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Nothingface: Here come the butchers, again

Matt Holt of Nothingface

August 22, 2006

After a two-year hiatus, Maryland’s own Nothingface reformed in late 2005. The band reintroduced itself to fans with a short tour last winter before returning home to continue writing and recording new material. Meanwhile, half of the quartet has embarked on a new musical adventure with ex-Pantera/Damageplan drummer Vinnie Paul and two members of Mudvayne. Before a recent show at the Recher Theatre in Towson, Md., Nothingface vocalist Matt Holt sat down with Greg Maki of Live-Metal.net to discuss the band’s resurrection, the inspiration for his religious- and politically-themed lyrics, the affect the new project will have on Nothingface and more.

Live-Metal: How did the band get back together again?

Matt Holt: Well, one of the main things was we went through hell on our old record label. It seemed like toward the end on Ozzfest they were just doing everything they could to do the littlest they could do possible. It all started—I mean, we were already having problems—but the beginning of the end was somewhere in Buffalo, New York, on Ozzfest when they left us sitting at a truck stop with our bus for, like, nine hours with no gas, and the generators run off the gas and it’s like 100-some degrees out there, boiling, can’t move, because they didn’t feel like paying our tour support. When we’re on the road playing headlining shows, we pay for everything ourselves, but on Ozzfest you don’t get paid, so we’re kind of relying on them and they were pissed about it. It makes no sense because we’re playing in front of 20,000 people a day; what’s your problem?

So I got out on stage and there’s this guy from TVT Records there, and “Everybody raise your middle fingers.” So everybody raised them. “Yell, ‘Fuck you, TVT Records.’” So they got pissed. “Don’t you ever do that again, blah blah. We’ll give you the money to finish the tour. You better finish the fuckin’ tour.” So, we took the money and went straight home, said, “Fuck you. We’re never playing another show on TVT again.” So, realizing that we’re still under contract with TVT and just the stress of everything, we all just kind of went our separate ways.

I went to help out Bill [Gaal], our old bass player, with his project in California. California wasn’t for me. The project wasn’t for me. I wasn’t for them. Whatever. It was a different thing. I didn’t fit in. I was too metal, you know? I’m not a Foo Fighter kind of guy, so it didn’t really work out for me. I’m also not a backup singer, so whatever. So I came back here. Me and [guitarist] Tom [Maxwell] started talking again and it was kind of something that was just inevitable. Tom and I have some type of weird bond that we’ve always had that no matter what happens in either one of our personal lives, we always find our way back together. We just started talking and figured out it was the thing that would make us happiest. And at this point, we were no longer under contract with TVT. For the first time in the band’s history, we were free and clear completely contractually, allowed to take as long as we want to write a new record and hopefully get a new deal. We’ve had a good relationship with [bassist] Jerry [Montano] for a long time. He started playing with Tom and [drummer] Tommy [Sickles] after I was gone and he had played with Nothingface before. We did a Disturbed and a Pantera tour, so he was the obvious choice. So there it is. We’ve been writing and preparing ever since. We did that first tour in late winter basically to just kind of say, “Hey, we’re not dead. Look, heart’s still pumping,” and put out a couple songs. Now we’re just finishing it up.

So is the plan to write and record another album before—

Before we do another major tour, yeah. A lot of the reason is just it’s very hard without any financial backing. We could go out there and book our own tour, but I don’t know that the band could necessarily gain anything off it. I mean, we’ll put some money in our pockets, but there’s a little bit more to that. We don’t want to over-saturate and play constantly because after a while you keep coming to the same places over and over again on the same tour over and over again, basically, with you headlining. People end up saying, “Well, I’m see ‘em when they come back again.” We’d rather right now do it strategically and find other tours we can hop onto that will put us in front of new fans first and just try to rebuild this thing to the best we can. But, yeah, the plan is finish writing the record, get a new deal, put it out hopefully—I don’t know, but hopefully, we’ll start touring heavily again, like, next spring. Record will be out some time maybe around then, as well, maybe by summertime, hopefully. I don’t know. There’s no label right now or anything, so there’s no plan.

How did it feel at the show here back in February, the first time you guys played together again?

Oh my god. My life was slowly falling apart without the band. I realized it was an integral part to my happiness being able to write music and everything, that I needed it badly. Playing with other people and writing with other people just wasn’t doing it for me. I’m the singer for Nothingface. I’ll never be the singer for another band, ever. It’s just the way it is. I can’t even describe the feeling to you. It was like being born again, but stoned. Happiness.

What sort of expectations did you have for that tour and how did it turn out?

I expected empty rooms, being a couple years—almost three years—since we had done anything. I expected to go and draw 100 people everywhere we went, but it was consistently larger than that. In fact, in some places we’d draw double and triple what we did a few years before. So it was kind of strange. We still don’t understand what the hell happened. But we were very happy to see that people didn’t seem to write us off as a dead band.

