Performing at this year’s ColdWaves V event in Chicago, Justin McGrath lets ReGen in on his life and career, bringing an end to Polyfuse to embark on a new and more exciting musical path.
An InterView with Justin McGrath of Polyfuse
By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
Electronic music is more prolific and varied than it’s ever been, finding its way into virtually every aspect of modern music. What have you found to be the most difficult or challenging aspect of making music as Polyfuse and establishing your own musical identity?
McGrath: I’ve never found it to be too difficult because the angle I am approaching music making is very different then what others are doing. I treat my music as a journal and an outlet for negative energy, really… nothing more. I’ve never once sent demos of my music to be considered for a label release and I don’t make any merch. I have a simple Bandcamp page that I randomly add and delete stuff from all of the time. So I don’t feel very typical at all; I don’t feel like I fit in anywhere. The only challenges I face are just my own with trying to make the music, which I consider the highest priority.
You’ve worked for and toured with Puscifer, Nine Inch Nails, and M83. What would you say were the most important aspects of your experience touring with such high profile acts and how it affected your outlook on music and how you approach making music in Polyfuse?
McGrath: It has certainly created some new moods for me to draw inspiration from, but overall, these things are not very comparable. What it has given me is a different outlook on live performance. Seeing how large shows are pulled off in efficient ways is really eye opening. The way gear is put together, the way it travels, and the way it sets up and tears down quickly was really great to learn. Now at smaller shows, it really bothers me when other bands have power strips all over the floor and cables in the way and setups that just look like they are going to fail at any moment. It doesn’t have to be like that and it’s not expensive to avoid issues.
Your last release with Polyfuse was in late 2014, the Vomited Howls album; what can you tell us about the new Polyfuse material you’re working on and how you feel it is a further evolution of what you’ve achieved thus far?
Polyfuse is performing at this year’s ColdWaves V festival. Besides celebrating the life of Jamie Duffy, what do you feel has best distinguished ColdWaves from other similar festivals that you’ve seen or participated in?
McGrath: Everyone knows that most festivals are terrible; generally, they are just a poor experience. Things like bands playing in daylight doing strange and short sets because they can’t do the same production level they would do at their own shows. ColdWaves is never like this; it never feels like anyone giving half effort. A lot of the bands that play are also not currently on any tour, so you are getting a very unique experience that is not likely to be duplicated at other shows. Bonus points for it not being outdoors; none of this music works in daylight. It just wouldn’t be fun.
You’ve mentioned that your career is 100% sound related and that you avoid listening to music. Can you tell us about your process, how you approach the creation and manipulation of sounds to achieve the mood that you’re aiming for – perhaps citing a specific track as an example?
From what you’ve learned and experienced on tour, what advice would you give to a small band about to embark on its first tour? Any pointers or key bits of info you’d like to share?
McGrath: It’s hard for me to say what a smaller band should do on a smaller tour because I’ve never done it myself. I will say that smaller bands should be very conscious of their overall setup and the speed of their setup. They should think of the things they are doing in context of what the audience will experience and notice and really only use things live that the audience can experience. Keep it simple, because you’re probably opening for someone and you won’t really have much time to setup, check things, and then get out of the way the headliner. To be clear, the headliner should follow the same rules and hopefully have a simple and fast setup.
Any particular tour experiences you’d like to share? What’s the strangest thing anyone has seen, said, or done that you can or are willing to talk about?
What is something that you would like to see or hear personally as part of the next evolution of music, the next evolutionary step for the art form?
McGrath: That’s really hard for me to say because I don’t spend very much of my time seeking out new music. I am one of those people that got stuck listening to the same 20 albums over the years. Also, since my career is 100% sound related, I tend avoid listening to music sometimes. I do many silent car rides.
Similarly, what do you see or would like to see as the next step in the evolution of technology – not just in music, but overall?
McGrath: Right now, what I need in life is for virtual reality to improve significantly so I can put a helmet on and disappear forever.
Photos by Jesse Meyer – courtesy of Dreams Are Maps.