Direct Hit!

The thing you need to know about Direct Hit! is that they are not fucking dead; they're simply biding their time until their impending attack, coming this summer. Punknews staff writer Justin Dickman had a conversation with vocalist/guitarist Nick Woods about their first Fest experience, The Walking Dead, the upcoming Star Wars films and a little bit about music.

For the first time, I was able to see you live at Fest 11. How did you like your first Fest?

It was awesome! The music part was secondary, really. We had a great time more because it was excellent being able to walk down the street and, by chance, see all the people we usually only get to hang with once a year in one place. That, and meet some of the people we’ve only talked to before on the internet, because we don’t travel enough.

Which hotel were you staying at? I only ask because that has a direct effect on the after parties that you could attend.

We were at the Paramount Plaza, which is where you stay when you want to smoke weed and then get yelled at when you have naked/stoned 40-degree Fahrenheit pool parties at 3 a.m.

Were you guys asked to play any after shows or hotel shows?

Yeah, our buddy Rob asked us to play one, and I think someone else did too after our set. Was it you? I can’t remember. Anyway, we were way too pumped after that show to concentrate on playing anymore. Everyone just wanted to party and not have to worry about pissing too many people off, so we went back to our hotel and weren’t quiet enough there.

As I’m sure I told you after the show, I saw people crowd surfing outside the front door of Bar 1982 [for those who have never attended, entrance is through the rear door]. What would possess them to do such a thing?

I dunno man. People are wild. We had two different dudes dressed up as Satan stage dive during that set, so maybe there was some literal possession shit going on or something.

I can’t believe I forgot about those guys. They were wild. As I remember one of them was bleeding.

Yeah man! Alex! Dude was spitting blood and speaking in tongues and shit.

If you’re invited back, which I see happening, do you think you’ll be playing at a larger venue this time?

No clue. I hope not, to be honest. We’ve always had more fun playing smaller places and having a closer connection with whoever is there. Playing in bigger clubs kind of creates a separation which makes shit awkward sometimes. I’d rather make an idiot of myself to a packed house, even if that house is a lot smaller. Who knows though?

How do you feel about the current season of The Walking Dead?

I haven’t watched any of the second half yet. The first was good, but I think they’re treating some of the more devastating stuff with kid gloves. I won’t spoil anything for people who haven’t watched any of it, but the shit that went down with Laurie I thought was really light compared to the book. And the stuff that happened with Michonne at the Governor’s hands. That was some heavy subject matter originally, and I think they treated it at a distance when they put it to film, which bummed me out.

In our previous interview, you asked the question on whether or not Merle would return as the Governor. Now that it’s clear he won’t, do you think it’s a good decision that he’s not in charge of a relatively peaceful town or not?

I don’t really like Merle’s character to tell you the truth. I think he just plays generic yes-man redneck, and they didn’t do much, I thought, to develop him at all. So I guess I’m glad he’s not in charge because he’s on screen less as a result. Maybe they’re fixing that in the second half of this season. I dunno, I haven’t watched it yet.

What do you think of Tyrese (a main character from the comics, left out until now) finally joining the series?

Pretty sweet! All depends on how they treat his character I guess. He hasn’t played a very major role in the stuff I’ve seen so far, so I haven’t really formed much of an opinion.

Where do you see the series going from here?

I dunno really. I thought after the second season it was gonna turn into this sort of high-tension drama set against the background of a zombie apocalypse, which I thought would’ve been a really cool way to take things, but people seemed to get bored with that shit really quickly. So now they’re back to headshots and machetes every episode. Which is fine, but they’re gonna have to spend a lot more to keep upping that ante, and I dunno if AMC’s gonna do it. Personally, I dunno how you can keep a show interesting when it revolves entirely around action. But maybe they will. Who knows?

So, you prefer it to be, as a lot of my friends would describe it, as a zombie-filled soap opera?

I mean, if you want to call it that, yeah. Soap operas don’t have that kind of intensity though, I think.

Since the departure of creator Frank Darabont, the TV series has followed the comics more closely than in the first season. Do you think this will this be a continuing trend, or will the writers of the TV series eventually break free of that constraint?

Yeah, I think Darabont had a vision for the series that existed apart from the comics, which is riskier and more expensive. You can sorta see that in retrospect – He left and immediately it was like the comic became treated almost like a storyboard rather than an influence. I originally thought The Walking Dead would be totally different than the comic, with the occasional nod to the source material. I don’t think they’ll be doing that anymore – It’s easier to follow a story that’s already been proven popular, you know?

Is there anything you’d do different, if you were in charge?

I’d try to make it a lot more intense and hopeless-feeling, I think. But that’s probably just my personal taste. Most people I think watch zombie shows because they like cartoonish violence and action. If it was up to me, I’d make it a lot sadder and more fucked up. Because that’s the way shit would work if it actually happened. I trust World War Z’s vision a lot more than the Walking Dead. That movie is going to fucking suck though.

I’ve seen the World War Z trailer but have yet to read the book. Are the two "zombie universes" that much different?

