The Joshua Project is an industrial, performance art, musical experience, with hard-hitting electronic beats along the lines of Ministry, Skinny Puppy, or Combichrist supported by an intense on-stage theatrical production that never lets up.
TJP's freshman effort (428) was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Mike BBQ of Dethkultur BBQ at Big Door Studios, Houston, Texas and released early 2008 under Joshua's private label "School Money Records.” He went dormant shortly after it’s release and returned with a more aggressive electronic sound in 2015, leading up to the release of “WWIII: REFUSE" in March 2018 and "WWIII: RESIST" scheduled for release in the fall of the same year. Both albums are set to be recorded, mixed, and co-produced by Mike BBQ in Houston, Texas before being mastered by Peter Doell of AfterMaster Productions (Beverly Hills, CA). Peter, who is best known for his work with Miles Davis, Celene Dion, and Marilyn Manson, has already worked his magic on REFUSE and is expected to have his hands on RESIST by October of 2018. With the release of WWIII: REFUSE complete, and the majority of WWIII: RESIST recorded and mixed, a national tour is in the works, as Joshua hopes to bring the sights and sounds of The Joshua Project to the rest of the US.
Carox got to meet and talk with the man behind the mask outside a local Houston music venue recently.
Carox: Tell me first of all when you first started the Joshua Project.
Joshua: I would like to say back in 2007 or 2008. It started out as something I was doing on the side in between metal bands. It was not even The Joshua Project at the time,. I was a vocalist for some metal bands. I played bass in some metal bands around town and this was just stuff I was working on. Bands tend to come and go, egos get inflated, one person crashes, then the other person, the music gets tossed aside. But I noticed this project that I was working on kept moving forward because it did not have all the drama that was attached to it like the metal bands. I was posting it online, this was back with Myspace!
Carox: How was it born? What was the idea behind it that inspired you to have this project?
Joshua: Well, I wish I could say it was all like pre-planned but it wasn’t. I mean I have always been a writer, a poet, I was the guy that would sit in class and fill up tablets of poetry. I have always had the ability. I have always been a kind of shy person! It was kind of an evolution. When I first got into music and performing live, I was a bass player. I could easily tuck myself away into the side of the stage. As that music side of me evolved, I began to put ideas out there and push myself that extra bit. I got a good response and positive feedback and then I would push myself more and that turned in to what I am doing now.
Carox: Is it a big step to go from metal music to electronic music?
Joshua: It’s definitely a different sound. To a degree I see a lot of connection between different music genres so to me, music is a composition, it is about taking musical parts and sounds and putting them together – there are harmonies involved and notes. To me from one genre or another, it is whatever grabs your ear and of course the sounds that you create with music help you express the emotions or feelings that you are trying to put out there.
Carox: What instruments are you actually playing in the Joshua Project when you go into the studio?
Joshua: I play on a little Rolan JD xi. Some stuff I come up with through Ableton software. I have used a few Fruity Loops which is a popular software. I use a lot of sound bytes. That is the electronic side of it. I play bass so I have added some bass guitar into it. I would say that my best tool is the network of musicians and friends that I have met over the years. My sound alone bores me. I find that even when I try to find different ways to break the mold in different formulas, I end up ultimately developing a formula of my own which gets boring. Because that happens, I find that whenever I bring people into the different components that I come up with, that little piece they add, whether it is a larger piece or just a little spot of the song, becomes my favorite part because I didn’t create it. So then there is also a challenge to make that part integrate into my music.
Carox: What instruments do you bring on stage?
Joshua: Musically, just my vocals. When I first started talking about taking the Joshua Project live, since it started as an internet thing. Then that is the performer in me that just wanted to get back on stage. There is just something I get out of doing live performances that I don’t get in the studio and there is something in the studio that I don’t get live. Whenever I began looking for ways to take this live on stage, I looked at a lot of different industrial acts and as you know I did not start out industrial. It’s funny when I first presented it to somebody and I was thinking I had created this new thing. So people were like “No this is industrial, let me introduce you to this thing you are trying to be a part of now” So I thought “Great” and I started going to a lot of shows. It exposed me to more opportunities to see artists doing something along the lines of what I was doing in the one-man shows. When I would see one man shows oftentimes I would see the artist and their keyboard.
Maybe they were running backtracks on a laptop, they were doing keyboards or singing. Maybe there would be one artist or two artists but the trouble I would see from the visual point of view is that they might have the lights or the smoke, but it would be boring to watch. So I really loved them online but seeing them live they were boring. I think Nivek Ogre of the industrial music group Skinny Puppy is like the closest thing to a live performance I have seen. He would do shows where there was him and someone doing keyboards. He would be out there doing some theatrical performance. I have a background in theater.
