Interview with Billy Hulting

Grammy-nominated veg musician Billy Hulting talks to VN about how he affords his rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle.

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At this year’s Grammy Awards show, a slew of vegetarian musicians—Leona Lewis and Jason Mraz, for starters—will be walking down the red carpet and possibly taking home one of those shiny statuettes. But never mind those guys—the nominee we want to see win the coveted award is VN friend and all-around good guy Billy Hulting. As a percussionist with the band Zappa Plays Zappa, Hulting and his fellow bandmates have been nominated in the Best Rock Instrumental Peformance category for “Peaches En Regalia.” With just two weeks before the big event, Hulting took a moment out of his busy schedule to talk with VegNews about what the rock-star life is all about.

VegNews: Have you ever been to the Grammy’s before?
Billy Hulting: No. My entire career I’ve been a side man. We never go to the Grammys. This year is different because we were nominated as a band.

VN: Are you excited about attending the ceremony?
BH: Yes! Even though part of me believes the Grammys is one of those events where they cram 30 minutes of entertainment into three hours, it’s still the freakin’ Grammys!

VN: If you win and get up on stage with the band and you get 10 seconds to make a speech and thank everyone, where do you think you’ll start?
BH: I’d have to thank my parents, my teachers especially—Jerry Steinholtz—Dweezil, and the rest of the band. I’ll also have to find some message of compassion I can throw in for the last five seconds that’s coherent and meaningful. It’s tough to pass up a major media possibility without plugging the movement.

VN: Is anyone else in the band veg?
BH: Steve Vai, the first year we were out. Otherwise, no. Well, some of the crew guys say they prefer to eat veg, but I haven’t always seen it demonstrated. Aaron [Arntz] goes with me to all the veg restaurants and eats primarily veg on the tour. Catering always has a vegan option at every meal, and some of the band and crew will go for it. Of all my vegan friends, I probably have the most contact in my daily life with people who aren’t vegetarian. It’s a little depressing to watch people I care about shovel crap into their bodies knowing full well what it does to their health, the animals, and the planet. I try to set an example. Sometimes it’s effective, sometimes it isn’t. I bring things up, but we all know you have to choose your battles.

VN: Do you have a day job?
BH: I have a few side projects. One of them is WorldFest. It’s a big animal-rights, environmental, and health festival in Los Angeles. This year it’ll be held May 16. I co-produce it and am also entertainment director, production manager, and sponsor coordinator. We have a few stages with bands, a great kids’ area, animal adoptions, more than 120 exhibitors, a killer food court, and more. And the best part is it’s all vegan! I believe it’s LA’s largest all-vegan festival. The other project I’m working on now is a business called Session Pros. It’s a site where anyone in the world can hire great talent for music productions. Anything from hiring musicians to play on your CD to having someone produce it for you. We’re offering a lot of services all geared to help enhance your world of music.

Watch the Grammys on Sunday, February 8 at 8pm on CBS.

Billy’s Best Bets
Favorite restaurant: Are you kidding? Madeleine Bistro in Los Angeles!
Favorite tour city for eating veg: For sheer number of options, New York City.
Tofu or seitan: Have you tried my seitan kabobs? If you had, you wouldn’t even ask!

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