An Interview with John Feldmann For The Vegan Society's 'The Vegan' Winter 2007 Magazine
By Shari Black Velvet
In 2007 the Vegan Society moved to Birmingham. As someone who's been vegan for five years (and vegetarian for 13 years prior to that), this brought great joy. The Vegan Society promotes a vegan lifestyle, which excludes the exploitation of animals for food, clothing or any other purpose. In a bid to find out more about the Society, what went into working there, and to just do something to help, I took a week off Black Velvet work and volunteered my services at their Hockley headquarters. While there I conducted a telephone interview with Goldfinger frontman John Feldmann, which later appeared as an article in the Winter 2007 issue of the Society's 'The Vegan' magazine. Due to printing space constraints the article had to be edited down - however, you can now read the full interview in all its unedited glory, here...
John Feldmann is both a well-known figure in the rock music world and the animal rights world, often combining the two. With his band Goldfinger he has written animal rights based songs, protested while on tour, informed fans of his beliefs while onstage and offstage and set up benefit concerts to fund animal welfare and fight against cruelty. As a music producer he has influenced many of the bands he has worked with into giving up meat, and to join him in his stance. Members of Good Charlotte, The Used, Story Of The Year, Mest and more have become either vegetarian or vegan since knowing the mighty Mr. Feldmann. Feldmann supports all animal rights organizations and causes and graciously took time out of his hectic schedule to talk to The Vegan Society.
Shari Black Velvet: I read that you were 29 when you became vegetarian and I guess you were 31 when you became vegan. Do you wish you'd become vegan earlier now, looking back?
John Feldmann: Yeah, absolutely. After knowing that rennet and cheese and going into a battery hen shed and seeing the conditions chickens are in when they’re laying eggs and finding out all the information about veal farming and the rape racks for cows and all the stuff that goes along with the dairy and egg industry… Yeah, absolutely. But it takes what it takes. In the end, of course yes, I wouldn’t be paying for these industries, y’know, but I also believe that the path that everyone takes as far as animal rights goes is what it takes. If someone would’ve forced me or guilted me or said ‘what are you doing?’ or had maybe not been my friend that maybe were vegan, and I stayed only vegetarian, I would have been turned off to it. When I was a kid and my sister was vegan when I was in high school, I would eat meat in front of her, not knowing the atrocities that went on in factory farming. It took what it took until my brain said ‘this is wrong, this animal suffering I can maybe help end’. It didn’t click in my mind until it was time. So I feel like, when I am talking to people that are just getting into it, the more I am like the vegan police, or if they are thinking of stopping eating pigs, because they realize that pigs are as smart as dogs, if I come and say ‘unless you stop eating Altoids because there’s gelatine in’ and ‘fuck you’, I become the enemy and they think I’m some crazy dude. So when I think about how I treat people who are getting into the movement, I think about me when I was getting into the movement, and I think it was a pretty natural.
SBV: You received a celebrity award at this year's Animal Rights 2007 National Conference. Can you tell me about that?
JF: A couple of people had called me and were seeing my schedule and if I was going to be in LA. It’s one of those things where it’s an absolute honour to be I guess recognized for work, but in the end it’s not work, it’s sort of like what your soul tells you to do. You just know this is wrong. For me I just wrote a song and walked around with a bullhorn hundreds of times, the stuff that I needed to do for my heart. I get why they needed to do it – because people go to these events, and they want an event to happen at these animal rights shows, but part of me thinks when I go too these shows ‘these are the converted people anyway’. There are not really any newbies there. When I play shows I know that most of the crowd is probably not even vegetarian, so for me to talk about animal rights make sense, but when I go to animal rights conferences sometimes these are all the converted people that know. I know all the information so when I go to these conferences it’s inspiring and it’s fun and I love doing it and it’s an honour but part of me feels kinda guilty, because compared to a lot of other people… my friend Kevin Kjonaas of course, he’s in prison right now. Why am I getting an award? That guy should be free and people like him are my true heroes. All I did was write a song and talk to some kids and doing what I need to do to feel like a human and doing something right. I think everyone should do that stuff. So getting an award is kinda like… 'really?' But it’s an honour for sure. I’m certainly grateful. I don’t want it to sound like I’m not grateful but I feel like there are other people so much more deserving than me.
SBV: You also received a humanitarian award at PETA's 25th anniversary gala too, and were 'Musician Of The Year' at PETA's first Proggy Awards in 2003. When did you originally get in touch with PETA? Was PETA the first animal rights organization you got in touch with and supported?
JF: I guess probably nine years ago. The story for me is I watched the movie Babe, seeing the pig being trained like a dog and going ‘hey, this pig is as smart as the dog’ and ‘why do I pet my dog and eat a pig?’ About a year after that I started doing more research and I went online and saw the factory farming footage. Probably about nine years ago I contacted them and said “I’m in a band, is there anyone that can come and table?’ because they were the biggest organization I could find online in the States and I just asked if they could come to the shows and started handing out literature and educating kids at Goldfinger shows, to see if I could do something more than just be vegetarian at the time. I guess it was the PETA Gala maybe eight years ago that I went to when I met Ingrid and really started becoming friends with the staff and I would go and visit them every time we played Virginia Beach, we’d go to Norfolk and check out the offices and that’s how our relationship started eight/nine years ago.
