Interview with John Joseph (Cro-Mags, NYHC)
A telephone interview with John Joseph :: March 28th, 2011.
For this interview I invited my friend Jessica Harvey to be a guest-host....Phone Rings...
We cover topics from philosophy, John's new writings, and raw food dieting.
We cover topics from philosophy, John's new writings, and raw food dieting.
Approaching Oblivion: Hello?
JJ: Hey, what’s up brothah?
AO: Not much man. We were just listening to some Both Worlds. What’s new in your life? What’s keeping you so busy these days?
JJ: Well I’m training for a triathlon ultimately ending with an ironman either late this year or next year. It’s tough to get into races because a lot of them sell out. But between that, I’m working on a screenplay and also an extended version of the last book I did, which will be a cookbook that includes a lot of information about what is being done with the food. So I’m keeping busy and doing Cro-Mags shows. We’ve got LA coming up and San Diego.
AO: I take it the screenplay is going to be based off of your auto-biography 'The Evolution of a Cro-Mag'?
JJ: Actually the one I’m working on now is different. It’s a fictitious story that I’ve been working on with someone for 10 years. I will do the adaptation of the auto-biography at some point, but I like to stay focused on one thing at a time and get it done and right now it’s this new story.
AO: Can you tell us anything about the upcoming Cro-Mags album?
JJ: Yeah, I mean we have time off until August, so I can’t really say much about it other than early Spring we’re going to start going into the studio and start writing…
AO: What about the Cro-Mags training I’ve been reading a lot about…Can you tell us anything about that?
JJ: Yeah, that’s sponsored through Nike. It’s all plant based and is sponsored through Vega Sequel products. We have classes every other week here in NYC at 276 Bowery Nike gallery (Nike Stadium). My friend Aarron from Everlast came in for a boxing class. I led out a run one day up over the bridge and last week we had Josh Griffiths from Clockwork Jiu-Jitsu. Basically it’s giving people who may not have a gym a chance to run and work out. It’s for all levels of fitness. We always finish with some nutritional advice. I’ve got Michael Perrine coming in next Thursday, April 7th, he works with Dr. Fred Bisci, he’s a raw foods chef with a lot of knowledge on nutrition.
AO: Are you still doing a lot of the raw foods dieting?
JJ: Yeah. I’m about 75% raw in my diet. I just find it works best for me, I do a lot of superfoods. I get the same amount of calories for training, but they burn quicker. It’s healthier for you, plus raw foods are incredibly rich with enzymes. It helps build your immune system up. It’s helpful for everything. I've really been fortunate to get in touch with people like Dr.Fred Bisci (Anydoubtleaveitout.com) who gives good guidelines on how to live with a raw diet.
I try to always learn and keep an open mind, and that’s what I talk about in the book. The book I’m working on now is based on the amount of disease that’s going on with the kids in this country and all over the world, it just comes back to the food, ya know? I just find what works for me and tell people about it.
AO: You’ve been vegan for 30 years?
JJ: I’ve been doing this for 30 years. I started out raw. I’ve been seeing Viktoras Kulvinskas and sitting in on his lectures since 1981. I grew my own sprouts in Hawaii and wheat grass in Puerto Rico. I’ve been doing this for quite some time. I’m just trying to pass out whatever info I’ve gathered. I’ve used my own body as a laboratory as far as seeing what works for my conditions. This new book is going to be loaded with information which I know truly works in forming a well balanced superfoods diet. Vegan Chef Tal Ronnen (who authored The Conscious Cook) is going to dedicate a whole section to vegan recipes. I’ve got Michael Perrine and Pete Cervoni in on it too. These guys are world famous raw chefs. It’s going to be a great book.
AO: You’re really outspoken about your physical health and spirituality…when did you first started practicing yoga? And what forms are you experienced with?
