The Herbivores - Seattle, WA

Jim Matthiessen from The HerbivoresThe Herbivores - Seattle, WA
By HotBands Editor - Pat Ferris

After attending the Seattle Hempfest 2000 and seeing The Herbivores play to a record setting crowd, there was no doubt that they were a good pick for this month's featured artist.

I ran into the Herbivores for the first time in years at last years Seattle Hempfest, and was so impressed at how they had matured as musicians, that I was inspired to cover them in a review last May.

They have been a crowd pleaser for over a decade in the Seattle area, and have been an instrumental (no pun intended) part of the Seattle Hemp Coalition, which has created the largest pro-hemp movements in the world.  Their message seems simple enough: "An end to the Drug War and a release of all politcal prisoners of this war".

As a music site, I have always tried to shy away from political causes and stay focused on the music, but in 1988, I wrote a term paper while in college, on drug reform, and how it is affecting our country. 

My personal belief (as an Economist) is that prohibition has never worked with anything.  Demand for a product is what drives a market.  Laws to prevent the traffic of products create black markets and "criminal" (bringing product from supplier to the market) activity, which in turn creates a "Prison Industry" who then lobby to keep their jobs by making more laws that shouldn't be in place to begin with.  Here are some issues surrounding this phenomenon:

  • In the United States, we have over 1,000,000 people in prison...about one out of every 100 adults 18-55. 
  • All of these people in prison are supported by the rest of us through taxes.  
  • Estimates say that the number of prisoners that are in prison for drug-related charges are 70% or higher.
  • Marijuana became the country's #1 cash crop in 1992.
  • Average sentence for growing operations is 8+ years
  • Average sentence for rape is 4 years

Just think of how much the country would gain in tax relief if drug-reform abolished prohibition on everything!!  Relief not just from 700,000 tax-paying citizens becoming an asset instead of a burden, but by the income that would be created from State-run "drug stores", similar to the State liquor stores.  BILLIONS of dollars of revenue with BILLIONS available for rehabilitation centers.  The arguement is "We'll have people on drugs all over the place".  The reality is: "You do're just not benefiting from it".  Laws don't curb demand, and people should have the choice to do what they want, provided it isn't hurting others.

So the Herbivores philosophy goes hand in hand with some of my rebellious beliefs AND, their music is awesome...which is what we're here to talk about!. 

I finally got them hooked up to ICQ, and here is what they had to say:

Jim and Share Sharing Hair<HotBands> Hi Guys.  Let's start with with the beginning of the Herbivores. 

<Herbivores> We formed the Herbivores in 1988 in Colville, WA

<HotBands> I guess I met you guys in 1989 when you had Thursday nites and we had Wednesday nites at the Bistro (now the Big Time Brewery). Are you both originally from Eastern WA?

<Herbivores> Jim was born in Eugene, OR and i was born in Frankfurt, Germany (military brat).

<HotBands> What brought you to the NW and how did you all meet? Tell me the Herbivore "story" including how you got Jay in your band.

<Herbivores> Share and I met while I was in CA playing music with a bluegrass band. We were both travelling to the Northwest to visit friends and decided to combine our trip. That was in 1980. We had a great trip and decided to get a piece of land together in the mountains of eastern WA. We built a log house, gravity flow spring water, solar power, etc. After 7 years, been there done that..... Decided to go to SEattle and put together a reggae band. Share started playing bass in 1985. We thought of the name in 1988 and moved to Seattle. Members at that time were Bernie Matthiessen (drums), Dougan Matthiessen (guitar, vocals) Fred DeFord, (lead guitar), Jim & Share. Ras I joined on for a bit in 1989.

<HotBands> Was that the guy with short blonde dreads and the beard?

<Herbivores>  Yeah.

<HotBands> Sounds like it was a family affair in the beginning. Were these family and friends that were from Eastern WA that came with you, or were they friends from Seattle?

<Herbivores> Dougan & Bernie (Dougan's wife) were from the mountains of Northern CA and Fred was from Central WA. Dougan is Jim's brother and they grew up in Northern CA.

<HotBands> How did Jay Roberts come into the picture (express a little bit about who he is and who his father was for the readers outside of the US).Jay Roberts

<Herbivores> We added a sax player, Jimmy Jake Hennesey and one night we needed a guitar fill in and Jake said he had a buddy that he played with in a metal band ... Jay Roberts. He played that night and stunned the audience.  We asked him to join and he accepted.  Jay's dad is the legendary guitar player Howard Roberts who spent many years recording in Hollywood for TV shows and movie themes as well as recording dozens of his own albums.  Howard Roberts guitar is heard on some very famous themes including Peter Gunn, Twilight Zone, Beverly Hillbillies, Bonanza, and the James Bond theme.   He's recorded with such artists as Elvis Presley, Beach Boys, Peggy Lee, etc.

<HotBands> Wow! quite the resume!  Jay is also a drummer? I've heard bits and pieces of his own legend over the years.

<Herbivores> Jay teaches guitar, bass and drums. He was teaching drums at the age of 14.

<HotBands> I guess if you have the influence that he had growing up, you couldn't help but be heavily involved  in music!  He's really awesome!

<Herbivores> His brother Doug is also a great guitar and keyboard player and his sister Madeline who lives in Phoenix is fabulous on guitar. She's the head of the Arizona musicians union.

<HotBands> Jay is heard just about every 4th of July playing the National Anthem at the Seattle fireworks display as well.