SBV: You've convinced many musicians to become vegetarian or even vegan. Shawn of The Matches told me that when they recorded with you, you got them to watch animal rights footage (or animal cruelty footage) prior to recording. Do you do that with everyone whose music you produce, or do you convince them in other ways?
JF: Every band and pretty much every artist that I’ve ever worked with, within two or three days of working with them, I’ll play them ‘Free Me’ or ‘Meet Your Meat’. I’ve got hundreds of DVD or VHS tapes around. I try to explain to them that there’s no meat allowed in my house without seeming like the vegan Nazi I was talking about earlier. I kinda say ‘this is why…’. I’m subtly trying to educate them and turn them vegetarian, telling them my intention is ‘Oh, I’m just explaining myself’ when my intentions really are for them to see the atrocities and maybe make the right decision. That sounds funny but it’s true. The right decision is to stop supporting factory farms. That’s really my goal, and so yeah, whether it’s Ashlee Simpson or Story Of The Year or The Used or The Matches or Atreyu, every band I’ve ever worked with I’ve shown this footage to. It’s funny because I’m saying this story now, with Lostprophets, I’ve actually only shown two of the guys the footage and I think Mike and Jamie are vegetarians now, after I’d shown them. We had a long talk one night after my birthday, we went to Madeleine Bistro, this vegetarian restaurant out here. So yeah, it’s sort of part of the deal here.
SBV: How come you only showed Mike and Jamie the footage and not everyone altogether?
JF: Probably because these guys aren’t really here altogether all at once. We’ve still got two more months!
SBV: You’ve got to get them all vegetarian!
JF: That would be pretty cool, but in the end like I said earlier, my sister was vegan and obviously now I know she was right, but until I opened my mind I wasn’t ready. And I’ve found it’s that way with everyone. You know this, you’re vegan and I’m sure you’ve talked to hundreds of people every month about this sort of thing and some people, their mind is not open yet, and I’ve just got to move on to the next person. I can’t sit there and… If one person wants to sit there and eat meat and make fun of me, whatever, have their own ‘well animals are here for us to eat’, ‘born again christian’, whatever they have going on in their lives, I move on to the next person, because it’s a waste of my energy talking to someone who’s not open and just wants to argue, because I don’t want to argue. I just want to talk fast and talk to people who like animals.
SBV: You just played a benefit show in aid of Kevin KJonaas (SHAC 7 prisoner). Can you tell me about that? Whose idea was it to do the show?
JF: It was my idea. Obviously I’m really close to Kevin. I’ve had personal experience with my house being raided by the FBI after we did a protest I guess that was two years ago, so I have a close personal experience with this freedom of speech thing and the animal terrorist act. So when this happened to Kevin last year I was obviously very involved and I tried to help with whatever I could do, with legal fees and websites and writing letters and trying to do what I could at the time. It was so disheartening and so upsetting and obviously the first thing I could think of to do was play a show because that’s what I do, so we tried putting the show together about four months ago and it kinda fell apart and then we booked it again down in Orange County and the show happened last weekend. I’ve heard Kevin talk at conventions, Kevin’s been to my house a number of times, we’ve been on the road together, he’s one of my good friends and one of the nicest guys I think I’ve ever met, and one of the most intelligent, eloquent human beings on the planet, a sweet, sweet guy and for him to be in prison for five years over posting addresses on a website, I still can’t believe it. I can’t believe he’s in prison, I really can’t believe it. So we did this show, and he’d written this letter from prison that I read at the show, and I wrote a song for him as well, the ‘Free Kevin Kjonaas’ that’s on the Goldfinger website. Everyone I’ve talked to about Kevin, no-one can believe it. It’s funny because a lot of my business friends that I told the story to, they’re like ‘But what did he really do? What really happened?’ They think I’m like hiding something. I’m like ‘no, he posted addresses on his website of people that worked or are associated with Huntingdon Life Sciences, that’s it’.
Things are definitely changing and I guess the real disheartening part of it is that it’s effective and it’s definitely affecting me. I have a two year old son now. I think the things that I was doing, just three/four years ago, just protesting, open rescues in Australia, talking about things that I’ve done, writing songs, what stuff was I doing three years ago that if I continue to do now, would land me in jail and have my son have a father in prison like Kevin? And that’s the thing that’s the most disheartening. I wish I could say that it didn’t affect me. It’s not like I’ve stopped doing anything, it’s not that I’m scared of speaking because that’s certainly not the case, but it’s in my psyche, it’s in the back of my mind. Like ‘is this Neiman Marcus protest possibly going to land me in jail for the weekend?’ Now with the animal terrorist act they say that if you’re stopping customers from purchasing items from a store then that’s against the law. So they can say ‘you guys are stopping a fur sale so we can arrest you’, that’s what the animal terrorist acts says now, it’s so scary. It’s so first amendment rights and it’s so freedom of speech but yet, we are still a small part of American society, our voices are loud but we’re going against the government now which is different to before when it was against fur salons or factory farms, now it’s a little different.
SBV: You appeared in Shannon Keith's 'Behind The Mask' DVD the other year. How did that come about and what did you hope it would achieve? Did it achieve what you wanted?
