TOXIK – Brian V Bonini and Josh Christian

April 20th, 2007
by Arto Lehtinen

How many of you still remembers Toxik which put out two albums in the end of the 80’s when thrash/speed metal was raging all around the world ?! As usual several thrash/speed bands having out put a couple of albums in the end of the decade usually vanished from the scene without leaving any trace just like Toxik. Now this melodic thrash speed combo has returned to the limelight. Both WORLD CIRCUS and THINK THIS have been out of print for years, but Displeased will be re-issueing both the album with bonus material within the year. Toxik will be seen on the European soil in the upcoming KEEP IT TRUE festival. It was about time to ask both Brian Bonini and Josh Christian about the past and the present of Toxik. 


Good day to New York, what’s up there right now? I guess there is some snow?

Josh Christian: Where I live it’s snowing right now, April 16th.

AS TOXIK WAS FOUNDED

Toxik’s reunion definitely came out of the blue to several people, therefore it might be a good choice to take a glance at the history of the band a little bit closer that readers out there could have a better knowledge about the band. Toxik was founded back in 1985 by Josh and the line-up was the pretty much different than on the first album, but anyway could you shed a little bit more light on how everything started out in the first place and what made you play metal together back then ?

JC: We began as a cover band (bar band) that played other peoples music. This is early 1983 when we were still called Tokyo.We changed the name when we went all original in 1985 and did the Wasteland demo … which has now been included on the rerelease of WORLD CIRCUS from Displeased records. That band consisted of Myself, Lee Erwin (bass), Sal Dadabo(drums) and Mike Sanders (Vocals) Tokyo had formed from another band even earlier than that (1980-81) called the Photgenics then later, Centaur. We were a punk band. After the Wasteland Demo, Lee left and was Replaced by Brian Bonini and shortly thereafter Tad Joined in Sals sted.

A guy called Sal Dabado used to play in Toxik before Tad Leger joined in. But was Sal Dabado recruited to fill up the empty drummer spot left by A.J.Pero in Twisted Sister, or what  was the exact story of Sal Dabado ?

Brian Bonini: Not really, from what I understand Sal did at some point hit the road with Twisted Sister, but that was much later and had nothing to do with his departure from Toxik.

JC: I  never knew that, I read it the first time on line a few years ago, and then it popped up on Blabbermouth I think and a bunch of other places…it’s possible as I haven’t spoken to Sal since he left the band..

And before you, Brian Bonini, came into the picture, the bass was handled by another guy Lee Ervin, was he asked to leave the band for his own good when Brian Bonini stepped in ?!

JC : Lee is a good friend of mine and we still speak, Lee left the band on his own, and we hooked up with Brian as a result. The truth is it was the best thing that could have happened.

Mike Sanders was in the early stage of Toxik and did the vocals for the demo and the debut album “WORLD CIRCUS”, but got replaced by Charles Sabin for the second album. Were there some personal disagreements on the musical direction or just inflamed relations between other guys and Sanders resulting in his departure from the band?

BB: Not at all, in fact Mike’s departure was the beginning of the end. It’s really the other way around. The change in line-up killed the chemistry of the band, created tons of internal conflict and eventually led to our demise. Prior to that, the WC line up could of endured forever, we were all friends doing what we loved to do together. Mikes departure was an external influence by roadrunner fueled by a minority of bad press and a lack on proper understanding on how to market us. They suggested replacing Mike and we said no-way and decided we would drop them before that would happen. However when it was presented to Mike he conceded and I can’t say I blame him, It must of made him very uncomfortable, I know it was for me.

Where was Charles Sabin found ?! What kind of background did he have before joining Toxik ?!

BB: Charlie was a local guy, we knew him from around town and some other bands he was kicking around with in the area.

JC: LOL… You have to remember when we say “around town” we’re talking about the New York metropolitan area. Charlie was actually out auditioning for some big name major label acts and had studied with Don Lawrence who was the name in vocal instruction on the east coast. Charlie Could fuckin Sing, he just was impossible to get along with back then.

The second guitarist named John Donnelly was recruited to Toxik. Why did you decide to have the second guitarist, did you feel the sounds needed to have more balanced strength especially in the live situation ?!

