|Photo credit: Aaron Cynic|
Since I have been a herbivore now nearly the majority of my life and am of the opinion that Behead the Prophet No Lord Shall Live was/is some seriously sick shit, I am no less than stoked to have had the opportunity to interview Joshua Ploeg the touring vegan chef, author and noisy punk rock singer. So without further delay lets get to the textured vegetable protein of the matter!
I was quite excited to find out that you did vocals for Behead the Prophet No Lord Shall Live. When I stumbled upon the album, I Am That Great and Fiery Force, I must have had it on repeat for at least a month. It was a few years ago. That album was a noise rock / punk infusion with unrivaled energy. Do you have a favourite show, song and/or memory related to that album and how do you feel when looking back on it?
On that album, I think I like In the Garden, Killer Bees and Lewd Lewd Lewd the best. Show-wise, we had a lot of good ones with Submission Hold, Man Is the Bastard, Tribe 8, Men's Recovery Project, Botch and others, a lot of fun ones. Thus it is hard to pick. The most amusing memory with that album was when Steve who engineered it would get fed up with us, because everyone wanted everything louder, the mix would redline and he would sigh, reach out his arms and gather all the channels, and sweep them all back down to 0 with a great flourish and put his head on the mixing board. Lol. It was a tough record to try to mix, there were a lot of equipment issues and also we liked to be loud and sound like a lot of chaos.
I remember playing a large show at Speak In Tongues in Cleveland with Armstrong's Secret Nine where there was a fight, the power went out, the cops came in with flashlights but there were a bunch of people from Columbus with miner's lights on their head so you couldn't tell who was who. We set off our pyrotechnics and only played 4 songs. Pretty great. I went to the bathroom and some girls helped me put my makeup on and they were singing along with Sham 69 but it was "there's gonna be a social breakout..." instead of "borstal". I always thought "I, too, would enjoy a social breakout".
Could you tell us a bit about your music projects since Behead the Prophet?
Sure! I played in Lords of Lightspeed, with the brothers Weaver from Wolves in the Throne Room, it was basically like a rocked out, pseudo-black metal band with me singing. Warm Streams in Sacramento which was a bit more trashy. Sanctuary of Sound which is my folksinging and chanting project, I still do that from time to time, a lot of history, poems and skits, comedy, occult and off-key warbling and costumes.
Currently in Select Sex, which is LA based, a good solid, melodic hardcore band with a couple of records/downloads out on Our Voltage (German label out of Berlin), currently working on songs for our 2nd LP, which should be out early next year.
I watched the Words a Four Letter Fuck documentary about Michael Griffen. It was great. I recently tried to download it again, to show to a friend, only to find that it had been removed from archives.org, possibly due to the name? Did Michael have a favourite dish of yours and how have Behead the Prophet shows been since he passed?
Not sure why that would be down, it's a great documentary and you might be able to find it elsewhere. I can ask Jordan Rain since he made the movie (BTP's drummer). Michael ate some of my food here and there and came to a few dinner parties, but I'm not sure that he had an actual favorite dish of mine.
We did four "reunion" shows with Eric from Noggin playing Michael's violin, they were fun and cathartic and it was good to all be in the same place. He's played with us before and we back in the day we called it "Behead the Noggin" when that happened- it was all 6 of us and very very loud. Also I've performed with Noggin a few times as have Dave and Jordan and we toured with them, so he was the obvious choice, and has a nice rowdy rock and roll sensibility. It was a good tribute to Michael's memory. We did Bellingham, Olympia, Portland and Seattle. That was about two years ago. I'm glad we did it but it won't happen again.
Michael was a huge inspiration for me and a good friend. He's missed dearly.
As a musician you are placed somewhat under the banner of Queercore. Could you talk a little bit about that? Its aims and what Queercore means to you. South Africa is not exactly the safest place to be Queer and therefore may benefit from exposure to such things.
Well, the idea of queercore to me was always to create your own space and definitions to live and be creative in, rather than waiting around for other people to accept you. Queer people tend to be vulnerable in society, not just in South Africa, but everywhere. It's about claiming your space and doing your thing there regardless of what others may think. Of course, it's when you then interact with everyone else that the problem starts. And of course not everywhere would even allow something like that to be out in the open, US and Canada are lucky in that respect in spite of the problems that do still exist there. Though South Africa should receive credit for being one of the first countries to allow gay marriage nationally (not that I love marriage, I'm old school on a lot of that). A combination of visibility and nuance brings change I guess, once people get used to the ideas they eventually cease to find them shocking. Religion and tradition are the big obstacles to that, and the transitional period is a dangerous one. At a certain point, one just gets sick of always having to hide, be in the background, in danger, uncomfortable or avoiding confrontation and you just go "you know, fuck it" and start being more assertive, sometimes that is the only way to get what you want.
