Several months ago I did an entry about Noose, the vegan, straight edge, hardcore band from Chicago who graced Gay Gardens with a performance that was rife with energy, wisdom and wisecracks. A few months later when I formulated my plan for the first VegBoston ‘zine, Leave ‘Em Alone, (contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get a copy of this gnarly cut and paste rag for free!) I thought a great addition to the articles and artwork would be an interview with Noose’s front man, Bucky. Bucky was more than happy to answer my prying questions via email.
The interview was so long that I had to cut some of it. Fortunately cyberspace know’s no limits and I have provided the interview here in full. Read about Bucky’s history with veganism, his recommendations of veg literature, his job as a philosophy professor and much more!
Let’s get right to it, how, why and when did you become a vegan?
I decided to become a vegetarian during the 1997 Christmas season. I was sitting on the toilet reading a copy of Profane Existence fanzine. There was a scene report from some Eastern Bloc country and the author mentioned that all the punks in Slovakia or wherever would dumpster their boots because they were vegetarians and thus refused to buy new leather. I have absolutely no idea why…but for some reason reading about kids in a borderline third world country being vegetarian gave me the push I needed. That scene report was the source of my vegetarian epiphany.
I had been going to shows for a few years, listening to lots of straight edge bands with songs promoting vegetarianism, and I had some older friends from the hardcore scene who were veg. or vegan. So these weren’t exactly foreign ideas. I had a passing familiarity with the arguments but I hadn’t really thought very hard about them. Keep in mind that I was a freshman in high school. I wasn’t thinking very hard about anything besides skateboarding and record collecting.
Then, all of a sudden, vegetarianism just struck me as a tangible option. So I went with it. I wish I could say that I made an informed well-reasoned decision but really it was as simple as thinking “if these guys can do it…so can I.” Of course, as I began to read through the animal rights literature I found water-tight arguments that reinforced my decision. That’s why I stayed vegetarian.
It took me a while to transition from vegetarianism to veganism. I experimented with veganism on and off starting at the end of high-school. I finally stuck with it in 2004. What made it challenging for me was that I was trapped in a meal plan at my tiny liberal arts college (where I was one of only a dozen vegetarians). Even though I knew I ought to be vegan, the only vegan options at my dining hall were peanut butter, salad, and French fries…not exactly the elements of an ideal diet. So I’d go vegan for a few weeks and then break down and eat some dairy product….largely, I think, out of boredom but also because I just lacked the will power to do the right thing.
In the summer of 2004 I got a fellowship to do some research in cognitive ethology. The purpose of this research was to lay the groundwork for an honors thesis on the moral status of animals. In the course of doing this research I was just overwhelmed by guilt and the sense that it was hypocritical for me to be writing about animal rights during the day and eating ice cream at night. At that point I decided to commit to veganism full on.
I heard you teach or are a professor of some sort. What and where do you teach and do you ever work veganism/animal rights into your curriculum?
For the last six years I’ve taught various philosophy courses at the University of Illinois-Chicago while working towards a PhD. I actually just obtained my first “real” full time teaching position. This fall I’m going to start teaching at Northern Illinois University. I’m really excited! It’s increasingly difficult to find academic employment these days and NIU has an awesome philosophy department (they offer one of the top five terminal MA programs in the country).
As far as vegan course content goes, I’ll discuss issues relevant to veganism on occasion if those issues are relevant to the broader aim of the course. For example, in my philosophy of psychology course I include a unit on cognitive ethology. Although I think that recent work in cognitive ethology is an important part of the cumulative case for veganism, we don’t have any reason to directly discuss moral issues in that class. Still, I’d hope that spending a few weeks reading arguments for attributing beliefs to non-human animals would provide students with a basis for thinking of these creatures in moral terms.
In my introduction to ethics course we always spend a week discussing the moral status of animals. I usually focus on vivisection rather than meat consumption. Since the practice of vivisection is remote from everyday life, I think my students are better able to consider it dispassionately. The best way to get people to think critically about animal rights is to start with issues that don’t force them to take a defensive stance at the outset of the discussion. My classes are, obviously, full of meat eaters. Some students will be convinced by the anti-vivisection arguments we cover. My hope is that they will connect the dots and come to see that many of those same arguments can be used to support veganism. I’ll gently nudge them in that direction at the end of the lecture but I do not think proselytization is in my job description.