JF: I’ve known Shannon from all the home demonstrations that I’ve done. She’d always be at all these protests and we just became friends through protesting and I’d hear her talk at conventions, and we’ve become super-good friends, and she came to a couple of Goldfinger shows and did some tabling and she just asked me to be in the movie and I said of course. That’s the one thing. I say it’s in the back of my mind but I always say yes. I’ll say yes to anything that’s feasible. If I’m on the road, if I’m in Europe or Australia then there are some things that I can’t do, but I always say yes to the animals. She asked me to do this so of course. I didn’t know what the movie was going to be like. I think the movie is amazing, I think it’s so inspiring. She did such an amazing job and I’m so glad I’m a part of it. But at the time she said “hey, I’m doing this movie about the Animal Liberation Front’, do you want to be in it?” and of course.
SBV: You mentioned briefly your songs. Will there be any animal rights songs on the new Goldfinger album?
JF: Yes, absolutely. 'Kevin Kjonaas' is on the record for sure, and I wrote this song, ‘Get Up’, that’s sort of like real old school Goldfinger, first album ska, a lot of horns, a good, angry, anthemic animal rights songs. Every album we’ve had since I’ve been either vegetarian or vegan, there’s always a song. Last album we did ‘Behind The Mask’ with a little video about the ALF. There’ll definitely be stuff on this record as well.
SBV: On ‘Behind The Mask’ you sampled Ingrid Newkirk saying things such as ‘We won’t lose our lives if we speak out against animal wrongs wherever we see them, but the animals do lose theirs if we don’t, so we must’. How did you get those samples from Ingrid & why those?
JF: We had probably 10-15 hours of audio conference CDs. We listened to them all over the course of two months and that one just really stuck out to me. I called her and asked her ‘is it ok if I used it?’ and that’s how it came to be.
SBV: What are your thoughts on other vegan/veggie musicians’ contributions to the animal rights movement? Do you think more should be done?
JF: Of course. Obviously PETA being the biggest organization in the States I try and follow who they work with. Morrissey obviously does a lot of stuff such as letting his picture be on the cover of their website and quoting stuff. I think the last thing I saw him do was IAMS pet food. But yeah, I guess it’s frustrating especially when I try and put benefit shows together and I try and organize protests or press releases from people that I know have been affected by the footage I’ve shown them but then when it comes to their profile, they get worried that if they do a fur protest for Dolce & Gabana that maybe other clothing companies would not give them free stuff. I go ‘Come on! Really? Is the animals suffering really less important than you getting free clothing?’ It’s absolutely frustrating, it’s super-annoying when I know that I’ve personally shown someone factory farming footage and they say no and they say ‘no, I’m worried that Target may not carry our CD if we protested some company that they carry’. They worry about the money and the commercialism of it over the ethical responsibility. But in the end you can’t put a gun to people’s heads and say ‘do this’. I do this because I have to do this. It’s in my heart and I know it’s right. And you can’t force people to do things. But I do what I can. I certainly wish that my band was bigger. If we were as big as Green Day or My Chemical Romance or something I’d certainly be able to reach more people with the animal rights issue, but I do what I can, it is what it is. Goldfinger’s been a band for 12 years and at least we are as big as we are, so I can reach some people instead of no people.
SBV: People are now slowly becoming more concerned about climate change and trying to be a bit more eco-friendly. What are your thoughts of veganism in respect to this? Veganism is obviously better for the environment. Do you think the general public need to be made more aware of this?
JF: I don’t have exact figures. I was told that they say it’s about 70% of the emissions from factory farms is what’s causing global warming. So if you’ve seen the Al Gore movie, An Inconvenient Truth, not one mention of factory farms being an issue with this global warming thing. You’re watching him flying to Japan and seeing him eating his hamburger and he comes from a ranching background so obviously he’s got an invested interest in factory farms so that’s probably why he didn’t mention it. It’s about money again for any of these people. He’s trying to be this good guy and talking about driving a Hybrid, but dude, 70% has to do with factory farms, not cars, so… to me it’s a bit of a joke when you talk about global warming and you don’t talk about stopping factory farming or going vegetarian because obviously if everyone went vegetarian or vegan there wouldn’t be a need for factory farms, so of course it’s an issue. And they say that something like 50-60% of all the pollution here in the States, whether it’s waste from factory farms, it all comes from factory farms, so that’s the thing, people just don’t think about… there are more people alive today than have died since mankind. This world has more people in it than it ever has had, and most of them eat meat, so the factory farming industry is growing, and it’s only going to get worse. All the pollution and global warming, it’s only going to get worse because of people’s diets. People just don’t get it because you don’t put two and two together. Even the mess that cows produce alone, the rendering plants and the waste, the poo-poo and pee-pee and all that yummy stuff. I don’t know… I was so pissed when I saw that movie and they didn’t even mention it, I was so angry, but I get it… I get money runs the world and that’s the crux of what Al Gore’s sort of thing is. How’s he going to keep getting funding from these ranchers if he talks about the reality of factory farming.
SBV: In an interview back in 2000 you said you dream of opening a fast-food vegetarian restaurant. Is that still a goal of yours?
JF: It’s been a goal for a long time and there was actually one point where we put together a business plan and we got talking to John Paul Mitchell about funding it and whatnot, but the more research I did the more I realized that it would be a full-time job. I could do that or I could be in a band and produce records. But someday… I’d like to do just a small drive-thru that has vegan burgers and vegan tacos and vegan milkshakes, something fastfoody, something good.
Interview with Charlie Paulson - Taken From Black Velvet 49 - Aug 2006)
Shari Black Velvet
been four years since Charlie Paulson has been a member of the mighty
GOLDFINGER. But now he's back. To celebrate his return to the band,
Black Velvet caught up with the long-time, original guitarist and asked
him what it's been like returning to the camp, what he'd been up to
during his time away - and if he's ever gotten dizzy while spinning
round and round.
