use or is there another reason? What factors contribute to your desire to keep your cannabis use private?
I have a full time, regular corporate job at an engineering firm. The industry I work in is generally populated by conservative people, especially in the positions of power. While I believe that many of them do use, there is an unspoken negative association with marijuana that’s prevalent in my industry.
Is marijuana legal in the area in which you reside?
I live in California – It’s legal for medical use only.
Privately, or in a more personal social sector, do you identify as a cannabis user?
Yes, in a personal social sector.
When did you first notice your artistic abilities?
College. I realized that my musician peers didn’t ever sound as good as I thought I sounded.
When did you get into smoking weed?
I was in my mid-30s and out of work just after the 2008 financial collapse. I was supremely bored, but in a very musically creative period of my life. I had tried it in the 8th Grade, and smoked very occasionally, but it wasn’t until I was 34 years old when I smoked more regularly and frequently. Additionally, I began to have severe sciatica and back problems. Marijuana use allowed me to sleep, and better deal with the pain.
Do you prefer indica or sativa? Do you have a favorite strain?
I generally prefer sativas, but only slightly. I don’t really see the massive differences between strains that people claim. That said, I always seem to enjoy Girl Scout Cookies strain. However, I just generally prefer stronger strains of any sort over a particular species or strain.
When did you first realize that smoking weed could help/enhance your creativity? And how does it help with your creative process?
Marijuana certainly alters perceptions. When under the influence, it does push me to physically play differently, and to hear musical phrases differently.
Has cannabis ever helped you to meet, collaborate or network with other artists?
Not a whole lot, but occasionally. Usually, it’s a quick hit after a set with the other musicians playing, and you get to talking. It is a form of networking, but you don’t have to smoke to be involved.
What is your favorite method of getting high? (Smoking, vaporizer, edibles?) Do you have any specific rituals or habits for getting high?
I don’t have any ‘ritual’ or anything like that, but I do prefer smoking with a bong. The smoke can be harsh on my voice, so I bake and consume edibles on a regular basis, too.
Who are some other cannabis advocates that you may respect or that have inspired you?
The only one I can think of is N’gaio Bealum. He’s a comedian, former publisher/owner of West Coast Cannabis Magazine, former roommate, outspoken advocate, and all-around great guy. He gets more done while stoned in a day than most people do all week, and he’s very knowledgeable and articulate.
Has being a cannabis user ever affected your life negatively?
Absolutely. There are many negative connotations (some of which are not unfounded) with marijuana use. Even within musical circles, there are many who view marijuana use negatively. I’m also certain that I’ve not been hired on fill in gigs by certain musicians because they assume I’d show up stoned or something like that. For the record, I never, ever play a professional gig while under the influence of anything. Also, as much as the pro-cannabis crowd likes to deny it, there are real negative consequences with marijuana use. It’ll make me forget musical changes or cues, and make more mistakes while performing. Outside of music, I know that I’m not as aware of tasks that need to perform while under the influence – i.e., I was stoned and forgot to mail in my utility bill. It certainly makes me more complacent and more likely to do things that I want to do instead of things that I need or should do.
How has smoking weed allowed your career as an artist/musician to develop or grow?
I am not sure that it has helped my career directly, other than some minor networking. The negative perceptions that others have counterbalance the positives, and even sway it more toward the negative. Even around other musicians, I’m guarded with regards to letting others know about my use and how frequently I use. On the other side, I do believe it helps with creativity, and there are certain songs that may not have been written if I wasn’t using at the time.
Do you feel that bringing public awareness to cannabis inspired art and music can help lift the stigma that cannabis artists and users throughout the world might feel?
Unfortunately, I don’t think it does. There’s too many negative connotations associated with marijuana use with the non-smoking populace. Without trying it themselves, the opinions and misconceptions of those who are unfamiliar and are not regular smokers won’t change much with pro-marijuana music. I think they tend to view it as a just another silly slacker stoner singing about the substance that’s holding them back in life and their career.
What do you think is the biggest misconception that anti marijuana advocates might have about cannabis users? How do you think that we can eliminate the negative outlook that non-cannabis users might have for cannabis using artists and musicians?
I think the biggest lack of understanding among the anti-cannabis crowd revolves around its medicinal use. It can be a powerfully positive drug with far fewer negative side effects than pretty much any other drug that I can think of. This includes aspirin, nasal decongestants, or even antacids. Marijuana really is a wonder drug. It’s absolutely no surprise that most funding for anti-marijuana lobbyists and propagandists are funded by the alcohol, tobacco, and prescription drug industries. I think creating art about marijuana in a thoughtful and realistic manner that isn’t just extolling the fun, “party” aspects of the drug would help.