Q&A With John Joseph of the Cro-Mags, Playing Churchill's This Sunday

​If you spotted John Joseph on the street and didn't know any better, you'd probably quicken your pace. Though he's now 47 years old, the New York hardcore god is a compact, tattoo-covered package of brawn who could easily kick the ass of a poser half his age. And at one point, as the frontman of the notoriously volatile Cro-Mags, he probably would.

Yes, the Cro-Mags's most famous album, 1986's Age of Quarrel, was a brutal piece of work. A couple of indicative song titles: "Show You No Mercy" and "Street Justice." It charges with punk fury, but in its sonic pummeling, laid the groundwork for the heavy-ing of hardcore. The record can sound downright melodic compared to the thuggish, breakdown-addicted straightedge hardcore acts of later years, but the initial seeping-in of metal was groundbreaking.  

But times have changed. These days, Joseph is just as likely to hold forth on healthy, interconnected and sustainable living as he is on the laws of the street. He was at the forefront of what was dubbed, for better or for worse, the "krishna-core" faction of early New York hardcore. And though he broke with the religion's controversial establishment, ISKCON, he still follows its original principles as set forth by its founder, Swami Prabhupada. 

And in Joseph's view, the latest karmic violators are corporate agricultural titans like Monsanto. For a brain-melting trip that will leave you questioning everything you eat, just get him talking about industrial corn and soybeans. (Or check out his new book, Meat Is For Pussies, due out April 15.)

All this is not such a stretch, though. After all, one of the biggest crowd favorites from Age of Quarrel, "We Gotta Know," warned that the only way to escape life's shackles is by using one's brain. (There was also another song on the record titled "World Peace.")

Let's get this clear, though: John Joseph has not gone soft. His righteousness is well-deserved through years of hardship, hard living, and finally, deliverance. (For details, you can read his Dickensian 2007 memoir, The Evolution of a Cro-Magnon.) And when he leads the Cro-Mags live, he's just as possessed as ever. The band's history has been fraught with internal fighting, and in this iteration, features just Joseph and drummer Mackie Jayson as original members. As long as Joseph's in the band, though, it's good to go, and the songs will still rage.

In advance of the show, Crossfade caught up with Joseph by phone earlier this week. Here's what he had to say, in all its lengthy glory, about 21st-century farming, superfoods, and, oh yeah, the Cro-Mags' legacy.

With the Attack, Nobody's Hero, Trust No One, OPS, Harbinger, Hivemind, and others. 7:30 p.m. Sunday, February 28. Churchill's Pub, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami. Tickets cost $10 in advance, $12 at the door. Ages 18 and up; 305-757-1807; churchillspub.com

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