Catching up with Josh Willis: Talking Shop, Pandemic Creativity and The Awesomeness That Is Mr. Willis

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October 1, 2018, that is where this whole thing left off! Between becoming ill in the summer of 2019 and just all around major creative block, Stack Attacks Music was put on hold. Every once in a while I would think about picking things back up and I just never had the fuel to feed the fire that once burned deep in my soul. I really honestly thought this was going to be put on a shelf for the rest of time as we know it. Then one day, it was like a match thrown into a field of dry grass, the flame was once again reignited! And I couldn’t think of anybody I would want to begin this journey again with, other than my friend Josh Willis. I’ve seen him do some pretty amazing feats in the couple years that I have known him. And I honestly couldn’t be more proud of him. I was delighted when he agreed to be the first interview I have done in almost 3 years. I should be ashamed of myself for letting this sit for so long but It’s never too late to get back in the saddle!

So sit back, kick your feet up, grab a snack and your favorite beverage and let me reintroduce you to the one and only, JOSH WILLIS!

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Josh let me say, feels like centuries since I’ve done this but, how have you been doing my friend?

Josh: I’ve been doing very well! Just enjoying every day and having fun!

I can honestly say you are probably one of the most talented people in my life, quite an honor to call you a friend!  You are a master at drums, vocals, guitar, what you picked up anything new?  

Josh: That’s really nice to read, thank you so much for saying that. It’s an honor to call you a friend as well. Over the past year I’ve really focused on refining and polishing my music production ability. I mean really learning how to correctly do things like mixing audio, arranging music, making music sound massive, lush, and sparkly; that’s an artform in itself too. I’m nowhere near where I want to be, but I certainly feel (or hope, rather) I’ve come a long way in those skillsets.

Let’s ask the question everybody’s been wondering………  How’s the pandemic been for you? Has it been good to you?

Josh: It’s been an interesting period of time for me. It’s forced me to take a pause and reevaluate what’s important in the world. I think I’ve learned a lot, grown mentally and spiritually, and have been able to recognize what matters and what I want out of life.

Speaking of being under quarantine, especially being an artist as yourself, how was this past year changed the way you either create or release anything musically? If at all?

Josh: The quarantine last year began shortly after I signed on to do a video game soundtrack and a film score. I’m not legally allowed to talk about what game soundtrack I’m working on yet, but I scored a short film called The Game, which I was fortunate enough to win an award for. Under quarantine, aside from finishing my last semester in school, I was able to just hit music hard full-time, and that was an absolute dream. I loved the idea of my workday consisting of either writing music or working on a mix or arrangement from the day before. It’s incredibly fulfilling and enjoyable.

Has being under a basic lockdown at times, has it helped you gain more ideas and/or creative knowledge?

Josh: I think when I was under a lockdown, I was able to clear all the noise and distractions from my head. It made my writing better, and enhanced my creativity and attention to detail regarding arrangements and mixes. When music is the only thing I’m working on, I’m a considerably more efficient producer.

Safe to say it’s been rough on the music world this past year, with tours being put on hold due to gatherings being put back and just all around mayhem.  Do you think the music world can recover fully from this all?  

Josh: I’d love to see the world not only make a full recovery but come back even stronger. I’m really happy to see tours and festivals beginning to be announced again. My personal prediction is that there’s going to be such a stronger sense of community and a wonderful positive environment centered around concerts. I hope that people in an audience at a show will feel comfort and joy knowing that they’re surrounded by people who, regardless of their differences, see they’re part of a huge group of people singing the same songs and enjoying the same music together while celebrating that we’re on our way out of the pandemic.

Now I have to say, from your time you spent with the Star Wars band Galactic Empire to your solo project Andronikos, it really does show your wide range of talent.  I will always say my favorite song from the Andronikos side is Archaic Anthem.  Are you working on any new material? Maybe another “new” side of Josh the world hasn’t seen yet?

Josh: Thank you for saying that, Archaic Anthem was a fun song! I’m glad to hear you like it! I wasn’t planning on talking about this until next year, but I’m feeling spontaneous right now, so I guess I’ll go for it. The second Andronikos album is pretty much written and ready to record. With the King album, I wanted it to feel like 1800’s England with the visual and thematic elements of the album. This time, we’re going to ancient Egypt in some ways. It’s much heavier, there’s a predominance of that Egyptian/desert vibe, there’s a lot of floating between genres, and there’s even a disco song that I think will be everyone’s favorite. I’m really excited for it. It’s going to be a long time before I record it, however. I’m booked into next year with composing projects and another game soundtrack, and my main focus now is the new project that Cait and I are doing! We’re talking about a full album and I think we’ve both dipped our feet in starting to write some of it. She’s an amazing songwriter and incredible singer, so I’m really excited to see how it unfolds.

