The Grinder Times Interview

02/17/08

Richard Johnson is a man that I feel everyone should know, or should have at least heard of by now. Whether you know him from his work with ENEMY SOIL, THE INDEX, AGORAPHOBIC NOSEBLEED or his latest body of work, DRUGS OF FAITH. This guy has been around quite some time and doesn't seem to be slowing down one bit. DRUGS OF FAITH is a three-piece consisting of Richard, Taryn, and Shane, that create a smooth blend of rock 'n' roll and grind. We were able to conduct an interview with them and get some questions answered.

You guys come off as a totally different kind of band than most of the bands in the grind scene. You don't dress the part, and you sure as hell don't act the part. I've talked to quite a few bands and the majority have a total hard-assed "you're not worth my time" kind of attitude. Not that we mind, but it does strike a curious chord. What's keeping you so humbled?

Well, it sounds like a cliché, but we do this because it's fun. It's not a job for us. Part of the reason to play hardcore and grindcore and metal is to let it all out. The last thing we want to do is look down on people that go to the trouble to come see us play or buy our records or listen to us online. I've been playing in bands for a long time and have seen trends come and go, and we're not interested in figuring out how we're currently supposed to look or how we should come off. We're trying to do something different, and trying to mold ourselves to be like the majority of bands in our genre, whatever that is, is an approach that's totally boring.

The band has a very unique style. What would you say has been the biggest influence on your vocal approach, and the 'grind 'n' roll' sound in general?

It's a little strange to say, but part of the reason for the way I sing is being in AGORAPHOBIC NOSEBLEED. That band has a kind of "no-holds barred" posture, and when I started singing in that band I was able to develop different vocal ideas that I'd not tried before. So when it came to DRUGS OF FAITH, I kept it going from there. I feel much stronger with this band than I ever had before that I want to inject more texture, variety, and feeling into my voice. And that in a way goes into the riffs, beats, and arrangements we write. Our influences are old school and we put into the music what works and what sounds like DRUGS OF FAITH to us. We don't have a purity of sound because we touch on several styles, and sometimes if it's difficult to categorize a band, that can be taken as a compliment and a sign that you're onto something. The way we figure it, you can wreck heads on a solid rock song as well as on a grind tune, albeit in a different way.

DRUGS OF FAITH is a name that really seems to stick in your head and makes me think there's a deeper meaning behind it. Is there an in-depth, thought out meaning or am I just judging a book by its cover?

Originally it was just a name the drummer (Jake from TRIAC) of a band I had, two bands ago, came up with when we were trying to change the name. It got rejected, so when Jeff from CITY OF CATERPILLAR and I started DRUGS OF FAITH, we swiped it. So when Jake came up with it, the name was meaningless. But we do think you can evoke Marx's comment about religion being the opiate of the masses with the name as well.

One of my favorite questions kind of puts you on the spot. In music now, bands are pretty 'hit or miss' (mostly missing by a long shot). Who would you say is doing everything right, and who is doing everything wrong?

Well, everyone thinks their favorite bands are doing everything right. That would be VOIVOD and KILLING JOKE, to name two, for me. But even they have records that I shy away from. I don't know if any band is doing everything right. Plus it depends how you define that. Are they putting out the right records but making bad decisions with their band? But as far as who is doing everything wrong, well, lots of bands come to mind, bands that have shot themselves in the foot, who have gone tits up, who were good until they went sober and got vocal lessons, or ones that have sucked ass from day one. Those bands should remain nameless.

How old where you when you first started playing your instruments of choice? What was it that got you started/interested in doing so?

My Dad bought me a guitar when I was in middle school. That was because they got tired of me walking around the house subconsciously playing air guitar to KISS records.

Did you stop playing air guitar? I know when I got my guitar I kept up with the classic air solos.

No, how could I stop? I picked up air drums after a while, though. I mostly do that in the car, especially if I'm in the passenger seat.

The road really takes its toll on people, what would you say are some of the pros and some of the cons of touring for you?

