With extreme music, it seems as if there is an almost constant quest to further push the boundaries of just how much misanthropy and hate is included, with many bands often pushing it to somewhat cheesy levels. However, there are those rare few bands whose sound is so intense, so raw, so heinously abrasive that it is impossible to deny that deep down, on some level, they really are just about as misanthropic and nasty as they claim to be. Nails is one of those bands, and though the interview below shows front man Todd Jones at times joking, it is undeniable that his brutal honesty and straight forward attitude shows just how serious Nails is about their message of complete and total musical annihilation. I had the extreme pleasure of sitting down with Todd at Choosing Death Fest in Philadelphia and talking to him about all things extreme music, and what it truly means to be “one of us”.
What’s it like to work with Kurt Ballou, and how did Nails come to choose to work with Kurt?
Todd Jones: It’s cool working with Kurt, he’s smart, he’s like a mad scientist. He’s very opinionated, and sometimes we take his opinions and sometimes we don’t. I met Kurt in 2001 when one of my old bands went to go record with him, so I’ve known him for like a grip … of years. We first recorded Unsilent Death with him and we recorded with him because he’s the shit and I’ve recorded with him before and I know he’s capable of doing what we wanted to do. Like he knows how to record an HM2 pedal. And we recorded with him and we just kept recording with him because we knew what he would do would be a good quality. He’s like my friend, I’ll text him and he’ll actually text me back and shit. I don’t know man, we just like recording with Kurt, he’s good at what he does.
I felt as if there was a lot more apparent death metal influence on the new single. Is that something you guys consciously did? Is there a balance you try to strike between the metal and hardcore influence or does it just naturally happen?
Todd: It all naturally happens but it’s definitely like we want the sound to be a little more chunkier, so I guess maybe that would come off as death metal. [pauses for a few seconds] Like chunkier like “Da-duh-dun-da-dun-ta-dun”. Like that part? That’s pretty chunky. Everything comes naturally, but it was like, look, when we did Unsilent Death it was like “Nobody knows who our band is, we’re just going to make a record and have fun”, and people seemed to like it. And then when we were doing Abandon All Life, we were like “We’re going to make a record that we wanna make, and we’re gonna have fun, but we don’t wanna make Unsilent Death part two, so what are we gonna do?” And we were like let’s go harder, let’s go a little more extreme, and after we did Abandon All Life we said “This record’s the shit”, cause we like it, we like what we do. I don’t care about anybody else, we like what we do.
But like Abandon All Life, we thought this shit’s really aggressive, but it’s not really hook oriented. Like Abandon All Life you feel like you got beat up, but you don’t really remember much of the beating. Then we wanted to be as extreme, but let’s take the extremity of Abandon All Life and the catchiness and thickness of Unsilent Death and let’s combine them both for You Will Never Be One Of Us, and that’s what we did, and in my opinion we accomplished it.
Nails’ sound varies a lot more than a lot of other popular hardcore bands, as in there’s more apparent grindcore and powerviolence influence. Does that affect how you see yourselves in the scene at all, or is it the same kind of mentality?
Todd: I don’t care about other bands, I care about Nails. I mean I care about other bands, I’m a fan of other bands, I’m a fan of Noisem, I’m a fan of Horrendous. If you’re not a fan of those bands you’re a fucking mark ass bitch, straight up. But like, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about other bands. I just try to think about what Nails is and what I would like Nails to be, and I just try to maintain that path. I don’t know man, I’m not really into competition and I’m not really into people trying to make it that. I’m into everything as one thing, I like to unify things, I just like peace, that’s it.
Involving, I don’t know how much you care about this or saw this, but the guy from The Story So Far-
Todd: No comment.
Well, just like, in general, what do you guys think about the crowd getting involved on the stage with you guys? Do you mind that as much?
Todd: I mean, it depends what you do. A show isn’t lawless, there’s such thing as etiquette, and there’s such things as rules. Like my home boy from The Story So Far, I never met the mother fucker, but like, his management is our management, so I’m not gonna say too much about it, but I mean, he’s a dude, who’s probably a really cool guy, but he’s playing 15 year old music to 15 year old kids. To 15 year old girls. So when 15 year old girls get up on stage and do 15 year old girl things, you can’t kick them off stage.
Number one, you can’t kick a girl, that shit’s not cool, and number two, like, yo, 15 year old pop punk kids are gonna do 15 year old pop punk things. Like get with the program buddy, and you know what, this is the thing, and I’m gonna tell you this straight up, what that dude did, does not define his life. He might have done something that a lot of people view as disrespectful, but that’s not something that should define his life. A lot of good people, they sometimes do things that other people consider bad. I’m a good person, but I’ve done bad things. If you guys haven’t done bad things, you’re fucking lying. I don’t know that guy at all dude, but he’s probably a good person, but maybe he just did something lame and he’ll get over it, and the world will get over it, and it’ll be all good but in the event of what he was doing, it was kinda fucking lame, and I think maybe he should realize what his position is in his band, and what his band’s position is in this world. But otherwise, fuck it man, he kicked a girl who got on stage, he’ll – who fucking cares.
