Punk Globe: So to start this thing off, you are widely known as John The Baker, are you in fact a baker?
John: Yes, I am a baker. I was traditionally trained and worked professionally for 15 years, then specialized in vegan baking. I opened my own bakery, John the Baker's Vegan Treats and I supplied a dozen health food stores in N.Y. with healthier goodies. I think that was in 1995 96 97 . Then I settled out of court with the Town of Woodstock, NY for $20,000 after me proving the case they had against me unconstitutional and that my rights were violated. You see, I was arrested in 1994 for the lyrical content of my songs while singing in a park in the center of the Town of Woodstock. ( the place where many many musicians have sung for a 100 years). I grew up 6 miles from there, and this cop came up to me and said that I couldn't sing those words!! The rest is history. I won in court. Settled outta court on my 1 million dollar lawsuit for $20,000 and shut down the bakery, made a record and went on tour.
Punk Globe: If I'm correct you originally hail from the east coast. What inclined you to move out
to California and plant your roots with Burnt Ramen and Instant asshole?
John: So well basically after I got arrested a lot of people also had problems with the cop that arrested me and they all told me their stories. And I collected a lot of dirt on that guy and I made his life hell. I found out he was hired illegally and also that he was notorious peodiphile and was having sex with young girls in town. In 1996 I wrote the song, "Cops Are Fuckin' Little Girls", and soon after convinced the Town to lodge a secrete investigation on the Woodstock Police, resulting in almost half the Woodstock Police Force being fired for sexual misconduct. There was one cool person on the town board, Rebecca Turmo. As the investigation was just about to begin, she said to me, "John, now its time for you to get out of town" and that ... She could take the heat better than me from here on. That's basically when I also got a phone call from my old guitar player Dan Bone the Destroyer who said there was this guy with a warehouse that wanted to do shows and that he thought I could help. That was Burnt Ramen and so I came out here and built a stage and met some people and booked some shows and Burnt Ramen is legendary now. And I'm glad to have a chance to be back in California again. I lived here in the 80s. I hitched hiked here from NY to Palo Alto when I was 19 and worked in a bakery, then got promoted to manage the bakery in Berkeley and lived in Oakland at 33rd and Telegraph. After many other California adventures when I was 28, in 1991, I rode a bicycle from San Jose to Portland Oregon and then East to N.Y. So I have spent a lot of time in the Bay Area, I love it here and have always felt at home here as well as in N.Y.
Punk Globe: So between running B.R.S. and performing with Instant Asshole
as well as solo you must lead a pretty busy schedule yea?
John: I think well, part of me being an activist always meant living a certain way. For me that meant living in a way that didn't support the war machine. I didn't pay taxes, and in fact I decided that the best way to accomplish not paying taxes was to not earn and or spend very much money and so that is one of the things I have done for many years is to earn less than $5,000 a year. I have also lived without a car , drivers license , insurance, no permanent address , and no monthly bills. No debt, no monthly bills. I was feeling pretty good to be, "Not Doing Very Much". And about 3 years ago, after consistently volunteering weekly for the previous 5 years for 3 different organizations, I decided I wanted to operate without any schedule. So I opened myself up for doing even more of the things that I really wanted to do as oppossed to obligated to. I feel that an artists mind is more prone to creativity with these conditions and so for the last 3 years I have had NO specific schedule,...... so in answer to your question,.... no I don't have a really busy schedule and that is why I was able to and excited to sing for Instant Asshole.
Punk Globe: Instant asshole has tackled substance abuse through songs like DUI or Die and Straight Edge failure, what are your thoughts on the sometimes strongly divided line between the Straight Edge Punks and the drinkers?
John: Everyone is just trying to discover themselves, they say all paths lead to the mountain top. I have done a lot of drugs and alcohol. I quit when I was 21 because my life was not working. I learned to meditate and discovered myself with self exploration in my 20s and learned to like myself and understand my talents. I would likely be dead now if I was still drinking. I try to encourage the old assholes who are still drinking to stop before they kill themselves. Kids are always going to experiment but if yer still doing that game
at thirty-five ya gotta check yourself, ya know??