Paulson - Photo By Shari Black Velvet
Velvet: So what's it like being back in the band?
Charlie Paulson: "It's great. In some ways it's much better than
it ever was, 'cause we've grown up a lot. It's been four years and we've
gone through a lot of personal changes. Then in some ways it feels like
I never left. For better or worse they are my brothers in a sense.
Why did you leave - creative differences?
CP: Primarily creative differences. We were working on the 'Open Your
Eyes' record and I was fucking miserable. John and I were fighting over
what songs to put on the record. And we had just come off of 'Stomping
Ground' which the band considered my record. In a way they feel that
I made them make a heavy metal album. To them it's a heavy metal record.
By the time we got to 'Open Your Eyes' I had no leverage, I had no bargaining
power and I was just not happy with it. There are songs on there that
I don't think are very Goldfinger at all. So I said 'look, if this is
the record you all want to make, and you guys are happy with it, you
should make it, I'm just gonna take off'. Plus there was a lot of tension
at the time. John and I were fighting over the record. The day I actually
called John and quit the band, Darrin had jumped over his drumkit in
rehearsal and started choking Kelly. It was tense. So I was like 'this
is fucking miserable, it's not what I want to be' - so I quit.
And you think things are going to be ok now?
CP: Oh, they are. This is the second tour we've been on and like I said
a lot has changed. About two years ago I suffer from clinical
depression About two years ago I tried to kill myself. I wasn't
in the band at the time but they all showed up. They came to visit me
in the hospital. I got locked into a psych ward in downtown LA and they
all came and visited me. Shit like that happens and everything gets
set aside. And it was shortly after I got out of the hospital that John
and I started talking about me rejoining the band. That really changed
the perspective of a lot of things. Darrin lives in Toronto now with
his wife. He's got a really quiet life and Kelly's quit drinking. So
we've all gone through some pretty tremendous changes since I was last
in the band.
What's it going to be like musically now then?
CP: I think it's going to go back to more of our original sound. When
I was getting ready for the tour in January I went out and bought 'Open
Your Eyes' and 'Disconnection Notice' to listen to. It's funny, I like
'Disconnection Notice' better. I think overall it's a better album.
It's more of a complete musical statement. But it's not a Goldfinger
record at all. It's like a John Feldmann solo album - and it's great.
But it's not appropriate for the band. We don't play any of those songs
live. I think it's partially because they're not really Goldfinger songs
and also it's partially due to respect for me, 'cause I was not in the
band, I didn't play on those songs, I had nothing to do with that album.
And frankly, kids don't seem to mind. We haven't played that record
at all and nobody has ever complained. I think the next record, we're
either going to sign to SideOneDummy, which is The Casualties and Flogging
Molly's label, or Drive-Thru Records, both of which are punk rock indies.
That's where we belong and we're going to make a record that reflects
You played 'Behind The Mask' in London
CP: Yeah, well, John and I are both active in animal rights and that
song was sort of a tribute to friends of ours that are extremist, that
we have a lot of respect for. Plus we had no reggae in the set. But
the kids didn't seem to react that much to it. There was polite applause
and our shows are anything but polite applause... so it got scrapped.
What did you do while you were away from Goldfinger? You've done producing,
CP: Yes. Like I said before, parts of those four years were really dark
for me. But when I came out of that I started producing. I'm producing
a band called Brigands now. And another band called Grey Gardens. And
they're amazing. Both bands are about to sign record deals. It's something
I've always done. I've always co-produced Goldfinger things silently
and I have a natural ability to scream to people younger than me and
tell them what to do! Hahaha. That and I started acting a little bit,
did a couple of movies and some TV shows, that sort of thing. It's fun.
The thing about it is you work for two days and it pays your bills for
a couple of months. And it's easy. I show up and I'm the tattooed thug,
so it's not very difficult, know what I mean? And I got a lot more into
my animal rights work.
Are you just vegetarian (as opposed to vegan)?
CP: Yes. It's really, really difficult to be a healthy vegan. It's very
expensive. And I don't have the means. If I did I would. But I've been
vegan at various points in my life and I wither away to nothing. It's
Have long have you been vegetarian?
CP: Six years.
How important would you say Goldfinger is to you now? Is it the main
CP: I would say it's split evenly. Goldfinger's 50% and then the bands
that I'm producing and other things in my life are the other 50%.
And what do you think of Goldfinger's importance in the world?
CP I don't know and I don't give a shit
But do you want to take it up a notch?
CP: Of course. It's hard to gauge how significant the band is, especially
between various countries. I know the band is very important to the
kids that support us. The kids that come to our shows have stood by
us for 12 years. It's funny, we've been around so long that there's
a whole army of young bands now that have been influenced by us and
have taken things from us the way we took from The Buzzcocks or Social
Distortion. Not to put ourselves in that league at all but it's amazing
when you play these festivals and these young bands you've never heard
of are buzzing around you asking questions about your first or second
record, what kind of guitar you used on this song. It's a good feeling
and it's somewhat vindicating to know that people are paying attention
and they're going and putting out good bands. Like Aiden, I'm really
proud of the fact that we've influenced them. Maroon 5 even. They were
a totally different band. We took them on tour years ago and I recently
read an interview with them it's very unlikely as we're so different
musically, but they cited us as an influence, which I thought was strange.
