Interview with John Joseph – vocalist of The Cro-Mags

October 9, 2008

John Joseph photo  Interview by: Ditch

John Joseph was the vocalist for the Cro-Mags on their seminal, "Age Of Quarrel," album, a record which has been repeatedly named as one of the greatest hardcore punk records of all time. Recently his memoir, titled Evolution of a Cro- Magnon, was published by PunkHouse press. He has also been touring with AOQ era drummer Mackie, under the name Cro Mags Jam with AJ Novello of Leeway on guitar and Craig Ahead of Straight Ahea and Sick Of It All on bass. This interview was conducted after a show that they played at a pizza shop in Pomona, Californa on October 9, 2008.

What was the motivation behind writing Evolution Of a Cro-Magnon?

Sometimes you don’t plan shit out and things manifest. That’s the way creativity works. As soon as you start the ball rolling things come out of other things and I actually was writing movies and stuff based on the book and it was my writing partner, Priscilla Summer, who I give credit to.  She was saying “You should start compiling all of these stories; It would make a great book.” I never intended to write a book, [but] she kept telling me to write it and once I started typing the first words I never stopped. But it was definitely a cleansing [experience]. . . It was a very. . . I just kind of locked myself down and shut relationships off [with] my girlfriend at the time; I just needed to be alone to do that. It was a very deep thing.

You’re very vocal about being a vegetarian. What are the benefits that you see in that sort of diet?

I’m forty six years old. I’m doing Iron Mans. I’m still rocking the stage. I don’t put X’s on my hands but I’m straight edge all the fucking way. I have a new book coming out called Meat Is For Pussies. It’s comedy  though; I’m not one of these judgmental vegan dudes. I try to always help people out and spread whatever knowledge I’ve gotten and spread it to other people in a way that’s palatable to them and in a way that they [can] accept it. I don’t like being talked down to and I never think that I’m better than anybody else. I always communicate on an equal level.

[Some of what I take from the diet is] longevity, green foods help fight cancer. The PH Miracle, there’s so many books out there now;  it’s just that the information like anything else is being suppressed because they’re making money off of getting you sick. This is what I talk about in the book. They make money off. . . If you’re healthy. . . First of all if you don’t eat meat the meat business goes under. That’s why they sued Oprah Winfrey when they had Howard Lyman on her show, the Mad Cowboy and he said what the fuck are they’re feeding the cows. And she said “Yo, I’m never eating another hamburger again.” And then she got sued. They’re suppressing the information and knowledge and in turn everyone’s getting these diseases like diabetes, cancer, etc. It keeps the prescription companies making billions. And nobody has insurance. Y’know God bless that I’ve been blessed with health and  a good body. My father was  a pro- boxer. My mother’s side was all Irish and Czechoslovakian boxers and handball players. So if you take what you’ve been given by God genetically and you take care of it, eating the right foods and exercising. . . But it’s all about what kind of foods you’re eating.

Is there any aspect of it that is political or humanitarian for you?

I started out compassionate wise. HR made me vegetarian and Jay Dubley, the guy that produced the first Bad Brains record. They were like “Yo, it ain’t right to kill animals. Let me show you what’s going on in slaughterhouses.” They don’t want you to see that. They don’t want you to see Meet Your Meat. If you check out that video and you watch all of this shit about how the animals are treated, their whole fucking lives and [you see] that’s what’s your ingesting. . . You’re ingesting something that’s been tortured it’s entire life. Do you think that’s actually going to bring you health? And they put it in little fucking Ronald McDonald packaging for little kids and “Happy Meals” and it’s all. . . Let’s pull the pants down on that whole shit and expose people to what they’re really eating.

There’s another documentary called the Future of Food about genetically modified foods and how the government is trying to control the food, the seeds, the oil, the water, every fucking thing. It’s coming down. . . The New World Order’s taking over. People start fucking saving seeds. You might think that shit sounds ridiculous but you watch what’s getting ready to come down in the next five years. . . If it takes that long. There’s a reason Rumsfield and all of these guys have these patents on seeds. They’ve genetically modified plants and seeds where it grows and the plant produces no seeds, so you have to buy the seeds again from them. It’s called the Suicide Gene. So when you watch the Future of Food  and all of these other documentaries you see what’s going on. It’s some heavy shit, man.

And I just think that I don’t want to kill some other living entity, some animal to torture it. And it just so happens that it’s very healthy as well.

One of the thing that comes off in your book a lot is that it seems that there’s always this sort of conflict in your life between the spiritual and the physical life where you struggle to survive.

It’s always like that. That’s why I named the band Both Worlds.  We’re all like that. We all have the possibility of infinite goodness or infinite evil and the pendulum swings both ways constantly. I could have been a very fucked up individual like my father or any other mother fucker that I grew up on the streets of New York with that murdered people and were killed, or became drug addicts, but when I got good associations through the Bad Brains, or whoever I took advantage of that. I took advantage of the knowledge that people were offering me and applied it to my life. If you keep good associations in life. . . If you ain’t doing drugs you ain’t gonna hang out with a drug addict. If you ain’t stealing you ain’t hanging out with thieves. That’s why they say you can tell a man by the company that he keeps. If you get good association and hardcore, in this type of music there’s a lot of positive people. . . More than any other genre of music.

Earlier you mentioned that you were living kind of a straight edge lifestyle. What did you think of the younger bands coming up in New York that came after you guys?

Fucking preachy, thinking they’re better than everybody else and half of them are doing drugs now. You can’t judge people and think that you’re better than everybody else. I accepted the positivity, but like I said I don’t need to wear my shit like a badge. Like this is what I’m into and think you’re better than everybody else in the movement. That shit was doomed. Ian’s still fucking straight edge and vegan, but I was like “You created a fucking monster” to him. A lot of those kids. . .  I accept the positivity  of it, but a lot of them were fucking douche bags. Where the fuck are they now? Just like all of those Krishna bands that said I was bogus because I outed the bogus dudes that were running the Hare Krishna movement. Where are those dudes now? Cheating on their wives, beating their wives,  allowing fucked up shit to go on. So it’s like you don’t need to think you’re better than  every one else. Fucking do your think and like KRS ONE says “Real bad boys move in silence.” I’ve  got friends that are Navy Seals and black belts, world class fighters. They don’t go around bragging. Empty barrels make most noise.

Why do you think the Cro-Mags have been so influential throughout the years?

Regardless of whatever went down between the band members that record captured a certain time period when . . . I can speak for me, Mackie, and Harley. We were really going through some shit and it came off on the lyrics and the record. I mean Parris was there too. He wrote the record. It just captured a bleep in time and the lyrics and the message of the band. .  .  What we were going through and it was timeless. It’s a timeless thing. So as long as you come out and you respect the arts, respect the muse. You  do it right. That’s why I do triathlons. That’s why I do what I do. I don’t want to be old saying “Sorry, my knee hurts tonight. Otherwise I’d be going off.” I don’t do drugs. I train every day almost. It’s for that. You respect the arts, you respect the music, you respect whatever you’re into.

What do you think the greatest contribution that the Cro Mags have made to music has been?

People coming up to me a lot, saying “Thanks a lot; The music really helped me.” That’s it. Anybody that’s been helped out by my album, anybody that’s been helped out by my book. We never preached at people. We just said “This is what we went through. Here’s how we related. Take what you want.” There’s different levels of meaning for  different people. Some people ain’t gonna go look into the spiritual depth of what was behind everything but that’s cool too. If that’s all you want to take from it that’s cool. There’s a lot of people that wondered what was up with the whole philosophy of it and that’s what’s up

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