Create to Destroy! Ron Grimaldi of DEATHCYCLE on Punk Activism
This interview is not to shame anyone who consumes animal products (it’s your life, your choice), but as punks, we have a higher level of consciousness as a collective movement (or I’d like to think so!) so this Create to Destroy is more to raise awareness about conscious consuming and some of the very big threats facing our health and our freedoms, and to hopefully get punks who read this interview to remember that we really can make a difference.
Ron Grimaldi and I have been friends ever since I moved back to NYC in 2008, and we stayed close due to similar views on animal rights, government, morbid humor, the state of punk, and obsessive record collecting, among other things. I started booking gigs at ABC No Rio in fall of 2008 and one of my first really successful full-house shows was a gig where I got Ron’s band, DEATHCYCLE, and some other local bands I really respected, like DAWN OF HUMANS, TWO MAN ADVANTAGE and ex-AS$TROLAND band INVESTIGATIVE REPORTS to play. It was a November gig and instead of lamenting the lack of touring bands, the ABC No Rio volunteers got a great locals-only show together mixing old and new bands and having a blast.
So, why am I interviewing Ron? Well, he is my go-to person when I want to lament over animal rights, talk about clean living and veganism, or know what’s up with Monsanto, protests, GMO labeling, animal rights, global warming and politics in general. He is not only a wealth of knowledge but just as active in punk (yes, someone can physically be at four shows at once on a Saturday night all over the Tri-State area) as he is poltically, and I’ve heard from some that he’s also really active in the underground wrestling scene. Here’s Ron on one facet of his interesting existence…
Where are you from?
I’m from Long Island, NY — been here my whole life.
What was your first show?
I got into hardcore in late ’84 through metal from two punks in my school as I was already into SLAYER, VENOM, METALLICA, etc. I had been seeing metal bands for awhile, but as far as my first hardcore/punk show I didn’t start going to underground shows ’til 1986 when I saw the CRUMBSUCKERS and LETHAL AGGRESSION open for ANTHRAX. About two weeks later, I started going to all the local hardcore/punk shows seeing CRUMBSUCKERS, LUDICHRIST, TOKEN ENTRY, CRO-MAGS, KRAKDOWN, AGNOSTIC FRONT, etc.
Fucking CRO-MAGS are New York. I respect John Joseph a lot and his Ital/vegan eating. So, how’d you get into animal rights and was it through punk?
Yea, my first exposure to it was through punk. Back in the mid 80s, where I grew up I literally didn’t know anything about it until some local punk guys I met were all vegetarian and also through CONFLICT, ANTI-SYSTEM and bands like that.
Did the punk scene used to be more political?
Yes, I think it used to be much more political. Even if some of the politics might have been naive, at least there was a awareness and a concern. There were always flyers, zines, and bands talking bout every social and political topic at shows and in between songs. Also, punks would show up in force at protests and I had a general sense that most people involved were aware and active to some degree. Now the world is 100 time more fucked up than it was then and today’s punks (here in the US) don’t even seem to fucking care — it’s pathetic . To be fair, the 90s and its over the top PC rhetoric were exhausting and heavy handed, but fuck, man, look at the world these days how can you not be pissed off? Punx don’t have anything to say about the state of the economy, drones, water and land rights, the banks GMO foods…the only thing they seem to get loud about is equality when it comes to sexuality and the right to choose (pro-choice), which of course I support but, fuck, what about everything else plaguing us? When I was growing up every topic that was controversial punks were the only people I could discuss these things with. Today, sadly, it’s the opposite. What the fuck happened to everything punk stood for and rebelled against?
I can’t say anything about Occupy because I was not in NYC for that but last time I remember punks really being active and in full force was when we first started to get into it with the Middle East after 9/11 and everyone in NYC was up in arms and very anti-war. Food Not Bombs was bigger in the punk scene then as were even just easy things like benefit shows or political prisoner awareness. I’m not that old, and I feel like older punks always stand on a soap box about “my day” but today it is pretty grim and apathetic. What do you think is the cause of apathy in the punk scene now?
