Zach Sokol is a writer, editor, and producer who’s based in New York. From 2017 through 2020, he worked as Features Editor and then Managing Editor of MERRY JANE, Snoop Dogg’s cannabis and culture publication. Prior to that, he was an editor and writer at VICE. Sokol’s writing and photos have been published in a number of online and print publications, including Playboy, Penthouse, Art in America, The Paris Review, FADER, i-D, The Village Voice, and more. Sokol also co-created and produced one of the company’s first podcasts, Tea Time with T. Kid, hosted by the one and only Abdullah Saeed.
Sokol is currently working on an untitled book project focused on the “Golden Age” of underground cannabis sales in New York City. Visit his website www.zachsokol.com and follow him on socials @zachsokol.
With his background in cannabis, we asked him for a Weedsday playlist for those essential songs to toke up to. He adds some bonus picks as well.
1. DJ Screw - “It’s Gonna Get Better” (Genesis Cover)
At least once a year, I revisit the DJ Screw archives and re-read this amazing essay on the artist, which leads to my reality gaining a purple tint. Despite the late, great pioneer of “chopped ‘n screwed” music passing away in 2000, the H-Town producer’s catalog is so big that I never run out of fresh material to discover. Screw released thousands upon thousands of tapes, and many are just now getting ripped and uploaded to YouTube. So during my 2020 deep dive into the legend’s syrup-soaked canon, I came across a new gem (at least to me): DJ Screw covering Genesis’s “It’s Gonna Get Better.”
Unlike other remixes by DJ Screw, this edit feels more polished and hi-fi. That could be due to the original track’s high production quality, but there’s something strange about listening to a Screw’ed up tune without tape hiss or a sonically slurred voice talking over the beat. It almost doesn’t sound like DJ Screw until you hear someone say “Shiiiiit, what’s happening?” about ten-seconds into the track. I’d kill to watch a video of Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins listening to Screw’s take on their song. I would like to think they’d be impressed with the remix… and then feel inspired to purchase a rippin’ slab (sitting on chrome, of course).
2. Sun City Girls - “Uncle Jim”
Sun City Girls are like the Lil B of experimental rock bands. They released over 50 albums and 20-plus cassettes during their heyday, and it’s tough figuring out where to start with the cult act. How do you parse through so much material? And how do you describe a band that was dedicated to constant, scatter-shot evolution?
“Uncle Jim” isn’t a lamp to guide you through Sun City Girl’s expansive career, but it definitely offers a spotlight on the band’s particular (and almost ineffable) weirdness. The tune opens with 40 seconds of a smooth jazz lick before a tongue-in-cheek drum roll introduces the eponymous Uncle Jim: “This is your Uncle Jim speaking, fellas. Nothing in this world is free! You fellas smoke pot? Your Cousin Jim [sic] smokes pot. He sits around the house, smokes a little pot, drinks a little beer, plays a little music. But he smokes the good stuff, fellas. Not that stuff laced with LSD because it will drive you… OUT OF YOUR MIND!”
From there, the tune becomes a conspiratorial rant emanating from the mouth of a cartoonish (and aging) acid casualty. Whether spouting lines like, “I believe in capital punishment, fellas. I’ll kill all those crooks in the capital!” or claiming he knows where the CIA is really located, Uncle Jim comes across as a mix of Andy Kaufman and Frank Zappa. My favorite part is when he introduces arguably the worst trumpet solo of all time with, “Now your Uncle Jim is gonna spew a little garbage on ya, fellas…” Bless this mess of a tune. It is pure cookery from one of the most cooked bands in US history.
3. Nat Adderley Sextet and Rick Holmes (presented by Cannonball Adderley) - Pisces
As someone who’s worked in the cannabis space for years, I’ve found that it helps to be conversational (if not fluent) in astrology speak. Tokers love the cosmos, what can I say? I’m no expert, but the more I learn about the stars, the more fun I think the whole subject is. I don’t check Co-Star much, nor do I follow the many Instagram astrology meme accounts floating around in the digital ether. If anything, I like to learn about the topic from sources prior to the whole astrology renaissance that’s still wafting through the zeitgeist. And the 1972 record Soul Zodiac by the Nat Adderley Sextet and Rick Holmes (presented by Cannonball Adderley) is by far the most vibrant crash course in sun signs and seventh houses that I’ve come across.
Each track is dedicated to one sign in the zodiac, and the Sextet pumps out jazzy interpretations of each as Rick Holmes talks about their characteristics in a booming voice. I like that this album is so detailed about astrology, yet was released decades before my generation was interested in anything like Mercury in Gatorade. The LP still holds up today, and it makes astrology feel like the timeless field it actually is, rather than a cultural fad. And I laugh every time I hear Rick Holmes describe Pisces (my sun sign) as “chicken of the sea,” or when he closes “Gemini” with the refrain, “Beware a Gemini! Beware a Gemini!”
4. Swampy - Your House Is My House (Mix)
Swampy is a video artist, zine-maker, and photographer who documents his train-hopping adventures and punk-drifter lifestyle in psychedelic, DIY fashion. I don’t know him personally, but I admire his work from afar, and respect that he embraces an off-the-grid identity that will resonate with anyone who’s picked up a book by Paladin Press.
Swampy has released a handful of zines over the years, and I’ve been trying to track down a copy of the limited-edition “Your House Is My House” for a while — to no avail. The printed matter features art and photos focused on Swampy’s storied experiences as a squatter, and it comes with a complementary cassette tape packed full of spooky tunes and spliced audio of news broadcasts detailing squatter-related crimes (some of which Swampy was privy to).
I read an interview with the artist about the project, and I like that Swampy uses the term “sophisticated” — without a hint of irony! — to describe his squatting methods. I also like that the mix opens with a news clip about squatters living in a house that a lady died in and rotted away inside of for seven years before anyone found the body. When the corpse was eventually discovered, her skeleton was supposedly still wearing clothes... and there was a death smear on the floor. The mix then transitions from this macabre tale into a slowed-down version of “Tonight, You Belong to Me” by Patience and Prudence, which gives the whole thing a ghostly quality. “Your House Is My House” allows me to vicariously live Swampy’s life, without having to learn how to pick locks or forge an apartment lease.
5. Fleetwood Mac - “Future Games”
The other week, I was hanging out with my buddy Dan, who was working on a new installment of what he calls “WOW! Slow TV.” It’s essentially ambient video art, featuring super high-res footage of trippy shit like lava lamps or optical light cubes. The videos do not feature audio, since the goal is to have people fire up these clips, add their own tunes, and let them slow burn in the background… instead of allowing your TV to remain a soulless black box.
While Dan was setting up a glitter station to film, he played this 1971 album by Fleetwood Mac called Future Games. It’s the band’s fifth album, and it came out three years before Stevie Nicks or Lindsey Buckingham joined the group and turned it into one of the biggest acts in music history. As the title track played, Dan said it sounded like “sunlight and honey being drizzled all over you,” and I couldn’t agree more. The tune has an iridescent vibe that perfectly matched the glitter floating around in a water tank behind where we sat. Now, the 8-minute aural delight will always conjure images of swirling glitter inside my noggin.
Typically, when you think of Fleetwood Mac, you think of Rumors, Tusk, and cocaine, but it’s nice to know that there is more Fleetwood out there that is just as memorable and sparkly — even if it’s not on every jukebox in every dive bar across the country.
Cocteau Twins - “Cico Buff”
main(void) - “Microdot”
Drakeo the Ruler - “Quit Rapping”
Agitation Free - “The Other Sides Of Agitation Free”
Sally Oldfield - “Blue Water”
Kode9 + The Spaceape - “Fukkaz”