Back in 2015, some friends and I loaded into a car and took a road trip to Baltimore to see Integrity and Chokehold at the Baltimore Soundstage. What a monumental night that was as I regressed back to a manic teenager, singing along and stage diving the night away. One of the many things that I carried away from that night was the abundance of shirts I had seen for a band called Jesus Piece. I quickly looked them up when I returned home and was hooked on their unrelenting brand of down tuned abrasion.
A few years later, as my personal quest for spiritual solace was heightened again, I caught wind from a friend that Jesus Piece drummer Luis Aponte was a devotee of the Hare Krishna movement as well. Being none too shy, and a complete stranger, I took a shot in the dark and sent Luis a friend request on social media. Since then I’ve been honored with the association of someone I now consider a Godbrother and Luis and the Jesus Piece camp have put in serious work, touring consistently and releasing their first LP on Southern Lord entitled Only Self.
Introduce yourself for those who may not be familiar with you or your body of work.
My name is Luis Aponte
I’m an artist and musician
Currently playing drums in a band called Jesus Piece, but always working on new things. I shoot video, skate, model clothing sometimes, and enjoy meditating on mantras from the Bhakti yoga tradition.
At what age and how/where were you first exposed to spiritual life?
I was forced into religion my whole childhood, I didn’t know what spiritual meant. I didn’t care about anything religious and rejected the whole thing. I always referred to myself as agnostic because I thought it was so foolish to think that this world came from nothing. So I always accepted a supreme energy but couldn’t accept Jesus as my savior. When I thought of spiritual I always thought about experiences I’d have being in nature or moving times in my life. Being in black metal band was probably one of the first times I really thought about what spirituality was and dug deeper. I started reading the yoga sutras at the age of 19 and my whole conception of God and the world changed for me. For a while I really tried to convince myself I was my own god and I am in control. Such a foolish western attitude that is, if I was God I’d be omnipotent. I can’t even control when I have to pee, I’m a total slave to my senses. So how could I think I was in control of anything? I was so caught up in my ego.
I remember listening to Shelter and thought the chanting on the album was so cool, I was always so attracted to mantra meditation or kirtan. I watched a video of an old man speaking, Prabhupada was his name. He was speaking on reincarnation, karma, and what spirituality actually was. I was floored, he spoke like a lion. He presented this science so fiercely. I really thought spirituality meant flowers and dandelions and hiding in a forest to meditate, I was terribly wrong. Prabhupada said we should be in the lowest of low places sharing this truth/mercy with everyone with no discrimination. He showed me what service was. This was spiritual life. This was real service to the world. A real revolution.
I met the Hare Krishna devotees while traveling and visited the temple of New Dwarka In LA and the rest is history. I could really go on but I would truly be blabbering for lifetimes.
Living in such a large city, how do you focus on spiritual practice or break away?
I think living in the city is a great way to gather community and introduce people to different things. A lot of people in big cities are full of anxieties and stress so things like mediation and kirtan are great sources of relief. Me personally I struggle to maintain focus sometimes. I find this is more of my own fault than the city. I think I can always do better. There’s some devotees in NYC called “the Harinam Ashram” they are all celibate monks and are chanting and distributing Prabhupada’s books everyday for 8 hours a day in Union square. That is my inspiration for focus. So it’s not about where your location is, but where your mind is at.
Do you have a daily routine?
When I’m not totally in maya, I will rise early, chant on my japa beads, attend Srimad Bhagavatam class and clean the temple room. Otherwise I try to read and chant as often as possible. It’s truly about what you can give and accepting where you are in your spiritual life. It’s best to be honest and not get ahead of yourself.
Would you say you have a spiritual muse or source of inspiration?
Sripad Aindra Prabhu ki jai!
24 hour kirtan mandali forever !
How long have you been playing music, and does being a musician tie into your spiritual life at all?
I taught myself how to play drums from the age 14. My dad has always been into music and showed me music since I was a baby. It’s always been a huge part of my life. Learning to play kirtan instruments like mrdanga or harmonium are def influential to my spiritual life. Hardcore is nectar because it showed me Bhakti Y.
Do you find any conflict with the often violent nature of hardcore and the ethics of ahimsa?
The world is a very disturbing and violent place. Everyone expresses themselves in certain ways and are brought up in more violent situations than others. I can’t blame anyone for being upset or acting violently in current world situations. Black people are being slaughtered like animals by the people who are supposed to serve and protect the community and children are being ripped from their families because of imaginary borders. Hardcore was created as a rebellion to the status quo. Our nation promotes violence in our policies, in our food, and how we treat other nations. I don’t believe hardcore was meant to be a non violent place. Then again, I believe a mutual respect for one another is necessary for a scene and community to grow. I would say my own personal qualm is that I make violence inducing music in an already violent world, it’s chaos.
If you don’t like the way something is, you have to start with yourself to change it. It’s so easy to blame and point the finger.
Do any of your band mates in Jesus Piece practice spirituality in any way, and how do they receive you and your endeavors?
Everyone in Jesus Piece is very well read in their own way. They are always receptive to new things and support me in what I do. They are great friends who all have a lot to offer and give to this world.
Discuss the release of “Only Self” and the band’s involvement with Southern Lord.
Only Self was the hardest thing I’ve ever worked on. I think it’s very versatile and driving. It’s everything I’ve wanted to hear out of Jesus Piece thus far. We’re always known as a mindless beatdown band which I think is bullshit. I think this record perfectly expresses some of our musicianship. Everyone in the band is so talented in their own way. I still believe we have a ton of room to grow. I’m very proud of this record, very excited for everyone to hear it.
What’s in the works for the band following such a large release?
We’re chilling out for a little. Then we’re coming for you.
What advice would you give a young kid wanting to learn more about Krishna or pursue higher thinking?
Go to a temple and meet the devotees. Read. Read. Read. Read. Never stop chanting. Everyone has their own experience, so go live out yours. Vedic knowledge is not a question of research. Our research work is imperfect because we are researching things with imperfect senses. We have to accept perfect knowledge which comes down, as is stated in Bhagavad-gītā.
Describe your most rewarding experience.
On my birthday a couple years ago being in the Philadelphia Govindas temple room for the first time having the most insane kirtan of my life and just crying and crying. I really felt something real at that moment. It was pure ecstasy.
What is your favorite piece of scripture and why?
The Bhagavad Gita (As It Is) is the most important book in the world to me. Prabhupada translates it directly with no change according to his opinion. It’s nectar and knowledge straight from the Supreme Person, Krishna Himself. “A common man with all the four defects of human frailty ((1)is sure to commit mistakes, (2) is invariably illusioned, (3) has the tendency to cheat others and (4) is limited by imperfect senses. is unable to teach that which is worth hearing.” The Gītā is above such literature. No mundane book compares with the Bhagavad-gītā. When one accepts Kṛṣṇa as an ordinary man, the Gītā loses all importance. This book answers all questions. It’s a love story, and a secret. It may take lifetimes to understand. I also recommend any of Srila Prabhupada’s books. The first I ever read was perfect questions and perfect answers and science of self realization.
Any last words, shout outs, etc…
Spiritual life is a practice, you will fall and fail. Surround yourself with those who inspire you and live by their own advice.
Please chant Hare Krishna maha mantra
Thank you very much.