JJ: I think yoga has turned into nothing but gymnastics at this point. It’s a spiritual process, but you see these people walking down the streets, and god bless ‘em, but ya know, they’ve got a yoga mat rolled up under one arm, they’re smoking cigarettes, and they look stressed out as hell. It’s a spiritual process, the actual word yoga means 'union with the Supreme', but you cannot think that you can take intoxicants and eat meat and then be a yoga teacher…No, that's not a yoga teacher, that's someone who teaches yoga postures, but do they feel it spiritually? It's not possible.
AO: Those foolish people aside, what are some benefits if someone DOES take it seriously?
JJ: Yoga forces you to focus on what’s going on inside of you. That’s what yoga does, you’re supposed to quiet the mind and become reflective and take value and take stock of what’s going on in your life. There’s 8 rungs on the yoga ladder...Hatha-Yoga, Jnana-Yoga, then ultimately Bhakti-Yoga, which is the highest form of yoga.
Hatha-Yoga prepares you to sit in mediation for long periods of time, let’s get it straight, that’s what it’s for. But what do you meditate on? The void? Emptiness? It’s not possible. So you’re supposed to meditate on Vishnu, the Supersoul.
Everything else has just become cheapened in the western world. I really do feel that people are searching for spirituality in this country because we’ve had massive amounts of sense gratification, yet that’s not satisfying anybody. I don’t care how much money someone has, how much sex they’re having, how intoxicated they get or how many things they buy; that’s not going to satisfy the real ‘you’. So people are turning more towards metaphysical aspects in their life, i.e. yoga, meditation, and they’re getting off the meat.
I find that the women are way more ahead of men spiritually. They’re more prone to get off meat. Brothers need to step up to the plate and get with the program to make the world a better place. If you want to fix the karma of the planet, then you have to stop ALL the killing. We’ve got to stop killing the animals.
There is a collective karma to the planet, and you can see shit’s getting ready to go buck wild.
AO: Given your knowledge about physical health and spirituality…Out of the 3 things that make up a human being – the mind, body, and so called ‘soul’ – do you believe one of those 3 has a higher priority over the others?
JJ: There’s a famous picture in the Bhagavad-Gita that shows the senses being compared to the 5 horses, the reigns are the mind, the intelligence is the driver, and the passenger is the soul.
So the whole things starts with the control of the senses. If someone can’t control their senses, they can’t control their mind, or their intelligence. It’s all interconnected. The intelligence is above the mind, when the mind says something like ‘Oh yeah, let me go pick up this bag of heroin’ or ‘Pick up this chick’ that’s when the intelligence kicks in. Without the intelligence then they get pregnant, and have a baby, and what happens then?
The tongue is the most veracious of all the senses to control. It wants to eat crap it wants to talk nonsense. But if you control the tongue then the other senses come under control, then the mind can become somewhat under control. You have to fix the mind on something, that’s why devotees chant and fix the mind and senses on Krishna. Then you fix up your intelligence with the knowledge gained from spirituality. I’m not the body I’m the spirit soul.
Atatho-Brahma-Jigyasa, what is the purpose of human life? Self realization. That’s why you’ve got this human body. So what should I be doing with this human body? Ultimately your soul is above anything else, and you have no inkling of even who you are in this life. Most people think they are the body, most people walk around like ‘Yeah, I’m walkin, I’m this I’m that’ but where is your 5 year old body? Your 20 year old body? You say 'My arm...My leg...My foot...My head...My brain...My mind', so who is the ‘me’? Who is this personality? What’s the difference between a live body and a dead body? It’s consciousness. So where does the consciousness come from?
AO: Yeah, well that’s one of the biggest questions right there…
JJ: Well that question is answered. You are the spirit soul within the body and the activities you commit in this life will determine whatever comes in the next life. You never lose out. Arjuna asks Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita ‘What is the fate of the unsuccessful yogi?’ There is no loss or diminution on this path. In other words everything materially is finished at the time of death, only those activities which awaken your consciousness and evolve your soul have any benefit in the next life.
