When it comes to smoking pot, Canadian indie rocker Matt Mays says that he’s finally found his balance.
"Now that I’m 39, I’ve got my levels worked out," he told Civilized. These days, he’s on a bit of a cleanse. He’s running a lot, making moves—for this new album cycle, he says he’s "keeping a clear head".
"On the road, though, usually I smoke a bit before I hit the hay," he said. "Or, just to mellow out after shows. I perform stone sober, because I want to keep things focused. Besides, I feel stimulated enough up there, so I like to keep that protected."
On the eve of cannabis legalization in Canada, Mays will be playing Nova Scotia's Marquee Ballroom as part of the Halifax Pop Explosion's 'Countdown to Legalization' concert, hosted by Edison Cannabis Co.
Playing shows close to home has a special meaning for Mays, who grew up in Nova Scotia after moving to Dartmouth from Hamilton, Ontario, at the age of six. And the Marquee Ballroom in particular brought him some important milestones early in his career.
"The Marquee is where I cut my teeth," he told Civilized. "I’ve been playing shows in it for 20 years now. Some of my favorite memories are in that place. I pretty much grew up there."
When you say you cut your teeth there, what was your first performance?
I used to do a lot of open mics around town, so I was starting to get a little sick of playing to screaming college kids that weren’t listening. Greg Clark, the guy who used to book the place, gave me a couple of big shots—like, I got to open for Billy Bragg, once, for the whole room.
Does cannabis help your creative process? Have you ever written a song after smoking a joint, or, does it hinder the process?
With me, I was more of a drinker for a lot of years, being in a rock band. Then, I considered it better for me because when I was stoned I could never remember my lyrics [laughs]. For me, it can really help me focus during the writing process. I’ve got some attention issues, and it helped me zero in on what I was doing.
Back when I first got into it, I was in a band full of serious potheads so I would try and sort of keep up, you know? But now that I’m 39, I’ve kind of got my levels worked out. I think that’s a big thing. How to administer the right amount, because everyone’s tolerance is so different. For me, it was important to find that sweet spot.
As for writing a tune, or whatever, sometimes I prefer to do it stone sober, for that clarity, but other times it’s a different vibe. It depends on the song, or where I’m at.
Is there any song that was particularly created under the influence?
Yeah, man, a couple [laughs]. This one called 'The Past.' We were recording it, and I remember that being a little deep and heavy for me. It’s sort of a spooky number, and I had a bit of a trip on that. So it sort of lent itself to that recording process.
You’ve played all over the US and Canada. How do you compare the cannabis climate in the US to Canada?
In the US, every state is so independent. In Canada, sure, there are some differences from east to west, but I think for the country as a whole, with its smaller population there’s a little more cohesion. But, in the States, state-to-state, each area has their own culture and way of doing things that keeps them more separated, making it harder to pass anything in the legal sense on a larger scale.
Who has better pot - Canada or the US?
Canada, I’d say. But I don’t like really strong weed, it sort of makes me crazy, you know? So, I tend to choose a more mellow strain.
I like your point about tempered use and finding a way to make it suit your lifestyle in a responsible way. There’s this image of a 'rock and roll lifestyle' that is tied to smoking pot and drinking to excess. Do you see a lot of that? Do they necessarily feed one another?
I’m so sick of the rock and roll stigma—and I was that, for a while. When you’re young, you think that’s the thing to do, because your heroes did it, but I’ve seen it take a lot of really good people. Myself, I got deep into the road, and that whole lifestyle, and it can really fuck up a lot of your life.
People say it all the time, but it’s important to remember to take everything in moderation. Too much of anything can be bad for you. You eat too much fuckin’ steak, and you’re going to die. Just don’t be an idiot. Be an adult. Think about the people around you. Are your actions affecting them? Yes? Then take it easy.
At the right level, it’s not such a bad thing.
How do you plan to spend the 17th, after the concert?
Funny enough, I’m traveling that day. I think the night before is going to be interesting enough as is.