New World Beyond: Inside the Mind of Joel Grind (TOXIC HOLOCAUST)

The Portland thrasher closed out a successful tour with SOULFLY in the Lone Star State.

Photograph by Jake Sanders

On March 11th, TOXIC HOLOCAUST took to the stage with SOULFLY to bring home The Summoning Tour across North America. Combining the raw power of a group as communally-embraced as SOULFLY with TOXIC HOLOCAUST, the pioneers of the modern speed and thrash scene, made this tour one for the books.


It was precisely that.


Kicking off the show with the anthemic Gravelord, Joel and the gang grooved and thrashed their way through some classics, such as Wild Dogs, I Am Disease, Nuke the Cross, and War Is Hell. Some other tracks that made an appearance this tour pleasantly surprised, including In The Name of Science, Silence, Bitch, and the ever rare Death Brings Death. Fans were also staggered near the end of SOULFLY's set as TOXIC HOLOCAUST returned to the stage to perform a dual-cover version of Evil Dead by DEATH.


It was a feelgood experience for the entire crowd. While restrictions were ramping up for the now-infamous Covid-19 pandemic, venues began shutting their doors as the risk of infection began forcing bands off the road. The tension and anxiety that the world has come to be so familiar with was, for an evening, pushed to the back of the minds of North Texans as TOXIC HOLOCAUST brought a cathartic, and exciting live performance that would mark the end of live shows for the season for many Americans. In the midst of The Lord of the Wasteland, a young child emerged over the top of the rail, leading him to scale the stage, being helped up by Joel Grind himself as the battle-clad youngster was led to center stage to headbang and help spiritually carry the festivities. As the band brought it home with a stellar performance of Bitch, the kid began to get into the music, eliciting a deafening ovation from the crowd as Joel stood side-to-side with his young companion, pausing between measures to fist-bump. It's the kind of genuine display that should remind fans everywhere that metal shows are a wholesome family activity that can be shared and enjoyed by anyone. Leaving the stage with sticks, picks, and a setlist in hand, the child waved bye to his newfound stage-mates, a look of pure elation across his and the band's faces. It was a set none shall soon forget.


Heaviest of Art sat down with Joel before all of the commotion took place, discussing the music, the scene, his history thus far, and his life as a multifaceted musical workhorse:

HOA: First of all, thanks for sitting down and taking the time for me; I'm a fuckin' massive fan so this is a huge deal.


JG: Yeah — this is awesome man. Thank you for the support! I appreciate that.


HOA: We're coming out of six months, post Primal Future. I heard you recorded this in a single session, and I know that instead of writing/recording sparingly over a long period of time, that this is little bit different from the previous albums. Did that change the process for you?


JG: Yeah, a little bit. It kind of made it to where — I don't know if this is just me, because of the way I did it, or if anyone else picks up on this — but I feel like it's a little bit more cohesive, just doing it all in one session like that made the pieces of the puzzle fit a little bit better. The way I did the interludes and stuff between songs, I tried to make it all sound like it was flowing together.


HOA: It worked! You went from a lot of these shortened punk-tracks to extending songs upwards of four minutes. Once you crossed that marker, did that allow you to change the way you wrote the music, or is it the same groove but with a longer distance to the finish line?


JG: The last record I did before this one, Chemistry of Consciousness (2013), it was one of those things — I wanted to see how far I could take it doing minute and a half long songs. I feel like I ran the course on that one. For this one, I specifically thought to myself that it would be cool to do something completely different than that. Something more extended. It was more of a challenge to myself just to see if I could write in a different way. My attention span is short. I like those quick songs that you go in, hear a couple choruses, verses, and then you're done. But this one, I wanted to expand the arrangements a little bit, and have a little bit more fun with the bridges in the middle sections. That's what you get. Who knows what the next one will be like?


Cover art by Andrei Bouzikov

HOA: I Am Disease has become a really popular track for the live show; it's pretty consistent throughout [the tours thus far]. Would you ever be inclined to record a full album of songs with more of that sludgy, doom-like sound?


JG: I don't know if I could do a full record like that. Just because I feel like the reason for starting the band is always getting out that more punk-progression — short, fast, uptempo stuff that makes you wanna circle pit — so I don't know if I could do a full record like that. But I think, doing more records, and my experience growing a little bit, I realize that it's good to have those tracks that break up the pace a little bit, because it takes you on a journey. You have all these fast songs, and then you have one that's like this slow banger, and then it comes back to a fast one. It's not just all static tempo.


HOA: I got to listen to Echoes in a Crystal Tomb, and I fuckin' loved it — It was very different from Equinox though. Hearing songs like Space and Time reminded me a lot of my childhood, especially cause you're hearing this sort of Metroidvania soundscape in there. It's more than just the experimental electronic compositions that I'm used to. What changed from last time to this time?


JG: I grew up watching horror movies, listening to their soundtracks. I always wondered what made those sounds, and such. That kind of sent me down a path of being into that kind of music. I always wanted to explore something more along the lines of like TANGERINE DREAM, or like 70's — I don't even know what you would call it — ambient, new-age stuff, but also kind of like cosmic. That really spacey sounding kind of stuff, like synth pads and stuff. So I wanted to do a record like that. Once I started writing that stuff, I just had all these ideas, and it ended up turning into a full-length. Again, like what I did with this new TOXIC HOLOCAUST record, I wanted to do something different than what I did in the past.


HOA: I've talked to quite a few artists worldwide who have had you behind the control console for mastering, mixing, and producing their albums. I made it a point to talk to them about this, and the general consensus is that you just know what an album is supposed to sound like, sometimes before even the artists themselves know it. Where does that talent come from, and how do you learn it?