No, I don’t think it’s that. World War Z is just a lot more macro, and a lot more considered. Most zombie lore tends to follow small groups of people, you know? WWZ’s the only book I’ve read that looks at that kind of apocalypse from really high up. Definitely the only book I’ve heard of that examines the idea on that level of detail… Bringing politics, and psychology and epidemiology into it. I thought it was really impressive. You should read it. It’s really an awesome book.

I assume you’re a Sci-Fi fan (based on our previous interview and other), and you must have some opinion on the recent Star Wars development. Please elaborate.

I really think it has a chance to be awesome. People forget that Disney’s behind it. And even if Disney’s made some bullshit, and even though John Carter was the most hilarious flop of all time, they still raised Pixar – which decidedly doesn’t suck - and Pixar used to be a part of LucasFilm. So there’s at least some quality background. And history, as obscure as it is. Disney’s job is releasing ridiculous, overblown, spectacular mass-appeal movies, so I think that fits the Star Wars thing pretty well.

In recent news, it was revealed that the main cast from the original Star Wars franchise would return to star or be at least featured in the upcoming Star Wars sequels. As a Star Wars fan myself, I don’t think they’re needed unless the script (as long as it’s drawn from the extended Stars Wars Universe) requires it. What are your thoughts?

Probably the same as yours. I think it lends some confidence to the idea though, when you have those folks saying they don’t think it’ll suck. Otherwise they’re desperate, which they might be.

J.J. Abrams has been selected to produce/direct the latest Star Wars feature. As he has previously been involved in the recent Star Trek revival, do you feel he’s the right person to take on the assignment or should someone else be at the helm and who?

I mean, I think he’s definitely the go-to blockbuster sci-fi guy at the moment. And he makes movies that families can see together and not feel all weird about. So he’s a good fit, in my opinion. I think it would’ve been cool if they’d asked Neill Blomkamp [director of District 9], or whoever that dude was who made Chronicle [Josh Trank]. I thought District 9 was a fucking awesome movie. Probably too gritty though, stylistically, for what Star Wars is. Guillermo del Toro might’ve been alright too. Or Peter Jackson. They were probably too expensive though or something, or too busy. I’m just gonna wait til it comes out and then judge.

Last year, you put out a hardcore split with Hold Tight!. Is that a style of music you’ve always wanted to do?

I probably listen to more hardcore than I do pop-punk, at least more new hardcore than new pop-punk. So I guess there was probably some vanity involved. We actually wrote those songs a long, long time ago though, and just weren’t creative enough to come up with another way to release them. Every once in a while I entertain the idea of starting an actual hardcore band, but I’m always afraid shit will end up sounding like nu metal and I just won’t be able to tell the difference, which’ll make me look like a poser.

Recently, you’ve started a new band in Galactic Cannibal and yet it’s not a hardcore band. Why do you keep resorting to (pop) punk as a musical escape?

I dunno man. Galactic Cannibal is definitely less of a pop punk band than Direct Hit! is I think. That sort of sound though is just what I write naturally. I don’t work very hard on the shit I belch out. I’ve always kind of had the mentality that if at least the musical portion of a song isn’t written within an hour, I probably won’t like it when it’s done. And it’s pretty hard to make songs happen that quickly unless it’s just three chords and a melody.

Domesplitter was a compilation made up of rerecorded songs from your collections of EPs #1-5. Since then, Direct Hit! haven’t released any EPs. Can we expect any songs from your recent splits to make your second LP?

No, the new LP is 100% new material. Sort of. You’ll have to see. But we aren’t re-releasing any of our 7-inch material, at least for a while. We haven’t been releasing EPs lately either just because all of the songs we’ve written have either been saved for Brainless God, or gone on splits with our friends. I sort of look at those like EP releases anyway. If we’re not gonna release stuff with our pals at this point, it’s getting saved for full-length stuff.

Can we expect EPs #6-10 to be released sometime after the record?

Probably not, to be honest. For a while at least, if not still, our band was known as much for the way we released music as we were for our songs. And that’s cool, but I think marketing tactics get stale a lot quicker than good tunes. We have plans to release Brainless God in what I think is a pretty cool way too, but it all depends on coming up with the money and finding the time to do it right. But it’s important to me that we don’t repeat ourselves, and I think following up #5 with #6 would start to feel weak.

Is Brainless God a reflection of your views on the church?

No, not at all. I just thought it sounded cool, and that it matched the sort of themes the new lyrics represent. I’m not religious, but if that’s what you need to get through your day, and you’re not giving me shit about not doing the same thing, then cool. I try to keep my views about that kind of stuff relatively quiet though, because I appreciate those on the other side of the fence who do the same. It’s probably sealed my place in Hell if a vengeful god exists though, which might come back to bite me in the ass once I’m dead.

What does the future hold for Direct Hit!?

I think shit’s gonna get kind of weird after this summer, but we’ll see. I’m getting married in September, and Danny tells me he’s moving out to Seattle, so there’s definitely a growing up/moving out theme to our lives right now. I’ve always said that if DH! starts feeling like a job, I’m not gonna do it anymore. But if shit’s still fun and we don’t go nuts trying to keep it together across the country, we’ll keep writing songs and playing shows when we can. We’ll find out.

