Catching Up with Josh Newton of With Knives
Josh Newton. photo
So, when I was like 15 or 16, I used to go see this band From Autumn to Ashes all the time and harass their bass player, Josh Newton. Josh would put me on the guest list and then I would pester him with questions about what it was like to be in Reggie & the Full Effect and shit like that all night. He was very tolerant. I would hope that by the time I got older, and Josh joined Every Time I Die, I became a better conversationalist, but I'm not sure. He has always been very kind, nonetheless. Josh is one of those dudes who has been in, or involved with, a million awesome bands and projects, and he has too many great stories for each of them. Lately, Josh has been playing bass in a band of his own creation, With Knives, who recently released their debut EP, Schadenfreude, on his own Son of Man imprint. Schadenfreude is a monstrous amalgamation of influences, with guitars and vocals provided by Fall Out Boy's Joe Trohman. You can (and should) go check it out at http://withknives1.bandcamp.com/ and slip the man a few dollars for his hard work. I called him up the other day to chat about With Knives, his leaving Every Time I Die, what it was like being in a band with Scott Ian, and the upcoming reunion of his former band, Shiner. Good dude. Good chat. Thanks Josh.
So if I'm not mistaken, With Knives started as more of a solo project, right?
Yeah, it was just something I was doing completely on my own.
How did you get Joe involved? Did you just play him what you were doing while you were out with the Damned Things?
Yeah. That's literally what happened.
How about the drummer?
That was a whole other issue. We did everything on computers actually, with programmed drums. And they sounded decent, but when we knew we were gonna record, we had initially talked to Jorma Vik from the Bronx. He was gonna do it if we were recording in L.A., which ended up not happening. So we recorded in Kansas City with a friend named Rob Smith, who plays in a band called Traindodge, and he was in Riddle of Steel. He heard the demos and listened to them, we came to Kansas City and played for 2 days, became a band and then made the record.
Obviously, you've got roots in Kansas City, but did you have to do any convincing on Joe's end to get him to go out there and record?
No, because we realized it was going to be a lot cheaper for what we wanted to do. He was a fan of Paul's recording work, Paul Malinowski, who was in Shiner with me. He already knew what Paul could do recording-wise, so it was really simple. I felt kind of dumb for not thinking of it in the first place.
Paul was in Open Hand too, right?
Yeah, he recorded two Open Hand records and he played bass on one of them, I think.
And you're pressing the With Knives stuff on vinyl, and you're kind of giving it away with a little sliding scale digital release.
Yeah. I mean, if people like it an we play more shows, we'll press the vinyl. But we just thought it was more important for people to hear the music. You can pay a million dollars or you can pay no dollars, it's up to you.
So you just had the first show in New York the other night, how did that go?
It went surprisingly well. We had another friend playing drums for us named Lou. He's a guy from my neighborhood that I know. I was like "Lou, will you come jam with us?" and he said "Sure." Then I told him we had a show on Friday and he was like "Oh, I guess we should start practicing." So we just kind of booked the show and then we were under the gun, but luckily we saved our best rehearsal for the show. It was good.
Nice, so there are further plans to take this out on the road a little more?
Yeah, we just booked a show this morning for New York for May 17, and then I know we're gonna do like Pittsburgh and Philly and Providence. We don't have exact dates yet but we're getting that done now.
You're gonna bum out a whole lot of Fall Out Boy fans dude.
Oh yeah. Definitely. Actually, I'm surprised how many have already been sort of receptive.
Yeah, I mean, clearly, I've read some comments online that have been like "This sucks, you should just go back to Fall Out Boy." Obviously, that's gonna happen and kids are gonna be like "This is terrible" but it's because you don't get any of the bands that we're influenced by. Like, why would any of this make sense to you?
Yeah, I know when I first heard it I was like "Oh good, Josh finally got to do his Queens of the Stone Age thing."
Haha, that's definitely in there. I can't deny that.
Are you still doing the gear nerd blog?
You enjoy that huh? Talking about pedals and all that crap.
I was actually just watching some really dumb pedal comparison on YouTube when you called me. I feel like I totally got caught.