Let’s dip a little into what influences you, what type of music and artists do you really, should I say, look up to?  Or what helps thrive you want to make amazing music?

Josh: As a teenager, I was obsessed with Avenged Sevenfold. Everything I recorded in high school sounded (arguably too much) like them. I gradually started enjoying heavier and heavier music, and I’ve been in a big death metal phase recently. On the other end, however, I love other types of music and can learn something from and be inspired by great music from any genre. For example, Ricky Martin is like my secret guilty pleasure when it comes to music. He’s such a brilliant songwriter and incredible vocalist and I don’t think he has an album that I don’t love. I’ll go through phases where I only want to listen to movie scores or game soundtracks too. There’s something to learn from every bit of music I hear.

By the time this blog is posted, the song you and your talented gf Cait sang together will be out.  What made you both want to cover this particular song? And did you have to coax her at all to sing with you?  I myself would be nervous as all hell!

Josh: This was actually Cait’s idea and I jumped around like an excited puppy when she told me she wanted to record a song together! Admittedly, I wasn’t familiar with this song until she mentioned it, and I took one listen and was sold. I wanted to put a refreshing new take on it; there’s a lot of huge orchestration similar to what I do in my own music, and her voice added this beautiful, sparkly, ethereal feel to it. She did so well recording too. I’ve always been blown away by her voice even before I knew her personally, so it was no surprise that she nailed every line so quickly. It was such an easy and really fun experience. I’m nowhere near the vocalist she is, but I think our voices together sound really nice. We both sang, I did the instrumentation and arrangement, and we both produced it, and I had such a blast. Making music with the person who’s my girlfriend was this extraordinary dream come true that I never even knew I needed in my life.

Can we expect anything in the music world from you both together again on the same track?

Josh: Hmmmmmm…my short answer is YES!

Here is the song covered by Josh and Cait. Please enjoy it as much as I did!

I wanted to really say thank you as well, as you know in 2019 I was diagnosed with heart failure.  So the passed two years I’ve been drowning myself in music to keep the ball rolling and my head above water so to speak so thank you for being such a bad ass dude, on top of being one of the most selfless and giving people in the world!  You really helped make a difference in my recovery!

Josh: I thought about that a lot when we first talked about it and I was excited to hear about your continued improvement. I’m really proud of you for fighting so hard and keeping such a positive attitude, so thank YOU for being such a badass! It’s really really inspiring.

(Side note; Josh this made me cry….. thank you though! I’ve never really thought myself to be inspiring but this really meant a lot to come from you. but YOU SIR are the badass!)

I am so honored to have you as my comeback blog, can I just tell you, the blogs i’ve done with you have been my most successful, honestly up there with the interview I had with Melissa Harding who sings backing vocals in Sixx A.M (which i’m still shitting myself over, don’t know how the hell I got that interview!)  My reading audience loves you!  What do you think of that?

Josh: Wow that’s really cool to read, thank you so much. I don’t know whether to feel flattered or terrified to be honest! Haha but Sixx A.M. is so good, I love that band, and that was such an awesome interview. Congratulations on landing a conversation with her! I think my favorite memory with Sixx A.M. was when a band I was in at the time played a show with them at Stage AE. Nikki Sixx just casually walked past our dressing room since his was down the hall, and I thought to myself, “that’s Nikki Sixx…that was just Nikki Sixx in person…what is going on…” But that was such a fun show, the crew was amazing, they were awesome, and we had an INCREDIBLY fun audience that night too.

(Still myself trying to figure out how the heck I scored the interview with Melissa, call it help from a Devine source)

Now you seem to have a very supportive family, I know you’ve said about both your mom and dad being huge supporters before, your dad even plays as well!  But how do you handle those who give out the negative comments?