The first night there was the big snowstorm. Did you see that as any kind of sign?


We weren’t sure because we had to drive directly to Cleveland after the show that night through that shit. It was pretty crazy. We did wonder if we should turn back. But we pushed through it and it ended up being a great tour. If it was a sign, it was put up there to specifically see if we’d get through it or something. We did. I mean, we’ll forever be a dysfunctional band, but really, what band isn’t? The quieter a band is, the more problems they have. So we’re pretty much an open book.

How would you describe the new music that you have been writing and recording?


Oh, um … I’m trying to figure out what I think of it, still. I find myself describing it the way I end up describing the rest of our music. Some of it’s brutally heavy. Some of it’s melodic. I don’t really know. I think it’s a lot more mature sounding. The songs are a lot more like song songs, where in Skeletons we were kind of messing around with weird stuff—I mean, it was different for us. This is kind of more maybe back to the [An Audio Guide to Everyday] Atrocity days kind of thing. I’m singing a lot more. I don’t know why. It’s just working out that way. As far as me screaming my head off—because I can only speak about the vocals. We all look at the music individually different. That’s partially what makes us what we are. But as far as the screaming stuff is concerned, I’m starting to feel like I’ve screamed everything I can, every rhythm. Like, what can I possibly do that Neil Fallon [of Clutch] and Phil Anselmo haven’t? I’m trying to find little spots, trying to make something that’s just cool metal, but I’m finding that I’m singing a lot more. I don’t know. It just seems natural. With this record, I’m just kind of like letting it go, like, whatever happens, happens. However it comes out, it comes out, not thinking about anything but making the best music possible, at least in my opinion.

Is there anything that you do to take care of your voice to be able to do both the screaming and singing?

Yeah, I smoke cigarettes and weed.

[laughter]

No, I drink lots of tea. Cough drops. Sometimes, if my throat’s messed up, I actually sing with cough drops in my mouth. With the way I scream, I have throat problems a lot. I’m not going to deny that. It’s irritating as shit. And I do back off on the cigarette and pot smoking. I’m not on the road right now, so I’m smoking a cigarette. But I’ll cut back a lot. But, also, we haven’t been playing as much as normal, so I haven’t physically gotten used to doing it every day. Most singers will sit there and tell you, “Oh, everything’s fuckin’ perfect.” I ain’t going to lie. But I do everything I can. Lots of tea and honey, lots of tea and honey.

What about the lyrics? In the past, you’ve written a lot about politics and religion. Are you going in that same direction?

I always seem to find myself headed that direction even if I don’t intend to. I think it just has a lot to do with lyrically, I think I’m just kind of a slave to the climate of what’s going on in the world.

And there’s a lot going on right now.

Yeah. I’m a huge history buff. I’m obsessed with ancient history, everything leading up to now. For the last several years, I’ve had this obsession with learning everything I can about how the Catholic Church was created and so on and so forth. I always seem to find things through Christian history that dumbfound me and that I see the ideals it was built on and what it’s turned into now are two totally different things and it doesn’t seem to be obvious to people and that seems to bother me. Even the rednecks scream about corporate corruption and corporate greed, but no one seems to ever question the Church about anything they ever do. The child molestation thing was just ridiculous. The stats that I saw from that, basically the ages of people—they were born in the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, so on and so forth, and it increases by 100 percent in each decade and apparently only about 5 percent of the total people that were molested ever came forward. And still last year, there were still 1,100 reports worldwide. And they haven’t done anything.

And then politically, I mean, come on! Jesus Christ! I don’t know sometimes whether to believe what’s going on as far as what our current president’s policy is when it comes to foreign policy. Some of the time, it seems like a lot of the stuff they’re doing is very selfish, like in the long run they’re the only ones that seem to come out on top because of the corporations they’ve been chairman of or have stock in or have future stock options for when they come out of office.

There’s all this evidence starting to come out about September 11 that’s starting to point towards inside the United States, which is something I didn’t doubt before anyways. I’ll never believe that plane in Pennsylvania crashed on its own. Never. I saw the Pentagon. I drove by it right after the accident. It didn’t look like a plane hit that shit to me. That’s not what I thought. I thought that shit got hit by a bomb. There was no plane wreckage or anything out there. Everyone I talk to that saw it with their eyes never said anything about a plane. So I don’t know what to think. I’m so confused now that I don’t even watch the news anymore. Everyone seems to be losing their fuckin’ mind. I don’t want to get into it too much because I can go on and on and on and on and start bringing up facts and stupid shit, but I don’t know. I cannot believe that the United States has deteriorated to what it’s becoming. When the rest of the world refers to us as the “evil empire,” that’s no bullshit. If you want a startling comparison, watch Star Wars. Donald Rumsfeld’s fuckin’ Darth Vader, dude.