And a couple of death metal bands too.
You can't always tell what people like though, can you?
CP: I know, I know, it's difficult. It's hard to gauge. So yeah, I want
to make a record that's sort of a thank you to those bands and the kids
that stand in the rain and wait for us to play. I want to make a record
that justifies their pride in loving this band.
So that means going back to the old sound? You wouldn't try anything
CP: This band already tried new things. 'Stomping Ground' was a heavier
record. There was some heavy shit on that record. And then in my absence
there was very, very flowery pop songs done. And so, I think as far
as experimentation is concerned we've done that. And a lot of the time
that's just self-indulgent bullshit anyway. A lot of bands go and put
strings on a record because they can. I don't know if there's the same
sincerity in it. Or you can be a band like AFI who have completely abandoned
their original sound but it's sincere. What they're doing now, I happen
to know they love it. It's really where their heart is at as a band.
I've talked to Davey about it a few times. So you can't begrudge them
that sort of thing.
Different people are just different, aren't they? Some people will just
like one sound or one type of music for their whole life while others
get introduced to new music and end up changing over the years. It doesn't
mean one is more sincere than the other.
CP: You're right. Sometimes change is organic. But like I've said, we've
had those moments - of John only listening to 'The White Album' and
wanting to reflect that influence, or me only listening to, it sounds
ridiculous, but only listening to Slayer or Motorhead and wanting to
reflect that influence. But we do what we do very well. Nobody in the
band disagrees on a song like 'Miles Away'. That's just a pure, true
Goldfinger sound. There's no need to fuck with it.
The Goldfinger website now uses the old Goldfinger logo whereas on 'Disconnection
Notice' there was a red circle with 'GF' inside. I guess that's another
conscious decision to go back to how you were...
CP: That was my decision. I hate the new logo! Not so much the 'GF'
one but the stencilled military looking thing. It reflects a period
of the band that I wasn't in and it's not the true Goldfinger logo -
and that's our trademark. You can see that fuckin' thing from a mile
away and know it says Goldfinger. Same thing with the KISS logo, it
never changes and there's a reason. And also letting kids know that
daddy's home! Haha.
Talking about trademarks, you spin around a lot when you play. I guess
that's your trademark. How did you come up with that?
CP: I got it from Scott Ian. When we were first starting I was moshing
around onstage the way he does. We played this one show where the stage
was so fucking small the other band wouldn't move their gear so
we had no room so instead of charging around in a circle I stayed
put and started spinning.
Have you ever gotten dizzy and fallen over or into something?
CP: The first show back when I rejoined the band in January I
hadn't done it in four years It's not something you do in your
every day life I was like 'woahhh, fuck!' But it went away quickly.
It's like your first cigarette after you haven't smoked for a while.
What was Give It A Name like for you?
CP: Jesus Christ. It was my first time back in England in four years.
That was the first show we played in England for me, and to have
I think there were 15,000 kids at one and 21,000 kids at the other
And they knew all the words to all the songs. It blew my fucking mind,
really. I thought 'you boys have been busy in my absence!' It was great.
It was un-fucking-believable. I don't care about the fact that we were
playing with screamo bands or at a big venue, all the bands got along
really well. There was definitely a spirit of goodwill in that room
between all the musicians. And the kids as well. It seems like they
were accepting of all styles. I went out to talk to people at the show
with a couple of guys from Aiden - and we're nothing like Aiden - but
the kids that we talked to were equally appreciative of both bands.
And that's not something you get in the States. English kids definitely
seem more open-minded than American kids, in that way.
How was Manchester though - since the set got cut short?
CP: We heard all sorts of stories. We heard that some of the headliners
were getting a little nervous. We heard that our crew had pissed off
the Give It A Name production company, we heard that we had just run
over time. So, whatever, it happens. As I said, we've gone through a
lot of personal changes and there was a time when both Darrin and I
would have flown over the monitor desk and beat the fuck out of the
guy, because it's just who we were. But now I'm like 'I don't care why
it happened'. It gives kids something more to talk about. They think
we blew up the PA or whatever rumours come out of it, it's funny. Fuck
it, shit happens.
I heard you picked up a virus while on the tour.
CP: Yeah, it was going around the tour. Several people had it. I think
the singer of Lostprophets had it, a couple of the tour managers had
it, our sound guy Ronnie had it. It was just a 24 hour thing but it
was fucking brutal. I got the bus driver to pull up on the side of the
road and I vomited more than I thought my stomach could hold. It was
amazing. I really wish I'd gotten it on video!
So something like that really affects life on the road? What about your
CP: Well, I was still sick at the London show. I was sleeping and they
woke me up 20 minutes before we went on. I woke up, got dressed and
literally walked onstage. And played that show. I felt like death, but
there's something about getting onstage, looking at the other guys in
your band, looking at all those people, you just go and do it.
with that, Charlie went and did it, with John, Kelly and Darrin at Wolverhampton
Wulfrun Hall. You can read a review of the show elsewhere in issue 49
of Black Velvet.
Interview with John Feldmann - Taken From Black Velvet 40 - May 2004)
Shari Black Velvet
are a band not only known for their catchy pop-punk music, but also
for frontman John Feldmann's belief in animal rights. John is pretty
much a living legend - devoting so much time to trying to stop animal
cruelty, speaking up for those who can't speak for themselves. Since
Black Velvet is very much into animal rights also, we just HAD to interview
John when the band came over to the UK as support to Reel Big Fish.
