Wristmeetrazor’s Justin Fornof on the Darkness of ‘Degeneration’

When I call Wristmeetrazor’s Justin Fornof on Zoom, he pops up on camera wearing a balaclava and a completely pale-white contact lens. This wasn’t an interview that was hitting YouTube or Instagram, and yet Fornof looked like he was in full-stage garb. I compliment his look but clarify that no one else is going to see this, to which he chuckles.

“When you do things in terms of your art, everything has to be cohesive,” he says about his appearance. “Even the interviews I do that aren’t filmed, I try to do something.” Not that you would expect a member of Wristmeetrazor, a band with extremely well-thought-out aesthetics and visual presentation to be wearing polo shirts on their day off, but still. There’s nothing performative about Wristmeetrazor’s performance, they truly live it.

Formed in 2017, Wristmeetrazor has been an ever-evolving band that has grown from a three-piece to a five-person unit. Their name comes from a Usurp Synapse song of the same name, which sets the tone for much of their early material, drawing heavy influence from acts like pg.99 and Saetia.

As the band grew, the demo-core production began to fade as the group began taking more risks, re-contextualizing the sound and aesthetics of Orange County’s heyday of metalcore supremacy.

Even from those first EPs Wristmeetrazor always seemed to have a sense of vision for a life beyond early screamo worship, no matter how angry it made Facebook group purists.

Screamo, as enduring a genre as it has been over the last several decades, never provided a blueprint for where to take it next, given most of its best bands had an average lifecycle of a few years.

Instead, Fornof and crew look to heavy music in its entirety to inform where the band moves next. 2021’s Replica of a Strange Love was a dark reflection of multiple subcultures’ music into one single record, equally referencing Deftones as Cradle of Filth.

Rather than following heavy music’s timeline and releasing something along the lines of a glammed-out Eighteen Visions self-titled record, Fornof and crew decided to go for grit with Degeneration.

The band lengthens Replica’s previous industrial threads into a complete tapestry of heaviness. Opener “Turn On, Tune In, Drope Dead” imagines a world where Fear Factory textures and At the Gates riffs co-exist, driving in an absolute crusher of a song. Without exaggerating, it’s head and shoulders the band’s heaviest record while still cohesive with their earliest material. All forms of darkness reign supreme onDegeneration, as WristMeetRazor prove to master whatever they face.

We spoke to Fornof about the record, “twentyninescene,” Slipknot setting off a major life change, and more. Grab your copy here.

Wristmeetrazor, “Trepanation”

Something I always wondered about the band, was there a blueprint for how your discography would go? From the jump it always felt like the path the band took follows the timeline of underground subculture music, from ’90s screamo to 2000s metalcore and so on with each successive album. How intentional was all of that?

There wasn’t exactly ever a blueprint. From the very beginning, there were always much loftier aspirations than just being a screamo band. I think within that scene, we got a bad reputation because of that.

We weren’t necessarily a band that was content with just being a screamo band. We had a lot of ideas for things that we wanted to do moving forward, our founder and original guitar player, Jonah [Thorne] and I always loved metal. We always liked the idea of including much darker themes, dare I say, goth, something along those lines.

As Wristmeetrazor was getting going, SeeYouSpaceCowboy was as well, in addition to other bands merging together Myspace aesthetics and screamo. I kind of got the sense that both bands liked that timeframe but eventually wanted go in way different directions. Was that something you embraced?

I can’t speak for SeeYouSpaceCowboy but I think at certain points we didn’t want to not be pigeonholed into that thing. I found it at the time, and still do find it funny. It’s almost in a Type O Negative kind of ironic kind of way. I was never a MySpace scene person. I was basically too old for that by the time it happened. But I did think it was interesting, it’s like an American culture flashpoint. And those are the things I find the most interesting.

So doing some doing that, and kind of like playing that up, I thought was, like, interesting and cool. I still enjoy more so than anything, is it pissed a lot of people off.

I remember the first time I heard your band and SYSC, I had a crisis over it because I was very much a Myspace kid, and this thing that I grew up with had been far enough in the past it could become pastiche. Now I feel like I’m seeing young people take on “Y2K” fashion, and I’ll see a 12-year-old downtown wearing all “vintage Affliction.” I guess it’s the inevitability of culture to eventually become another generation’s costume.

