Interview with Walter Schreifels

<div class="field field-type-text field-field-zine-art-body"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item"> Die hards reckon him by the pseudonym N.D. from the Project X seveninch, still most people know him as Walter Schreifels from Youth of Today, Gorilla Biscuits, Moondog, Quicksand, Rival Schools or just as a solo performer. Schreifels carrer as a musican is highly celebrated among music lovers both outside and inside the hardcore circuit. We could probably have asked him a thousand questions and talked for hours, but we of course wanted to focus on his compassion for animals. Enjoy this little chat we had with Wally in Oslo.&nbsp; Tell us about the song &laquo;Cats and Dogs&raquo;. What did inspire you to write it? Actually at the time, the vegetarian thing, with Youth of Today we had the song &laquo;No More&raquo;. It was very dark, and kind of scary you into being a vegetarian. I felt that a lot of the vegetarian message was talking down to people morally. Even though I think the Youth of Today song is great too. I wanted to do a little bit more fun spirited with Gorilla Biscuits, therefore I thought that cats and dogs are funny because they are so cute and fun to play with, but cows unfortunately are sweet, but you don't want to pet it and you don't have a connection to their environment, so you don't make that connection. But people are very connected to their pets. So the song is a little silly, but it is also totally true. I don't consider it to be a silly song. Did you consider it silly at the time? No, I was serious about it. But I thought it was meant to be another way to make people think about vegetarianism. Rather than being &quot;the animals are being slaughtered, their eyes are being pulled out, you have to stop the murder!&quot; I wanted a different angle. Even &laquo;Meat is Murder&raquo; by Morrissey is not my favorite The Smiths song, really at all. Some of these songs are a little too dark and brutal and I wanted to do something different, that also had the same message. It's about putting yourself in someone else's shoes in a way, and thinking about &quot;you love your pet, how can you eat a cow?&quot; Did you get a lot of reactions for doing a more light-hearted approach? No, were people going to get mad at me for not making it mean? You know &quot;Cats and dogs have all the fun and you are a murderer!&quot; That approach didn't get me into it. What got me into it was Ray of Today telling me that I had to be into it and eventually I felt positive about it. My diet improved, I didn't eat at McDonald's or any of these junkfood type of places. It makes you go to health food stores and it makes you think of the world in a different way. So that was a demand from Ray Cappo when you joined Youth of Today? Yes, I had to be vegetarian. I had wanted to go vegetarian, but I didn't find it super easy. I was in the process of cutting down on meat eating anyway, but I wasn't completely vegetarian. But Ray said &quot;If you are going to do the tour you have to become a vegetarian&quot;. Ray thought me the morality of the issue. Was this before you wrote &laquo;No More&raquo; and the &laquo;We're Not In This Alone&raquo; album? Yes, this was on the &laquo;Break Down The Walls&raquo; Tour. They asked me to join the band because their bass player left to join Agnostic Front and that was right after &laquo;Break Down The Walls&raquo; came out. So I did the whole &laquo;Break Down The Walls&raquo; tour. I played a few shows were I wasn't a vegetarian, but the summer was the breaking point, no meat eating on tour. Eventually this lead up that I also became vegan. For a year or so I was vegan. I read this book called &laquo;Diet for a New America&raquo; (by John Robbins) and that got me into becoming a vegan. &laquo;Diet for a New America&raquo; is also recommended by Youth of Today on the lyric-sheet for the WNITA album. Was that a book you discussed a lot inside the band? A friend of mine gave it to me in Boston when I played in Quicksand. I probably didn't read it in the Youth of Today days. I didn't have to read anything, Ray just told me to become a vegetarian and I did. I thought it was an awesome book when I finally read it. It is a very political book. It is still true, today there are even more issues with factory farming and the environment, it ties in to all this other stuff. At the time I was very affected by it. So I was vegan for maybe a year and a half. Do you think the book was important for the song &laquo;No More&raquo;? For Ray, if this was a political platform: part one was straight edge, get everybody to become straight edge. Part two, get everybody that is straight edge to become vegetarian. Part three was to turn them on to Hare Krishna. So I got to part two. Vegetarianism was on the agenda. How are you going to say vegetarianism is bad? It is just good. It's healthier, it's a nice way to live. You have only one life to live and to chose your diet is important. Henrik Evolve's Gorilla Biscuits tattoo. &laquo;No More&raquo; was one of the first vegetarian songs in hardcore. After that it became a standard issue. Yeah, that became a little cheesy to me. You had to have a song against racism, you had to have a song about vegetarianism, you had to have a song about being stabbed in the back. It became another topic, that maybe made it a little silly. The nature of it, what do you do with it after you get over the slogan and incorporate it into your life. I know a lot of people that are still vegetarian and I also know people that have started to eat meat again. My experience of being into it and being an activist more or less was positive. It's a cool idea, because it's about non-violence, pro-environment and it really energizes people in some way. At least I felt energized by it. What sort of activism was you involved in?