Interview: Todd Jones (Nails)
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Nails' Unsilent Death (Southern Lord, 2010) initially put me off because of its mastering. That sounds petty, but boy does that "fat" snare sound annoy me now. And this long-running trend to make everything into a loud pancake - in 50 years, I swear, the only music will be Whitehouse.
But I've come around. Mission: ignore fat snare and over-loud mastering, unearth music. Mission accomplished. With 10 songs in 14 songs, Unsilent Death is a weapon that does one thing: beat you. Like on 2009's Obscene Humanity (review), Nails sound like they want to kill you. So I asked guitarist/vocalist Todd Jones some questions from the safety of my keyboard. He answered from the safety of his. We're all bulletproof on the Internet.
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Why does Nails exist?
To create music we like.
What do you get from Nails that you lacked in previous bands (Carry On, Betrayed, Terror)? What lessons from previous bands have you applied to Nails?
I'm not sure if I can name anything that lacked in other bands that is present in Nails. I'm a bit older, so I can say that I applied better communication and learning on what things to spend time on and what things to not give a fuck about.
What are the things to spend time on? What are the things to not give a fuck about?
We're very controlling of our band. Everything is really important to us. We don't want to have wack merch that doesn't represent us well, we don't want to play wack venues with over-protective security, we don't want to play with wack bands that are homophobic. So we put a lot of effort into those types of things.
As far as things that we need to let roll off our shoulders, you know that shit with people hating bands who take money from Scion. We could blow that up into a big issue, but...why? It's not important to us. Writing music and making sure our band is in good standing with ourselves is what is important to us.
What was it like making the video for "Conform/Scum Will Rise"? Given the noise around bands like Magrudergrind and Trap Them taking money from Scion, did you experience similar ethical handwringing?
It was awesome making the video. I called up my buddy Joel Perkins that I've known from elementary school who recently started working in the video field or whatever it's called, and he hooked it up proper. [I'm] really proud of him and the video we made.
As far as the Scion thing goes, I haven't seen much backlash from it, and the little that I had, I just take note of who said it and move on. I have no grand defense or stance on the situation to enlighten anyone. If you want to disregard us because we took money from a corporation and then brought our asses to Europe to play our shit over there, that is fine with me. The "punk" crowd that hated us for taking Scion money never liked us anyway, so it's not like we lost anything.
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"Conform/Scum Will Rise" (official video)
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How did you get into heavy music?
Through Headbangers Ball circa 1992. I was hip to Nirvana and Metallica, the typical mainstream bands at the time. I would buy a cassette tape a week [with] my $10 allowance and bought tapes of bands I saw each weekend.
Your background is in hardcore, but now you're in a band often covered in metal press. Where do you see the band in relation to hardcore and metal?
Man, I really don't know. I had this talk with people because I'm curious how other people view us in that respect, just because it's been something that's been brought up multiple times to us. Are we a hardcore band who metal people like, or are we a metal band that hardcore people like?
People have given me different answers, but if you ask me, we are a hardcore band through and through. Our delivery, our execution - it's who we are. And I want to tell you that we're not trying to fake it. We're not going to use the hardcore scene as a stepping stone to try to make it into the metal world. I'm not going to grow my hair long and order a bunch of metal shirts online and wear a jean vest with a back patch on it. It's just not who I am. In the meantime, we're going to continue to be ourselves and not try to fake some shit. Now please excuse me while I go take my Chain of Strength 7" off of the turntable and put it back into its sleeve.
Nails is a three-piece with a very singular sound. Do you ever wish you had more sonic options?
Not yet. But when I/we do wish that, we will make some changes and switch things up. It will happen eventually, but for now we are working on our next full-length, and without giving up too much information on it, it's essentially a better version of Unsilent Death. No progression or regression. It's just a mean motherfucker.
How could Unsilent Death have been better?
Well, for one, my vocals are pretty fucking shot. We knew the tracking order of the album before we recorded it, so we recorded the album in the order it is presented on the album. I did my vocals the same way and you can hear them deteriorate through the album. My vocals weren't strong on the record. I've blown them out since then, and they've gotten considerably stronger. There's three songs on there that I feel are B-grade.
Before, Nails had little Internet presence. Now you have a Facebook, an official site, and have had run-ins with that Internet staple: the rumor. Has your view of the Internet changed?
Yes. That is correct. We wanted to establish Nails as a live band before we blasted a marketing campaign with a record already out, social networking website, merch website, etc. With every decision made in Nails, the timing must be right. The time came, and we created a website as well as a Twitter. The Facebook thing was made by someone outside of Nails, and then it was given over to John [Gianelil, bassist]. I have never logged into that but was actually thinking today of checking it out.
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When I talk to metal bands, especially more "mystical" ones, they often say that they turn into different beings on stage. How much would that apply to you?
I just try to feel the music when we play live. We make the music because that's what we feel. I'm the same being, but when I'm on stage and I have a guitar in my hand, it's acceptable for me to yell at people. If I did that without a guitar on and I wasn't on stage, I'd probably get beat the fuck up. So I guess I have the privilege of being a little different while on stage.
Otherwise, I'm the same guy. If anything, I'm more myself on stage and less myself off stage, as weird as that sounds. On stage, you can be primal and do shit that is unacceptable in general society.
What was it like touring with Ringworm?
It was fucking awesome. Human Furnace (Ringworm vocalist) taught us a card game - I can't remember what it was called. It was just good times hanging with those dudes and seeing them perform. If the phrase "cool motherfuckers" was in the dictionary, there would be a picture of Ringworm by it.
Historically, bands with the focus and intensity of Nails have not lasted long ("The light that burns twice as bright burns for half as long"). Where do you see Nails in five or 10 years?
10 years ago, I was 19 years old and Carry On's A Life Less Plagued came out. My last major recording was Unsilent Death, and I'd say it's a fair assumption that the older I get, the more intense my music gets, not the other way around.
Do you have any role models in that respect?
Yes, absolutely: Scott Kelly, Jef Whitehead. Some might argue that their music isn't as heavy or harsh, but I feel that it is. After writing that last thing, I feel as if I discredited Neurosis as a whole by singling out Scott Kelly, so I want to just put Neurosis - all them guys. It's refreshing to have them show the way and show the world that you can age gracefully and not try to capture the songs of their youth but capture the sound of their lives now, and it's just as heavy and vicious. Converge as well.
Who's the most unlikely fan of Nails you've met?
I haven't met Dave Grohl, but word from Greg Anderson is that he's into Nails. Pete Stahl (Goatsnake singer) called me on the phone to ask Nails to play a show with Scream. [I'm] not really sure if he's a fan, but it was pretty ill when that happened.
What makes you get up in the morning each day?
My drive to make music and take care of my family.
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SEE NAILS IN POMONA WITH GEHENNA
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