Interview with guitarist Dominik Rothe
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: February 25, 2021
Taskforce Toxicator is a German Bay Area-tinged thrash metal band formed in 2017 that also likes to combine crossover elements within their songs. This has proved to be a successful recipe for their efforts at world domination. They have self-released a couple of EPs thus far; a self-titled 5-track EP in February 2018 and the Reborn in Thrash EP in January 2021, also featuring five songs. The band's thrash/crossover machine has taken off surprisingly well and they have gained a good number of fans in a short period of time. It appears that everyone understands their international thrash/crossover language pretty well, which is a good thing for the band's future.
We contacted one of the band's guitarists, Dominik Rothe, to find out what kind of "toxic" soup they have been cooking up for us and he kindly shed some light on several topics.
Wie geht's, Dominik? Alles klar?
Dominik: Hey Luxi, mir geht es gut, alles klar soweit, haha! I hope all is well with you, too.
AMERICAN THRASH VS GERMAN THRASH
Enough of the German lesson. ;) I came across your band, Taskforce Toxicator, a while ago on YouTube and must say I was impressed by the band's old-school thrash metal that seems to take its influences more from the American sound than the German one. Do you feel more at home with the American style?
Dominik: You got us there. American thrash metal somehow became our main influence when it comes to songwriting, especially the bands from the Bay Area scene like Exodus, Death Angel, Testament and, of course, Metallica. They often write songs with a lot of unexpected breaks. They have a lot of technicality, but never use that just to show off. Testament for example have one of the best guitar players in the world in Alex Skolnick, who perfectly blends fast playing with melodies that stick with you and Eric Peterson delivers the mind-blowing riffs underneath. That's how we want our music to be, too. Brutal as fuck, but also catchy. We love all the German legends like Kreator or Destruction, it just doesn't reflect in our sound that much.
It's also notable that you have a crossover feel to your sound. Undoubtedly D.R.I., Excel, Ludichrist, etc. aren't complete strangers to you, are they?
Dominik: Once again you hit the right spot. Crossover thrash is something we all agree on in the band. Whether it's classic stuff like Nuclear Assault and Suicidal Tendencies or the more modern approach of Municipal Waste and Dr. Living Dead, we absolutely enjoy partying hard to some crossover tunes. I think "Alien Facemelter" is a song on our new EP that shows these influences really well, without just copying said bands.
If you took three thrash/crossover albums and melted them together, what albums would you pick to describe your sound?
Dominik: First of all, I have to pick Ride the Lightning by Metallica. The anthemic nature of songs like "Creeping Death" and the brutal onslaught of "Fight Fire with Fire" is something we aim for in our songs. Also, Kirk Hammett's guitar solos had a huge influence on our other guitar player Lars and myself. Next up is The Fatal Feast by Municipal Waste. It was the record that introduced me to the band and Municipal Waste is our favorite crossover act. They just have a good feeling for catchy riffs and vocal lines that everybody can remember and don't stick to already washed-out ideas. And last but most definitely not least, I pick Feast by Annihilator. Our newer songs take a lot of influence from Jeff Water's way of constructing songs and writing guitar riffs. Our bass player Oli often tells me that my song ideas remind him of Annihilator. One of their records just has to be on this list and I absolutely love Feast.
NOISE GETTING BLASTED ALL ROUND THE WORLD
So far you have self-released a couple of EPs, the self-titled EP in 2018 and this latest EP, Reborn in Thrash, in 2021. How has the response been?
Dominik: Shortly after the first EP was released, our drummer back then, Sascha, decided to leave the band due to personal and professional reasons. There were a lot of changes in his life that prevented him from giving the band the time it needs. That really slowed the band down and we didn't get to really promote the EP, which is a shame. We are still very proud of those five songs and the way they turned out. They worked really well at the shows we played, so I guess people like them, haha!! Reborn in Thrash, on the other hand, is blasting through the whole world. We get orders from the US, Greece, France, Belgium and even Japan. It's absolutely insane how far our music has spread already. The reviews so far have also been very positive for the most part. It's amazing how well Reborn in Thrash is being received. We put a lot of time and effort into writing and recording those five songs and feel like the EP is a vast improvement over its predecessor. At the moment everything is working really well for us and I hope we can continue this way.
Who are the main songwriters in the band? Do you try to share the songwriting or can anyone bring cool ideas to the process?
