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Most know him as the bass player for acclaimed Canadian indie rock band Metric. But Joshua Winstead released his debut solo album, MMXX, on June 3rd via Royal Cut Records. The album features Winstead in his own space, and utilizing a variety of instruments to create a sound much different from what we’re used to with Metric.

 

TMH: SO, I’VE HEARD YOU WORKED ON MMXX WHILE YOU WERE ON TOUR WITH METRIC. WHAT CHALLENGES DID YOU FACE HAVING TO FOCUS ON PLAYING MUSIC WITH METRIC WHILE WRITING MUSIC FOR YOUR SOLO ALBUM?

JOSHUA WINSTEAD: You know what’s interesting, it wasn’t that challenging.  I found it actually really beneficial. It kept me kind of in a flexible state of mind to go from doing different parts with Metric and then playing different roles on my own album and editing my own album and thinking about the arrangement so, I actually found it more beneficial than anything else. I felt it kept my mind limber. The musical mind. I guess the one thing that made it hard was I had to take breaks from being in the studio. I couldn’t just work constantly which made it a little harder, but maybe that was even a benefit as well.

DID ANY BAND MEMBERS HAVE ANY INFLUENCE AT ALL OR DID ANYONE HELP YOU CREATIVELY WHILE MAKING MMXX

No. I mean they helped me creatively because we’re partners in crime in all sorts of things, but nobody was hearing the songs while I was working on them and things like that.

WHAT IS IT LIKE WORKING SOLO VS. WORKING AS A TEAM?

You know, there are some positive aspects and there are the negative aspects as well. The positives I would say are that you get to just create quickly. You get to move fast without asking someone, “oh wait, do you like this or do you like that?” I don’t have to check back in with anybody and things like that. The negative aspects are it can get a little lonely sometimes. One of the reasons I wanted to be in a band was because I like making music with people.

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I CAN DEFINITELY SEE IT GETTING LONELY. DO YOU THINK THAT SHOWED WHILE MAKING THE ALBUM AT ALL?

Well, it did in certain aspects because really what I wanted to do with the first album was I actually really wanted to address some really heavy issues and focus on some really heavy things. So, doing that can be hard and lot of times I was working in the middle of the night so again you’re working by yourself, you’re cold and you’re working in a small studio or something and everyone’s out partying and you have to work. So, it can feel lonely, but it’s one of those things where you know you are doing the right thing. It’s interesting, I find I like working around people a lot so that could be kind of hard.

SO, I’VE HEARD MMXX REALLY HIGHLIGHTS YOUR ABILITIES AS AN ARTIST. I’VE HEARD YOU WERE REALLY STOKED THAT YOU WERE GETTING TO SING AGAIN BECAUSE YOU HAVE IN THE PAST, BUT BESIDES SINGING, WHAT WAS YOUR OTHER FAVORITE INSTRUMENT OR JUST GENERAL PART IN MAKING THIS ALBUM?

Piano. Piano. Piano. Piano. Piano.  I love playing the piano. I love it so much. Half of the album was basically an exercise in learning how to play the piano. I was never really a piano player before. I was always a guitar player and you know, messed around on the drums and trumpet and bass and stuff like that, but I was always a guitar player and it was about a year and a half or two years before I started doing this album that I just realized that I actually really love playing piano. Getting to record this album, I ended up focusing a lot on the piano mostly because I like to play the piano.

GOING BACK TO WHAT YOU WERE JUST TALKING ABOUT, YOU KNOW, HEAVY HITTING STUFF. AS WE BOTH KNOW, WE LIVE IN NOT JUST A POLITICALLY DIVIDED WORLD, WE LIVE IN A WORLD THAT STILL REALLY FACES EXTREME RACISM. SO, WHAT MESSAGE WOULD YOU LIKE YOUR FANS OR ANYONE TO HEAR FROM THIS ALBUM AND SOMETHING THAT THEY CAN TAKE WITH THEM OUT INTO THIS REALLY HARSH WORLD WE LIVE IN?

Well, I think there is a few things. That’s a really hard thing to break down, but I guess if I was going to take away something, all of it can be defeated in your own mind. All of it is from your own heart. We all know what’s right. Even people who do crazy things and are racist or are judgmental or xenophobic. They know they are wrong. It’s ingrained in us. It’s a learned habit that is so obviously wrong and we can all overcome them just on our own. We don’t need to be taught by anyone. It’s just bravery and it takes that bravery to step forward. Say, just as an example, that your parents are the ones that are racist or judgmental or whatever, against anybody. Whether against, you know, they’re homophobic or you know, your dad’s like a woman-hater or something like that. It takes bravery to step up and say, “you’re wrong” and you know I love those types of people. They’re good people, but I guess you know, it’s up to all of us to take that step forward to make this a better place.

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I HOPE THAT PEOPLE CAN LEARN TO UNDERSTAND THAT CONCEPT AND START STEPPING UP TO MAKE THIS WORLD A LITTLE BETTER OF A PLACE.

