Diversity is the secret sauce that separates great artists from the pack. Coupled with a tireless work ethic and pure thrill for his artistry, multi-instrumentalist Joshua Travis is easily one of metal's unsung iron-men.
Formerly of The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza, Monuments, and Glass Cloud (to name a few), and currently of Emmure, Travis is set to embark upon perhaps his most ambitious project yet, his debut solo EP No Rest.
Travis sat down with Metal Injection for a deep dive into his debut solo outing, including album collaborations and a return to drums, reflections on his time in Monuments and Glass Cloud (who celebrate a milestone anniversary in 2022), a status report into a new Emmure record and much more!
How are you feeling about everything surrounding No Rest? I know this is such a personal project and really something you poured your heart and soul into. What's the early feedback you're getting? What are the feelings on the first singles?
Man, it's hard to really put into words because you get used to the way things roll out in bands. You get used to what the feedback generally is. And on No Rest, it's just all the fingers pointed at me. So it's like, "you suck" or "I like you" or "you can do better." It's everything. It's really cool at the same time, as long as I can take my head away from that and be a part of that journey that's happening. But it's all sick. It's cool seeing how people respond to such a different kind of sound. You know, this is all probably not something that I'm very known for. It's pretty different from a lot of stuff I've done, but it's been awesome. I've seen how people are receiving it and it's just all sick man.
Is it a different kind of pressure? Obviously when you're in a band there's a lot of collaboration. You've been in a ton of bands in the last 20 years, but with something like this where it's your direction, you're the face of it. Is that a weird feeling where you're taking all of that weight on yourself?
So technically, yes. Now, the other side of that is like, with say the last two Emmure records, any of the Glass Cloud material, Danza III or Danza IV with The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza – I was the face of all of that too. During those times I wasn't like, "this is just me!" either. You know, I've never really been like that. It was just more like "we need something to happen. We need the material. I can do it. There's nobody else really here to do it." So I got put into that role. And you know, when we found a drummer and a bass player, whatever it may have been, it wasn't really about like "pay attention to me because I wrote all of this." Which is the same way I try to write the material.
You'll notice I don't really make any instrument shine and everybody else kind of needs to shut up. I like to elevate everything, and if things need to calm down I can make everything calm down. And with No Rest, it's like I don't really care if anybody knows that I wrote it all. It doesn't really matter so much, but the weight of it is still there no matter what.
So even when those earlier records come out, you feel it differently when somebody just hates it. It's just like "God, I'm a failure." I still would feel it like that. So this is 100 percent the same way. Only I don't have to put this weird energy into it. Like I needed to do this or needed to do that. It's just more like "here's this and however you feel about it is however you feel about it." But there's never going to be a time where it doesn't suck when people hate your stuff. There's never going to be a time that doesn't suck.
Drums were such a massive part of your life decades ago, and obviously now guitar is the big thing. Is there a place, having done so many different things for this project, where a fire for a particular instrument is burning hot again? Where are you happiest lately?
Oh man, the way I would start this is if you listen to the material, you'll hear that it doesn't necessarily sound very modern. You know, it doesn't sound like something that somebody would be writing in 2022. It has like very old school vibes about it, you know? Those are the things that I'm most attracted to in metal, like a lot of older stuff. So that was kind of the initial drive, that I wanted it to feel like it was old school, but I wanted it to also be able to live in a modern loudness, if you will. I needed it to be able to be up there with the modern stuff. So when you're trying to go for such an older sound like that, you kind of have to go back to the roots of all of this stuff.
So I thought that I had a drummer that I could get in here to track all of the material for No Rest. And literally the days before I had to go to the studio to start this stuff, my drummer was like, "man, I'm sorry, I can't make it out there." So I had to hit up Josh Schroeder (Lorna Shore, The Color Morale, King 810), and he's like, "dude, we can do this?" Like, "this is fine. I got a kit here. You just come out like a day early, set up the kit, dial it in and just get you feeling as comfortable as possible." And that's just what we did. So I went out there, we set up the kit and started fiddling around on it.
I hadn't played drums in a long time, but I know these songs. So it was kind of like, "OK, I just have to flesh it out now." I try to write drum parts when I have to program them like I would actually play them. You don't hear weird things where you need four arms to make that happen. I try to keep it very much like it would be if a drummer was playing. So yeah, it was really cool. It was cool and painful to do that at the same time. Like, it was super, super painful. It's like when you're not conditioned, which I was not at all. Before I tracked this stuff, I never played these songs. Never. So it was just kind of like, "alright, I know this is going to hurt." To make it even more brutal, Schroeder, when I'm tracking the songs, he'd just stop and he's like, "Play harder!" I'm like, "Dude, I can't play harder. Like, I'm killing my arms right now." But yeah, it made sense why he was pushing like that because there's a certain sound we were trying to achieve, and we wouldn't be able to get to where it is now if I was just going through the motions to get through it. I had to really play hard and that was something I was not conditioned for.
