“You Don’t Need A College Degree To Rock” and Other Words of Wisdom From Teenage Thrash Band ShitKill


There are two things you should know about NYC thrash band ShitKill. The first is that they’re some of the most promising young metal musicians we’ve seen in a long time. The second is that, when we say young, we mean barely old enough to vote: none of them are over 18-years-old.

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Already ShitKill have opened for veteran metal bands Anvil and Diamond Head. They cut their first full-length record (produced by Chris “Tomato” Harfenist) in 2011, when they were still in high school. And tonight, they’re opening for Six Feet Under at Webster Hall.

This isn’t music that’s just pretty good for a bunch of teenagers. This is music that’s just damn good.

Josh Musto is the lead guitarist, vocalist, and chief songwriter. (His musical pedigree is impressive: his mother Amy Burton is an opera singer; his father John Musto is a modern orchestral and operatic composer.) Now a freshman at the New School, Musto shared with us his strong opinions about religion, the evolution of metal, and how to wreck your voice with a Toblerone bar.

Your band bio says you are “not at all happy about the current trends in heavy music.” What does that mean?
Yeah, that just about says it … I didn’t really grow up listening to rock music. I discovered it when I was maybe 10 or 11. But when I did, I gravitated much more toward classic stuff that has a lot of soul to it — like Slayer, Pantera, KISS, Metallica, bands like that. It seems to me that now metal really is not up to par with any of that. The last metal band that came out that really blew me away was probably Mastodon … and Lamb of God. But since then, I really haven’t been wowed by a new band. I feel like I sound like an old man saying this, but it’s true.

Lamb of God’s been around for over 12 years now. You’re 18.
Yeah, in my childhood, Lamb of God was kind of like the band you had to like, and I think it still sort of is … And I’m still sort of waiting for that band to come out that tells everybody that you don’t need to sound like Lamb of God or have a breakdown to make heavy music.

Your mom’s an opera singer. We’ve often thought there’s a lot of similarity between opera and metal in terms of complexity the scale of the performance.
Yeah, definitely. And even as simple as the whole vocal aspect. When me and Max [Feldman, ShitKill’s bass player] were going in to do the vocals in the studio for the first album I would ask my mom, “Hey, Mom, before you go onstage, what do you make sure and not do?” And she’d be like, “Oh, well, definitely don’t eat chocolate or chocolate milk or cereal.” And I’d be like, “All right, well, get me some cereal and some chocolate milk,” and I’d have a Toblerone bar with me. Like the total opposite vocal approach, but the intensity of it is so similar that you really have to give everything. You can pass out onstage. You can lose a lung. It’s serious.

Your song “Fuck the Priest” has some very direct lyrics. When you say, “Fuck you, God,” that’s heavy. That’s almost like Nietzsche’s “God is dead.”
[Laughs] I mean, I was 15-years-old when I wrote that lyric. I wouldn’t really even call myself an atheist. I really just don’t care. Religion’s not even something I think about at this point. I think what religion does to the world is pretty fucked up, but I think there are enough people writing about how much religion sucks.

If at some point you had to choose between school and getting more intensely into touring, what would you choose?
Oh, touring absolutely. Being in school is good, but if touring is what you want to do for your life, I don’t think school should impede that in any way. You don’t need a college degree to rock.