It was a pleasure to talk to someone who cares so much about animals,
and whether you're vegan, vegetarian or still eat meat, hopefully this
interview will give you a little more insight into the life of an inspiring
animal rights activist who also happens to be an awesome musician (and
Velvet: How does supporting another band rather than headlining affect
animal rights promotion?
John: Well we have the same sized booth. It's a catch 22 because we
sign after our show before Reel Big Fish play so all the kids are still
here, but when we do our own shows there's a curfew so we've only got
10 or 15 minutes to get the autographs gone before they close the doors,
so I think we actually get to just as many people, because in this sense
I think a lot of people are going to be watching Reel Big Fish so we're
hitting maybe 400 kids and then when we're doing our own shows they're
kicking the kids out so we get to about 400 kids. So I don't think it
really makes a difference.
So every single show you sign autographs and talk to kids?
J: Every single show we come out and talk about veganism. I have a video
for 'Meet Your Meat' on DVD, which is this 15 minute documentary that
Alec Baldwin narrated. And I wrote a song called 'Free Me' which shows
slaughterhouse footage, it's an acoustic song that I'd written and that's
on there as well. It's really powerful, by far the most important thing
I've ever done in my life for sure. We hand out about 400 a night so
every kid that maybe makes the connection and says 'hey, this pig has
been brutally murdered, screaming to save its life, why would I choose
to pay someone to do that but yet I treat my dog like my brother. And
maybe someone else can make that connection and then every person that
goes vegan saves 250 animals a year. So that's our goal. Our goal is
to get as many people vegetarian as possible.
Have you ever been on tour with another band who doesn't understand
that or accept it?
J: Well most bands eat meat and most bands know. I think everybody knows.
I've never had someone come up to me and just blatantly say "I've
seen footage of a cow or a pig being killed for food and they deserved
it". I've never had someone say that. People that choose to eat
meat, they know. You know as a child that it's wrong. When you make
that connection that this piece of meat was a living being at one point,
you know that it's wrong to be eating it. Sure in Texas I saw
a bumper sticker saying 'If we weren't allowed to eat animals why are
they made of meat?' and I saw another bumper sticker that said something
to the effect of 'Humans are made of meat so why don't we eat each other?'.
It's the same thing. We're made of all the same thing, it's flesh and
bone. Whether it's a cow, pig or a human, it's the same thing. We choose
not to each humans. Why? Because we can speak the same language? So
to answer your question, I think that people generally know that eating
meat, the whole factory farming industry is a horrible industry and
they're supporting it by eating at McDonalds and wherever else they
choose to, but they just don't want to make they think it will
be too much effort to have to find an alternative food source. And it'll
be too much of a headache and I think that's more of the issue. That
it's laziness. People are just lazy. Most people I talk to are just
'well I would be vegan or I would be vegetarian if the options were
there. If there was a fastfood chain like McDonalds that was just as
popular I'd eat there instead, that was just as cheap.' They say money.
They always have these excuses but it's never about the animal suffering
or the animal cruelty. Those are never issues. But it's always about
what I think are really trivial things. But people realise that it's
I guess they like the taste of it too.
J: Even that. I'm as educated as you can get as far as animal rights
go, but I talk to people, I explain 'look, any kind of food that you
eat now there's a soya substitute that's gonna taste exactly the same,
so it can't be about the taste. It has to be more about convenience.
That's the number one thing; convenience.
A lot of people just don't educate themselves.
J: No, because they're lazy. They don't want to have to go to the effort
of spending a couple of pennies more on some soya chicken rather than
going to McDonalds and getting a chicken burger. And that's really the
main obstacle that I have.
Have you had many kids coming up to you this tour telling you they've
J: At least 20 a show.
What's the coolest thing someone's said this tour? Has anything really
stuck out in your mind?
J: Yeah, there was a guy who had a colon disease where he had to have
a colostomy bag. He couldn't even leave his house for three or four
months, he was so sick, and since he's been vegan he's 100% recovered,
lost 75lbs. He says it saved his life going vegan. It saved his life.
A lot of fans are probably teenagers who still live at home with their
parents and although you inspire them maybe they think 'my mom won't
go out and buy special food for me' or maybe she won't cook them different
food to the rest of the household. What do you have to say to them?
J: I say fuck your parents! They don't know what's right for you. I
mean, I say that light-hearted because when I was a teenager that's
all I ever said. 'Fuck Authority' period. And I don't really mean that.
I'm sure there are some parents who are going to be more open-minded
than others. But the bottom line is, at least when I was growing up,
meat was one of the four basic food groups that they taught. I truly
believe that humans are not supposed to eat meat. Humans were forced
to eat meat around the ice age because there was nothing else to eat.
That's the bottom line. Our intestinal tracks aren't built to digest
meat like a cat or a lion; their intestinal track is maybe three or
four feet long so they can get it through really quick whereas ours
is almost a quarter mile long. Heart disease, colon cancer, all the
meat orientated diseases are because the stuff can't be digested. So
if the meat industry did not run the school system, the education system,
didn't buy all the commercials on TV, didn't run all those things, parents
would be like 'I wouldn't want to be feeding my kid this antibiotic
cow based, pus-filled milk and meat. Why would you feed ? Obviously
most parents would die for their kids. But why would you be feeding
poison to them? And in the end that's what the whole meat and dairy
industry is anyway. If parents are still like 'oh, well, you're not
going to get enough protein' or all that bullshit, some parents are
just ignorant like a lot of people I talk to that just don't want to
do the research. They're like 'well, this is what I've known, my parents,
grandparents have known this their whole life, so I'm just going to
keep on doing it'. Then I say 'fuck your parents'. You get a choice.
