Since 1996, Placentia, California-based rap pioneers Kottonmouth Kings beat the drum of the recreational cannabis movement, chanting “Legalize It!” long before everyone else joined the bandwagon.
Remembering Saint Dog
Founding member Steven “Saint Dog” Thronson tragically passed away on October 13, and today would have been his 45th birthday. Thronson co-founded Kottonmouth Kings with Dustin “D-Loc” Miller and Timothy “Johnny Richter” McNutt. With EP and album titles like Stoners Reeking Havoc, Royal Highness, and Hidden Stash, Kottonmouth Kings put their career on the line to loudly proclaim their unwavering devotion to cannabis. Saint Dog blessed us with one final album last year, Bozo, with the help of Suburban Noize Records and Donny Polinske, who put the record together.
“We’re hopeful for all of us, especially the family,” says acclaimed music and film producer, Kevin Zinger, who has known Thronson since 1995. Zinger co-founded Suburban Noize Records in 1997, and the popular SRH clothing and accessory brand, before expanding into film.
“Back then, there weren’t many of us that were saying [legalize cannabis],” explains Zinger. “High Times obviously came way before, but back then it was just Kottonmouth Kings and Cypress Hill [who] were really pushing it. I don’t think that they got the recognition for it. Publications like High Times gave them the recognition for it, but I don’t think the mainstream media or music magazines ever did. But it was an underground movement—the whole Kottonmouth Kings/Suburban Noize thing. So a lot of the mainstream media never picked up on it, but it was a huge movement worldwide.”
Zinger explained that sometimes Kottonmouth Kings would come through town and draw more people than bigger corporate bands that were on the radio. “The mainstream music industry never really gravitated towards the band,” says Zinger. “It obviously had a huge, huge cult following, and I think that through that following, it turned a lot of eyes and ears to the legalization movement. Obviously, we tried to put our money where our mouth is, becoming involved in everything from rap to you name it, to promote the legalization of the plant.”
Saint Dog temporarily left Kottonmouth Kings in 1999, but came back to the fold several years ago, in what the media called a hiatus due to “creative differences.”
“I wouldn’t call it creative differences,” Zinger clarified. “I would call it personality differences. When Saint was younger, he was a wild dude. We were all wild. But you know, it was just the time when not everybody was seeing eye to eye as much as they were before.” Singer explained that Saint Dog stayed with Suburban Noize, and I continued to operate under Singer’s management.” It was cool when it eventually came full circle,” Zinger says. “The last Kottonmouth Kings release that Saint Dog was on, he was one-third of the group. But he’d pop in and out and do songs all the time.”
Kottonmouth Kings member Pakelika died back in 2012, after a long battle with asthma and other health conditions.
In the beginning, promotion was hard because of Kottonmouth Kings’ heavy association with cannabis—something that critics called an “obsession.”
“We got a ton of doors slammed on our faces,” admits Zinger. “I mean it’s funny. I make an analogy all the time: In today’s world, a grower, someone in marijuana is considered an entrepreneur of the year. When we first started doing this, they would have been considered a criminal. How that relates to us, is when they were pushing it on the radio station, promoters, big festivals, they’d tell us they didn’t want anything to do with us. It closed a million doors for us.”
Zinger explained that Kottonmouth Kings stuck to their guns and put their money where their mouth was, and a huge part of the reason why is because of the band’s loyal fan base. Everyone knew exactly what they were getting when you went to a Kottonmouth Kings show—obligatory clouds of milky white smoke everywhere.
Kottonmouth Kings were pioneers in terms of the evolution of hip-hop, considering how few Caucasian rappers there were at the time. “I don’t think they get the credit that they deserve for that either,” says Zinger. “If you listen to what they were doing back then, it was definitely well before the time of that music.”
Zinger just so happens to be the producer behind Saving Banksy—the award-winning documentary about art’s most elusive artist. “I turn my ADD into projects,” says Zinger, adding that music alone wasn’t enough to feel real fulfillment in life. “I think that the way the Saving Banksy thing came from is, I started an art gallery a bunch of years ago, and worked with some pretty bigger artists like RISK, etc. etc. And then I ended up meeting the director of the movie and came in as a producer of it. That’s how that all came about. A lot of people in the cannabis world would know me from Kottonmouth Kings or SRH. I don’t have any kids, and I enjoy trying to make stuff that I enjoy. I branched out and did stuff in the film world and the art world that I enjoy.” Zinger explained that Banksy’s camp and him or her were filled in along the whole process and were respectful of what they have built and wanted to make sure that they were aware of the project. They were aware of the project of the whole time.
Despite COVID-19 restrictions, Zinger is planning a memorial concert for Saint Dog with a livestream band event.