Wristmeetrazor: “Good art needs to have a bit of pain behind it”

On their new album Degeneration, Wristmeetrazor examine misanthropy, hypocrisy and abuse of power. Justin Fornof explains how they got it all out, via a trip to a cabin in the woods…

Wristmeetrazor: “Good art needs to have a bit of pain behind it”
Nick Ruskell
Ashley Simpson

“If we’d recorded in someone's mom's basement or something, it just wouldn't have been the same.”

The way Justin Fornof tells it, the birthplace of Wristmeetrazor’s new album, Degeneration, was like something from a slow-burning Stephen King horror. Out in the woodlands of New Jersey, miles and hours of driving from the nearest big city, the “legit cabin in the woods” had neighbours within walking distance, but that’s not much of a distraction. It was, he says, "pretty much isolated".

“The nearest grocery store was 45 minutes’ drive away – it was far,” he recalls. “We left the cabin three separate times. I only left two of those times. Our guitar player, Nate, left zero of those times.”

Though Degeneration isn’t obviously much at one with the woods, its dark, sinister, slashing, futuristic metal carries with it the stress and intensity such an environment can engender. If all you’ve got to do in a place that’s not easy to leave is focus on your work, the abyss can begin to gaze into you.

“Good art needs to have a little bit of a little bit of pain behind it and not be easy to achieve,” says Justin. “This album wasn't easy to achieve. We had a great experience, but we were focused. When you hyper-focus on something for a month straight, it does have moments of pain.”

Justin is used to weird environments. A resident of Las Vegas, where he grew up, and where to beat a desert heat that can start cooking your flesh before its even finished killing you, “you just don’t really go out during the day”, he points to Wristmeetrazor coming from all over the place, and having to leave the town to start a band, as an example of the quirks of his hometown. When he talks about the misanthropy baked into the themes of their new album, though you first wonder if it comes from being surrounded by Sin City and its inherent decadence and transience and heat and greed and loss and isolation, Justin’s lyrics are of a bigger picture, a less obvious, more mundane form of degeneracy than what you might do under a neon light and leave behind when you leave Vegas.

“The record is very much centred around societal degeneration,” he says. “I don't think it can be pinpointed to one thing. I've noticed that through just existing as a human being, and also as a musician, that we are subjected to what is now less of Big Brother and more of ‘little brother’. In every circle of society, there are the ruling class or the one per cent, and every single circle has their own one per cent that all look up to the ruling classes of normal society. I wanted to point out a lot of that hypocrisy that I see on an everyday basis, going from the very top to the very bottom.

“I wanted the record to be a reflection of the society that I feel is being reflected upon me,” he continues. “Every song touches on different aspects of absurdist misanthropy that I feel is a mirror of the society that I exist in. It's being reflected off of me and back onto the listener. Some of our other records might veer off into other things, but this one is all poignant to me being the man in the mirror, where I'm the reflection.”

To look at Wristmeetrazor, you already get the impression of people not too enamoured with normie life. Justin describes their get-up as "kind of militaristic, like a people's army", which it is, but it's also, with a much more broad and blunt stroke, the look of people who just don't want to fit in.

“I was raised Catholic, I was baptised, confirmed, the whole thing, and I really liked things that ended up isolating me from the church,” says Justin. “When I started getting into music, it became pretty obvious that the things that I liked, were more or less the things that they told us not to listen to – Korn and Slipknot and Rob Zombie.

“I was kind of into finding a place outside of the norm. I liked the idea of being able to listen to a record and lose myself in that, and feel things that didn't feel like I was really allowed to feel at school and church and all that.”

Religion gets a swipe on the new record. But this is largely, Justin says, because it's a good metaphor. Similarly, if you're looking for a political statement, you'll find none. It’s just the bullshit of life. Like isolation in the woods, it’s a visceral thing that touches and effects you as a human being.

“I didn't really like the idea of it being political, because I don't think that this is necessarily a political kind of thing,” he says. “I think it's a very humanitarian thing. You look at every walk of life, and there will always be someone that wants to be in charge and idolises others that are in charge. I think we deal with that in so many different ways, and my way was to put my experiences and this idea of greater societal decay to the forefront.”

In this, Justin says he wants to keep “a vague enemy” in order to be relatable and applicable to all sorts of situations. By way of example of what he means when he says that every circle has its set of people who want to be king, he offers the world in which he works: the music industry.

“There’s hypocrisy everywhere, from crook CEO types at the top, and that filters so far down, even to the music world,” he says. “You like the bands, and you enjoy the music. But what you don't realise is that behind the scenes, there are only a few people that pull the strings on all of it. And they decide what you're listening to, who you get to see, who goes on tour, all these things. Ultimately, it's the bands who get hyper-scrutinised for their personal lives, yet, there are people that make a lot of money in music, there are a lot of people that call a lot of shots and music, those people are never pulled out of the shadows, you never see them.”

Again, though, this is more example rather than baked-in specifics. What is true, though, is that, for Justin, Wristmeetrazor do exist outside of the norm. It’s also a vehicle through which he can express himself, and reveal these reflections on the world. Ironically, being an outsider can actually be a shared thing sometimes.

“I think across the board, no matter who you are, there's something in this you can find that relates to you,” he says. “I think everyone can relate to feeling at odds with the world, or even themselves. I know that my struggles might not necessarily be relatable to everyone. But when you write about something in a way that could be perceived as multiple different topics, a lot of people will be able to find something in that.”

Degeneration is released on March 29 via Prosthetic

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