Grounded in hardcore punk and merged with metal, powerviolence and grindcore, the 2007-born Nails exist to brutalize listeners on a single frequency: all hard, all heavy, all the time. With a complete lack of pretense and a singular primitive vision, Nails deal solely in scalding aggression, intentionally melding only the most vicious elements of each extreme music genre into a lean, pummeling concoction all their own. The result? An aural poisonous kool-aid unique in tone, composition and attack that has been consumed and hailed by extreme music fans and metal legends the world over. This June will bring forth You Will Never Be One Of Us, the third full length installment and Nuclear Blast Records debut from the group. I recently had the chance to chat with frontman Todd Jones about the new album, genre and identity, his career in hardcore, Slayer and more. Check it all out below. You Will Never Be One Of Us arrives on CD, cassette, vinyl and digital download this June 17th via Nuclear Blast Records.
Svbterranean: Hello Todd, I hope you are having a great day. Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. For the unknowing, can you briefly describe Nails and the role(s) you play in it?
Todd Jones: Hi Eric, thanks for the interest in interviewing me/Nails. I play guitar and sing in Nails.
On “You Will Never Be One Of Us”
Nails is about to release its third LP, You Will Never Be One Of Us. In seeking to raise the Nails bar yet again, is there any particular aspect (recording, sound, style, lyrics etc.) on the album that you’re most proud of?
My favorite aspect of our new LP is that it encompasses the vision I had in my head for what I wanted the band to sound like when we first started. A strong mixture of punk, hardcore, and metal. My favorite styles of music.
You’ve talked about Nails as music that engages you now in 2016, but also as music that engages that inner 15 year old inside you. What are some crucial bands that you got into as a fifteen year old? Do any of these bands symbolically or stylistically inform the writing for this album in particular?
Bands that people nowadays might refer to as “entry level” bands. Like Subhumans, Discharge, Uniform Choice. Bands that you might hear and want to go play on a boombox and skate. Their music immediately is aggressive, but also catchy and sticks in your head. I wanted those qualities in Nails.
Saba was a pretty big part of Abandon All Life, credited for co-writing several tracks and contributing in full musically “Suum Cuique”, one of the heaviest Nails tracks in my opinion and that album’s closer. I’ve noticed that he’s been absent live and in promotional photos as of recent. Is he out and if so, has this affected or altered the writing process for You Will Never Be One Of Us in any way?
Saba quit Nails in December 2015, approximately 3 weeks before we went to go record our new album. He had 0 input on You Will Never Be One Of Us. Saba’s contributions to Nails cannot and will not be marginalized however. We made Unsilent Death before he was in the band, and we made You Will Never Be One Of Us after he left the band. So, the lack of his presence didn’t effect the writing process for Nails. And that’s that.
Was there any special gear utilized for the album? In the recent “Making Of” video Nuclear Blast posted and in some Instagram posts, I saw a cool-looking “Tyrant” pedal from Dunwich Amps. I believe you’re also making some for purchase?
The only custom gear we used was the “Tyrant” pedal made by Dunwich. I’m hesitant to call it an HM-2 clone, but that’s essentially what it is, with a bit more high end range. Dunwich is manufacturing approximately 30 and we’re going to sell them on our webstore. They’ll most likely be available in June when our album is released. Aside from that, all the gear we used are items that could be purchased in a major guitar reseller like Guitar Center/Sam Ash or second hand via sites such as Craigslist.
On Genre Constrictions And Connections
Despite significant successes here and there, I feel that there’s currently a lot of great metal bands from within the hardcore scene (say Xibalba as a prime example) that are nevertheless marginalized touring and listener-wise due to that hardcore connection. How has Nails’s experience been as a band that walks/walked that hardcore/metal tightrope? Has your signing with Nuclear Blast opened the doors to a broader metal audience and more metal-oriented touring packages?
I think that there’s a lot of benefit being a hardcore band, even if the metal world marginalizes you. If you look at all the Southern Lord hardcore bands from the 2010-2013 era, they all got attention from the metal world, but they are all firmly rooted in hardcore. If the whole hardcore audience decided not to support those bands (NAILS INCLUDED), those bands would be playing empty venues. I can’t speak for any other bands in regards to being marginalized from the metal world. The goal of Nails from Day 1 was to play music that was a mix between punk, hardcore, and metal and whoever wanted to like our band was fine with us. Nuclear Blast has opened some doors for us, yeah, we just got on a huge (maybe the biggest) metal event in the USA which I can’t announce yet because of them. But otherwise, we do things the same way we have been doing them before we signed with Nuclear Blast. They are a great label, as was Southern Lord.
