Vaping in the Studio

“But it’s home, the only life I ever known.
Only you know how I loathe Tobacco Road.”

Smoking and music have a long history together, and have shared the stage  well before the invention of electricity and amplified music. One of the earliest influences of tobacco in music can be found in a piece by German composer, Johann Sebastian Bach titled Enlightening Thoughts of a Tobacco Smoker. From the early 20th century on, smoking has been intertwined with popular music. Jazz music was closely associated with smoking that occurred in the venues where it was played. Everyone from gypsy jazz guitarist, Django Reinhardt to bassist and composer, Charles Mingus could be seen smoking.

Smoking and music continued their relationship well after the golden age of jazz, and while it might not have always been tobacco in the cigarettes, smoking is still present in popular music today.  Country music star, Jerry Reed, known for his hits such as “Guitar Man” and “East Bound and Down”, released his song “Another Puff” in 1971, which acted as sort of a comical rant on how to quit smoking. He died in 2008 of complications from emphysema.

Even with all the well documented facts of smokings effect on the lungs, throat and voice, many musicians and singers still seem to glamorize the act of smoking. However, some musicians have directly addressed cigarette addiction through song. Interpret that last one however you want.

Not only will smoking make it harder to hit those high notes you definitely won’t be able to blast your trumpet as long as this guy can. And it’s not just the body that is destroyed by cigarettes, studio gear and instruments can easily be damaged by exposure to cigarette smoke. Most notably, microphones and speakers will deteriorate over time due to the build up of tar and residue from cigarette smoke. So, it’s not just your health and your voice that’s at risk, but all that fancy equipment you worked so hard to save for can be severely damaged as well.

Recording music has been a hobby of mine for over 13 years now. I’ve spent countless hours in the presence of chain smokers at home studios, and have seen multiple pieces of gear stained and damaged from long term exposure to cigarette smoke. I also had a brief stint as a radio DJ for a local station back home in Washington state. There were many occasions where I would come on-air after a DJ who smoked when I would have to shout into the microphone from across the room because the unbearable smell of smokers breath hung so heavily on the microphone. Reflecting on these memories has led me to ponder the possible benefits of vaping in the studio.

Lately I’ve come across more and more musicians who vape. Even big names in the industry like Katy Perry and Simon Cowell have made the switch to vaping. Recently, Dave Navarro (founding member of Jane’s Addiction and former guitarist of the Red Hot Chili Peppers) discussed how he was able to quit smoking with the help of vaping. There are even reports out there of Jazz musicians embracing vaping. Some artists are even releasing entire albums named after our beloved vape.

With all of the vaping success stories we’ve received it’s no surprise that there are many potential benefits to be had by musicians who make the switch from smoking to vaping in the studio. One thing that I’ve noticed is the time I save by vaping in the studio. No longer do I need to be excused from a session or wait for a player to return from a smoke break. Not to mention the peace of mind I now have when it comes to the safety and longevity of my equipment. Since vapor dissipates much faster than smoke I have no worries about dangerous residue and build up deteriorating my gear. I can mediate on a lengthy drone track while I vape Ruyan 4 out of my Kabuki or I can Float On while jamming on some indie cover songs.

We reached out to Stone Jones, creative director at Shadytown Studio in Bellingham, WA to hear what he had to say about his experience vaping in the studio:

“I could go into more detail, but still being new to the vape world/experience, I will keep it simple: Not having to take cigarette breaks during a recording/mixing session is the best advantage so far. It doesn’t bother the artist, I can keep the energy and flow of a session alive longer, AND… I don’t get “lost” when I come back from a break.”

There also exists a potential benefit of nicotine when it comes to cognitive performance. It has been shown that nicotine improves selective attention and decreases distraction. Recent analysis suggests that nicotine may have positive effects on fine motor skills as well. So, vaping in the studio could possibly even help you nail that tricky riff or assist you in solving the difficult equation of math rock. But, let’s not forget that nicotine is indeed a stimulant and will effect everyone differently.

If you’re a musician who smokes there’s a long list of potential benefits to be had from switching to vaping. No longer will you have to worry about stinking up the studio with cigarette smoke, or even damaging your gear. You’ll not only potentially save your voice, but you’ll save time and money from not having to exit the studio for frequent smoke breaks. And if you’re lucky, you just might be able to focus more on the music itself.

Something to think about: 

Are you a musician who vapes? Do you have any great stories about vaping in the studio? If so we want to hear from you. Please share with us your experiences in the comments.

Tim is Mt Baker Vapor's resident creative weirdo. He writes, composes music, draws, designs, produces podcasts, investigates, and blows the trumpet for the Common Man.

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