But yeah, it's been awesome, everything about all of it was just cool. We got there and I already had all my sounds picked out. I knew what I want to do with tones. And we changed everything. As soon as we got in there, we were like, "maybe we can make the sound a little gnarlier if we use an amp from like the '70s." It's like, "OK, let's try. Let's hear it." And then it sounds insane. There are so many things about the whole process that were just sick. I'm so lucky that it all worked out the way that it did. I'm just super lucky.
Obviously you have a tremendous list of collaborators on this record – members of Crystal Lake, Polaris, Fit For A King, Makari, and more. But I know it meant a lot for you to give free rein and just say "do your stuff unencumbered. I don't want this too polished." Was that an important thing for you bringing in these different cats who you're close with, and kind of giving them carte blanche?
I mean, 100 percent. I didn't give anybody any direction. They're like, "what do you want it to be about? What do you want it to feel like? What do you want the vibe to be like? Do you want layers? Do you want it to be one take?" I was like, "do whatever you're feeling. I'm not going to tell you anything. I'm not telling you anything because one of the things that I'm very used to in writing for any specific project, you have parameters that you need to kind of live in" … for this, it was very much like "I don't want this to sound like any one thing other than aggressive." That's really the one thing that I wanted it to have was this aggressive nature about it.
I can't stress enough how lucky I am that all of these things worked out the way that they did. Because honestly, I can't tell you another time that anybody's ever said, "just do whatever you want." And they send you something and it's like "this is sick!" That doesn't generally happen a lot. Not at this magnitude. I was just really lucky, man. It all worked out like this. I don't know how, and I'm not questioning it either.
Monuments. So this is something that [Monuments guitarist John] Browne and I will argue about until forever. So when I first met Browne, I couldn't even tell you how many years ago this was. I mean, a long, long time ago. So I met him, and at that point in time if he was like send me a riff, I wouldn't be able to come up with anything that would even be something that he could be like, "I could use this!" Nothing. I could not hang with him whatsoever. So he's sending me these songs and I'm like "what?" My mixes don't sound even at 10 percent as good as his did. Even back then. It was trash. Everything I did was trash. I wasn't good on guitar. I wasn't good at programming. I had no way to track drums. I didn't even have a bass. Everything was trash. And he's sending me these songs and all I wanted was to be able to do something with him because he was so awesome and so inspiring.
It just fired me up listening to his stuff, and I was like "what can I do? I'm just going to sing on it. Like there was nothing else that I could do. I'm going to just try this." And I did it. I sent it to him. And understand this, when I sent him this stuff, I never in a million years ever thought it would ever see the light of day, like anyone else would ever hear it. I never assumed that was the thing. It was just more like I'm sending this to you because this is fun. And I don't know, 15 years later now it's on the freaking internet. And then somehow or another that turned into me being one of the first people in Monuments, and I'm always like "are you kidding me? Did you hear what I did? That doesn't even count for anything." But Browne will be like, "Yes, he was. Yes, he was!" And I'm like, "OK, that's fine." It's crazy, you know?
Looking back again through your catalog and kind of coming full circle, it dawned on me that 2022 will be 10 years of The Royal Thousand, which kind of blows me away. What's your take on that record with the benefit of 10 years of hindsight and of the band in general? Because I think Glass Cloud in a weird way was ahead of its time.
I didn't even know that this would be like 10 years of that record. That's insane. That's crazy. For me, it's really wild because that was a time where I was coming off of doing Danza IV and then getting an opportunity on a brand new band that has no material that I could be a part of. And they had a very well-known vocalist and two Berkeley grads to fill up the rhythm section that have been playing together for years. So it was kind of like, "OK, let's see what this is about." I started writing material for it and it was weird trying to stop being so [makes intense tap riffing sound] and to start writing things that were more straight up melody based, not so wild, not so chaotic, but still had like an edge to it, but really had way more melody. So that was a task in itself.
Again, going back to those parameters that you kind of need to fit in for a certain type of project. Knowing that this was going to be something that had a lot of singing and things like that. It was kind of like, I can't help but be heavy and aggressive in nature. That's just who I am. That's what I hear. That's what I feel. That's what I write. So it definitely had that, but the challenging part was not getting too wild and still having a lot of melody and stuff. So fast forward through all of that, that was a lot of fun doing it. It was very challenging, but it was just a lot of fun. Like when we would play shows together, you could tell that we had fun doing what we were doing. It was a great time, which was also awesome because I wasn't having to sit there and look at the guitar like “what in the hell am I doing right now?” I could just have way more fun performing. That was like, really cool. But man, to even think that that stuff is 10 years old now, it's like, “Oh, OK. Well, that's 10 years old now. Maybe I need to have a party for that.”
Before going back to the EP, I wanna talk about Emmure for a second.It's kind of weird that it's been two years now since Hindsight. I think about a song like "(F)inally (U)nderstanding (N)othing" for example, Emmure to me is such a fascinating band that merges so much. You get obviously that real nu-metal groove and then of course metalcore and deathcore elements. It's a real merge to all that. Emmure is such a different project for you if you look at your history from the mid-2000s onward.
