Nothingface (FULL VERSION)
'Revolutionary Thinking Lives On and Matt Holt Has Something to Say'
Matt Holt, lead singer of Metal band Nothingface, turns 26 years old at the end of this month. Schooled by 8 years of touring and record industry turmoil, this front man possesses a raw intelligence, skeptical wisdom and a dedicated focus which is rarely seen in an artist so young Ė not to mention one so talented. His deeply held views on religion, the record industry and big business are altogether venomous, yet if the right support were behind him these views could revolutionize a system gone so far amuck.
One could say that Washington D.C. based band Nothingface didnít have much of a hold on the music scene during their first few years of existence. It wasnít until the mid-nineties that singer Matt Holt quit his unfocused band Ingredient 17 and joined forces with Nothingface original members Tom Maxwell (guitar), Bill Gaal (bass) and then drummer, Chris Houck. This was really when the band began to veer in a positive direction, recording their first two albums, Pacifier and An Audio Guide of Everyday Atrocities, on the Dcide label and following up with a tour along side Ministry in í99.
In 2000, Nothingface took another seemingly beneficial step in their careers by signing a deal with TVT. During the recording of Violence, their first album with the new label, turbulence threatened to dissuade the group, as drummer Chris Houck was replaced by Tommy Sickles, Holtís former Ingredient 17 band-mate. Although Houckís departure was sudden, Sicklesí dose of new energy added a welcome element to the bandís chemistry. Touring to promote the new album with bands such as Slipknot, Slayer, and even Pantera, Nothingface began to gain an even bigger group of hardcore followers (or as they like to call them, ďThe SickĒ) with their aggressive and shattering stage shows. But, after all of the touring, the band felt slighted by the lax media marketing of Violence, and fired their management. Many a personal travesty ensued, but the guys pulled through to record their latest album, Skeletons just the same.
Prior to their Detroit show at the Shelter, I had the opportunity to sit down with Matt on the tour bus and get to know more about himself, his convictions and the band. And yes, he was just as intense as I had been told, although remained a most gracious host. I first wondered - based on all the rumors and hearsay - if he could briefly explain where it had all 'really' begun for him muscially and just where the bands name had originated. "Basically, Bill, Tom and our old drummer Chris were playing together as Nothingface for a couple of years. I was in a band with Tommy, our current drummer, called Ingredient 17. [We] played a show together and Bill, our bass player, told my old band that we could come and start recording at his studio. So, at the time, their singer had left, and I realized that I had met a group of guys who were just as determined as I was. And the band I was in were more into meeting girls and having ten girls at band practice rather than focusing. So, I left that band and joined Nothingface. Two, three records later our drummer leaves the band and we got Tommy from the old band. As far as where the name came from, from what I understand, it was just off a list of names that somebody had. There wasnít any deep meaning behind it or any kind of epiphany type thing. Weíre not like Ďstand around a fire and beat a drumí hippie kind of people. We donít really look too far into things. Plus, I think itís kind of gay when bands are like, Ďthe meaning of the name of our band is a metaphor for the intricacies of Satan and how he likes to piss on things.í I mean, who knows? Itís just a band name!Ē
GMP - Thinking that Skeletons could well be your last album together, at what point during recording did you realize that wasnít going to be the case after all? "The only reason that it might have been our last album together was strictly because of our record label, and record labels in general. I mean, they didnít like the demos we gave them. So, we werenít going to put out a record just to put it out, and have the label do a real half-assed job. So, it was pretty much like, Ďif we arenít going to do this right, we arenít going to do it at all.í Weíve never tried to put out a half-assed product and we never will. It was basically when they [the label] decided that we could go ahead with what we were doing, and do it the way we wanted. So we were like Ďokay then.í Weíve never wanted to break up and hopefully we wonít. But, you know, every road is only so long.Ē