JC: I had written a lot of guitar for THINK THIS and we were starting to get to a point where we really wanted it to be perfect live. We had always relied on our high energy on stage and that wasn’t going to change,.. but THINK THIS was going to be a “precise’ record and we wanted the live show to be equally exact.

BB: Yes. We felt the density of THINK THIS justified the additional member particularly for live shows. In retrospect I’m not so sure, but, no regrets, John was a great guy and a killer guitar player in his own right. I’m glad we had the opportunity to play with him.

The band’s name is quite interesting as you started out as Tokyo, but there must have been a plenty of other bands named after Tokyo as it got changed to Toxik after all? Was the last letter C changed to K to avoid other conflicts with these names?

JC: We were being clever, or at least we thought we were at the time. Toxik was pretty unique when we began. All of these things that became cliche later on were still pretty fresh in he mid eighties… “K”  is cooler than “C” visually.

BB: We changed it to K because we knew when the Internet popped up 10 years later it would help our search engine rankings… LOL!! Just kidding.

RELEASES AND YEARS ON ROADRUNNER

The one official demo was recorded back in 1986, featuring five songs as far as I know, could you recall a little bit more about the recording process of the demo, was the demo recorded once with the first take, or how many days did you spend when recording it and where was it recorded ?!

JC: We took Three day’S at a 24 track studio, but I believe it was recorded on 8. We had practiced a great deal leading up to the recording so we were prepared.

“Wasteland” from the demo was on METAL MASSACRE IX, but wasn’t on the debut album. Did you feel putting “Wasteland” on that legendary comp album was already enough and it didn’t make sense to include on the album?

JC: It’s legendary now but at the time it was one of the only real avenues for an underground band to get heard. There had always been a solid cassette trade within the American Metal scene.. the Metal Massacre disc meant worldwide exposure. I believe we had that in the works before we Signed with RoadRunner and didn’t rerecord that tune because of it…

How many labels showed the interest toward Toxik after getting a hold of the demo ?

BB: Wow! I don’t recall… Was there interest from Metal Blade or anyone..??? I can’t remember. Josh will know. 

JC:  This is funny, .. Brian has answered these questions and then passed them along to me, I was going to say in my last answer that Brian would know.. I think Metal Blade and or Metal Force.. and then between WORLD CIRCUS and THINK THIS we had hooked up with a mangement company and they were talking to other labels

How did the deal offer from Roadrunner differ from other ones? Were you also fascinated about these other bands being on RoadRunner at that time, for example King Diamond, Crimson Glory, etc  making your decision easier? Or was the whole deal with RoadRunner based on the business issues?

BB: Again don’t really recall the specifics, it was a long time ago… Most likely it was simply that they were the first ones to actually send a contract. I wish I could say it was a business decision but ya know, at the time we were kids, I was 18 when we recorded WORLD CIRCUS… I heard record contract, tour, etc. And just thought, ”where do I sign”! I’m sure I was not thinking about the business aspect at 18. Would be a very different scenario if we went back to that now, knowing what I know now.

The debut album WORLD CIRCUS was recorded and processed at the Morrisound rec which later gained a reputation for several classic death metal releases. But at that time when you were there, Morrisound hadn’t become that wellknown even though some bands for example Agent Steel had recorded albums there. But how was the working and the recording of the album at Morrissound?

BB: Actually, even at that time Morrisound had done some reputable stuff. Steve Morse (Dixie Dregs) had been in there. The Outlaws which had some huge southern rock hits back in the 70’s. Death, Nasty Savage, Crimson Glory shortly after us, et al. had all passed through there. But to answer your question, it was great working with Tom at his facility, it’s world class and Tom really knows his craft. It’s no surprise they’ve seen the success they have over the past two decades.

JC: We were honored that these guys were interested enough in the project, that they actually flew up and did the pre-production out of their pockets ..Airfare and all. I couldn’t agree with Brian more. Tom Morris, Jim Morris and Scott Burns are all “Masters” at their art, …it was a lucky break for a young band.

How long did you work on the album at the Morrissound studio?

BB: I wanna say WORLD CIRCUS was a bit of a frenzy, maybe two weeks. I think we were down there for 4-6 weeks for THINK THIS though.

When I saw the album in some advertisement for the first time and wondered about the front cover featuring a clown blowing a circus tent to pieces, hmmm what kind of connection does the title of the album have with the front cover?