You know, I don't know anything about that stuff but I always enjoy reading what you've got to say about it, and you've talked to dudes from some of my favorite bands like Trap Them and Young Widows, and it's always super interesting.
I try to just talk about what I dig, I guess.
If you could interview someone for your blog, who would it be?
Either Jonny Greenwood, who probably really doesn't care what he uses, from Radiohead. Or Josh Homme would be great, obviously, from Queens of the Stone Age. It's cool though, because everyone that I've done now I just found them on Facebook, or I just emailed them because I already knew them and said "Hey, do you wanna do this?" And nobody has said no, which is cool.
I know sometimes working for a newspaper, it's tough to get in touch with people that you want to interview because there's so much managerial red tape.
I agree, and that's part of the reason we decided to do things the way we are with With Knives. We're completely self contained and we don't have anybody else doing anything for us. I called and booked the studio time, I'm doing the layout for the record. We're the ones looking at all the vinyl manufacturing websites. We do everything. It's just me and Joe, and it's awesome. I think more bands should probably do that.
You've been doing a lot of designing and stuff lately, I saw you did a t-shirt for Russian Circles?
4 or 5 now, for them, yeah.
Have you been drawing now for a while? That seemed kind of out of the blue to me?
Well, I mean, I did some graphic design stuff for a band I was in a long time ago called Season to Risk. I'd always messed around with PhotoShop and everything, but I kind of did it on my own time and did a few designs for Shiner here and there. But it kind of just took off after I put up some designs I'd done on my Facebook, and it turned into this thing where I can make a little money doing it so, not too shabby.
Cool. And you're tying that into Son Of Man, which is you and Joe's record label?
Yeah, I mean initially it was just a place to put up shirt designs that nobody wanted. Or that we thought were too cool to have some dumb band's name on them, not that I would work with bands that I think are dumb. I'll put my own dumb band name on it.
So it's a record label, and you're making clothing as an offshoot of that. And the With Knives stuff is coming out on Son of Man, and the Shiner rerelease as well?
Yes, that comes out in August, and we're playing 4 shows.
Ooooooh that is sick. Where are those hows?
New York City, Los Angeles, Kansas City and Chicago.
I didn't hear Boston on that list.
You did not. It's funny though, because the conversation ended up "Well, we'll just pick the 4 places we did the best and that's where we'll play." Oddly, those cities are where one of us each lives now.
You're gonna make me drive to New York?
It's just a little dip down into the city.
I guess I do need to hear "Play Dead" live before I go.
Yeah, it's funny, we're trying to work out who's going to play with us. We want to make it really special and get awesome bands that would round out the bill.
Get Jawbox to play.
I would, I don't think they will though.
Yeah, things seemed to fizzle out after the Late Night thing last year.
Yeah, I think that's probably the last we'll see of Jawbox.
Are there plans to release Shiner stuff beyond The Egg, or is that the only one that's coming out?
It all depends on how it goes, really. If we can get rid of these things, because we're only gonna make 1,000, then yeah, we'll do more.
And then you can get on to the Glazed Baby stuff.
Yeah, because people are clamoring for that.
I found a copy of Atomic Communists in our school radio station.
Wow. I was at work the other day, and part of my job is to sit around and wait for people, forever. I was sitting in a van waiting, listening to my iPod, and I put that record on and I was like "Wow. What were we thinking?"
It's not that bad, it's just really weird.
Yeah, it's pretty weird and pretty abrasive. It's funny though, because now I liten to Daughters and I'm like, "Yeah, we kinda did this."
You just played with Season to Risk recently right?
Yeah, like 2 weeks ago.
How'd that go?
It went really well, I had such a good time. It was really awesome to just go back and play those songs as a better musician, which I thought was pretty cool. And we actually decided that we're gonna make a new record. Someday.
Wow, cool. So how was that whole Damned Things, Buckcherry, arena tour nonsense?
It was completely crazy. Like, I had a tech. I had a guy set up my stuff. That was completely insane.
What's that like, playing in a huge arena?