I was listening to a class the other day when I was in the gym and I was getting so much realization because what Prabhupada said was ‘you are born in the material world, you maintain, you dwindle and you die.’ That’s the nature of this body. Now that’s not a natural condition for the soul. So how does the soul get out of this cycle of life and death? That’s the real goal…
AO: You come from an incredibly rough past. If anyone knows anything about you they’ll know that from the beginning of your life, it was filled with conflict. You were entered into foster homes at a young age and eventually by the age of 14 you were living on the streets of Manhattan. That was also when NYC was rated as the most violent city in the country.
How did you not fall into some sort of ‘victim’ mode as a kid? It's amazing how you didn't go into a 'poor me, this is how life is' school of thought. What gave you the resilience to rise up out of your huge amounts of conflict and get to where you are now? Do you have a message for the youth who may be currently going through similar issues?
JJ: Yeah, my message is that you can’t sit there and think of yourself as a victim. For years I didn’t even face a lot of the stuff that went down, but it reared it’s head up later in life. I look at it like this, the human spirit can get through anything. To me adversity builds character in your life. I'm not saying you should go cause problems in your life just so you can come back around and say ‘I had it tough’, but adversity builds character. What happened to me was forced upon me, I didn’t have any say in what went down.
This material world is not such a great place, I mean sure there are beautiful moments and beautiful people, but it's not always like that. I believe that I went through all those things as a kid to make me really search for the truth in life. What is the truth of my existence on this planet. That’s why whatever happens to us we can’t sit and go ‘woe is me’, everyone has their own set of problems…no matter how many issues you’ve got, you should always be searching for some type of meaning or importance in your life. The human form of life is a great gift.
Even after I got exposed to so much knowledge I went and had a big drug thing go down. When I first left the Cro-Mags, a lot of fucked up shit happened. I hooked up with the wrong people and I ended up dealing with drug addiction, near death experiences and other chaos. I realized that I was either going to get killed or kill somebody else. I had to come back and take shelter in what gave me real purpose in my life and that was my spiritual path…
I never even really started seeing the whole craziness until I started working on screenplays. When I was working with my writing partner and I looked at the whole story, I was like ‘holy shit…’
She told me ‘You’ve got to write a book, it may help a lot of people’ and that’s what I hope it does. I’ve gotten thousands of letters and answer each letter. I hope the story gives people strength to get through stuff.
AO: Yeah. Your music and everything you seem to put out is incredibly inspiring. I can only speak for myself, but there have been times when I feel like the Cro-Mags have saved my life. I'm not saying I would have died or anything like that, but I probably would not have paid much attention to my health or purpose in my life if it weren't for Age Of Quarrel or Alpha Omega.
JJ: But you know what it is, man? I look at it this way man. Did I come up with the knowledge? No. I’m just trying to be the mailman. I’ve got this letter. I don’t open it up and change the letter, I just pass it on.
AO: John Joseph, the mail man...
JJ: Yeah. Bad brains taught me a lot of stuff working with them and I pass it on.
AO: What was it like touring with the Bad Brains? They got you into vegetarian diet?
JJ: Yeah. They were vegetarian, Jerry Williams was vegan. They’d eat raw foods. It was amazing man, I met them in April or March of 1980.
AO: You were what age?
JJ: I was 18. Born in ’62.
AO: You had already served time in prison, you were in the navy at that point..…
JJ: I mean, yeah. I came out of lock-up. When I met them in the Navy, ya know, you read the book, I was all buck wild. I needed them to come along. When the time is right in life the teachers come along, and the time was right. They were right there when I was bugging out so to speak and looking for something more in my life. The music was a big part of it, but when I found out that they were spiritual and very humble people, it was even more real. Getting to tour with them later on was awesome too.
AO: Wasn’t an agreement made with the Bad Brains that you could tour with them as long as you didn’t eat animals?
JJ: Yeah, they said you can’t eat any meat on the road with us, but I was still doing drugs and stuff like that. It was still a transitional period for me, they came along at the right time.