[laughter]

That’s a stupid analogy, but how is it that we invaded a country for the purpose of oil—everyone knows that—but oil prices are at the highest point they’ve ever been? What, it dropped $2 because of the terrorist attacks? What, was that supposed to appease us to not get too upset? I don’t understand how we have such a huge foothold in the Middle East, but still allow OPEC to create the prices that they do. I don’t understand what’s going on. I want to move. I want to find some island in international waters.

Do you think it’s important for music to address things like this?


Of course. Musicians are the only place that children learn anything. When I was a kid, I learned everything there was from MTV. Kids latch on to bands that can kind of teach them something, not that we can, but Rage Against the Machine, for instance. I mean, granted, a lot of people always criticized Zach de la Rocha for not writing anything that really had to do with Americans directly. It was always stuff in other countries. But a lot of people learned a lot. Part of the reason why you can go to J.C. Penney now and buy a Che Guevarra shirt is because of him—not that that’s a good thing because if anybody learned anything about Che Guevarra after he wrote that goddamn book, they’d realize he was a lunatic.

It’s extremely important. I’m sick to death of hearing about someone’s girlfriend. I’m sick to death of hearing about how upset you are because fuckin’ mommy touched your nuts or kids at school aren’t being nice to you or you’re a weirdo because you have black hair and piercings and tattoos like you’re different anymore—you’re not. That whole emo, new punk thing that’s going around, it drives me insane. And now those types of singers are working their way into metal and it makes me sick. Look, no offense to Korn, but one of my problems with the first Korn record is there is no room, in my opinion, for the pussification of metal. The reason why people always like Pantera and even Hatebreed is they sang about strength and empowerment. I sing about weak moments and stuff like that, but I always contrast it to other things. I’m not into music that teaches kids how to be introverted and not become part of society. It bothers me when bands say outwardly, “I don’t fuckin’ vote” or “I don’t care what’s going on.” You’ve gotta think beyond that. My band’s not a huge band or anything, but if there’s a few hundred kids that listen to us, I’m going to try to show ‘em—I mean, everyone says a single vote doesn’t matter anymore. But you know what? If everyone takes that term, we’ll end up in a dictatorship.

Yeah, no one person’s vote matters any more or less than any other one person’s. That’s how I always look at it.

And they do everything they can to make it seem that way. Do you think it’s a mistake that it’s like that? They don’t want you to pay attention. If you pay the fuck attention, then your people are gonna do something about it. Our government learned from the ‘60s don’t over-inform the public. Our media has turned into what the media in Germany was during World War II. It’s completely controlled. It’s ridiculous. If you want to see the real news, you’ve gotta find the BBC or something.

So these two shows this week, why did you decide to play them now?

Withdrawal, one of the reasons. Also, just we needed to play. We were trying to figure out how to put together a string of shows or something. Then these guys in Minneapolis called us and asked us to come out there and play. And we’re not going to go play a show out there without playing one at home. So we put these two shows together and probably come a month, a month and a half or two months maybe, we’ll probably play a couple more shows. And it’ll be like that. We’ll be around sparsely here and there. But then when the record comes out, you all are gonna get sick of us. We’ll be everywhere.

Where are you guys actually based right now?


We live out in western Maryland, like in Germantown and Frederick Our bass player, Jerry, lives in Hollywood. So for the time being, with what we do, it’s OK that he’s across the country.

Do you get a chance to go out and see local bands around here?


I don’t usually. It’s not because I don’t like going to shows. Every time I go to shows I’m always really uncomfortable about not playing. I’m always upset that I can’t get up on stage. Plus, I’m a huge paintball freak, so I’d much rather be out playing paintball. I don’t drink, really, or party hard like that, so I kind of like quiet environments unless I’m shooting at people.

What are some of your favorite Nothingface songs?

Favorite Nothingface songs … “Here Come the Butchers” is one. “Gold Tooth” that’s on Atrocity. “The Sick” that’s on Atrocity. “For All the Sin,” which is on Violence. “Can’t Wait for Violence.” “Hitch” on Pacifier, which is the first song I ever heard Tom write. “Perfect Person,” which is also on Pacifier. Pretty much all of it. The songs that I don’t really care for I don’t really remember because I think I choose not to. But the way I am, every time we’ve ever done a record, I’m always listening to it afterwards going, “I wish I would’ve done that.” It’s never done to me. I cannot say I’ve ever completed anything. It’s never done to me. “Ah, I should’ve done that there instead. I should’ve put a different lyric there.” I’ve never met another singer that was any different.

