By Nicole Berrie
Photography by Kirill Was Here
“IT’S ALL ABOUT MODERATION,” SAYS DAMON DEGRAFF, as he settles into a pressed juice at Melvin’s Juice Box on Sullivan Street in Soho. “We’re not out drinking every night, getting wasted and coming home at five in the morning, we’re about business but we still like to have fun.” To wit, that so-called ‘fun’ could be considered a job requirement for DeGraff and business partner Yoni Goldberg who together helm the artist management agency DGI Management, which includes a star roster of clients such as Rev Run, the Misshapes, dBerrie, Paul Sevigny, DJ Ruckus, Kirill Was Here among others. Indeed, both Goldberg and Degraff have presided over the city’s enduring nightlife and music scene, brokering high-brow entertainment deals and playing an integral part in making DJs the rock stars of the new millennium. When not making the rounds to clients’ gigs, the pair hone in on their health game with matched zeal. “My home was pretty healthy growing up, no soda, no chips,” recalls Goldberg, a longtime vegetarian, over quinoa salad. “I totally rebelled against that at school but as I get older, now I really don’t eat many unnatural things with chemicals or additives.” Here, we caught up with the Manhattan-based scenemakers where they dished on everything from their workout regimens to their healthy travel tips to why juicing isn’t necessarily just a physical thing.
When did you become interested in health?
YONI: About the time I was 7, I became a vegetarian. It started with a few bad McNuggets. You’d bite into them and they’d be hard. I asked my mom what it was and she said maybe I was biting into the chicken fat. I said, “Is chicken the same as the bird?” She told me it was. And I was like, “I fucking knew it.” I never ate meat after that. I don’t eat meat, fish, poultry or eggs.
DAMON: I’ve always been healthy. I was raised vegetarian. My mother is still vegan. I was born in Bermuda and in the islands, there are not a lot of processed foods so everything is made to eat. It’s funny because growing up, I would always be mad that my friends were eating burgers and hot dogs. My family has a beef patty store and I couldn’t eat it because we were vegetarian and that would piss me off. When I got to the age where I could do whatever, I’d go to my friends house and have steak and burgers but never really acquired the taste. I think I did it out of rebellion if anything. Now I’m very conscious of what I eat. How I eat now leads back to the beginning of how I was taught to eat.
Seems you were both pretty healthy kids! Do you believe your respective childhoods set the stage for a healthy adulthood?
DAMON: I guess it was always a part of me. We didn’t eat chicken or red meat but coming from an island, you had to eat vegetables and fish. If you didn’t eat fish, you were crazy. From the exercise standpoint, we were always running around from soccer to cricket, to just your everyday movement between friends. It’s funny, when I moved to America at age 20, I kind of went away from it. I feel like that’s when I got out of shape for a second because I would eat McDonalds and not exercise. I just wasn’t really conscious.
YONI: I grew up in Newton, Massachusetts and my mom shopped at Bread and Circus, which ultimately became Whole Foods. This was the late 80s/early 90s, there were no Whole Foods. She would get me really nice expensive, organic fruit that I would go and trade the next day for a bag of Doritos. I just wanted anything that was gross and unhealthy with chemicals. But as I get older, I avoid chemicals as much as I can. We go to this taco place for lunch all the time, it’s all organic, it’s all fresh. I’ve tried to convince my coworkers to not eat at Chipotle, which they say is good, and I say that it has GMO’s.
Have you gotten more into the health game as you get older?
YONI: About 3 years ago, my friend Jay Kos introduced me to the dietary things I do now from juicing to raw food to quinoa to chia seeds to kale. Things that I really wasn’t doing a lot of. He dragged me to the Juice Press right when it opened and I got into a conversation with the owner and it was interesting everything they talked about when it came to the juicing and raw food from the diminished rates of cancer to better digestion to sleeping better to better sexual health. Everything they talked about sounded pretty appealing to me. It wasn’t so easy to eat raw food and juice back then. There was this place in the East Village and I suppose part of what I enjoyed was the challenge of doing it. Now it’s become a lot easier.
DAMON: I would say probably the last 3 years, I’ve gotten to back to being a lot of more health conscious. As I’m getting older, I want to be healthy. I remember being on the road with an act we manage and one of the security guards was this good looking guy who looked healthy and strong. I asked him, “How old are you?” And he said, “I’m 55.” I was like, y’know what? I want to look like that when I’m 55. So from then on I’ve been very conscious about what I eat and very much into exercising.
What do you do for exercise?
DAMON: I do everything. Crossfit twice a week, Muay Thai twice a week and yoga once a week. love a vinyasa flow. I’m also part of the Bowery Football Club so we play on Grand and Chrystie in Chinatown. I’ve always gone to the gym, but Crossfit is probably the most intense workout I’ve had in my life. And honestly, it’s been the fastest I’ve seen results in terms of strength and look. You’re always going against yourself in terms of time and level. I’m obsessed with it because you’re bettering yourself. You’re challenging yourself each time you do it.