On the topic of metal, Max Cavalera has given full support to Nails, naming Abandon All Life as one of the best records of the past 20 years. How was it guesting on the new Soulfly record and seeing as you’re now labelmates, would a tour be a possibility?
Guesting on the new Soulfly was really difficult for me because Max’s voice is so awesome. Even now, in 2016, his voice is incredible. Gloria [Cavalera] has run the idea of us touring with Soulfly or Cavalera Conspiracy, but we just don’t tour for more than 1 week at a time generally and their style of touring is 3-6 weeks at a time. I’m not sure we could fit that into our lives, but the opportunity is there and I wish we could do it.
Current situations and politics aside, Pantera is one of, if not, my favorite band of all time. What was it like meeting Phil Anselmo and how was it playing the Housecore Horror Festival?
I’ve never met Phil. We played Tuska in Helsinki and after our set, I immediately went back to our hotel to sleep. All of Nails stayed at Tuska to watch Carcass and Phil approached them on stage while watching Carcass and said “I’m a faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan, maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan” and they ended up hanging with Phil and the Illegals for hours afterwards. Playing Housecore was cool. I hit up Phil’s manager to do guest vocals on our new album, but he never got back to me.
Revisiting The Past And Looking To The Future
In an interview with Decibel and Converse, you talked about a time when you made music a full-time career. I assume this is around the time that you and Scott Vogel both quit your jobs to pursue Terror full-time. What was your mindset in that pursuit and what led to you ultimately pulling out of that?
From Day 1 when Terror started, the goal was to play music full time and tour. When you’re 20 years old and have never done that, it sounds like a dream. The reality of it was, for me, was not a dream. Not because of the personnel in Terror, but it’s just not a lifestyle that suited my personality. There was no instance or particular thing that made me quit. Some people are built for that lifestyle and some people are not. To be fair, touring in Terror circa 2002/2003 is very different than touring in Terror now. They are a well-oiled-machine, they have touring down to a science, and accommodations are a bit better but even then, I’m not sure I could still really cope with it. I’m proud of Nick and Scott for maintaining their vision for 14 years. Aside from being an ex-member of Terror, I’m also a fan of the band. Top 3 live current hardcore bands, no question, and they still make music that lights a fire under peoples asses.
You recently performed guitars on a track called “Shift Of Dismay” with the electronic/industrial group Youth Code, featuring Ryan George from your old straight edge hardcore band, Carry On. What was it like collaborating with him again after so many years in such a different context?
It was really awesome. Ryan and I have great chemistry, even to this day. Ryan sent me the track weeks before I went to record on it. I had an idea of what I wanted to do on the verse, but I had no ideas for the chorus. Ryan hummed a riff that he had an idea for the chorus and I did my best to play it on guitar. It was a true collaboration and I had a really great time doing it.
On that note (and I’m not sure if this is complete bullshit), someone on the b9 forum supposedly talked with Ryan at a Youth Code show a few years back, with Ryan reporting that there was almost a Carry On reunion set at This Is Hardcore 2014. Is there any credence to this at all and if so, is this a part of your musical career that you hope or plan to revisit in the future?
I’m not sure about that. The distance between “almost” and something actually happening is an ocean wide, so I’d be hesitant to say something almost happened. But, Ryan and I did chat about the possibility of getting Carry On together to do some shows. Carry On just isn’t ever going to happen, and that’s that. The band broke up December 2001 and there was a lot of bad inner-band feelings going on. Just a really raw way to end it. After that happened, I would stay up at night listening to that LP we did [A Life Less Plagued] and I wish we could’ve played those songs more than we did. One night when I was living with Corey Williams [guitarist for Carry On], we were hanging out and he mentioned something to the effect “man, I wish we could play these songs again” and I just paused and said “we could”. We contacted Ryan and that’s when we planned the final 2 Carry On shows at the Showcase Theatre in Corona. Some people like to refer to those gigs as reunions. It doesn’t really matter what they are called or what other people refer to them as. But to us, they were our final shows. Like I said above, the band ended so raw, there was a lot of miscommunication and just raw feelings. I can’t speak for anyone other than myself, but those shows gave me the closure I really needed. I love Carry On so much. For so many different reasons. I love all the people who played in the band. I love those songs. I love all the experiences, even the bad ones. But Carry On is done, as far as I’m concerned. I’m proud to say that all members of Carry On are musicians and if anyone of us needed to play music, we would start a band and play music. We don’t need to reform the band we did in our early 20’s to get attention. We have all proven that we are very capable of successfully doing new endeavors. None of us need Carry On. That’s not something that can be said about many people in bands that came before us and I’m proud to say that everyone in Carry On started successful bands on their own after Carry On and did great for themselves.