In regard to Occupy, I went to Occupy for the first two weeks and it was cool in the beginning but it went downhill and lost focus. There were far more people from the NYHC scene there then people from the NYC punk scene. The apathy problem is hard to pinpoint, but at least for me the punks of today seem much more well adjusted, less angry and overall more content than my generation. As for the cause of that apathy, it’s hard to say but just like the rest of society you give them just enough to stay content and it keeps them satiated. Maybe it’s the easy access to everything through the internet that you can plug in and escape reality, I dunno. For me, I lived in a boring suburban town and it sucked growing up and feeling like an alien left on some strange planet I didn’t belong on, so I was pissed and not apathetic at all.
How do you think technology has changed punk?
Great question and there is some good and bad like all technology. Its made it much easier for bands to record themselves and live through a DIY model. It also has made it easier to promote or spread your band or label as you see fit without any corporate or shady connections. In general, it has made it so much easier to communicate, set up tours, get each others music and organize. Touring without cell phones, computers and GPS probably can’t even be comprehended by younger kids. If there is a bad side to it, I’d says its that with that convenience comes less appreciation. I come from the 80s tape-trading days and was waiting weeks, if not months, to track down a tape or record of a band that lived half way across the world to write you back, and you didn’t even know what they sounded like, you just see an add or a interview in MRR or Flipside and would be interested. With that came a lot more dedication and sacrifice to the music and the lifestyle IMO. These days, you can live almost anywhere in the world and anyone can hear your music in two seconds just by pushing a button.
What do you recommend to punks who want to get active with animal rights or environmental activism?
Start with self educating and deprogramming yourself from what we have been taught (including the supposed good organizations like PETA and WWF, as they are not what they seem) and from there try to find a few people you trust at a local level. Depending how far you take it, you might be putting your freedom at risk. These days you can just go online and find petitions and boycott to support which can be a great simple way to be active.
Yeah, an easy way to start is not to support Proctor & Gamble by not buying their animal tested products. Mind you, they own a slew of subsidiaries like CoverGirl so one really has to be well informed when consuming at chain stores. What are good resources for those who want to learn more, let’s say, about Monsanto, or even marches coming up, or just regular Food Not Bombs meetings?
When it comes to Monsanto and GMO foods there are many great documentaries out there. The World According to Monsanto and Seeds of Death by Gary Null and anything associated with Dr. Vandana Shiva and Jeffrey Smith are good starting points . There is even a app you can get for phones that shows all foods and companies that use GMOs — they are in almost 80% of the food in the supermarket currently and there are 12 more foods that are being patented for approval in the near future. A few good sites online are:
What do you have to say to punks reading this who feel apathetic?
Use your voice and your $ to represent yourself the way you want and support only what you believe in. That is powerful and should never be taken for granted. There are thousands of disgusting things in this world that, sadly, I can’t change, but I still have the power to raise awareness by living by my own ideals and not being a part of the machine. Put pressure on all the scumbag politicians of both parties who only answer to lobbyists. Consumer activism is the most powerful tool we have and with that comes a sense of purpose that hopefully will erase apathy. Depending how far you go you might generate some attention and end up on some government watch lists but, fuck it, we are all being watched and monitored everywhere we go anyway. Exercise what few freedoms we still have left here in this police state.
What are you currently doing, besides consciously consuming and being vegan, to live by your beliefs?
Supporting mom and pop stores and nothing corporate, bike riding not driving, screaming about what pisses me off and concerns me in my bands, DEATHCYCLE and SONIC POISON, and I am involved in activism to raise awareness and in preparation for what’s ahead. Basically, I am trying to live simply and happily while at the same time getting ready for what I fear is coming soon — civil unrest, a worsened economy, droughts, a severely compromised food supply and a militarized police state.
Any last words?
Thanks for the interview. I’ve been reading MRR for 30 years and glad to see its still going strong! As for everyone else, live healthy and free and make punk a movement again, not just a bunch of witty slogans you wear on your clothes that are all style and no substance.