Congratulations on your impending nuptials. It must be rough going on tour this summer and planning for a wedding, or has that already been done?

Thanks man! Nah, planning definitely isn't done, which definitely makes trying to plan a tour at the same time a bit rough. Kate's got a good handle on the wedding thing though. I've already fucked up planning the music, so shit would probably fall apart if I had any more responsibility than that. Planning a tour keeps me out of the way.

Operating a band under long distances can be stressful. How do you plan to keep things status quo?

I don’t think it’ll be too tough to be honest. We only play Chicago and Madison once every few months as it is, so hopefully we’ll be able to keep doing that when Danny comes home to visit. And we’ll just probably end up trading stuff back and forth over the internet when it’s time to write new material. All of this shit is happening at a pretty convenient time – We’ve got this new record coming out this summer, we’re gonna spend a bunch of time recording it, and then right around when we need to start writing new shit everyone will have settled into new living situations. So we’ll have some downtime to get stuff figured out.

A couple weeks back I saw on Facebook that the band was live streaming the recording process again. Is this important to you? Or do you do such because you feel it’s important to your fan base?

Nah, I mainly do shit like that because I feel like I’m not doing enough to let people know that we’re not dead. It’s a total "look at me" thing. We don’t tour all that much, and our output hasn’t been as consistent as it was because we’ve been saving so many songs for our new record. So I sorta felt like people thought we were slowing down or something, which we weren’t. Plus I get bored just sitting around listening to metronomes all day. It’s cool to be able to talk shit with people from time to time. It lets off pressure, you know?

I recently read your interview with I Live Sweat, that you predicted the success of Masked Intruder. That interview was over two years ago. Did you ever feel they would reach the level of success they have with the release of their first record?

Nah, because I never predict shit like that right. I don’t get why a lot of bands become popular. But I’m not surprised by Masked Intruder. Like, at all. I knew they were incredible basically from the first song I saw them play. To be honest, I’m surprised it took this long for people to notice them, and I’m pretty sure they signed to Fat within two years of their first show. Which I think is pretty quick, right? It’s hard for me to think of another band that deserves it more.

Where do you see them going from here?

Probably back to jail once the hype dies down.

Despite, their fabulous debut, do you foresee their gimmick lasting another record or two?

You know, a long time ago when MI first started playing, I was talking to Green about that. And the way I put it to him is that nobody sticks around to see a band just because of a gimmick – they stick around because the music’s cool. And I think Masked Intruder is a great band, probably my favorite active group in the Midwest right now, so at the end of the day, I don’t really care about the gimmick, and so long as they keep playing catchy tunes I don’t think anyone else will either.

In preparation of The Dark Knight Rises, you recommended we watch Bronson, which I absolutely loved. Do you have any other movie or TV recommendations for us?

I haven’t watched much that’s very good lately. Dudes need to start cranking out the fucked up shit more. I liked Beyond The Black Rainbow a lot, but a bunch of people I know didn’t. That one’s probably best when you’re in an altered state. Just make sure you don’t fall asleep.

Fucked up how?

I haven’t watched a movie that’s been hard to sit through in a long time. The super-intense ones, like Martyrs, or Antichrist. 2007-2010 was a good period for that. The Human Centipede II was pretty good for that, but I’m desperately hoping at this point that The Human Centipede III is just 90 minutes of Tom Six sewing his face to his own ass. That kind of fucked up.

I have to admit, I'm a little surprised Brainless God isn't coming out on Kind of Like Records. When recording began, had you already signed with Red Scare with the announcement to be released at a later date or did Toby recently approach you to put it out?

We'd been talking to Toby about stuff since maybe November or December, but didn't really get the official word until a few weeks ago. I can't speak for him, but if I had to venture a guess, the label was probably just doing due diligence to make sure we were actually gonna put some time in a van so they wouldn't take a bath on helping us out. We'd never really planned on touring a lot in the past because everyone had too much shit going on with work and school and girlfriends and stuff. Toby knew about all that because we had talked a little bit about Red Scare releasing Domesplitter in 2011. So I imagine shit took a bit longer just so they could be sure we'd be able to work hard for it.

I guess the timing just worked out right - I'm done with school in a month and got a job that lets me work from home, Danny's planning on moving to the west coast which sort of frees him up in terms of long-term responsibility here, Devon got laid off back in January, etc. - and so we sort of realized we had some flexibility to travel all of a sudden. Learn The Hard Way and Warning Device were the two albums that pretty much brought me back to pop punk. So I'm really, really pumped we got to work something out with Red Scare. It's really exciting for me.

Red Scare doesn't do a lot of vinyl releases. Come release day, will it just be on CD, with plans to do vinyl later, or at all?

I don't think the details have really been sorted out, to be honest. We just finished up tracking a week or so ago, and didn't really stop to think about stuff at all while that was going on. I guess we have to do that pretty soon though, don't we?

Now that you're attached to a label, do you have a release date in mind?

Hoping for some time in early July, but who knows? Everything related to music takes three times as long as it should so I don't wanna jinx anything.