BB: Well in short, the World is a Circus – “The game is the world The circus is all of their tricks”

JC: “Democracy, Hypocrisy ..Cash junkies all need their fix”

Did you have any idea about selling figures of the debut album and what kind of respond it got for example in the European press?

BB: Well, we certainly had a feel for the response in the press simply by the reaction we received overseas. The figures, well, we had accounting records but they had a creativity all their own applied to them so that’s a bit more obfuscated.

JC: I don’t think we’ve ever seen a final accounting. I would love to know what the total sales were… I bet it’s more than we would guess..

The Dutch label Displeased recently re-issued the album with bonus material. How did Displeased get interested to put the album out and were you amazed to see there is still some interest left toward Toxik ?

JC: Yea it was like ..” where did this come from” ?  I had been receiving a steadily increasing flow of email over the last few years. Then on Ebay.. original copies of WC cd’s going for 55.00 US ! on Gemworld, retailers listing them for $125.00- $147.00..?????????  the money wasn’t the shocker it was that we had reached “Collector status”, us and a bunch of our contemporaries.. So actually being that we are a Thrash band and old school thrash is having a Renaissance it makes perfect sense. I think we’ve always felt that Toxik was to brief, we never got to make that 3rd disc… not yet anyway.

BB: Absolutely amazed. I’m still blown away by the fact that it’s been re-released and there’s a fan base out there that wants this stuff. It’s our sole motivation for doing this re-union, i.e. To give back to all the die-hards that have kept Toxik alive for 20 years. And give the new fans a chance to catch us live.

Could you tell a little bit more about the re-issued version of WORLD CIRCUS as there seems to be a plenty of bonus material ?!

BB: Only about the release being done by Displeased. Josh and Tad were able to pull together a bunch of material. Some unreleased stuff, some of it’s just basement jams, I think there is an interview on there, good stuff though. Displeased is the only one with this material and I believe they are trying to release a DVD of the `88 DOA show as well.

JC: I think that both companies, MetalMind and Displeased have given the rereleases a loving effort. By that I mean, They’ve put this stuff out because they like it and I think that the product reflects that.. They Both Sound Amazing thanks to the remaster and the graphics especially with the Displeased release are just Killer!!!!

As for the second output called THINK THIS which came out in 1989. You got a new vocalist and second guitarist as well. How much did these changes in the band’s rank change the writing process of songs between each member?

BB: Hrmm,  I don’t know that it did. That material was all written prior to the new members coming in. In fact somewhere are pre-production recordings of Mike singing most of that stuff. May even be on the Displeased bonus tracks.

Right now I can’t remember where it was recorded, but could you recall the recording days of the second album ?!

BB: Same as WORLD CIRCUS, Morrisound.

The album included the Led Zeppelin cover “Out On The Tiles”, how did you end up picking up that particular song for a cover one ?

BB: For me it’s sort of a tribute. Zep is a great band and in their day they broke all the rules and did what it was that they do…  And it stands to this day.

JC: Charlie wanted to do that song originally, and it was a cool tune..

As for the cover of the second album featuring flags from The States and USSR on tv screens and a couple of people starring at them… Hmmm …. In my opinion you wanted to point out “don’t believe everything what they see on the TV”… or am I wrong?

BB: It’s more then that, but JC is gonna have a better answer so I’ll just be quiet.

JC: Those album covers are every bit as relevant today as they were originally.. even more so. The concept of THINK THIS was manipulation of the mind with media. A wall of sensory input blasting you 24 hours a day.. In the States media has become the slave master.

Afterwards how do you feel about those albums now in 2007, do you find some things should have been carried out in other ways, are you still pleased and even proud of those albums ?!

JC: I’m very proud of them both…

BB: That’s a great question, and tricky one to answer. Proud – yes! Absolutely. Should things have been carried out differently? at that time no, but to hear it 20 years later, sure, of course.  That was half a life time ago, sooooo much experience between now and then I can’t imagine how I could NOT hear it differently. Not good or bad, just different.

How do view which are the biggest differences between WORLD CIRCUS and THINK THIS in the musicwise?

BB: For me WC is just raw adrenalin, fast, heavy, thrashing. THINK THIS is much more musical, there’s a lot of great playing going on with that record and some really intricate phrases that are being executed within the construct of great song structure.

Displeased Rec has also put the re-issued version of the second album out and included a hell of a lot of bonus material, you could also reveal a little bit more about the bonus material on THINK THIS ?

