Direct Hit! has come such a long way since the days that they were on Death To False Hope Records and Kind Of Like Records. They have released two full-lengths, a compilation, a bunch of 7-inches, and they have toured like hell over the past several years. This year the band found its new home at Fat Wreck Chords â€“ something that seemed like such an obvious fit (at least from this fanâ€™s view point) and now they have released their highly anticipated third full-length Wasted Mind . So Punknews editor Ricky Frankel talked with lead vocalist and guitarist Nick Woods about the new album, getting signed to Fat Wreck Chords, becoming a punk rock dad, his other band Galactic Cannibal and more. FUCK YOU! GET PUMPED!
Photo Credit: Denise Borders
You guys managed to make that â€œfamousâ€ jump from Red Scare to Fat Wreck. What is the story of getting signed to Fat Wreck Chords? What made them notice you?
What I have been told is that Fat Mike was super into Brainless God. It made the Punknews top ten list and it made a whole bunch of other top ten lists back in 2013 when it came out. And I guess he just kind of got wind of it, bought a copy and said that he really liked it â€“ or told me that he really liked it at least. So thatâ€™s kind of how it happened. The early versions of the recordings we were doing for this new album ended up in Fatâ€™s hands and said that they wanted to do it. So it kind of went from there. Not too exciting.
You guys rerecorded a bunch of older songs for that More Of The Same (Satanic Singles: 2010-2014) release. Do you guys plan on rerecording any of the other songs from your numbered EPâ€™s like â€œChoke?â€
Not right now, no. I mean most of the one that we're proud of and that we still think are really good songs are the ones that we redid. The ones that we didnâ€™t like all that much, or did not get a lot of appreciation from other people â€“ we didn't really bother to go back and revisit. As far as old stuff that we have already released, I think that was kind of just a one-time thing because all of those were recorded with separate line-ups. We had the line up that we had since the middle of 2013 and when we released that we had already been together for â€“ I think that came out in 2014 or 2015 â€“ but the line up had been together long enough to where we felt comfortable trying support old songs that didn't have the line up I guess most people had come to know. I guess that was out reasoning behind it. It wasnâ€™t really just to push old songs and try and get them sold again or something like that. It wasnâ€™t really that we wanted to represent the band as it existed then. And we havenâ€™t had any member changes since then so thereâ€™s no real reason to go back and look at them again at least to me.
Do you guys ever plan on playing anything from the split with Hold Tight! live? That seems to be the â€œforgottenâ€ release in the Direct Hit! discography.
Thatâ€™s a good question. You know we only did one show where we played those songs live. There were probably only 20 or 30 people there to see us do it. Weâ€™ve always talked about doing another hardcore record or something like that. I donâ€™t know if it will ever come to fruition or if weâ€™re ever going to have the time to write songs like that, but I have always kind of said that we ended up being a pop-punk band because everybody in our group either listens to hardcore or top 40 songs more than anything else. And I think that still kind of holds. I mean we always have ideas for hardcore songs going around and a lot of them end up on Direct Hit! records like â€œWeâ€™re Fuckedâ€ or there are a couple of tunes on our new album are more leaning that way. I wouldnâ€™t put it out of the picture though that we wouldnâ€™t do another LP like that. Iâ€™d really love to go back and write more hardcore and do something more along those lines. We have a lot of respect for that genre, which we listen to a lot of the time.
Cool! And Iâ€™ll be asking about those new songs in a little bit. You guys probably have the funniest social media presence out of all the punk bands that people follow. What made you want to word and post stuff the way you do when the band first created its profiles?
I just did it originally to clown on bands that were talking that same way back when the group started. Direct Hit! kind of came out of period when MySpace was kind of on its way out. There were so many groups at the time who were on the Internet just constantly telling people and screaming like, â€œSupport my band! We have new music!â€ It wasnâ€™t even music that they were trying hype. You would see new promo pictures up or something and people would be like, â€œShare our new promo picture!â€ and just nonsense like that. And so it was juts me kind o making fun of that whole thing. I started Direct Hit! just for fun. It wasnâ€™t ever supposed to be as serious as it has become. And so it was just kind of my reaction to that entire group of people I guess â€“ making fun of that mentality of demanding attention at all times rather than making col music and releasing it and hoping people enjoy it. At this point it has sort of taken on a life of itâ€™s own. It has definitely become a part of the identity of the band I think.