When we went to Europe we got treated pretty well, or at least better than bands that have to go it totally DIY, because our label arranged transportation for us in Europe and booked the tour. But we did it because we wanted the experience of going over there and playing for people there. That's part of the reason for going on tour, is to play for people who would never otherwise see you, and to try go build the name of the band, sell more records. It's difficult for us to get away from work to go out for any extended period, but we want to do it as much as we can so we can play in different places besides just locally that we wouldn't be able to play beyond doing weekends. So we don't stay out on the road long enough for us to get torn apart by it.

If you where knowingly going to be locked in a room for the rest of your life with a CD player (unlimited amount of batteries here) and one CD, what would you take with you?

One CD? You're not even going give us our top five? Fuck, I don't know. Dimension Hatröss [VOIVOD].

Which one out of the three of you would you say has the coolest day job?

Ha! We don't have cool day jobs! I work at an office in a cube and Taryn does catering and waitressing.

Being trapped in a cube gives you plenty of time to think doesn't it? My day job is pretty mind-numbing, but I seem to think of my best ideas while doing it.

That depends on how busy it is. Sometimes you have to put your head down and muscle through the work.

Name the best show you've ever played and the best you've ever attended as a fan.

The first time I played at Gilman with ENEMY SOIL was pretty incredible. The best show I ever attended was … I don't know. HOLY TERROR/KREATOR/DRI or FAITH NO MORE/SOUNDGARDEN/VOIVOD. Both in DC? The first time Taryn and I saw THE GATHERING was in Germany, and I almost fell to bits.

How many countries have you played or seen shows in?

Well, ENEMY SOIL played a few shows in Canada, and besides that, DRUGS OF FAITH did the European tour. That was Germany, Switzerland, Poland, Czech Republic, Italy, Netherlands, Austria.

I stole this question from the other brain of THE GRINDER TIMES because I thought it was an awesome question that needed to be asked. What would your dream gig be? What bands would be on the bill and where would it be?

I guess the classic VOIVOD lineup (this is a dream, remember) at the Dimension Hatröss period, KILLING JOKE on their 2003 tour (dreaming again), CARCASS on tour for Symphonies of Sickness, MEGADETH when they were doing Peace Sells…, GODFLESH when they had Mick Harris on drums (didn't I read that somewhere?), and In Utero-era NIRVANA, maybe? That would be in Baltimore at the Ottobar or the Talking Head, I guess. The show would have to be a two-night engagement, with the bands spread over two shows and us playing both nights.

You had mentioned that some of the new material still has the 'grind 'n' roll' sound but that some of the other material (that was still in the riff stage) resembled ENEMY SOIL through the D.o.F. filter. Has there been any changes since we last discussed the new stuff?

No, we're still working on it. One of the things we in the band talked about was keeping going in the same direction but make it faster. The songs on our split with ANTIGAMA are the first three that we wrote together. The stuff on the mini album all has contributions from past members. We think the split material is more emotive, which is a good thing.

Any idea when we can expect an album or at least a sampling for our deprived ears?

We're still writing so we can go in the studio. We have to record for two compilations, a split 7" with A WARM GUN, and a full-length. But we're booked in the second week of April for the split, so that's very exciting. Taryn is working on a solo acoustic project. It's weird because her main influence is SMASHING PUMPKINS, but the stuff doesn't really sound like that. She suggested using some of those riffs for DRUGS OF FAITH, so we put a song together using that. It's not finished, it needs work, but it sounds really bizarre.

Once the albums are released can we expect a tour of any sort? If so, could we bribe you to stop by Wisconsin for a show or six?

The thing is, our touring partners from when we were in Europe, BLOOD I BLEED, are supposed to come over here this year, so we're going to go out on the East Coast with them if it happens. We've gone west before, but that was just three shows. We made it as far as Illinois, though, so you never know.

If you could give the younger generation of grind coming up one bit of advice, what would it be?

Listen to World Downfall by TERRORIZER if you want to know what grindcore is supposed to sound like.

Drugs of Faith definitely are their own, unique breed. Their sound is proof that grind will continue to grow, and progress, so long as people keep their minds open. I highly recommend checking them out if you haven't done so by the end of this interview. Forward thinking will only help keep us alive, and I have to thank Richard, Taryn and Shane for such a great opportunity, and for making some amazing music.

The interview appears in its original form here:

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