Nails and Skin Like Iron Split Interview Special Feature
Interview by Joshua T. Cohen
We are very excited to offer Blow The Scene readers an exclusive split interview with Skin Like Iron and Nails, who recently joined forces to release one of the best split EPs of the year. Guitarist and vocalist of Skin Like Iron, Alex Capasso, along with vocalist and guitarist Todd Jones of Nails, give Blow The Scene readers the inside scoop on their recent self-released EP, discussing the history behind how the bands came to link up, offering insight into their perspective recording processes, equipment picks, forthcoming plans for 2012, and much more in this exclusive interview.
For those of you just tuning into either band, consider this your late pass.
Nails broke into the forefront of extreme music with their debut LP Obscene Humanity in 2009 followed shortly thereafter by Unsilent Death on Southern Lord Recordings in 2010, setting forth one of the most furious sounds in all of the hardcore-metal spectrum. Combining the heaviest elements of grindcore, hardcore, and death metal, Nails offer an utterly unforgiving sound with absolutely no frills. This three-piece outfit has shaved off all of the fat to create a relentless sound that has since been emulated but never recreated.
Skin Like Iron have become hardcore mainstays with scores of releases both independently and in conjunction with some of the most prominent underground labels throughout the past decade. Fusing musical elements that are simultaneously poignant, emotional, brutal, and catchy, Skin Like Iron continually release some of the best music in the hardcore world, having earned the respect and admiration of not only fans, but many of their musical peers.
I am not going to spend too much time on band descriptions as I examined this split in detail in our feature review last December. Without further ado, lets hear from both Nails and Skin Like Iron…
Joshua BTS: Greetings! Thank you for taking time to answer a few questions for Blow The Scene readers around the world! Let’s begin by having you introduce yourselves and declare your onstage weapons of choice with Oxnard, CA’s pummeling grinders Nails and San Francisco’s hardcore mainstays, Skin Like Iron.
Alex Capasso – Skin Like Iron: I’m Alex Capasso. I play guitar and sing in Skin Like Iron. Ryan Mattos plays bass, Joey Raygoza plays drums, and Clark Todd plays second guitar.
Todd Jones – Nails: I’m Todd Jones. I play guitar and sing in Nails. John Gianelli plays bass, Taylor Young plays drums.
Joshua BTS: We recently reviewed your self-released, split 7″ E.P. Some of the best recorded efforts we’ve come across in the last year, which we’ll get back to in a moment. First, how did you two come to link up for this release?
Alex Capasso – Skin Like Iron: We’ve had a mutual appreciation for each other pretty much since the very beginning each band’s lifespan. We’ve seen each other play a bunch and considering our friendship, it seemed like a good idea to do this one-off release.
Todd Jones – Nails: Exactly what Alex said. I remember when I first heard about Skin Like Iron. It was 2007-ish and the first thing I remember was that the front person also played guitar. I’ve been friends with Ryan Mattos. He started playing in SLI who I was a fan of before he was in the band and I met Alex and the rest of the fellas through Ryan.
Joshua BTS: As we noted in our review of the Skin Like Iron portion of the split, “Skin Like Iron infuse many layers of melodic string-work that strokes an emotional chord without becoming cheesy or predictable. This is something often attempted but rarely executed well within the hardcore scene.” Give us the skinny on where, when, and whom you recorded with for this split?
Alex Capasso – Skin Like Iron: We recorded in October of 2011 at Sharkbite Studios in Oakland, California. We tracked our songs with the talented—yet elusive—Burt Calhoun. Taylor Young from Nails did the final mastering.
Joshua BTS: In regards to your musical execution and lyrical delivery- Skin Like Iron are able to put forth compelling and immediate music that is renowned amongst your musical peers. We even quoted Loma Prieta in a recent interview giving you props saying “They are my favorite bay area band.” Do you weigh the timeliness of your music as major factor when preparing a release? And does this dictate the length of any given release? Obviously you are not married to the traditional full-length format. Any new releases in the works?
Alex Capasso – Skin Like Iron: That was nice of Loma to say that. We dig that band a lot too. Anyway, our music has evolved over the past five years. Inevitably, our material gets a little longer, and a little more intricate. That being said, we never really have any rules setup when we write. Generally speaking, we just try to inject as much melody and aggression into whatever we’re writing. I’m constantly working on new material, so we try to record at least once or twice a year and release either a full length or an EP. Currently I have ideas for about 20 songs. Before the end of this year, we’ll be releasing another 7″, and have plans to record a full length in December or January.