Right, and we’re in very strange times right now. In America specifically, there’s not really any culture. A lot of the younger kids growing up now never could involve themselves in any kind of music culture because those kind of stopped existing. By existing in those cultures in the ’90s and 2000s, it was like a defiance from the mainstream, because I know from my experience, going to metal and hardcore shows was not acceptable at all. No one at my high school, or my family — no one — thought it was cool.

Now we exist in a period where there’s a lot more open-mindedness towards darker music and aesthetics, but that path is not dangerous anymore.

I feel like the younger generations now are looking back on what happened in the late ’90s, in the early 2000s because they see that and how dangerous that was and how real that was and then they attach themselves to it more so than the things that happened in the last decade.

Some of us legitimately suffered then, there was not an easy path to doing anything. That’s been my path in music.

Do you remember the first time growing up you felt true darkness?

That’s tough. I was confirmed and baptized Catholic, so I went to church regularly and Sunday school. I did the whole thing until I was about 13 or 14.

In one of my Catechism classes I was wearing a Slipknot shirt, this was probably 2000 right before Slipknot were super popular. But they were popular enough that some of the kids knew them. I remember I was in the class, minding my own business and at some point, one of the kids in the class made it a point to ask the teacher like, “Why is it okay that kid can wear Satanic shirts to classes and they don’t get in trouble?” It’s insane. It was the most basic Slipknot shirt that I had at the time, because my parents wouldn’t let me wear black shirts. So it was just a red shirt that had the barcode on it.

I wouldn’t even say that’s necessarily like my introduction to darkness. But it definitely was my first real hard awakening that it’s not going to be an easy path to being who I want to be.

It’s also hard to ignore the irony of judgment and cruelty from your fellow classmates in a Church setting.

I agree. It was even bigger than that to a certain extent because I was already kind of [done with Catholicism] at that point. But I was legitimately someone who just minded his own business, never really made myself known.

So it was the eye-opening moment where I realized it doesn’t really matter, sometimes you can do your own thing and mind your own business and they will still come for you. That was my first adult moment as a child where I was awakened to the cruel realities of what the world is.

Something I was reading about Degeneration was the band was basically holed up in a cabin while writing it. I always dig that and it feels like not many bands go about it that way anymore.

I always loved that idea where a band goes into isolation and records a record without the outside world being this huge kind of burden on their mental state. So they fully put their all into making a record, instead of being dragged other places. So it’s not as it’s not as common to do but I thought it was going to be something that we should do.

Listening to the record, I think I was a little surprised at how heavy you went with it. With Replica, the last song “Summer’s Sorrow II,” I kind of figured, “Okay, this is sort of where the band’s going to go next in terms of melody.” Instead, I think you sort of find a different palette of harsh vocals that opens the record up in different ways.

A big aspect was even though we had added members, I was still playing bass and singing on Replica. The plan before COVID was that was going to still be the case. But with all the time given with it just kind of dragging on, I had enough time to think about it, that we should get a bass player and I should just be the vocalist.

Was that a switch you had always wanted to make or was it hard to fully step in?

I always wanted to do that but it was hard because we had kind of built the band on being a three-piece and then being a four-piece. I always kind of liked the idea that the band had an identity that we didn’t have a front person. However, going forward, it seemed like it was something that we probably should do.

Do you have an idea of what that next evolution looks like?

I would love to be able to continue to tour and build up our live production. I think that this band, our aesthetic, our ideas, and our production ideas are meant for big stages. Though, at the same time, I also love playing in small rooms.

Growing up and seeing Rob Zombie or Marilyn Manson or Slayer with a huge amount of production, I think for a while it felt like it wasn’t going to be possible for a newer heavy band to get there. But I think recently seeing Motionless In White and others really crossover, it’s like, “Oh, that path is open again.”

Absolutely.

It’s always an option if you’re willing to put in a lot of the work yourself and build it all yourself. It’s expensive and it costs a lot of money, but that’s part of what I like about playing music. I’m willing to invest my own money into creating things that are on the periphery of what a music industry person would pay for.

That’s the whole reason why we’re here. That’s why you would continue playing music and why you would continue building your band, because you want to create something bigger and bigger and bigger. So whatever it takes, that’s what we’re going to do.

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