Toxic Holocaust is the new obsession for fans of raw, blasphemous thrash metal. After releasing a pair of demo tapes in '99 and '02 and a handful of split appearances, TH finally released their first full length lp, Evil Never Dies, on Nuclear War Now! Productions in 2003. It instantly jumped to the head of top ten lists everywhere, the vinyl selling out within a few months. The sound harkens back to the vibe of such 80s legends as Bathory, Sodom, and Kreator. Since 2001 the band has been the product of one man, Joel Grind. I recently had a chance to talk to Joel about his influences, upcoming releases, and the possibility of a future tour:
Scoots: Venom or Bathory?
Joel Grind: Ok, start with the hard one first, right? I think Bathory's first three records were more of an influence on the TH sound, but I would have to go with Venom without a doubt. Of course I'm talking about the first three records from them also, and some of Possessed. Bathory is a very close second though.
Scoots: Do you remember where you were when you heard Quorthon had died?
Joel Grind: No, not really. If he would have died right after making The Return... it would have been a real tragedy.
Scoots: Who do you think has been the most influential metal band in the last fifteen years? Have they influenced you?
Joel Grind: The most influential metal band in the past 15 years would probably be something like Cradle of Filth. I fucking see every wimp Black Metal band on Earth trying to copy that sound. No influence on me that's for sure.
Scoots: Toxic Holocaust is now a one man band, but you originally had other members involved. Is there anything you miss about having bandmates?
Joel Grind: Sure, I miss playing live, actually rehearsing songs, etc. I think the promotion for TH would be better if I could tour as well.
Scoots: Did you consciously set out to emulate Quorthon's "total control" work ethic?
Joel Grind: No, it happened by accident because I'm a dick. I just don't want other people in this band that aren't dedicated, and/or on the same page as me, influence and style wise. If you want something done right, do it yourself.
Scoots: The fact that TH is essentially a solo project pretty much rules out live performances. Has any thought been given to finding other musicians to work with for live dates?
Joel Grind: Well, I've discussed this with Straight to Hell (Providence hardcore band) as being sort of the back up band for TH. These guys would make my songs sound 100x better and probably 100x faster!
Scoots: What instrument would you play in a live setting?
Joel Grind: I would most likely play guitar and sing, or just sing, either way.
Scoots: How did you hook up with the guys in Straight to Hell?
Joel Grind: If I recall correctly, Aaron (vocals) got in touch with me through email. He said that he heard and liked TH and it just went from there. I was the one who approached him about it after I heard the STH EP.
Scoots: Tell me a little about your newest release, the Deathmaster 7" out on Gloom Records.
Joel Grind: Nate really did a great job on this release. I think it has the 80's vibe in the packaging as well as the music. And as an added bonus: no shitty Photoshop effects. The music was recorded 6 months before Evil Never Dies and was supposed to be released on Warlord Records from Italy, but it never materialized. Yosuke told Nate that I was looking for this to come out, and it went for there.
Scoots: Iron Bonehead will be putting out your Power From Hell EP, any idea when that will be out?
Joel Grind: Well Patrick from I.B.P. said that it's going to the plant in two weeks. I hope there aren't any delays. This release deviates slightly from the good ol' TH sound in that it has a little more "rocking" element to it in the tradition of Warfare, NME, Bulldozer, Venom etc. The other song is a cover of Onslaught's Power from Hell. The recording is rawer too. It was recorded on a 4 track, but don't expect a wimpy boombox black metal recording where you can't tell if it's drums or the air conditioner running.
Scoots: Providence's Armageddon Label will be re-releasing Evil Never Dies, how did you hook up with them? Will this be a straight repress, or will there be anything new included?
Scoots: Right now the demand for your music seems to outpace the actual supply of recordings. Evil Never Dies is apparently going on its third different vinyl release, for instance. Have you been working on new material?
Joel Grind: Yes, I'm working on my second album for Nuclear War Now. I've got 4 songs complete and riffs for more. Expect more of the same Toxic Thrash as on END. What I will probably do is record these songs and release it as a promo just to get the word around about the next album. I think it will be released sometime early 2005.
Scoots: Nuclear War Now has some of the most impressive and creative packaging for their vinyl releases, especially the "diehard edition" versions. Have you and Yosuke discussed details such as vinyl color or extra inserts on the upcoming release?
Joel Grind: So far there's been some talk of 180 gram vinyl, gatefold etc. Things can always change, but for right now it looks like this will be part of the next LP. I have 100% faith in Yosuke to put out another killer LP like he always does. I have paid a killer artist to do the cover...just wait.
Scoots: Will the next album be all originals, or will you include covers as well?
Joel Grind: All originals again. To be honest, I'm not the biggest fan of putting covers on LP's. I think they are more suited for comps, ep's, bonus tracks etc.
Scoots: Everyone who I've played your records for has compared the sound to the cream of the mid-80s thrash crop, yet you're actually a pretty young guy. Have any of the older metal crowd given you a hard time?
Joel Grind: That's really cool. I guess I'm Thrash reincarnated. Really though, no one really gives me a hard time. In fact I was talking to Dave from Manticore the other day on the phone and he made the assumption I was in my 30's. When I told him I was 22 he was shocked, but thought it was insane that my stuff sounds like it does. The way I look at it is this, Possessed, Slayer, Metallica, Exodus etc were all young when they started out.
Scoots: Were you surprised by how well Evil Never Dies was received?
Joel Grind: Yeah I am actually. I appreciate everyone that supports TH.
Scoots: How would you compare metal in the 80s versus metal today?
Joel Grind: In the 80s most bands were unique sounding from each other. I mean look at Germany, bands like Sodom, Destruction, Kreator, Living Death, Violent Force all sound different from each other. Today there usually are a few popular bands and a million clones that all sound the same. Everyone records at the same studios, have the same vocal style, same riffs and on and on. Basically you buy one CD you buy them all.
Scoots: Why do you think that is? Do you think the internet and the ease with which people can find music now, even obscure music, has cut down on the uniqueness of regional sounds for instance?
Joel Grind: I wouldn't doubt that has something to do with it. I mean nowadays you have Black Metal bands in Brazil claiming to play Norse-core. How fucked up is that? Plus, I think people are just lazy and/or running out of ideas.
Scoots: What are the best and worst trends in metal today?
Joel Grind: Well, this is sort of a bogus answer, but I don't really know. I mean, I don't think there are any good trends today. All the bands I like from today's metal scene all sound different from each other. The worst trend today would be referring to Linkin Park and similar bands as metal.
Scoots: How much thought should a listener give to lyrics to songs like "666"?
Joel Grind: I'm not into telling people how to interpret anything I say. All my lyrics are written in a tongue in cheek way. If people wanna rape a nun and blame TH go right ahead.
Scoots: Do you feel constrained to write about subjects such as war and the occult as a metal artist, or are these simply the things that typically occupy your thoughts?
Joel Grind: No, I don't feel I'm under pressure to write about that stuff if that's what you mean. I just don't think metal has any place for lyrics about flowers, trees etc. I like violent and satanic lyrics, because I think it fits the music, simple as that.
Scoots: Is there much of a music scene where you're from in Maryland? Do you consider yourself a part of it?
Joel Grind: Not one good band at all! And no I'm not part of it.
Scoots: Any final thoughts?
Joel Grind: Thanks for the interview! If anyone is interested in writing for TH info the address is:
PO Box 791
Elkton, MD 21922