YONI: Any relationship I have with health is largely from things outside of intense physical activity, but one thing I like about being in New York is that I do walk everywhere. I do cardio on the treadmill and bike in my building’s gym a couple times a week for a half hour or 45 minutes.
Do you find that there are challenges in keeping healthy with your line of work?
YONI: I don’t find the hours a barrier to being healthy, I find the travel that is associated with the work is what presents the greatest challenge. Eating well and exercising is the hardest. When you’re ordering room service or stuck on a plane for 8 hours and eating all the shit that they bring you and not exercising at the hotel gym, that’s tougher than being out at 4 in the morning.
DAMON: We have our nights where we act up, but you know, it’s like cheating on a diet, you have one day you go out and go crazy.
Do you have any healthy habits you learned along the way to not “fall off the wagon”?
YONI: I had the apple and ginger juice from Blueprint this morning so that feels pretty good.
DAMON: Since I’ve been more conscious about my health, I try to eat differently. Sometimes it is hard but instead of getting McDonalds, I get fruit, nuts, a banana or something like that. Because you have to try. And workouts, if there is no gym, I do push ups and sit ups always.
When did you get into juicing?
DAMON: Actually Yoni put me onto juicing. It was a chain effect. We did our first cleanse together with Juice Press.
How did that experience go?
YONI: I did about 8 hours.
DAMON: I was on a different journey. At that point, mine wasn’t about the health aspect of it. I had just gone through a breakup and I wanted to challenge myself. I continued the journey because mine was more a mental cleanse. We’re used to eating. We’re used to bread, rice, whatever. To just drink when you’re hungry, it is a mental challenge. As for a nutrition standpoint, it’s allowed me to want to do it again. I felt healthier.
Do you still cleanse?
DAMON: Since then we’ve done a few. Even if it isn’t for a week, if we’re not feeling good or wanting a bit of a quick cleanse, we incorporate raw food and juice into our lifestyle.
Are their things you always keep in your kitchen?
YONI: I always have granola. I like Cranberry Cashew Compound from Granola Lab. It’s a great product from Brooklyn.
DAMON: Rice Milk, fruit and Bear Granola. My mom used to make an amazing baked granola that I would put apple sauce on.
What does breakfast look like for you both?
YONI: I usually have juice or sprouted bread with nut butter. Whatever brands they have at Whole Foods. I’m lazy so most of the time peanut butter is the easiest to find but my favorite is cashew butter when I get around to getting it.
DAMON: For me, it depends on my workout schedule. I like to workout at 8am because it starts my day. If I workout at the end of the day, I’m drained and don’t have that much energy. I normally start with a shake I make it at home, which is normally protein, a banana because I like the taste and I’ll mix it with mango or strawberry. It’s all about the tropics. I also put in raw oatmeal and a dash of raw maca root. I mainly use it for the energy. Recently, I started putting in acai into it as well just to give me as much energy as possible.
What happens at lunch?
DAMON: For lunch, it’s just what mood we’re in. Some days it’s Snice for the sesame “chicken” wrap. Other days when I’m rushing the easiest thing is to pick up Dos Toros, which is incredible. Or some days it’s just a salad but normally, especially when I do Crossfit, I like to have some sort of protein so I might do some sort of chicken. Crossfit takes so much out of you. I’m healthy but I still need to eat too.
YONI: When it comes to eating, I know I don’t eat perfectly. I think lunch tends to be when I don’t well, I remember having a conversation with the former partner of Juice Press and I think he said to try to incorporate healthy eating into your life, be raw until dinner. Or have two good meals. I’ll have sandwiches for lunch, sometimes I’ll go to Snice soups and salads. I also like their Philly style seitan sandwich or the tofu scramble. But lunch is often when I veer off the health wagon.
What about dinner?
YONI: I tend to eat better for dinner. I tend to eat salads and smaller meals than I do at lunch.
DAMON: There are times where there are dinner meetings so you kind of have to eat. If I eat big for lunch, I try to eat a medium dinner.
Do you have a self-care practice?
DAMON: I’m huge into massage and acupuncture. I just found this really good acupuncturist, Dr. Mao. He’s a Chinese doctor off the end of Bowery in Chinatown. A friend of mine put me onto him. He’s kind of pricey and doesn’t take insurance but he’s incredible. I had Bell’s palsy when I was 16 where half of my face was paralyzed. He’s helping that. When he does it, it starts to free up and I feel it working.
Do you take any supplements?
YONI: I take Vitamin B.
Do you have a zen practice of unplugging and balancing yourself?
DAMON: I recently got into meditation. My girlfriend got me into it. I’m not an expert, but I meditate when I wake up for maybe 10 minutes. I just do it in my bed. I get up, cross my legs, breathe and think good thoughts. I try to do it before I go to bed when I can remember. Sometimes I’m so tired, I just fall asleep on the couch. I also try to incorporate walking meditation. We deal with so much craziness within the city, especially within our jobs. It’s not like I’m walking with my eyes closed but it’s all about your breath and your thoughts at that time.
YONI: I don’t respond to emails on Sundays during football games. That’s a new thing I instituted this year. It makes me really happy.
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