Last time I interviewed you was on my college radio show right when Brainless God came out and you had just gotten married. Now you are a new father. Congratulations! Has becoming a parent affected the way that you write and play music, or maybe your attitude about punk rock?
It has definitely made things a little bit more difficult â€“ a lot more difficult. Iâ€™ve never written songs about personal stuff about my life or anything like that and Iâ€™m not going to get started doing that any time soon. I mean there are a million people who write songs about their sons and their daughters. Itâ€™s funny, I use â€œsons and daughtersâ€ a lot in â€œPromise Land,â€ but itâ€™s definitely not a song about my own family or anything like that. Iâ€™m really open about what I do at home with my wife and my kid and stuff like that on my own personal profile and I donâ€™t really see a need to kind of let that bleed over into what the band does. It is not even really writing music or recording music or doing creative stuff. It just makes touring a much more difficult kind of prospect â€“ not difficult, but I canâ€™t just kind of climb in the van for six weeks at a time and go out just because I want to do it. I got to do it because Iâ€™m going to able bring something home when Iâ€™m done. So it has become a much more of a strategic kind of thing I suppose. Playing shows around the country is different from what it used to be.
For this yearâ€™s Record Store Day you released a split 7-inch with The Brokedowns. Were the songs that Direct Hit! contributed B-sides from Wasted Mind?
Yes, as a matter of fact. We recorded I want to say between like 20 and 25 songs â€“ demos for Wasted Mind. â€œChemical Abilityâ€ was one of the second batch that we did or something like that. The other song was, too. If you want kind of a sneak peek of all the kinds of stuff that didnâ€™t make the cut that is a good place to start. Iâ€™m hoping some day we get record some of those others ones. I think there are some pretty good songs in there. We just havenâ€™t had a chance to yet.
Do you have any stories from being on The Hepatitis Bathtub tour with NOFX and Mean Jeans?
(laughs) No. Itâ€™s kind of a bummer actually. It has nothing to do with NOFX or the tour or anything like that. Touring with Direct Hit! is a little bit different just because I work a day job whenever Iâ€™m out on tour. So when we were out especially on the west coast -- I work on eastern time and so I had to get up everyday at 6AM and get on a laptop to get things done for my job back home so I can pay my bills and my mortgage and stuff like that. I actually lead kind of a real life. So there wasn't a whole lot of partying for me just because I had to be conscience of the fact that I had to able to get up early in the morning the day after. If you want crazy stories, youâ€™ll probably have to talk to the other dudes in my band.
Domesplitter, Brainless God, Wasted Mind â€” why titles that have to do with the head?
No one has ever asked me that before. I didnâ€™t do it on purpose until this one. â€œDomesplitterâ€ is just a term that my friends and I in college used to describe when you would take a too big of hit off of a bong. I thought that was pretty good one. I always told people that I would name my first album â€œdomesplitter.â€ I thought it was a funny idea to listen to a record and have your head explode. But Brainless God, that was actually a friend of Dannyâ€™s and mine who used that term one day. I think was because he had a lot of health problems and was a diabetic and heâ€™s got allergies and a whole bunch of stuff. And I think he was just one day of having to deal with that and he referred to God as brainless or like a â€œbrainless godâ€ was what created him or something. I don't remember exactly how the story went. But Wasted Mind -- I knew that the album was going to be about drugs and so â€œwastedâ€ obviously plays to that and I thought it was cool to have a duel meaning on it â€“ â€œwasted mindâ€ being drunk or altered or something like that. And then also kind of have it be a self-deprecating thing about wasting talent or wasting mental energy or something like that. So thatâ€™s where â€œwasted mindâ€ came from. Itâ€™s kind of coincidental that all three of them have worked out that way, but Iâ€™m already trying to come up with new â€œheadâ€ ones. It just seems like that it the general trend in our album titles.
