One of our favorite bands ever, White Mystery is launching an online TV channel about video games, weed smoking, and rock’n’roll. Starting Tuesday August 1, 2017 at 7pm CST, the video-game fusion live-stream show will air on Twitch, combining gameplay, musical performances, and interviews. Guest artists will include Mario Cuomo from the Orwells, Jack Dolan from Twin Peaks, and Westley Parker of Ovrlord. Giveaways include Riot Fest passes, Soothsayer Hot Sauce, a Burger Buddy cassette player, and White Mystery vinyl.
In honor of the occasion, we’re running the full-length version of our interview with the band from the July 2016 issue of HIGH TIMES. Polly Watson caught up with Miss Alex White and Francis Scott Key White for a frank talk about touring, toking, and taking their rock to the streets without the aid of The Man.
In It for the Long Haul
They’ve wreaked party havoc in basements in Japan and skate parks in California, and on a parade float careening down a blustery Chicago street, backing up Sir Richard Branson. Their wild-haired gingery looks have earned them modeling stints with Levi’s, and their unbridled garage rock has landed them national television spots, a host of sponsorships, and even their very own fuzz pedal, but sibling duo White Mystery are really dedicated to just three things: each other, their music, and 4/20. Since forming on that date in 2008, the Windy City band has stuck to a touring schedule that keeps them on the road up to eight months a year. That leaves vocalist/guitarist Miss Alex White and drummer Francis Scott Key White a limited amount of time in which to write and record the four albums they’ve put out to date—each released on April 20. Last year they upped the ante, releasing their very own stoner movie, That Was Awesome, which the band wrote, directed, produced, and scored. HIGH TIMES caught up with the band in advance of the release of their new album, Outta Control.
HT: Describe the first time you got high.
FRANCIS SCOTT KEY WHITE: The first time I got high was not the first time I smoked—it may have been the second or third. Two Juggalos smoked me out behind the Taco Bell across from my high school; we smoked out of a plastic pen we turned into a one-hitter. I was incredibly high. As we were walking back through the alley, I was hallucinating; time was speeding up and slowing down. I dropped all my change on the floor of the bus and ate dinner with my family feeling like an alien.
Describe the best (or worst) time you got high.
FW: The worst time I ever got high was a year ago when we drove straight from Oklahoma to a party in Chicago. It was the last day of a long White Mystery tour and a 12-hour drive, yet we really wanted to see all our friends, so we went straight to the party. I remember wanting to smoke throughout the long drive, but we were dry and don’t travel with stuff, so when I walked in the door and someone handed me a packed bowl, I was ecstatic. The pipe was about to touch my lips when this dude from California walked up and jammed a huge rock of hash on top. Hash usually makes me sick, so I started hitting it super light, until the Cali guy egged me on and told me to take a big ol’ rip. I ripped the bowl super hard and immediately got the spins and started sweating. I stumbled to the back porch and started puking and farting at the same time in front of the whole party. Alex drove me home and stopped every five blocks to let me ralph out the car door. Harsh tokes.
Smoking weed is always the best when it’s someone else’s.
How do you deal with weed on tour? Where have you found the best weed?
FW: We run a tight ship on tour, so we only “ride dirty” in states where it’s legal and technically legal. We have friends all over the country who smoke us out, Stuff Stoners Like brought us an incredible care package when we were in San Francisco. Muscle Shoals [Alabama] has rock-hard weed, but it also gets you rock-hard stoned. The weed in Puerto Rico is amazing and the buds never get dry; the South of France has great bud, but they also hoard kief like it’s the end of the world and have mason jars loaded to the brim with delicious dust.
You have consistently released records and videos on 4/20; tell us more about the date’s significance to you.
FW: April 20, 2008, is the day we started our band, White Mystery, when Alex spotted a shiny silver wrapper on the sidewalk that said, “White Mystery, ‘Out of Control,’” and called me up and said, “Hey! Let’s start a band!” We later realized that we started our Myspace on 4/20 and took it as a sign that we should release new music on that day. Every year since, we have released a new album on that day in different cities all over the world, from Amsterdam to Chicago to San Francisco. In 2015, White Mystery released a feature-length stoner movie, That Was Awesome, that we wrote, directed, produced, and scored.
MISS ALEX WHITE: 4/20 is also our grandma’s birthday.
Francis, you have your medical card now, right? Please tell us a little bit about that, and what the road to that was like for you in Chicago.
