Five years after their first collaborative album, Heroes in the City of Dope, Zion I and The Grouch are back at it with a sequel, Heroes in the Healing of the Nation. The Grouch spoke with us about the project and poking fun at artsy vegan people during a phone interview from his home in Maui. Zion I and The Grouch perform at The Fillmore on March 19th.
SF Station (SFS): Was it always in the plans to do a second record with Zion I?
The Grouch: I think after the success of the first record, it was kind of a no-brainer. But it’s not just the success that led to it. We work together well and we are friends.
SFS: You’re kicking the tour off in SF. Do you spend much time in the Bay Area anymore, or are you all over the place?
TG: I’m all over the place, but I’m definitely back and forth to the Bay. I have family there and I grew up in Oakland, so when I’m in California that’s where I stay at this point. I spent a lot of time in Southern California, but now it’s mostly the Bay Area and Maui.
SFS: What are some of the spots you have to go to while you’re here?
TG: I hit up the record stores a lot — the Amoebas and Rasputin in Berkeley. I think they just changed the name of one of my favorite restaurants, but it was called Manzanita. That’s a really healthy restaurant I like to go to, along with Café Gratitude at the Whole Foods in Oakland.
SFS: There’s a track on the new album “I Used to be Vegan,” are you a vegan now?
TG: Right now, it’s funny because I kind of am, but I don’t like to put a title on anything. I wrote that song because I used to call myself a vegan for a year, or so. I thought I was going to be a vegan for the rest of my life, and then I realized it wasn’t the diet for me. Right now, I happen to be doing a lot of raw vegan food. But no, I’m not a vegan. I’m not anything.
SFS: You had a similar track a few years back called “Artsy,” with a few jabs toward that lifestyle. Are the two tracks just in fun, or does it go deeper than that?
TG: I think both of those songs have humor. We’re talking about so many serious things, it’s good to have a song that’s more light-hearted and poking fun at something that I actually believe in but don’t want to take too seriously.
SFS: It seems like so many people in those groups are pretty hardcore.
TG: I’m around a lot of those people in Maui and California, and I see people getting so detailed and stressed out and freaked out about all that stuff. People get really serious about it, but I think if you poke fun at those people, they can see the humor in it too.
SFS: Now I’m wondering if the recipe on your blog for raw vegan organic sesame miso rolls is a joke or serious.
TG: It’s serious, yeah. But I might eat one of those and eat Maui beef the next day.
Being a vegan can still be very unhealthy. I don’t know what’s better or worse, eating a bunch of fried tofu or eating a lean piece of beef that was raised on organic grass like they have out here. As far as eating for health, if you have a small piece of lean meat every once in awhile that doesn’t have a bunch of hormones pumped into it, you’ll be good. But those rolls are real, and they’re delicious.
SFS: Cool. Getting back to the music, why did you decide to donate money from ticketing fees on this tour to charity?
TG: I’ve wanted to do something to give back to organizations that are helping other people for a long time. I started with Toys for Tots at Christmastime with the How The Grouch Stole Christmas tours, but I felt that was just scratching the surface. I wanted to get a little more involved, and I feel like this is the next step.
We have a good team of project managers around us this time — basically our friends that are helping out — because sometimes it’s hard to coordinate. It’s something we all wanted to do in the past, but never really organized ourselves to make it happen. We wanted to make it a point to take a step and try to connect with other people and help out, not just from the musical standpoint, but also in a small monetary way. Hopefully we’ll just get more in-depth from here on out.
SFS: I also have to ask you about the Living Legends. What’s going on with the crew these days?
TG: Everybody’s kind of doing their own thing. A lot of guys are putting out projects, but as far as Living Legends, I’m not sure what’s going to happen with that in the near future. It’s hard to get eight different people on the same page, and that’s all I can really say. When the time is right, something will happen. The group is not broken up; it’s just not currently in the studio creating Living Legends crew songs.
SFS: Starting out with those guys back in the early 90s and doing it all yourself from day one, do you think you have been more insulated from the financial hit the music industry has faced?
TG: I definitely think we have needed to get more creative, but there’s still money to be made. To me, it all works together if you are doing what you love and putting your soul into something. Especially if it has positive intentions, you’re going to be alright. That’s what I truly believe. The harder you work at that, the more of result you are going to see. I work really hard, and I’ve been able to sustain what we started. Hopefully it continues to work out. The industry has changed a lot and it has affected us, as well, for sure. You find creative ways to move through it.
Zion I and The Grouch perform March 19th at The Fillmore. Tickets are $35 and the show starts at 9pm.