If you’re familiar with some radical music named punk, going behind the bigger names, maybe you already know Oi Polloi. If you’re not, keep on listening to Tegan and Sara and Moby, no problem for me. Active for almost three decades, this band started with a crucial oi! sound with a political hint, which was not a cliché for the time, then matured and added a little hardcore bite to its style, adding more politics to its lyrics too. As a fan of the 80’s I’d rather go for their old releases but even the newer stuff is pretty solid, just grab the “fuam catha” record i.e. and taste some real gaelic punk! Oi Polloi are featured here as they are veggie/vegan, so… let’s go!
- How’s the diet of Oi Polloi, are you all vegans/veggie? Since the band is going on for more than a couple of decades now, I believe line ups changed a lot. Is the band opened to every diet or being veggie/vegan is a crucial point of the band itself? And this is for the old school; during the Oi! Records years, were being veggie popular? How did react the skin scene to it?
Right now we’ve had the same line-up for almost 6 years and two of us are vegan and two veggie. We’ve been talking about whether we’d have a meat eater in the band in the future though when our bassist leaves to work abroad later this year and basically we think at the moment (and we could change our minds on this!) that we wouldn’t rule someone out if they happened to eat meat if they were a good person. In that case I think going on tour with us and being constantly exposed to good vegan food at all the gigs might well lead to them re-thinking their diet and that would be a very positive outcome. Nothing is totally black and white - we all know the odd meat eater who is cool and the odd vegan who is actually a pretty unpleasant person - though it has to be said that usually people who are concerned about animal and human rights tend to be nicer people obviously! We don’t define ourselves by our diet though - it’s just one aspect of the band. As to skinheads and Oi, well skinhead veggies are known! The others probably thought we were typical "hippies" or something but no one really gave us any hassle about it - and some of them quite liked the veggie sausages etc that we were eating. We talk about our ideas but we don’t ram them down anyone’s throat so it’s never been a problem.
- Is you diet non meat/dairy and that’s all, or you care about health and stuff like that? I mean… is it all about avoiding animal suffering/exploitation or trying to be physically ok too?
Our primary reasons for avoiding certain foods are to do with animal and human rights - it’s a moral stance rather than simply that we’re thinking about our own health. We’re obviously aware of the health issues though and aware that a vegan diet is much better for you than one full of meat etc. Anyone with a basic understanding of ecology is gonna realise that eating dead animals and congealed bovine mammary fluid isn’t going to do you much good in this day and age of industrialised factory farming.
- In the last times I’ve been several times in London, focusing not so much on the punk-hc scene but making a tour of veggie place to eat instead. You know, when age comes… Anyway, I elected the city a true veggie paradise, even if I consider home the best place to eat. How’s about your hometown? I found around some vegan haggis; is a vegan shepherd pie already around?
Edinburgh is pretty good for veggies - apparently it has the highest number of veggie cafes and health food shops per head of population anywhere in the UK so it is certainly no problem to get good cheap vegan food. I recommend the Baked Potato Shop in Cockburn Street and Suzy’s Diner near the university for a good vegan bite to eat. There are plenty of other good places too - and yes, there is such a thing as vegan shepherd’s pie!
- Some of you buddies has kids? If so, are you growing them with an omnivore diet or veggie?
None of us have kids yet but we might in the future and if we do we’ll have a responsibility to them to give them a healthy nutritious diet free of stuff like the anti-biotics, growth hormones and other chemicals found in meat and dairy products, to say nothing of the disease risks from stuff like BSE, salmonella etc so yeah, of course it will be a veggie upbringing. How could you sit back and let your kids eat factory farmed meat etc when you know how bad it is for them? And that is even without thinking about all the damage to their environment that meat consumption is doing - let alone the question of the suffering of the animals involved.
- Ok Oi Polloi is a punk band as someone reading here might know already. But since www.veganriot.it isn’t for punks only, well, tell us about bands politic and ideas considering that maybe 80% of the people reading, have the idea that punk is about shooting drugs, wearing swastikas and dying in some dirty hotel room.
If anyone has the idea that that is what punk is about then they should stop believing the mainstream media. Our ideas can best be summed up in one word - respect. By that we mean respect for other people and respect for all other living things and for the planet on which we all live. Respect for other people means then that we are against racism and oppression and discrimination, respect for other living things means being veggie and respect for the planet and for future generations means being active in defence of the environment. Simple as that really.
- Someone interested in music scenes would notice that being veggie was a big issue during the peace punk uk invasion with Crass, Dirt, Icons of Filth and the likes. Then it kinda disappeared. Then the American straight edge scene of the late 80’s pumped it up back again and after sometime there’s a common ideas that being vegan comes along with bullshit attitude, pro lifers, circle pits, tattoes and being hard. Recently in some talking with some Doom members, he noticed too a lack of veggies in the new punk scene. You are still playing and hanging around, what’s your feeling about it?
I wouldn’t say I ever noticed veggie ideas disappearing from the punk scene. In fact, if anything, from our experience anyway, it’s got a lot easier getting vegan food on tour etc - almost everywhere we play now the food is vegan as a matter of course - or vegetarian with a vegan option. That definitely wasn’t the case when we started touring twenty years ago - in fact lots of people thought we were crazy then for not eating meat. People expect you to be veggie now - at least in the circles that we move in the political punk scene. It may be different for people playing in more commercial venues of course. Just for the record we’ve got nothing to do with that bullshit US macho hardcore "pro-life" (misnomer if ever there was one) shit - fuck that. We’re not interested in impressing people with how "hard" we are or how many tattoos we’ve got - we don’t need to.
- When thinking superficially about UK, the first things that come to minds are, the Queen, football holies, smokey pubs with people playing darts, Blur & Oasis. Not to mention that is a nation with the highest percentage of veggies/vegans around. What’s the factor that make so many English people ethical aware or maybe healty aware?
You’d have to ask an English person that question - or at least someone who lives in England. As none of us are English and we don’t live in England we can’t help you there. We come from Scotland - no smoking in pubs, people playing bagpipes and better music than Blur and Oasis I’m glad to say!
(Argh, I forgot to ask if they are wearing slips under the skirt, poor me. Note of the ignorant interviewer)
- Are you cooking on your home? Do you have jobs that leave you some times to take care of your stomach in a decent way? Since we’re talking about food, what’s your fave dish?
When on tour, are people aware of your diet and do you get edible things? I noticed that food at squats or at least within the punk scene is far way better that when I started getting around in the 80’s… But on the other hands, when playing, I sometimes got people laughing at me when telling them I wasn’t eating cos there were nothing veggie/vegan. Remember any fasting situation?
Yeah, we do all cook at home and most of us only work irregularly too so that means we have more chance to eat what we want. I think I’ve answered the question about touring already to a great extent - basically usually food on tour is really great - a lot better in many punk squats than in many official restaurants I’d have to say too. Yes, there’s the odd time when you play in an odd place and have to go without but it hardly ever happens these days. Favourite dish would be difficult to say - variety is the spice of life!