Nick WoodsRed Scare Industries
By Bobby Gorman on June 7th, 2014 at Biltmore Cabaret - Vancouver, BC
As the crowd gathered around the sole television screen at the Biltmore Cabaret to watch the Stanley Cup finals between the Rangers and the Kings before the punk show began, Direct Hit‘s Nick Woods and I headed outside to have a little conversation. It was a moment of reprieve before the chaos of the night was set to begin with both them and A Wilhelm Scream tearing the venue apart.
Sitting on the street curb, with traffic barreling by on Kingsway, Woods recalled the ups and downs of 2013, the innovative writing process behind the behemoth that is Brainless Gods and successfully built up some anticipation for the deluxe box set release of the album.
Live photos by Chris Wedman.
Bobby: Last time you guys were in Vancouver, you played against Black Flag. How’s this show building up compared to that?
Nick: I don’t know, I guess we’ll see by the end of the night. I don’t think it really affected our show all that much when Black Flag played. If I remember that show right, Danny’s arm was all fucked up so we had to play a shortened set but that had nothing to do with the quality of the show or anything like that. There was a decent crowd there though, it was fun. It was a bummer that we had to leave as soon as we did.
Bobby: How was the rest of the Canadian trek with Lipstick Homicide?
Nick: Pretty good man, we had a good time. I don’t really know what to say. Pretty regular, it was cool.
Bobby: I remember seeing you guys back at Fest 11 at 1982 when there were literally people crowd surfing outside on the streets because they couldn’t get into the show. Now compare that to the last Vancouver show when there were only 20-30 people there. How do you maintain the same sense of energy between the two shows?
Nick: Probably just because that’s how we play. That’s just how we always do it. It’s not like we’re doing one thing different at one show compared to another show. It’s just always kind of what we do. It’s just a matter of how much we get to interact with the crowd and how much they interact with us back. That’s just what we do always do man, we don’t do it any other way.
Bobby: Do you like playing off the chaotic energy as opposed to pitch perfect performance?
Nick: I think we try to get both to be honest. I think a band’s that pitch perfect but no energy is just as difficult to watch as a band that’s all energy and no pitch perfect. There’s definitely different energy at different shows so I guess the way the songs are performed changes depending on what the crowd’s like. I wouldn’t say I prefer one more than the other because we kind of do both all the time.
Bobby: In December you guys released a cover of Dollar Sign’s “Caroller.” What made you decide to release that Christmas song as opposed to another one?
Nick: I guess because I like that song and because Dylan’s a pretty good friend of mine, he’s a cool dude so I felt comfortable asking them. We didn’t want to do a song that has already been covered. I thought it was cool to do a cover of a less established band, I thought that was cool. I don’t know, I guess that’s pretty much it.
Bobby: Before you guys were robbed in Detroit did you have plans to do a cover song?
Nick: Yeah we were thinking about it. We were thinking about doing the – I forget the name of the song but the Fuck Christmas song or whatever it is by Fear. And our friends in the Priceduifkes have this other song called “I Ain’t Dreaming Of A White Christmas” and we were thinking about doing that one but we saw those guys on tour and I liked that song a little bit. First of all, their version is a little bit lower key than ours. There’s no drummer on it or anything like that – or maybe there is a drummer on it. I don’t remember; but either way it’s toned down compared to the version that we did so we wanted to do something different with somebody else’s tune. So there were a lot of reasons we picked that one over another one.
Bobby: So you guys were planning on doing a Christmas cover song before the robbery?
Nick: Yeah, yeah. We were just going to put it up for free on Christmas Day and not tell anybody ahead of time; but then it became this whole other deal where “how is it possible to raise a few thousand dollars really really quick?” So we wended up just using it for that instead of a free download but it would’ve been free otherwise.
Bobby: Did you get a good amount of donations?
Nick: Oh yeah man. “Pleasant Surprise” is like understatement of the year when it comes to stuff like that. It was crazy how much people helped out; I never expected it – so that was awesome.
Bobby: Did you ever get all that stuff back from the robbery or did Geico end up covering it all?
Nick: Insurance didn’t cover anything. Like at all. Insurance totally screwed us over. And yeah, we ended up getting a lot of our stuff back actually; but it was only when we were coming home from our last tour with The Flatliners that we stopped in Detroit on our way home to get our stuff. That’s when we got it, and that was like less than a month ago. Steve got all his stuff back. I got my head back. I didn’t get my guitar back. Danny got back his drum kit but it was trashed a little bit and it wasn’t even his, he was borrowing it from a friend. None of his cymbals were there. I’m trying to think what else. I’d say we got about 2/3rds of the gear.
