TO HILL AND BACK; Cypress star Sen Dog on their laugh-a-minute comeback.
HIP hop stalwarts Cypress Hill enlisted the help of legendary comic duo Cheech & Chong for their comeback album Rise Up.
In a rare interview, Cypress Hill's Sen Dog revealed the pair added a light-hearted feel to the sessions that mark the band's return, six years after the release of their last studio album Till Death Do Us Part.
Richard "Cheech" Marin and Tommy Chong had a cult following in the 1970s and 1980s with their stand-up routines based on the hippie and free love era.
Sen Dog explained: "They're such a big part of why there is a Cypress Hill. I used to think I was Cheech when I was 14. I used to dress like him and everything.
"Even knowing them is a trip, so actually working with them is overwhelming. They are becoming more normal as time goes by, but doing anything with those guys is an honour.
"Those guys are always cracking jokes. They are really funny to hang around with. I think they get enjoyment out of watching people laugh. They were constantly cracking jokes and people were laughing which was good for the environment."
Out this week, the new Cypress Hill album features collaborations with Rage Against The Machine's Tom Morello, who can be heard on the title track and Shut 'Em Down.
The tracks come in the wake of Rage Against The Machine's Christmas No.1 record, the classic Killing In The Name Of.
SenDogsaid:"Working with Tom was something we had been talking about doing for years. It just hadn't come about.
"We've known Morello since 1993 and we have wanted to work with him for a long time, and he has wanted to work with us forever."
Daron Malakian of System of a Down, Linkin Park vocalist Mike Shinoda, singer-songwriter Marc Anthony and rapper Pitbull are just some of the other names who headed in to record with the ground-breaking US band.
"Everything was pretty much friends we know," Sen Dog said. "We didn't have to go out of our way to reach people to be on our record. It was all people who had wanted to work with us for a while. It all came about pretty fluidly."
Cypress Hill - rappers B-Real, Eric Bobo and Sen Dog and producer DJ Muggs - pushed rap's boundaries with their eponymous debut album in 1991.
Two years later, they followed up with Black Sunday to become the first rap act ever to debut at No.1 in the US Billboard chart. They have sold 18million records worldwide but hit a low point with the 2004 album Till Death Do Us Part.
Sen Dog said: "After the release of Till Death Do Us Part and the low sales, there wasn't a big effort to push that record. There were a lot of rumours in the years after that saying we had split up."
Having parted company with Sony, Cypress Hill set about getting their house in order before they could go back to making music.
Sen Dog said: "We had to go through the whole process we did when we started out of finding the people who believed in us.
"It was frustrating for three or four years to keep things on track. We all went out and did solo music. The whole time everybody's main focus was to get Cypress Hill straightened out and get moving again.
"We went and worked with other people and learned about ourselves then brought it back to the main group. All that was a good education.
"Between times, we finished our contractual obligations with our old label and finished with our management. We felt that we had to revive and revamp everything."
Sen Dog said there was a "a clear-out from the floor up" of their organisation before getting back in the studio.
He added: "It took twice as long as we expected but all the time we took was to the band's advantage.
"We just went into the studio with no agenda and to have fun. Those were my main two concerns. I wasn't interested in making a conceptual record or anything like that. I just wanted to start making jams that were fun to listen to.
"We needed to re-energise everything and be fun again. Music should be fun and that's the attitude we took in."
For the return, Cypress Hill are signed up to Snoop Dogg's Priority Records label after a chance meeting with the rapper. Sen Dog said: "He came across B-Real somewhere and they started talking.
"B-Real told him we were working on a new album and had a bunch of songs. Snoop Dogg headed down to the studio to listen to them and B-Real told him about the record label situation.
"Snoop Dogg was excited about the idea of having us on his label and we thought it was a good look and exciting, so we jumped all over it."
And Snoop is delighted to have bagged one of his favourite acts. He said: " Cypress Hill is one of the most important hip hop groups in music history.
"Not only are they incredibly talented and the first Latino hip hop group to go platinum, they are also from the West Coast. So this is the perfect marriage."
Meanwhile the band, who appeared at the first T in the Park festival, say they could return this summer - if asked.
Sen Dog said: "We haven't been there for a while. I wouldn't be surprised if we add Scotland to the calendar. Glasgow is one of my favourite cities to party in. I've had some good times over there, so we are looking forward to going back there."
Reflecting on the band's rebirth, Sen Dog added: "I think about the last 20 years. I'm glad still to be friends with the other guys and that we still respect each other. Who would have thought this little stoner kid would still be around?
"We all thought we would be around for two or three years, so to be still around it's as if we have been blessed by the musical gods."
HIPPIE HOP: From top, guests Cheech & Chong, Daron Malakian and Tom Morello HIGH TIMES: Sen Dog, far right, with Cypress Hill