Toxic Holocaust Interview
with Joel Grind
at The Underworld, London
25th February 2014
Interview by Lily Randall
Photos by Ashlinn Nash
As soon as Joel Grind and Matt Harvey walk into the bar to an influx of journalists awaiting their arrival, it’s apparent just how great these two bands get on. After already spending an entire US tour together, Toxic Holocaust and Exhumed are starting their trail of chaos in London. We were lucky enough to pry Joel away from Matt while he’s still fresh faced to discuss touring, their latest album and side projects.
It’s been a while since you were over here touring in the UK. Would you agree that the UK is the home of heavy metal and therefore do you love coming over here to play?
I would completely agree. I think it’s essential for me because there are so many bands from America but here it’s such a smaller place and there’s such a large variety of music. There are so many legendary bands and I think about it and I’m like ‘How do all these awesome NWOBHM bands come from one place?!’ All the punk stuff too.
You have released your latest album ‘Chemistry of Consciousness’ since the last time you were over here. How do you feel that album differs from your previous stuff?
I would say this new record went a little more in the punk direction. I wanted to do something a lot more to the point, right off the tap. I wanted to do something that was straight up. It was definitely a chosen way to go in that direction.
Was the process any different? How do you usually go about writing and recording?
It was kind of the same. I can’t really write when I’m on tour because you never have enough time. There are either long drives or tight schedules, or talking or partying so it’s hard to just sit down with a guitar and write music. So I just wait until we’re off tour to start writing and with this album the only real difference was that I knew I wanted it to be really short songs. I wanted something that you could play over and over again rather than waiting for the fucking thing to be over you know? That’s the thing with a lot of music; it’s whether you actually listen to it again after the first time.
The album artwork for this album is totally different to previous ones. Was there a reason for that?
Yeah it’s really psychedelic right? We wanted it to coincide with the lyrics. The lyrics are a little more…trippy; there are a lot of subjects about how the mind works with substances and mind altering things too. I sound like a drug advocate but I’m really not! I’m interested in the whole history and use of psychedelics and things to explore your mind rather than frazzling it.
No chance of a stoner metal album then?
It’s been out quite a while now, have you been happy with the responses so far?
Yeah actually, it’s probably been the best received record we’ve had. I didn’t expect that at all, I actually thought that there would be a big back lash because we tried to really simplify and I thought people wouldn’t like that but in a way it actually worked in our favour which was cool. The main part of being in a band is being able to please yourself and others and it’s always the case that I don’t want to let our fans down but I don’t want to put out records that aren’t me.
Totally. Especially with thrash albums released last year, it felt as though they were really running out of ideas, even the likes of Sodom.
There were no huge curveballs with us and we brought something a little different to the table at least. Even lyrically, there’s not many thrash bands singing about this stuff.
How much of this album are you playing on the tour?
Right now we’re playing three songs. Yes, we’re promoting a new record but I know being a fan of bands, when a band only plays stuff off their new record it really bums me out and I don’t want to be one of those bands. I mean I get it, you don’t want to play the same old songs but it’s a big reason people are coming out to see you, because you have a catalogue of cool tunes and you’ve got to respect the old fans.
Toxic Holocaust are now working with Relapse Records. Obviously this is a large label but I know you guys try and stick with the whole DIY attitude. How has it been balancing the two?
When we first signed with Relapse there was a bit of a back lash from a lot of our diehard fans, like super underground people that didn’t like that but those people go away after a while. They clearly aren’t your true fans if they’re more interested in bands being obscure instead of what they’re actually putting out. So I’m kind of happy that happened but to be honest it’s just as DIY as ever working with Relapse. They have been really good to us because they give us a lot of freedom; they never have said ‘you can’t do this or that’. It’s definitely like a partnership and we give each other ideas of things to do that we really like. It doesn’t feel like a business relationships which is cool.
You also bought out your debut solo album last year. How do you compare Yellow Goat to Toxic Holocaust?
I did it more as a little bit of a throwback to when I first started Toxic Holocaust. The thing with getting more known as a band is there is a lot more responsibility and I wanted to do something where I didn’t have to think about any of that. I just booked a rehearsal room for two days and recorded the whole album. I played all the instruments, everything. It was just a pure labour of love and so fun to do. I was really on the fence about releasing it but I showed it to a couple of friends and they were like ‘You have to get this out!’, so I did and people really loved it. I released it myself too. I like that it came out at the same time as ‘Chemistry of Consciousness’ because it really shows our progression over the years from the demos and stuff.
Are you planning to do a follow up?
I definitely want to do another one! It was so fun to do and when I finished writing the first one, I was thinking of all this other stuff I could’ve done so I still have a lot more ideas!
You’re currently on this tour with label mates Exhumed. We’ve already seen your bromance with Matt (Harvey, frontman) so this is a bit of a silly question but how is it going with those guys?
We did a US tour together right before this one, seven days in between then we played a show in Mexico too without Exhumed. It’s been nonstop with those guys and it’s been so much fun, they’re great to tour with. I love all those guys. It’s one of those bands where we all click together and on this tour we’re all riding the same bus.
So if we were to sneak on said vehicle what would we expect to see going on?
The other day the Exhumed bass player Rob, he was really wasted the night before and he was asleep but he was in like the kneel position in a chair and it looked like he was praying. And then we all tried to wake him up but no one could, so they carried him out, there was like three of us taking him down the stairs and this was when we had to leave, it was so funny. We’ve still got four weeks to go so who knows what will happen!
And finally, with festival season coming up, who are the top 3 headliners of a festival run by Toxic Holocaust?
Venom, Sodom and Hellhammer!