Why vegan cheffing and why punk rock and is there a connection for you?
I do food for money, it's a trade and even though I do it in a strange way and I enjoy it, traveling and trying to be creative- it's really a job.
Punk rock I gravitated toward to get my anger out and it worked, I'm not nearly so pissed off anymore. Also I was lucky to meet a lot of cool people and lifelong friends through punk rock, back when it was more of a connecting thing for people, you would see another weirdo and go "hey I could be friends with them". Now is much more diffused though out there in the world, harder to make friends.
The two are connected by the method- the traveling is based on the band tour model, and also a bit on medieval wandering tradesmen, and also the clientele- a lot of the people that host my dinners or buy my food and books are old music connections. Also, I sometimes like to do odd concepts or confrontational or monochromatic presentation to my food and events sometimes, that attitude comes from punk rock- the whole "I'm not here to serve you even though you're paying for it" attitude, I don't feel as though I need to explain myself or justify what I do to clients...much like an audience to music or art.
Currently you have a few books out. This Ain't No Picnic (which i am guessing is a Minutemen reference?), In Search of the Lost Taste, So Raw It's Downright Filthy, and Superfoods for Life: Cacao by Matt Ruscigno and yourself. Which is currently your favourite and why?
Hmmm... that's a tough one, each have special qualities. Yes, "Picnic" is a Minutemen reference- I like the layout of that and the fact that it was quite a project, coordinating it all was a huge pain in the ass, with commentary, playlists, colour photography, etc. etc. I have a certain appreciation for "So Raw" though because it's hot pink and difficult to read, has an upside down page, one with tape all over it, pictures of garbage, a toilet and kind of a mean spirit to it. Ah, that always makes me feel good.
Lost Taste though, that is my little baby and has the story in it and the cute drawings. Originally it was going to be a comic book but that was too much work for the artists. Font nerds rejoice, Ian Lynam did the layout and design- he probably has a bigger following than I do lol. I still have aspirations to make a sequel and a cartoon out of it. and the subject matter (a send-up of "food tourism" making the people out to be like Indiana Jones or Alan Quartermain) is always fairly relevant. I think that one is my favorite really.
I got given a cook book printed by microcosm publishing for playing a show at an anarchist bookfair in cape town a few years ago called Please Don't Feed the Bears: A Vegan Cookbook by Asbjorn Intonsus and I have read it from cover to cover. I am not even that into cooking! All your books look very interesting and great to page through. For example your So Raw It's Downright Filthy book has black and white pictures of trash in it instead of food! Do you feel like being a vegan chef offers you a freedom of expression and playfulness that would not be found in mainstream cheffing that uses animal products, animal rights / ethical arguments aside?
Yes, I think vegan cooking is very open and liberating, trying to find new ways to make things and eventually giving up on imitating other items and creating something new altogether, and finding interesting ways to play with texture. It's perfect for that sort of thing.
A lot of the time I feel like my cookbooks are more interesting to look at than they are to use.
Please Don't Feed the Bears is a classic, I have a recipe in there as well! It's got a nice obscure metal playlist running through the whole book, he knows his metal!
So you have a kickstarter going for some new book releases. Please tell us a bit about them.
Ah, the kickstarter just ended, it was a success. The new books are art books by Automne Zingg featuring Morrissey and Nick Cave in various poses eating different items. I wrote the recipes and zany commentary to go along with the pictures. "Defensive Eating with Morrissey" and "Comfort Eating with Nick Cave" are the titles, they come out on Microcosm Publishing in September.
What can always be found in your spice rack?
Nutmeg, smoked paprika, garlic powder, coriander and saffron
Because if that little grate of nutmeg isn't available, I truly miss it. I just made a vegan sugar cream pie and got totally pissed off at the lack of nutmeg sprinkle.
That smoked paprika is cheating, makes everything taste deep.
Garlic powder, because it is good background in a stew or on texas toast.
Coriander because it is a particular taste that is often missing but hard to detect.
Saffron because otherwise you have to run out and buy it and we would definitely file that pricey spicey under "an unexpected expense".
Interview by Shaun Richards