Bobby: So it sucks but better than nothing.
Nick: Yeah, yeah. I mean from all the money that people donated – I mean the biggest loss wasn’t even really the equipment. It was the cash that we had in our car. Our print shop had fronted us a bunch of stuff, Kind Of Like had fronted us a bunch of records; so we owed money to all of those people when we got home and all that stuff was gone. So the money that people donated actually went towards paying those folks back first and foremost.
The other money that we had went to getting me a new amp, to get our van fixed because we had to pay… First of all we had to pay the pawn shop back for all the stuff that got stolen. That’s a law in Michigan where you have the pay back the pawn shop owner for what he paid for whatever the stolen stuff was worth. It all went to legit places. It’s not like we were putting it in our pockets or something like that. Even though we got a lot of our equipment back, basically the donations that people made us able to cover our losses completely.
Bobby: That was the second time last year you lost most of your stuff after the fire at your practice space. Last year, Brainless God was released to great reaction and critical acclaim, so it was a good year for that; but then there was the fire and the robbery as well. How would you describe 2013?
Nick: It was weird man. It was the biggest ups and downs of my entire life all in one fucking year. I mean that year we went on our first really big US tour – we were on the road for five weeks. The record came out. I got married, we went on our honeymoon. We did a month in Europe. Recording the whole record happened last year too. Then on top of that, you had all the stuff on the bottom with like our practice space burning down, our van getting stolen, I fell down the stairs once and fucked up both my ankles. There were all kinds of different stuff that went on. It was tumultuous I guess. That’s the best way to described it.
Bobby: Talking about Brainless Gods, you’ve already released several videos from the album. Do you have plans to release videos for the entire album or what’s the plan for that?
Nick: Yeah, we’ve got one more video we’re trying to premiere. We’re waiting before we put it out to make sure we have those box sets done. We have the records, we have the boxes. A bunch of print work needs to get done still. So once the whole box set is done, we’re going to premiere the last one. Then the last three videos, for the last section of it where you see how it ends is going to be on the DVD that’s with it.
Bobby: You’ve been talking about this box set for a while now – what’s it going to be?
Nick: It’s a screen printed and hand numbered cover. Then there’s the insert, a red colour record, a DVD and a comic book all together in one box. A bunch of different stuff. The DVD is going to have an actual album length cut of the movie with everything strung together that you can watch. So it’s not just going to be the individual episodes.
The comic book is actually almost like a playbill. The dude that did all the artwork for the cover that you’ve already seen, he did basically a 48-page illustrated booklet to go along with it. So as you watch the movie, you can read the book at the same time. And honestly I think that’s going to be the coolest part of the entire thing and nobody has even seen a bit of it yet.
Bobby: For the videos, you guys teamed up with Dylan Brown. Who came up with the concept? Was it you guys or was it Dylan? How did that whole thing evolve?
Nick: I came up with the concept of the whole thing just as kind of a means to be able to write the album more efficiently, lyrically. And then I just basically handed over the lyrics to Dylan and Dylan was the one who kind of just flushed it out to what he wanted the movie to look like. It was my story that I wrote but that’s only a very small part of what making a movie is all about. He kind of handled all the imagery stuff and that kind of thing.
Bobby: You recorded the song “Getting What He Asked For” down in Brazil which I read was the catalyst of the story arc. How did that come up about? What were you doing in Brazil? How did that story come to you?
Nick: I was actually down there for school and I knew a girl down there named Angelica who worked for Canos Mis Discos Compactos – I forget what the name of it is. I have more records than friends but it’s in Portuguese so I forget the translation. So I asked her if she could help me out with a show while I was down there so I could play some Direct Hit songs while I was down there during my time off from school. She hooked me up with this other dude named Phil who plays in a band called Xander down there and he ran a studio and asked if I wanted to come over and record something. I already had that one written. It was the only new song I had written at the time so I kind of decided that was going to be the one that I was going to do.
Bobby: So was that only in demo form or did that end up making the album? What happened to that recording?
Nick: That one’s still around. I think I have copies of it. We had it on our bandcamp page for a while but I just took it down eventually. I’m sure it’s all over the internet so you can find it. But that version of the song, the acoustic version, is a lot different than the one that’s on the album. So we worked on it a little bit after that. That was just kind of me strumming. It was like the very first demo where I just managed to make it through the entire song where it sounded like a song when it was done. So there’s definitely little parts that are different when you listen to the album version compared to that one.
Bobby: The album is a complete concept album, a convoluted one with post apocalyptic landscape and zombies. How did the story evolve?
