You could be forgiven for thinking that Toxic Holocaust just arrived via DeLorean. They have all the hallmarks of '80s thrash, from raw sound and punk energy to the apocalyptic typeface and artwork that are synonymous with this ilk. There has been a thrash revival throughout the noughts and Toxic can be counted as one of the contemporaries breathing new life into the three decade old genre. Starting out as Joel Grind's solo project, his baby has grown steadily, having released four albums and toured with the likes of Danzig. About to hit our sunburnt country for the second time, Grind took some time out to talk about their new album and path the band has taken.
"The reason why a lot of records took three years is because we tour so much and I don't really write on the road, I kind of have to be by myself working on stuff. Just like, no distractions and unfortunately on the road you don't ever get opportunities for that so yea. It took a really long time because we toured really hard for Overdose Of Death and in 2010, there were a couple of tours that we had a really long break in between for once. So I got to come home and kinda just sit down and write a bunch of stuff and the thing was like, when I was on tour I had a bunch of ideas but I just had them in my head I didn't really record them or anything like that. I just kinda had ideas for the direction of the new album and so it made writing a lot faster because I was thinking about it the whole time but I wasn't actually doing it."
Toxic have toured heavily since their first album in 2004. Perhaps breaking from tradition, their first tour was not in their home country – the USA – but in South East Asia with a band Grind had become acquainted with. "What's strange about it is we started getting recognised internationally before we got recognised in the US because it was a solo project and I would just record things and then kind of mail them out to bands that I liked and were kind of doing similar stuff. Like, there was a band in Germany called Nocturnal that I sent stuff too and we kind of became fast friends and kept in touch and they kind of had the same thing going on that we did around the same time. And as well as a band from Japan called Abigail. So I was really focusing more on bands that I liked, more so than trying to get signed or anything like that. I was kind of just making friends with bands that I liked and that kind of got me recognised internationally. The first tour Toxic ever did was with the guys from Abigail as my back up band, we played Singapore and Malaysia and we did that in 2004."
Self promotion is far from the only DIY element borrowed by Grind. He fully embodies the makeshift of punk, not only writing but playing each instrument over the first three releases. He also pulled off what many bands have attempted and failed to do – producing a raw album that doesn't sound like it was recorded in a cardboard box. "I've just done it that way since I started the band. This record [Conjure And Command] is definitely a band effort, you know what I mean? In the past records I recorded all the stuff, but on this record you know it's the guys that will be in Australia. The live band is the studio band now, which is different for me. I still write the music but these guys can pull off what I write a lot better than what I can do."
"I wrote the whole record in the span of like a month or two when we were home in 2010, and then we recorded it in December 2010. When we are in the studio it doesn't take us very long though – the new record took two weeks to do. Overdose Of Death took ten days to record and mix. The thing that was crazy was I was playing everything on it so I was totally burnt out but I got it done. I always have in mind when I'm recording that I want to sound good, but I also want to be raw. I like the sound of a band just playing, as opposed to like super slick production or something. I would rather our records sound really good but also have that kind of raw, almost punk attitude. You hear what you are going to get when you see us live."
The thing that strikes you most about Grind is that he is a guy who likes music as opposed to a guy in a band. He has the attitude to push his art and self publicise and the drive to get shit done, but there is no pretentiousness. While we were talking about his influences, it felt like one of those conversations you have at a gig with someone you've just met about sick bands you've seen. "I've always liked Jeff Hanneman from Slayer. His style is so caveman it's awesome. He just looks like he is beating the shit out of his guitar and the sounds that are coming out of his amp and stuff, it's great. Just so fucking heavy and raw. He is just like punching the fucking guitar with a fist, he doesn't even look like he is gripping a pick."
The great thing about musicians with the mindset of Grind is that they give a shit about what they do. They ensure their music and live show are the best they can be, and Toxic Holocaust is this methodology incarnate. If you like your music fast, loud and laden with apocalyptic references you should do yourself a favour and be at one of their gigs.
BY OSCAR SCHIESSER
TOXIC HOLOCAUST are performing at The National Hotel in Geelong on Wednesday January 11 and The Hi-Fi Bar on Saturday January 15. Conjure And Command is out now through Relapse Records.