Cro-Mags' John Joseph on Churchill's Pub: "It's Punk Rock as a Motherf@#%er!"
Punk rock lives.
Even if as John Joseph says: "It's just become like anything else, you know? Homogenized, watered down, and fashion."
In the first part of our conversation with Joseph, frontman of the legendary New York hardcore/thrash band Cro-Mags, we spoke about punk in 2014, the changing face of NYC, and the failure of the music industry.
In part two, we here at Crossfade chat with Joseph about what a massive bust the Black Flag reunion was, the essentials of a good hardcore show, and his budding screenwriting career.
Crossfade: What was it like living through punk in the '70s and '80s?
John Joseph: Every band sounded different. You had the Clash, the Bad Brains, the Ramones, the Dead Kennedys, Black Flag -- none of those bands copied each other! Everybody developed their own sound. You may have been influenced, but it wasn't a bite!
I think even in hardcore, it started becoming this metal fuckin' tough guy scene and that shit is just bullshit, as far as I'm concerned. I wasn't down with it and I still ain't down with it!
I just saw Flag with Keith [Morris] and they killed it. You know, they play well and they're not just doing it for the money. You also had a lot of these bands doing reunions, just looking to fuckin' make dough, and the audience knows the lie and what's up with that!
We had Greg Ginn's Black Flag perform in Miami and it was pretty terrible.
That dude talks so much shit, man. He fuckin' went on my page talkin' shit about the walking tour, like, "Yeah, look at this fucking sell out." And I was like, "Motherfucker, do you even know me?" Once I told him who was running the page and told him I was playing in Austin, Texas, in two weeks, and said, "If you've got something to say, motherfucker, show up," then he changed his whole fuckin' tune.
My walking tour is about crime, music, art. It's not just punk rock, you know? I saw Black Flag at Urban Plaza in 1980. What the fuck, you know? And then he's turning around suing the other band and even the other guys in the band just quit because this shit's embarrassing! I love Keith, man, you know -- he's the real deal. We toured with OFF! in Europe and he's just a real down-to-earth guy. And Chuck on bass ... It was just great.
How was Cro-Mags' experience playing Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin? Hardcore bands always risk a bit of an awkward experience at big festivals.
It was great. The club show was kind of bizarre, I think the power went out. But the guy, Graham, is just a great dude and he treats everybody right, and it's a good experience to still do those big shows. I also like doing the club shows where you've got four or five hundred sweaty motherfuckers packed in a room. The energy, that's punk-rock.
To me, it's like, it's cool to do the big festival shows, but nothing can match the intensity of a bunch of motherfuckers jammed into a club and the band just comes out and kills it, you know? I'm not like a barricade kind of person at all. I like the people being up in your face.
Being that Bad Brains, and H.R. in particular, had such an immense impact on your life, it's got to be difficult for you to see him in his current state. Are you still in touch?
I avoid H.R. questions, man. I got love for that brother and I wouldn't even be where I am today if it weren't for Bad Brains plucking me out of the hell hole I was in in my life. So no need to comment. You can post your question and my answer to that because everybody asks me and I have nothing bad to say.
I'm still in touch with Darryl, we talk. I have some practice going with him, so we'll see what happens. He's still making music and he's building up his studio. We're working on some stuff.
What's the word on the film version of your book The Evolution of a Cro-Magnon?
We're in negations. I hooked up with ICM, so we're talking to pretty big film companies right now and searching for directors. But it's really a little premature to start letting the cat out of the bag, so to speak. There's like four movies coming out of that book. One's going to be a punk rock comedy. I've got this TV drama coming out of it about hustling on the streets in the '70s.
I just keep writing, man. That's what I did today, I wrote for five or six hours. I spent like ten years writing that script, so even if it sells, when you add up all of those hours, it comes to probably fifty cents an hour! Like anything else, music or whatever, I do it because I love what I do, you know? It's the passion of writing and staring at a blank page and all of a sudden creating some scene that's a moving scene, that's the challenge, you know? I'm just trying to create some art that really has a message to it, ultimately. The book has a message to it, that's why it's called The Evolution. Some people break bad, some people break good.
Instead of wasting time dwelling in the negative, I'm trying to move forward with my career, my life, and make things happen. So far, I've got three Ironman triathlons on the table this year. I'm going to be doing speaking engagements, I signed with an agency for that. When you fill the glass of your life up with positivity, then you don't have no time to gather where the garbage is. I'll let the crows do that. I just stay positive and try to learn and help others and spread knowledge. I'm just trying to do positive things.
Where is this running, by the way?
Oh, cool. I hope everyone comes out! When you come to the Cro-Mags show, come and have a good time. We ain't about trying to flex your muscles, we're about staying positive and having a good time. That's what we like to see. This is a family, man. We never used to fight against each other, it was always some jocks, assholes, or rednecks coming in, fucking with people. That's the message we try to spread.
I'm coming down there a few days early to train, I've got to get in the water. Going to eat at Choices, down there, the new vegan place down there. Hope to see everyone at the show.
And Churchill's ... I mean, I love that venue, it's punk rock as a motherfucker! One time I was walking down there on the back streets, chanting, because I always try to do a little meditation with my beads before we go on, and I went down, I guess the wrong block, dude, because these dudes were over there with guns sticking out of their waists and they was like, "Yo! What you doing back here, man?" And I was like, "I'm just praying and meditating." And they were like, "Alright, man, you just keep praying!" [Laughs]
It ain't no joke over there. But luckily, Krishna was looking out!
Cro-Mags. With Trust No One, On Our Own, Nunhex, Kickturn. Friday, January 10. Churchill's Pub, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami. The show starts at 9 p.m. and admission is $15. Ages 18 and up. Call 305-757-1807 or visit churchillspub.com.
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