Life and Death and Heavy Metal Part II: Getting into the Mind of Toothgrinder

Toothgrinder. Photo Steven Di Carlo. Toothgrinder. Photo Steven Di Carlo.

I left Brock’s trailer and found Toothgrinder, an up-and-coming experimental metal band from New Jersey, who would be playing alongside 36 Crazyfists later in the evening. I sat down with Wills the drummer and Mike the guitarist.


KL: So how long’s this tour for you guys?

Wills Weller (WW): It’s pretty short; this is the only day in Canada and we’ve got three more stops I believe. We’ve been with Crazyfists the whole while and Sleepwave just hopped on.


KL: Brock was just telling me how in Houston he saved someone’s life.

WW: I can believe it, 36 Crazyfists are pretty superhero.


KL: Has a fan ever told you that your music saved their life?

WW: It’s funny that you’d say that, and that’s a tough one because that’s a pretty heavy subject. You know what I mean? I feel like when we write stuff it’s kind of at the opinion of the listener, you know? So if it speaks to him or it helps, then that’s the greatest thing ever. I mean, just playing our songs and playing the drums, that helps me. You know what I mean? I can imagine that someone sitting down and even just taking in the rhythms can be made to feel a certain way.

Matt Mielke (MM): For all of us music is a way to express ourselves and to get away from whatever’s going on. All of us have known each other forever- Wills and I have been playing for twelve or thirteen years together.


KL: Having played together for so long, what would you say is your band’s process to writing music? Do you have a principal songwriter?

MM: For us, even coming up with song ideas is a collective effort. In our band everyone writes the music.

WW: Everyone gives in their idea, their riff, their structure thing, their melody. The song wouldn’t be a Toothgrinder song without that.


KL: Is it dumb if I say I can hear that in your music? I was listening to your song “The Hour Angle” today and I could hear hardcore-influenced vocals, metallic riffs, math rock styed rhythms and then it was all interrupted by a mellow bridge. Listening to that song felt as if I were listening to lots of ideas from several people with different tastes in music all somehow coming together.

WW: It’s cool, we don’t let that be a problem, we try to let that be an enhancement of what goes on, yeah. He’ll write a riff and then he’ll hear that riff and be like “Oh dude, what if you do that over it?” Then the bassist might have a drum idea except I hear something like, half-time or double-time. They then go, “Holy shit, that’s sick!” then that comes together with that and it’s like “Boom!”

MM: It’s like whiskey and coke.

WW: Both are good but when together, it’s great.


KL: It all sounds rather creative. When you have such an eclectic approach to music, what do you tell people when they ask you what style you are?

WW: We’re musicians; we play music. I don’t tell people I’m a metal drummer, I tell them I’m just a drummer that plays the drums and he’s a guitarist that plays the guitar. Sure, there are more aggressive parts, but I’ve heard this dude rip out a jazz riff that has no metal in it at all. It’s a fun challenge to ourselves to write something that we’re not comfortable with or to work in a time signature we don’t understand yet.

MM: In our new stuff especially, we try to play stuff that’s even too hard for us. But, you practice, and a few months down the road, it’s easier.

WW: A few months after, he’s crushing it, yeah.


KL: When you mix all these different styles together, you might even bring fans of the individual styles side by side. Have you noticed something unifying about your music?

WW: it’s cool that you said that. We get the dudes that aren’t metal fans, and we get the girlfriend or the dude who’s standing in the corner and comes up to you and goes, “Yo, I don’t like metal, but you guys were really cool.” You know, we get that a lot. A guy in our band’s listening to metal, a guy in our band’s listening to rock, another’s listening to jazz and one’s listening it funk and they all come together to write a song. It’s like double dare two thousand, you know? It’s cool, it’s fun.

I feel like we are all doing the same thing. Regardless of what we all look like or sound like we’re all going up onstage and playing music.


KL: Can a language barrier be a problem to that communality though? Here tonight, much of your audience will most probably be French-speaking. Are you guys used to performing for non-English audiences?

WW: Montreal is actually the only non-English audience we’ve ever had. Regardless of language though, you heard the rhythm of a breakdown and it’s pleasing. It doesn’t matter if it’s English, Japanese or French. It’s a universal language.

This is part II in a three part series of interviews with Pouzza Fest musicians. For 36 CrazyFists, click HERE. Stay tuned for Mellevon.