Konstitutional Krisis

Members of the self-described psychedelic hip-hop punk rock band Kottonmouth Kings say their First Amendment rights were abrogated last month when the city of Huntington Beach banned them from performing at the Op Beach Fest because of objectionable lyrics. It's their very own Konstitutional Krisis.”This country is supposed to be based on freedom of speech, but it turns out that sometimes you can't transmit certain signals and messages,” disclosed Brad Daddy X, leader of the Kottonmouth Kings, whose debut CD, Royal Highness, begins with the single “Bong Tokin' Alcoholics.” “We think we talk about the truth, and we're not going to stop what we do. Others feel differently, and they have people censoring everything. This is a clear-cut case of censorship, and we're definitely pissed.”The Kottonmouth Kings and Capitol Records are preparing to take legal action against the city of Huntington Beach, according to their attorney, Ian Montone. They want to recoup money the group lost when it canceled six concerts on an East Coast tour to return to Orange County to play before local fans. The group's manager, Kevin Zinger, estimates those losses at about $6,000 or $7,000. “We're not trying to get anything more than that,” said Zinger. “We don't believe in lawsuits. But in this case, it's justified. If Huntington Beach didn't want us playing at their Beach Festival, they never should have booked us.”Actually, it was the Beach Festival's sponsor, surf- and skatewear empire Ocean Pacific (Op), that originally objected to the Kottonmouth Kings. Lisa LaVern, vice president of the Irvine-based company, said she originally approved the band on the basis of a cassette sampler of its work, but she changed her mind when she popped Royal Highness into her CD player. “If you've heard it,” LaVern said, “then I think you know why.”Musically and lyrically, the Kottonmouth Kings combine a nonstop party energy with a mostly disaffected spin on issues ranging from politics to prison and the middle class that lives in between. Plus, they say “fuck” a lot. “There are a lot of cuss words,” acknowledged Brad Daddy X. “Last winter in Snow Valley, the ski resort pulled the plug on us in the middle of a performance.”LaVern convened a sort of Beach Fest security council-Huntington Beach Art Center director Naida Osline, Chris Conrad from the International Management Group, and Rick Camino from Capitol Records-to give the 17-song CD a closer listen. When I asked Zinger to imagine the reaction at that party, he burst into high-pitched laughter. “They probably shit a wig,” he said. Osline, who ultimately made the decision to uninvite the Kottonmouth Kings, said simply, “The music wasn't appropriate for a free, midday concert in a public area.” The Kottonmouth Kings' only chance to perform was to agree to an addendum to their contract, which Op attorney Michael G. Balmages faxed to Capitol Records on July 26-six days before the group's scheduled appearance. The addendum stipulated that the group not use profanity, act lewdly, damage equipment or “cause civil unrest,” and it held the Kottonmouth Kings and/or Capitol Records financially liable for the actions of festival attendees. “If Capitol and Kottonmouth do not so agree and return a signed copy of the agreement to me,” wrote Balmages, “Kottonmouth will not appear at the festival.”It was an offer the Kottonmouth Kings could not approve-“not without sacrificing our credibility,” said Brad Daddy X. “But we were really disappointed. These would have been homecoming shows. We would have been performing for family and friends as well as our fans.” The band, which is currently on a national tour with the Insane Clown Posse, won't be back in Southern California until Sept. 22, when they are scheduled to perform at the House of Blues in Los Angeles. They plan to give a short series of local shows in November, the dates and places of which have yet to be announced.Zinger suggested that the whole affair reflects poorly on Op. “The company is supposed to be promoting this counterculture clothing line, reflecting this counterculture kind of lifestyle, and then it pulls this kind of stuff,” he huffed. “Now everybody can see it is just posing. Op should just book Jewel or somebody who appeals to soccer moms and 9-to-5ers. Op should sponsor golf tournaments, not surfing or skateboarding events.”Despite their outrage, however, the Kottonmouth Kings aren't exactly offended or astonished by their last-minute banishment. “When you think about it, it's kind of a compliment,” said Brad Daddy X. “Anyway, we were surprised we were invited in the first place, that they let us slip through the cracks that far.”

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