Interview with Josh Winstead from Metric - Southampton - 27 January 2007

Interview and article by Aline Giordano

Metric in Concert I met up with Josh Winstead, bass player of the band in the foyer of the Guildhall, at the start of Metric's UK tour supporting Block Party. Josh greeted me wearing a communicative smile. In a way, he reminded me of Dave Grohl with the same composed and smiley face. Josh appeared to be an articulate spokesman and declared himself to be a political person. But when it came to the crunch, he did not fully respond to my 'political' question about American and Canadian borders (see the very end of the interview). At first I felt that this was an easy cop-out from a man who had previously told me that the political underlying slant of Metric was half the reason he was in the band. Indeed, consider the lyrics taken from 'Monster Hospital': "I fought the war but the war won't stop for the love of god." But then again, let's put this into context. Was this the place and the time to discuss politics? Some would argue that there is always time to discuss politics and that, as Guy from Fugazi once told Uzinemusic, "every act is a political act". But some would argue that a ten minute chat between complete strangers would not induce a much elevated debate. Even though I feel that Josh could have taken a firmer and more personal political stance rather than stating generalisations about greed and caring, I certainly understand why he chose not to. First of all, that is his prerogative. Secondly, Josh may not be the kind of person to easily display his personal and political convictions to a complete stranger (again, I had turned up on the day without prior booking via the official channels!). Lastly, the relationship between artists and the media is such nowadays, that, perhaps, he chose to keep his personal beliefs for himself. And I would agree with Josh, sometimes our most personal convictions are best left unspoken.

How's England been treating you?

Josh Winstead: It's been like a well earned love, like a woman who first ignores you and acts like she doesn't care, and then you keep courting her and she comes back with a warm reception. It's been really nice. It's been good.

'Live it out' was released over a year and a half ago...

Josh Winstead: Yeah in the States first and then over here (UK).

You've been touring successfully with this album for quite a while and to me that's a good sign that it is a strong album. Did you feel that you were making a strong album when you were making it?

Josh Winstead: I have to say 'yes' in one sense and then 'no' in another one because we were so busy while we were making the album. We did it really fast in Toronto and then during the middle of it we would go on tour. I think we were in France in the middle of the making of it. We were doing so many different things that it was hard to tell what was going on! You'd do something and then you'd come back a month later and think 'that is good'. So there was a vibe that we were making a good album. But, it doesn't matter if you know you're making a good album or not if it's not going to be received well. I'm sure there are many albums out there that are fantastic that nobody ever got to hear. But I think we knew we were doing a good album.

'Live it out' is much heavier on the guitars that the previous album 'Old world underground...'. Did the band discuss this?

Josh Winstead: Absolutely. That had a lot to do with two factors. One was, I come from a little more rockier influence than the rest of the band, and coming as a bass player I pushed it a little bit on the second album. Jimmy was being influenced by that a lot and wanted to rock out a little bit more. We were all learning to rock out more at that time. The first album was more reserved and 'dancey' in the studio and as we became a band we started to rock a bit heavier on stage. I think that was a reflection of learning about each other, learning how far we could go, and, maybe, me being a little bit more pushy on the rock side. Which is funny because now I'm more laid back, perhaps because maybe I got that out of me. But also Jimmy was experimenting on becoming a lead guitar player.

The track 'Empty' in my mind encapsulates the whole 'Live it out' experience: It starts calm and beautiful, then you've got the heavy guitars, and the lyrics bring about different kinds of mood. Could we stretch that to saying that it is also a synopsis of Metric?

Josh Winstead: Well, it doesn't have much keyboard in it... No... I would say no [and we smile at each other]... because... That's an interesting question... because Metric comes from so many differences and backgrounds that it is continuously changing all the time. You'll see that again as we put out the third album.

So what is it going to be?

Josh Winstead: It's going a few places. Some of it is more seventies like Fleetwood Mac and then more of it is like in between 'Old world underground...' and 'Live it out'. I think that we're learning that we can branch out farther into many directions because the people I play with are talented and I'm proud of that fact. We've written a few songs and they are in so many different places. I'm an eclectic person, so I'm very excited about that. Some of them remind me of 'Old world underground...', some remind me of 'Live it out' and some of them are in places that I've never heard before. We'll see... maybe this will change!

How do you feel being part of an entity that projects some kind of political message?

Josh Winstead: That's half the reason I'm there! I mean, that makes me proud of being in it. I'm a very political person. I think if we weren't, I'd have a hard time being in it because I can be involved in a love song just as long as there is something else as well. The four of us are very well rounded in the sense that our discussions take on many different shapes, sizes and characters. The political content is a reflection of what we are all. Emily is very aware that there are three other people in the band. Yes, she's writing the words and they are her feelings, but she is trying to express for all of us... I'm sure a lot of what we think influences what she writes.

On the album cover there is the face of Emily...

Josh Winstead: Which album cover? 'Live it out'?

Isn't that her?

Josh Winstead: No, it's not her. It's funny though, it looks a lot like her but it's not her. On 'Old world underground'...that is her.

Ok.... Is it a way to promote the fact that the lead singer is a female artist? And is it something that's been good for you?

Josh Winstead: No. We don't tend to think like that. Yes, she's a female. There are male lead singers and there are female lead signers. I don't think that's why the four of us hang out. That's never been an issue. It never even crossed my mind.

I think it probably is to your advantage...

Josh Winstead: But there are so many male lead singers.

Yes, but there are less female led bands. So when they are good you've got more media attention...

Josh Winstead: I disagree. People ask a lot of questions about it, like "how is it for her to be on tour with a bunch of guys?", or "what's it like to be fronted by a woman?", but I don't see any more media happening because she is a woman.

The media attention is there because you've been there for a while?

Josh Winstead: Yes, because we're working hard.

Do you see Metric as a Canadian band or an American band?

Josh Winstead: An international band. There are two of us Americans and two of us Canadians. Two of us live in Canada, and two of us live in the States.

Is there any better side of the border in terms of musical creativity and freedom?

Josh Winstead: Mmm... now we're starting to get into countries and politics. Oh boy! I'm not going to get into that. That's too long... Every country and every government has its evils and its goods .... It's like when people ask "what do you like better? fans in the UK, France, Canada or the States?"... Borders are the problems. We tend to think people are different and things happen differently in places. They do happen differently, but greed is still greed and caring is still caring.

For more details, visit… Metric's website

Photograph © Aline Giordano 2007