GMP - Your website quotes that you ďlove working with producer Bill Kennedy.Ē What does he bring out in you guys during recording that you like so much? "He understood basically how we wanted the record to sound Ė the different tones in the record. In the past, weíve either been recorded and mixed like a melodic rock band, or recorded and mixed like a metal band. So, no one has been able to mix the heavy stuff as being heavy and the more melodic stuff as melodic. No one was able to capture the right dynamic. On our last record, Violence, a lot of the edge was taken off the guitar, so it didnít really come across as heavy as we wanted it to at times. But, Kennedy understood exactly what we were doing with the dynamics of our writing and just allowed the soft thing, and understood how the record should sound. As soon as I talked to him, I didnít even have to hear any of the records that he had worked on in the past. I understood that he was coming from the same mind frame. Also, heís about as crazy as the rest of us. He fits in quite well. A lot of producers will just do what the label wants them to do, and Kennedy is not that type of guy. Heíll tell the label what they want to hear and do what we want to do. He was mainly able to sonically reproduce our vision of what it was supposed to sound like. Thatís why we are happier with this record than any of the ones that we did. We said ĎNoí the whole time to anyone that wanted things to change.Ē
GMP - Can you explain more about why Skeletons was a way of expelling your own 'personal demons?' "I created more problems during the writing of this record than anything else. I wasnít expelling anything. If anything, it was absolute hell to write the record. Just because of things going on in our personal lives. So, writing the record wasnít a very pleasant experience at all. Finishing it was a relief, but a lot of the problems are still there. So, I wouldnít say that I expelled any demons. If anything, I trapped them into a little plastic box and showed them to everybody else, but they didnít go anywhere - they didnít leave me. They didnít for anyone else in the band [either] I donít think.Ē
GMP - Two members of the original band were replaced, so how has that changed the dynamic of Nothingfaceís music? "The other singer never put out a record with them. Weíve only been putting out records with me as the singer. As far as Tommy being our drummer, it just gave us a lot more freedom in the writing process to try new things and experiment with our music. Chris was not very open-minded when it came to trying new and different things. He always thought that we were doing new and different things, but not in our opinion. So, our old drummer held us back in certain ways, and Tommy is a very free spirited person, he wants to try anything. He really brought an energy and fire to the band that we had started to lose. Basically, we got to rejuvenate ourselves, musically anyways, through him. Now we know that we arenít going to sound like we did on the first couple of records, everything will continue to change over and over again, and Tommy will allow us to do that.Ē
GMP - Do you still believe that the industry treats you nothing short of cattle with dollar signs branded on your asses?! "Yes. Every single one of us, from the guy in the smallest band to the guy in the biggest band. Thatís all we are. The definition of a musician to a record label is Ďa person that creates a product for us to sell.í In any other branch of business, we would be considered engineers and taken care of very well. But, to a record label, musicians are a dime a dozen. If you donít sell a shit load of records right out of the gate, then they donít care about you. What they do is try to give you this record contract and try to trap you in for a certain amount of time and give you small bits of money, which are big chunks of money up front, and when you spread it out over a long period of time, itís nothing. And, thereís no kind of medical benefits, no dental benefits, but everyone who works for the label gets them. Itís funny, because the record label wouldnít exist without musicians to write the music for them to sell. So, we are all completely disposable. For some bigger bands, if you are a certain size and your sales slip, they [the label] get really paranoid and they send you in the studio with some producer that is going to change you around and make sure that you are going to create something that is going to sell. Any musician that doesnít think that is completely jaded, because itís obvious. Thatís really the price you pay, because itís not going to change. The musicians are not protected, thereís no union out there, like the Screen Actors Guild for instance. Thereís nothing out there like that for us. So, record contracts are always going to continue to be in the record labelís favor. Especially now that the internet is taking so much sales out of the stores and record labels are losing hundreds of millions of dollars, they are getting more and more strict and are taking less chances on the kinds of bands that they are signing. So, now everybody is really starting to sound the same, because no one wants to take the chance and try something new. Right now thatís happening worse than ever, because people arenít going into the stores, they are downloading stuff to see if they like it first. In certain ways, thereís nothing wrong with that except for the fact that one day there might not be records to download. So, the music business is not a musician friendly place. For a lot of guys, it just ruins their love for music, because they find out the load of bullshit that goes on behind it. A lot of guys will go out on tour with a band that they idolize and find out that they run tape the whole fucking time. I mean, there is just so much deceit and crap thatís always there and never goes away. And, the record labels donít care. Everyone is very image conscious and itís going