Punk rock was always standing up against the establishment, it was about us against them. Now you have people that sided with them against us, so our protest is music. That's what this whole record is about. This is our form of protest.
Bloodclot have just released their new EP Souls and it’s a blistering collection of defiant hardcore anthems with a strong metal influence. With a new line-up that features some major players in hardcore and still led by the inimitable John Joseph, Bloodclot have made sure that 2022 is ending on a fiery note. Gavin Brown caught up with John to get the lowdown on the new Bloodclot line-up and Souls as well as discussing the enduring influence of the legendary Bad Brains and memories of Bloodclot guitarist, the late, great Todd Youth.
E&D: The new Bloodclot release Souls is out now. What can we expect from the release this time around?
John: I mean, we just put some hard stuff on there and we got some of the best players. Craig Setari played bass. Tom Capone played guitar, Darren Morgenthaler, who was in Madball and filled in on a tour for Mackie on the Cro-Mags played drums. We were going to do a full length but it wouldn’t have been out this year. Everything’s so fucked up with the supply chains for the vinyl and everything, so we had an opportunity to put something out quick. We would have had to wait into 2023 so we decided to split the album up into two EPs. We have the material for the second EP coming in the new year. We were going through a lot of shit in New York with the lockdowns and all the crazy shit and it was very frustrating, basically the whole fucking city shut down while they were going around doing whatever the fuck they want and they told everybody to do this and do that and do this but they didn’t do it. The Tompkins Square Park show that we did, that’s the first time we ever played Souls live. That was in 2021 and we got criticised by the entire fucking world for playing a fucking concert when the city opened up completely the next day. There was 50,000 people in in the fucking baseball stadiums, but we did a punk rock show, which is our form of protest, and everybody had a fucking shit fit and then made up lies and said that we lied to get the permit. When we offered the proof, nobody wanted to retract their statements, they just went left it there. Music to us, it’s what I’ve always done. I’ve been going to punk rock shows since 1977. saw the Ramones, the Dead Boys at Max’s Kansas City, CBGBs and that’s what punk rock was always about. It was about standing up against the establishment, it was about us against them. Now you have people that sided with them against us, so our protest is music. That’s what this whole record is about. This is our form of protest. That’s what Souls is, and really what it’s saying is you have a certain group of people, the so called the elite who bring war to the street, they keep us fighting each other so we don’t sit back and think hey, man, what the fuck are these people doing behind the fucking curtain? That’s what the song ‘War Castles’ is about, its based on a documentary of the same name, that they’ve been keeping humanity against each other at the throats of each other while they fucking exploit us and that’s what punk rock said since fucking day one, and I stick to my principles and my morals and that’s what I write about.
E&D: Does it feel frustrating to still fight that fight?
John: No, because it’s what I do. It’s what I write. I grew up with it and I got to be there. Today, I’m going to see Shepard Fairey the artist, he’s painting the Bad Brains mural down the street from CBGBs on a whole fucking wall. I was there for the making of that fucking record! I was there when HR was writing the fucking lyrics. I met them in 1980 and I saw the whole shit go down so how could I not be against Babylon, against the system? Look at what I wrote on ‘Burn Babylon Burn’. Look what I wrote on ‘Up In Arms’, it’s the same message and now you get motherfuckers calling me a racist and just piling all this bullshit. He’s a racist. He’s a fascist, he’s a Trump supporter, all this bullshit. I’m like, yo, find a post of me where I ever supported fucking Donald Trump or any of these. These people are fucking crazy, and all I say is I use the word didacticism, and it’s when you slant the argument to make a point. That’s what this all is. It’s all didactic because nobody else is allowed to present the other side. It’s only one side. and if you don’t like it, we’re going to try to destroy you. That’s called cancel culture. All I say to the punk rock motherfuckers out there, is question authority. That’s what punk rock was about. We were supposed to question authority. Right? We don’t just accept what the fuck they say and I’ve been writing about this shit for going on 42 fucking years now. My message has always been the same, but now all of a sudden, he’s a racist. he’s transphobic, he’s this. They just have these labels and the thing is, I’ve never had a conversation with or even asked what my opinion is on the whole shit, so that’s what they do. They don’t want to hear what you have to say. They just want to cancel you but that’s impossible because I had motherfuckers in real life trying to cancel me. I have people trying to take my life. You think some words on the internet are gonna fuck with me?! They don’t say anything to my face. I’ve seen one of them on the street and they just bark and tried to walk by me and I was like, Nah, motherfucker. Say shit. Now this is old school. This is how we dealt with shit. We didn’t talk shit in chat rooms and fake profile pages of people on online. We got up close and personal. If I had something to say to you, you would know it because I would come find you and say to your face, and I’m not saying that’s always fighting but you were allowed to have a difference of opinion back then. You were allowed to to debate with each other. It was healthy. That’s what philosophers have done for thousands of years. They debated philosophy. Now you’re not allowed to question the authority. You’re not allowed to question anything. You just have to do what they say. That shits gone off the rails if you’re a punk rock hardcore motherfucker, and you’re saying that you went off the rails homie? You better fucking check yourself as well.