FW: The process of obtaining a medical-marijuana card in Illinois was very involved and took quite a bit of time and legwork. The day I received my cannabis card and was allowed to walk into a dispensary to legally purchase this medicine was incredibly emotional. It was only possible because my sister Alex advocated for it and fought for me every step of the way. Weed is my relief from excruciating nerve pain, it allows me to reflect on where I’ve been, what I feel, and where I’m going.
What’s the smoke scene in Chicago like?
MAW: There’s an ancient head shop on the north side of Chicago called Adam’s Apple. When we were little kids, our parents would take us there to look at all the tie-dye T-shirts and cool ephemera. As adults, we still go to Adam’s Apple and have become friends with the owner, Shelley, who allowed us to shoot the White Mystery movie, That Was Awesome, and the HIGH TIMES photographs [there]. Beyond selling tubes and pipes, Adam’s Apple is an impromptu community center for people to catch up on current events and neighborhood goings-on. What’s really interesting is how weed culture has evolved from being very underground and policed during Shelley’s time in the 1960s to present-day, when vape shops as common in Chicago as McDonald’s. We hope that your readers continue to support independent head shops to keep that old-skool culture of art and music alive.
Despite your many commercial tie-ins (Levi’s, Red Bull, etc.), you guys are long-term DIY. would you say this is born of necessity? Desire? Both? Do you have any desire to give up self-releasing? Is control more important,or do you find you can have control and distro if you work hard yourself?
MAW: Since April 20, 2008, White Mystery has transformed from a self-contained sibling duo into a full-fledged community. We book ourselves, license our music to TV and movies, release our own albums every 4/20 on our own label, self-manage, self-produce, and self-finance because we are on a mission from God to do so. Fortunately, there are college students, friends, and family who support this mission and have made it possible [for us] to be DIY, or DIT—which means “Do It Together.” So with that in mind, White Mystery totally collaborates with other entities to make projects come to life—for instance, Burger Records rereleases White Mystery albums on tape cassettes; Surfin’ Ki makes European vinyl; and Daredevil Pedals produces the White Mystery “Firekeeper” fuzz effect pedals. So toiling away every day and night, working every element of the band, in addition to performing and touring, allows music to be an immersive, full-time experience [for us].
Dubble Dragon (2014) earned you lots of kudos; and then last year you released a full-length movie. What’s on deck for this year?
MAW: White Mystery Outta Control is the fifth full-length album in the canon of this band, and [our] most concise pop masterpiece to date. We recorded the 10 tracks in Chicago at Gunhed Studios and paid attention to producing a variety of unique guitar tones through double-amping and percussion with Francis’ eight-piece Ludwig Vistalite drum kit. On previous works, we relied on reverb and overdrive to create a punk sound. On Outta Control, we challenged ourselves to create a multilayered album with a variety of moods produced through songwriting. “Best Friend” saunters with a lot of depth, and “Cerebellum” is uppity yet heartbreaking. “Pacci” is a concept song based on an alter ego. There are a lot of “Easter eggs” hidden for our superfans in the album, as well as new messages and sonic experiences for Planet Earth.
The accompanying pics are by your mom! Tell us about her history with the band.
MAW: You’ll notice every White Mystery press photo and album cover is credited to Diane Alexander White. She is our equally curly-headed mom and the “fifth Beatle” of White Mystery. Back in 1979, she photographed the Disco Demolition in Chicago, which gained notoriety as a destructive rock ’n’ roll event in music and baseball history. She went on to become a photographer at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago for decades, shooting Native American artifacts during the Repatriation Act of sacred objects. You may recognize her work from exhibitions [there] such as “Cheyenne Visions” and “Travels of the Crow,” as well as her earlier work shooting black-and-white photos of Chicago in the 1970s and ’80s, including the earliest Gay Pride parades and Maxwell Street.
Now Diane is our in-house White Mystery photographer, which is very convenient for impromptu photo shoots of her two beautiful redheaded children, aka White Mystery. Thank you, Mom.
Any parting words?
FW: Cheech & Chong, please watch the White Mystery movie, That Was Awesome. Conan O’Brien, our fellow cool redhead, please book White Mystery. The High Times shirt Alex wears in the photos is original, from the early 1970s, and on loan from American Icon Vintage. The photos with the white background are from Francis’ designated dispensary, Dispensary 33 in Chicago.For all the awesome stoner bands out there—please book White Mystery to play with you. We wanna play all your festivals and rock for you.We’d love to hear from HIGH TIMES readers— just go to the “contact” page on whitemysteryband.com. By Polly Watson
Keep up with all HIGH TIMES’ culture coverage here.
Mary Jane Gibson