There’s quite a few talented folks that have mastered the art of writing and performing music. Those numbers drop a bit when you add in the process of recording, mixing, production, mastering, and general studio wizardry. It’s one thing to have some amazing ideas and being able to plunk them out on a few instruments, but it’s a completely different beast to be able to make those ideas a real thing and make that thing sound amazing.
Enter Joel Grind.
Joel Grind is the man behind the extreme metal outfit Toxic Holocaust, which he records all the albums by himself and has a crew that hit the road with him to perform the songs live. He’s also recorded several more experimental and synth-based albums under his own name. One album, recorded under the name X-77, is described as “Sound collage of bizarre sound clips of black masses, LSD trips and documentaries cut up over ambient analog synth drones and arpeggios.” It’s a trip, man. Grind has also opened his home studio to other bands to lend his mixing and mastering expertise. Some of his clients have included Poison Idea, Sunn 0))), Integrity, Midnight, Ringworm, Lord Dying, Black Tusk, Spellcaster and labels such as Relapse, 20 Buck Spin, Magic Bullet, Hells Headbangers & Southern Lord. He’s the go-to guy for some serious metal heavy hitters, and that’s because he knows how to get a live, raw sound in the confines of the recording studio.
I came to Grind’s work through his great synth record Equinox. I was blown away by that record’s capturing of that Carpenter and Goblin magic while never just giving me a carbon copy version. He’s got a unique style. I reached out to Joel to see if he’d be interested in answering a couple questions. He said why the hell not?
J. Hubner: So Joel, where are you from? Have you always been in the Pacific Northwest?
Joel Grind: I was born in Pennsylvania and grew up on the state line between Maryland and Delaware, mostly bouncing back and forth between the two states. I’ve moved a lot in my life though and have lived all over, after moving to the Pacific Northwest about 10 years ago though I decided this is where I would like to stay.
J. Hubner: You’re a pretty multi-faceted kind of musician, playing multiple instruments, writing, composing, and performing all the songs on your albums, and taking care of production duties. You also run your own studio and are a sought after producer. My question is how did you get here? How old were you when you found a love for music? Was there someone in your life that steered you towards music?
Joel Grind: That’s a great question that I haven’t really given much thought to. I think I got here by working really hard, being goal oriented and knowing what I wanted to do. Even from an early age I was always fascinated with music and specifically recording it. My uncle gave me an old cassette deck when I was a kid and I always loved recording things around my house. I feel like with being a musician your heart has to be in the right place with it especially nowadays. I get asked a lot on how to “make it” and I guess everyone’s definition is different, but if it involves lots of money…that doesn’t really exist anymore. You have to truly love it and be willing to sacrifice and lot of comfort and stability to continue with it.
J. Hubner: What instrument did you start out with?
Joel Grind: I started with drums actually. Didn’t learn to play guitar until I realized there wasn’t many musicians around me into the same kinds of music I was and figured if I wanted to write songs I better learn a melodic instrument.
J. Hubner: What was the first album you bought with your own money?
Joel Grind: I think it was Megadeth “Rust in Peace”. But I get that confused with Motley Crue “Shout at the Devil”, which I had before the Megadeth record but cant remember if I bought it or it was a gift.
J. Hubner: How old were you when you were in your first serious band? Did you play the high school talent show?
Joel Grind: I started jamming when I was 13, but my first serious band that played shows was when I was 15. Never played a talent show but did do local DIY shows.
J. Hubner: When did Toxic Holocaust come into play? Who were some influences on that sound?
Joel Grind: Started in 1999 when I was 17. Venom, Misfits, Black Flag, D.R.I., and Nuclear Assault were the main ones.
J. Hubner: Besides Toxic Holocaust you work with heavy synth sounds as well. I came to the Joel Grind world thru your synth album ‘Equinox’. It’s a great synth album, man. Has all the eerie undertones and Carpenter-esque vibes that get me excited about music. When did you first get into synth music? Were you a fan of horror first?
Joel Grind: I’ve been interested in it for a really long time but started to pursue it more seriously around 2010, took up until the end of 2015 with touring schedules to actually start working on it though. I remember as a kid hearing this type of music and always wondering what made those creepy sounds.
J. Hubner: On both ‘Equinox’ and your 7″ single ‘Fatal Planet’ you list some pretty classic analog equipment that was used in the making of those recordings, including an ARP Odyssey, Moog Sub 37, Elektron Analog 4, and SCI Prophet 600. When working in synth mode do you prefer to use old school hardware as opposed to software? It seems to me it would add to the aesthetic of the work.
Joel Grind: For me it kind of boils down to (without trying to come across too new age-y)the relationship you have with your instruments. You get to know the quirks they have, especially with vintage stuff. I also enjoy the tactile controls as opposed to pointing and clicking with a mouse etc. I wouldn’t want to play a VST guitar ( if that even exists). I like the feel of a real Les Paul. Even if the sound is equal, I feel like you approach things differently the way you interact with them. That’s not to say I’m anti-software or computer, I just prefer the hands on approach to making music.
J. Hubner: How did you get hooked up with Spencer Hickman and Death Waltz?
Joel Grind: I just emailed him and asked him if he’d be interested in working together.
J. Hubner: What are your top 5 horror films? Are there any horror film composers that you look for inspiration or have been big influences on your sound?
Joel Grind: I’m not good at these list things because I always forget something, but ‘Phantasm’ is at the top for film and soundtrack. John Carpenter / Alan Howarth music is one of my biggest influences as well.
J. Hubner: What are some differences between composing in Toxic Holocaust mode as opposed to the more film-leaning synth mode? Where do you pull inspiration from? Do you concentrate on one or the other, or do you work on both simultaneously?
Joel Grind: Inspiration is one of those things you almost cant describe or pinpoint, one day I’ll wake up and have this urge to write something. I do approach both somewhat similarly though, with Toxic it usually starts with a riff, and same goes for the synth stuff.
J. Hubner: How did you get into the production side of music and running your own music studio? Do you enjoy that aspect? How do you like producing and recording other artists?
Joel Grind: It really stemmed from a lot of years of recording with other people and not liking the results and/or the experience. You know the saying if you don’t like the results…do it yourself.
J. Hubner: What upcoming projects do you have in the works? Will you be releasing with Death Waltz again at some point?
Joel Grind: I recorded a New Age-y type synth record that will be coming out on a label I cant divulge yet. It’s kinda like Tangerine Dream/Klause Schulze/Jean Michelle Jarre spacey synth music. As for working with Death Waltz again, I’m definitely open to it. It’s up to Spencer, really.
Spencer, give Joel a call. As for the rest of you go listen to Joel’s music over at his Bandcamp page grab an album or two. Keep checking back for the new age-y record. I’m sure it’s gonna be amazing.