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Finding Joseph I: An Oral History of H.R. from Bad Brains (New Chapter Excerpt Exclusive)

I called Finding Joseph I: An Oral History of H.R. from the Bad Brains a "must-read" for any fan of hardcore punk back in my 2017 No Echo review of the book. Co-written by former record label A&R executive Howie Abrams (Madball, Dog Eat Dog) and filmmaker James Lathos, the book will be will be coming out in a paperback edition later this month, features a new foreword written by D. Randall Blythe (Lamb of God), who has a deep connection to the band and even provided vocals alongside H.R. during Bad Brains‘ latest festival appearances.

In addition to that, the book also contains a portrait of H.R. that D. Randall shot himself, taken from his forthcoming photo book, Frontman.

In this No Echo exclusive, we're presenting a new chapter from the paperback edition of the book called Here I Am, which is the name of a Human Rights (H.R.'s reggar band) song on their Our Faith album. 

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Howie Abrams: The concept of PMA gets thrown around a lot now, but the principle of it is very important to you. How have you applied PMA during your difficult times?

H.R.: Basically, I’ve just learned to put my faith in God and be positive. The theory that Napoleon Hill had in that book, Think and Grow Rich, made me rethink the negative things in my life and put them out of my mind, put my strength into being positive, and that’s what I did. I worked the theory and put it into practice to see if it would really happen, and it happened. My life changed. Also, a lot of times the youth would come to me and tell me they understood what I was going through and to hold on. They gave me the will to survive and supported me and have a lot to do with this, me getting through the hard times. The youth understood.

Howie Abrams: You also stopped smoking ganja.

H.R.: Yes, I did. It’s been about seven years. I had to make a decision: was I going to take care of my voice or keep smoking the herb, ’cause there was some strong reefer going around that kept me coughing. (LAUGHS.) I felt the strain on my vocal cords, and I didn’t want to strain anymore. People still come up to me and want to share the herb, but I just say, “No, thank you.” I know there are always going to be some temptations, but I told myself that I had to rise above those temptations. The youth can find out for themselves.

D. Randall Blythe

Howie Abrams: What has it been like looking back at your own life through the film and the book?

H.R.: It’s been a little shocking hearing what all these people have had to say about me. I had no idea that people had such admiration for me. It’s like, “WOW.” I didn’t know I was so liked by so many people. It’s been exciting, and thrilling and wonderful at the same time.

Howie Abrams: But you’ve been playing shows to thousands of people for so many years; how come you’re so surprised by this?

H.R.: Well, I guess because up until now, I didn’t hear them tell me. Maybe they’ve told each other, you know, people in other bands or bandmates of mine, but they never really came up to me to let me know. I’ve been asked to play music with a lot of people, but they never just told me how much they liked me.

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The paperback edition of Finding Joseph I: An Oral History of H.R. from the Bad Brains will be out July 23 and is available for pre-order on Amazon.

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