So Wasted Mind is concept album like Brainless God. Is it more of a heavily themed album or is there a story?
I think thereâ€™s a story in there. Thereâ€™s a story I cooked up in my mind for what it is about. To me itâ€™s just a narrative about somebody who starts taking drugs and about the acid they have taken and the results of that. So itâ€™s kind of a cautionary tale. At the same time I set it up specifically so that when you listen to it on shuffle or in different ways or in different settings or something like that, you can get kind of a different story or a different meaning from it depending on the way that you would listen to it. Naked Lunch was set up that way where I think the story behind that book was that Burroughs wrote it and then cut the story up into pieces, and then just sort of shook them up in a hat, and then pulled out the different sections, and that was how the book was ordered. We looked at it kind of the same way this time. Every song on this album kind of draws from a different influence or sound in the punk rock cannon â€“ for lack of a better way of putting it. So every song on it kind of has its own sonic identity and sounds little bit different than everything else. It sounds much more like a mixed piece in my opinion than it does a traditional kind of cohesive sounding album. Weâ€™re really cognizant of the fact that most people donâ€™t listen to albums straight through anymore. They pick out songs and add them to playlists on Spotify or they put them on links that they send around where they are just listening to one song at a time. And so that is kind of the rationale behind why we set this one up this way. All of the songs are really heavily focused on drugs and insanity and chemicals and stuff like that. But I think that if you listen to it front to back it is a different than if you were to listen to is back to front â€“ or if you listen to out of order, or if you listen to just a few tracks. The band sounds totally different depending on whatever sample it is that you take from the record. It is definitely not a story that â€œstarts hereâ€ and â€œends hereâ€ kind of narrative the way that Brainless God is. Itâ€™s not a musical. I think it was kind of a different way of structuring the story in a way that kind of mirrored the story of themes and concepts that we then tried to explore [with music].
Overall I find the sound of Wasted Mind a lot brighter than Brainless God, was that on purposes? Did you approach this album differently than the last one?
It was kind of produced more I would say. Whenever we recorded albums in the past, we would hear that you could get good tones out of a certain pair of guitars with a certain pair of amps and we would set up and kind of do it. This time around we spent a lot more time working on tones and trying out different sounds and stuff like that. And so I think that kind of shows a little bit. In terms of how it was engineered or how it was set up or something like that, I wouldnâ€™t be able to tell you. Thatâ€™s all studio magic to me. You'd have to talk to Mike or Shane who helped out on engineering this one a little bit more. I have no idea how to go about that kind of stuff.
Thereâ€™s piano and a horn section in this record. Why did you guys decided to add these instruments in? Do you plan on getting another keyboardist and a horn sections with you on the road?
If there are ever resources available, we totally will. We obviously don't make very much money doing what we do. And so when you go out a 10-day tour, which is what we have to do now, instead of these longer 3-week, 5-week trips like we have in the past -- there is obviously a fixed cost of going out on tour and adding stuff on top of that like a horn section or a keyboardist or something like that, who is not a member of the band makes it a little bit more difficult. Iâ€™ve said before that whether we are recording an album or weâ€™re playing live or doing something for TV or for the Internet or something like that, we always do what we can to make ourselves sound the best that is humanly possible. We donâ€™t really stick to like â€œonly these four guys are going to play on all of these songs all the time.â€ You know, fuck that. Whatever will make the songs sound the best. And so that was kind of the approach we took. For this record it was much more of a collaboratively written album. Usually in the past what I would do is I would write a song on an acoustic guitar and then just kind of bring that song to the band and then everybody would just and their parts and that would be that. This time around we spent a lot more time writing parts and rewriting parts and coming up with new ones as a result. It got to the point where there were so many tracks and so many different sections added that it was difficult to record another guitar doing another part and then being able to hear it. And so we ended up experimenting a little bit more with electronic stuff and piano and horns and that kind stuff just to be able to get different tones and to get the songs to sound differently from [one another]. I guess there was a conscious effort just in coming up with more orchestrations and new arrangements and that necessarily lead to using different instruments just to make sure everything could be heard the way that we wanted everything to be heard.
