An interview with Joshua Ploeg

My friend Roy is back with another interview for the blog. Enjoy!

I first met Joshua Ploeg (aka Joshua Plague, aka Rocksworth Sexington and so much more) in the late 1990s at a Christian music festival in Illinois called Cornerstone. Joshua was on tour with a Seattle band called Ninety Pound Wuss and responsible for peddling their merch. I don’t remember what prompted the conversation, it might have been the shirt I was wearing, but he told me he was in a band called Behead the Prophet (No Lord Shall Live) and that he had some of their records under the table. I bought one of everything that day and have been a fan ever since. Joshua has masterminded or been part of several creative and influential musical projects in addition to BtP (NLSL) such as the fantastically queer-core Mukilteo Fairies, Lords of Lightspeed (who featured the brothers that would go on to start the blackened metal band Wolves in the Throne Room) and more recently, Select Sex. Joshua spends a lot of his time now traveling the country making delicious food for friends and friends-to-be as a vegan chef.

Joshua Ploeg - Joe DenardoPhoto by Joe Denardo

ROY: When I moved back to LA in December of last year you were still here but you’ve moved since then. Where are you based out of these days?

JOSHUA: San Diego for now but I’m not sure for how long. In between I was couch surfing, touring and homeless.

ROY: Do you enjoy being a nomad or is it just part of life right now?

JOSHUA: I enjoy it but sometimes it has been more necessary than desired. The way I do things, it is hard to stay put and earn a living.

ROY: I would imagine you could find a full time gig as a chef but it would mean actually settling down somewhere. I tend to get antsy if I’m one place too long. Is settling in somewhere for a few years something you’d like to do, or do you feel like you have to keep moving?

JOSHUA: A few years would be cool as long as I can still travel when I want to. It’s hard to decide on where, though. A full-time gig has limitations but I’m currently thinking about what exactly could work in a more stationary setting and still give me a good amount of freedom. I don’t mind clients but I don’t like having a boss; they usually live up to the title. I want to have the cake and eat it too, essentially. And of course I consider that a feasible concept.

ROY: I first met you in the late ‘90s at Cornerstone when you were on tour with Jeff and Ninety Pound Wuss. I think Behead the Prophet had broken up by then. What led you away from being a punk performer to become a vegan chef?

JOSHUA: Well, I had dinner parties at my house to be social and entertain bands that visited. Whenever the food was bad, I wanted to learn to improve it. Funny you should mention Jeff, he was the one that said, “I would pay for food like this,” which then gave me the idea to turn the dinners into a secret cafe in my house. Then my friend Andy convinced me to compile my recipes into a cookbook, which I did and I started making copies of it. Touring with bands was the only model for selling merchandise that I had, so I started touring with food. I contacted the same promoters that did shows for us on my first food trip to California. That was 2003. Secret Cafe was like 1999 or 1998. I’ve been doing this a while!

ROY: The subjects of food choices and veganism—these all have personal and political implications and people often have strong opinions about them. Was this part of why you chose to be a vegan chef?

JOSHUA: I prefer to be vegan; I don’t want to promote the dairy/meat ingredients. The politics of it are more of a bonus, but I try to stay vegan for personal reasons.

Joshua Ploeg - Elly BluePhoto by Elly Blue

ROY: So, you have a new cookbook coming out. How is this one different than your previous ones?

JOSHUA: There are several coming out—one is groups of “holiday” themed recipes, one is a “punk rock” cookbook with color photos which is pretty tongue-in-cheek and the third I am supporting a dietician with some recipes involving chocolate (most of them savory recipes!) Every book I do has a concept; each is different. These might wind up being more useable than some of my previous work, although who knows!

ROY: You’ve done several zines in the past as well. Do you approach putting together a cookbook like you did doing zines?

JOSHUA: To an extent, although the color photos give me an option of doing something really ridiculous which I am pretty excited about. And for the dietician’s recipes, it still has my voice but with a perhaps less zany or mocking tone. I put them together with heavy personality usually, that’s for sure. And it doesn’t matter to me how large or small the audience is either, much like with a zine.

ROY: You’re also still doing music. BtP did some reunion shows this year, and Select Sex is playing out. When I saw BtP in Seattle this year it was just as raucous as I imagine the early BtP shows were. Do you still enjoy performing that kind of physically demanding music?

JOSHUA: Yes, I love to! I like Behead the Prophet because the people are all close friends and it has a lot of noise and chaos yet is still pretty rock and roll, at least to us. Select Sex I enjoy—they are also great guys and we’re on a similar wavelength. The music is less chaotic but still pretty obnoxious. I’m still working on my act though—thinking of something new to do with it all—but we shall see how that goes.

ROY: You’ve had a lot of musical projects: BtP, Lords of Lightspeed and of course Mukilteo Fairies. Is there one project you especially look back on and say “I liked that one most”?

JOSHUA: Well, with Behead the Prophet I picked out all of the people specifically hoping it would sound different and crazy. So that is pretty sentimental. Also Michael (the violin player) was a huge inspiration and a good friend.

ROY: I’ve read up on him more over the last couple years and he seemed like a really special guy. I would imagine being around him would force you to stretch your creativity.

JOSHUA: Absolutely. Things don’t always go according to plan, you must be able to roll with it and improvise. Also, it didn’t matter that the music sounded crazy fucked up or that the recordings were nothing like live. Live is a happening, recordings are planned accidents. Or something like that! And that band often had themes and costumes. It was fun!

ROY: How does it feel every morning to wake up and be a gay punk icon?

JOSHUA: Hahaha! I am pretty fringe though, man. I appreciate the friends that have also been fans over the years. It gives me the support to keep doing something goofy or obnoxious! Yayyyyyy!

ROY: There are a lot more queer punk and hardcore bands now but you were doing it at a time when the trail had only been walked by a few people like The Dicks, Pansy Division, the Outpunk label etc. What do you remember the early reaction to the Mukilteo Fairies being back then?

JOSHUA: People were stoked to a degree. Some were a bit put off, but if they hated it they would usually avoid it. I didn’t get heckled or shoved very often. The type of music helped. It was harsh, so they respected that I guess, but at the same time I tried my hand at a lot of obviously gay maneuvering and banter so they couldn’t act like they didn’t know. Also, I tried to support bands that didn’t have the supposed “typical punk sound” which was part of the point, to be more inclusive and have fun while also mixing that up by playing with crusties and at six-band punk shows and all that. I tried to shake things up but essentially the response was pretty upbeat. Maybe I’m too nice or something! I made an effort to have the physical interactions both in the audience and between us and the band members be less harsh than just a badass pit, but confrontational enough to be slightly on edge. Occasionally the ol’ mosheroo might get a bit out of hand back in the day and I would get roughed up a bit or people would have to hightail it outta there but not too often.

ROY: In your time of doing music, is there a show that stands out in your mind?

JOSHUA: There are a lot of them—the first Mukilteo Fairies show was memorable, I was so nervous I just bolted out into the audience and that’s how that all began with us. Behead the Prophet had one in Fairfax, Virginia, where there were only a handful of people and I eventually became pals with them. It had a big influence on those guys because we just went off like crazy even though no one was there and we weren’t really in the mood. I always loved playing with Thrones, Men’s Recovery Project, Submission Hold, the Rickets…lots of fun people and shows!

Joshua Ploeg - Cathy de la CruzPhoto by Cathy de la Cruz

Pre-order Joshua’s new cookbook “This Ain’t No Picnic: Your Punk Rock Vegan Cookbook” here.

See Select Sex in Los Angeles on December 16 at Pehrspace with FederationX

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