What Makes Grindmother, the Gardening "Grindcore Grandma," Scream Like Hell?
What happened when a 67-year-old Canadian woman picked up a mic and started screaming? The very brutal (and very viral) Grindmother was born.
Grindcore doesn’t fuck around (and neither do those who play it), so I was initially a little afraid of Grindmother, the genre's newest nonconformist. When setting up the call. I sweated her reactions to our possibly awkward conversation—until I found we had much more in common than I ever would have thought.
The anonymous Windsor, Ontario-based force who goes by "Grindmother" is 67, and stomped into the bloody world of extreme music when her son, Rain Forest, of Corrupt Leaders, casually invited his mother to add a scream to their song “Any Cost.” That song—and the resulting four minute, four-song EP with Corrupt Leaders—went viral, so much that Grindmother even caught the bloodshot eye of the almighty Prince of Darkness last November. When Ozzy Osbourne heard "Any Cost," he restrained himself by politely tweeting: “What the fuck?”
When I finally summoned up the courage to give her a ring, we ended up talking about all the things she likes to rage about in her music—the death of the environment, human suffering, the mounting population, and whatever else pisses her off. We spoke about how she gets her voice to sound like it’s possessed (it’s rather technical), and also talked about her vegetable garden and the wonders of wheat grass.
And doubters be damned: to anyone else who doesn’t understand the extreme genre or who thinks she’s better off at home, both Grindmother and Rain Forest have only positive vibes to send. The blistering songs on the now-trio's new album, Age of Destruction, are all under a minute, and come packed with Grindmother’s demonic vocal shredding, skull-wrecking blast beats, and relentless stabs of pulverized guitar noise. The record was mixed by Toxic Holocaust's Joel Grind, and mastered by Dan Emery at Black Matter Mastering.
Age of Destruction is out today (April 28), and is now streaming in its distorted, deranged entirety. Check out our interview with Rain Forest and the Grindmother herself below!
Noisey: What did you think when you first heard Grindmother scream?
Rain Forest: It was hilarious and badass. Looking back at the video of her first screams though, she has gotten a lot better.
Did your mom listen to hardcore when you were growing up?
Rain: She is a great mother and a very selfless and compassionate person. She doesn't listen to punk or metal, but has always been very supportive of my art and music.
What do you think about all the publicity?
Rain: Mainstream media can be pretty daft at times, but the publicity is cool. It can be a little difficult and overwhelming at times though. We are very careful about what we do and won't be pressured into things we aren't comfortable with.
What happened when you grabbed the mic for the first time?
Grindmother: When Rain asked me to scream, I thought about the situation in the world. There’s killings and bombings and people trying to have control, and all of that was just behind the scream, so I took a deep breath and made a scream. It came out pretty good. [laughs] It was like a release. It wasn’t the intention, but it did, it was like, "Wow." To get all of that OUT. It was good. And so each of the screams—even when I’m doing the songs—has that element of frustration with the way things are, and let’s make it better.
Were you screaming for one particular track, or others as well?
We were just doing some screams. Rain was gonna do it as a guest vocal and just stick a scream in one of his songs with Corrupt Leaders. So we did; it was almost a year later when he said, “Let’s do a song” and that song is the same kind of thing. I’m screaming lyrics but it’s the same, in terms of that same frustration with the lyrics – "10 years of your leadership!" (from "Any Cost"). That kind of thing.”
How do you get your voice to sound like that?
At first, one of the comments was, ‘She’s going to hurt her voice.’ And Rain did say there’s a certain way you have to scream. And so I looked up some more about that because I could tell, because my throat would be sore afterwards. And so you have to push the air from your diaphragm, rather than if you feel it going through your throat. It’ll start to get scratchy, and very sore, very quickly. So not wanting to ruin my voice, I have to practice the air coming from lower. And then it just comes through your throat and it doesn’t hurt your voice, vocal chords, for some reason.
How difficult is it to sing like this?
It takes a fair bit of energy to do a song and practice it. But I’m in good health. I do a lot of gardening and other kinds of things and projects that I work on.
Your lyrics from that first EP included thoughts on the environment, humanitarian efforts, politics…
Yes. Human suffering, food, Monsanto, GMOs, the population, and positive things in there in terms of humanitarian contribution, those kinds of things, yeah.
Can you tell me a little about the new album, Age of Destruction?
It was hard work to make the album just right, but we had a lot of fun with it and it came out great. It’s 10 songs that grind, but also show some different sides to our music.
Do you return to the political theme of your first song, "Any Cost"?
I wouldn’t say we are political. We do sing about social issues and the environment, but a lot of the songs are more about human strengths and weaknesses, power of thoughts, stuff like that.
Why did you write “Media Spin” on Age of Destruction? Where did you get the sound bites from?
It’s just clips from various TV/radio mentioning us, nothing negative. Sometimes mainstream media doesn’t understand this kind of music, so they make comments that can be amusing, like suggesting we sing about muffin recipes or what have you.
Are you retired now?
Yes. I was a social worker. I learned organic gardening; I was doing that for a while. I do a small bit of that. Our yard is smaller right now, but I have plants, tomato plants and all kinds of plants growing inside right now waiting for the better weather so I can put them outside. I’ve just discovered wheat grass. It’s wheat, but you make it into sprouts and then cut it. It’s supposed to be a new superfood kind of a thing. And then you put it in a blender. Or juice it. Whatever you want. But it’s good stuff. Now that I’ve started with the wheat grass, I’m gonna do other sprouts too, like lentils and different beans and stuff. because there’s lots of proteins, you can throw those into salads or make smoothies
I know you want to stay anonymous, but some of your friends know what you do, right?
What do they think?
They’re all supportive. Like they all think, you know, it’s fantastic. If something’s on the internet or whatnot, they’ll listen to it… I get good feedback from all of them. No one has ever said, "Why are you doing that?’ ” [laughs]
Are you guys still able to do the same activities together, or do you see them less now that you’re practicing with the band?
No, I fit that in too. I go to potlucks or visiting. I have friends in Chatham, Ontario, and I’ll go up to visit them and whatnot. So yeah, that still all fits in. I’m an avid camper too. Last year I had my camp up near Thessalon, Ontario, on 212 acres of bush, in my tent by the edge of the Missaukee River. That was wonderful.
I’ve heard a lot of positive feedback for what you’re doing. But for those who might think you’re a novelty, what do you have to say to them?
Just that I feel that it’s more than a novelty. I think there was—was there a quarter of a million hits on that first CD? If people just thought it was a novelty and weren’t interested anymore, then yeah, we would have died out, but we’re gonna respond to that interest and go with it. If it wasn’t interesting, OK, I’ll hang up my microphone.”
How long do you hope to keep Grindmother going?
Well, you know, I’m healthy, and as long as it’s fun. As long as there’s an interest you know, and people want to listen to it. I can do this for a while, you know? [laughs] I’m the kind of person, when something comes along in life, when something presents itself and it seems to be a good idea, then I kind of go with it. I don’t have an end time where I’m gonna say "OK, I’m gonna hang it up and retire."
Emily Reily is grinding on Twitter.