Exclusive Interview: Toxicon talk writing and recording “Be The Fire And Wish For The Wind”!

There are huge records and then there is “Be The Fire And Wish For The Wind” from Australian Metallers Toxicon. An album that has everything and the Kitchen sink within its confines, it has something for everyone as it crosses genre boundaries with consummate ease, the band never being afraid to turn their hand to something new. Our second interview with them goes in deep on what happens behind the scenes in creating such mammoth beasts, so grab a beverage of choice and read on if you dare!

How did your previous experiences writing and recording help to smooth the path of the new record? “Our previous experiences have all been a total mixed bag. Most of us have been in bands before Toxicon but for both Bart and Paul before him, it was their first band and first experiences writing and recording. With our first album the majority was written in a room together as a band. We recorded the whole thing upstairs at a paint shop owned by Paul’s parents and in various bedrooms between Geelong and Melbourne. We kept discovering new techniques for recording and better ways to get good tones and so the album was recorded like 9 times by the time we were happy with the tracks. At this stage in the bands career Paul, Adam and Jacob were living in Geelong, Tom in Ballarat, and Wayne in Melbourne. We’ve always had to deal with distance as a band.

With this new album Paul had shifted to Melbourne and Tom moved to Geelong and into a house with Adam and Jacob and that’s where a majority of the work got done. Because of the distance between the members, almost the entire record was written via correspondence except for any ideas Paul had which were prioritised when he made the trip to Geelong. Wayne could only really work on them once they were fully “Ok’d” by the other 4 members, so he didn’t get his time to shine until 6 months before we went to the studio. We took what we learn from recording the first album and applied all the ideas and techniques we’d been holding on to for a few years with the intention of having fully completed songs before hitting the studio so that nothing would get added that hadn’t been discussed.

It was the first time Tom had been in a studio since he was 16 and it was great having live drums on the album (“Purge” is all programmed drums) the rest of the boys all learnt great techniques from Chris Themelco (Monolith Studios) and what their limits were when it comes to full days of recording. In hindsight it was a ridiculous way of writing an album because we didn’t get to spend the time together while writing and vibing. It’s all these issues that helped make the album what it is. It’s where we were at as a band at that point in time and whether the circumstances were good or bad, we did the best we could to make a world level record and we think we achieved our goal”

How does the writing process of a new track start? Melody, riff, or rhythm first? How does it evolve from there before you consider it the finished article? “Song writing for us is both individual and collaborative. All of us tend to approach song writing differently but by the end we’ve all had a say in how the song goes through somewhat of a voting process. Demo wise, Adam will usually build his way into the first or second chorus, once the general idea is fleshed out, he will pass the recording onto the rest of us for input. Jacob tends to write a lot of awesome sections and stiches them together, we usually pick and choose the gold, fill in the blanks or adjust where needed. Tom spends forever noodling on parts until he has a completed demo. Paul used to write like Jacob, a few riffs stitched together to get the feel across, and we would work from there. Once a song gets presented, we all pick at it and fix things we don’t like, try to make space or interesting moments for vocals. Once the demos are complete Wayne can start working on melody and sonic emotion before writing the lyrics.

Usually, a song will get 2 or 3 edits before its finished. We all give ‘straight to the point’ critiques on everything, riffs, lyrics, guitar solos, the works. Sometimes it can be a little tough when one of the guys trashes a song or one of your ideas, but we are all adults and honestly, we get a much better result through collaboration and brutal honesty”

You recorded the album with Chris Themelco at Monolith Studios, who also mixed. What was that experience like? What drew you to working with him in the first place? “We first caught wind of Chris Themelco through his work with other local band we had gigged with back in 2014/15 and we loved the sound he achieved on those albums. It was an easy choice to make. Chris has always been a fan of our sound and was excited to be involved. We didn’t have the money to throw down on a full record with him so we did the best we could by ourselves, and he mixed the stems for “Purge” for us, damn well I might add, considering how new we were to recording. Chris has very good understanding of our band ethos and had put his hand up to work on ‘Be the Fire and Wish for the Wind’ long before we even had a pre-production ready. It is amazing to be able to record with someone that is invested in the music and our ideas. We sent him over 30 demos for feedback and to pick his top 10. There wasn’t much wriggle room for structure changes due to our writing process. Granted a couple of major change suggestions fell on deaf ears, as we were so invested in most of the songs, it was extremely hard to let go and change anything.

Chris’ experience in the studio, however, was invaluable. As stubborn as we can be with our song writing we didn’t know jack shit about what it was like to ‘actually record’ in the studio. This was our first time out of the paint shop. Chris was fantastic at getting the best takes out of us and pointing out better nuances in playing and tricks to make each take sound better. He was integral to us being able to create the sound we wanted and blending the genres. Big and tough and chunky but also natural. We would never have come close to achieving our sound in our bedrooms. Dudes a straight up legend”

If you had the opportunity to work with a guest in the studio next time around, who would you like to work with and why? “Man, we always say this in interviews and the whole band probably doesn’t even want it anymore but Snoop D O Double G. The guy is an absolute legend and we’re confident we could throw together something hip hop and Nu Metal enough that he could do a sick verse on. Wayne already has the rap flow going in some of our songs so we’re already halfway there. Plus, the headline of an Australian local metal band doing a song with Snoop would absolutely go viral. That’s about the only time we’d get a “Featured Artist” on a song”

For us gear nerds out there, can you tell us what you’re using gear wise (pedals, strings, drums etc) to get your sound? “Adam is currently running a Kemper Profiler Amp and footswitch with the tones we used on the album combined with a number of guitars. He generally runs an ESP Horizon for live shows and in the studio, he also uses an Epiphone “Matt Heafy:” sig, Fender Telecaster and Jackson SLQ2. Strings wise he’s using Ernie ball 11-52 gauge super slinkies.

Bart uses a Fractal Axe Effects and pedal board with his own dialled in Toxicon tones. His main guitar is an Ibanez S61AL that he runs D’Addario NYXL 11-56 strings on. He’s a fan of the Jazz 3 pick.

Jacob has been running the same bass for years, A 5 string Schecter Stilletto, but instead of the standard string sizes for a 5 string he has forgone the low B string and shifted the sizes down to add a high C string for more creative melodies. He is also running a Kemper Profiler with album tones.

Tom has a Drum Workshop Performance Series kit. Sizes are 22 x 20 kick (x2) 8, 10, 12, 14, 16 toms and a Mapex Black Panther Sledgehammer Brass Snare. Cymbals are a hodgepodge of anything he can find to hit except for the ride, a 22” Stuart Copeland Signature Blue Bell Ride. Sounds like a train crossing bell. Absolute BEAST. Gibraltar rack, Drum Workshop hardware, Pearl Demon Drive Pedals and Vater Sticks.

Wayne just shows up and talks shit. Typical singer”

What difference would it make to you as a band if you could land an endorsement from a gear manufacturer? “Honestly, we would love the opportunity to spruik the brands we use. We’ve been loyal to a lot of companies for years so actually getting to throw our name down on a product and shout about how good some of the gear we use is would be awesome. It’s another step towards that goal of world domination. Plus, Tom could use some cheaper drumsticks considering how often they end up getting used for firewood. We’ve always been a big fan of Cort guitars and have owned electric, acoustic and bass guitars made by them and they have always been rock solid. Cort if you hear us, hit us up! We want to represent you in the metal community!”

Be The Fire And Wish For The Wind” by Toxicon is out now and available everywhere you’d expect it to be

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