Joshua BTS: As we noted in our review concerning the Nails portion of the split, “Nails do what they do best- bludgeon the listener with a barrage of meaty distortions, double-bass, and varying elements and tempos of punk, grind, and hardcore that is many an extreme listener’s wet dream. No bullshit, no frills, just some hard-ass riffs to demolish your stereo. At 2 minutes and 51 seconds, the length of this opening Nails track is almost uncanny for a band that rarely hits the two-minute mark, but make no mistake, I am not complaining” Please give us the skinny on the recording.. Where, when, and whom did you record with?
Todd Jones – Nails: Taylor Young, our drummer, recorded our material in his studio. It was recorded the last week of October and the first week of November in 2011. Having Taylor be able to record us is an invaluable asset to our band. He’s real good at it.
Joshua BTS: With about 2 years past since your highly-regarded debut full-length, Unsilent Death– Are these tracks appetizers for a forthcoming E.P. or L.P.?
Todd Jones – Nails: Originally they were supposed to be; we’ll see when it comes time to record our next album. Originally they were to both be on the album but we’ve been writing songs that are better than those songs (in my opinion) so it just depends if they fit in with the vibe of all the other material we have when we record next.
Alex Capasso – Skin Like Iron: Splits are obviously a good way to expose one band to another’s audience. It also functions as a mutual endorsement. I don’t see a downside to it at all.
Todd Jones – Nails: No downside. I wanted to do a split with Skin Like Iron because I’m a big fan of the band and I wanted Nails to be associated with them more than we already were. I wanted to see Nails logo next to theirs on the cover of a 7”. I wanted to work on it together with them because I’m into their band and into Alex’s artwork and we’re all buddies. The only downside is that it’s not a 12” cuz 12” is a superior format but really whatever, I dunno.
Joshua BTS: I always find it admirable when bands just up and put out a release without any label support or influence. Why the decision to fly solo and what were some of the challenges you faced doing so? What are some of the pros to self-releasing?
Alex Capasso – Skin Like Iron: Skin Like Iron‘s first handful of releases were all self-released. It was a good experience for us, and we learned some useful lessons up front. A lot of times people sit around and wait for some label to pick them up, but that just may not happen for a lot of bands. If you can afford to front the money, there’s a lot of satisfaction to be had in handling your own affairs. That being said, all of us have worked with a number of labels in the past, and have benefited from having people/labels in our corners over the years.
Todd Jones – Nails: I’m the one who pushed for self releasing it. The reason is because we didn’t need a label. We all knew how to put out a record, get it to the distributors, make sure it’s advertised correctly and also it’s a low risk investment. Both of our bands are known well enough to get rid of the 1000 copies that were pressed without having to get a label involved to push it out to the masses. Labels are great and I endorse labels, but “we got this”.
Joshua BTS: Always like to throw one in for the gear-heads.. Any special pieces of equip whether it be mics, cabs, heads, rooms, etc., that played a pivotal role in capturing your sounds for this split?
Alex Capasso – Skin Like Iron: Nothing special as far as I know. We used a Sunn 200S for the bass, and a JCM800 and JMP for the guitars. We should have used the JMP more, but didn’t really bring it out until it was time for overdubs.
Todd Jones – Nails: When Nails flew to Massachusetts to record Unsilent Death, we brought nothing. I mean nothing, not even a fucking guitar pick so whatever. I’ll use whatever is there I don’t care. I’m not a gear head although I do love a good Marshall tone.
Alex Capasso – Skin Like Iron: We’ve already booked a really good show together coming up real soon. Keep your eyes peeled for details on that.
Todd Jones – Nails: We played 2 record release shows for the split in January and they were great!! Like Alex said we got a show coming up in LA at the end of April that we’re playing together but we’ve played a handful of shows together before we even talked about doing the split and we’ll be playing more together in the future.
Joshua BTS: Skin Like Iron front man Alex Capasso crafted the cover art for this split – Could you explain the its significance, if any, in relation to the music? What medium/s did you use to create this art?
