‘Fix your damn self first’
John ‘Bloodclot’ Joseph works hard to walk a righteous line, and God help the rotten guts of any man who tries to cross that line. There’s hardly a battle he doesn’t seem fit to fight.
He’s the frontman of the iconic New York hardcore punk band Cro-Mags, author of multiple books, eight-time Ironman athlete, devout vegan and Hare Krishna. He’s a busy guy, but to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the band’s first album, he, drummer Mackie Jayson, guitarist A.J. Novello, and bassist Craig Setari have hit the road to show the young punks what all the slam dancing and stage diving is for.
“You gotta be respectful and mind your Ps and Qs, man,” Joseph says. “That’s what the Cro-Mags was all about, too. We didn’t go out bullying motherfuckers. You know the way we looked, and this was before the rednecks had mohawks back in the 80’s or whatever the fuck, it’s like people tried to pop shit because you was hardcore punk. You know, the real shit. Not some fake-ass wannabe shit or some emo screamo motherfuckers.”
Joseph started life with alcoholic prize-fighter of a father and a mistreated mother. From there he got bounced between abusive foster homes and was living on the street at 14. He sold angel dust, got locked up, joined the navy, went AWOL, became a monk, and was canonized as one the great frontmen of do-it-your-damn-self rock and roll. It’s a long, and at times, heartbreaking story. It’s for that reason Joseph is updating and reprinting his autobiography, The Evolution of a Cro-Magnon.
Between that hard past and the Hatfield-and-McCoy relationship between him and a couple of his ex-bandmates, Joseph’s life today should be a complete mess. It might’ve been, if not for the exceptional people like Bad Brains’ frontman H.R., who helped him onto the path of what he says is a process of self-overcoming.
“I stopped eating meat, and I got a job in a health foods store. Bad Brains looked out for me like a little brother,” says Joseph. “Obviously, I would be back fuckin’ in jail or addicted to drugs or dead. You know, that’s not a cliché, that’s the truth, that’s the life I came out of.”
The other great teacher in Joseph’s life was Prabhupada, founder of the Hare Krishna movement. Vedic philosophy always played a big part of Cro-Mags lyrics. The band’s debut album, The Age of Quarrel, is named for the Hindu concept of Kali Yuga—the age of chaos, one of a cyclical procession of ages.
“I try and live a peaceful life and not have no beef with nobody,” says Joseph. “Be respectful of everybody’s space and everybody else’s things that they’re doing. There’s always gonna be somebody that wants to test the waters and you just gotta deal with shit all the time. You don’t even look for shit in this city. There’s fuckin 11 million motherfuckers, somebody is gonna come and try to piss in your cornflakes.”
Earlier this month he caught a guy trying to steal a girl’s bicycle, and mercifully let the cops arrest him. This isn’t the first he’s stopped a bike thief either. He tells a story about the time Arthur Googy from The Misfits had his bike stolen. The two found the thief and knocked him out, taking all his stolen goods with them.
Now that he’s 54 and training his ninth Ironman, he’s working harder than ever to focus that street brawler’s grit into genuine self-improvement.
“How do we break the cycle of the repeat of the Kali Yuga? It’s only done by people working on themselves,” says Joseph. “Charity starts at home. Fix your damn self first, and then get out there and make change in the world. Lead by example.”
Fri., May 26 (8 pm)
Cro-Mags w/Comeback Kid,
Run with the Hunted, Times Tide
The Needle, $32