An hour after their dominant performance at Heavy Montréal on July 28th, I found myself on a golf cart being shuttled from Parc Jean-Drapeau to Île Notre-Dame towards the artist’s area to chat with Alexis Mincolla (Lex), frontman of 3Teeth. This was to be my final interview for the Heavy Montréal weekend. It was around 7:30 pm and the sun was starting to set as we were crossing over the bridge that joins the two islands that lie within the St Lawrence River.
Lex was doing a radio interview when I arrived in a large canister by the water, and I strolled over to a group of people who were talking with Marc LaBelle and Justin Smolian from Dirty Honey. You could still hear Slash performing his last few songs in the distance, and LaBelle and Smolian were talking about how their tour supporting Slash had been going so far. After ten minutes or so, Lex’s tour manager motioned me over, introduced me to Lex, and we sat down in a golf cart looking out towards the river and spent a little time discussing his band.
3Teeth have just released their third full-length album Metawar (purchase via Century Media Records) and were in the midst of an extensive run of North American dates supporting the new album. A number of the new songs were performed on the Scène du Jardin stage for the first time for Montréal listeners, and they all went over really well with the crowd in attendance. 3Teeth’s performance was amongst my favourites of the weekend, and I was excited to chat a bit with Lex, still riding on the sugar-high of just seeing them perform such a solid set of music.
The audio for this interview is included here via SoundCloud. There is a bit of background noise; this interview was indeed recorded at the Heavy Montréal Festival amidst a melee of music, scurrying festival workers, and press types. It’s decent enough audio that we deemed it worthy of a listen and included it for listeners who’d like to hear Lex answering questions in the real.
Check out the recently-released music video for “President X,” off of Metawar:
I saw you open for TOOL in Nashville.
Lex: Oh cool. That was a fun night. All that crazy snow. That whole show almost got canceled.
I wondered how close that came.
Lex: It was very close. It was like a red alert on everyone’s front. The buses got stuck. We got stuck, it was crazy. But it was cool because we all rolled in there, it was like Nashville had never been under two feet of snow like that. It was weird watching a dude with cowboy hat walk through the snow. I was like, “We’re in Nashville with snow. Far out.”
All of their snow removal equipment went into the ditches so they only had one functioning thing that could plow snow.
Lex: When we were driving in, because we went through the night, we had to all pull-over and then do the rest drive in the morning because it was like an ice storm at one point. I’ll never forget it. The roads and the highways were just strewn with cars who had pulled off to the side and ditched their cars somehow. So it looked like a snowstorm-zombie thing where it was just like cars pull over the side, vacated. Cars, cars, more cars. We all wondered, “what is going on?” It made for a really cool vibe, and I think that that night was actually extra special as a result of the snow, which was cool.
Images of Lex at Heavy Montréal (Parc Jean-Drapeau, Montreal, Quebec) on July 28, 2019, by Mike Bax:
I feel there is a deficiency in good industrial music if you will. And I’m doing the air quotes because a lot of artists that make industrial music don’t like it to be called industrial music.
Lex: Well, I was just having that conversation with that guy. I feel like industrial music is the great debate; the 64-million-dollar-question of what is industrial music, and whether or not it’s a sonic sort of palette or conceptual landscape. And I always say this; to me, it’s not something I’ve much interest in debating because I’m not an industrial music aficionado. I have no interest in coming across as a purist. The thing that allures me about industrial music is that it is an experimental space and it always (has been). Which, to me I think, you know, there’s a lot of gatekeepers in the metal scene. You know, in most genres there’s a tremendous amount of gatekeepers, and I think that it limits the genres from growing. And it forces metal to be very sort of reflective and always looking back.
And you know, tonight Slayer is headlining. I grew up listening to Slayer. I’m not going to date myself, but who’s going to be next after that? And I feel like metal is often pigeonholed; unless there’s a blast-beat or a cookie monster vocal, it’s like there are these rules to metal. I was always drawn to industrial music because it felt like there was no actual cohesion between the bands. Two different industrial bands might have nothing to do with each other in terms of how they sound. That’s what allured me when I wanted to start this project of embracing that term. Because I knew it was going to not hold me to any type of gatekeeping standards that I would have to paint myself in a corner or limit myself. So to me, industrial music is beautifully amorphic. It has no shape to it.
I recently read that article that you did with Revolver Magazine. I love that they’re still even making print magazines, and it was a good interview.