Punk Globe: I've seen a lot of people calling out comparisons between you and Jello Biafra, whether it be your similarly satiric vocal styles or your unfaltering political activism. How do you feel about this? Have you guys ever gone head to head on political issues?
John: We pretty much agree on a lot of stuff. He has been a good friend to me. When I got arrested he heard about my story and wrote me a letter. He has always treated me with great respect. I was an intern at Alternative Tentacles for 5 years and still am a friend of Alternative Tentacles and volunteer. I also sang backups on both the Jello Biafra with the Melvins records, "Sieg Howdy" and "Never Breathe What You Can't See. " That is one of the biggest honors I have ever had recording was to be included in those sessions. And to be credited on the records and to just be in Hyde Street Studios with Biafra and the Melvins, wow. So, I don't know why the comparisons musically but I never mind when people draw them. I am honored anyone would think
of Jello when they see/hear me.
Punk Globe: Speaking of activism, do you feel that there is a lot of participation in social issues from the hardcore scene, or do you think a lot of bands tend not to practice what they preach?
John: I think people don't know what it is they should do, to really make a difference. The solutions offered us are weak -- recycle, march in the protest, vote, break things, write letters. I think people don't believe these things work anymore and they feel unheard and have felt unheard for a long time. So I don't judge peoples participation in traditional activism, I like to see people for who they are and ask them about their lives and what they have been threw. A long time ago my teacher said I needed to know the difference between activism and community organizing. When she said that, I got mad and told here it was symantics and they were the same thing. She said I wasn't looking deep enough. 10 years later, I am someone who does community organizing. I don't call myself an activist. It took me a long time but I finally understood the difference and I now put my focus on the people in community around me and try to touch the people closest to me in a unique way that hopefully would enhance their life . I try to be consistent, honest and to follow through on my word. That is my form of activism these days. As for community organizing, Burnt Ramen was a great example (and still is) of the way I see things. I want to create a whirling spinning dance. A dance so full and fun that anyone
from outside the dance when seeing it would step back in awe of its beauty and be paralyzed and
could do no harm. And the dance would grow as people see it and are taken by it.
As well as other dances whirling near bye on their own.
Punk Globe: Any issues you'd like to speak out about and bring to the attention of the readers?
John: http://www.myspace.com/jtbskates - May 21-23 I am doing a benefit long distance skateboard event called, SKATE TIL YOU DIE. The proceeds will benefit the local hardcore community as well as a group called Adaptive Action Sports (boarders with Prosthetic legs and stuff) Instant Asshole is putting together a touring vehicle that we can share with other bands and be able to have a community shared touring van rather than every band needing to buy their own van. Skate til You Die starts May 21 at Burnt Ramen 8pm with a show (3 or 4 bands) and then a midnight moonlight skate from Richmond to East Oakland. We will sleep at the Instant Asshole house and then skate to Fremont in the morning and do a show there on Fri May 22. Again sleep and then skate to San Jose for final show May 23. This will be a skate-a-thon. Anyone can skate and go for as far as you want And you can collect donations for however many miles you skate. Skate Til You Die ! on MySpace - http://www.myspace.com/jtbskates
Punk Globe: Closin' it up should we expect to see John The Baker chocolate chip cookies on the
shelf between the Oreos and the Mrs. Fields' anytime in the near future?
John: I would prefer your readers bake for themselves. Support your local co-op, buy organic,
Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies
1/2 cup tahini
1/2 cup oil (canola/saflower)
1 1/2 cups maple syrup (B GRADE)
1 tablespoon Vaniila extract
3 cups whole wheat flower
1 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon salt (try replace with 1 tablespoon tamari)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup Chocolate Chips (malt sweetened)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1. Preheat oven to 350. grease pan or use parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, cream tahini and oil until smooth. Whisk in maple syrup and vanilla.
With a wooden spoon mix in flour oats, salt, soda, chips and walnuts.
3. Spoon or scoop rounded spoonfuls onto pan and flatten slightly into 1/2 inch thick discs.
Bake about 10 minutes , until edges begin to brown.
Thanks for askin' these questions. See you round. Smash Apathy! John the Baker