Dominik: Since we live apart from one another, everyone works on his own ideas at home. Most of the basic song structures and guitar riffs are composed by me, but everyone can contribute ideas to the writing. For example, the main idea for "Alien Facemelter" came from Lars. And on our first EP our singer Fabi wrote the chorus for "Breaking the Walls". But even if most of the rough compositions come from me, everyone contributes something to the songs that makes them Taskforce Toxicator in the end. Fabi always writes the lyrics and the vocal lines himself. That definitely has a huge influence on the songs. Most of the guitar solos, on the other hand, come from Lars and that's his way of putting his mark on the different tracks. Meanwhile Lysander brought his drumming style to the band. He plays differently than his predecessor Sascha, a bit more technical I would say. Of course, there is a main feeling on every song that Lysander has to stick to. Besides that, he brings a lot to the table in regards of the drum arrangements. When it comes to the bass, Oli often has ideas to play something that not only follows the guitar riffs and that's his way of contributing to the songs. So yeah, the basic ideas come from me in most cases, but it sure as hell would not be Taskforce Toxicator if you took anyone out of the creative process. We are a team and that's how it should be.
Now, talking about the songs, do you have enough material ready for a full-length? Anything you can share about new material?
Dominik: Yes, we have around twelve songs written. We are currently in the process of creating demos for all the tracks. Once we are finished with that, we will go through the material and adjust the arrangements until we feel the songs are the best they can be. Probably eight or nine of them will end up on our first record, I guess. I hope we can manage to record the album this year and then release it in 2022, but that really isn't set in stone yet. When we release an album, we definitely want to support it by touring. So, its release will depend on how the pandemic develops in the future. Regarding the songs themselves, all I can say is that they will show us growing even more. There is more technicality, more variety, more melodies and more space for everyone to show his respective strengths. That record is going to be a real blast for every lover of thrash metal.
THE FINE ART OF PROMOTION
How heavily have you been trying to promote the band, hoping to get signed?
Dominik: So far, we have not reached out to labels, booking agencies or anything else in this direction. After Sascha left the band, we had an almost year-long break, because it took a lot of time to find a suitable successor in Lysander. That really slowed the band down a lot. In a way this new EP is meant as a sort of test to see if people are still interested in Taskforce Toxicator. And after the reactions we got, I can say that they are for sure. This really pushes us to put even more into the band in the future. And for an album we will definitely get in contact with some labels to find a strong partner that helps us getting to the next level.
You guys have a couple of videos including one for "Reborn in Thrash," which is a pretty brutal and blood-soaked clip, where no guts or blood are spared. ;o) Was it essential for you to add this shock element into the video without being afraid of YouTube's policies about banning videos?
Dominik: We really didn't think about YouTube's policies or any other policy to be honest, haha. That's not how we work. We just had this concept of the band being trapped and then Lysander coming in to rescue us. The idea behind this was that it represents how Lysander literally rescued the band from our forced break when he joined. All the torturing in the clip symbolizes how we felt back when we couldn't play gigs and couldn't record since we had no drummer. Of course, us getting ripped and torn is a slight overdramatization of that whole situation, haha, but that all came from Oli who, besides being our bass player, is also responsible for all our music videos. He is a huge fan of horror movies, so everything went from there. We really love the result. The song and the video were a strong sign to say "We are back" in 2019. Some people think it's disgusting. But for us that's part of the fun.
You also shot a video for "Alien Facemelter." How much has that video helped the band get extra attention?
Dominik: It definitely helped us promote the new EP a lot. It got over a thousand views in less than a month and we really felt how pre-orders for Reborn in Thrash went up after the release. I think people just feel that we put real effort into realizing the whole story about a man who gets abducted by aliens and then fights his way to freedom. Once again Oli developed the whole concept and shot the video himself. It's always crazy to see him managing all this with almost no help from outside the band. We also want to give a big shoutout to Sebastian Strunk, who played the hero in "Alien Facemelter". He is a friend of Fabi and an overall genuine guy. Working with him was really great. Without him the clip wouldn't have been the same.
The "Alien Facemelter" video has a lot of humor, which shows thrash metal doesn't have to always be such a serious thing, the way bands such as Slayer and Infernäl Mäjesty have presented it. How important is a good sense of humor in thrash metal? Is it an integral part of Taskforce Toxicator?