Lex: It was cool. A guy came into my house, and he interviewed me, and we talked for about four hours, and we made coffee, and it felt like the way interviews should be. I actually really despise doing phone interviews and call-ins and things like that because there’s really no energy between the transaction. So to me, it’s like I much prefer sharing a space with someone and being able to have a conversation.
“American Landfill” was the first single to be released off of Metawar in April. Check out the music video:
So how many phoners do you? Or do you try to push them away?
Lex: It was cool. No, I try and do as many as I can. I’m not one of those people that will say no. I’m not going too “big-time,” or anything. For us, I enjoy any airtime that I can get to get our message out. We have a really nice publicist, Monica, who’s done a good job of setting up a lot of this stuff for our record so, you know, I do what I can.
I liked how that article talked about how you met Adam Jones and didn’t want to tell him that you made music. I thought that was neat.
Lex: Yeah, I didn’t want to do that so much. That was one of those things for me; Adam and I clicked, and we became friends, and I never wanted to sort of push my music in front of him. Or say, “oh hey I’m in a band” or anything like that. So it was kind of funny for him too, a year later into our friendship, and we were hanging out a lot, and we still do, he is like family. You know, I’m just not one of those people that wants to force my shit upon someone else. I will never forget that night; he was like, “Dude, why didn’t you tell me you have a band?” And I was like, “Well, you’re Adam from Tool.” And he was like, “Well, you’re right, but I really like it, man. I want to come and see you play.”
You know, I just feel like there’s something beautiful about the autonomy of discovery that is lost, especially today. I remember growing up that if you wanted to find out about a band, you had to get beat up by someone’s older brother because you went to their room and looked at the CD that you weren’t supposed to look at. Now everything is so pandered and pushed in front of people. You know, I get that it’s different times and I am not going to hate on it. You know, people have it kind of easy with things like playlisting, and then the autonomy of discovery isn’t there as much anymore. So wherever it can be preserved, I think it’s beautiful because there’s something really sacred about that moment of when you find something that you really, truly found as opposed to something that tried to find you.
3Teeth’s third studio album Metawar was just released on July 5th, 2019, via Century Media Records:
I’m probably older than you are, so I’m totally going to date myself. Part of what I like about going to concerts back in the day was that you would get to finally see what these people look like because you didn’t know half the time.
Lex: Totally. I remember a really funny story that would only have happened in the ‘90s. Maybe it’s actually the early 2000s, I can’t remember. But I remember catching like the last end of Rage Against The Machine’s “Freedom” music video when I was very young. Maybe like 13 years old. And you know, MTV had an ID at the beginning and the end of the video. Like the name of the song, the band, the label, etc. and I missed it on both sides because I was like too enamoured by it. But I remember what they looked like and that’s all I could remember. And I was like, “Well, how do I find that cassette?” Or a CD, actually, at that time.
I remember walking through my local CD store and I found a Counting Crows record that looked like Zack de la Rocha, because he had the dreads, and I spent what little money I had on a fucking Counting Crows CD and put it in my little I/O CD player I had when I was a kid, and I was so pissed. I smashed the CD, and I was like “What!? I’m never going to know who that band is again.” And that’s something that would never happen today. You would never go, “oh who are those guys? I just saw them. Maybe I’ll have to go and dig through like every CD at the store to go, maybe this is what he looked like in the video.” And then finding out that you got the wrong CD.
Now it’s facial recognition. You can almost just shuffle that up.
From their previous record shutdown.exe, here’s the music video for “Slavegod:”
So what was your attitude jumping on stage before those Tool and Primus shows? You must have been a little nervous.
Lex: That was really a defining moment for me as a human being and for the band obviously as well. Because, when Adam invited us on the tour we were playing like club shows. We still do play club shows. It was one of those things that I had no idea if we could do it. And you know he invited me. We’ve just come back from Detroit playing after playing a Halloween show we play annually in Detroit. He had come back from playing at the monster mash in Arizona. I remember there was like two days after Halloween and he was like, “Oh you want to go see a movie? Text me.” I was like, “Yeah, sure.” He’s like “Let’s go see ‘The Martian.’”
