Monday, May 30, 2011

The Lord of The Wasteland Speaks

Like black metal? Like thrash metal? Like a little bit of both? If so, then Toxic Holocaust is a band you need to check out. Now. They combine the old school metal sound of bands like Venom and Bathory and the punk sound of bands like Discharge. I talked with guitarist/vocalist Joel Grind of Toxic Holocaust by phone earlier this week to discuss everything from his band's new album to the color of his hair.

The Metalman: How are you doing today?

Joel Grind: I'm doing good, man.

The Metalman: Are you ready to get started?

J.G.: Let's go!

The Metalman: Are you guys on tour right now?

J.G.: No, we've actually been off for a bit. We're taking a few months off just to wait for the new record to come out. We toured a lot for the last record so it was time to take a break and get started fresh and do the cities over again in the U.S. We're going to do some world touring and stuff on the new one. Go to Europe again and hit it hard, you know?

The Metalman: So you talked about the new album. It's called Conjure and Command, right?

J.G.: Yep.

The Metalman: And it's coming out on July 19th in the U.S.?

J.G.: Yep. That's correct.

The Metalman: You released one of the new songs on YouTube called "Nowhere To Run", right?

J.G.: Right. That was the first one.

The Metalman: It sounded a little bit different to me compared to your first two albums. Kind of more thrashy?

J.G.: Yeah. I think a lot of people have been saying it's less punky and more straight-up metal but, you know, people haven't really heard the full record yet. You can't really judge on one song. We just really chose to do that song first because we're thinking about doing a video and stuff for it so we wanted to get people familiar with it.

The Metalman: Well, personally, I like it.

J.G.: Yeah. I don't think it's that much different. A lot of people thought it was a lot different from what I've done. But, yeah, this new record is a lot more varied but it's all very extreme. That's an overused word but, you know what I mean, it's definitely been taken up a notch on this record. The new record's a lot faster and a lot more in your face. It's really an aggressive record.

The Metalman: Well I think we can all live with that. Going back to your first couple of records and even your demos it was always just you playing all of the instruments. But now there's three of you in the band, correct?

J.G.: That's correct. It's finally a full band. It took awhile but it was just one of those situations where finding the right people to do it, who wanted to put the work into being a band instead of just saying they are in a band. There's a couple kind of people that you can meet. Just because people play instruments and stuff doesn't mean they have what it takes to play in a band. And there's a lot of work that people don't realize. Last year we toured eight months in a van. We don't have a tour bus or anything like that. We drive ourselves, we sleep in the van and it's not very glamorous but we love it. You have to love it to be able to put up with the bullshit that goes along with it.

The Metalman: Did you write all the songs on the new album or did the new members contribute?

J.G.: Yeah, I actually did write all the songs again on this record. I'm at home and I kind of just demo out the stuff. Like, I use a drum machine program to kind of just get the parts ready and show to the other guys. They know. It's not me being a dictator or anything like that. It's just because I've always done it. I have the vision for the band and always move forward with it. Those guys are cool because they can realize my vision. When I want to do stuff that I can't actually pull off myself, the guys are there and it's cool.

The Metalman: That sounds awesome!

J.G.: It's great. It's a really great way of working. There's a lot of things that I hear in my head that I would never be able to play on drums, you now what I mean?

The Metalman: Who produced the record?

J.G.: We did. We recorded it and produced it ourselves. Our drummer owns a studio in Connecticut and we spent a couple weeks there and did it ourselves and got to get it the way we wanted it and not be under the gun. In the past, [the record's] cost so much money and your working with other people. I mean, I'm happy with An Overdose of Death but it's different when you do it yourself. You make it sound the way you want. I'm really happy with the way it turned out. I think it sounds really heavy but it's still raw. That's the fine line I always like to walk. I like it to sound good. I don't really want it to sound like it was recorded in a trash can. But, I want it to sound still raw and heavy and I want it to sound like a band playing it. Not triggered drums that sound like anyone could have just programmed them on a drum machine.

The Metalman: Speaking of records that sound like they were produced in a trash can, I know your a big fan of band's like Bathory and Venom. How did you get into those bands? Because you have to be looking for stuff like that. That music is not just out there.