&nbsp; Going out to play every night. In Youth of Today, trying to make people become vegetarians. Convincing people to do it. I wanted other people to do it. It wasn't enough for me to do it. I wanted everyone in hardcore to do it. That was also the first time Youth of Today made a music video. Yes! The video is pretty hilarious actually in retrospect. That you made a music video probably made it reach a lot more people. I think that's true. It made an even bigger impact than just one song on one album. That's true. I think you're right. When it was finished though, it was like &quot;oh, man&quot;. The pigs and all the gory shit in it is pretty heavy duty. I absolutely feel it's great. I have a lot of friends that work for P.E.T.A. in New York and quite a few people got into P.E.T.A. through hardcore, through Youth of Today and Gorilla Biscuits. A lot of people through Gorilla Biscuits actually. A lot of people really related to &laquo;Cats and Dogs&raquo;. Maybe I just hear that more than Youth of Today. But it is cool to know that it had an impact. I like that. The video have some light-heartedness to it as well. Like the scene in the stairs were Porcell is shaking his head.&nbsp; It is meant to be powerful, it is meant to be traumatic, but it is kind of hilarious. Look at the videos at the time, our was a hundred times shittier than any of the shitty ones. We didn't have any money, I think we made it for like a thousand dollars or something like that, with the most primitive equipment. Who made it? This guy, they called him &laquo;Fascist Dan&raquo; and I don't know why they called him &laquo;Fascist Dan&raquo;. No questions asked :-) Yeah, it's like &laquo;Fascist Dan&raquo;? He was paraplegic I think, he had a wheel chair. He was rolling around on a wheel chair and he had a couple of other people that were doing the filming and he was telling them what to do. He had a studio up in Connecticut and there is were they recorded &laquo;Break Down The Walls&raquo;. That is how they knew him. I guess I never saw him again. But &laquo;Fascist Dan&raquo; directed. I think Ray created the script, the idea for it. Was it a band discussion about it? Youth of Today was pretty much, Ray would have an idea and we would help him make it happen. It was like that for the most part. Do you have any more memories from filming that video except for &laquo;Fascist Dan&raquo;? It was a fun day. We made &laquo;We're Not In This Alone&raquo; around the same time. To me that was a time when the whole straight edge thing was crystalized. Everybody was totally into it. There was a lot of good bands and a lot of cool things was happening. We were all really good friends at that time, so everybody in the video was excited and believed in what we were doing. I felt it was a fun day. A beautiful day. It is just funny, a bunch of guys standing and shouting &quot;No More&quot;. Trying to be tough about it. Did you feel awkward about it?&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; We wanted it to be good. We wanted it to look cool. We wanted to look like the youth crew in a way. But I think we knew pretty quick that it was ridiculous, but in a cool way. Did you get any shit for it? We were the people that made fun of it first. It is sort of good, it is totally funny. The thing is, we, in our crazy minds, at that time we were on Caroline Records. Caroline was bigger than Revelation obviously. We were not on a major, but on our way to a major label. So we thought that we could make a rock music video and get played on MTV. As soon as we had the video finished, we just knew that this thing will never get fucking played on MTV. Did it ever?&nbsp;&nbsp; No, I don't think so. But you know through Youtube, and people who had it thought it was pretty cool in a way. It is difficult for me to say since I was in it. I think definitely it made a strong impact. It reached a lot of people. Yeah. It has the pigs being slaughtered, that image will never get out of my head. Electricuting a pig, how it's done. Oh God! So you haven't eaten a pig since then?&nbsp; No. Before then. Remember, I had stopped eating meat before the video was made. You mentioned how these vegetarian songs became a must for every straight edge band. It's on the same level as having a song against racism. I think it's totally an important thing since such evils still exist. But people were just writing these songs to do it. You are saying something that everybody already knows. A lot of the straight edge stuff became a little bit cliche. Walter with the resurrected Gorilla Biscuits at Garage in Oslo 12.09.07, photo: unknown Had it already become like that when you did &laquo;Cats and Dogs&raquo;? I don't think anyone wrote a song like that again? I don't know if anyone did that? Was &laquo;Cats and Dogs&raquo; a reaction against that sort of conformity? I think some people maybe thought that it was not serious enough. I vaguely remember some people saying that. That it wasn't hard enough. Personally I don't give a shit. I know it's a good song that had an appeal beyond the people that already believed it. I saw what happened with the straight edge stuff, the only people that listened to it