When I was a kid I didn't eat asparagus. I didn't eat Brussel sprouts.
My parents still prepared it for me and I just ate whatever. I know
it's harder when you're not living on your own. I know it's a tough
thing. But the bottom line is, if you don't want to kill animals, and
you don't want to be a part of killing yourself, there's got to be a
point where you just say 'I can't do this. I'm sorry but I can't do
this.' Worst case scenario, when you move out THEN you become a vegetarian.
On your US tour last year you coincided KFC protests with each show.
Before every show, you protested outside the town KFC store. Did you
get a lot of kids joining you?
J: The biggest one we had maybe about 40 kids showed up. Tomorrow we're
doing one in London so we'll see if there are any more.
Did the protests accomplish much?
J: Well we haven't achieved our goal yet so we're going to protest until
we do. And they will. They will absolutely give us what we want. Eventually.
When was your first ever protest?
J: Nieman Marcus in Los Angeles, a fur protest. Protesting a fur salon,
educating people where fur comes from.
How did you feel doing it? What were your feelings before and after?
J: I was scared. I was scared about getting arrested. I was scared about
getting hassled by the public and people making fun of me or heckling
me. But then while I was doing it I felt like I was with my people.
For the most part, the world is not set up for vegetarians. For the
most part I feel like an alien. I'm against the grain most of the time,
and when I'm at a protest I'm with people who are like-minded and heading
towards the same goal. So it feels great. And then afterwards I feel
'this is what I want to do with my life'. This is the most important
thing I can do; speak for the helpless animals that can't speak for
How many would you say you've done altogether?
J: Protests? I don't know 100.
I was going to ask about being scared of being arrested. That's one
of the things that probably stops a lot of people from doing protests.
How do you know what you can and can't do to stop yourself being arrested
and what would you say to people who are scared?
J: Well, I know the law pretty well, so I know I can't enter the property
in America. That would be trespassing. I know I can't break any windows.
I can't hit a cop! It's really pretty simple stuff. I can stand in the
street and hold a sign and I can talk, I can talk with a loudspeaker.
And if a police officer says you can't do this, you can't do it. Everyone
at protests know 'this is what's going to happen, this is what we're
going to do, this is the plan'. I've never ran into any animal activists
that have ever said 'I'm going to risk everyone here's freedom just
because I want to break a window'. That's never happened. It just doesn't
happen. Protesting is a legal thing that you can do in a democratic
society. That's what our right is - freedom of speech to say 'this is
wrong'. Speak up against it. My first protest I didn't know, but I've
never had any fear of being arrested ever - because I just know what
Most marches are loud with activists chanting, horns being blown or
loudspeakers being used. Don't you think that might put some of the
public off? Some
people will hear the loud noise and automatically switch off and won't
pay attention to the message you're trying to get across. Old people
especially might just think you're a rowdy bunch of yobs.
J: Yeah. I don't know how much footage you've seen of how they do experiments
on monkeys and mice, guinea pigs and rabbits. I've seen a tremendous
amount of it and the truth is it's horrible. And people get really angry
that this is going on - and that's the reason that people get loud.
It's because they're angry that this happens this legally happens.
How do you voice the suffering and the torture of these animals for
no reason. For toothpaste for sweeteners for cosmetics?
How do you say 'this is just wrong', it's for money, it's completely
wrong? How do you say it by saying 'excuse me, oh you don't want to
hear, ok'. Unless you say 'listen, this is what I have to say. Listen'
and people will say 'ok, what are these people here for?' and sure they
may be a little scary or they may be a little threatening, but at least
they'll say 'what's the deal?' And yeah, you're probably right, a few
older people may say 'oh, they're disrupting the peace and fuck those
people' but people may understand that these people are passionate about
this issue and then they may open their ears to listen to what's going
on, why are they here. But yeah, I understand. There is no perfect way.
We can't just take an ad out on television and pay a million quid to
run an ad on a footie game or something and say 'ok, now everyone will
see it in such a peaceful, nice, sit-down way with the family'. It just
doesn't happen. There's not that kind of money and the government won't
allow it. So you have to do these kind of things to get people's attention.
If I'm sitting in this room with all my knowledge and I don't talk to
anyone about it, that's not helping the animal at all. The animal is
still suffering and still dying.
Do you think it's ok for people who still eat meat to protest about
other forms of animal cruelty?
J: Yes. I started with just pigs. I was doing activism while still eating
chicken. And I think I helped people open their eyes to animal cruelty
by still not being 100% vegan. And even though I am 100% vegan now I
still think that you can help animals no matter where you are on the
chain of on your way to veganism.
What do you think about how so many people still believe that you still
need animal testing to come up with cures for diseases etc?
J: That's just what they've been taught their whole life. Obviously
all these companies are government run and that's what the government
want people to believe. So that's how they educate people in schools.
That's just it. It's all money.
I guess you know about humane testing. Do you think doctors/scientists
could find cures testing humanely?
J: It's just an added ingredient. You're trying to get this drug to
the public. They add the animal thing just for a piece of paper. It's
just an added element. They still have to do all the other tests anyway.
