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Our very favorite Internet hoax this year was when the Yeah Yeah Yeahs told MTV that their new record was going to be a concept album about Karen O’s cat, Coco. It’s a well-known fact on the streets that nobody writes songs about cats without running it by peta2 first, so when we heard the rumor, we sent one of our toughest enforcers over to Yeah Yeah Yeahs HQ to cause some trouble. Unfortunately for peta2’s street cred, she was immediately won over by the band’s guitarist, Nick Zinner, who—in addition to being a multitalented badass—loves animals so much that he’s been vegan for four years. Check out what Nick had to say and then watch PETA’s banned Super Bowl ad, with original music composed by Nick himself!
What do you feel was your biggest success in 2005?
2005 was great for me because I got to do a lot of things I didn’t have the opportunity to do over the past few years, being so busy with YYY. Finishing a 200-page photo book was probably the most satisfying.
What’s your favorite song off your upcoming release, Coco Beware? What inspired it?
Actually, the record’s not going to be called that—that was an Internet hoax … ha ha. But … my favorites change pretty much every week.
How long have you been vegan?
I’ve been vegetarian for about 15 years and vegan for about four.
What is it like being vegan while you’re on tour? Are Karen and Brian supportive?
Karen and Brian like to eat healthy sometimes, so it’s not too difficult to drag them to a vegetarian restaurant, and we can usually agree on Thai or Japanese food, which always has lots of options for me.
Was there any one thing—like a book or a video or a firsthand experience—that made you decide to go vegetarian?
I saw some films and came across some leaflets about animal treatment in slaughterhouses and killing factories and was horrified. I have a vivid memory of eating steak with my mother when I was in high school around that time—chewing animal flesh felt like the vilest action I could do. I made my decision right then at the dinner table. I think my mother thought it was because of her cooking.
What inspired you to go vegan?
It was part ethical and part physical—I noticed I would always get sleepy after eating cheese or drinking milk. Despite not being an overtly political person, it felt wrong to be encouraging animal abuse through personal consumption. If I lived on a farm and milked my own cow, it might be a different story, but at this point in my life, I’m trying to keep all animal products out of my body—I don’t feel the need to harm animals or to directly support an industry that does.
I certainly wouldn’t kill my friend, drink her blood, and nibble on her leg, and she has the same right to live as any animal.
What are some of your favorite places to get vegan food in New York City? And elsewhere?
NYC is the easiest place to be vegan—it’s truly awesome. My favorite is Zen Palate in Union Square.
Pukk is a newish vegetarian/vegan Thai place on First Avenue and Fifth. Also, the vegan Sicilian frittata at Old Devil Moon on 12th between A and B is great, and the place used to be Lydia Lunch’s bedroom. Kate’s on Fourth and B is probably the best punk rock vegan/vegetarian greasy spoon.
As far as other cities, I’d say Real Food Daily in L.A., McFoster’s in Omaha, Sipz in San Diego, and Pizza Luce in Minneapolis are super yum.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering going vegetarian or vegan but hasn’t made the switch yet?
I’m not really one to preach a lifestyle choice to anyone, but I would ask them to give it at least a month and see how their body feels, especially if they smoke or drink. I’d also suggest spending a few hours at a petting zoo, followed by a Big Mac and a large mirror.
What other animal issues are most important to you?
Most recently it’s been the displaced pets from Katrina. I’ve been trying to support animal rescue organizations.
What are the Yeah Yeah Yeahs up to next?
We’re getting ready to release our second record and try to fight off the “sophomore slump.” Thanks very much!
Not only did Nick take the time to thoughtfully answer our questions about Coco Beware—oops, we mean Show Your Bones—veganism, and touring with the band, he also lent his musical talents to PETA’s notorious banned Super Bowl ad, “Milk Gone Wild.” The racy ad has a unique way of showing people that any way you pour it, milk’s just unnatural. Check it out for yourself, but don’t be selfish—this one’s for sharing with your friends. We’re pretty certain they could stand to have more hilarious videos in their lives.