JG: That is really awesome to hear. That's a high compliment. I think it's hard to be subjective to something when it's yourself. I think where that comes from possibly, is that I'm just a huge music fan. I dissect records, you know what I mean? When I listen, it goes from enjoyment to nerdism really fast, where I'm dissecting every little nuance. I've been doing that since I was young. I think maybe it comes from that. I'm always tuned in, and I'll be like, "that drum sound is really crazy!" and I'll wonder what they used to get that sound. I think it's just years of that kind of active listening. There's passive listening, and active listening on my part, just dissecting what is going on.


HOA: We're coming up on the fifteenth anniversary of Hell On Earth (2005).


Cover art by Ed Repka

JG: That's scary. *laugh*


HOA: Is there any chance of seeing more of those tracks making an appearance?


JG: I think there is. Because it's funny — when it came out, it was overshadowed by Evil Never Dies (2003) — it became a fan favorite later on. A lot of fans now ask me about that! It takes a while for some records to catch on. We've been doing the title-track here and there, but I think there will be some more stuff coming out. I'd like to do Arise From the Cemetery, that'd be a cool song I think. We used to do Thrashing Death years ago when the record came out. It'd be cool to add some more stuff in there.


HOA: So, you mentioned musical dissecting. I too have done that. On the Venn diagram between metal and punk music, there's this little blur between the two circles and there's two albums that most accurately express both sides. The first one is TOXIC HOLOCAUST's Hell On Earth, but the second one is MISFITS' Earth A.D.


JG: OH YEAH.


HOA: Now the eternal question is: Are you the sole inheritor of true horror-punk sound? Or did Glenn Danzig accidentally discover the future of speed and thrash metal?


JG: *laughs* I honestly think that Earth A.D. is kind of a thrash record, in certain ways. Death Comes Ripping is definitely a thrash song. That record was a huge influence on me, man. I always loved the feedback between all the songs, and just the way it sounds is so killer. The lyrics are great.


HOA: You can hear it. You can hear it so much, especially Devilock. I hear YOU in that.


JG: Oh yeah, yeah. Obviously, Bobby Steele wasn't on Earth A.D., but I'm a huge MISFITS fan, and on Hell on Earth I had Bobby Steele do a guest solo because I was just a huge MISFITS fan. Still am.


HOA: That's too cool. All right, hypothetical: By a strange twist of fate, all of the 80's action and horror movies have had their musical scores wiped out overnight. Primal Future: 2019 must be used for one of these films as an original soundtrack. Which lucky film gets it?


JG: TERMINATOR.


HOA: One or two?


JG: One. Either would be cool, but I think one, probably.


HOA: Okay, if I go home empty handed on this, I may never survive. So the world has to know — what are the lyrics to Enemy of Jesus?


JG: Shit. You know, honestly, I haven't listened to that song in probably... when did that record come out? *wheezing laugh* But. Nobody knows about this until now, but coming up soon, I'm gonna do a fan book. It's gonna be all old fliers, and all the lyrics for the first two records, because they were never printed. It's gonna be all old pictures, fliers, and some special goodies in there. When they were reissued, I specifically wanted the lyrics reprinted but for some reason there was a mistake at the plant, and they still didn't get printed. So — there is gonna be a lyric book at some point.


HOA: That makes me so happy. People everywhere are wondering. What hair products are your favorites? What are you using?


JG: Nowadays really nothing, man. I bleach my hair and that's it.


HOA: What's the bleach coloring in there, specifically?


JG: Aw shit, I forget what the brand is. You can get it at any fuckin' place! Just go to any place and get some hair bleach, and you're good. Heh.


HOA: What are you listening to right now?


JG: What am I listening to right now? It's kind of a funny answer, because it's exactly what you'd expect me to listen to. I've been going back to some of the mid-period SODOM stuff that doesn't get a lot of love. Like Better Off Dead (1990), and stuff like that. Code Red (1999) is a fuckin' very underrated record. That record is killer. So I've been listening to a lot of that stuff, because especially before playing — that gets my blood pumpin'. That stuff just makes me want to play. Check out some of those SODOM records if you haven't heard some of that mid-period 90's stuff.


Cover art by Axel Hermann

HOA: It doesn't get enough love.


JG: IT DOESN'T! SODOM is one of those bands. KREATOR did a couple Industrial records, and DESTRUCTION did those weird records like Last Human Cannonball or whatever the fuck, like they did those weird records — but SODOM never lost the plot. They've always been doing cool shit ever since.


HOA: People underestimate how good consistency is. One last question, just something I like to ask every artist. Do you believe great suffering breeds great art? Or is it just that? Is it just adversity?


JG: If you consider the suffering, I think the key to any artist doing good work is to actually put the time and work into it. A lot of people think inspiration is just something that you sit down with a guitar, or a keyboard, or anything, and then all of a sudden all these great riffs come out. You've gotta put the work and time in, and to some people that's considered suffering because you're actually laboring over it, you know? You don't understand how many times I've been fuckin' ready to BREAK MY GUITAR in frustration. Like I just wanna finish this thing and I can't figure out what to do next! That's the stuff you work past. That's the thing — people give up when they hit that point. When you keep working past that, that's when the good stuff happens. Sometimes you can sit down and all these killer riffs come out, but honestly, it happens moreso the other way than that. You gotta put the work in, and that's the true suffering, I think. Treat it like a job. Treat it like you're putting effort and work into it. Don't expect it to be easy, because... it's not.

Primal Future: 2019 is available now via eOne Music. Stream and pickup your copy HERE.

Cover art by Steve Crisp

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