We are in the popcorn line. And the way he phrased it was like, “Hey Lex, you know my band?” I was like, “Yeah, man. I know your band. You’re in TOOL.” And he was like, “Yeah, well the guys in my band, I showed them your stuff, and they were really into it. And, you know, we’re going out on tour, and we’d like you guys to come. You know, you’ll be the first of three; you, Primus and us. You know, it’s like two months.” I didn’t even know what to say. We’re in the popcorn line, and some guy is asking, “Do you want butter on your popcorn?” I wanted to say, “shut the fuck up! I don’t even know what to say right now.” I didn’t know if it was going to destroy us as a band. I didn’t know if we’re going to be, “Here’s your defining moment as a band, and realizing that you can’t do this.” I just said, “Adam, that would be a huge honour and give him a big hug.” And he’s like “Cool. Now let’s go watch the movie.”
I’ll never forget just wanting to text everyone in my band, and call everyone I know, my family, etc. And he’s saying, “Put your phone away and just enjoy the movie.” It was like two and a half hours of Matt Damon growing shit potatoes on Mars that I could not pay attention to that was like a weird form of torture. I know he was just trying to fuck me up a little bit, I think, right before the movie. But Adam is awesome like that. He has this really unique sense of humour, and he’s like a wizard. You look at the guy, and he looks like a wizard. He’s so brilliant. He’s the best mentor you could have in this industry because they (TOOL) have managed to preserve almost every ounce of their integrity and take it to that level.
I’ll tell you what man; most rock n’ roll does not age gracefully. You know, it’s a hard thing. I think that they have really built a sort of institution of what their project is by not giving away the farm and retaining some of that mystery and allowing for that autonomy discovery that we talked about earlier that had such a huge impact on me when I listened to Tool. I discovered new concepts from that band. There were things that were hidden within it, sort of like a little popcorn trail that took you down that rabbit hole to find weird things and forced you to go; “Now I got to go study this book and see what this is about.” I think that’s what’s really beautiful about that project and something that resonates with me. And it’s something that resonates with Adam and me; a really cool friendship.
I think that to me that was a real moment of huge validation for one because those guys in TOOL have been super supportive of what we did. And then the first line of that tour basically having almost like a fucking panic attack before going out there because Primus wasn’t even on the first two shows. It was just us, direct support for Tool at the Bill Graham Civic Center and Metallica was there. They let Tool borrow their ramp to the stage with Metallica on this huge fucking ramp. Basically, I was just like, “Cool. Am I going to go shit my pants and pass out up there?” Adam was like; “Hey Lex, hey. Before you go up on stage, man. Whatever happens, happens; don’t worry about it.”
I was like, “What does that mean?” And he goes; “Well, our crowd can be really tough. Like, Mike Patton opened up for us, and they booed him. So don’t worry about it.” I was like “why the hell are you telling me this ten minutes before I got on stage? Fuck You.” So I go up on stage literally ready to die, and I just perform the whole first song with my eyes closed. And after that first applause. I just got addicted to that feeling, that sensation of playing in front of 20,000 people that were really under your shit. That’s the best. And like obviously that crowd’s not there for you, they’re there for them, but you get to be in front of them and have that chance, and I think we did 32 dates or something with them on that tour and arena every night sold out.
I think it’s akin to like if you were to get a helicopter ride to the top of a mountain. You didn’t climb that mountain, but now you have the perspective of what it looks like up on top of the mountain. And you’re sitting there and talking with people who did climb that mountain. So it’s a hugely educational moment. And it inspires you to try and create and navigate your own path to that. Obviously, there are zero guarantees in this, and it’s incredibly unlikely that a band like me could ever make it to that stage. But certainly, you know you get that little taste of that arena blood in your mind, and you’re going to want to try and find it again. So it definitely inspired a lot of the new writing and inspired a lot of what we do, and I’m forever, eternally grateful for that moment that Adam gave me with that opportunity.
“Degrade” is such an incredible track that it’s a must-hear…everyday:
I’d be freaking out that my club-level production value is going to be on a stage for 20,000. What’s that going to look like?
Lex: We didn’t have any production value at that point. Because I think one of the biggest things you have to understand as an opener at an arena tour, especially the first of three acts, is that when you’re performing you’re opening for any big band (and we opened up for things like Rammstein, Danzig and Ministry, and we’ve been really fortunate) the most important thing you can do is not be underfoot. Make sure you get your shit on and off stage. Rammstein, for example, they were like, “You can stand here on stage. If you stand there, you die. You will be exploded. If you stand there, you die. You can stand here.” It’s just not about you. These are all sold-out shows they bring acts that they want to come out with not because they need to support their ticket sales but because it’s something they like.