Josh: When it comes to negative comments, you can either let them get to you or block them out. Make it incredibly clear and unwavering in your mind what makes you happy, what you enjoy, and what you want, and don’t let anything that disputes that stay in your head. I really think music saved my life more than once. As a kid growing up, I had a pretty bad home environment. I was scared to be at home, never knew what I would have to deal with on any given day, and I had every last drop of self-worth wrung out me. Often times, the only thing that gave me a sense of peace and safety was hiding in my room and writing and playing music. Even as I got older, there was a lot of mental and emotional weight that I had to get off my chest and a lot I needed to release and let go, and the way I did that was through writing and putting out music. Now, when I’m working on a project, I just sink into a trance and feel total peace and joy. So when I think about anyone who’s discouraging of that, it really fires me up because they have no idea what they would’ve taken from me if I just listened and quit. The main idea I want to convey here is that if you know what makes you happy, you know the magnitude of the impact that it has on you, and you know the role something plays in your life, then that’s fantastic and you don’t owe a single person a change in behavior or even an explanation.

And can you settle the world’s most sought after debate………… Does pineapple go on pizza?

Josh: Absolutely not! I would rather eat eggs and sun-baked roadkill on a moldy English muffin.

Egg before the chicken or chicken before the egg?

Josh: I think eggs in general came before chickens if they don’t have to be chicken eggs. I don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to natural history, but I’m assuming that dinosaurs lived well before chickens, and I’m pretty sure they laid eggs. I’ll stop there before I make myself sound like an even bigger moron than I probably just did!

If you woke up tomorrow, and for some catastrophic reason you were unable to make music, what do you think would be your next step in life?  (DEAR GOD NEVER LET THIS HAPPEN!!!!)

Josh: That actually made my stomach drop to read that and even picture being in that scenario! The next step in life would be that I would feel really, and I mean REALLY sad!

What song would you say is currently the theme song to your life?  

Josh: Definitely the Pokemon Theme Song, because it’s my life mission to search far and wide to teach Pokemon to understand the power that’s inside. 

Now unlike some of us who did nothing much but gain 20 pounds during the past year while going from work to home and home to work, you on the other hand released a music video for your song BURNING THE HEAVENS, how much fun was making that?  How long was the process?  

Josh: Oh trust me I gained some bad weight too and it didn’t become apparent to me until I saw the shots of me in Burning the Heavens where I’m shirtless and suffering a demonic possession! I looked more like a screaming pile of pudding! That process and experience were amazing. I filmed that over the course of three days in Chicago with my producer and good friend, Jack Pochop, who’s just a mastermind wizard at everything he does. We did about 8-10 hour days for two of the days, and I think a half day on the first day while we set everything up. The worst scene to shoot was when I was possessed with all of the candles and that black sludge foaming out of my mouth. It was a cold November night in Chicago and that part was outside. The white contacts I had in gave me 10% visibility, and we did that at night after a full day of shooting. So I was tired, freezing, couldn’t see, super hungry, and had to keep refilling my mouth with this charcoal toothpaste and spitting it everywhere. There’s a scene where I’m crawling around across the ceiling of this cage and trying to break out. We filmed that in an old elevator shaft. I don’t know what happened, but being locked in that elevator and not being able to see with the white contacts made me really claustrophobic and panicky for a bit. Which in retrospect it’s cool because that scene shows a genuine misery and panic in the performance, so it was all worth it for the shot!

The official Burning The Heavens video, enjoy!

So let’s end this on a good note, shall we?  What can we expect from you for the remaining of 2021?  New music? Maybe a tutorial on being the first metal square dancer? Maybe opening up a falafel cart on Carson Street?

Josh: All of the above, of course! Especially the falafel cart! I’m not allowed to talk about specifics of new music yet, but there’s a lot coming up for the rest of this year and I’m really excited to get it to everyone.

FINAL WORDS…..  Here’s your open mic Josh.  Anything you’d like to tell the readers?  NO HOLDS BARRED….. GO!

Josh: The recent times have been tricky for so many people I know in so many ways, and even more challenging for people who I don’t know and will never meet. Remember that anything unpleasant, difficult, stressful, emotional, any challenge or set of circumstances that seems insurmountable, it’s temporary; don’t give up. Follow your dreams, dream extremely big, enjoy the beautiful little things in life that we’re surrounded by and enjoy every day. Enjoy and savor every good and bad day, chase your dream career, start that business, make decisions for your own happiness, not for other people’s happiness, and live every single day like it’s your last. Life is too short to not enjoy it. 

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IT FEELS SO GOOD TO BE BACK!!!!

if you want to check out josh’s music, you can follow him on Instagram @ iamjoshwillis

And Check out his Andronikos project on youtube @ Andronikos Official and follow his page with the lovely Cait @ Caity Joy and Josh.

If you have any questions about Stack Attacks Music or know someone who would love to be part of the blog, please email me @ stackattacksmusic@gmail.com

thanks for reading and thanks for believing!!!!!!

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