This is something I have pitched to bands in heavy metal. There are T-shirts and metal and that is all there is. There are no gimmicks involved So here was like my opportunity to get in touch with the theatrical side, not just try to go out there and be a “mans man” kind of thing and go and make music and perform it and bring out the theatrical side. I stepped away from bringing out the keyboards since everyone has already seen that. I decided if I am going to go out there and just basically sing my acts, I am going to have to put on a damn good show because otherwise, you are paying to see a karaoke fest.
I have got the music playing on backtracks when I do the performances. I have the tracks set up where I could have musicians come in and play a part if they would like to.
Carox: I like the fact that it is a community project. The theme I think is so important. Is this an anti-war message?
Joshua: I would say yes. This is the more aggressive music that came out about the time of the Vietnam war. It has the modern edge.
Carox: Why have you chosen the war theme?
Joshua: Because I think it is something where we in the west, the only connection we have with what happens overseas is when service men and women come home and you know there is the initial gratitude and thank you and respect. But, we get a very filtered version of what is going on and I think service men and women know this and it is part of the difficulties when they are coming back. I do work with a lot of vets and I see as these. No matter how many stories they explain to me, some of the much more personal ones they will not share. That is because there is no way we at home in our bubble of privilege could even connect with some of the decisions they have had to make or what they have had to face. And what takes it to that level to me is that even in that scenario they are coming home from it. So they are going to this battlefield, this life situation and then they are coming home from it. That situation is continuing whether they are there or not.
Carox: When I watch your song on stage Why Must I Die I find it very painful to watch. I get disturbed by it because you are in character and the voice is so painful. It’s like watching someone almost trapped. Was that the intention of that?
Joshua: Yes that is the intention. A lot of the songs that I write come from one thing and then I try to find ways it could be perceived intentionally. I was in grad school and part of my final thesis was on ISIS and the media. So I studied ISIS and the media and different ways Western and Middle East media were presenting things. While I was doing my research, I came across very many different types of media I almost wish I hadn’t come across. So this one particular story, of which I use clips in my song War, there was a video where they had captured a Jordanian pilot. They had him in a cage and they set him on fire and burnt him alive. I remember that the video was like a highly produced video, they had different camera angles, there was music, it was a full visual production of them executing by fire this pilot they had captured. I remember at that moment of watching it, it was just a feeling. I remembered thinking, why? Why? Because of a different thought or belief system? I turned the video off and I thought about it. Even at that moment from watching the trauma of that moment on a video, I wasn’t living it. I was not there being a part of it. There are so many scenarios like that we don’t experience. So yes, you should feel shocked, you should feel very uncomfortable when I bring it to the stage.
Carox: Is there going to be a message of hope in the music? After I experienced your show I felt heavy. I was trying to reconcile that with going out for a night at the weekend. In other industrial bands, I have seen there will be a message of hope.
Joshua: Well I don’t know. Quite honestly it is a question that I ask today. That is the sad truth. The reality of it is as much as the theatrical production in whatever I am doing, I am bringing in that reality and I would like to think there is a message of hope. The most hopeful song I have on the album is Revolution and then I follow it with You Decide. I am kinda throwing the question out there over and over again and leaving it open” I like to think I am an optimistic person they say “You don’t sound optimistic at all? But I am optimistic, just not to the point where I am numb to reality. In grad school in sociology, we would sit around the table talk about the article we have just read…we still found little things to joke about even although they were terrible issues. That is how we deal.
Carox: I am just very interested in seeing where this metaphor goes in the next part of the project.
Joshua: The original idea was to put out one standard album. As life got in the way, it all started delaying. It was dragging out so long that I decided to put it out there. I felt that by the time I got it done…I put out the first half, WWIII: REFUSE because it is a good statement. There is your optimism, that I am refusing to accept! The next tracks which I am working on now will be WWIII: REFUSE will continue the first theme. I do feel that I can tell you that as optimistic as I am I am not going to wrap it up with a nice little bow tie as the end to the album, I am going to wrap it up as to where we are today.Joshua would like to thank his believers with this personal message: Monica Mazoch, Adora Mazoch, Mike BBQ (Dethkultur BBQ), Ginger Kinder, Michael Marksberry (Anova Skyway), Jason Perryman, Jose Domenaz and Steven Lehrbass (Dread Pixels), Colin Travis, Monika Casella, Khris Harding (Punkstar-Radio)....and of course, everyone who comes out and shows support. I can honestly say, if it weren’t for people coming out, I would perform much less than I do. There’s a lot of production value involved with each show and I certainly am not banking on any of this....heh.I do it because I love to perform for people. I love the responses (good and bad), because that means you’re paying attention to an important issue - one that you can easily look away from as you go through your day to day doings...but not while I’m on stage.