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Not Willing To Kill Myself For A Quick Dopamine Hit From Food: An Interview With Vegan Hardcore Musician Tino Valpa



Tino Valpa is a hardcore punk musician from Dover, New Hampshire in the United States. He has played in many bands, including Disaster Strikes, Infernal Diatribe, The Cryptics, and drumming for reunited 1980s hardcore legends like Antidote and Battalion of Saints. In 2010 and 2011, Tino released two solo 7-inch EPs, fueled by angry straight […]

The post Not Willing To Kill Myself For A Quick Dopamine Hit From Food: An Interview With Vegan Hardcore Musician Tino Valpa first appeared on DIY Conspiracy – International Zine in the Spirit of DIY Hardcore Punk!



Tino Valpa is a hardcore punk musician from Dover, New Hampshire in the United States. He has played in many bands, including Disaster Strikes, Infernal Diatribe, The Cryptics, and drumming for reunited 1980s hardcore legends like Antidote and Battalion of Saints.

In 2010 and 2011, Tino released two solo 7-inch EPs, fueled by angry straight edge lyrics and musically inspired by the fast, raw and energetic sound of bands like SSD, Negative Approach, Verbal Abuse, and more. A decade later, Tino Valpa is back with his first full-length album Live Or Be Lived All Over. Since the release of the album, Tino has assembled a full lineup of musicians to bring his songs to the stage. 

I caught up with him on the eve of his upcoming tour to talk about the message behind these songs, Tino’s passion for plant-based nutrition (he’s a certified Nutritarian health coach), and his longtime commitment to the straight edge.

📸 Laz Canny

Who is Tino Valpa and what made you start recording and releasing hardcore punk music as a solo artist? What’s the difference between playing in a band and doing it all by yourself? Is running Pinehill Records also a solo endeavor?

Tino Valpa is an equal force of optimism and realism. One who is fed up with the world we live in yet tries to cling to whatever hope is left. I began releasing hardcore punk as a solo artist when one day when I was 20 I felt like I really needed to let it out. I put out a very blunt, direct, furious EP that called out things that angered me. It was very spur of the moment. Written, recorded and sent to the pressing plant within 24 hours.

Yes, Pine Hill Records is very much a solo endeavor. I’ve tried to take on two partners before. Both proved to be huge mistakes and I’ve kept it solo since. I don’t put out my own solo music on that label. It doesn’t really have an identity. It’s very sporadic and it’s not a hardcore label. It’s something I wish I had more time to be consistent with but there is just way too much going on right now.

I first got into Tino Valpa’s Walk The Walk EP. I bought the record because of its uncompromising straight edge artwork. How has your music and attitude changed from the straight edge as fuck, no frills hardcore of your early recordings to your latest Live Or Be Lived All Over LP?

That’s cool that you’ve owned that record all this time. It seems Kangaroo Records and Way Back When Records did a great job of getting that out there, as I’ve met quite a few people over the years that have it. The music on Walk The Walk and its predecessor Class Six Lifestyle went hand-in-hand. Fast forward from 2011 to 2022, the music changed quite a bit over the course of time. I was so busy touring and recording in other bands in the interim that I had no time to pursue the solo project. 


It wasn’t until 2017 when I was playing drums in Battalion of Saints that the seeds for all of this were planted. Battalion of Saints ended up breaking up and I had a brand new full-length written for us. I had recorded all the parts: guitar, bass and drums. I couldn’t get the stems from the studio on the West Coast where I tracked it so I ended up trimming a few songs and totally rerecorded it back here on the East Coast. I liked the songs and didn’t want to waste them. It dawned on me that if I was ever going to do the solo project for real—albums, videos, tours…this is my chance. Sonically, it is a bit more detailed and structured than the first two EPs. Which might bum out some of the hardcore purists that liked the first two EPs. But to me, if I released another record in that vein I think things would be too repetitive. It’s time for a change. I went from being in my early 20’s to my early 30’s. Don’t get me wrong, I still worship Verbal Abuse and 7 Seconds. I just want to be writing songs that are more seconds than my age.


The lyrics on Live Or Be Lived All Over deal with a lot of socio-political issues. Can you elaborate on the meanings behind the songs on your album? Is there a unifying theme that ties all the songs together?

The tracks all touch on different subjects. Some relate and others don’t. The major theme of this project is being in control of your health destiny. Followed by being aware of sweatshops/globalization and how our every purchase supports or fights against it. Followed by not letting technology swallow you whole.

Sweatshops, factory farming, public health, food production, etc. are things that require radical systemic changes. Aren’t we in the hardcore punk community placing too much emphasis on individual actions and mere lifestyle choices when we sing about “starting the revolution with yourself”?

