Shelter, Inside Out, Quicksand – Summer Tour 1990… It wasn’t a tour; it was the big bang, the the beginning of a completely new chapter in the history of rock music. Shelter was the dawn of Krishna-core, a genre that would dominate straightedge for at least four or five years. Quicksand would spawn the post-hardcore genre that would lead to bands like Tool and the Deftones. Inside Out was at the beginning of its end, which means the rap-rock genre pioneered by Rage Against the Machine was about to be born.
Ironically, at the time, Krishna-core seemed the biggest of the three developments. At least, to me.
The tour moved by two vans, a motor-home, and a greyhound bus. The inside of the bus had been gutted and converted into a rolling “preaching center.” It belonged to a Hare Krishna swamī, who captained it with a middle-aged single man as first-mate and a crew of three or four teenage boys – all practicing celibacy. Ray and I glued ourselves to this bus. We didn’t hang out with our own bands. Ever.
They weren’t devotees.
My old friends, Tom Capone and Alan Cage were in Quicksand. They traveled in the van that always lagged behind and showed up suspiciously late. I don’t recall making any effort to speak with either of them more than once or twice, or for more than a grand total of three minutes. Maybe they used to be my dearest friends, but they weren’t devotees.
Unlike most tours, social dynamics were not determined by the boundaries of bands so much as they was established by simple census of who was a devotee and who wasn’t. An infinite chasm of total mutual disinterest separated the two groups: devotees and “non-devotees.”
The only exception was Shelter’s bass player, Yaso – a middle-aged Hare Krishna carpenter with no ties to punk rock at all. He was a tall, lanky, gentle angel; a friend to everyone. Yaso chanted with the devotees with just as much zeal as he chilled out and joked around with the non-devotees. Perhaps coincidentally, he was the only Hare Krishna on the tour who was married and had a child.
He often drove the motor-home, which I called “the swāmī van” because another swāmī traveled in it (yes, not one but two swāmīs came on the tour). The swāmī in the motor-home had a particular knack for being able to come down to earth and respond to all sorts of questions in relatively reasonable, intelligent, and logical ways. So, Ray and I would orchestrate occasions to have people from the non-devotee clan ride in the motor home and talk with the swāmī.
I particularly remember Zack’s and Tom’s conversations.
Zack talked a bit about how he accepted my proposition that spiritual change in the individual was the only real foundation for true social change, but it was clear that he mostly conceived of spirituality as feelings and emotions and had no sympathy whatsoever for a hierarchically organized religious institution. The swami thought wasn’t impressed with Zack’s “sentimentality” and was honestly surprised a year or two later, when Zack achieved superstardom vastly outshining anyone else ever spawned from the depths of hardcore.
Tom’s conversation with the swāmī started out similar to the conversation we had years ago in my Dodge Dart. “Krishna enjoys life,” he asked, “so why should his devotees have to renounce everything? It’s not right.”
The swāmī tried to explain that sense gratification doesn’t lead to true happiness, but Tom wasn’t into it. “There is happiness in sense gratification. I’ve experienced it.”
After a little more back and forth, the swāmī explained, “There are three kinds of intelligence. First-class intelligence hears, ‘sense gratification causes suffering’ and stays away from it. Second-class intelligence hears, ‘sense gratification causes suffering’ but engages in sense gratification anyway. Then by personal experience he realizes that it leads to suffering, and stays away from it. Third-class intelligence hears ‘sense gratification causes suffering,’ suffers first-hand by pursuing it, but still holds on to the hope that he will somehow achieve happiness from sense gratification. It seems like you have third-class intelligence.”
Tom took it as an insult. Maybe he thought he had a different kind of “first-class intelligence” – one that doesn’t believe in ideas that don’t match the reality he could experience.
This is a first draft. If you were there and have memories, opinions, etc. that might change how this is written, or expand it, I would love to hear from you in the comments below.
– From a first draft of
Train-Wrecks and Transcendence:
A Collision of Hardcore and Hare Krishna
by Vraja Kishor