BB: Well, again; it’s a lot of stuff Tad and Josh pulled together, some basement Jams, Unreleased material, interviews, I think there are tracks of TT material with Mikey singing

As for the two track promo Ep, apparently Roadrunner released it or how and what the purpose on this Ep anyway ?!

BB: Got me? LOL! Two song promo… ;) What was on that? There stood the fence and the Zep tune.. The two songs that are the least indicative of what we were like… What was it I was saying earlier about RR being clueless on how to market us? LMAO!

JC: Yea if that doesn’t put RR’s confusion about us in pespective nothing does.

TOURS AND ON THE ROAD WITH KING DIAMOND

How many times did you tour in Europe? What kind of respond did you usually receive?

BB: We were there twice, once to support each record. The response in Europe was amazing. Completely unexpected the first trip over, people waiting in the airport for autographs.

How did the North American and European audience differ at that time from your point of view?

BB: Black and White (no pun intended). The LA glam thing was the industry focus in the states at the time and while there was a metal underground it was a small one. The way music gets segregated in Europe seems different too. Here there’s a difference between Preist, Iron Maiden, Slayer, Metallica. There’s ya know, Metal, Death Metal, Progressive Metal, Thrash, Metal, Doom Metal, it’s crazy all the classifications. It always seemed that with the European audience it was all just music.

JC: We also appealed to a more intelligent listener. Not to stereo type but it did seem that the European and Japanese fans got it a lot better. Back then like Brian said… it was a very different scene in the states.

How was the touring with the legendary King Diamond back then?

BB: King was great. Nothing but good memories of KD and company.

JC: Yes it was like a long drive through the countryside with Satan…

In 1988 you were invited to play at the prestigious Dynamo Open Air festival together with Sabbat, Candlemass, Exodus. It must have been one hell of an experience for us?

BB: DOA! Never forget it, tens of thousands of crazy fans… nothing but good times there.

JC: I want to play it again.. Maybe next year if they have it?

(If readers are willing to witness some Toxik Dynamo footage, click this youtube link)

BREAK UP AND YEARS AFTER TOXIK

In 1992 Toxik reached the end of the road. Did you lose all the motivation to carry on as a band because of the biggest metal hype was pretty much gone and other styles used to be dominating the music market in the early 90’s ?

BB: Was actually much earlier then 92, I know that’s what everyone thinks but by 92 I was married, living in Virginia and had a daughter. In between that there had been several other projects a few of which Josh and I worked on together with drummer Lou Caldarola who will be filling Tads spot on the reunion.

JC: I was living out in California going to school and rooming with Mikey from WORLD CIRCUS..

After pulling out of the deal of Roadrunner, did you desperately try to look for a new deal and label?

BB: Nope. There was no pulling out of the deal, the band broke up and that was the end.

JC: We were done.. we probably should have taken a month off and gone forward but we were at a bad spot. The label was dissing us, the music industry was at a cross roads.. our singer was a nightmare … no it was a “Fuck It” moment.

As said earlier that THINK THIS came out 1989 and then the break up happened in 1992, how much did you manage to write new songs for the supposed third album, which never came true?

BB: there was some material, quite a few songs actually. Again, I believe Displeased has one called Lost World that was either for a 3rd record or a cut track from THINK THIS. Can’t recall exactly..

JC: When we broke up we probably had 15 tunes roughly hanging around in music form without vocals.. they later surfaced as instrumentals and were parted out for other projects.

Toxik broke up in 1992, what have you been doing for the past 15 years since break up ?

BB: Speaking for myself. Well as I said, I got married, had a daughter and moved to Virginia. When I got here I hooked up with a guy who owned an Indie Record label, they kept me busy for years recording and touring with many of their acts.

JC: Yes yes, family, two daughters, Wife..Lots of music over the years. CD’s films etc..

Did Ted Lager join the local death/thrash band called Prime Evil after being in Toxik?

BB: He did play with them, but for some reason I thought Prime Evil was before Toxik… Perhaps not..

JC: Tad came out of PrimeEvil to join Toxik..They were killer. Andy had a great voice and Tad who was really young at that point was just crushing.. I remember we played a party together when we were still Tokyo and thinking to myself.. these guys are the shit,.. this is where it’s headed.,

Did you loose the whole interest toward the metal genre after the break up or did you keep eyes open checking out what’s going on?

