Rob Fish interview Part 1

A few ago Rob Fish announced that he left 108. This came as a surprise to me, because their new album “18.61” was about to be released at Deathwish records. The main reason for his departure was that 108 is always linked with Hare Krishna and he was always confronted by that.  I was one one of the people who questioned him about his life with Hare Krishna in  Jagged Visions zine #1.  So I thought it was a good time to put this  interview on my blog.

Vic Dicara’s time in Inside Out, Shelter and 108 has been well documented in his autobiographic story “I was a teenage Hare Krishna” . Rob’s version is a little less known, so how did Rob turn into Rasaraja the Hare Krishna punk kid? I had a chat with him in an alley way in the red light district of Amsterdam, during their second European tour in the new century. Here Rasaraja tells about his youth and his “inspiration”:

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Edison, New Jersey and lived there for 16 years, then spent some time in Philadelphia before moving to New York for about ten years. I’ve now been living in Northern California for the last six or seven years.

Tell me about your mom and dad.

Oh! My mother’s name was Fran and my father’s name Sam Fish. They were not very interesting, so I can’t remember very much about them that would be relevant… My father was the manager of the Fish department at a supermarket, which is kind of weird with my last name, and my mother was actually working as a butcher at the same supermarket when she met my father. A real classy family.

So, you had a pretty normal family life growing up then?

No, not really. My mother’s side of the family is really tragically fucked up. So, at a young age three of my uncles took their own lives. My mother had a disease called “Lupus”, which at the time they didn’t really know what it was, so it ultimately took her life. She became convinced that she was crazy. She had a lot fucked up things happened when she was young- Sexual abuse and other mental related issues.

She actually tried to take her life when I was young. I was the one who found her. I ran out of the house screaming and got people to help her and get an ambulance. So I guess I had a pretty fucked up childhood. I guess in that sense it was not a normal family. My mother was terminally ill and quite psychologically ill.

Did you already have spiritual influence or spiritual moments in your life at a young age? I guess what I want to ask is whether any supernatural things happened to you when you were a kid.

No, I have never experienced supernatural things. I was sort of anti-religious growing up. I was an altar boy at a young age.

I don’t know if there was anything spiritual about that. It was just something I felt attracted to, because all the things going on with my mother and as a kid I was sexually abused, so I guess I had an attraction to or interest in things beneath the surface. So I just didn’t believe in God because I thought why would God do this to me? So, if anything I was probably anti-religious as a kid.

Did you start listening to punk rock as a youngster?

No. First I was into hip hop.

Public Enemy and stuff?

Before that. I was into Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five. By the time Public Enemy came around I was already into punk rock – Black Flag and stuff like that. I started getting into the punk scene around 1985, when I was 12 years old. Then I started going to punk shows.

What was the first show you were really blown away by?

I can’t remember, to be quite honest. There were two shows within about a week of each other. One was Corrosion of Conformity and the other one was Husker Du. I can’t remember which one was first. I want to say Corrosion of Conformity was first, but I can’t remember. It was actually with Ari, the singer of Lifetime, and I. We were really close friends and these were our first shows. We were recently talking about this, just before we came on tour, and tried to remember which one was first but neither of us could really remember.

Did you also start up your own band around that time?

Yeah. I started my first band when I was fifteen. I recorded my first record when I was fifteen and went on my first tour when I was sixteen.

Was that Resurrection?

No, a band called Release. It wasn’t a very good band. We toured, put together three 7″ records and then I lived in Ashram for a while. After I moved out of the ashram I started Resurrection with Ari and Dan from Lifetime.

What is an Ashram?

Sort of like a Monastery, but at a Krishna temple. After I moved out, I started Ressurection and then a couple of years later 108.

Were you already Straightedge before you moved into the Ashram?

I never drank in my life. Some things happened in my family.

Suicides or even just the dynamics of it early on, I was oppressed by it. I didn’t want to drink or do drugs. I never drank or smoked.

When I got into punk rock, one of the first bands, at least back then, every kid that gets into punk listens to is Black Flag, Dead Kennedy’s, Bad Brains, Minor Threat. So I got into Minor Threat and was kind of into the idea of Straightedge. Now I’ve been actively involved in straightedge for,like,22 years.

What was the turning point from being anti-religious into being Hare Krishna or into your interest in Krishna?

I think a part of it was I really wanted an answer as to why I have gone through so many bad things. The whole aspect of karma triggered something for me, because it gave some type of explanation as why I was going through what I was going through. That was the initial thing. So, in some respects it was a kind of an escape from what I was going through, but at the same time I really thought…[police on bikes come by asking what we are doing…]

So initially it was about karma. I kind of needed some help to work things out in my head.

Were you looking for some kind of healing?

Yeah, I was really depressed. I remember my parents found this stupid song I had written. I was like fourteen and whining about killing myself. You know, all that shit. I just needed something. So the idea of karma was initially the attraction.

Can you tell me something about karma?

The idea of karma is that every action creates a reaction. So if you do good things, you get good reactions. If you do bad things, you get bad reactions, but more specifically karma is not what happens in this lifetime, but it can also be in previous lifetimes. So, at least it gave me some type of psychological answer to why I had gone through so many things I had gone through.

So, do you still believe in life before life?

Do I believe in it scientifically? I don’t know. I think at least that if you look at the world and how you fit into it with that kind of mindset, it makes you a more compassionate and responsible person.

I grew up Roman Catholic and my father was a Jew. Religion for them was a very kind of primitive fire stone “do this”, then “you get this” and “this is going to happen to you”, but that didn’t really appeal to me. So the whole idea of personalism really attracted me, that everybody has an individual relationship with Krishna like Radharani had a relationship with Krishna. It was kind of like religion for the heart as opposed to religion for the moral code. So that was also attractive for me.

I don’t know that I really believed I had done something wrong in a prior life, as much as just that the idea that everything happens for a reason gave me some peace of mind.

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