Andreas “Dre” Neumann On Queens of the Stone Age, Cannabis & Collaborations

“I continue to consume nightly, both testing out new products as well as going back to my favorites.”

Judging by some of the lackluster packaging in adult-use cannabis, not every brand has a creative director in the first place. Not a good one at least, and yes, that even includes some of the majors which still consider the presentation of their products to be an afterthought.

The same cannot be said for multi-state operator Jushi, which has Andreas “Dre” Neumann in the chief creative director’s chair. A photographer and all-around design guru who has collaborated with the likes of Lenny Kravitz, Foo Fighters, and Queens of the Stone Age, he brings significant cultural chops to his work in the green space.

We zipped Neumann’s bio around the Talking Joints Memo contributor listserv with instructions to write questions about his work with Jushi and to also plumb him for info on the consumption habits of a few familiar major bands. Here’s how the resulting interview shook out … 

TJM: Let’s start before Jushi. What’s your general history with cannabis, and what’s your regular consumption been like through the years?

Neumann: I’m from Munich, Germany, where it’s all about the beer and the alcohol. I was polluted by that culture when I was young, since the legal drinking age is 16. My first experience with cannabis was when I was around 18 and I was given a joint in the middle of the forest. When I smoked it, I got really tired and fell asleep—I felt like it wasn’t my thing.

About 30 years later when I was living in California, I saw this high-end looking box on my friend’s desk that looked like a cigarette pack, and it made me curious. He told me it was his pre-roll brand. That got me interested, as I realized how much cannabis had evolved since my first experience with it. I knew at once that I needed to get involved, so I spoke to a friend in the industry and ended up on the phone with Erich Mauff and Jim Cacioppo. It was an amazing moment in time; they were just starting Jushi and this was only four months before the company went public.

Once I joined Jushi, I started to really consume the product—every night I tried something new. I started with edibles, then switched to vapes, pre-rolls and flower, and then came around full circle. It was kind of like method acting—you have to be immersed in it and you have to understand the whole vibe of it. I continue to consume nightly, both testing out new products as well as going back to my favorites.

What’s your earliest positive memory of cannabis, music, and art coming together in your life?

Music and cannabis are very similar. Music evokes feelings, and it forms memories—cannabis does the same thing, as each batch and strain can elicit different memories and emotions. You naturally connect certain feelings with the sounds and products you experience, creating an emotional link between all of those elements—and even more naturally, you often want to go back and re-create or re-experience that state of mind.

When I joined Jushi it was the first time what I’d accomplished in music, art ,and business all came together. This was so exciting for me, as I was able to combine everything that I loved in one space. At Jushi, I bring my art and music connections together and build brands based on my experience in this discipline.

Jushi represents the business of cannabis for me and I love having the opportunity to bring these parts of my life together. Since we’ve gotten out of the pandemic we’ve been able to further explore this connection between cannabis and music, focusing more on creating collaborations with artists. As another example, we are working on bringing in an artist to perform for the plants, and then we’ll birth a new limited edition strain. 

Mass consumers may be familiar with Jushi’s Tasteology line

Having worked with touring musicians for years, what’s been your observation of the country’s changing attitude towards cannabis as more states open up and prohibition peels back more and more?

I’ve been observing this really closely since I started with Jushi. I entered the company at a time where I was able to be part of the journey of several states that changed from medical to recreational. I could see the challenges when it came to both medical and recreational customers. You have to make sure you respect and take care of your medical customers, who really need this plant for their wellbeing. We work to ensure that our products are easily accessible and well-priced for them.

There are people who already know the products, and there are people who just got into it and are exploring these wonderful effects of the plant. Then there are the new people who really don’t know what to expect. Older generations have been told all their lives that cannabis is a gateway drug. The plant has really been demonized, and to get this misconception out of people’s heads, companies create products with beautiful packaging and presentation—but it can still be confusing and overwhelming.

The main thing that needs to be worked on is education. There is so much that people need to learn in order to understand the intricacies of the plant. We have a responsibility to educate and present products well. There are some great budtenders who know what is best for new cannabis users, and they help them on this journey. Our people are specifically trained on that.

Having worked with bands on cover art and even been recognized by the Recording Academy, where does weed come into those shoots? Do you like consumption on set? Find it to be a distraction? Is it a case by case thing?

