Toxik was an US-based technical thrash metal band, hailing from New York. In the 80’s they released two cult albums, World Circus (1987) and Think This (1989). I interviewed Josh Christian, founding member and lead guitarist of Toxik.
Who or what inspired you to pick up a guitar?
I am from a musical family, both my parents played guitar and sang. My dad played a little horn, he also played bass in a band when I was young. Growing up I was immersed in all kinds of music, from Jazz and Classical to Contemporary Rock of the day. My parents were into Yes and King Crimson, Mahavisnu Orchestra etc. For me growing up in the 70’s and then the 80’s it was great and I was very lucky. All of the instruments of a band were at my house for me to play whenever I wanted and I did, a lot. Drums and Guitar ended up being the ones I stuck with. As I got older I narrowed it down to guitar and took lessons. For lead guitar playing Van Halen and Uli Jon Roth were my biggest Influences, along with Richie Blackmore, Allan Holdsworth from UK and Adrian Belew from King Crimson. Of course Yngwie was an influence later on.
How was Toxik formed? What’s the history?
I started the band with my friend Lee, we were Punk originally and then Noise. In 1980 we heard Motörhead and that changed everything… this music blew my mind, between that and The Scorpions, Accept, Judas Priest, Tigers of Pantang etc. and then Venom and Mercyful Fate, Slayer etc. Music exploded in a period of 7 years, it went from Classic Rock and Punk to Power metal to Black/Speed and Thrash… We just grew with it.
The original name was “The Photogenics” and we were seriously a Punk band in the vein of late 70’s safety pin in the the lip style shit. I was 12 and we played schools, party’s and halls. We started a riot everywhere we went and then through the years Centaur, Tokyo and Finally Toxik in 1984. By this time we were musically all Original and writing speed power metal. When Tad joined in 85 we became a Thrash band for real and started ripping fucking 190 bpm 16th notes. Mike and Brian had already been in the band a year. I was the last remaining member out of about 15 people.
How was the local scene at the time when the band was formed?
Pretty Cool, we were part of the New York scene of that day. Anthrax and Overkill, Carnivore, Whiplash, Crumbsuckers, I can’t even remember them all! NYC in the 80’s was sick. I hate to rattle like an old man about how great it used to be, but honestly it was. It was insane, you could go out and see G.G. Allin, Leeway and Slayer in one weekend and it was every weekend in Brooklyn, Long Island, New Jersey and Manhattan… and then Boston and Philly. It was endless music in those days.
Which bands influenced Toxik?
A wide variety we were all totally different in styles but we all liked metal. I think that’s the reason we sounded the way we did. We were always pretty eclectic.
Did bands like Watchtower, Realm, Voivod or Blind Illusion play a vital role in your sound?
Watchtower and Voivod were influential on the universe, not that Realm and Blind Illusion weren’t, but they were contemporary’s in fact Realm was signed to RoadRacer at the same time we were. So there wasn’t an influence in that way. I was also friends with Ron Jarzombek back in those days. We talked a lot on the phone and traded tapes etc. Similar things influenced us. Not that Toxik was anywhere near as busy as Watchtower, but we did both share a basis in the prog music from the previous decade. Again the stuff I grew up listening to.
How was the reception initially when the first copies of World Circus were released?
Mixed, some people loved it right away; others grew to like it more. Some people panned it. The press liked us overall it seemed, we won CMJ metal album of the year or we were in their top whatever. I don’t remember exactly but we had a really strong buzz for a Thrash/Speed Metal band. People that saw us live always liked us more it seemed. We didn’t get to tour the US on World Circus and it affected sales of the record which I blamed the label for because of their lack of support, but in Europe we were really well received and sold pretty decently. Enough to get a second album anyway.
How did you feel about one of the songs appearing on a Metal Massacre compilation?
Awesome we were so stoked when that came out, we were on with some great bands. Cool, cool thing.
How often did you guys tour? Any particular great memories?
Too many memories. Everything you imagine can happen on a tour with 15 young guys did. Rolling around the country side, drunk and happy that we were out living our dream… I’ll do this in one capacity or another till the day I die. I’m sure of it.
Why was Mike Sanders replaced by Charles Sabin on Think This?
Complicated. at the time the record company was giving us static about Mikes Voice and he had taken some bad press. It seemed everyone was digging the music but the vocals got a hard rap. When Think This rolled around, Mike himself decided to call it quits. He went out to California and started a new life. Charlie was the right guy for the Job and did a killer performance. To this day I love both of their voices. I don’t care what anybody else thinks either. Mikey has a totally unique sound to his voice, even his speaking voice is unique. Charlie was a practiced serious vocalist. He was driven in a different way than Mike was and the energy was good for the Album. Props to them both!
What was your inspiration for ‘There Stood The Fence’?
At the writing of that I was feeling pretty angry actually. In fact for all of Think This I was having a bit of a depressive state. I was reading a lot of alternative world history, very different from what I had been taught in school and the real world really fucked with my head. That album was definitely a work of frustration and confusion.
How was the experience playing at the Dynamo along with some great acts of that time?
Truly one of the highlights of my life. I’ve played other big shows but that was different, the bands, the fans… just the whole thing. It was early on in the festival experience. Awesome, awesome day!
What is your favorite Toxik song?
Ha! Voices? Time After Time? World Circus? Black and White? Are you really asking me to choose between my children?
What do you think of all the kids who are into Toxik now?
I’m really feeling validated honestly. For all the haters that talked as much shit as they did, we actually ended up a legit cult band. I feel totally humbled by that, I don’t want to be misread but fuck all man it definitely makes me want to kick out some more Toxik music!
Did you expect that twenty years later people would still listen to your music?
I doubt anyone does anything where they can imagine what 20 years later will bring. Like I said I’m just humbled and honored, no nonsense.
Do you plan on recording with Toxik anytime soon?
YES! If I had done this interview when you first sent it to me I might have said no. But I have a friend who was really pushing me to do something and I started to think about it and it does seem like a good time to put out a record. There’s so much shit going on I the world right now, how could I ignore it? It’s not a reunion either, even though it technically is because it’s original members. I’d like to think of Toxik like a Pink Floyd or King Crimson of the Metal world. If we do a studio album every couple of years from here on out it won’t be a reunion it will just have been a long break; the new Stuff is a bridge between the 2 records mixed with a lot of new elements. I don’t think anyone will be disappointed. We haven’t slowed down at all, we’re still technical as hell. Now unlike back then we’ve had a lifetime to digest just how fucking ugly the world can be to itself and like I said, I can’t ignore it and you can hear that in the music. I’m still frustrated you see… but I’m not confused.