was the people who already believed in it. That made it not good for me. In our Nettradio for dyrs frihet podcast we play 50% hardcore/punk songs and 50% any other stuff like reggae, hip-hop etc. And all the old hardcore/punk stuff is like &quot;animals are being slaughtered&quot;, all with pretty much focus on the negative sides. But if you listen to an animal rights reggae tune you will hear them sing about avocados, guan&aacute;bana and onions&hellip; That's more seductive to me. I think it's got a lot to do with the time, Crucifix and Crass and those bands created the template for vegetarianism in punk were it's about morality and a lot of judgement involved. Either you are with us or you are a murderer, you know what I mean? People talking down to you. I don't think you convert people that way. All you do with that is manage the people that are already onboard, to let them know that if they stop being vegetarian they are going to get punished&hellip; or something like that. I always thought &laquo;No More&raquo; was good and I think Ray is such a great lyricist and vocalist and I thought the music was good and it was maybe persuasive. I just think that approach have been done. It's over, I don't want to do that kind of a thing like &quot;read the facts, it's all fucked up, the forests are destroyed&hellip; it's adding up!&quot;. That approach has been done and I am a music man and I wanted to do something different. In it's own little way &laquo;Cats and Dogs&raquo; is a good vegetarian song, and so is &laquo;No More&raquo;. We played them both in our very first podcast.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; What are some other good ones? You have &laquo;Death Camps&raquo;by Cro-Mags &laquo;Death Camps&raquo; yeah. I like &laquo;Survival&raquo; by Outspoken &nbsp; I don't know that one. Insted had three good ones. Yeah? &laquo;Feel Their Pain&raquo;, &laquo;Live and let Live&raquo;... &laquo;Live and Let Live&raquo; I know that one. There came a lot of songs about vegetarianism in the 90's. A lot of songs about vegetarianism? Yeah, with Earth Crisis and all those bands&hellip; and you had Refused in Sweden. Refused did vegetarian songs? Yes, they had a really good song called &laquo;The Slayer&raquo;. Ok, I don't know it, but it must be good. They are a great band, but I got into them a little to late. I got into them after they had already broken up. I met Dennis Lyxz&eacute;n on tour with Rival Schools. I missed out on them unfortunately. We asked Dennis about his favorite vegetarian song and he shares one with us and that's &laquo;No More&raquo;. &laquo;No More&raquo; yeah. I remember meeting those guys when we first came to Sweden. I think it was with Gorilla Biscuits and they had all flown down from the north. They were all sitting in the room with us and were very quiet. No one was talking, it was so strange. But yeah, Dennis is a very nice guy. It was a different time. Wait, it must have been Quicksand we played with when they came to the show. They were all very into straight edge stuff and I was already into something else. You still play &laquo;Cats and Dogs&raquo; when you do acoustic sets? I have done. I did it a year or two ago. I don't usually do it. I do it once in a while. The song have nice chords. It has a nice melody. It's a nice song. The lyrics go &quot;that's a lie&quot;, so I guess there is a little bit of fingerpointing in it. It got a good mosh part as well, and it got that line &quot;thou shalt not kill&quot; in it. I know it's in the bible but I got it from Antidote. Antidote, there is a good vegetarian band! Did you know it was from the bible? Of course, I did. Was Moondog named after a vegetarian hot dog stand? It was. Yes. I had just got into vegetarianism, this was right after the &laquo;Break Down The Walls&raquo; tour and we came back to New York. At that time there wasn't that much vegetarian food available. You did not have all the stuff that you have now. If you wanted to make a veggie burger you had to get some oats and roll it up and do all this bullshit to make a burger. I was 17 or 18 years old and didn't know how to cook oats. They opened up a store on 2nd avenue called Moondogs and we knew the girl that worked there. And we would hang out there a lot for the six months that it was open. Who was the girl?&nbsp; She was from Florida. We met her on tour actually. We met this group of girls in Florida on tour and they all decided to move to New York. Because of you?&nbsp;&nbsp; Not because of me personally, but they had a connection&hellip; and we hung out for a while and they made their own friends. I don't know what happened to any of them, but they were cool girls. So one of them worked at Moondogs and would always give us free tofu chili dogs and it was awesome! It was an awesome band too&hellip;&nbsp;&nbsp; Thank you. The store didn't last long, but there were not many vegetarian places in New York at the time and something opened that was catering to vegetarians. That was fun. Vegetarianism is sometimes about not having, but this place was about having something. The chili dogs were great, I miss them! But now of course there are so many vegetarian places. In the United States you have Whole Foods and a whole movement with focus on conscious eating. Which I think is awesome. It's a reflection of what people want or at least want to think of themselves as, like health conscious, compassionate, eating better. That's something.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</div> </div> </div>