Smoker’s Delight is to electronic music what Dr. Dre’s The Chronic is to hip-hop and Sleep’s Dopesmoker is to metal. Released in 1995, Nightmares on Wax’s opus is not just a tribute to marijuana, but a simulation of its effects and an embodiment of its cultural significance. It blends downtempo and trip-hop with more exotic strains of dub, jazz, drum and bass, funk, and disco, but only the most astral, mystic-sounding parts of each. It sounds like the product of an extended jam session between the biggest smokers in all of the above genres-- like if Tricky, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Miles Davis, Goldie, and Bootsy Collins somehow all found themselves in a studio together.
Despite being largely wordless, the 75-minute-long album feels like an immense journey akin to one’s first experience on a psychoactive substance. Up until now, interpretation of each of Smoker’s Delight’s distinctive, episodic tracks has been up to the listener, as the album lends itself to closed-eye, daydream-heavy listening sessions.
In celebration of 4/20 and an upcoming reissue of the album from Warp Records, we got in touch with Nightmares on Wax (AKA Leeds native George Evelyn) to provide a track-by-track breakdown. Here, he shares the thought process, aim, or story behind each song on the album. As with imagining shapes in clouds or interpreting poems, there’s no definitive explanation or answer, so don’t allow his perceptions of the music to erase the narratives or images you may have made up yourself.
Light one up, cue up Smoker’s Delight, and allow Nightmares on Wax to take you through the journey as he sees it.
1. “Nights Introlude”
It is the introduction to the story and the journey you are about to go into in Smoker’s Delight. The adventure begins…
It gives you the feeling of going deeper, that you know you are about to go into an adventure, you know you are about to go somewhere really deep. This dread, meaning irie, meaning feeling good, is about to go overboard.
3. “Pipes Honour”
It is time we paid ode and respect to the pipe, where we fill up that bong, we feel right, and we relax and we feel right. Pipes Honour.
4. “Me + You”
Now we are flying high and we are feeling good. Feeling content. In a good place. It gives us that space to think about me and you, you and me, and our connection, and how good that feels.
Now I expand upon my journey. I start to think about the universe. I start to think about the stars and the way they twinkle, and how I feel lost but found.
6. “Wait a Minute/Praying for a Jeepbeat”
So before I get too lost but yet found again, I need to take a little break. I need to sit back, reconnect with where I am. I need to wait a minute, while I spark up this next one.
7. “Groove St”
I remember originally writing “Groove St.” and thinking about this idea of having three different grooves, almost like an image of going down three different streets. And each street had it’s own feeling, bounce and stride.
8. “Time (To Listen)”
“Time (To Listen)” is a wakeup call, like snap yourself out of your positions, snap yourself out of the stonezone you may be in at that given time, at this given time in the album, because now we are going to go on another journey, another rhythm, another vibration.
9. “(Man) Tha Journey”
So man, tha journey you’ve been on or been through, or you’re about to go on is upon ya. But it is a journey of blissfulness, of euphoria, of happiness, of smiling in a way you’re so high you feel so soooo good, that everything can pass you by.
10. “Bless My Soul”
“Bless My Soul” is exactly that. You’re at this stage of the album where you are feeling blessed. Everything is good, and it only gets better so keep blessing my soul. The whole deepness and the whole thought about this track when I was putting it together was to have this part of the album, this stage of the album where everything was so good everything felt blessed and I believe this song achieves that.
11. “Cruise (Don’t Stop)”
A nod to the jazz funk eras of the kind of dancefloors I was brought up on but brought into more of a laidback smokey version. And it just the point of just keep going, and whatever your journey is on, however you are, dreaming, floating, wherever you are just keep cruising. Don’t stop, just keep going.
12 “Mission Venice”
“Mission Venice” was a great track to make and a great track to venture with. Immediately the whole kind of vibe of this song just got me this vibe of being in a James Bond mode of being chased through Venice on a gondola. So we go with a bit of character and a bit of fun in this track but obviously added a bit of a more dub element to it as well with the way that I sampled, and used the sample.
13. “What I’m Feelin (Good)”
It is a check in on the album, it is a bookmark in the album, it is the stage that you are at in the album. A recognition of how good you are feeling on your journey. It is the delight, smoker’s delight.
“Rise” is such a beautiful part of the album because all you can feel is this blissness coming through after this kind of almost energetic part of the album is surpassing, and we are going back into being deeper, going deeper into ourselves, but also rising within it all feeling good, feeling irie, feeling blessed.
15. “Rise (Reprise)”
Just when you thought it was over, it is back again. You’ve just hit this most beautiful point in the song and you think “oh it is over” and then it comes back and gives you one more round, one more little tickle, one more little cuddle, one more little nice feeling.
16. “Gambia Via Vagator Beach”
Why that name? Why this type of track? Well the track is a combination of two stories. One being about my first visit to India, to Goa, and spending time at sunset watching the sun go down with the drummers played on the beach. And Gambia in connection with Shovel the drum warrior, the guy who is playing the percussion on the track, and him having his visit to Gambia and playing drums around a fire. And us both meeting together in Ibiza and sharing those stories, and I came up with this idea that we should actually write a song around that experience. But also because it represents a connection to the sun as well, and bringing the sun down. I think it also brings down the close of the album, everything is set, just like the sun.