With the population being as high as it is, I can see how a mass “all or nothing” approach would be the only way some people view a worthwhile change to be possible. But when we stop, slow down and look at the root cause of the problem, we realize that we have to change ourselves first from the inside out. Jello Biafra sang that in a song in 1985 and it’s still very relevant.


You’re passionate about animal rights, but you also follow an organic, whole-food, plant-based diet. Is this Dr. Fuhrman’s “Nutritarian” lifestyle? Do you believe that a (whole-food) plant-based diet is really that important for preventing chronic disease and reducing all causes of mortality? Are processed vegan foods as bad as all those animal products?

When I was very young…maybe seven or eight years old I used to cry to myself sometimes thinking about the animals and how someone with any form of compassion could bring themselves to kill a sentient creature. With societal acceptance of doing to certain species and frowning upon doing this to others. Would you step on a chipmunk? Would you cut a golden retriever’s head off? I instinctively felt the conditioning around me at a young age and something inside me knew it wasn’t right. I have a great aunt that is an animal lover and she would share a similar view with me. But, like every other American, both her and I got swept away in the disconnect. We didn’t have to kill our food. We didn’t have to milk a crying mother cow as she gets separated and walled off from her baby forever. We just bought it in a nice safe package and stuffed our greedy mouths. 

Fast forward to now when I understand the basic nutritional consequences of animal consumption, I now get a kick out of the fact that consuming animals kills you. If you eat animal products regularly, you’re on the cancer plan. You’re on the heart disease train. You’re on the dementia expressway. You’re all geared up for no vacation from inflammation. It is very appropriate that eating animals kills people. It’s exactly what it deserves. The modern human being has not evolved to be able to consume animals in 200,000 years. We keep eating animal products and they keep giving us cancer, heart disease, inflammation, depression, dementia and the list goes on and on. How much more proof could we possibly need to show us this isn’t food for humans?! I believe in hard discipline and suffering from/witnessing disease is the only way to truly turn things around. And believe me, it is. More and more people are ditching animal products every day because they don’t want to end up fat, sick and demented.


However, I will selfishly admit that I did not go vegan and eventually whole-food plant-based because of animal rights. I learned the health consequences of my actions and I put an immediate stop to it, dialing it in better and better as time went on. The more I learn, the more changes I make. As my body, brain and entire personality began to clean up I’ve started to feel like a person for the first time in my life. At this point, I could never imagine killing an animal and the thought of consuming an animal product is absolutely disgusting. Not just because of what it is, but because I know that it’s going to vastly contribute to chronic disease. Why would I want to end something’s life that’s just going to end mine? It’s a lose/lose situation. As I learned in my coursework with Cornell—there is no nutrient in animal foods that is not better available in plant foods. Now, there’s some nuances to that. Everyone needs to be supplementing B12 and D3. I also take Zinc and lastly Iodine since I’m not eating added sodium with iodine fortified. None of these vitamins originate in animals. They were middlemen this entire time and I don’t need to rely on them when I can just supplement from a vastly cleaner source.

There has never been a population in the world’s history that has been 100% fully vegan and that must be admitted. But when you look at the data, it’s the populations with the least amount of animal product consumption that have the least amount of chronic disease. That’s been tested, tried and true time and time again. It’s an undebatably solved issue at this point. You consume an animal product based diet, you will be inflamed. You will have a higher cancer risk. You will have a higher heart disease and diabetes risk. At the end of the day, I am whole-food plant-based SOS free (meaning salt-oil-sugar, referring to added salt, added oil, added sugar) because of the science. I am not willing to kill myself for a quick dopamine hit from food. I have learned to shift the dopamine spike over to foods that are actually healthy and longevity promoting.

Now I can get the same enjoyment and not shorten my life and health span. What a concept! I have so much I want to do in this world. I want to tour with my best friends that I play music with until it’s physically impossible. I want them on board with this level of self-preservation so we can have fun and do this for our entire lives. I want to be out enjoying the world on a regular basis. Way down the road I want to still be in the circle-pit when most people are circling a hospital room. Being true to myself and living preventatively is the only way I can hope to achieve such a goal.

Yes, the lifestyle I live is called whole-food plant-based or Nutritarian as was coined by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. Under whom, by the way I’ve very recently become a certified nutritarian health coach. All that “nutritarian” means is vegan & no processed food (i.e. no added salt, added oil, added sugar). The nutritarian guidelines do however technically state that you can get away with consuming no more than 5-10% of your calories from animal products. So if I’m being technical I’d say that I’m a nutritarian vegan. Joel does this to be honest with the science. Because yes, you can consume a very small amount of animal products and still be generally healthy long-term. But with me being a no BS individual, why would I do such a thing? I’m not going to smoke 1⁄10th of a cigarette every other month just because I “can.” To me something like that is just total regression and keeps one foot on the wrong path at all times. If you’re going to do something right, then just do it! So, I am indeed a vegan nutritarian, which it seems the bulk majority of nutritarians are. 

