The latest edition of the Downbeat podcast welcomes guitarist Josh Smith of Australian powerhouse Northlane. The conversation begins with a bit of the scoop as Smith reveals that he is currently calling from the plush confines of a rental home that the band has scored to record their latest album.
Detailing the kind of work ethic that has panned out well for Smith and the band overall, the guitarist shares that his days typically begin before sunrise. Long passionate about his love for being active, Smith shared that from early on he was dedicated to swimming and eventually segued into competing in triathlons.
Though he took some time away from the competition to really immerse himself in music, Smith reconnected with his affinity for being active and began cycling again. He attributes the focus to keeping him on the straight and narrow and helping him to cope with the fallout of the pandemic. This year Josh has already competed in two Olympic distance triathlons and is currently training for Ironman.
Finding a correlation between his music and his competitive side, Smith compared the rigors of training to the tedious task of songwriting. He likens the satisfaction of completing the race to the satisfaction of performing those songs at a great show. The reward is the end result.
Smith also detailed how he also helms a management company that works with a healthy roster of artists, in addition to self-managing Northlane. He shared that assuming the role of manager of the band was something he reluctant to take on, but admittedly says that at the time, Northlane had some problems that needed fixing and he was motivated to steer the ship. There was a documentary made about the pivotal time called 'Negative Energy' that Smith recommends watching.
Expanding on prudent decision making the the dynamic within the band, Smith confides that among Northlane's strongest qualities has long been the ability to delegate and allow everyone to take on a role within the band that suits their strengths. Avoiding the pitfalls of ego0-driven decision making, Noirthlane has been able to work smart, not unnecessarily hard to continue their ascent.
Ever managerial, Smith and Reynolds began discussing the changing dynamics of music and how streaming has really changed the landscape of being a career musician. Emphaszing leaving lasting art and the importance of quality songwriting, Smith said that ultimately people will find you. While it is important to maintain a strong digital presence online, Smith assets that if the music isn't there, it's essentially rendered spam.
Though the goal is always to make the music the best possible quality at all times, the guys confide that there are times when the product is so good that the live translation is tough to pull off flawlessly every time, Reynolds joked that the aim should be to make the songs so good that even the live performance with a few mistakes Is still superb. Smith recalled a time when Northlane happened to be having a particularly rough outing live and lo and behold, Stephen Carpenter of Deftones is side stage watching.
Switching gears, the guys touch on the kind of emotional release that comes with the exhalation of a good show. Smith would confided that sometimes the feeling nearly brings him to tears - it's a feeling unlike any other he has experienced. He went onto glow about Northlane's vocalist Marcus Bridge. Explaining that he doesn't know how he is able to get though shows while dealing with such emotion in the songs, Smith's praise for his frontman was undeniable - citing him as the most resilient guy he has ever met.
Of course it wouldn't be a proper episode of The Downbeat without eventually digging into the top 5 bands and for Smith, the reposes was sure and swift. Slayer. Rattling off the classics like Hell Awaits, Reign in Blood, and Show No Mercy, but shares that the very best Slayer album is the band's live LP in Decade of Aggression. Smith emphatically says that Slayer is a band that has to be experienced live to understand and even then...
Rounding out the favorites that are at the top of Smith's list includes Tool in that number 2 spot, particularly the album '10,000 Days' which he says he knows isn't everyone's favorite but he loves the production on the album. Smith also included Pink Floyd's 'Animals,' and professed his love for Limp Bizkit. He throws Craig for a loop with the inclusion of Red Hot Chili Peppers juxtaposed with Meshuggah and Slipknot in the same list.
Extending well beyond the five of the top 5, Smith also gushed about his love for Behemoth and the album 'The Satanist'. He spoke highly of Nergal and championed his resilience in battling cancer and becoming such a prominent voice in his genre.
Stream the latest episode of The Downbeat podcast with Josh Smith of Northlane below.