So when you’re in that position, you realize that you’re quite vestigial to the equation. And you have to be very, very humble and just go out there, perform your heart out, get your shit off stage, not get any type of premature rock star delusions when you’re fucking eating filet mignon backstage because their fucking catering rules. It’s like someone who got married every night. Do you know what I mean? It’s like, you can’t let that shit go to your head. And afterwards, you go back and play a 200 person club show after playing a 20,000 thousand person arena. You know, Danny still does that with his other little project. He says it best; “when you’re playing in a club you’ve got to kill every motherfucker in the room. Arenas are easier. Arenas are easier than clubs. Clubs you really hit every person, and you’ve got to pour your heart out for them.”
Can you talk a little bit about your excellent new album Metawar?
Lex: Yeah sure. I mean the fact that you think it’s excellent is pretty cool.
The debut 3Teeth album was released by Artoffact on June 3, 2014:
It is excellent. I’m going to call it industrial music because it’s bad-ass. And it sounds really hot.
Lex: It wasn’t even about making an industrial record for us. It was about making a record that we thought that could fill big spaces like that because like I said you get a chance to fill those spaces, you learn things. And sonically you just want to go there. When you perform in those spaces; We got to perform in arenas off our first record. I had no fucking clue that we would be performing our first record in arenas. If I did, I would have taken more time on that record. So we really took our time with this record. There was so much consideration. There was no rushing it. It was just like let’s bleed for this thing, and write stuff that will be able to sound huge in huge spaces.
Another thing is that we really performed it like a band, as opposed to some of our first records where we’d pass around files, sort of working it as a hobby. For this, we were fortunate enough to sign to a record label and have enough of an advance that we could get into a studio and write as a band and really dedicate ourselves to the process of the songwriting which to me felt like a lot of fun. I had a blast doing it.
Why did you pick Foster the People as a band you wanted to cover?
Lex: That’s a funny question. I actually hate the idea of doing cover songs. It’s not something that has much appeal to me. But when we polled our fan group online to do it, I basically put out criteria. I don’t want to cover an industrial song. I don’t want to cover a song I like because I already like that song and I don’t need to do another version of a song that I like. So I wanted to do something that I kind of necessarily didn’t like, but I thought that still had a lot of conceptual potential to lend itself to the meaning of the record. And I also wanted something to sort of be in the sweet spot of around the 2010 era. A song that just destroyed airwaves; a song that just was so infectious, like an earworm of a song, and then put our spin on it. But once we sort of sang those lyrics that they would take on a new meaning.
Speaking of that cover of “Pumped Up Kicks,” watch the music video for the wicked cover track:
I think that “Pumped Up Kicks” was a song that just sort of fell in our crosshairs because here it is a song about mental illness and about school shooters that is like this sort of sun-soaked, linen, surf-pop, indie thing. I thought, if we “industrialized” that song, it was going to be so perfect to lend itself to the Metawar concept. But I also wanted to convey the Meta War to be the mutation-chamber of media, and that’s what we did; we made this sort of genetically modified version of that song that had a shot of industrial steroids in it. I don’t know, I’ve always said, “Hey, let’s try it. If it sucks, don’t do it.” and then we surprised ourselves because it came out cool, so we all said, “Cool, let’s do it.”
Do you think 3Teeth is a project where you’re going to adhere to this style and formula of making music? Or do you see it as something that’s going to progress?
Lex: I don’t ever have any interest in making the same album twice to me. If you’re not growing, you’re dying artistically. The project for me was always something that was more of an art project than it was a band. I’ve always said that I wanted to build an art project onto the chassis of a band. I think a band is a really cool engine-vehicle to create every form of media that you want. From directing music videos to writing music to who knows; it could be video games, it could be anything. So for us, I don’t really want to limit ourselves by saying, “Let’s make this one thing.” I don’t think Metawar sounds anything like shutdown.exe. I don’t think shutdown sounds anything like our debut album. So just where the fourth album lands? Who knows.
I’ll finish off with a pop question. Did you watch Game of Thrones?
Lex: You know what, I stopped watching it in the final season which I haven’t watched yet, but I’ve watched up to the final season. I’ve just been that busy. So I didn’t get caught up in it. But I’m afraid I’ve seen enough spoilers to know any pop culture reference that you might want to throw at me.
Well we’re not going to talk about the ending then, because I totally dont want to ruin it for you.
Lex: Ok. Fair enough.