The term whole-food plant-based has a similar definition. Many WFPB folks do the exact same thing: no animal products, added salt, added oil, or added sugar. There are the occasional people that will stretch “plant-based” to meaning not plant exclusive. So, some people prefer to say they live a whole plant food lifestyle to avoid the “based” word being in there. Making it clear that they do not consume animal products. Whatever you may wish to call it, I live a whole plant food SOS (salt, oil, sugar) free lifestyle, or a vegan nutritarian. The great thing about WFPB and nutritarian living is that it’s not just about what we don’t eat. It’s about what we eat. Joel Fuhrman coined the term nutritarian because it’s about focusing on consuming the foods with the highest nutrient density per calorie. The higher the nutrients within the food, the better off you’re going to do physically and mentally. Our meals are very colorful and consist of a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes and starches. With raw cruciferous vegetables being the shining star.


Yes, plant-based nutrition is unbelievably important in preventing chronic diseases and lowering all-cause mortality. Consuming processed “foods” and animal products are what got us here in the first place. When 100 years ago we had 1/10th of the heart disease and cancer… that should tell you something. And for the people that don’t change, there’s no end in sight to this. Stressful lifestyles, toxicity and pollution within the environmentsure, those are contributing factors too. But diet is the biggest piece of the problem here and those that want to make a difference for themselves cannot ignore this. Processed vegan foods… I see them every day as people post them. I think they are a wonderful transitional tool. To be just a plain old regular vegan these days is easier than it’s ever been in the history of the planet. There is a vegan junk food replacement for everything. And I will say neutrally as someone that ate meat for 17 years and dairy for 28 years, I think that most of the vegan versions are actually tastier than the original. Those foods are highly palatable and addicting. But when the reality check comes in, these foods are nowhere near healthy and too many people stop at just “vegan.” You’re still going to see chronic disease and malnourishment in folks who eat a crappy, poorly-rounded diet whether they’re vegan or not. Would I rather consume a vegan junk food than an animal product one? Yes. But, it’s only less bad, not good. At this point in my life I’m personally way past even considering eating things like this anymore.

For the real long-term health benefits we have to steer back towards our roots as human beings which are whole plant foods. When you’re consuming added salt, added oil, added sugar, your taste buds are all but absolutely dead. You cannot enjoy what actual food tastes like. If you keep using salt, you’re going to always require it. Same with sugar etc. You must break away. There are so many tools and great recipes you can use to do so. Then your taste buds reset over time and you’re no longer a food addict. The real nuance of natural food wakes up for the first time in your life and food is more satisfying than it has ever been. And at this point enjoying what you now consider good tasty food comes with no health compromise. It’s a beautiful thing and only until you make it out on the other side will you understand. This is the starting point towards becoming humans again… all we were ever meant to be. All I eventually want to be in my life is a human being. I am not there yet, but I am working towards it every day. If you ignore diet as the foundation, you will never get there.

Because what we eat affects everything we are, everything we do, how we treat ourselves and others. Our decision making, our compassion, our creativity, our longevity. It is the key to the foundation of this once natural life that we Westerners have long forgotten. 

Tino drumming for Antidote in 2021, 📸 Stygian Narcosis Photography

Are vegan straight edge kids today also too comfortable with consuming all that processed junk like Beyond Meat with Coke and fries? I was so happy when Bob Vylan released a video for their song “Health Is Wealth” in 2022. What’s your own personal advice for living the best of your life?

This question is a gem. First of all, that Bob Vylan track is awesome. I had never heard of them or this song until now. I already sent the video to a couple friends. Really glad there’s someone else out there singing about this.

Yes, most absolutely the average XVXer seems to be perfectly ok with consuming ultra-processed “foods.” There is a wave of being “too cool” to care about yourself and being vegan just for the animals. Well, you’re an animal too. How about some of that love for yourself? I see plenty of overweight, depressed vegans. To me it makes this whole thing counterproductive and it’s things like that that help give veganism a bad name. On the other end, the emaciated vegans who know nothing about caloric density also give it a bad name. You can’t eat just vegetables and fruits yo. You have to have a wide variety of caloric density if you’re going to have proper energy and normal weight. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, starches. Get everything in a wide variety. I’ve seen too many clips pop up of people who left being plant-based because they “felt weak and tired.” Well of course you did. You went from a Standard American Diet (S.A.D.) overly packed full of calories and tried to eat just salad. How do you think you’re going to feel going from thousands of calories per day down to like 200? Or on the flip side, the nutritionally ignorant vegan whose plate has no color but brown on it. Eating just a nibble of tofu or a plant-based meat slice here and there. Or just vegan take out/junk food. Of course you’re going to feel like crap. You’re not supplying your body with the vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants you need to function properly. And if you’re not doing these things then you’re most certainly not supplementing essential vitamins like B12, D3. Then these people put it out there that the vegan diet was the problem. No, the problem was you who stepped into something you have no idea about without doing a lick of research. 