Nick: I don’t know really. I just kind of started writing. The first thing that came to mind, that’s where I kind of took it. If an idea that popped into my head didn’t work, then I would just scrap it – if it wasn’t working lyrically or something like that.
Like I said, it made it easier to write because I know what certain scenes would sound like – like what a soundtrack would sound like during those different parts of the story. That’s how it kind of went with each individual chapter as I went along.
Bobby: Now the album seems to be ordered in a way that doesn’t always seem to follow the linear storyline of it?
Nick: Yeah. So, in my mind – the way the videos were going to start; I don’t know if you’ve seen all of the videos yet or what?
Bobby: I’ve seen most of them, yeah.
Nick: Okay, so it was going to start with her walking into the bar with the first track of the album and then it was going to be a flashback to Getting What He Asked For. We used that because chronologically, that was the first one that came out because chronologically that made the most sense when you were just sitting down and watching them in order.
Originally I had thought of the idea that this girl goes into the bar and then she comes out and then the guy kidnaps her and then he wants to know how it is she got to where she was. That was her telling him her story of why it is she was in the frame of mind that she was in.
Bobby: Did you write the entire album already thinking film wise?
Nick: I don’t mean to get really pretentious about it or anything but it was definitely more of a cinematic kind of writing process. Because I was thinking of more pictures and story ideas in my head than I was of anything else. But then again, it kind of worked in tandem because I like albums to have a certain flow to them. So I thought up ideas for the story based on how the album would flow and all this other stuff too.
Then it was just a matter of thinking through what made sense and what didn’t make sense and then you’re left with only one or two choices at the end for which way to go at the last part. So stuff kind of wrote itself along with the ideas so it made it a lot easier.
Bobby: With the album, it’s obvious a very thematic story arc – do you write a lot of other stories or is this a one off thing?
Nick: I guess that sort of follows the concept behind our band because I’ve always been writing stories, just little dumb stories about monsters and aliens and bull shit like that. So this one was just kind of a lot of those little stories put together in a way that made sense as part of a larger whole.
Bobby: But I mean outside of writing lyrics, do you write short stories? Novellas? What have you?
Nick: Ohhh. First of all, I’m a copywriter for a living back at home. So I write all the time doing that stuff. I don’t write all that much, I used to write when I was a little kid a lot before I was learning how to play the guitar. I remember when I was in like first or second grade, I wrote something that my mom still has a copy of that came out at like a hundred or a hundred and twenty pages or something like that. So I used to write all the time when I was little. I sort of got more into it in high school but by that time I was playing guitar and stuff like that. I always liked English class and journalism and stuff, that’s always been my kind of deal.
Bobby: One thing I really love about Brainless Gods is the contrast between your raspier voice and Devon’s smoother voice. How do you guys balance the two? Do you like playing off each other?
Nick: Devon’s a way better singer than I am, first of all. That’s why he ends up doing the harmony and stuff like that because he can actually hit notes and I can’t actually hit notes. I just hit approximation of notes and sing loud enough that people don’t give a shit. I write really simple lead stuff and then Devon comes up with stuff behind that actually makes sense. I guess that’s the interplay, we never really thought about it – we just kind of did it.
Bobby: You have Galatic Cannibal and he has Devon Kay and the Solutions. Do you like having that other source of musical creative outlet?
Nick: Well, I can’t speak for him. I don’t play in Galactic Cannibal anymore either. By the way, Galactic Cannibal’s last show is on August 16th in Milwaukee. They’re breaking up because everybody’s really busy.
That was awesome when I was in that band though. That was the coolest part of… like when Direct Hit first started, I was still with my old band. So that was the first big draw for me with this group was that I could play something different, that I won’t have to play the same shit over and over and over again. So in that respective, Galactic Cannibal was cool. I thought the concept behind that band was really cool too; like a fucking polar bear singer in front of a pop-punk band, I thought that was really sweet. And a really negative pop-punk band. You don’t hear that all that often I supposed; not that I’ve heard at least. Somebody should send me some stuff if it exists. So yeah, it was awesome for me when I was in that group. I love having that kind of outlet; but there’s not too much time for other stuff now that we’re busy and I just bought a house back home too. Something there’s all this real life shit that gets in the way.
Bobby: One last question. Your slogan is “Fuck You! Get Pumped!” How did that evolve? How did that come about?
Nick: It was a total joke. It was on our third digital EP thing that we did at first. I didn’t think that our band was going to last much longer than that release at that point. So I just had my brother yell that as a joke at the beginning of it because we had this song that started off with like eighteen instruments and tons of guitar and shit like that so I thought it would be funny to do. People really thought it was awesome so it just stuck around I suppose. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, believe you me.