Ryan and I have been talking for a couple years about getting together and playing hardcore music. Not sure when, but we want to do it sooner than later. But, it would be a new band. It wouldn’t be Carry On, although it might be inspired by the same stuff Carry On was inspired by.
California’s Sound and Fury Festival is coming back this June. Do you have any thoughts on its return and what do you think of the lineup?
Lineup is good. It’s a good representation of what’s going on in that world right now. In particular, I appreciate that they are focusing on current bands.
You infrequently release music (the most recent being Skinfather’s 2014 record None Will Mourn) on your own personal record label, Streetcleaner Records. How did that start and how do you pick your releases?
Started the label just because I wanted to. I’ve done 4 releases and lost a lot of money, but that’s how it goes, hahaha. I wouldn’t say I really picked the bands more than I suggested to the bands that if they ever wanted help releasing vinyl, I’d help them and they allowed me to do it. To this day, my favorite release is the Downpresser 12” [Perverted Justice]. That thing is still so awesome and that band is still such a great band.
If you have one, what’s your favorite fried chicken chain?
Lastly, what are your top five favorite Slayer tracks of all time?
Oh man. Hard question! Here goes…(not in order)
- South Of Heaven
- Seasons In The Abyss
- Hell Awaits
- Angel Of Death
Thanks again for doing the interview, Todd. Are there any last remarks or words that you’d like to add?
Again, thanks for being interested and doing this interview.
Pre-order You Will Never Be One Of Us on CD, vinyl and tape via Nuclear Blast Records here. Pre-order You Will Never Be One Of Us digitally via iTunes here and Amazon Digital Download here. Catch Nails LIVE starting this June 11th at Sound And Fury Festival as they begin a string of dates supporting their new record, dates and details below. Follow Nails on Facebook here, on Instagram here and on Twitter here for further audio tyranny.
06/11/16 Sound And Fury Festival – The Regent Theater – Los Angeles, CA
NAILS, FULL OF HELL, GOD’S HATE, ETERNAL SLEEP
06/17/16 Beat Kitchen – Chicago, IL
06/17/16 The Empty Bottle – Chicago, IL
06/18/16 The Loving Touch – Femdale, MI
06/19/16 Hard Luck – Toronto, ON CANADA
06/20/16 Les Foufounes Electriques – Montreal, QC CANADA
06/21/16 Middle East – Cambridge, MA
06/22/16 Marlin Room at Webster Hall – New York, NY
06/23/16 Underground Arts – Philadelphia, PA
06/24/16 Ottobar – Baltimore, MD
06/25/16 Strange Matter – Richmond, VA
06/26/16 Kings – Raleigh, NC
NAILS, TERRORIZER (LA), FREEDOM, NOMADS
07/20/16 Brick By Brick – San Diego, CA
07/21/16 Constellation Room – Santa Ana, CA
07/22/16 The Roxy Theatre – West Hollywood, CA
07/23/16 Thee Parkside – San Francisco, CA (no Terrorizer)
08/05/16 This Is Hardcore Festival – Electric Factory – Philadelphia, PA
10/21/16 Southwest Terror Fest – 191 Toole – Tucson, AZ
NAILS, FULL OF HELL
11/04/16 Cathouse – Glasgow, Scotland
11/05/16 Damnation Festival – Leeds, England
11/06/16 The Fleece – Bristol, England
11/07/16 Underworld – London, England
11/08/16 Point Ephemere – Paris, France
11/09/16 Trix – Antwerp, Belgium
11/10/16 Underworld – Cologne, Germany
11/11/16 Aalborg Metal Festival – Aalborg, Denmark
11/12/16 Babel – Malmo, Sweden
11/13/16 Hafenklang – Hamburg, Germany
11/14/16 Musik & Frieden – Berlin, Germany
11/15/16 Futurum – Prague, Czech
11/16/16 Arena – Vienna, Austria
11/17/16 Hansa 39 – Munich, Germany
11/18/16 Keller Club – Stuttgart, Germany
11/19/16 Doorroosje Indoor Fest – Nijmegen, Netherlands