Brad Roberts of Crash Test Dummies on Chanting, Yoga, and Fat Fucks
- Brad Roberts (Via Uptown.)
Four days to the start of the Million Minute Month, and today we introduce another challenge Spirit Guides to inspire fence-sitters and fire up challengers-in-waiting. Regular readers will recall that Brad Roberts, lead singer of the Crash Test Dummies, occasionally chants in Susanna Harwood Rubin's yoga class, a few doors down from Social Workout HQ. Lacking both an expert in tantric chanting and a rockstar, we asked Brad if he would serve as a Spirit Guide for the challenge. Without knowing what he was getting in to, he agreed, and so below please find his take on yoga, obesity, kickboxing, swimming at the Chinatown YMCA, and fat Brits. Note for millenials: The Crash Test Dummies hit the pop scene in the early 1990s, and have released nine albums since, including this year's Ooh La La. Their breakthrough album God Shuffled His Feat sold over 10 million copies, and included the mega hit Mmm, Mmm, Mmm, Mmm. If you've heard the song, then you know that voice. That's Brad....
Briefly about me, and how I came to where I am. I was getting to be a fat fuck, and I decided to learn yoga. I heard about a teacher who swore and wore combat pants. Her name was Elena Brower, and her studio was right around the corner from me on broadway in Soho, New York. I got hooked, and now, three years later, I am ripped like Jesus! (He always has a sexy rockstar body when he's depicted on the cross — ever notice that?) Anyhow, Elena, who doesn't swear so much now, but packs the house anyhow, teaches John Friend's Anusara style of asana yoga. This practice is loosely associated with Dr. Douglas Brooks, who teaches the Rajanaka™ tantric yoga lineage, which involves the repetition of mantra. It's a yoga of knowledge. (Brooks has trademarked that name, because, it turns out, you have to trademark yoga!) Anyway, most people do them silently, but I, a singer, prefer to do them out loud. I do this every day, and have for four years.
Singing and chanting are not the same. Yes, you open your mouth and you make sound in both cases, but it's different. The kind of satisfaction I get from singing at a show is just a very general elation. It's about being able to do what I do well, and to know that other people are digging what I'm doing. When I chant by myself, or with others, it's definitely much more introspective.
I actually got creative with the mantra, and made a record. The mantras are centuries old, but I'm puttting them to very simple melodies. The record sounds like psychadelic King Crimson more than any Indian music. It won't be released for a year, but it's going to be a fucking great record. Anyway, I'd like to say yes, that chanting and singing all leads to the same happy place — that whole Baba Yoga, Kumbaya thing — but they don't. I hate that stuff. That's just not the way the world works.
How does the world work? Well, Bhakti yoga assumes that there is no meaning in the universe, and you do not have a destiny, and thank god for that! How boring would life be if you were just enacting some pre-ordained plan. For me, right now, life's just fine and dandy. I happen to be doing well now. I got a good night sleep. I took a great shit. It's been a good morning.
Growing up in Manitoba I was made to play sports, but I hated it. I'm a strong swimmer, and I'm Canadian, so I can play hockey, but they were definitely not activities that I enjoyed. I gravitated entirely towards music. When I was 39 years old, I went for my annual physical, and everything was fine. When I turned 40, though, I went in, and suddenly I had high blood sugar, high cholesterol, and even some minor liver damage. That was a wake up call. Also, the last time I went on the road, I'd finish a show and sign CDs, and these people — guys who were much fatter than me — would come up to me and say "WOW YOU GOT FAT!"
Now I'm 46 , and I do yoga three or four times a week, and that grim prognosis I got when I was 40? Gone! I'm in better shape than I was when I was 20. It's crazy. I'm 5'10", and I lost 35 pounds. Before I looked old for my age, and now I look quite a bit younger than I am. They talk about yoga slowing down aging — in my case it reversed it. I'm kind of looking forward to going on the road and looking good. It's like a fuck you to all those obnoxious people.
America is obese. It really is, with the exception of L.A. and New York. When you get outside the 212 area code: FATTIES EVERYWHERE. When you go to Italy and France, the obesity is just not happening. I'd say the English are constitutionally weakened by in-breeding and being an island nation. It's probably a good thing the colonials are coming home to roost, just to open up the gene pool. Lot's of fish-and-chip ass. Once again, London is different, though.
But I still hate exercising. It gives me no happiness. Yoga I enjoy, therefore I do it. The biggest failure between me and getting physically fit is that it has to be interesting. It has to be fun, or I'm not going to do it.
I bought a card for YMCA in Chinatown to swim, and I haven't gone there once! Because nobody is making me. If I lived by a lake, and it was summer, I would swim every fucking day. That's way different than dragging your sorry ass to the Y in Chinatown and swimming in chlorine with a bunch of other New Yorkers. I kickboxed for a while, because it was fun to hit things. But, first of all, I smashed my foot. And then I noticed that, rather than being cathartic, kick boxing just made me more angry. I'd be walking down the street, and I'd see some guy, and I'd start thinking what would I do do to take him down. I'd be imagining: "MY ELBOW. YOUR NECK. I COULD KILL YOU!" I don't need that going on in my head.
What about dancing? Well, I was raised in a culture which regarded dancing as for girls. It was totally clear. We were all young rednecks, and pot smokers. During the teen years, in my culture, dancing was for fags. (Forgive the rudeness, but that's the term we used.) You'd get beat up if you did it. It wasn't like Saturday Night Fever. I hate dancing to this day, except when I'm performing. But then I'm dancing by myself and for the audience.
What was god thinking while they were shuffling their feet? Well, he was hoping they'd be satisfied with his vague answers, and also thinking he probably wasn't doing such a great job.
[Alert to New Yorkers: Brad and the Crash Test Dummies will be playing May 15th at the City Winery. -The Eds.]