Dominik: I wouldn't call humor an integral part of the band, but sure, we definitely want to have some fun with what we're doing. We are doing everything ourselves and don't have huge budgets or anything. To compensate, we just go completely crazy with the videos. If it gets to point where people find it funny, that's fine with us. We take our music seriously, but having a good laugh from time to time doesn't hurt. If people like what they see and hear, we are satisfied. If they like it because it makes them laugh, that's cool. But when it comes to the songs and lyrics themselves, there isn't a lot of humor to be found. Most of it is pretty serious. But I think that the overall presentation of the band also shows our more light-hearted side, which brings everything into balance. This band is a very personal thing for all of us. And since we aren't always dead serious in real life, it just makes sense that our humor is represented in some parts of the band as well.
LEFT ON THE HOLLOW GROUND
As playing gigs has been on hold due to this wretched virus situation, have you guys kept a low profile because it's still uncertain when gigging will be allowed?
Dominik: We did not try to book any gigs in the spring of 2021. We looked at the whole situation and even as a big optimist you just had to realize that real live shows would not be possible in the first half of this year. Even planning gigs for the end of the year or the start of 2022 has turned out to be very difficult, if not impossible, because the whole situation is still unpredictable. Many clubs and booking agencies don't want to take the risk, which is completely understandable. If we get the chance to participate in a streaming concert, we would really like to do that. But there aren't any concrete plans for this either. Now that vaccination has started, we hope that things will get back to a somewhat normal life as soon as possible. We can't wait to play our new stuff for all the people out there.
According to your official Facebook page, the last gig you played took place in Münster, Germany, on October 30, 2020. How was the attendance and did you know that it would be your last gig for a while?
Dominik: Unfortunately, that gig got canceled shortly before the date because of the immense spreading of the virus last autumn. But we played an open-air show in July of 2020 with about 100 people who came together under a strict hygiene concept. That was an absolute blast. We had to cancel multiple shows at the beginning of 2020, so it was absolutely amazing for us to at least play this one show. At that point we had another show for September on the schedule. We were still very hopeful in regards to playing more shows. But of course, none of those shows happened. It's a real shame, but safety is more important in the end.
THIS BRAIN IS DESIGNED FOR CONSTANT CREATING
What keeps you motivated and inspired regarding this band? Do you feel like there's this highly energetic Eveready-rabbit with an extra battery installed into your own being that constantly wants to create something, being it shredding some infamous riffs out of your 6-string ax or writing lyrics or whatever? Is it easy for you to stay in a "do nothing" mode for long?
Dominik: You described really well how I feel almost every day, haha!! Yeah, making music is something like a constant compulsion for me. I just have this energy in me that wants to come out. Ideas are popping up in my head on a regular basis and when enough is there, I sit down, sort through them and divide the good from the band before developing them into songs. The whole pandemic is really depressing to me to be honest. Just when we came back stronger than ever, the virus brought the band to a sudden halt. That's frustrating, but we still give work hard to stay optimistic. When this whole thing is over, the party will continue even harder than before.
Some of us know that you also play in a death/thrash band named Cerebral Invasion. How do you deal with both bands and are they equally important?
Dominik: Yes, both are equally important to me. I would never join a band if I didn't stand behind it 100 percent. So far it has been very easy to balance it all. For example, the recordings for Reborn in Thrash started after we finished the production of the Cerebral Invasion EP. The same goes with the release dates. That gives me the opportunity to give both bands the time they need. I don't see any problems there in the future.
OK, I have one last question and then we are done. What are some of your expectations as far as Taskforce Toxicator's comings and goings this year? Are you hoping to enter the studio to record your debut album by the end of the year, play some gigs during summer/fall of 2021, etc. and what else can be found on your schedule?
Dominik: We definitely want to record our debut album this year and I think this will happen, no matter what happens with regard to the coronavirus. Otherwise, we will take things as they come. We have another music and lyric video planned for the coming months. If it's possible, we will play some shows for sure but that remains to be seen. Besides the recording process, it is almost impossible to make real plans at the moment. We just hope for the best.
Well, that was it, Dominik, so I sincerely want to thank you for your time getting this interview done and, of course, I wish you all the best with everything in the coming months. And yes, last commentary is left naturally for you, so just go ahead if you still have anything on your mind...
Dominik: Thank you for this opportunity and your support of our band! We really appreciate it.
Also huge thanks to everyone who takes interest in our band and supports us in any way. Especially in these hard times it is amazing to see that people are still interested in Taskforce Toxicator. We promise you that our upcoming record will deliver a brutal load of old school thrash metal.
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