AO: I know that now you live a drug free life…but what are your opinions on the idea that through psychedelic drugs one could expand their consciousness? Any opinions on that?
JJ: Yeah, I mean temporarily you may get a glimpse of something, but it’s artificial. It’s intoxication. The root word of that is toxic. Even eating mushrooms is acute poisoning, that’s how you get high. There’s the old saying ‘stay high forever’ that’s the process you want to find, not some artificial stimulation. Why should I need any outside thing to reach some level of consciousness? That’s artificial. It’s about the real stuff.
Samadhi means a constant state of realization and bliss, and that’s not going to happen unless you keep taking the drug that made you feel all woozy to begin with. The come down off of those drugs is anything BUT bliss. You’re not always guaranteed to have a good trip anyways.
AO: What about isolation tanks? Any take on those? They create complete sensory deprivation. Without the use of any drugs or intoxicants, your given the effects of a psychedelic experience.
JJ: I don’t know too much about it. I’ve had people who told me they want me to try it out. It’s not really my thing. That could be right for somebody else, that’s not my path, so I can’t really speak on it.
AO: It seems really safe to me. I’ve got a session set up next week and I’m looking forward to it.
JJ: Yeah check it out man, let me know.
AO: Got time for some more questions?
JJ: I do have to split for some food in a bit, I’ve been training all day, if you've got a few more, go ahead and ask 'em…
Jessica Harvey: What are you having for dinner tonight?
JJ: I’m going to Angelica’s Kitchen, I don’t know what’s on the menu tonight but I know it will be good. Some raw salad, maybe a soup, we’ll see what’s going on there.
JH: Can I ask you some questions about food?
JH: Recently in news headlines, there’s been a lot of talk about how Whole Foods is now selling GMO contaminated alfalfa from Monsanto. Do you have any comments on that?
JJ: I tried to get a response, because I know someone who works with John Mackey (CEO of Whole Foods). I never got a response from it, so I don’t know too much about that. I’m hearing what’s out there, but I don’t like to speculate.
All I can say is everybody better be on guard for Monsanto. Obama appointed 3 top Monsanto people for the food safety of America, so little by little we’re going to see more of this stuff coming into play. When we have Michael Taylor, Vilsak and Beachy running the food safety of America, we need to be on the look out.
This country has sold out to corporations. Health freedom is something we still have, but they’re taking that away now. The chemical trails dropping from planes which stop organic seeds from germinating is another issue that needs changing. There’s a lot going on that people need to wake up to.
JH: Do you support the efforts of groups like PETA?
JJ: Yeah, of course I do because what they’re doing for the animals is needed. We’ve created hell on earth for the animals. I support everything that PETA does. Whatever gains awareness. Would I go out and throw paint on someone’s fur coat? No…that’s not my style, but at the same time whatever gets some awareness out there is getting my support.
My style is different, but do I like what they do? Do I like what the Sea Shepherd does? Hell yeah.
In regards to current issues in Japan...
Let me say this…Collective karma exists and Japan has been going all over the world cutting the fins off of sharks, killing whales, dolphins, and absolutely bleeding the ocean and over fishing. You know what? The ocean came back ashore, man.
Killing is killing. Let’s get down to the basics. It’s the universal law of karma. All the countries maintaining slaughterhouses, killing billions of animals every year…this is just one big pressure cooker that is getting ready to go off.
I’ve always been an outspoken dude and people may or may not agree with me, but I can't please everybody. I just got to speak what I know to be truth…
AO: Those are some radical ideas man. We’ll let you take off and get some food. I want to thank you for taking time to answer some questions for the Approaching Oblivion Blogzine. If you have any plugs or shout-outs, feel free to drop them now…
JJ: Keep your eyes open for the Cro-Mag training at Nike every other Thursday. Hopefully the Mags will get this album out this year. The new book will have recipes and a lot of good info people need. Alright, keep on keeping on bro. Thanks for your time.