Sleep – Dopesmoker
The list of rumors surrounding Sleep’s album Dopesmoker (originally titled Jerusalem) are nearly as long as it’s over hour long single track running time.
Released in 1999 by The Music Cartel and the latter by Tee Pee Records in 2003, the concept was recorded in 1996 for Sleep’s label at the time, London Records.
Unhappy with the finished product, London rejected the album and refused to release it. As a result the band would soon unravel.
A number of unauthorized bootleg releases of Dopesmoker would surface over the years, garnering praise from fans and critics earning it a high-water mark in both the stoner metal and doom metal genres.
It turns out the process of writing Dopesmoker was not easy. The song was written and practiced at sound checks, motel rooms and in friends’ houses.
Sleep guitarist Matt Pike said the process was long and that they were “working on [the song] for like four years. We also had two other songs that were working on that were really long, too—like 15 and 20 minutes. But we never recorded them.”
Bass player Al Cisneros stated that smoking cannabis was important to the song’s creative process: “I was really dependent on the space I got into when I was using it, and some of the lyrics are about that…The line, ‘Drop out of life [with bong in hand],’ was kind of a creed at that point.” I recall seeing an early press photo for the band in the mid 90’s that prove this statement to be true.
The band was ready to record in 1995 but the process was delayed as they were still contracted with Earache.
Cisneros said that there was “about a year and half of legal wrangling between their managers and lawyers at Earache” and that Earache owner Digby Pearson “waited to make the most prime conditions for himself before he let [Sleep’s] contract [go].”
Rumor has it, along with an area of strategically placed microphones, “…part of the record’s unique sound was due to custom-built amps designed to be so loud, no one from the band was capable of going into the same room as them.”
Naturally this is not an album for everyone. But this is a great opportunity to snag a piece of Stoner rock history on vinyl.
Aside from the impressive commitment to weed culture, slowed down, fuzz tone, bass minimalism on display here I think there’s deeper level of consciousness that this album operates on.
Perhaps it’s message is: “Let’s see how much we can slow down time and savor every juicy second of it while we’re here.” Check it out! -Major Matt