<Herbivores> Speaking of Jay, he released his debut solo jazz CD with Herbivores drummer Brendan Scanlan and legendary keyboardist, Joey DeFrancesco, titled "Son of a Dirty Guitar Player". It will be available on line through within the next week.

<HotBands> can people find it elsewhere?

<Herbivores> It will be available from local records stores and from:
The Herbivores
P.O. Box 85785
Seattle, WA 98145-1785
(206) 781-5717 (the Herbivores contact number)

<HotBands> How did you come up with the name "The Herbivores"? Are you vegetarian?

<Herbivores> Jim came up with the name and yes we are vegetarians. There was a time when I (Jim) was a stricter vegetarian, but I still enjoy fishing and eating fish, so I don't want to misrepresent myself to the vegetarian/vegan community.

The Herbivores at the State Legislature Building<HotBands> So does the name represent your diet? 

<Herbivores> It's a combination of things actually.   We feel that there are too many people in prison who don't belong there, only guilty of seeking rights guaranteed in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  We will continue to direct our energies towards putting an end to the Drug War.  By volunteering for Seattle Hempfest, the Million Marijuana March, vigils outside the jails for Drug War prisoners.  Our goal is to bring attention to the public; ultimately resulting in change or reform. 

<HotBands> So the name Herbivores signifies more than your diet!

<Herbivores> Lots more!!

<HotBands> I know you've been very active in the Seattle Hemp movement for a number of years. I traveled out of Seattle in 1994 and got back late last year.  I've watched your movement of a few dozen grow to....well, the estimate on the crowd at the Hemp Fest last week was 100,000?

<Herbivores> The Seattle Hempfest is a popular movement. We just service what is happening.

<HotBands> You are PART of what is happening...more than that, it seems that a lot of the drive is created by you, and your band's message.

<Herbivores> Thank you. We feel in the music industry there's a lot of attention focused on relationship music (love songs). We're helping fill a nitch in music that we feel is needed, songs about rights, freedom.

<HotBands> That seems like what a lot of the reggae songs are about.  Do you think that genres of music are mood/message specific?

<Herbivores> They used to be.  Jim started playing message music in the 60's. The Norther CA San Francisco music scene was very political and conscious.  In the 70's, when things cooled out, we went to the mountains and lead the quiet life.  But in the 80's, reggae music came to the forefront and we were moved to get back at it.  Thank you reggae!  Now the music can be put together any way you like.

<HotBands> What are the Herbivore's plans for the next CD, touring, etc?The Herbivores at Seattle Hempfest 1999

<Herbivores> We just produced HEMPLENNIUM Compilation and releaed it at Seattle Hempfest.  It is a benefit CD to help support WA NORML, JAMPAC.  On our next Herbivores CD we will be doing some of the new material we did at this year's Hempfest which is decidedly going in a jazz/rock direction.

<HotBands> I thought I didn't recognize some of those songs!

<Herbivores> Yeah - we didn't either!

<HotBands> So, are you getting away from Reggae, or incorporating Jazz/Rock into Reggae...kind of creating a new breed of music?

<Herbivores> We would like to say that we've been bending the rules of reggae all along!  The Herbivores have grown and as our abilities increase, so does our desire to step up to the next level musically.

<HotBands> I wonder if guys like Jay feel they are at a zenith, or if they still see hills on the horizon of playing they hope to achieve.  I how much better can you get!  Know what I mean?

<Herbivores> Every day we get better.  Every time we absorb a new experience, it sinks in and becomes part of what we already know.  New ideas just keep coming.   Like anything, you get better with practice.

<HotBands> As far as the internet goes, how do you see yourself incorporating yourself and positioning yourself to take advantage of this medium of information exchange?

<Herbivores> We are on the Seattle Hempfest Steering Committee and at  All of the links that we believe in are there.

Share, Jim and Jay at Hempfest 2000<HotBands> What does the steering committee do?

<Herbivores> We organize the Seattle Hempfest volunteer core that puts on Hempfest, the Million Marijuana Marches, the vigils, and we're part of the Board of Directors of WA NORML/The Hemp Coalition.

<HotBands> I guess I was referring more to the music end of things on the net.

<Herbivores> We have started Killer Weed Records on 420 Warehouse. What is LOL? Give me a minute. We have just started 420 Warehouse and are building the record pages now. Hemplennium is available on line at the present time. We are going to start a virtual Hempfest with an eye toward raising funds for Seattle Hempfest, a year round internet fest.

<HotBands> Are you planning on any tours for the Herbivores?

<Herbivores> At present we have several new CD's and are looking for credible management/booking agent. But honestly, it's been a struggle. So all you big booking people, contact us at

<HotBands> What plans do you have for releasing your next CD's online? Do you plan to press them first, or have you looked into doing virtual CD's or downloadable CD's through resources like

<Herbivores> We've looked into all of it and plan on taking advantage every way we can to get out the message which will get out the Herbivores.

<HotBands> We're working on some things here at that will incorporate a lot of these issues that bands have with booking and managment to a reliable source, but release of this division isn't planned for the next few months.  I'd love to help your band in any way possible.

<Herbivores> Thanks.

<HotBands> As far as any type of message to the world, what would you like to say to aspiring musician's, reggae lovers, etc.?

<Herbivores> We all need to hang together, be patient, start from the top and start small.  Organize so that we don't overwhelm minds that are just starting to open.   In the end, we hope to secure basic freedoms for everybody.  Join us!!

<HotBands> Thanks for the interview! I look forward to hearing your next CD and catching the next show if I'm in the area.

<Herbivores> Soon come.  Peace and Love