Playing with Cannabis – Krabi, Thailand


…I’m as nervous as hell. I’ve never done this before. Playing live is one thing; I’ve got pretty confident doing that – but with a microphone in front of me, it’s completely different. Luckily, the Cannabis boys keep plenty of the good stuff around, so I take a few hits on a spliff, and that relaxes me a good deal…


Weight reduction is a constant struggle.  It requires discipline, self denial and constant vigilance.

Every traveller knows what I’m talking about.  You spend hours and hours carefully culling the contents of your bag, only to fill up the empty space again with things you don’t really need, and dreaming up justifications for it. 
“Well, they’re heavy, but it’s so nice to have sneakers as well as boots…”
“You never know when a fishing rod might come in handy…”
“This handmade traditional hat is such a bargain..!”
“Leather jackets are so cozy…”

…and on and on.

(Top photo: the Cannabis lads, Ant (left) and Joe, playing at Joy Bar.)


I knew when I bought my first harmonica I was standing at the top of a slippery slope. 
A musical instrument is not exactly a neccesity, but it is a beautiful thing to have.  As musical instruments go, at least a harmonica is small and light, I reasoned.  I chose a blues harp, an especially tiny instrument. 
I loved playing blues harp immediately.  It is such a great instrument for camp fire jam sessions.  There was just one problem.  I only had one.  Each blues harp is tuned to a particular key.  The one I got was a C.  To be able to play a full repertoire, you need seven harps, one for each of the common keys, A through G. 
It got frustrating. 
So I bought two more.
“Three harps.  Still pretty light” I reasoned.
It was awesome!  Now I could play so many more songs, and my tecnique improved more quickly because I was getting so many more opportunities to play.

You can see where this is going. 

I arrive in Krabi, Thailand, and discover Joy Bar, a vibrant live music venue.  I’m jamming every night with local bands, and it’s heaps fun (yes, Joy Bar is still open, despite the best efforts of the resort developers).  And then I happen to stumble upon a music shop that sells blues harps… half price.

Good harmonicas are not cheap.  The best ones are made by a German company, Hohner.  In Australia and Europe, Hohner blues harps are about US$70.  In the Krabi music shop, the same harps were priced at 1200 Baht; around 40 bucks.
It is irresistable.  I hum and ha for a while, and finally end up buying four more.  Now I have the complete set of seven.  They weigh 520 grams – more than my sleeping bag.  Damn it.  My gram-obsessed brain is disgusted.  But they sound so nice.


(Above: me and Cannabis at their home/studio. Ant on the left, Joe seated in the middle.)


The nightly jam sessions at Joy Bar get even better.  My learning curve is ramping up like crazy. 

One thursday night, a new band comes in to do a set.  They are young guys, with a gritty, American sound, part folk, part funk – a garage band.  They hear me playing with the other bands, and ask me if I’d like to have a jam with them too.  It’s great fun.  Their raw, grungy sound suits my style, and we really riff off each other. 
After the set, we have a drink and get to know each other a bit.  They don’t speak much English, and I don’t speak Thai, but we have rock and roll in common, and we all drink beer and smoke weed. 
Their names are Joe, Ant and Jom.  Joe and Ant are the guitarists and song writers.  Jom plays base.  They are unplugged tonight, but when they are doing a proper gig, they also have a DJ and a drummer in the line up.  They explain that the lyrics of their songs are political.  The band is called Cannabis.

We jam again a couple of nights later, and I play the full set with them.  Afterwards, Joe tells me they are recording some of their songs for a YouTube release.  Would I like to do a recording session with them?  Of course I would.  I’m stoked. 

Joe picks me up on his scooter and we head out to the band’s share house in Krabi’s outer suburbs.  The guys all live in two small rooms, and the third room is set up as a make-shift studio.  Joes little brother is the producer and operates the computer.
We sit around and listen to the song.  It already has a guitar and vocal track.  I suggest we play around with the song a bit before we record, and Joe agrees.  We sit on the tiled floor, playing and singing.  It is just too much fun.

(Below: Joe rocking out. Buy this photo from the Print Shop as a poster or greeting card.)


As the afternoon passes, the other band members show up.  They all seem to think it’s very hilarious playing music with a farang giant. Especially when I dent my skull on the studio door frame.

I come up with some riffs Joe likes, and we go in the studio room.  I’m as nervous as hell. I’ve never done this before. Playing live is one thing; I’ve got pretty confident doing that – but with a microphone in front of me, it’s completely different. Luckily, the Cannabis boys keep plenty of the good stuff around, so I take a few hits on a spliff, and that relaxes me a good deal. Once I start playing, it starts to feel comfortable. The headphones immerse me in the music, and I really start to enjoy myself.
I do a bunch of takes with different variations.  Once I have done a take that I think is OK, I start to get a bit more daring, and push the edges a bit. When Joe hears something he likes he sticks his head in. 
“OK! I like that one!” he says.
When I hear the playback, I’m surprised and relieved.  I sound OK.   Joes computer wiz brother slaps some reverb on the harp track, and it sounds pretty darn good!
Joe gets excited and records a new guitar and vocal track as well.


(Above: Farang blues. Thanks for the pic, Joe.)  
(Below: Joe laying down a new guitar track.)



When he finishes his vocal takes, Joe steps outside and smiles broadly at me. He gestures at his chest.
“Your music… my music… I feel here.”
I nod and shake his hand.

By the end of the afternoon I’ve played all seven harps, we have a song, and I have five new friends.
That’s 520 grams worth carrying.


Cannabis will release their new song on YouTube in January 2015.  I can’t wait to hear the finished track, and I’ll post a link when it’s up. 
Meanwhile, click here to check out another song by the band you can listen to right now.   I’m not sure what the lyrics mean, but it’s something to do with nihilism, and getting wasted, I think… anyway, it rocks.



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