BB: Nah! For a while initially but I’ve kept an ear to the ground over the years. Just like everything, we’re musicians so music is our trade, as such, I try to keep up on everything in all genres of music.

JC: I disconected from music all together for a couple of years. I will always write but Personally my life with music has always been a struggle. I’m one of those people where it’s very hard for me to do anything other than music when I’m doing it… for example.. the phone is ringing Monday morning and it’s my boss ..but I’m not answering it because I’m in my underware down in the studio doing the 375th take of a solo that I’m on the verge of getting right, and I’ve been awake since Friday… so not just metal, but all music.. I’m over that now, in fact it’s Monday and I’ve been up since yesterdays Toxik rehearsal…

Are there any particular bands or metal genre that you have been into lately?

BB: I’m always hesitant to answer these questions, there’s so many cliques that form around stuff like this but.. I’ll just say I listen to anything. On any given day there could be Slayer, Parliment, and Bach in my cd player. Some of the new Metal bands out there right now, Opeth, SlipKnot, Evanescence, Shadows Fall, Exodus continues to kick ass… all stand out for me. 

… AND REUNION 2007

After being on hiatus since 1992, you however decided to gather together to bring another “Heart Attack” with Toxik, the question is quite simply : why reunion?

BB: People are asking for it, simple as that. If there’s enough of a fan base to keep this stuff alive for 20 years, then we feel we owe it to them to do this… I hear/see comments all the time about just doing it for the money… Obviously coming from people that have never toured with a thrash band, the illusion that there is some sort of fortune to be made doing this is hilarious…. My life would be a lot simpler and certainly more lucrative just staying home and working a day gig.

How long did you think and talk about re-activating Toxik? Was everyone more than ready and willing to start playing the old school speed/thrash metal after 14 years?

BB: Another good question. We’ve talked about it over the years but it never came to fruition. With the re-releases going on it became apparent how large the buzz still was, this is really what put it over the top and drove us to finally make a commitment to try to do this.

But Ted Lager didn’t team up with the rest of you guys, why ?

BB: Tad (Leger) is busy with a couple other projects one of which as I understand it just got a small indie deal.

Did you try to locate Charles Sabin and John Donelly who were on the second album ?!

BB: No

Was it already nothing, but obvious when planning on reuniting Toxik that the line up will be and is the same as on the first album, apart from the drummer ?!

BB: Yeah, there was never any question about it being the WC line-up. And Tad was actually involved at first but had to step down subsequently. He was just spread too thin.

Presumably you must be aware of all the other reunions which have happened during the whole decade for example Death Angel, Armored Saint, Sacred Reich, etc etc etc generally saying every 80’s thrash/speed metal band has reunited in a way or another. Have these other reunions effected your decision to put Toxik back together?

BB: Nope: Again, it’s totally driven by the fan base. It’s actually very inconvenient and difficult for us to pull this off. We all live very far apart now. I have to drive 600km just to practice with these guys. We all have a lot of success in other areas of our lives so truthfully we’re sacrificing a lot to make this happen. It be a lot easier if it were not happening. But having said that, I’m ecstatically looking forward to all of it.

You may have rehearsed a couple of times by now, how does it feel to play the old songs from both the albums ?! Have you already been thinking of penning the new material or is this just a nostalgia trip for all of you?

BB: We have, 4 in fact… . It feels different to play it, that for sure. Again, its been a long time and a lot changes in 20 years. It’s weird to play my parts from 20 yeas ago, At that time I’d been playing bass for 3 years, I’ve got 20 more years experience at this point, that changes things. New material was actually talked about prior to ever discussing re-hashing the old stuff and taking it on the road so that’s highly probable.

I can’t help asking about the plans with Toxik in the future, what’s next?

BB: We’ll see. That’s been our whole approach. Taking a day at a time. We’ve done the rehearsals, and at this point have management and firm gigs lined up in Europe in Nov.

All right I think I may have asked more than enough. I for one politely thank your time and interest to answer the interview, hopefully you didn’t get a “heart attack” ….

BB: Thx again… Great questions and it’s always a thrill to talk about Toxik 

JC: Good interview.. thank you see soon.


The official TOXIK Myspace : http://www.myspace.com/toxikmetal  

 

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