with Song River
(For Vents Magazine)
Joshua "Josh" Winstead is an American songwriter and musician. He is the bassist and synth player of the Canadian indie rock band Metric, as well as the lead singer and guitarist of the indie rock group Bang Lime. Josh recently released his solo album, MMXX, through Royal Cut Records.
"MM stands for Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr., while the two X's have a double meaning representing love and death," he explains. "These two men loved you in different ways and fought for you in different ways, and they essentially died for the same reasons. Growing up as a biracial person, it was a deep and difficult thing to figure out what it means to be both black and white. The record among other things has a lot to do with coming to terms with racism and generally being an empathetic person." - Joshua Winstead
SONG RIVER: Hey Joshua, thank you so much for taking time out your day to talk with me this morning.
JOSHUA WINSTEAD: Absolutely. Thank you as well.
SR: As I started digging into your background and looking at all these things you are doing, the first question that came to me for you was because of the multiple things you’re doing, do you feel that it is a creative lifestyle to be touching and getting involved in multiple things at various times?
JW: I’m not sure. For me, I really love the influence that is in music and how it can influence you to do more than your main focus.
SR: As artists, there’s so many things to go out and try, whether we’re good at them or not. Do you find it difficult to stay on that main focus because of that urge to expand and try other areas?
JW: Actually, no, I don’t find it too difficult. I want my results to sound focused and put together correctly. I don’t want my audience to listen to my work and think, “This is scattered. This too all over the place.” I want to make a concerted effort that any new or old listener may be able to hear that true and focused intent.
SR: Where did a majority of the inspiration come from? Can you share some of the stories behind the music?
JW: Specific ones or just ones that have come over my life?
SR: Both, please. I would bet that you have a lot up your sleeve to share.
JW: Well, my mom is German and then my dad is African-American so growing up in the 70's was definitely a huge impact on me in my household being that it was just the end of the Civil Rights Movement. I was a biracial kid of two young parents growing up in Boston, Massachusetts and in a lot of ways, I feel lucky to have grown up like that. At the time, Boston was a very high-tense racial area and then being a child of two races, that was definitely a huge influence on me. It taught me the power in letting things, like racism, go and not letting things degrade your self-worth. I think through that, I have been able to show the more softer and thoughtful side I write in music sometimes. And that’s where this album came into place as well.
SR: You can definitely tell that there is this thought process on the album as well as everything else you have been working on.
Growing up as a mixed race, do you think we have made progress in that spectrum?
JW: Absolutely, I believe we’ve made tons of progress. But I also believe that’s why we’re seeing a backslash. There’s definitely still minorities out there that still participate in racism and I don’t hate them for it. I don’t think it’s right, but I certainly don’t hate them for still having those beliefs. Everybody’s taught different and various things throughout their life and we’re taught them for security. To make us feel secure, again, whether they’re right or wrong.
SR: Do you think there needs to be certain borders and guidelines for society?
JW: One side of me would say no, there shouldn’t be because those are what essentially create fear in the first place. But on the other hand, if we didn’t have structure, there would be complete chaos. With those guidelines and borders though, I think it’s matter of understanding. Being able to look at the other side and understand what it is like in their shoes.
SR: What brought you to New York?
JW: I moved here in ‘97 with the drummer of Metric, Joules Scott-Key. We’ve been playing together and in every band together since ‘91. So, we had moved from Texas to New York to be in a band and make it. We wanted to find people who were like us for the music and we were extremely lucky to have found Emily and James.
SR: Are you and Joules still in New York?
JW: Nope. Just me.
SR: How does it work to get together and play music with everybody living far away?
JW: We have a studio up in Toronto.
SR: Ah, okay.
Was it hard going back and forth on your own solo work and working with Metric on tour?
JW: Honestly, I loved doing it that way. Most of the time people need to separate things and have central time for each thing, but it’s definitely the opposite for me. Doing multiple things will bring me back to what I need to focus on.
SR: Since music is such an effective aspect on so many, if not everybody’s, lives, do you at times feel a personal responsibility for that effect?
JW: Yes, definitely.
SR: Do you find that there is one song off of your album that really speaks for the album as a whole?
JW: Wow. That’s actually a really tough question. I would say “One Heart” would truly define the whole album, but honestly, I feel the whole album is a package in its definition.
SR: To me, the album is one puzzle. I can see “One Heart” as the cornerstone and all the others are building blocks on top of it.
JW: That’s really good way to put it. I like that.
SR: I would think that as a solo artist it’s difficult to narrow down which songs you want to record and produce. How did you end up coming down to these 11 tracks?
JW: They came about in two ways: First, a couple of them had been hanging around for a while and I felt that it was their time to shine. And I still have a bunch laying around on hard drives and paper. Second, I wanted to write out new material and that’s how the rest of them came about. Actually, it was funny. I was playing “A Poison Cup” in the house one day and my wife yelled from the top floor, saying it needs to be on the album.
SR: Songwriting is definitely like raising a child, wouldn’t you say?
JW: Oh, definitely. That’s a fantastic way to put it.
SR: Who is the producer for the album and what was your control range with it?
JW: I had produced it and I had absolutely one hundred percent control over it.
SR: Nice! Love it!
JW: I had some help on the drums, but other than that it’s all me.
SR: What is the best way for someone to purchase your album?
JW: On my website, JoshuaWinstead.com, there’s a “Pay What You Want” deal where you can pay however much you want to download the album.
SR: Wow, that is an awesome deal. What made you decide to do it that way?
JW: Honestly, I felt like it was more important for people to hear the album rather than me getting paid for the album.
SR: That is incredible for you to have that mindset.
Well, thank you so much for sitting down and chatting with me, Joshua.
JW: Of course, absolutely. I really did love this. Thank you so much.
Joshua Winstead Video: “One Heart”