Toxic Holocaust goes way back for me. A friend of mine introduced me to them when I was about fifteen, specifically the Overdose Of Death album, and it was like love at first sight. This also marked a significant step forward in my discovery of more extreme music. Fast forward about nine years later, and I’m given the opportunity to speak with the mastermind behind the one-man project, Joel Grind. Here we discuss the latest record Primal Future: 2019, among some other things regarding the band coming to fruition.
Nick: Every Toxic Holocaust album up to this point, I felt had a similar idea with slight changes in execution. But Primal Future ’19 took a pretty drastic turn from Chemistry Of Consciousness, especially in the fact that it’s more melodic. What led you to do something like that?
Joel: I just wanted to do something, I don’t want to say polar opposite of the last one, but something much different from the last one. It seemed to me that it was the logical step for the twenty-year progression of the band. With the last record, I felt like I took that “one-and-a-half minute / two-minute song” idea to the max, and I wanted to see if I could fill out the arrangements a little bit more. I guess more melodic, but also longer arrangements with bigger bridge parts; stuff like that.
Nick: So like, less punk oriented and perhaps less straightforward?
Joel: Yes! I wanted to do something -and I don’t wanna throw this tag around- but with more traditional heavy metal kinds of influences.
Nick: That kinda leads into my next question; is this supposed to give us an idea of where the band is headed with future releases? Perhaps to side-step that “blackened” feel that some of the earlier albums had?
Joel: Yeah! It’s funny, because I’m such a fan of music in general, but all sorts of genres of metal, and I don’t really want to be confined to doing just one style. I want Toxic to sound like Toxic without necessarily being the same songs over and over. I think the new record still sounds like Toxic, but it doesn’t follow the same kind of formula.
Nick: Of course! My personal favorite one is the closer “Cybernetic War.” I thought it stood out the most in the sense of Toxic Holocaust coming closer to traditional metal. Do you mind telling me the story behind that track?
Joel: I wanted to do something that was kind of like an epic outro of the record, almost something you’d see in a movie from the ’80s, perhaps more anthemic. When I was writing that one, I kinda had in my mind that it would be cool to play it at European festivals and stuff like that. It has that traditional metal influence, like a Running Wild song that does really well live, especially in a festival situation.
Nick: A lot of the songs seem to deal in futuristic catastrophe, and I guess the title would give that away, but what inspired the general idea for the lyrics?
Joel: So basically, the way I looked at the record, is that I wanted to do something that was futuristic themed. It’s kinda funny because, in the ’80s, all the movies would depict 2019, 2020, etc. being the future. I thought it was funny that now is “the future,” and the record is based on that. This is like an alternate reality of what life is really like right now. It’s where technology advances so much that you wipe everything out, and you’re basically back to caveman days – a primal future. That’s what it’s all about, and the lyrics all fall under that umbrella, but each song acts as its own short story if that makes sense. It’s not really a concept record, every song is about a different thing, but it all falls under the same banner.
Nick: Another one that really stood out to me was “Black Out The Code,” and I thought it seemed to be built around humans becoming machines, or perhaps technology taking over human life. I guess you just kinda told me that part but is that where this one was going?
Joel: Totally! It’s kinda like AI, computers becoming sentient, and stuff like that.
Nick: Do you have a personal favorite track from the new album or one that you’re most proud of?
Joel: I really like the song “New World Beyond,” which we did a video for. I think the two you mentioned were actually some of my favorites as well. I’m excited to play those live, and we did play “New World Beyond” live. I don’t like to bombard the fans with too much new stuff; I like to make the old-school fans happy and do a broad range of stuff. Nothing worse than seeing a band, and they only play the new record! *laughs* So I figure I’ll throw a couple of those in, as well as a bunch of the raspy, old jammers.
Nick: Speaking of the older classics, I’ve always wondered what it was like to start such an abrasive project and handle everything yourself. What’s the biggest thing you learned looking back since the Evil Never Dies era?
