We met Cheech at his spacious Pacific Palisades mansion just above Malibu. A beautiful residence, that looks just like Art Gallery. It’s been a while since Cheech Marin started to collect the “Chicano” Art and tour it all around the Globe. Today is official Mezcal launch party, and Cheech becomes a testimonial for a very popular drink. He opens up his house for visitors and Art lovers who had booked long before to see his famous collection and taste Papalote – that’s the Mezcal official name!
Spy: I see you’ve been writing your memories ! Everybody wants to know more details about it?
Well, I’ve been approached by a big publisher Hachette, and they basically asked me to write a book. And it goes from where I was born to where I wanna stop;;; It talks about various moments of my life and career. There is a big section on Cheech&Chong, a chapter about myself when I lived in Canada for three years and was involved in a revolutionary ressistance movement. And about FPI who was looking after me… They tried to get me but they did not! (laughing)
And then I came back, and I wanna talk about my Chech&Chong period and concerts and movies and the time I broke into a solo career. And it’s all very exciting!
Spy: So, when is the release of this fantastic book?
We don’t know yet, in about one year probably. We are just doing shootings for the cover and some other things, I can’t tell you about… but it’s right there, I just have to write it!
Spy: What else are you doing right now apart from your book?
We are still doing a lot of concerts with Tommy Chong, we just came back from Calgary, Сanada, and we actually do quite a lot of merchendising for Cheech&Chong and Cheech Marin. For example I have just launched a new line of MEZCAL. It’s a very popular drink and we’ve decided to personalize it with a company that I’ve chosen for this purpose. That ‘s why we are having this launch party and we’ve tied it with Art Fair.
Spy: Talking about art! It took you a life time to get such an amazing collection!
Well, art is a big part of my life – I’ve been collecting «Chicano» art specifically, since 1985! And I put up a big collection, I tour it in different ways and aspects. And it leads me to all different areas and to a big renowned art world in general. You know, «Chicano» is huge! In 2014 of all children born in the US, 50, 6% were Latino! More than a half! So it’s a huge audience!
Spy: Do you think “Chicano” Art is specifically interesting for the Latin American population or it might touch the American culture in general?
It is Mexican American Art with a defined political attitude! So, yes, it is interesting for the whole nation!
Spy: I was about to ask you about our Fashion week in Paris! Do you recall how we went to Issey Miyake party and all of a sudden, young boys and girls came up asking you to sign an autograph, take a picture with you, etc! How do you explain such an incredible interest among young people towards you?
It’s because they see movies! And Chech&Chong was internationally distributed records! It was a big deal at one time! It’s like when you are 14 years old and you get introduced to Cheec&Chong movies and the “stoner” culture! And it’s been going on for many many years! And it keeps renewing itself. Every year a 14-16 year old kid gets turned on, and we are kinda iconic in that way!
Spy: Don’t you think that at some point it is related to a forbidden smoke?
Cheech: Sure! That’s what it is! What we did, what’s the part of Cheech&Chong – is identifying with “Stoner” culture! These guys are stoners! But it’s worldwide! And that’s what people did not realize that it’s been in their neighborhood, it’s really worldwide! And now, with social media it’s getting faster and bigger than ever! And it’s gaining popularity and audience rather than loosing it!
Spy: At some point weed was forbidden , but you guys somehow made it fun and cool!
And it is already legalized in 27 states! It’s more than half of the U.S. And it was just the illigal part of Cheech&Chong. The legal part is that those two guys from the movie – they do not seem to age! I mean we age and they don’t! And we still tour with our concerts! We have just sold our two big shows in Canada!
Spy: When you started to perform, there was no digital era yet!
Not at all! There were records!
Spy: What do you think about it right now? Everything becomes so digital right now!
Digital is everything! Internet is probably the greatest invention in the world! It’s bigger than a wheel, really! It puts people together and connects them worldwide the way it’s never been done before! It’s instantaneous! I could turn on my phone, click couple of links and be walking in Odessa with live camera!
Spy: Don’t you think that the same issues that we value in Europe and the U.S. are difficult to accept in different cultural communities like Indonisia or Japan for example?
It’s not that they accept them or not! They are exposed to them! That’s the difference! That’s what some Governments wanna stop! They wanna shut up the internet ‘cas they dont’t want other ideas to come in! So it’s like putting Genie back into the bottle! It’s not gonna go in!
Spy: From the artistic point of view? The better times?