Most of the time I am completely sober when I do business and art. When it comes to creating art, I don’t want to confuse myself or blur or fog my mind. I have, so far, started to consume cannabis only in post-production. When I work with bands like Queens of the Stone Age and the Foo Fighters, none of us consume cannabis or alcohol as there are so many moving parts to a shoot, so we have to stay focused. I like to smoke after shoots when I select pictures—I smoke a joint, maybe sativa, which is a little bit more motivating. It just helps me to zone into something like the colors or expressions, and I can pick and choose. When you consume cannabis, you can step out of your normal point of view—it is a great way to get a new perspective.

Queens of the Stone Age by Andreas “Dre” Neumann

I recently did a cover shoot for the Queens of Stone Age new album, All Times New Roman. Our inspiration for the shoot came from a horror director from the sixties called Dario Argento. It’s all this spooky red light, very red, blue light, kind of a cheesy horror movie from the sixties. Projects like this—working with new colors and styles—is what’s really super fun. Smoking weed and going into the colors, you can get really creative with what you see. I do always sleep on these decisions though, because sometimes you wake up in the morning and see the ideas you thought were revolutionary and you realize, that was only cool when I was high.

What do you see as the right direction for recreational cannabis, and what spurred you to get involved with Jushi?

We’re part of this revolutionary new product, which some don’t understand and others think poorly of. We are on a mission to promote the good that it can do; we want to be a part of people’s lives and help them to have more fun and a better life. That’s an incredible thing I’ve never been part of. We have that opportunity with our organization.

The biggest thing here is helping others, and teaching people about the positives of the plant is only the start. We are collaborating with Drop4Drop, an organization that builds water wells in Africa. Our goal is to not only improve people’s lives in America, but to take the money we make and put it towards initiatives outside of our country where we can help thousands of people gain access to fresh water who had no access to it before and change their lives. It’s a beautiful mission we’re on here.

What exactly is your role as the creative director? What kind of products are you working on these days?

My team and I focus on creating interesting stories that people can relate to. My role is to educate our audience about the plant and to develop and share the stories behind the products. I’m also responsible for the digital world of Jushi—the eCommerce and the websites—so it’s presented to the customer in the most efficient and frictionless way.

We have six or seven brands, ranging from edibles, to flower, to vapes, and more. There’s creativity everywhere, so I need to be a part of discussions on all sides of the company. I work together with our partners within the organization from the commercial team, to the retail team, to the grows.

I would hear feedback like, I love the packaging, but the flower is bad. Now, that makes you think. Every part of the product experience needs to be right, especially in the flower. We are currently working on a premium flower brand called Hijinks—a brand that doesn’t take itself seriously, and focuses on what is going in the bag rather than what it looks like. Using mylar bags instead of fancy jars as they give us more real estate to have fun with. We’re working on potential collaborations for the packaging with artists from the cities where our grows are located and launching with six or seven different designs, along with limited edition seasonal packages. That’s another way we’re working to connect art to cannabis—we are making this great flower, and putting it in packaging with cool designs that are interesting to look at while you smoke.

Besides Queens of the Stone age, who are some of your favorite artists to kick back and burn to?

I’m super versatile when it comes to my music taste. My playlist is all over the place, from artists like Nirvana and the Foo Fighters to PinkPantheress and Dua Lipa. Ice Spice is my current favorite. I also love the new African artists coming out, and they’re collaborating with more mainstream artists. It’s amazing to see the whole world collaborating in music beyond borders as they work with other artists.

For my playlist to burn to, you’ll see all of these artists: PinkPantheress, Men I Trust, The Strokes, Mozart, Steve Lacy, Angèle, Ice Spice, Coi Leray, Fireboy DML, Burna Boy, Ali Farka , Kodak Black, Spoon, Queens of the Stone Age, Foo Fighters, Nirvana, The Roots, Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Club de Belugas, Childish Gambino, and Iggy Pop. 

Everything about this new generation of music is amazing. It’s authentic, inclusive, and the lyrics are like poetry. My rock friends like every genre of music as well. Backstage with Queens of the Stone Age, you hear some music you wouldn’t even believe they would listen to before they go onstage, it’s just inspiring. If it’s good, it’s good. It doesn’t matter what genre.