We Did Mushrooms at the Bronx Zoo With Andy Animal, Cannibal Tribesman

Categories: Columns

"The last interview I did on mushrooms, I said something about the Beatles, and then I'm like, 'Sorry, I can't do this.'"

The day after his first show with his new band, Andy Animal's Cannibal Tribe, Andy Animal is driving me to the Bronx Zoo to eat mushrooms and commune with his non-human brethren. (We were supposed to take his motorcycle, but it's in the shop.) An anti-hippie song by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons is playing on the stereo. It's Mother's Day and the weather is beautiful. The generally happy-go-lucky rock and roll mascot is nervous; I assure him he won't have to answer any actual questions while tripping.

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For those not in the know, Andy Animal has been a figurehead of New York's garage punk scene for many years as the frontman of Stalkers and various supergroups; as the mastermind behind The Meltdown, a weekend long musical blowout that invades a campground in upstate New York every summer. And also as a ubiquitous character who seems to know everyone and has gained the Internet's notice for his series of tongue-in-cheek Yankee Candle reviews. He has appeared on several episodes of The Science Channel's Oddities.

"I'm still getting used to playing guitar in front of people," he says. "We're trying to sound like Davie Allan and the Arrows...they did a lot of '60s biker movie soundtracks." Also: punk pioneer Link Wray. Eschewing most new music except for that of his friends, Andy is most inspired by that magical time in the 1960s when the building blocks of punk rock were just being created. The band's vibe is also reminiscent of John Waters and old cannibal films, naturally. The two female backup singers look like they've just stepped off the set of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

When we arrive at the zoo, we immediately split a mushroom chocolate, which contains half an eighth's worth of psilocybin. This should heighten the experience without driving us out of our minds. Alluding to a period of hard drug use in his past, Andy says the only drugs he does now are weed and shrooms. Everything he says is punctuated by his distinctive gravely laugh: "huh-huh-huh."

While waiting for the chocolates to kick in, we check out the Madasgascar exhibit, where some impressively large crocodiles are hanging out. "Beautiful," marvels Andy. "I wanna touch it." He tells me the story of his pet alligator, a gift from a fan he kept in his bathtub for the better part of a year before releasing her into a swamp in Florida. Was she getting too dangerous? "Nah, she's all right...crocs are the ones you gotta be careful with. She just needed to be in the wild."

Halfway through Madagascar, Andy is already feeling it, and wishes for the first time of many that he could hang out with the animals in their habitats. "I just wanna be inside all these things, you know?" I say that I do.


Out the other end of Madagascar, we pass by some rhinos ("look at the size of that rhino's vagina!" says Andy, "huh-huh-huh.") And then, against all odds, we run into Andy's friends Drew and Shusha. He really does have friends everywhere. They agree to help guide us on our journey.

Despite wanting very badly to be outdoors, Andy has special affection for that upstart of a cobra that escaped recently, which is now named "M.I.A." (No relation to the Sri Lankan rapper.) I ask if he's behind the BronxZoosCobra twitter. "I'm not saying it isn't me," he replies coyly.

Like most reptiles do most of the time, the cobra is chilling in the corner of its cage not doing much of anything (or maybe it's plotting its next escape?), but Andy seems satisfied after taking a picture of it. "Bye Mia, bye baby," he says, waving. "I can't believe they took Mia's sign down." Fame is a fickle beast. Next we pass by a milky eyed jungle snake ("that one's all goth," he says), a fat tomato frog, which gets the laugh, and some snake necked turtles, which he views with suspicion. "That freaks me out, a snake coming out of a turtle."


On the way to see Andy's ultimate spirit animal, the gorilla, we stop by the bear enclosure, where some brown bears are swimming and playing in their cute but terrifying way; Andy says he's run several bears off his property in Woodstock, where he lives part time. Next we go by some rock hyraxes ("do you think the hyrax ever eats hydrox cookies?") and a body of muddy looking water, which Andy really wants to swim in. "Do you think anyone would care if I took my clothes off?" he asks. "There's no sign that says not to go in the water." I tell him to try to control himself, but that I won't stop him if he does.

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