I don’t ever want to come off like one of those professors with a political agenda or an axe to grind. Obviously I have an agenda of sorts but I leave that outside the classroom. I have little in common with those who let their political convictions wholly determine the content of their lectures and the course of their research programs. When I hear people describe themselves as ‘activist-scholars’ I want to puke. I’m also consistently amazed by the trivial shit those people agitate for. Thousands of animals are being killed every day and they’re wasting their time trying to convince us to use gender neutral pro-nouns or to build more unisex rest-rooms.
As someone who goes on tour, do you ever find it difficult to eat vegan (such as lack of vegan food sources) and if so how do you deal with this and prepare?
I think eating vegan is effortless. Regardless of where you are and what you’re doing, you can find something to hold you over. Of course, eating a healthy vegan meal on the road…that can be a different story.
I am always lured in by snack foods. It’s really easy to eat your meals from gas stations but this is always a bad idea. As much as I love sampling region-specific potato chips, it’s a stupid thing to do unless you are in Canada (where they have delicacies like the “All Dressed” chip). I think there’s more of this temptation for vegans because there’s little else available for us on the road. You can get Chex Mix anywhere but it can be tough to find a decent salad or sandwich.
I think the smart thing to do is to stock up on fruit that will keep for a few days. Find some bananas, apples, and some peanut butter. You’ll be set.
How do veganism and hardcore co-exist within your life? Does each one draw inspiration from the other?
Well, like I said above, hardcore exposed me to vegetarianism/veganism and led me down this path. The hardcore scene continues to inspire me in various ways. Although the abundance of petty drama can make the scene frustrating, I think hardcore is still the most vibrant, vital, and interesting sub-culture in the world. There’s nothing like being at a really good hardcore show with tons of kids packed up front, stage-diving, and going off. Even though I enjoy a wide variety of music, I don’t care about live music that isn’t somewhere on the punk/hardcore spectrum. If a show doesn’t have that hardcore energy I get bored and start to wish I was doing something else. I love Bob Dylan but when I went to see him I just sat in an auditorium and fell asleep. Furthermore, as watered down as it can sometimes get, hardcore is still protest music. There are still bands out there communicating ideas and giving a voice to legitimate anger. Let’s face it: there’s no other scene where bands have anything even remotely relevant to say. Youth of Today has done more good for the world than Bono; QED.
I suppose veganism inspires my approach to doing a hardcore band because being vegan in a decidedly carnivorous world is alienating and exasperating. I’m not an especially negative guy. I have a nice life. Most of my anger comes from having to interact with assholes and exist within a world filled with atrocities. When you think animal suffering matters the world often looks like a pretty terrible place. There is not much I can do to make things better but at least I can write lyrics that respond to the situation. Although the point of the band is just to give voice to our frustrations, I hope we’ll convince a few people to go vegan along the way.
What was the inspiration for “Fuck Art”? Was it one significant event, or was it a common theme that lead you to write that song?
The song was inspired by an artist named Guillermo Vargas. A few years back, he tied a starving dog to the wall of a gallery and called it a work of art. I’ve discussed my view on that matter pretty thoroughly here: http://thinkingcapfanzine.blogspot.com/
Even though that event is the focal point of the song, I left the lyrics vague because it’s just one especially egregious demonstration of the art world’s inability to take a stance against animal abuse. It’s bad enough that we kill animals to make expensive food and clothing…but then you have the aesthetes who celebrate suffering by putting a (proverbial) frame around it. Those are the people I really hate. There are butchers and then there are the people who write articles for the Atlantic lauding the “authenticity” of freshly butchered meat. In many ways I think the latter class of people is worse than the former. We live in a society where the abuse of animals is, more or less, de rigueur. Eating and using animals is just part of daily life for millions of people. Since these practices are just assumed and inherited, I can (to an extent) give the average guy a pass for not having thought through all the grimy details. Lots of people just don’t have the time, energy, or inclination to think reflectively about cultural practices that are taken for granted. The chattering-classes, however, devote their lives to reflectively analyzing every last detail of our culture. Yet, the result of all their reflection is not an increase in veganism but an increase in the number of sonnets devoted to bar-b-que. If you look at a dead, mutilated, or suffering animal and see something beautiful…you need to get your head examined.
What resources would you recommend to an up-and-coming vegan to check out for education on the facts and philosophy?
I think the folks at Mercy for Animals are doing great work. They have lots of important introductory information on their website and in their printed literature.