Joel: I think the biggest thing I learned is how to streamline my approach, and the technology has definitely helped since then. It was much harder to make a record solo back then (early 2000s), and if you did this in the ’80s, it’d be even more difficult. I was recording stuff on reel-to-reel and shit like that, and unable to do things on the computer was difficult. At the time, I didn’t really have the money for it, and computers were pretty rudimentary compared to now. Twenty years ago, people were still recording to tape because computers just weren’t as common, and you had to have a lot of money to have a computer fast enough to run a session. Now it’s like you can just run to Wal-Mart and get a laptop! *laughs* Stuff like that has helped streamline the approach and learning what I want the records to sound like. Back then, I didn’t really know what I was going for; I kinda had an idea, but some of the things in my head I didn’t know how to achieve. Years of experience have helped that whole thing and have made everything go faster. That’s what I mean by “streamline.” Now when I go in, I know what I want the end result to be, I know how to get that result, and I can do it much faster.
Nick: So you’re saying early on it was more or less what you came up with on the spot, where over time it became easier to step into it with an idea?
Nick: Cool! So obviously thrash metal bands are a big part of your influence. Do you have any specific vocalists that have influenced your voice and style, or just some that made you want to start Toxic Holocaust?
Joel: For vocals, I’d definitely say some of my influences would be Tom Angelripper from Sodom, and Jeff Becerra from Possessed, vocals that aren’t really guttural but very gruff. Cronos from Venom, I really love his style and the way he phrases things. Those three are up there for sure. I don’t really think of stuff in terms like that. Sometimes when you start listening to stuff, it just rubs off on you, but that’s definitely what I was aiming for, a gruff kind of sound.
Nick: Right, like something that isn’t a death metal growl, but is definitely harsher than clean singing.
Joel: Yup, exactly!
Nick: One last question -and you’re from the Portland, Oregon area, right?
Joel: That’s right. Well, not originally, I came from Maryland, but I’ve been out in this area for almost fifteen years now.
Nick: They seem to have a pretty solid metal scene, there are a handful of other bands from out there that I like. Do you have any local favorites or some from your area that you really like?
Joel: Yeah! There’s a lot of really cool bands. One of my favorites and I’m not sure if they’re still active because they’ve been around for a long time, and I haven’t heard anything in a while, but Hellshock was always one of my favorites. There are some newer up-and-coming ones that are really cool too! Idle Hands, of course, they’re killing it right now. People are talking about them, they seem to be doing well, and it’s super catchy. Of course, I’m gonna be drawing a blank right now, *laughs* but, Witch Vomit are from Portland, they’re a really cool death metal band.
Nick: I’m familiar with them! And I also saw Idle Hands open for King Diamond; they put on a really solid show.
Joel: Oh cool, right on!
Nick: Well, hey man, thanks for taking a few minutes here to answer some questions. I really like the new record, and I was certainly surprised at how different it was from the last one.
Joel: Yeah! It’s funny what six years in between can do, man. And also this idea of going in wanting to do something different. Factoring all those in it’s kinda funny. I wanted to make it, so it wasn’t too left-field for the fans. From the feedback, it seems that they’re still digging it, and it’s in the wheelhouse, but it’s definitely different.
Nick: I actually remember Chemistry Of Consciousness coming out. I’m only twenty-four, so back then, I was like eighteen and just starting college. It was one of the first albums I picked up to listen to on the way to orientation, a little while after it dropped.
Joel: Fuck yeah, man! That’s awesome!
Nick: I actually almost forgot that it’d been six years since the last one! *laughs*
Joel: Time flies, man, and I was super busy. We were still touring in there, so it’s not like we were on hiatus. It was just so busy, and time gets away from you sometimes. I was in between labels, and next thing you know, it’s six years. I didn’t even realize that until someone brought it up in an interview and I was like, “wow, it has been six years! I better get my ass in gear and fuckin’ do a record!”
Nick: Cool, cool! Well, thank you so much again!
Joel: Yeah, man, thank you!