Why Every Metal And Hardcore Fan Should Consider Going Vegan
Watching Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein of horror-punk legends The Misfits walk into a room, you might immediately assume that you’re in for a bloodbath. The towering guitarist’s muscular frame, simmering scowl, corpse-white face and perfectly spiked hair are a sight to behold anywhere, but especially when he comes stomping into a nice Brooklyn restaurant. As he strolls through the atmospherically-lit room, several patrons look up as though wondering if they’ve unwitting walked into a scene from a horror movie.
“There he is!” cries John Joseph McGowan, lead singer of seminal hardcore crushers Cro-Mags JM, and waves Doyle over with a smile.
Doyle isn’t here to slash and kill — in fact, quite the opposite. Tonight, Doyle, along with his girlfriend and Arch Enemy vocalist Alissa White-Gluz, John Joseph, and Deftones and Quicksand bassist Sergio Vega, are all here to enjoy an entirely cruelty-free meal. All four of these muscular, tattooed miscreants are vegan, and have come together tonight at Brooklyn’s Modern Love to discuss how they see veganism as an extension of metal, punk, and hardcore music.
The forum — which kicks off with immediately free-flowing conversation — is the result of a vision had by Sergio and his partner Azulette, co-founders of Pinche Vegano, an Instagram-based brand dedicated to showing off vegan cuisine.
“Even if you aren’t vegan, there’s all these beautiful options around the world,” he says. “We aren’t trying to push the vegan diet on anyone necessarily, we just want to show that there are options. Coming from a Latin background, where it’s considered weird for men to do such things, if you show different things and what we’re doing and who we are, it’s not coming with much of the quarrels like you think.”
“Being vegan is the ultimate form of rebellion,” says Alissa. “It’s taking everything that you’re supposed to do, and going against it. That’s way more fucking badass than anything else you could do!”
The staff at Modern Love don’t seem the least bit frazzled by the Mad Max table, and are happy to answer any and all questions about the night’s menu — what has soy, what has gluten, where ingredients come from. John Joseph is the night’s elder statesman — both having eaten here before and having gone meatless before anyone else at the table — and is quick to put in appetizer orders.
“I was in the Navy in 1980, had just came out of jail,” he recounts. “I grew up on the streets of New York that was super violent, with murders everywhere. I was a smuggler in the Navy, smuggling drugs. I went looking to smuggle some weed in Jamaica, and I met up with some Rastas. They don’t call it vegan, hey call it ital. No processed foods or anything, that’s what they eat. A few months later, I met the Bad Brains, and that’s when they were just becoming Rastas. Hanging with them more, that’s how I got into it.”
Sitting at this table, it’s fascinating to see the diversity not only in musical backgrounds, but also in journeys to veganism. Unlike John Joseph, Alissa was raised in a vegetarian household, and has never eaten meat in her life. Doyle was initially turned on to vegan food in the mid ‘90s by H20’s Toby Morse — “He was telling me about how he was gonna get some fake bologna. I was like, what the fuck is fake bologna?” Sergio, meanwhile, comes from a Latino family, in which the idea of going plant-based was seen as, in his words, “fey.”
“I learned about veganism through punk rock like Crass and Conflict,” says Sergio. “I always had a desire not to eat the meat, but I didn’t really know I had an option. My family is from Puerto Rico, and my parents would give me a leg to eat, and I would eat it because I thought I had no choice. When I started buying Crass records, I read the pamphlet [that came with them] that just broke everything down, and that’s when I started the vegan diet. Because of that, my mother, as well as a lot of my family, became vegan or vegetarian.”
Health is certainly an issue when it comes to going plant-based, and the musicians in attendance are good people to talk to about it. Everyone here is incredibly fit; John Joseph discusses his most recent Ironman triathlon. At the mention of the stereotypical vegan — a privileged hippie college student suffering from malnutrition — the Cro-Mags frontman rolls his eyes.
“Where’s all the unhealthy vegans?” he chuckles, motioning to the table, and adds, “Even when I was a crackhead from ‘88 to ‘90, I never went back to that dairy and meat shit.”
“I became vegan as a teenager, and I had nothing,” says Sergio. “I got a job at a health food store, which helped. The hardcore scene I was part of helped each other out.”
“I always find it funny when people go around saying ‘I can’t afford to be vegan,’” says Alissa. “You’ve eaten vegan! Bananas, cereal, peanut butter — that’s vegan food. Meat and dairy are the actual luxury items. Being vegan is super cheap!”
Not only are the vegan musicians here physically healthy, but also mentally and spiritually. For all the furious, misanthropic music this crew makes, they’re all smiles and laughter as they snack on grilled Caesar salad, cornmeal pecan crusted tofu, and almond ricotta toast.
“I used to be such a negative person,” says John Joseph. “I grew up on the streets, transferred through foster homes, been to fucking jail. All I knew was being violent. H.R. told me to watch would happen when I didn’t eat meat on that tour I went on with Bad Brains. My entire life changed!”