E&D: Going back to back to the record, how was it working with the new lineup?
John: Amazing! Manny Carrera who played in Glassjaw was originally supposed to play on Souls, he played on ‘How Low Can A Punk Get’ but he got kidney disease. He moved to Florida, he can’t even travel so he’s like, Guys, I can’t do this band right now. Understandable. He was in the in the ICU right before we were getting ready to get into pre production, he disappeared but he finally called me back and said “Yo, I was in ICU hooked up to machines”. So we had to do what we had to do, right before the record, I asked Craig, I said “Hey, man, can you play on these songs?” He goes, “Yeah, let me check out the material”. I sent him the songs. He’s like, “I’m fucking in dude”. With Tom, we had our system because we did a lot of shit with Tom where he would would send some guitar riffs over or we would meet, this was all during the lockdowns, we were tracking shit and we would build from there, we would get it and then send it to Darren who’s in Florida and he would add his parts. That’s what we all did, and then we’ve rehearsed a bunch. Now we have Christian from Vio-Lence playing bass with us. We obviously knew Craig has Sick Of It All and that’s his priority, we ran into that problem when we were doing Cro-Mags, a lot of times, we had to get somebody else to play bass, and we didn’t want to have to go do that. We want to solid member and Christian was like, “Yo, man, like, I love this shit, I’m down”. He played with Cypress Hill live for four years and he was in Fear Factory and I just love him on stage. He’s a fucking animal, and he just sent us a video of him playing the songs, you got to have that right hand down picking up the bass, that’s the type of shit that we write and he had it! honestly, to be able to play with these guys on this record, man, I’m fucking honoured. Tom’s always been one of my favourite guitar players since the early Quicksand days. I still run and train to that band, Slip and all that. They had their own shit. They had their own sound. Listen to it, it’s fucking badass. Tom, Walter, Sergio on bass. All those dudes are fucking great! The band came together and made this epic fucking record. I remember seeing them at the Academy in Times Square, and I was like, What the fuck? They brought the walls down. I was like, yes, there’s hope for fucking hardcore, because that’s what it is. The music has to evolve. The music has to grow. You can’t keep doing shit, making it sound like every every other band. Get your own sound and that’s what we had in the early days. All these bands sounded different and listen, I’m not slagging anybody, I think it’s great, we got up there playing covers and doing whatever and then got our own music even the Cro-Mags. We were influenced and up there jamming on a Bad Brains song and then we started writing some of our own shit. As a musician, you should always be looking to improve. You should always be looking to grow boundaries. Some of the old guard of the Hardcore scene, they don’t like Turnstile,I love those fucking kids. We played with them in England and I was like, these kids are something fucking special. Keep an eye on them and look what’s happening now. That’s what I’m saying. You want bands to take chances and take risks.
E&D: Will this new lineup with Christian be playing at the gig you’ve got coming up in New York in January?
John: Yeah, we’ve got our first gig coming up with him in January in New York City. It’s kind of like a record release party. I don’t like those record release parties but it’s our first show after the record release. So far we’ve played stuff off the first and second Bloodclot albums and this new one. We cover ‘How Low Can A Punk Get’, we got some other surprises, so it’ll be fun.