As far as reading material goes, Tom Regan and Peter Singer are, undoubtedly, the two contemporary philosophers who’ve exerted the most influence. Singer’s Animal Liberation is an easy enough read but it’s dated and rather light on hard philosophy. It’s more like a guide book to vegetarianism written by a world class philosopher than an actual work of philosophy. Regan’s The Case for Animal Rights is probably too long and dense for most. Still there’s a wealth of stuff out there for people interested in thinking hard about the case for veganism. I think the best place to start is with Sunstein and Nussbaum’s collection Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions. The articles therein are short, easily digestible, and cover a wide range of sub-topics.
Veganism (at least in my opinion) is starting to become more mainstream and more popular within our society. Do you think this could turn veganism into another trend that corporations will just cash out on, or do you think it will create steadfast lifetime vegans and an actual shift in society?
Even if only a handful of the Skinny Bitch readers stick adopt and maintain a vegan diet, at the very least veganism is becoming less stigmatized and vegan dining options are increasing. I hope that the increased availability of various vegan and cruelty-free products will make it easier for average people to transition into a vegan diet.
Unlike other fad diets, veganism is the right diet. Hopefully, if there really is some faddishness surrounding veganism, those who are drawn in by celebrities or headlines or whatever will see it for what it is: the truth, the light, and the way.
I really think a primary obstacle to wider acceptance of veganism (and vegetarianism more broadly) is the lack adequate role models. In order for people to see a behavior or practice as acceptable for them or as something they could actually adopt, they often need to see people like them modeling that behavior. No matter how reasonable and easy veganism appears to be in the abstract, if you’ve never met a vegan (or if the only vegans you have any experience with are weird hippies or cultists) it’s going to present itself as a challenge. People immersed in the hardcore scene often forget that our experience with veganism is unique. Most norms just don’t see veganism as a live option because they don’t know anyone like them who has ever even tried it. If Bill Clinton or Oprah or whomever can influence them to go vegan…I say welcome aboard. I still hate Oprah though. Seriously…afternoon true confessions…lamest shit ever.
Can we expect anything new from you or the guys in Noose (tour, releases, even new bands)?
We just record seven new songs, six of which will appear on a seven inch to be released this fall by React Records. We’ve got the art work figured out so all we need to do is get the recording mastered and sent off to the pressing plant. We’re playing the React showcase in late September and hoping to have the new record out in time for that. No promises though!
Otherwise, we’re going to be playing Sound & Fury this month and we have a couple local shows coming up as well. There are no plans to tour in the immediate future. We’ll pretty much be on hiatus during September and October because our drummer, Joey, is going to be touring with Boilerman. Check them out if you like pop-punk that is grounded in punk more than pop.
We’ll probably hit the road again at some point during my winter break but that’s so far off that I can’t say anything more.
Look out for Kyle’s (guitar) new band Bald Pig. Joey is also playing in a few other bands besides Boilerman and Noose including, but not limited to, Black & Blue and Lemon Party.
When you came to Boston did you get a chance to check out any places to eat? If so what did you think?
We rolled in around seven in the morning and I went straight to bed. The rest of my band went to Spike’s hot dogs so that Kyle could eat enough hot dogs to win a free tee shirt. I guess they were into the hot dogs but I’m pretty sure they were more into challenge of competitive eating. The next day we hit up Grasshopper on the way out. It was pretty awesome. When we were there I just ate a really simple kale based dish because touring really fucks with my digestion. I can’t handle really heavy meals on the road. I’d like to go back in different circumstances so I can eat all kinds of chicken analogues and get a basis for comparison to Kingdom of Vegetarians.
What bands (besides Noose of course) would you recommend us Bostonians to check out?
Chicago hardcore is great. I can’t name drop everyone, but here’s some stuff to be on the lookout for: Razor x Fade has a new LP out on Ralph’s label, Weekend Nachos/Cyborg both have new records out on Deep Six, Black and Blue is going to record a seven inch for Triple B, and some day Thought Crusade is going to have an LP out (also on Triple B).
I’ve been listening to the new Agitator seven inch pretty regularly as well.
Anything else to add?
Thanks for the interview.
Riot fest blows. Don’t get suckered.
Check out our blog for additional info on the band: http://noosexchicago.blogspot.com
Check out our big cartel for shirts and records: http://noosexchicago.bigcartel.com