Me too, me too and that’s part of it. It’s also everyone’s responsibility. We can’t let other people do the work.

I KNOW THAT THE TITLE, MMXXIS NAMED AFTER MARTIN LUTHER KIND JUNIOR AND MALCOM X AND I KNOW THAT A LOT OF YOUR ALBUM MUST TOUCH ON THE GREAT SACRIFICES THOSE GREAT MEN MADE ESPECIALLY FOR EQUALITY AND FREEDOM. WHAT OTHER INFLUENCES, OTHER PEOPLE OR JUST ANYTHING, INFLUENCED THIS ALBUM. 

I tend to take influences from all sorts of things. Like there are songs that are straight up about love and enjoyments and the news and you know, the birth of a friend’s daughter. Influence comes from all around me and I think almost all arts are like that. You can’t block things from coming in. It’s more that you try to filter things when they come out and think about what is important. So, the influence is everything. Everything is an influence, but the output is more the filter. You have to decide what to put out so it doesn’t just seem like a regurgitated mess and you don’t have a mix up of everything.

WHAT ARE SOME OTHER PEOPLE OR ARTIST THAT HAVE INFLUENCED YOU AS A MUSICIAN IN GENERAL?

Well, it depends whether it’s a singer or it’s an instrumentalist or a person who are both of them together. So, I’d say Nina Simone. I think Nina Simone is one the most amazing artists who has ever lived. I mean, I feel bad that she had such a hard time emotionally and mentally, but maybe that’s what made her amazing and actually i’m not one of those people who doesn’t like a type of music. Like, the only music I actually really don’t listen to I would say is country, but I would listen to it, like, if it’s older country and like I don’t really listen to too much pop music at the moment anyway just because I was looking for a different type of influence, but I like even pop music and I’ve heard some country music and I’m like, “that’s a damn good song!” It’s got a kind of fun content and things like that. I’m not a hater. People that are like, “oh this is the best, this other thing is the best and that is the worst,” I just feel like they’re just trying to hide their own inadequacies or their own nervous energy or something like that. So, if I could just throw out names I could say Nina Simone, Sam Cook, Sting, I don’t know, Leslie Fiest, Frank Ocean, James Blake. They’re all influences.

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YOU’VE PUT OUT SIX ALBUMS WITH METRIC. IS THIS THE FIRST OF MANY FOR SOLO ALBUMS?

Yeah, I think so. I think so. I mean, it’s one of those things where I don’t expect anything. I have hopes, but I’m always going to continue to make music and even if I don’t put it out I’m still going to continue to make it so I’ll always try to find a way to do it, you know. I’m putting this one out basically myself just because I didn’t feel like going through the work of trying to find someone to do it with. I just wanted to do the music thing right now and if something happens with it, that would be enjoyable, but it’s also very tiring. I’ve learned a lot so maybe next time I’ll look for someone to work with and put it out with, but yeah, definitely I could see more albums. I’m already working on more music.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE ALBUM IN COMPARISON TO THOSE LAST SIX ALBUMS YOU’VE PUT OUT WITH METRIC IN TERMS OF STYLE OR ANYTHING THAT KIND OF STANDS OUT THAT IS DIFFERENT?

So, different. So different. First of all, I went ahead and made mind a completely moody like, evening album. I don’t try to really rock out very hard or make dance numbers on there and you know, it’s written by a completely different person. You know, James and Emily do, I would say, 90 percent of the writing on the albums for Metric so, it’s totally different.

I KNOW MMXX IS ABOUT LOVE AND OVERCOMING FEARS. WOULD YOU SAY THAT THIS ALBUM, BECAUSE IT’S YOUR FIRST, REFLECTS ON OVERCOMING FEARS?

Absolutely, 100 percent it reflects on that. It’s part of even doing an album is recognizing that you are going to have people critique it and people deem it worthy or not and just the action of creating the album does that. I’ve played songs for my friends, for my wife and they all get to judge it and one of the things we all probably just deal with is learning to get over the judgment. The action itself is about getting past fear. The songs are about getting past fear. It’s one way of moving through life is getting past fear.

joshua winstead metric solo album mmxx music indie rock the modern hippie portland oregon album cover

SO, MY LAST QUESTION, AND YOU MIGHT HAVE ALREADY ANSWERED THIS IN A WAY, IS IF YOU COULD PICK ONE MUSICIAN, DEAD OR ALIVE, TO WORK WITH WHO WOULD THAT MUSICIAN BE? 

Oh wow, that’s really interesting. Let’s see, you know, let’s pick Kanye. I pick Kanye West because I really want to learn about beats more. I wanna learn about rhythm and you know what, can I pick two?

YEAH, YOU CAN PICK TWO!

I want Kanye West and Fela Kuti because I really want to learn about rhythm and I want one from old school Africa and I want new as well. And I want to have dinner with them too!

|Check out Joshua’s website to buy his solo album, MMXX, and follow him on Twitter!|

| Images sourced via: Pinterest, Northern Transmissions, Aesthetic Magazine Toronto |

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