Monday, October 4, 2010

John Joseph - Cro-Mags

JJ with the Cro-Mags at Teatro Novedades, Photo: Jorge Luis

Here's some highlights from an interview with JJ done by Fredrik from "Nettverk for dyrs frihet" when the Cro-Mags were recently in Europe. Check the full interview here:

-Gordo DCXX

You know, we are looking to release something next year. We always just roll with the punches. We want to release something with this line-up. My philosophy is: "I don't talk about shit; I just do it." When it's getting ready to come out you will hear about it.

H.R. actually personally had a hand taking me to all the vegetarian places. He personally showed me around in New York, took me to Angelica Kitchen, Vegetarian Paradise. That really helped my life in a big way. The family that surrounded the Bad Brains in the early eighties was very special. We felt like a real family, almost sadhu-like.

H.R....was very much like a sadhu, like a sage, a very wise person, very knowledgeable, very humble. Seeing somebody act like that was inspiring to me. There was no ego. There was no: "You should do this because I tell you to do it". H.R. was on a different trip: "You should do this because Jah wants you to do it". That was the difference, he was a very humble man, very knowledgeable and so was the whole crew.

Cro-Mags at the BNB Bowl, 2010, Photo: Stress

Nobody likes people that have egos and act like rock stars. The Bad Brains were the exact opposite and they were the baddest motherfuckers ever and they were the humblest, so that should tell you something.

Me, this is my thing: I don't drink, I don't take drugs. [A random dude sitting next to us during the interview puts his beer down]. Hah, he put his beer down! I don't paint X's on my hands and I don't preach to people...and that was my problem with all the vegan straight edge. A lot of them in the States were a bunch of assholes that thought they were better than everybody else. They talked down to people; they were up here, and you are down there. That's all bullshit. Those dudes are all eating fucking McDonald's and shooting heroin now! You can't be a fucking dick like that.

You got to help people out of compassion. That's why I wrote the book. I've gotten five hundred e-mails at least, saying: "Dude, the book makes so much sense. I've gotten off all the processed food. I gave up meat. I'm starting to work out again." That to me means everything. Money means shit. But if I can help someone…and every person you make vegetarian/vegan saves a thousand animals. That is the greatest work ever!

A Cro-Magnum sing along at BNB Bowl 2010, Photo: Future Breed

Whatever it takes to wake the male population up. No one has ever written a book like this that got in the face of the men from whom I was told that vegans and vegetarians look like skinny little pussies. That's why I threw it back in their face.

Even before Best Wishes I was working on those songs with Harley and I left just before it was recorded. That's why we still play Crush The Demoniac, because I wrote it. So like I said last night: "The Cro-Mags and what it stands for is bigger than any individual, it's about the message of the fucking band". And back in the day, everybody that came together made that band. If you would have taken out Mackie, Parris, Harley or me, there would have been no Cro-Mags. I mean Doug didn't write anything, and he came in right before the record. He gets no credit. He didn't write any of the songs. He just played guitar on the record. This guy [points at Mackie], me, Harley and Parris were responsible for the Age of Quarrel, the demo and even part of Best Wishes. So if you are going to remove anyone of those from the equation there would be no Cro-Mags.

That's where we differ. Those dudes [referring to Harley and Parris] tries to act like they were the Cro-Mags and nobody else mattered. I don't say that. I say everybody was an integral part of that band at that time. But the reason we are out doing it is because we kept the PMA. We kept the Positive Mental Attitude. If those dudes want to talk shit and do all this other stuff and whatever and write shit on the internet, be my fucking guest. But doing shows like this is what it's all about. We tried to get it together with Harley, and it just created more problems then what it was worth. So fuck it.

Cro-Mags at CBGB, NYC, Photo: Carl Gunhouse

Cro-Mags fans, it's all about being a seeker of the truth. You got to get to the bottom and the truth of everything. That's why we're still out doing what we do and I chant everyday. Still to this day, people ask me "Are you still into Krishna?" What do you think? It's like some fad, "I was into rave music and parachute pants and platforms and now I'm not"? It's a life-long process, where we all have to purify ourselves. So read Prabhupada's books every day and chant. You don't need these bogus gurus; that's what I got to say. It's a cult. They turned it into a cult. You are not allowed to question what they do. They are untouchable. Bullshit. I want to know everything they do. And anyone who wants to know, you can know!

The members of The Beatles were great sadhus in their last life. The Beatles, the biggest fucking band ever...hey were so affected by Prabhupada, because at first they served another "guru" Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, but then they found out he was banging all the female disciples. Then they looked at Prabhupada and he slept on the floor, he cooked for everybody, he served everybody. Humility. They knew that Prabhupada was a real sadhu, a really special person and acknowledged that whatever his mission is we need to help.

Did you see the tribute concert they did for George Harrison? Tom Petty got up and he said in front of every major music star and celebrity in the world in this theatre and he goes: "Right now I want you to do something that would make George very happy. Are you ready?" And the audience say "Yeah". Tom Petty continues: "Everybody say: Hare Krishna" and the whole audience said "Hare Krishna". George was an amazing, amazing person.


