John “Porcell” Porcelly
John Porcelly—or “Porcell” as most fans of his music know him by—was the guitar player for some of my favorite bands when I was a teenage kid. The stage presence that he had was powerful and, in imagery, he basically defined the look of straight edge hardcore in the era between 1986–1990.
This interview was done on October 22, 2000 after a performance in Massachusetts. It was part of a series that I was doing with former role models and personal influences, talking specifically about principles that have guided them in their own lives.
One of the things I'm going for in this series of interviews is to identify principles that others have incorporated into their lives. For you, personally, what have been some of the things that have influenced and changed you during your life, and what are some of the directing values that you've based your life on?
Definitely the first major life changer in my life was straight edge. When I picked up those two Minor Threat seven inches and those early Seven Seconds seven inches…it was just, like…something that grabbed me…because at the time I was in high school and…you know how "typical" high school life can be…you go to the same party every week and you get drunk and it just gets really boring and it just…to me it seemed like just such a self-destructive kind of lifestyle. So, when I heard about straight edge, I immediately got into it. So, I think that was definitely…you know…a major, major, major positive impact on my life.
I think the second big one was when I got into Krishna Consciousness and I started reading the Bhagavad Gita and eastern philosophy and became a vegetarian and things like that. It sort of…I saw it as kind of, like, an extension of straight edge because straight edge is…you're working on yourself and you don't want to put poisons into your body, and you want to maintain a balance in your mind, but then…I think it's a more spiritual thing to sort of branch out and see that it's not only yourself that you want to correct and balance, but it's the whole world around you…you don't want to kill animals and you want to be at peace and harmony with all living things. So, that was a big influence on me, also.
Right on. What are some other things that, when you encountered them in your life, really caused something to shift for you?
It was definitely the first time I read the Bhagavad Gita, because the Bhagavad Gita isn't really about religion, so to speak…of, like, a western idea of religion…or of a club that you join and, you know, if, like, another club comes along, you know, you hate that club…
There are so many wars and frustrations in the name of religion. To me, that's really not what's the essence of it [the Bhagavad Gita]. The essence of it is just understanding that you're a soul that's inside a body and this body is just like a machine and your soul is actually your real personality…your real identity…that moves the machine. And when you grow old and die, according to your karma…the soul, which is your identity, leaves the body and goes into another body.
We've been going through this cycle for thousands of lifetimes. And when you start to see yourself as a soul inside of a body…what people in the west think of happiness as equating to is making the body happy…you know, eating good food, having a comfortable situation, having money to buy things, having power, having attractive sex objects…everything revolves around the body. But the reason why America is the most affluent country in the world but we're also the most miserable, depressed, most drug addicted country, is because people have the wrong idea of what's going to make them happy. And it's because they have a wrong idea of who they are. They're not the body…they're actually the soul inside the body. And what brings the soul happiness is love and relationships, and ultimately the relationship with the Supreme Soul, or God. And so, that was a major shift for me…to understand…to see things in a spiritual perspective, instead of just, you know, a materialistic perspective.
How have you experienced that difference for yourself?
I'd say the first time that I went to India was such a paradigm shift for me, because…I can remember I was in India and I was in this tiny village where the people…I mean, it's a third world country…the people are practically, you know…anyone…any westerner that would look on those people would be, like…“Oh my god, they're such impoverished, poor people…I'd never want to live like that!” But these people actually…they live a simple village life, so there's not that much stress or aggrivation…and because spirituality is the center of their lives, they're completely balanced, highly moral, happy, fulfilled people. And it was, after living for, like, three months in that kind of environment…you know, simple living, high thinking…and really kind of like a spiritual atmosphere and doing a lot of meditating and chanting and things like that…and then I got off the plane in New York and…you just like look on the sidewalk and you see people in business suits and their cell phones and they're running around and, you know…you see the cars and the limousines and everything's so fast paced…and you look at the people…and even though they're, like, rich and they have all the comforts that western society can provide…you look at their faces and they are, like, not happy. You can just see it in their faces, and it's just, like…Wow… You know…obviously, they're missing something that those simple village people in India who had no money have. And that's, you know…that's spiritual life. That's connecting with your true identity.
To wrap this up, what things in your life, at this point, make you the most happy?
[short pause] I'm really into relationships these days. I think that that's the root of all happiness. It's not what you own, or it's not material possessions that you're trying to get. It's actually, you know, love and affection that's exchanged between people. I'm married now, and me and my wife are expecting our first child, and that's a real source of joy for me.