E&D: With the Bad Brains cover, what’s the reaction to your version been like?
John: I sent that song to Darryl right before we put it out. I go Darryl, I want you to peep this man because we had to get the clearance from him. He goes “Yo Squids, your people hit me up, send me the track” He called me Squids because when they met me, I was in the Navy. I sent him the track and a few hours later he said “Yo, this is the way to the Brains should have played it!” I know we’re not even in their league, but for him to say something like that and he loved the version that we did. I could tell you straight up Darryl don’t fuck around. If it would have been wack, he would have been like “Yo Squids why you got to do that man!”
E&D: That be the ultimate compliment though coming from him?
John: Yeah, and the thing is the message of the song. What is the message of the song? Everything is like I said, Souls has a theory and a philosophy to it and ‘How Low Can A Punk Get’ fits the philosophy. That song is a a motherfucker to play. I’m telling you. We played that shit live at the park. You can’t have some ringers play that shit, man, you can’t just be having some dude who could barely play two riffs try! They’re gonna butcher the song, and you know, Tom is just an amazing guitar player and he just killed it!
E&D: Bad Brains are obviously such a huge part of Bloodclot and you as well. How important have the band been to you since you first discovered them?
John: Yeah, they’re kings of this whole shit. I mean, Bloodclot formed on tour with them. The first line-up of this band had Jay Dublee, who produced the ROIR cassette. We lived at the studio there, we started rehearsing. If there there was no Bad Brains, there’s no Bloodclot. That’s why we took the expression. People don’t know what that shit means. If you’ve never been to Jamaica or you don’t interact with Jamaicans you don’t know what the term means because that’s where it comes from. Bloodclot means it’s a fucked up situation. It’s like a curse and patois, so that’s why we roll with the name. I was down when the Bad Brains were recording a lot of stuff, ‘We Will Not’, ‘Destroy Babylon’. A lot of the stuff off the ROIR cassette. You’d be in a room and watch these dudes, Darryl and Doc and what they come up with and Earl just fucking puts that locomotive driving snaps. It’s just that magic that happens!
E&D: Looking back at when Bloodclot came back with your last album. It must have been great working with the late, great Todd Youth?
John: When me and Todd Youth, let’s go back up to Up In Arms. We wanted to do a band together. We started writing music I went out to do a triathlon, and I tore my calf muscles, so I couldn’t do the race, so I’m sitting in LA and then me and Todd just got together and we started writing, we came up with five songs man in fucking two weeks. I was like, “yo, what do you want to call this shit?” He’s like, “dude, it’s fucking Bloodclot!” We even kept one of Todd’s tracks on the record because that song ‘Infectious’ was one of the last songs that we tracked on those sessions for Up In Arms and we didn’t use it. I was able to lift Todd’s guitar parts onto the song. We were able to get the original session with Todd, and hook up the click track to it so the timing was the same. The bars fall in the same spot, the lead comes in the same spot, the vocal bars same spot and we kept Todd’s background vocal and his lead. We dedicated this record to Todd. This is the first thing we put out if you look on the record, it says dedicated to Todd. That’s our brother we lost. I gotta do something to honour this dude, because it was fucked up losing him, man.
E&D: What are some of your favourite memories of Todd?
John: I mean, I’ve known him since he was a little kid. He ran away from a foster home like myself, I was a runaway kid so I went onto the streets at 14 back in the early 80s. He did the same thing. I just made sure nobody fought with him. He was on that level of creativity, with the amount of talent he had. He played with Motörhead, he played with Glen Campbell, Murphy’s Law. He could do anything. When you got in a room with him to create music, there’s a magic that happens, a spontaneity, and when it hits, you know! We did the writing a lot like that. It’s just this creative spontaneity.
E&D: Thanks John, that’s been great, have you got a few final words for all your fans out there?
John: Thank you and peace. Keep that PMA. Keep playing the music and keep improving, and keep being good to each other. Stop arguing with each other and fighting each other. We’ve got to fight the man! Destroy Babylon! FVK! Fearless Vampire Killers!