Johl Chato has released a five-song Christmas album titled Dreaming of a Green Christmas that features cannabis-themed parody songs of classic Christmas tunes. (Jensen Edwards/Grand Forks Gazette)

Grand Forks artist plays pot riff on classic Christmas carols

‘Rudolph the Red-Eyed Reindeer,’ ‘Let it Grow’ and ‘Green Christmas’ are on Johl Chato’s holiday album

You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, but do you know Chronic and Que-P and Doobie and Blitzy? Or perhaps even the most notorious of them all, Rudolph the red-eyed reindeer?

Grand Forks musician Johl Chato, known to friends as Jam, is hoping to introduce the alternative team of reindeer and his pot-based parody songs to new audiences this holiday season by releasing his holiday album, Dreaming of a Green Christmas.

Chato, who produces songs through the name Blaze of Grass, said that he’d been kicking around the idea for a Christmas parody album for more than a decade before he enlisted the help of a jazz singer from Victoria (who goes by the name High Grade on Chato’s project), a drummer from Vancouver and local music producer Sacha Pétulli to reimagine the classic sounds of malls and coffee shops at Christmas time.

“I’m hungry for a little bit of change and a little bit of evolution with our Christmas carols,” Chato said. “Like, who’s ready for breath fresh air here?”

“Rudolph the Red-Eyed Reindeer,” “Let it Grow,” Little Trimmer Boy,” “Sativa is Coming Around” and “Green Christmas” (based off the classic “White Christmas” and not Elvis Presley’s “Blue Christmas,” to be clear) round out a jazzy album that, were it not for its lyrical content, could well be played alongside Michael Bublé at a mall.

Oddly enough, that’s how the idea first came to Chato.

Listening to radio playing at the store, he said, “It just happens off the cuff,” and the words begin to replace themselves. Though, Chato said, he tries to “match the spirit of the original” with every parody.

“’Rudolph the Red-Eyed Reindeer’, it sort of just fell into place,” Chato said. While his version keeps the melody and general premise, the reggae infusion at the first chorus sets Chato’s song apart from the Christmas canon.

Painting the character through a hashy haze, Chato said, is his version of the chants that carollers mimicked as children – the “like Monopoly!” line-ender in original version of the song he parodied, or even like the “Jingle bells, Batman smells,” version of the holiday classic.

The other four songs on his debut Christmas album released online, though sung with a wry smile, came from a more serious place.

“I decided that I needed to do an album to really substantiate my platform that I’m not a one hit wonder like, I really am a cannabis parody man.”

So, he thought through other Christmas songs and compared them to cannabis-based stories, language and humour and weeded out the ones that just wouldn’t fit the bill.

“When it comes down to it,” Chato explained, “you only have so many synonyms and adjectives for cannabis.” Some expressions just didn’t fit. Nevertheless, the lyricist said, “Sometimes I’ll give up on them, but sometimes I’ll just build and chip and chip and then it just comes out.”

Chato’s repertoire expands beyond December songs too – he’s also got a parody of The Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes” (“Behind Green Highs”) and the theme song to the 1970s sitcom Happy Days (“Hashy Daze”).

For the “Weed Al” of Grand Forks, cannabis-related riffs on old classics is part of legalization and a second coming of social acceptance for pot, which was criminalized in Canada in 1923.

“I’m hoping that [cannabis] will sort of be an industry that will grow – no pun intended – to have these spin-off industries too,” Chato said.


@jensenedw
Jensen.edwards@grandforksgazette.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Five Vancouver Island First Nations call out Canada for ‘discriminatory’ food fish practices

West Coast nations say government ignoring court-won right to chinook and coho

Famous Yukon-based bhangra dancer brings movements of joy to Long Beach

Infamous dancer is exploring Vancouver Island, visiting the B.C. Legislature and other destinations

Bear trapped and killed near Tofino-Ucluelet

“This bear just was not leaving humans alone,” said Conservation Officer Andrew Riddell.

Fire restrictions in Tofino and Ucluelet

“It is visitors and residents alike that struggle with this one on a yearly basis.”

VIDEO: Internet famous Yukon-based bhangra dancer explores Vancouver Island

Gurdeep Pandher spreads joy through dance, forms cross-cultural connections amid pandemic

B.C. records 30-50 new COVID-19 cases a day over weekend, no new deaths

Many of those testing positive were identified by contact tracing for being linked to other confirmed infections

Rent-relief program becomes new front in fight between Liberals, opposition

Opposition trying to draw parallels between decision to have Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. run program and the WE controversy

Ottawa sets minimum unemployment rate at 13.1% for EI calculation

Statistics Canada says the unemployment rate was 10.9 per cent in July

Cougar euthanized after attacking little dog in Qualicum area

Owner freed pet by whacking big cat, but dog didn’t survive the attack

$45K in donations received after couple’s sudden death in Tulameen

Sarah MacDermid, 31, and Casey Bussiere, 37, died August long weekend

Battle of Fairy Creek: blockade launched to save Vancouver Island old-growth

‘Forest Defenders’ occupy road to prevent logging company from reaching Port Renfrew-area watershed

COVID-19 could mean curtains for film and TV extras

Background performers worry they’re being replaced by mannequins on film and TV sets

Laid-off B.C. hotel workers begin hunger strike demanding job protection

Laid-off workers not sure what they’ll do when government support programs end

Most Read