This Ain't Your Mama's Grindcore Band — It's His

May 4, 2016
Originally published on May 4, 2016 10:54 am

The Canadian band Grindmother last week released its debut album, Age of Destruction. The group gets its name in part from the style of music it plays, known for short songs with blistering tempos and heavy distortion.

"I would describe grindcore as kind of like a hybrid between punk and metal," says Rain Forest, the trio's gentle-voiced guitar player. "Just brutal and extreme."

More notable, though is the band's other namesake: its 67-year-old lead vocalist, Rain Forest's mother.

"One day she was over, we were just having a coffee," he says. "And I had the recording stuff set up for my own band, so I just said, 'You feel like going upstairs and trying a couple of screams?' And she said, 'Yeah, sure!'"

Mother and son both keep their real names private, but they're unreserved about the strange joy of working together. Hear more of their story, from impromptu experiment to viral phenomenon and beyond, at the audio link.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This next story is about a mother and son who make music together - sounds nice, right? Well, this is not some singer-songwriter acoustic pairing. These two are playing a very loud, very fast type of rock - the kind you might not expect to hear coming from a 67-year-old great-grandmother. NPR's Lindsay Totty has more.

LINDSAY TOTTY, BYLINE: Rain Forest is the stage name of a Canadian grindcore musician. What's grindcore?

RAIN FOREST: I would describe grindcore as a - kind of like a hybrid between punk and metal, just brutal and extreme.

TOTTY: So what would possess a musician like Rain Forest to ask his mom to do guest vocals on one of his songs?

FOREST: One day she was over. We were just having a coffee. And yeah, I had the recording stuff set up for my own band. So I just said, do you feel like going upstairs and trying out a couple screams? And she said, yeah, sure.

TOTTY: Rain Forest's mother had never made before, didn't know much about grindcore. But still, he handed her a microphone and set up a camera just to capture the moment.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AGE OF DESTRUCTION")

GRINDMOTHER: (Screaming).

(LAUGHTER)

FOREST: It was a strange feeling though. It was almost like, should we be doing this or something weird like that? And it was just - I don't know. And she was pretty good or else we wouldn't have even put the video up.

GRINDMOTHER: I found that when I let that first scream out, I thought about the condition the world was in. And he watched the video after. He thought it was great. And it went viral. And then we decided to do a song and then decided to do an album. So we've have been having a good time.

TOTTY: And so was born, Grindmother.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AGE OF DESTRUCTION")

GRINDMOTHER: (Singing) Age of destruction. Trepidation Abound.

TOTTY: Grindmother is the name of this new band. It's also what the 67-year-old lead singer prefers to be called. She and her son both keep their real names private. This song and the album are called "Age Of Destruction."

When you look at the cover, you see a woman who could be anyone's grandmother screaming into a microphone. On the back, Rain Forest, with his long beard, has the classic look of a metal guitarist. You might not be able to make out what she's singing here, but Grindmother's lyrics deal with some heavy themes.

GRINDMOTHER: There's a lot going on in the world. I mean, you know, weapons of mass destruction and nuclear power plants with no plan what to do with the waste, and when I look at the music, it's what I can scream about.

TOTTY: Grindmother remembers how her parents would tell her to turn down the noise when she played her Beatles and Rolling Stones albums. But she also remembers something else her father said.

GRINDMOTHER: My father used to always say, if you learn anything in school, learn to think for yourself and, you know, not just accept everything that everyone else is saying.

FOREST: Sounds like grandpa was a punk too.

GRINDMOTHER: Yeah, I think so. Yes, oh yeah.

TOTTY: And that was how she would eventually raise her kids. As a teenager growing up in Windsor Ontario, Canada, Rain Forest got into the punk rock scene and wore his hair in a mohawk.

GRINDMOTHER: One time the police had stopped him and said something about the way he was dressed, what would your mother say about that? And he said, my mother supports my right to be different.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HEALING THE MIND")

GRINDMOTHER: (Singing) Searching for truth in these times of doubt. Every beat, every breath, healing...

TOTTY: And Grindmother is passing that rebellious spirit down to yet another generation.

GRINDMOTHER: There is one picture I have with Rain with my first granddaughter. And she has her hair in a mohawk and a picture with him, another granddaughter, she's just thrilled. She wants to sing with me - scream with me. (Laughter).

TOTTY: But with a family like this, maybe the hard part is figuring out who to rebel against. Lindsay Totty, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF GRINDMOTHER SONG, "HEALING THE MIND")

GRINDMOTHER: (Singing) This moment in time, let it go... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.