Any new bands who you want to give a shout out to or who help to inspire new Nails music?
Todd: I mean Full of Hell is not a new band, but are a band who maybe some Nails fans haven’t heard of. That band’s a source of influence, that’s a band I’m a big fan of, I love them. I like this band called Manhunt from Australia. I like that new Horrendous record, but that’s their third LP, so they’re not really new. Uh, shit man, I pay attention to new bands all the time, but none are coming to me now that you put me on the hot spot.
The final question is, I have to ask this of every band, but how do you like your eggs?
Todd: My eggs? I like them scrambled with ketchup, little bit of pepper. I like a little bit of hash browns on the side. That’s a good question. It’s important, I think a way a man likes his eggs kind of defines the man, you know?
When I asked Dylan from Full of Hell that question, he gave me a long answer about english breakfast.
Todd: The thing about Dylan is that he’s gonna fuck with you. And not like in a fucked up way, not an antagonizing way, but just like, you are, you’re actually asking a fucking stupid question. Like a legitimately dumb fucking question. But, Dylan, the first thing Dylan’s gonna think is – I text with Dylan every day. Dylan’s like one of my main home boys. – he’s gonna say “ah man, this is an excellent opportunity to fuck with this guy,” so he’s gonna give you some elaborate thing that you’re forced to fucking transcribe. Cause you just punished him with that question – like not in general, this has been a nice interview – but with that question, that’s a punishing question, like why would you ask anybody that? So in his mind he’s like, “Well you know what? I’m gonna get back at this dude, and I’m gonna give him this long winded answer that’s probably the plot of some Disney movie,” and you’re gonna have to type it up. So this guy can fuck off, but that’s Dylan. But make up some more questions, let’s go. This interview is not over yet.
Ok, I have to make up some more questions?
Todd: Yeah, I’m gonna put you on the spot.
Todd: What’s your favorite punk bands from the UK?
Well, Discharge, I love Discharge. Gets Worse, fucking love them, Afternoon Gentlemen, fucking love them too. Employed to Serve, if you get into like the really, genre heavy stuff, they’re like the mathcore.
Todd: I don’t like mathcore, but I fuck with Dillinger, you know why?
Todd: Well number one cause they’re a good band, but we’re on Nuclear Blast because of my home boy Greg who sings in that band. Greg plays in that band Killer Be Killed, and he told Monte Connor, “Hey you gotta check out Nails,” and yeah we’re on Nuclear Blast cause of Greg. Greg lives by me, we like text and shit, that guys my home boy right there.
Well I mean, like, even with being on Nuclear Blast, you’re wearing a Discharge shirt right now, you guys are coming out with a record around the same time as that band, on the same label. What’s that like for you guys?
Todd: As Discharge? Yo, respect for you acknowledging that, but Discharge in 2016 is not the same thing as Discharge in 1982 or 3. It doesn’t sound like Discharge, it’s the same guitar parts.
I don’t know, they sort of went, like you know how many Discharge clone bands there are now?
Todd: Yeah, I love it, it’s great.
It’s like they became their own Discharge clone band, but not one of the good ones.
Todd: Nah, they don’t even play a d-beat, they’re just old men who have nothing fucking better to do. And they might as well call themselves Discharge so they have a fucking fan base. Those dudes, if they started a new band with a new name, nobody would care about them because their music sucks.
Yeah, but what do you think about like Napalm Death, cause their last record was amazing.
Todd: Napalm Death are the fucking OG’s (slams hand onto table). Napalm Death is the shit, their new record Apex Predator is the shit, period. Period. Period.
With Nails, do you plan on aging gracefully like Napalm Death?
Todd: I plan on playing this gig tonight, that’s what I plan on. I do think about the future, but the thing is like, Napalm Death has a grip of albums out, we only have 3. The only thing I can plan on is right now, at this time. Like, we just finished an album. Like, You Will Never Be One Of Us? Some of them songs are 3 years old already. But that shit’s done, I can think about our next album, I can’t think of like 5 albums from now. But like, if we’re gonna age, which we are gonna age, that’s inevitable, but like who’s knows what’s gonna happen. Of course I wanna age gracefully, I don’t wanna age like a piece of shit.
So like with, You’ll Never Be One Of Us, you said it was for the “lifers”. So like what do you think really distinguishes someone as a lifer, who’s really committed, and someone who’s like, just there temporarily?
Todd: You know you can’t tell, you can’t tell. Being a lifer is a time proven thing. Like it just happens with age, and time, and commitment. You know you get to a certain point when you realize, this is what I do, this is who I am, even if I try not to do it, I’m gonna come back to it, it’s just part of who I am. There’s just nothing I can do about it, you can’t even control it. It’s just like I’m involved in this music, and even if I tried to stray and go somewhere else, I’ll always come back. [someone enters, leaves] Shut the door though, cause Noisem’s playing.
That is Noisem playing? Fuck that’s the second time I’ve missed them.
Todd: Well don’t fucking miss them, the interviews over, it’s done, go watch Noisem.