J.G.: I got into it when I was in my mid-teens. It was just one of those things. I got into the normal metal bands like Metallica and Megadeth and all that stuff from friends. And then all of a sudden when I started to buy my own music I started going to some record shops in Philadelphia when I could drive. I would go up there and go to some record stores and find stuff with really cool album covers and like occult stuff. Just stuff that really stuck out. I actually remember one trip I went on a weekend up to Philadelphia and I got Onslaught's Power From Hell. That cover just speaks to you. I saw that and I was like, man, that's gotta be good. Then I bought it and that was before eBay was even around. So it wasn't like people were eBaying records and everybody was getting them. These were like $5 records. It was in the cut-bin because thrash was so dead at that point. These were just like shitty records. It was awesome. I remember getting Voivod and Nuclear Assault all for like five bucks. I wish I'd had more money back then. I remember seeing records back then, shit that was like ten bucks that I couldn't afford. I wish that  I had bought, now, because it is worth so much more now.

The Metalman: You're from Maryland. I know you now live in Oregon but what do you think of the Maryland metal scene right now?

J.G.: You know, I don't really know about it. To be honest, I have a bunch of friends from Maryland still and my friend Tim [Paler] who runs the Diabolic Force Distribution thing in Maryland, he's a really good dude and is into all the underground stuff. You know, finding people like that was really few and far between in Maryland and that wasn't really the factor why I moved. The only difference is that Toxic still would probably be a solo project if I still lived there. The real reason why I moved is I went on tour and saw the west coast and especially Portland and I really liked it a lot so I decided to move out here. I don't really know too much about the Maryland metal scene. To me there hasn't been a lot bands that have stuck out, but that doesn't mean that there aren't any. That's not an insult to the Maryland metal scene.

The Metalman: Why do you think about the current black metal that is being released?

J.G.: There's some interesting stuff. There's this band on Relapse [Records] called Black Anvil and we did a few shows with them. I took to them because they kind of do the whole Celtic Frost kind of way. It almost sounds like Celtic Frost meets Destroyer 666. It's pretty cool, I like it a lot. There's always bands popping up. It's kind of cool because there's always new stuff in all kinds of scenes. I keep my eyes open for all kinds of stuff. I don't really focus on one style. If it's good it's good.

The Metalman: Like you said, when you got into this scene, thrash was dead. How were you able to learn those old-school vocals? Were you self-taught?

J.G.: Yeah. Just screwing around with a four track at home. Some of the old demos that weren't even released are pretty embarrassing, man. Awful. That's kind of where I honed my style. Just doing those demos.

The Metalman: What kind of guitars are you playing now?

J.G.: I always have my Gibson V's. I got a couple of those. Those are always like my standard guitar. This company that, it's kind of funny to say what it is, it's First Act. You know what that is?

The Metalman: Yeah, the people that make the guitar picks they sell at Target.

J.G.: Exactly. Like the Target guitars. They make bands like Converge, High on Fire,  and Mastodon's guitars. And they are like custom shop guitars. A lot of people from the Gibson custom shop went on to start First Act. They're awesome and they made me a white Flying V that looks kind of like the old Scorpion's V's and they would get sued if they didn't change the headstock. That's how close it is to the Gibson. It's a really cool guitar and it has a radiation symbol inlay at the 12th fret and I really like that guitar a lot. It sounds really good so I play it mostly live now. It actually stays in tune better than my Gibson. It's awesome. And then I have a Les Paul that I use for home stuff. It's too big. Les Paul's are really heavy and bulky and for the thrash kind of stuff it's really hard to play those live. If I was playing slower stuff I could understand it but with thrash and speed picking and stuff it's hard. And then, standing up with a strap. But, yeah, that's usually what I play. I put JB humbuckers and Seymour Duncans in all my guitars. I've tried a lot of other stuff. I've tried the active stuff but the passive pick-ups are better for me.

The Metalman: Any new bands that you are into these days?

J.G.:  Yeah. Let me think. There's a band called Murderous from Portland. They're really cool. They're more d-beat kind of punk stuff. Midnight from Ohio is really cool. Hmmm. Man, you put me on the spot. I can't really think of anything right now. That's the ones that come off the top of my head right now.

The Metalman: I got one final question that I have to ask you. Is your hair dyed?

J.G.: Oh, yeah. (laughing) Yep.

The Metalman: Alright, I'm gonna let you go. Thanks for the interview.

J.G.: Yeah, no problem, dude.

The Metalman: Have a good day.

J.G.: You to.

You can check out Toxic Holocaust's new song here:

You can pre-order Conjure and Command on iTunes or here:

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