You probably already know that Built to Spill were one of the most popular indie rock acts of the ’90s. But did you also know that singer/songwriter/guitarist Doug Martsch has been vegetarian for more than a decade? Or that when he crawls out of bed in the morning, he heats up some Morningstar Farms veggie sausages before brushing his teeth with Tom’s of Mainetoothpaste?
You may also know that every single up-and-coming indie band simply loves to name-drop Built to Spill as a “huge influence” on their career. But were you aware that while Doug travels the country from one stage to the next, he likes to gnaw on a pack of vegetarian jerky? And did you know that while recording, Doug took a break for a quick shower using Dr. Bronner’s soap before wolfing down some mock-meat-loaded Thai food (his favorite)?
Well, we’re glad we could tell you something you didn’t already know. Just remember where you heard it first. Now, read on for a slightly intense conversation with Doug that doesn’t involve his personal-hygiene and food-craving preferences.
You’ve been vegetarian for several years. What do you eat when you’re on tour?
It’s not hard to find vegetarian food anywhere these days. In fact, there’s a little bar and grill at the restaurant where we’re staying and they have a lot of meat stuff. But they also have portobello mushroom sandwiches. A lot of places have options—even Denny’s has vegetarian burgers.
If somebody’s not familiar with factory farming, how would you explain it to them?
The people who profit from the industry have no interest at all in the animals as sentient beings. The conditions are just whatever it takes to maximize profits. It’s not even sanitary for people to eat meat. Even if I ate meat, I would be against factory farming. Even if I didn’t care about animals, I would be against factory farming. It’s basically just ways for rich people to get richer at the expense of a lot of things—animal welfare, family farms … consumers.
How do you feel about animal testing?
I’m against that as well. I just think that animals are feeling creatures—you don’t torture and hurt other beings.
Not only do you have a cat and a dog, but you also have a couple of rabbits. Have you noticed that certain retailers are now trying to market rabbit fur coats and other furry items to teenagers?
Well, that doesn’t surprise me. There are all kinds of people in this world and there are a lot of horrible things going on in the world. If we’re going to go to war in Iraq, it doesn’t surprise me that we’d also wear animal fur. People believe in authority and if authority tells them that something’s OK, then they believe it. It’s the same with war and it’s the same with animals. I don’t believe authority and experts all the time, because I think that sometimes they’re just lying to get what they want. I think that’s how fashion and trends are also created—people just trusting other people.
One of the messages that we have at peta2 is to question authority and to think for yourself. Do you have any suggestions for kids who are trying to cut through the BS?
I really like the program Democracy Now. It’s an hour-long news program that’s more inclined to tell the truth because it’s not sponsored by anyone. It’s real free press. They’re not just reading PR from the White House or from different corporations. Most of what you get from mainstream media is mostly paid for and it’s giving you one message. I also learned a lot from watching the movie Manufacturing Consent about Noam Chomsky. That really fired me up about politics and distrusting authority.
How do you think animal rights is related to social justice issues?
Just the fact that animals are sentient beings—they feel and think. I think that in order to respect others, you have to respect animals as well. It blows my mind that people don’t think that animals feel. Actually, I don’t think it’s even that; I think it’s an out of sight, out of mind type of thing. I think most people do think that animals feel; I just don’t think they know what goes on. I mean, we’re talking about animals that spend their whole lives in a cage! I’ve seen factory farms driving around the country and they’re disgusting—it’s like a waste land; just a giant black field, packed with cows.
And then there’s the transport trucks. It’s just totally depressing, totally abysmal. But there are people that accept that. People also accept human beings living in conditions like that, too. Unfortunately, some people in power make money off of exploiting human beings and animals. The way they get people to go along with that is via massive PR campaigns, convincing people that this is just the way it is, and this is the way it’s supposed to be, and it works the best and it’s great for our economy . it’s just bullshit and lies, but that’s the way the world works.
What do you think is the most effective way to stop that?
I guess at some point enough people will get fucked by it that they’ll start fighting back. You see that happening around the world—some people call them terrorists and some of them may be, but a lot of them are just people that are completely desperate and ready to fight for change.