They're just adding that. It's an unnecessary addition to getting from
A to B. It's all it is, testing on animals. It does nothing. Because
once it gets here, all the animal tests, it's completely negated when
it comes to legalities. If a human sues because they get sick of this
drug, they can't use the animal testing as anything. It doesn't matter.
Mice have a different biological system as a human does. So do guinea
pigs, so do dogs and cats. So in the end, they can't even use that to
say. Any doctor will tell you 'just because this was tested on a cow,
it means nothing'. All the humans that got sick off all those drugs
the last few years, all those psychotropic drugs, the Xanax types that
got sick because they got tested on animals but not tested on humans,
the humans got sick and a bunch of people died because we have different
biological systems. In the end I don't know how much you know
about the cancer research they did for cigarette smoking in the
50s they did tons of research that killed about 300 million dogs. They
locked dogs in these lung chambers and they filled them with cigarette
smoke for their whole life. After 5 or 6 years, if they didn't get lung
cancer, they'd kill the dog. They'd do it over and over until about
300 to 400 million dogs had been killed. The tobacco industry says 'look,
no dogs got lung cancer. Cigarettes do not cause lung cancer'. So you're
wrong. It turns out that dogs just don't have that gene in their body
that gets lung cancer - but humans do. So, not only were 400 million
dogs killed for these tests, but humans are still dying of lung cancer.
Because it doesn't make sense. It's just like the whole AIDS things.
So many AIDS patients are dying to have these drugs tested on them,
'we want our lives saved, we want to be tested, we want you to test
these drugs on us'. They won't let them because they say it's inhumane
to test on a human so they test on animals. So they'll cure monkeys
of AIDS but it won't work on humans. It's completely ridiculous. So
they're killing all these monkey, killing all these animals, trying
to cure AIDS but they're not being cured but yet there's humans who
want to be tested on. It just doesn't make sense, y'know.
When do you think we'll get through to them?
J: The only way it ever gets through is when a lot of humans die. Like
Mad Cow Disease or Foot & Mouth Disease. Something like that comes
along and a lot of people wake up and say 'what am I eating?' and all
of a sudden all that new evidence about Alzheimer's Disease... Alzheimer's
Disease is Mad Cow Disease in its furthest element. That's what they've
now discovered. People are so ignorant, it's the only thing that's gonna
Getting back to your new music. Have you written many new songs related
to animal rights for the next album?
J: There's three or four on the new record. There's a song called 'Iron
Fist' kind of about the police state that I've seen a bit first hand
in the US. And there's a song called 'F.B.I.' about the F.B.I. raid
on my house that happened a few months ago. A song called 'Walk Away'
about how I could never walk away from any animal suffering that I see.
You've produced albums for bands such as Good Charlotte, The Used, Mest,
Story Of The Year Was it you who got them into animal rights or
were any of them into that before you met them?
J: Yes. They had no idea before I met them. Quinn from The Used is vegetarian.
And Bert's actually done a couple of protests with me, from The Used.
Both Benji and Joel are now vegan and I'm sure they'll be doing stuff
for PETA. Adam, the bass player of Story Of The Year, is vegan. He does
a lot of protests. He did a lot of protests with me. Billy of Good Charlotte's
actually vegetarian as well. He's done protests with me. Jeremiah from
Mest is vegan and he's done tons of protests and signings with me as
You collaborated with members of Good Charlotte and Mest for 'The Innocent',
a song you wrote after September 11th. Have you thought about collaborating
for an animal rights song and trying to get it released?
J: Yeah, that would be great. But with Good Charlotte for example you
can only really go they're really a wanted band, so it's hard
to say 'look, I've got this, this, this and this'. They're doing the
benefit show with me. And it's like, ok, that's awesome. So I'm going
to maybe wait a couple of months and then maybe address something like
that. For me, it's like my whole life but a lot of people think that
being vegan is enough. Or being vegetarian is enough. And it is enough
for some people and that's fine, and I'm not taking that away from them
but for me, it's not.
One final question. Goldfinger just released a live DVD as part of the
'The Show Must Go Off!' series. It was directed by Joe Escalante of
The Vandals, who is well known for being into bullfighting. On their
website they have a link to bullfighting on their main page. Did you
J: I didn't know that he was into bullfighting. I've never been to their
website and that sucks and that's completely ridiculous. I had no idea.
But we got 'Free Me' on the video. It shows crazy slaughterhouse footage
and links to PETA2 and PETA on the DVD. It's kinda like 'how do you
draw the line?' How vegan do you get without having to leave your cubicle?
You can't get in a car because they use glue in tyres. Right? So you
can't get on a bus or even on a bicycle. Where do you draw the line?
I know that I am vegan enough, for sure. And what I do is enough for
the animals. For me to not release this DVD. Even if I took it a step
further and said, well, the 2nd A.D. on one of the cameras eats chicken
so I won't release this DVD. Do you know what I mean? How many people
would I not be able to reach if I had that attitude. It doesn't make
sense to have that attitude. Where do you draw the line? He believes
in bullfighting so I'm going to boycott him completely so the 20,000
people that would own this would never see 'Free Me' ever? In the end
he's still going to have the bullfighting thing on his website no matter
what I do.
You don't think you could change his mind like how you inspired Good
J: I don't know. I don't really know him well enough. I've never really
worked with him and I'm sure next time I see him I'll mention
something to him.
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