It's not about materialism. You can have all the money in the world and guess what? You can't stop death from coming. When it's your time no amount of money is gonna stop death.

That's why at forty-eight years old… Motherfuckers say: "How long are you going to keep doing this?" What do you mean? When I don't feel it in my heart anymore. But I hope to be playing until it's time to leave the world because I believe what I'm saying on stage. The lyrics are based on Prabhupadas teachings and what I've been through in my life. So how can I ever turn away from that and be like: "I don't believe in this anymore"? Then kill me. That's what I say, because then my life is over.

The Bad Brains and all these bands that I was listening to were trying to make me aware and conscious. That's what needs to come back into the music. Not: "I can dance like this and have tattoos and do this and do that". Because those are the people who are not going to stay with it. So when you ask: "How long are you going to keep doing this?" Why should I stop? I didn't get into it to make money. If that was the case I would have left a long time ago. It's not about money. It's about: "I feel it in my heart". You can't fake what we do. That’s real shit; I'm not bragging. If I go on stage and I don't feel it in my heart, then it's over.

JJ brings it with the Cro-Mags at Super Rock, Photo: Sebastian Delacruz

Hopefully we will get this new album going. One thing is for sure, we would rather not do it than to do something half-assed. So we don't talk; we will just do it and put it out. Then we will be back man.

You should ask Craig "Ahead" a few questions now. The man is a fucking legend, but humble like I said.

Craig "Ahead": Playing with Sick Of It All is the first priority; it's my band. But I love the Cro-Mags, they are my friends. They ask me to play, which is an honor, so I do play. So whenever I have the time and when Sick Of It All is not touring I play with the Cro-Mags, whenever possible. Because I enjoy it very much: great music with a great and important message. The traveling with Cro-Mags is very fun but also includes good conversations. We talk about many things that make me feel very much like a grown man. It's man talk of good topics between men. It's not nonsense talk about bullshit.

John Joseph: May I ask a question? How long have you been a vegetarian Craig?

Craig "Ahead": Between two and three years. I've not had a drink in eight.

Craig, JJ and Mackie with the Cro-Mags, Photo:


Anonymous said...

An album by this lineup would be very interesting, in a good way!

ShayKM said...

Any lineup with Mackie pounding away is righteous!

The whole prahbupada schtick is tiring. This is a good interview, and it's awesome to see these guys going at it, again and again and again. The more the better as far as I'm concerned. But keep the religious culty non-sense at a distance!

John's comment about vegan straight-edge kids now eating Mickey D's and shooting smack is funny, but really just empty. His point about not being judgmental rings completely true, but not everyone who held such beliefs drops them when the trend passes on. Almost all of the kids I grew up with who were edge and veggies have stuck with it. And this goes back way before the Mags even started living this way. Remember that many of the late 70s early 80s punk bands espoused a veggie diet, and SE was spreading years before the Mags were around.

Anonymous said...

All hail MACKIE!
HardCore music's greatest drummer.......

Justin M. said...

JJ's not talking about vegan straight edge kids - he's talking about VEGAN STRAIGHT EDGE, if ya know what I mean. The kids who screamed the loudest about that shit had a pretty high dropout rate. Oh, and if you don't wanna hear about his religious philosopy then don't read the interview, cuz he talks about that stuff all the time and he's not "cultish" about it at all. More of a real world application to the teachings.

ShayKM said...

"The kids who screamed the loudest about that shit had a pretty high dropout rate."

I think I got his point very clearly. I suspect you didn't.

The kids who screamed the loudest about that shit include most of the HC bands that made SE what it is. My point is that he is using a strawman argument. On a humorous level I appreciate his comment. But the fact is that SE was never 'cool'. Not in the HC scene, as a whole, and certainly not in wider society. Unless you grew up in some kind SE paradise(?). I grew up around drunks, crackheads, and tweekers - both in and out of the HC scene. Being SE was fucking difficult!

And I shouldn't read something if I don't agree with it? My opinion is what it is 'bro'! Religions are for the servile! All of them. Read that!

Malik said...

@ ShayKM - now, if you're trying to seperate music from the message be my guest but you won't get much more than just loud & dry pile of riffs and beats. Quality ones but still. In this case Mags were inspired by Prabhupada since day one so I see no reason why JJ should keep his mouth shut.
All he says is get the book, read it and try it for yourself. If it works - great. If it doesn't - fine, find your own shit. Whatever it's vegan straight edge, gospel or ballet. Seriously, who cares.

Good interview.

Justin M. said...

ShayKM, I grew up in southern CA, and yes - most of the knucklehead know-it-all vegan edge kids are now doing dope and eating mcdonald's. So, his comment rings true to me. If you don't wanna hear stuff about people's religion then don't read an interview with JOHN FUCKING JOSEPH who has been speaking about such things for over 25 years. Just sayin'

Oh, and SxE was as 'cool' as it's ever been during the VEGAN EDGE/EARTH CRISIS/CNN years of '95 - '98 and that's when the bandwagon jumping began and is probably what he's referring to.

Damaged said...

I assumed the vegan, straight-edgers mentioned in the interview are referred to as "Hardline".

