Toxic Holocaust

Toxic Holocaust
Revered as keepers of the scuzzy underbelly of thrash metal, Toxic Holocaust has been a one-man band for almost a decade. Maintaining a DIY ethic while releasing throngs of EPs, seven-inch vinyl and two full-length efforts, Joel Grind has overseen every aspect of the band from licking stamps to writing music and performing all instruments on record. However, with the third and most powerful effort, An Overdose Of Death..., Grind has relented, welcoming others into the Toxic Holocaust army. Major metal indie Relapse Records will oversee the lifecycle of An Overdose Of Death... and Grind has added a permanent bassist and drummer to the fold. He shares his enthusiasm with finally seeing some help in getting the band’s grinding, apocalyptic music to the masses.

It seems that after ten years of doing Toxic Holocaust, things have picked up for the better in the span of just a few months: you’ve got a new album, a new label and you’re touring with At The Gates, Municipal Waste and Gwar.
It’s rad. There’s lots of stuff going on. We just finished working on a video last night too. Things have certainly picked up lately, especially since working with Relapse. It’s always been pretty consistent because I’ve taken care of stuff myself but with Relapse, I’ve got interviews and tight schedules now.

Toxic Holocaust is primarily known as a DIY band. How do you feel having other people take care of your business/have a say in what you’re up to?
At first, it took a while to get used to. I’ve been doing it so long I have my way of handling things. But now I’m getting used to having other people help out. It takes a load off me. Before I’d do my own mail orders, shows, everything. It’s easier for that now and I can focus on the music.

It must be difficult to be a sole musician taking care of world tours, merchandise, recording and writing music on top of all that.
Totally [laughs].

Speaking of, when Toxic Holocaust started, you were a band, not just one person. What made you decide to continue as a solo venture?
I really tried to start it as a real band in ’99. I wanted a full band and found some people into metal. Not so much thrash but metal in general. I was into thrash and tried to get that going but it didn’t work out. Those guys wanted to go in a different direction. Growing up in Maryland, there was no one who would be able or willing to do that stuff. If I didn’t do it myself, I wouldn’t do it at all.

After the other musicians left, what were your first steps?
I did demos in my room, having fun, not being serious and learning all of the instruments myself. When I did the Critical Mass demo in 2002, I got a good response from it. That’s when I realized I could do it without being a real band. When I did [2003 full-length] Evil Never Dies, I did it in my bedroom but people liked it so I just continued on. This record would’ve been solo if the songs didn’t have double-kick. I can’t pull that off, so I got Donny [Paycheck] from Zeke. It wasn’t intended to have other people involved but out of necessity others had to come in.

It seems strange that despite finding an enthusiastic audience for your music, you still couldn’t find people to play it.
That’s the thing. In ’99, there weren’t many people into this kind of music. Thrash was pretty much dead. I was 17 at the time and the kids I knew had no idea what it was. I knew older kids who made me mixed tapes with Nuclear Assault and stuff. I never sought out a band until I got better though. I didn’t intend to have a band. It was so efficient being just me I’d hire people for live stuff. But now I have a line-up.

Yes, you’ve co-opted the rhythm section from [Toronto metal outfit] Rammer. What was it about two Canadians living thousands of miles away that made you want them in Toxic Holocaust?
Doing a tour in 2006. Rammer helped me set it up and we toured together. Al [Biddle, drummer] and I clicked together. His drumming fit perfectly and we get along together so well. I thought, "If this guy wasn’t Canadian, I’d want him in the band.” We did a couple more tours together and eventually I told him I wanted to do [Toxic Holocaust] for real and wanted him on drums. He said he’d only do it if Phil [bassist] came along. We got them work permits and here we are. We jam all the time now. It kicks ass.

It must change the dynamic, having other members who are able to contribute to the writing process. How’s that after having autonomy for a decade?
It’s liberating. It takes some stress off me to write songs and we’ll be a lot tighter live ’cause we can rehearse. It’s very helpful.

How do you think it will affect your future output? Will albums come faster and stronger now?
I don’t really know because we tour so much that it may take longer. But we may be tighter and write faster so the record will come out sooner. I could just become inspired and write a whole record out of nowhere though. I guess we’ll see.