Alex Capasso – Skin Like Iron: The art for our releases is always something non-objective, but has visual resonance with the moods, and lyrical concepts I explore on our albums. I create all of our album covers by digitally compositing photos.
Joshua BTS: Nails and Skin Like Iron have vastly different approaches to composing and executing your musical frameworks. I find it interesting that you two sought each other out for this release, but also not surprised. Both bands have a unique take on modern hardcore that has seen vast excitement from your musical peers and fans alike. What are your thoughts on the current state on hardcore? Any bands out there really exciting you right now?
Alex Capasso – Skin Like Iron: The current state of hardcore is hard to describe. There’s plenty of stuff to complain about, but after 10-15 years of hanging around, clearly there’s still something attractive about it, so my feeling on it is generally positive. A few of the local bands I really like are Loma Prieta, Secret People and Living Eyes. I’m really excited about a couple of Swedish bands currently… Vånna Inget just released a great LP through 1-2-3-4 Go! Records. Stoked to see them in Oakland soon. Terrible Feelings have a bunch of excellent 7″s and are about to release a new LP very soon. Can’t wait to hear it.
Todd Jones – Nails: I like Skin Like Iron and we’re friends that’s really all there is too it. HARDCORE RULES. I like Soul Search and War Cry from Portland. Probably my two favorites.
Joshua BTS: Without getting overly specific unless you’d like to go that route- Can you touch on some of the lyrical motifs found throughout the split? While the approaches are vastly different, the intensity of the emotion behind the lyrics remains compelling throughout. Did the bands map out a prevailing theme before recording?
Alex Capasso – Skin Like Iron: We each took our own paths. No per-mediation or collaboration. Skin Like Iron‘s lyrics are usually introspective or critical of the failings inherent in human nature. The songs on this split deal with paralyzing anxiety and hopelessness… things which I think a lot of people can relate to.
Todd Jones – Nails: “Annihilation” is just about wanting to sock someone in the face and “Cry Wolf” is just about people lying about you to other people just to make you look bad. Nothing deep about that honestly, I can’t even pretend there’s some heavy meaning to those songs.
Joshua BTS: This split pulls from both the northern and southern regions of California. Do feel there is noticeable different in the vibe or approach from bands in these perspective areas or is it more on an individual band-by-band basis?
Alex Capasso – Skin Like Iron: I don’t think I can presume to define either region well enough to answer that.
Todd Jones – Nails: Southern California and Northern California really need to split into their own states at this point.
Joshua BTS: When you are not busy writing, recording and playing shows- What does daily life look like for the members of Nails and Skin Like Iron?
Alex Capasso – Skin Like Iron: I’m in school and working, which accounts for anywhere between 50-80 hours a week. I don’t have much time for anything else. Joey goes to school and sells women’s clothing. Clark is in video production. Toast crunches numbers and serves as a father figure within our band. Outside of work and the band, the only thing any of us cares about is Sightglass Coffee in San Francisco.
Joshua BTS: What does the rest of 2012 look like for you?
Alex Capasso – Skin Like Iron: We’re going to hit the East Coast at least once, and hopefully make our way up to Vancouver, Seattle and Portland.
Todd Jones – Nails: Hopefully we’ll record our next LP in November. We were supposed to do it in July but some shit came up and we had to move recording.
Joshua BTS: Thank you for taking time with us at BTS today! We look forward to keep up with the future endeavors of both bands. Any final thoughts?
Alex Capasso – Skin Like Iron: Thanks for the interview. We try our best to keep our website current, so check it out for shows and mailorder information.
Todd Jones – Nails: Thanks.
Nails – “Suffering Soul” – From Unsilent Death LP order at NailsMerch.com
[youtube width=”420″ height=”315″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80CR4RVXHnI[/youtube]
Nails Live in Philadelphia on April 2, 2011 – Check out the Blow The Scene Photo Gallery from this Show
Arrival by Skin Like Iron
[wp_bandcamp_player type=”album” id=”694851736″ size=”venti” bg_color=”#FFFFFF” link_color=”#4285BB”]
Skin Like Iron – Submission Art Space – 1/28/12
[youtube width=”560″ height=”315″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FUPnWX0IPKI[/youtube]
For more info:
Visit Nails on Facebook