Poised for success among the masses, able to win the hearts of 90’s grungers and Nu-core kids alike are Pennsylvanian band Tallah who unearth their new album Matriphagy October 2020 via Earache Records. This is one of the most interesting new albums of 2020 so far, and we simply can’t wait to be able to see what Tallah brings to a live show! We caught up with frontman and creative crazy genius Justin Bonitz as he gives us insight into what he along with bandmates drummer Max Portnoy, guitarist Derrick Scheider and bassist Andrew Cooper have created as Tallah.
RAMzine: What’s the story of the birth of Tallah?
Justin: Max is the mastermind behind Tallah’s creation. He got Derrick from his previous band, Next To None, and he knew Cooper from Cooper’s other band, Deadstop. They were the founding members of Tallah. Max knew about me from my YouTube channels, and he wanted a unique and crazy frontman who could stand out and bring his own thing to the band, so he reached out to me, and I joined because nu-metal is awesome.
RAMzine: ‘The Silo’ is giving us mega Korn and SlipKnot vibes but in a unique way, talk us through the concept of the track. Who were the main story writers for the song?
Justin: I write 100% of the story and the lyrics. Max and the others tackle the instrumentals, but anything involving vocals, lyrics, or concepts is my realm.
‘The Silo’ is the part of the Matriphagy story where the main character (Kungan) chops off his genitals and parades around in delirium while wearing a dress. He believes his mother would prefer him this way, and he “lives to please.” It is a statement about how other people’s opinions of you can deeply affect the way you see yourself. “If you tell a man that he is less than a man enough times, even he will start to believe it.” – Kung Fu
RAMzine: Your debut album Matriphagy will be released in October via Earache Records. The album title gives us a clue to something potentially disturbing, do you have a central running theme? What’s the concept?
Justin: The central themes of Matriphagy are that it is a personification of emotional manipulation, control, metaphysics, and the suppression of the self via ego. The album is about what happens to a person’s mental state when they are not allowed to “just be.” It’s about how society (represented by Kungan’s mother) puts all these demands on an individual – how to walk, how to talk, what to believe, what to wear to impress, and if you go against the narrative, you are shunned, exiled, and dare I say… canceled.
“When a person decides to be themselves, they offer something no one else ever could be” – 50 Cent. We live in a world where people seem to want the perfect hive mind – the ultimate control, and it is not okay.
RAMzine: You seem to be a master of creating sounds and screams. We liked the YouTube video for ‘How To Scream,’ how does one become a master screamer?
Justin: I have been singing and screaming since 2007. As of right now, I have been a vocalist for thirteen years. Anybody could do it, but there is no instant gratification. It takes time, effort, dedication, and breaking down a lot of mental walls that stem from insecurity and fear of what others think.
When I made that “How To Scream” tutorial, I did not really know what I was talking about. Sure, I could safely make the noises and had been for nine years at the time, but I lacked the knowledge. I never expected it to blow up the way it did. It has been four years since then, and I have done a lot of research, improved a ton, and I actually teach a private, online vocal course. If anyone is interested, they can email me at Red_Nocturne02@yahoo.com, but I am not looking for people who are expecting to take one lesson and scream like a “master.” I am looking for winners who are going to commit and come out on top.
RAMzine: We watched your Live In Virtual Reality video for Lost Horizon Fest and we realised that we really need to see a live show! We wish people would come dressed as mad as all the avatars in the audience, it definitely adds to the fun. What was it like putting a VR show together, did you enjoy the process or was it not as good as a normal live show?
Justin: The VR show was a really cool experience, but nothing beats our live show. We were confined to a green screen, and we had to be extremely careful not to move out of frame, which meant everybody had to tone down their performing A LOT for the sake of the shot. While it is in real-time, it is not live. We did not all play at the same time. It was more like we recorded ourselves tracking out parts song by song. Max tracked his drums in real-time, Derrick tracked his guitars in real-time, Cooper tracked his bass, and I had to do my vocals in real-time as well as a lot of the stage banter, but it was weird talking to nobody.