Is it hard to put together a set list for a show?


Yeah, yeah, because we’re trying to compromise between what people like to hear and what we like to play, which seem to happen to be two different things sometimes. ‘Cause the songs that are quote-en-quote singles or put out to the radio and stuff, we never really care for playing those songs, really, but we do. People like to hear ‘em. We always end up looking through old set lists because some do flow better than others. A band can definitely screw up a show with the order of songs. You don’t think it sometimes if they’re one of your favorite bands. You don’t notice it, but we do. So we always try to find sets that flow together the best. Tonight’s set is probably a pretty typical set. Because we haven’t played in so long, I guess we’re doing what’s kind of comfortable for us. But actually, we were talking about possibly in couple months doing a local show, actually like two nights here and the first night we’ll play all of Pacifier and all of Atrocity, and the next night we’ll play all of Violence and all of Skeletons, just all the way through the records. We’ll be lip-synching, but you won’t know.

[laughter]

I’m kidding, obviously. We’ve never lip-synched. We have samples and no click. It’s all triggered. We don’t cheat at all. No computers, no bullshit.

Are you playing any new songs tonight?

Well, the two that were released on the Web site, “Walking on Bodies” and “Let It Burn.” We’re gonna play those, but the other stuff we’re keeping in a locked box to surprise people.

If you could cover any song, what would it be?


I’ve always had two cover songs that I’ve always wanted to cover. One, everyone always kind of raises their eyebrows at me. I’ve always wanted to do “It’s So Easy” by Guns N’ Roses on Appetite for Destruction for some reason. I always thought that song could be way heavier than it is. Plus, it’s about fucking some stupid girl, so it seems like it would be fun to sing, too. The other one is “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” by The Beatles.

Interesting.

We never seem to be able to cover anything. I can honestly say I think the only cover we’ve ever done is we will play half of “Raining Blood” [by Slayer]. Then we always stop. We’ll tease people and just stop dead every time because we never bothered learning the rest of the song, I don’t think. We talked about doing “Creeping Death” by Metallica, but we never seem to do anything.

[laughter]

I don’t understand why. We’re too consumed with ourselves.

What are five albums that you just couldn’t live without?

The White Album by The Beatles is definitely one. For me—this is me, not the rest of the band—OK Computer by Radiohead. … And Justice for All by Metallica. Vulgar Display of Power [by Pantera]. What’s the other one I should pick? Ooh, boy. Clutch, just the record Clutch. There are probably a few more I could throw in, but that’s off the top of my head.

Now that you’re back together, what goals do you have for the band?


Well now since we basically lost confidence in everybody in the music industry, I think our goal is to conquer about as much of it as we can. I’d like to be the Roman Empire of bands somehow. Plus, someone needs to knock off Metallica. So I figured we might as well give it a shot. But if we get to the point where we can draw 90,000 people places worldwide, I might just start my own country or religion or something and try to conquer the world, because that would be the biggest terrorist organization in the world at that point. I could look at it like, we have 50 million records sold, 50 million followers. That’s bigger than the U.S. Army.

[laughter]

How is this new band or project or whatever it is with Tom and Jerry and Vinnie Paul and the Mudvayne guys [vocalist Chad Grey, guitarist Greg Tribbett] going to affect Nothingface?

I don’t think it’ll affect us at all. First of all, Tom is 100-percent—I mean, Nothingface is his baby. And Chad and Greg, they’re not going to leave Mudvayne. It’s something that especially Tom and Chad and Jerry had talked about for a very long time, and Vinnie and Greg became part of it over time. I’m happy for those guys to finally do this. If anything, it’ll probably help us because if it puts Tom and Jerry in front of mainstream people, it’s just gonna bring more attention to us. I’m not looking at it as something that’s hindering us or anything else like that. I think it’s cool. Actually, I haven’t heard it. I haven’t gotten a chance to hear any of it yet. I can’t even tell you what it sounds like. I’ve heard it was kinda Southern metal-ish. I can imagine what those guys would put together knowing all those guys so well. But it’s gonna be good. People should be excited about it if they are. It’s not going to affect Nothingface at all.

That is all the questions I have for you. Is there anything you want to add?

U.S. Senate primaries are Sept. 12. The election is Nov. 7. Senate and Congress makes a bigger deal than the presidency. Pay attention to who’s running in your state, find the policies you agree with and vote for that person because if you have certain beliefs and you win the majority in the Senate, you control the U.S. president. You control the rest of the country. As soon as people start educating themselves, paying attention and learning about the government—vote accordingly. Please make a difference or else we’re just gonna be going through this vicious circle for the next eight years, as well. Why can’t we re-elect Clinton? I have a lot more respect for a president that gets a blow job than someone that’ll never accept one.