Portland, Oregon. While it probably reminds some of hi-end coffee shops, hippie-hipsters, and legal weed, my main interest in the state comes by way of a qualtity little trio called Toxic Holocaust. Consisting of Joel Grind, Nicholas T. Rage, and Phil Gnaast, these thrash-punk-metal warriors have been decimating audiences and eardrums since 1999 with so many releases and splits you’d need an itemized receipt to recite them all.
But slow down? NEVER! Toxic Holocaust’s latest rager, Chemistry of Consciousness, dropped TODAY, October 29, 2013, via Relapse Records, and it’s as punk and metal as ever. If you’ve liked their past work, make sure to cop this sucker first thing in the morning.
I spoke with Joel Grind a day before its release to get the skinny on the record, when we can expect the group to hit the road in the future, and how the band likes to party because, well, I like to party, too.
G- Hi Joel and thanks for speaking with Live High Five today. How’s everything going?
J- Things are going great, man. Thank you for the interview. I really appreciate it.
G- Not a problem. Glad to be able to help the group out.
So, let’s just jump right into it, man. Chemistry of Consciousness drops tomorrow (TODAY.) It’s on Relapse Records. Tell us about the record, the final product. And as a metal band on Relapse, they’re one of the heavyweights of heavyweights in the Metal world… What’s it like working with those cats over there?
J- I guess what people can expect is just a ripper of a record, you know. Like very short and to the point. Not a lot of filler.
And Relapse, they know what we’re about as a band. Their background is similar to ours, and they know how to work with a band like us. It kinda has a family atmosphere. It doesn’t have, like, a band/label weird tension. It’s like we all work together, and they’re very open to my ideas, so it’s really great working with them.
Now, let’s dive into the record a bit. Can you tell us about the recording process for the album… Where did you record it, who did you have producing or engineering this time around, and how long did the release take to record and get ready for release the way you wanted it?
J- This time around, we did it the way we did the last record. We recorded it ourselves, and we produced it ourselves. I spent a lot of time in pre-production writing the songs and making sure they were all right, so the actual recording didn’t take very long. I usually sit down with the drum machine and write all the songs. I basically demo out the entire album before we record it. So, it gets all the bugs out so you can focus just on the creative aspect of it instead of, you know, we have to get this done in a certain amount of time, which can really put a damper on the creative process, if you’re under a time constraint or something like that.
So, a lot of preparation a head of time, and doing it ourselves, allowed us to get it the way we wanted it to without the looming 2 days left where we have to finish it. It’s been that way in the past… An Overdose Of Death. I did that record in 10 days, including mixing. I played almost everything on that record except for drums, so it was 14 hours a day, 8 days straight, and 2 days mix. And there was still stuff that I didn’t have time to add that I wanted to. There’s a charm to working like that, but it was nice this time around to actually get it the way I wanted it to. This is the record that I’ve been trying to make for a long time, so I’m really happy with it.
And we got Kurt Ballou to mix it…
G- Oh yeah!
J- We’ve been friends with him and toured with Converge and stuff, so we know him on a personal level. Plus, we’re all fans of how he produces and mixes, everything he does. He’s just a genius with that kind of stuff. I’m really happy with the result.
G- Nice, and a new video dropped today, too.
J- That’s true. There is a song called “Acid Fuzz.” It’s completely animated; basically 2 minutes of a bad trip sequence…
It’s pretty cool. People have already been commenting and blown away. There’s some pretty shocking stuff in there, so…
G- Nice. Very good!
Now, you guys have been around for a while, and you’ve played internationally and things like that… Are there any places that you have yet to go that you’ll be hitting during the album cycle for this run?
J- Later next year, we’re going to do a full South American tour. I’ve played Brazil before with the previous incarnation of the band, but it’s going to be the first time I’ll be playing in countries like Columbia and things like that, so it should be a lot of fun. I know the music fans are rabid down there, super dedicated, so I’m looking forward to that.
G- Right on. And I gotta ask… You guys seem like party animals, and I’m a party animal, too…
What kinds of beers and booze do you like to drink, what do you want people bringing up to the stage, and how does Toxic Holocaust like to get down?
J- For beer, it’s whatever’s cheap and we can afford. We’re not picky with it. I like all kinds of beer. Domestic, imports, everything… It’s all good to me.
But if I get to pick, I like Stella if I have some extra money. Blue Moon is good, too… That stuff is really tasty. But if I’m drinking to get drunk, any old stuff is fine. Anything with an alcohol content.
G- Right on.
J- For liquor, it’s usually Jim Beam.
G- A whiskey man… Nice. When I was on they road, free and cheap was the best you could get.
J- That’s right.
G- So, do you have any standouts or favorite songs on this album, ones that are most fun to play live? Or, if you could only give 1 song to someone who’d never heard Toxic Holocaust before, to try and make a new fan, off of this record or any of your previous releases, what song would you give them?
J- That’s a good question. From the new record, the standout ones for me, the ones I’m really looking forward to playing live, “Acid Fuzz” is one of them I really like and turned out pretty good. I’d say “Mkultra” is another one. Like I was telling some other people, this one kind of went in a more punky direction, so I don’t know if it’s completely representative of Toxic Holocaust, but those tracks off the new one would be a good start. At the very least, it gets you that aggressive feeling and short, to-the-point songs, which is really our bread and butter.
G- Alright. And just to speculate a little bit, I’ve seen Toxic Holocaust play with a ton of bands, both headlining and providing direct support. Is there a feasible 3-band dream lineup that Joel Grind would like to be a part of?
Slayer is evidently doing an old school set, so they say. That’d be a fun one!
J- Uhh, Slayer for sure! Slayer is one of those bands that, you know, I’ve been wanting to play with since I picked up a guitar (laughing,) so that’s one of those things. Even with the current incarnation of the band, I’d do it because Slayer rules!
J- Of course, Venom would be another one, and probably Motorhead. Those would be the 3.
G- Perfect! And did you hear that new Motorhead album at all?
J- I haven’t. People have been telling me it’s awesome!
G- People are loving it. Check it out on some of those long drives you’re going to be on! Have a beer and… Well, don’t have a beer if you’re driving.
J- I’ll be in the back drinking.
G- Nice! Have a beer, listen to Motorhead. Perfect!
And to finish up, you’ve have been together since 1999, logged many miles, dropped tons and TONS of releases, and are definitely up there in the heap with it comes to Punk and Metal.
For all the upcoming thrash bands and kids that want to play Metal, what advice from your experiences can you give them to survive on the road, make good music, and be a professional musician like yourself?
J- The main advice, and what helped me the most really, is don’t set out to try to make it, and do it because you love it. Bands ask me ‘how do you get signed’ and how to quote “make it,” and making it to me can mean a lot of different things. When I released my first demo tape, I thought I made it. There is really no “Big Time’ anymore, and if that’s your goal, you should choose a different line of work. This is really a labor of love, and you just have to love it.
And I’d also say don’t listen to the naysayers and the people that shit talk and hate and stuff like that. There will always be some, and the bigger your bands get, the more there will be. If you read into that shit too much, it can affect what you’re doing. The goal is to do stuff that you believe in and that you love, and this stuff (Punk/Metal) isn’t made for everyone to love, so you have to keep that in mind.
Well, I appreciate you taking the time to speak with Live High Five today! I’ve heard the album… It’s awesome, and I can’t wait to see you guys when you’re on the road. Until then, play hard, travel safe, and I look forward to speaking in the future.
J- Alright man. Thank you very much.