Honestly, it was hard for me to even take it seriously. That is not the VR festival’s fault; it was just an awkward task to accomplish, and it took me out of my comfort zone, which I guess is a good thing, however, if I did not bring my lights and camera equipment, if Max’s mom did not just buy a massive green screen, and if our friend Thomas was not a recording engineer, there is no way we would have been able to pull that VR set off. It was fun, but there was a time constraint, which made it very stressful, and because of quarantine, we were all out of practice. There were also little errors here and there—like my vocal track in ‘Red Light’ got pushed slightly out of time, but it was too late to fix it. Overall, it was a great experience, and we would 150% do it again, but we would hope nobody is going to watch that and think, “So this is what Tallah’s all about?” We are much crazier on an actual stage.
RAMzine: Honestly, that just makes us even more excited to see a live show of yours and we have no doubt that the crazy would be cranked up! Do you think VR shows are here to stay?
Justin: Yes, we think VR shows are here to stay. Watching the one we did was so much fun, and we would love to be involved with more of them. It would be so sick to see some of our favorite bands killing it on a virtual stage. I think that as technology improves, VR shows will only get better and better as well.
RAMzine: We hear that you was recently forgotten about by police in prison which resulted in the band out looking for you all night! How did that feel?
Justin: I had no idea the band was looking for me all night. I had been arrested a couple of times as a teenager, but this was the first time I actually spent the night/day in a jail cell. I had no shirt, no wallet, no phone, and no idea what was going on. Overall, it was a pretty neat experience, but I would not do it again.
RAMzine: We hear that the situation escalated when a uniformed member of security tried to get you down as you swung from a pipe along the ceiling of Pennsylvania’s Lizard Lounge. Do you feel security at shows is tighter these days and what does that take away from a live performance?
Justin: Well, here is the thing: For one, I was not swinging on a pipe. I was hanging from a structural I-beam that was only seven or eight feet off the ground, and Tallah was PLAYING while this all went down. For two, all of the security guards at the venue were wearing yellow “security” shirts EXCEPT the one who confronted me, who was wearing a black shirt that only said “security” on the back, which I could not see. I just thought he was some guy grabbing on me, so I reacted aggressively, and the situation escalated. In hindsight, it was stupid of me to react so brashly, but the guy literally ripped my pants off! I had to hold them up so they would not fall down (as I was wearing women’s panties underneath), and it was an all-ages show. Thank God nobody saw anything, or it could have gone a lot worse. Overall, I do not believe security should be tightened. That specific venue has a reputation for having overzealous security, and Tallah has a reputation for being nuts and swinging on things. Something was bound to happen, but in hindsight, they should have researched the bands they booked, and I should have asked permission to hang on things before we went on stage. If people wanna’ mosh, let ‘em mosh. If band members wanna’ hang from structurally sound support beams, let ‘em hang. Security should not get involved unless it is absolutely necessary, like a real fight breaks outs or somebody pulls a weapon, a girl is getting groped, etc. They do not need to step in every five seconds and scare people into standing around like toothpicks.
RAMzine: Which new bands are each band member currently listening to?
Justin: Cooper has been listening to a lot of Killah Priest and Sharptooth. They both put out new albums this summer, and he really digs them. Lately, Max has been grooving to Guerilla Warfare and Orthodox. Derrick really loves Haken, and their new album Virus is out now, so he will be listening to that religiously. As for me, Tallah played with this band at Boomtown last year called Palm Reader. I instantly fell in love with their sound and have been listening to their album, Braile quite a bit. Aside from that, I have not recently listened to any “new” bands. I have mostly just been jamming out to Chevelle’s Sci-Fi Crimes and Metallica’s St. Anger, the original version, not the remastered one.
RAMzine: What can we expect from Tallah for the rest of this year and will there be any UK tour plans?
Justin: Well, as you know, Matriphagy comes out on October 2nd. We have plans for some new music videos and YouTube content between now and then, but other than that, we are unsure. If venues re-open and we can tour again, that would be wonderful, but anything can happen. We would love to hop on a UK tour. We went there last year for Boomtown, and we absolutely adored it. The scene felt so different in the UK than it is in the USA, and we long to get more involved in it.