Dude, you're bringing up all these dates and I'm like “has it really been that long?” It's kind of crazy. I keep going back to this and talking about parameters. There's really something that's awesome to me about that, kind of being thrown into that fire, like I need you to pick the reins up on this and keep it moving, but I don't want you to change it. I want it to feel like the project is always felt. There's definitely going to be things that I do differently in there. There's going to be different spices and things like that, if you will. But I get some kind of deep enjoyment out of producing, where it's like “no, this probably is not something that I would just naturally do, but it's something that I am trying to do now.”
It's been a journey, starting with Look at Yourself, and that record was kind of like, alright, we got to make a statement. We come to "(F)inally (U)nderstanding (N)othing" and I can't help but have this aggressive nature with the stuff that I write. But we also messed around with other things, like more deeper vibes on things and like just kind of weird stuff. Things that were a little out of pocket for that band, which was different. You take risks every now and then. Like, sometimes it's fun even if it doesn't go over well. As long as we were still having fun doing it, it's like alright, we're good. But I guess ultimately it's just something about the parameters. Sometimes it can be really fun trying to create a sound that you have nothing to do with. And if it really latches on and people are vibing with it, man, it feels crazy.
So all of these years doing this and performing it live? Oh man, there's something about seeing people just enjoying themselves to that stuff that's like this freaking rules. It's just such a good time. I mean, I'm super weird. Everybody's out in the pit getting beat the hell up and I'm just over here like, I just want to dance and all I want to do is dance and if you're over here dancing, I love it. As long as people are having fun and just taking care of each other, then I feel like it's mission accomplished. Are we partying? Sick. And so that's what it's been with this. And also, coming from Danza to Glass Cloud, kind of taking that intensity down a bit. Still being heavy, but still having this edge, but now I get to have more fun playing what I'm playing, and it happened again even more going from Glass Cloud to Emmure because it's less guitar driven. You don't really have to be doing a whole lot. It's more about the core of the whole song rather than can we get a little wild in here anywhere? It's like, no, we don't need to get wild. I already did that. Like, you can rewind the tape 20 years ago, I already did wild. Like, let's do something else. You know what I mean? And all these people are like, "yo bring back Danza!" It's like no, I already did that. How about you bring back that record and turn it on? (laughs)
Have there been any preliminary discussions on the follow up to Hindsight? What's kind of the feeling in the Emmure camp right now? Because I know things with the pandemic are kind of moving pretty quickly now, and it feels like things are getting back to normal in terms of touring. What's the pulse in the Emmure camp right now in terms of maybe new material?
It's already happening. I'm probably not supposed to say that, but it's all moving. It's already going, it's already happening. It's not going to take too much longer now. Man, all of this stuff happening right now, I have a lot of things going on right now that honestly, six months ago, it was like just steps, taking these slight little steps. And it seems like when something starts to happen, everything starts to happen. This thing is happening, and now this thing is happening. So now it's just kind of like, OK, we need to do this one. I got a date for this one, and then we have all of this stuff to wrap up by this time. But then also, don't forget, I have this interview with Metal Injection and it's like, OK, hold on. Wait a minute, what am I doing today? Everything is just like the ball and chain is freaking rolling bro, it's moving. So now we just got to go from step to step to step to step. And then before you know it there will be some new stuff. I can promise you that.
Coming full circle with No Rest, which is perfect giving the conversation. Is this a type of thing where it was like, OK, this is a bucket list. It's out of my system. I'm good. Or do you have the bug for this now?
I will say this, SharpTone messed up by allowing me to do this because now we're going to have to do a whole lot more stuff now [laughs]. Like, this is what I do. I don't stop. Again, like what you were saying about no rest, like, that's not a lie. That's what this whole thing is. When you see a band put out a record and then you see them touring on that record, that's just kind of the cycle. You know, you write your record, you go in the studio, you track your record, you put it out and you support the record. Somebody like me, I write the record, go into the studio and track the record, we support the record. Every time I'm not doing one of those things, I'm writing. It doesn't stop. It just never stops. There's always new gear. There's new everything. I want to mess with stuff.
I want to create stuff. That's where I get like the bulk of my enjoyment is creating. That's what I love doing is just the process of seeing a blank canvas and then being like what the hell can I turn this into today? That's what I love is just creating stuff. There really is no downtime. I don't have any downtime. I don't. And then I also stream. So now it's like when I do have downtime, it's like a two hour break. That's my downtown where it's like kick your fricking feet up, let's relax. Where's the popcorn? Like no, you two hours at max. And now I'm watching freaking Ozark season four. So there is no downtime … I don't know if I've ever been so fired up to be swamped. There's no time for anything, and I guess I love it. It's awesome. I couldn't be more stoked.
No Rest is currently set for a March 18 release date through SharpTone Records. Pre-orders are available here.