Anonymous said...

October 10, 2010 should be "Reclaim Your Edge Day" for all the people who fell by the wayside. 10/10/10 - X/X/X in Roman Numerals. I loved the VEGAN STRAIGHTEDGE - I don't care if it seemed like a fad or whatnot - it was fun, and felt special. Just because it doesn't really exist anymore, I don't think it meant nothing. Same thing goes for the Krishna-core and the Cro-Mags.

Anonymous said...

You can't expect someone who is into Prabhupada to "shut up about it", because being into Prabhupada means following his teachings, and part of the teachings are to SPREAD THE MESSAGE. what do you care? if you're not into it, fine. but don't dis john for mentioning it. he really isn't preachy at all. if he hadn't found Krishna consciousness, he might not even be alive today. jj isn't some kid who got into Krsna from a shelter cd. he got into it in like 1980!

and no, straight edge wasn't around for years before the cro-mags. that term didn't exist until the minor threat song. cro-mags go back to what, 1981? tell me one late '70s, earyl 80s band that preached vegetarianism! X-Ray Specs? maybe...but the singer was a Krsna. Chrissie Hynde is also into Krsna and animal rights. but thats about the end of that list!

ShayKM said...

First, I wouldn't tell John - or anyone for that matter - to 'shut up'. My point is that he can get his veggie/SE message across without tying it to a religious cult. This is the same problem that many of the late 80s early 90s bands had. Being veggie meant being religious. I reject the association.

For the sake of clarity on veggie punk bands: the list is huge. Almost every band on the Corpus Christie label was veggie or vegan - this goes back to 78-79-80 and onwards. Captain Sensible of the Damned was a veggie and preached that shit hard! Joe Strummer was a veggie. Later bands would include biggies like Vice Squad, GBH, Rudimentary Peni (fucking awesome band!!!)Conflict, Crucifix, Broken Bones, Christ on Parade, Flux of Pink Indians... This was then followed by many members of bands that would rant/rave/preach a veggie lifestyle, even though the band as a whole wasn't living that way. This was long before 'Best Wishes' came out. And as far as the SE link goes... To my mind that is Minor Threat, SSD, DYS, Uniform Choice, NFAA et al... not the Mags!

Again, my point is that being SE/veggie is not a 'cool' trend. It is awesome - subjectively speaking - but it is also really hard for people to shed the addictive lifestyle so common in modern society. I would praise kids for trying it, rather than knock them for failing. Though the image of people sitting in Mickey D's and shooting smack (just to add punch to John's image) is still a potent illustration of a fucked up culture. And don't for a minute think that I am not a huge fan of the Mags! I listen, and have been listening, to these guys since the beginning. Cheers

Rinjo Njori! said...

I am just glad john is going to put out an album and stop talking about Cro-mags circa mid 80s. Revenge was a good album but Alpha Omgega and Near death experience suck. Bloodclot makes Both Worlds look like I Against I era Bad Brains.

ERCS said...

Krsna Consciousness in not a religious cult so drop it fool. It is exactly what it sounds like - a consciouness. You know nothing about it. "Prabhupada" and "schtick" don't belong in the same sentence.

ShayKM said...

Hey ERCS, thanks for confirming my long-held sense that Krsna Consciousness is so enlightened. Calling me a fool for not being enlightened like you? That sounds pretty HC/punk. I do know quite a bit about cults... and in particular... that cult. I lived in India as a teenager, have studied Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism in college and graduate school (that's right, me, the fool!) and have dozens of personal contacts that were Krsna conscious (in that cult). Many of them are probably the people you used to idolize.

Go listen to the Descendents... 'Cool to be you'. Enjoy your identity.

Anonymous said...

John acts as if he was on the Prabhupada band wagon all this time. As if he is even on it now. He glosses over, of course, his long history of doing things that Prabhupada condemned. Prabhupada is God to him yet he hasn't even followed the 4 regulative principles that Prabhupada said was basic for any of his followers. He is the Hare Krishna version of a right winged Senator who condemns homosexuals just to be caught getting sucked off at a truck stop.

Justin M. said...

Hey last "anonymous" - read John's book. He details his problems with drugs etc. pretty explicitly. He's not trying to hide anything.

Anonymous said...

Is he wearing a toupee?
He has way too thick a mop on that head for a 48 year old man...

Anonymous said...

for me it was about the music and the message in the music every band has some sort of internal conflict at times. the music took me to a safe place where i could be ok to feel the anger, frustration, and out the main stream feelings that came over me from time to time. i drank, used drugs, and ate as much meat as my body could take. i stopped when i learned how to stop. so just for today i'm ok. hopefully some day the OG CROMAGS lineup and squash the bad blood and bring the quarrel one more time..........

Anonymous said...

John is kinda a dumb fuck. He blurts out in an interview about not needing bogus gurus, but 99% of the readers doesn't know the inner politics of his fucked up cult world.

He probably needs a guru just to get his english on track at least.

HF said...

John Joseph has not made a good record in over 24 years. And he actually did not write any of the music or lyrics for that record (AOQ)!

Anonymous said...

BOY GEORGE is the toughest Krisna