Anyone making the switch should learn about whole-food plant based living, caloric density of food, supplementation and should make sure they get a nice variety of vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. You’ll get all the nutrition you need without the cancer, heart disease, dementia, inflammation, depression that comes with the S.A.D. I’ve caught both support and flack for this. Many people are in defense of their junk food lifestyle and get very emotional when questioned. And it’s not like I’m writing to them. They find their way to my page and get angry on their own accord. I’ve even had one death threat so far. The things a brain on junk food will say and do are quite entertaining. But that doesn’t phase me one bit so I’ll just go ahead and say it. 


Straight edge in and of itself needs a complete overhaul. This is 2023, not 1983. We need to evolve and we need to take big steps forward. I’m a very nostalgic person but when it comes to health we need to learn from the mistakes of yesteryear and move on. I am not trying to live in the past when it comes to nutrition. When Brian Baker got a Coca-Cola tattoo in the ‘80s and Ian MacKaye was serving ice cream to people—these things made complete sense. They were going against the grain of heavy drug usage and drinking alcohol. Society knew way less about nutrition then and this was perfectly feasible at the time. Now we know that things like Coke, dairy and all this other processed food are also drugs. Let’s be clear, processed “foods” are mind-altering drugs. The quick dopamine spike you get from fast food calories entering the bloodstream rapidly, the inflammation you get from processed foods and animal products, the bad bacteria built up in the gut microbiome fostered by all of the above—they are going to change the way you think and interact. We in the straight edge scene need to start seeing things for what they are and we need to start getting serious about our health if we’re truly to be “poison free.” Because I can assure you, heading over to the local eatery for a burger, fries and shake after the gig is the furthest thing from poison free. Celebrating the fact that you don’t consume a couple bad things when you consume 500 other things that are equally or even more detrimental to your health is very reductionist. It’s not seeing things in full picture. We need to get off of our straight edge high horse and look around the room.

How many people with the X are fat, sick and miserable? It’s not anyone’s fault. I’m not shaming anyone. It only becomes your fault when you put up a wall of resistance to change. A person being not edge and smoking a joint… another person being edge and having some cheese fries… both top notch tickets to cancer. At that point it’s pick your poison. The only difference between the two people is that one draws an X on their hand. With no animosity towards any band or style of hardcore I will honestly say that I’m not doing this to be part of a trend. I don’t need to be the next college font varsity jacket sensation. I’m not trying to form some insincere hype band with a two year shelf life before I drop out of the scene, hit a cubicle job and “grow up”. I’m not trying to be out there saying the same old thing that’s been said to death. I’m out here to push this whole thing along. I hope to see and I will fight for a huge step forward within the movement. Even if I am completely alone. Popularity and justice seldom walk hand in hand.


How’s the scene in New Hampshire at the moment? Are you excited about playing your songs with a live band on stage?

For the first time in a while I am liking what I’m seeing in NH. I went to a local hardcore show in my town last week and at least 2/3 of the audience was about 14-17 years old. All in the pit having a great time. So happy to see that go down. There are many spots around the state right now all doing shows. New bands. And people come out. No complaints!

Thank you for the interesting talk, anything else to add?

I appreciate you listening to my music and for your very thoughtful questions. This is my favorite interview to date. I’ll be on tour in various parts of the US this year. I am about to leave for the Midwest tour beginning March 23rd. The new album is streaming everywhere. Grab a physical copy and all other merch at where you’ll also see the tour dates.

Anyone that is lost on their health journey and needs help—reach out anytime. We have to help each other we’re going to get to the other side. Always willing to create something positive. There is an excellent documentary full of physicians that summarizes everything about food, disease and whole-food plant-based living. It’s called “Eating You Alive” and you can watch it for free here.

I would highly recommend watching this if you’re interested in getting your health on track and not being another statistic. Share it with friends and family. 

Lastly, follow on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram for 100% unpaid, unfunded videos with the latest scientific studies in the medical literature. It is an extremely helpful tool and you can search for any category you’re looking for.

Love & Progress,

Find Tino Valpa on, Bandcamp, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

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