METAL PULP AND PAPER: Hello Justin. So glad to be catching up with you. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us here at Metal Pulp And Paper. We appreciate it. Before we talk about your new release, first off, how are you doing?
JUSTIN MATTHEWS: Doing well, currently sitting in a green room in Berkeley, California about to play a show with Bad Omens, Lacuna Coil and All That Remains. The tour has been good. I am feeling good. Doing my best to keep a schedule, staying active in helping other's in recovery and having fun.
MPAP: That's great to hear. So, your group has been dubbed for a while now 'a band to watch.' Toothgrinder has created quite the tidal wave in the music scene over the years, and after listening to your latest single, "My Favorite Hurt," I agree. But let us add more to that statement. Not only are you the band to watch, but you are the band that is making it happen, wouldn’t you say? You’re just not going to roll over and die and fade out anytime soon, right?
JUSTIN: I appreciate the compliment, that means a lot to us. We really appreciate anyone who supports us. Yes, it seems we have a core group of very hardcore fans, which is great. It gives a reason to keep going. With every record cycle, it seems more and more opportunities arise for us, so it is very hard for us to 'roll over and die'. We do all we can to push the boundaries, have fun and write music from our hearts. That combination works for us and against us, but we wouldn't have it any other way.
MPAP: Now let’s talk about your new release titled I AM. What can you tell us about it?
JUSTIN: I think I can speak for everyone and say that it is our favorite record we have done thus far. I believe it has more of a positive message than previous records. Of course, there is a bit of anger and angst, but it is a metal record, so that is to be expected. I tried to tell a story of hope and offer a helping hand to those in need. Those who are dealing with recovery journeys of their own. I have been searching for a way to get involved and help others while on the road, and I think this record is a way of doing that. I tell my story a bit so those who need help can identify.
MPAP: You probably have gotten the endless questions of what’s the new music going to sound like, what’s this, what’s that, and what can your fans expect to hear, right? Well, let’s slam this interview in reverse for a moment and dive headfirst into the shallow end of the pool and do something different. So, what is I AM not going to be like? What did you make sure not to do, or even what to do that you might not have thought of before?
JUSTIN: I know I wanted this record to not be a generic metal-core / prog-metal record. I wanted there to be a clear message that didn't seem too self-indulgent and ego driven. I am a big fan of stream of consciousness writing when it comes to vocals. I think you get the most honesty that way. You also get a lot of lyrical presence. It's hard to really go further into this question because our songs come out so organically and so that is hard for us to write and put out music any other way.
MPAP: How high did you raise the bar for the next release, or are you not even thinking that far ahead yet?
JUSTIN: I cannot even fathom a next record at this point in time, but that is always the feeling this early into a release.
MPAP: There are a couple of song titles on I Am that stood out to me just because of the name. "The Silence Of A Sleeping Wasp," and "No Surrender In The House Of Leaves." They sound like horror story movie titles that will literally scare the shit out of you. If Stephen King saw them, he’d be like, 'damn, why didn’t I think of those names?' Tell us about the songs? Are they going to scare the shit out of us?
MPAP: I grew up listening to bands which had long poetic titles. I wanted to bring that back a bit for this record. I was listening to a lot of nostalgic records in preparation for this record. Since I have gotten sober, I have gotten in touch with my younger self and I think I put a lot of that childlike wonder and awe in to this. Funny you mention Stephen King, I am a huge King fan and have learned a lot from him over the years. Those are two of my favorite tracks on the record. Wasp deals with "The Shadow" again and the darker side of the mind and No Surrender is about letting go and giving up control for the benefit of your own psyche.
MPAP: What was the biggest problem you had when writing recording I AM compared to your previous release, Phantom Amour?
JUSTIN: I think the lack of time. We usually have anywhere from four to six weeks to record an album. For this record we only had three and a half. Reason being is that we worked with a bigger producer, Matt Squire.
MPAP: The music industry is a dog eat dog world. It’s hard for new bands to get on the map, but you’ve proved everyone wrong so far. If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?
JUSTIN: Social media and the internet. I am probably biased because I grew up in an era where it didn't exist in music, for the most part, but I am very nostalgic for how music used to be. I know everyone says that about their childhood, so it is what it is.
MPAP:Toothgrinder has almost hit the ten-year mark of being together as a group. Can you think back to day one and are you surprised you’ve made it this far?
JUSTIN: It has definitely been a dream. The dream comes with its own share of nightmares, but I have been able to travel and play with some of my favorite bands. I wish I could go back and give advice to a younger me, but again, can't control or change that.
MPAP: Let’s fast forward for a moment, let’s say 20 or even 30 years from now. If you could have your fans remember just one thing about Toothgrinder, what would you want that one thing to be?
JUSTIN: That I and we love music. It got me through the hardest parts of my life. None of this was done to be cool or stylish or make friends with industry folk. I have toured with and met a lot of people in this industry and I feel good that I do this for all the right reasons and try to be my authentic self when so many don't.
MPAP: On behalf of myself and Metal Pulp And Paper, I’d like to thank you, Justin, for doing this interview. We look forward to what Toothgrinder does to finish out 2019 and beyond. As we bring this interview to a close, any last words for all your fans out there?
JUSTIN: No problem. You had great questions. 2019- 2020 should be a fun two years. I would like the fans to know that if anyone is struggling with alcoholism, addiction and co-dependency please get in contact with me at email@example.com.
Justin Mathews~ Toothgrinder/ October 3rd, 2019/ Interview #158