That said, Alissa is also quick to point out that veganism isn’t a cure-all for what ails you. Vegan food can be unhealthy, and vegans can be unhappy — the most important part is always principle.
“It’s important for people to know that everyone is different,” she says. “You can’t just go on a diet and expect change. It’s way more than a diet, it’s a lifestyle. It’s an ethical stance. You don’t have to be super religious or spiritual to be vegan.
“You can be vegan and still hate everything,” she says, and then beams at Doyle. “There’s one right here!”
Watching everyone eat is something of a lesson in veganism in and of itself. The food at Modern Love is delicious, from the chickpea parm to the mac and shews (cashew sauce replacing cheese), and everyone digs in with complete abandon. The sheer number of options available these days makes the perception of the picky, eating-like-a-bird vegan a thing of the past — though that struggle is definitely something everyone here has had to deal with as a touring musician.
“I would go 40 minutes to get soy milk, and on the road, I’d find outlets to plug in a little pot to cook meals I brought in a cooler,” says Alissa. “Anything that would support the liberation of these animals. China was always the hardest. Veganism is not only not that understood, but the language barrier is hard as well. In Asia though, there’s a branch of Buddhism that practices veganism. If you explain it that way, they understand more. Now though, I’ve found a bunch of vegan places open up around there. But ten years go, China forced me into a raw, intense diet, eating fruits. My rider has fruits and nuts, and that’s all I need.”
“I was cooking for the Bad Brains in ‘81,” says John Joseph. “We had to bring a 25 pound bag of ground rice and a 25 pound bag of beans and zucchini sauce, which was sesame-based. Then we had to find some place where we could cook it on the road. If you found a restaurant that was entirely vegan back in the day, it was truly a ‘holy fucking shit’ moment! There’s so many options now, where any kind of meat can be plant-based and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.”
At a certain point, conflict is unavoidable when it comes to being proud of a cruelty-free diet. For many, veganism has become an almost political choice, and the minute the vegan lifestyle is discussed publicly, it’s often seen as an attack or a form or proselytization.
“If I hashtag something vegan, people get pissed off about it,” says Alissa. “Like, I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and you’re only getting pissed off today? You need to re-evaluate your problems. Go anywhere, and count how many advertisements you see for animal products. From food to what you wear. There’s no vegan advertisements!”
Doyle, meanwhile, revels in the punk rock of it all. “A huge perk for me is to just piss off people about it. I’ll put up a post, and not say anything, and just watch as the comments flood in.”
Of the dinner guests tonight, Doyle is an interesting outlier (and not just because he’s the only one here in full ghoul face). While everyone else’s bands write songs about human emotions and personal struggles, the Misfits’ music is often about death, terror, and murder. And though the guitarist is quick to note that it’s all horror business — “It’s called art, my friend” — he also believes that the bloody truths exposed by dark entertainment provide further insight into the utter brutality that is the meat and dairy industry.
“We should do an elementary school trip to the slaughterhouse!” says Doyle with a dark smile. “We can give them a first-hand experience at what is going on. What if an alien race came down and started eating all of us? That would be so fucked up. But it’s totally okay if we do it to a race we consider smaller than ours, right?”
“People will act like just because an animal’s brain isn’t as developed as a person’s, it’s not worth as much,” scoffs John Joseph. “Well, people are dumb too, but I’m not gonna fucking kill or eat them!”
“I wouldn’t mind killing a few of them, honestly,” adds Doyle.
For fans of death metal and shock rock, that approach — that meat truly is murder — might even be a good entrance point into veganism. But what may surprise them even more is that many of the most brutal, dark musicians they love are way ahead of them.
“All of Rob Zombie’s band is vegan,” says Alissa. “Rob, John 5, all of them. If you go to these summer festivals’ vegan sections, it’s absolutely packed. Rob Zombie, Kreator, even Cannibal Corpse! All these people you wouldn’t expect to be vegan are all there.”
“Definitely a lot more now than when I started doing festivals,” adds Sergio. “Maybe there was a [vegan food] option here or there, but it was something that was really cheap and gross.”
“That’s where you knew where the real vegans are,” laughs Alissa. “We were still at that section even though we knew it sucked!”
The night is winding down after rhubarb cheesecake (“The state didn’t raise no fool — let’s get dessert!” laughs John Joseph) when something truly incredible happens. A tattooed punk politely approaches the table and shakes John Joseph’s hand. He explains that Cro-Mags inspired him to go vegan, and that he and his wife are raising their son meatless.
A few minutes later, the man’s wife appears with their son, Patrick, who looks about as healthy and happy as a kid can be. He takes pictures with John Joseph and Doyle, a big smile painted across his face.
The moment sends a ripple of warmth across the table. Just like rebellious music, veganism is often a struggle against the horror and cruelty in the world — but there’s yet hope for the future.
“I never identified as vegan because they were judgmental as fuck,” says John Joseph, his eyes bright with passion. “Listen, we all have to start somewhere. If there’s a fire, don’t throw water on it. Fan the spark.”
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Let Tom Morello shred in peace.