Well, when it's empty, it sucks. It was fun though. The first time I walked into practice with those guys, well. I kind of bullshitted my way into that job in the first place. Keith (Buckley, of Every Time I Die) and I were on tour in Australia and we were drinking, oddly enough. So I was like "Who's playing bass for that band?" and he's all "Oh, this guy Dave" so I said "Screw that guy, I'll do it!" Then they had a bit of a falling out with that guy Dave, so they called me up to audition, and I said I wouldn't audition. "You know what I do." I actually wasn't drunk when I said that. I was like "Audition? Come on man, give me a break." So my audition was actually just a European tour. But the first time I opened the door, Scott Ian was standing there playing that New York Yankees "NOT" guitar. I was instantly 14 years old again. It was kind of terrifying at first.
I can imagine that must be intimidating. Because Rob Caggiano has some serious hair going on.
He certainly does.
And you combine that with Scott Ian's beard, and that's crazy.
Those dudes are legit rock stars. They played Yankees Stadium with Metallica. Like, Scott Ian was on Married With Children. Anytime you think you have a cool story, and then he busts that out, you're like "Aw, my story sucks."
Plus you weren't the oldest guy in that band.
That was a nice change! It was nuts, we would get met at the airport, because people wanted the Anthrax and Fall Out Boy dudes' autographs. They knew which flights we were coming in on. It's just a different level of existence. It was fun to do though.
And you were the only one whose name wasn't on the contract.
So you didn't play on the record.
No, Rob played bass too.
Wow, so you just got to hang out on some arena tours.
Yup. Didn't have to do any interviews. I did a few photo sessions, but for the most part I just hung out and went and played.
You were in the video. The video is hysterical.
Yeah, the video came out really funny. We were filiming, and I kept getting in a lot of shots and I felt kind of guilty. Like, should I be in the video this much? Should I be the guy driving the van? They were like "Yeah man, we're doing this. Let's go." All right.
It's weird also, (Every Time I Die's new album) Ex-Lives just came out and did really well, charted really well, so congratulations on that, even though you're not in that band anymore.
You're playing on it though, and it sounds amazing, so good work.
It was weird to do, I wasn't around for the writing of that one because I was out with Damned Things. So I kinda would learn my part the night before and do the track the next day, which was pretty intense.
I feel like it came out so long after you had already left.
Dude, so long.
Did you know you were kind of on your way out when you were recording it?
Not officially, but there was definitely a weird vibe. I mean, I still did touring after that. I feel like it was apparent that my heart wasn't into it as much as it used to be. Again, I don't have any personal issues with any of those dudes or anything like that. It was just time to move on for me.
No man, I hear that. I remember when you left From Autumn to Ashes, it just wasn't happening anymore. We were at that bar in the middle of nowhere, Quebec and that band played where the guitarist had a dildo strapped to his chin.
Yeah, haha. That was one of my many "What the fuck am I doing with my life?" moments.
Those two ETID records you played on are probably two of their best, in my opinion.
You know, I had a really good time and I'm really proud of those records. I can't believe how well the new did, that's awesome.
Yeah, good for them.
I was really surprised, but that's rad.
So you moved back to New York. You just wanted to get a big boy job and hang out with the wife more?
Yeah, well the funny thing is, we had time off from touring with ETID and I was like "I gotta get a job, you guys. I don't have any money." I think they thought I was going to get like a temporary job or something. And I do production assistant stuff for Saturday Night Live now. So it was like, "Guys I kind of have to make a choice with my life here, and I might stay home for a while." So that was kind of the end of it. I got this job offer from SNL and I couldn't really turn it down.
Josh Newton with reliable income.
Who woulda figured?
I like it.
My wife likes it too.
I can imagine. How long have you been married now?
7 years in September.
And you've been home for none of that.
That's not true, I've been home since October!
I get married in September.
It's cool though man, you'll dig it.
So what's the future for With Knives, is this a one off or are you going to keep it going?
No man, this is a band. This is full on, full steam ahead. Hopefully I'll have no income again, and my wife will hate me again.
Well you just screw around the Northeast on the weekend. I'm sure that wouldn't be a big deal.
Yeah, well there's plenty of time the show doesn't film that I could use to play. It'll work out A-OK.
All right man, that's all I've got written down for you.
I'll see when With Knives is in New England man, take care.
See you later.
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