All of a sudden it’s like electricity! Wow! Let’s turn the lights on! Wow! There are lights! Wow it can shark you and kill you! And it keeps evolving every second, so you are automatically exposed to it! So what it does, it takes us out of tribalism! All the places where there wars in the world are those societies with tribalism! They live, eat and drink their own way and they do not even like the tribes in their own country! So what is happening now is like and enlightening! It brings us to light so it is necessary to evolve!
Spy: How do you evolve yourself? What do you think about the contemporary film industry in these terms?
But it’s just always been there, the method of application is different though. Natasha, my wife, is ovewelmed with idea to finish dinner and put on a movie on Amazon or any of the service!! You feel like watching God Father 2, you make a click and you watch your God Father 2 on your Big Screen!
Spy: So it means we do not need to go to theaters anymore?
No! You can do both! Actually, going to the theater is primarily important for the age groups that has to get out of their house! The young people wouldn’t watch movies with their Moms! They need to go to cinema to share the commune experience, and that’s what is all about! The primarily idea was that Digital era would kill Theaters, that nobody would go anymore to see movies on a Big screen. But apparently, at least in this country, Cinema’s got the best year! And it grows every year!
Spy: Confirmed! I just came back from Sundance and I saw people queuing to get to see the movie! Incredibe!
It’s because they wanna have this commune experience! And it might be a very individual experience watching movie on your watch! Yep! You can do it! And some people like it!
Spy: So what’s Cheech&Chong – big screen or computer?
It’s both! You know I started with records and when the format was changed to CD’s they were asking – why? Why would they need a better sound? Because people like a better sound! And everything is awailable! That’s the key thing! The industry itself makes a lot of money when it switches format. I had my vinyl dics, now I buy a CD! Now you can order a single insted of a whole album! But at times of Cheech&Chong the albums were blooming! The was this Artist Carol King. She sold 15 millions albums, while selling 15 thousands was a big deal, a great sucсess! And then lots of Artists started to sell 15 millions albulms like Michael Jackson or Eagles! And then, all of a sudden everything turns into CD and the top you can sell is 3 millions albums! Like Taylor Swift! So the same with TV! People thought TV would kill the movies! It just expanded the maket instead!
Spy: But you still have lots of live shows! People still come to see your shows rather than just sit and watch them on TV!
It’s a different experience! Like eating chicken instead of beef! It’s the same!
Spy: Are you usually awailable for people who come backstage to take a picture with you, chat, or just have a CD signed?
Oh yes, we charge for it!
Spy: Do you?
It’s a big source of income for artists! People just buy packages, or merchandise, or an autograph! We do not do so many shows as before because we are older… he he he))) But the biggest surprise for me is that we are still doing it at THIS age! And our audience is old and young – all ages! So we still perform for them! What else would you do? You are an Artist!
Spy: And you do have a lot of young audience..
Yes, we’ve got all these funny stories like a kid who comes and says he’s got the disc from his Mom or Dad! There was a kid in Canada who said he wanted to bring his GrandMa to the concert but then he changed his idea because she looks like 140! He said “ My GrandMa says she did both of you, guys!” Now, when it’s all spread in Internet you can keep it alive! Really keep it alive!
Spy: How about the cartoons? I guess you can reach the youngest audience by making “CARS” only!
Oh “CARS” is giant! It goes on and on! And I am getting ready to do “CARS 3”! O “Lion King”! I was one of the Hainas there! Side by side to Woopy Goldberg! And it was the bigest ever! They have sold 15 millions video cassettes in English only! And more of them in CD’s in music!
And that’s how kids recognize me! When I start talking to them like cartoon character! And they watch those cartoons hundreds and hundreds of times! When I was a kid, you couldn’t watch it the way they do it. You used to go to the theater, re-watch it many years later on TV and that was it! But nowdays kids watch the cartoons 5 times in a row, I am not kidding! So what they are doing – they are imprinting them in their space, in their realm and they have it in their minds. So they know you for the rest of their lives!
Spy: You are timeless!
There will come a day, and very soon, believe me, when people will say – There were no Cheech&Chong for real! They are just the cartoon characters! Cheech&Chong will be two characters , seen in the movie but they will not be real people! It ‘s like beeing Salt&Pepper!
Spy: Well I hope it will never happen! You still have the biggest fans all over the globe who value you for what you are and what you did!
It’s already happening! I am Cheech, I am Uncle Felix, I am lots of other characters! And it’s going on and on in infinity! I mean, what else I am supposed to do? I am Artist!