You seem to be pushing the limits of mixing hardcore with pop punk in songs like â€œDo The Sick.â€ Why is that combination something you guys like to explore?
I guess itâ€™s because we havenâ€™t heard it done in they way that we think about it I suppose. Youâ€™ve heard Galactic Cannibal before, the other band that I was in, right?
Yeah! â€œDo The Sickâ€ is kind of my tribute to that group I suppose. I was really bummed when Galactic Cannibal broke up. I loved that sound. Iâ€™ve always been a really huge fan of three-chord, or for lack of a better term â€œRamones-coreâ€ pop punk. I had never really heard that kind of pop punk combined with sort of the rawer 80â€™s [hardcore] sound that you can get or â€œtraditional hardcoreâ€ as opposed the â€œgym shortsâ€ kind of stuff. Iâ€™ve never been into breakdowns and things like that â€“ at least not with pop punk. I was always a big fan of the aggression and sort of the negative lyrics and the voice behind hardcore. So I wanted to take that part of it and mix it with that more classic-sounding pop punk sound and that is what happened with Galactic Cannibal and I think that is what happened with this song on this album. Direct Hit! had never really done a song like that before. Itâ€™s a sound that I think that a lot people responded to and so since Galactic Cannibal to really capitalize on that, we figured it would be cool to kind of try that on this new album.
Speaking of Galactic Cannibal, you guys also briefly touch upon the whole â€œweâ€™re fuckedâ€ theme on Wasted Mind, too. How come you guys decided continue that?
I mean that is kind of the nihilistic philosophy that our band has always had. I think thatâ€™s why it is just sort of a rallying cry that I use for all that stuff. I don't mean to act philosophic in an interview where Iâ€™m already talking about how I donâ€™t like to act philosophic, but I take the approach to life in general and in my song writing that pretty much everything that we do is meaningless â€“ like the sun is going to end up swallowing the earth some day anyway. For a lot people that is kind of a morose topic to talk about. It really affects them in a really negative, kind of depressing way. For me thatâ€™s always been a force for positive mental attitude in my life. If weâ€™re all fucked at the end of the day, if weâ€™re all going to be dead, and if the earth is going to get swallowed up, then a lot of the negative stuff that people have to deal with like comparing their lives to other peopleâ€™s, feelings of inadequacy â€“ all that becomes meaningless because when you look at the fact that none of this is going to exist in a few billion years thereâ€™s really no point n worrying about it. The only thing that matters is how you feel about something to be honest. And so that has sort of been my attempt to take the power out of worrying about death or being anxious about the end of worth or something like that. â€œWeâ€™re Fuckedâ€ is just a really obnoxious, low power of way of describing end times or nonsense like that I guess. Being so flippant about its use I think is what makes me feel better about it -- like it comforts me knowing that my life is going to end eventually -- not to be too serious.
Whatâ€™s the deluxe box set version of Wasted Mind going to be like? Will it be like the Brainless God box set? Or will it be completely different?
I mean itâ€™s going to be just ridiculous. From the very start our band has kind of had fun with these really obnoxious ways of packaging our music and selling stuff. We didn't want to give that up with a move to a more â€œmajor label.â€ Fat is obviously not a major label, but it is a major label kind of in our scene. That was always something that friends of ours always really appreciated â€“ that we took the time to package up something that was really awesome rather than just printing 18 different colors of vinyl and then kind of then [selling them off] one by one and trying to get people to buy stuff that way. So this time around weâ€™re putting something together that I think is ridiculous. I don't think we have given up on that. Thatâ€™s why weâ€™re doing it this time around and Iâ€™m sure weâ€™ll do it with next few albums, too â€“ if we end up recording more albums. Weâ€™ll have to see.
Anything to add or want to say to the Punknews readers/commenters?
I guess Iâ€™ll just say thanks to the Punknews readers and commenters. A big reason our band is on Fat now is from your guysâ€™ support. We really appreciate it. Keep talking shit. Make me money.