to go away. Not until the music industry is unionized and musicians actually get together and start taking care of one another. And, thatís hard to do, because you have the middle musicians who are making enough to pay the bills, and the ones making a decent living, [these] are the ones that want it to be unionized. Then, you have the guys at the top that donít care, because they make so much money off of touring and everything else that they really donít need to pay attention to all of the problems in the music business. If someone out there, that sold millions of records and was prominent, tried to unionize the musicians, it would actually work. It would be great to standardize a record contract so that certain things had to be in it. It would be great to get help from Congress for instance, because theyíve helped out every other union in big business that there isÖ I mean, theyíve created laws in support of unions, but not in our field. Youíve probably read this before, but until something is done, the boys in the mailroom at the record labels will have a lot more security and stability than any musician in any band.Ē
GMP - We hear this a lot, but nobody seems to do anything about it! "Well, I donít hear people bring it up. I mean, of course they are going to bitch about the label. The label is a bank [and] their job is to spend money and market the band. And all that money they spend, you have to pay back in record sales. So, itís not really like a Ďwiní situation a lot of the time, itís more like a Ďlose, loseí. I think most people are just so caught up with, Ďoh my God, I get to put out a record and play music and tourí and stuff like that, they donít really have time to look at it the way that it is. No one really seems to care enough to try and change it. I mean, Peter Grant, Led Zeppelinís manager in the 70ís, revolutionized the entire business. He managed to separate touring, and merchandise, and publishing away from the label by saying, Ďlook, you sell records and make money off of the album sales. [When] my band tours, they make money off of the road. But, that thinking still really only applies to bigger bands, because youíve got to be pulling in those big crowds to be making money at the shows. If youíre drawing in 500 to 1000 people, you still have your bus to pay for, your crew, and everything else like that, while trying not to take tour support from the label, because you will have to pay that back and end up not making anything. It all just breaks even most of the time. So, no one prominent is trying to do anything about it. There is no musician and lawyer out there trying to do anything about it. I mean, I would do it, but I donít have the celebrity to do it. And, I donít know anyone of that status to be the spokesperson. All you can do is keep putting out records and try to ignore anything else.Ē
GMP - You didnít go on stage for almost a year and a half. What were you up to during that time and what was the reason for the hiatus? "Writing. We donít play shit while we are writing. Once we get into that mode, youíre not going to pull us away from it. Itís too big of a distraction for us to be in the middle of writing, then go off and play a show somewhere, then come back. We are trying to concentrate on making the best record that we can and we are very meticulous about the way that we do it. We own our own studio, so we record every single thing that we do ..... it looks like a giant red neck festival out there!," he suddenly breaks off as he looks out of the tour bus window at all of the people walking around Greek Town. "Whatís going on?Ē he turns to ask me. Telling him that it's the 'Downtown Hoe-Down' (country music festival) this weekend, with a scared look he mutters, ďOh. A hoe down!"
GMP - So, what are your expectations of Ozzfest this summer? ďJust having a good time. Iím not really going to try to look too much into it and think about numbers and stuff like that or anything. I just want to go out and play some shows, have a good time and hopefully make some new fans."
GMP - Have you played with any of these bands before? ďIím sure we have, but I really donít give a fuck whoís on it. I donít listen to new heavy music at all. Most of the heavy bands out there today arenít even trying. Everyone just regurgitates other peopleís ideas constantly. So, itís boring as shit to me, and I canít take bands seriously that dress up like vampires and shit. And, I fucking hate white boys that rap in hard rock bands. These people suck and they irritate the shit out of me. Theyíre always pompous as fuck. The whole reason we are doing that tour is to play on a stage in front of the fans. It has nothing to do with meeting other bands and stuff like that. Iím not a very social person. I just donít really give much of a fuck about people, especially people that do this for a living a lot of the time. Not a lot of people do it for the joy of the music. So, it doesnít really matter to me whoís on the bill, when we play, or anything like that, just as long as we get to play. Thatís all I care about.Ē
GMP How did the offer to do Ozzfest come about? ďIím not really 100% sure! The day that they announced it, we were one of the bands that they announced!Ē
GMP - You guys will be playing some shows in Germany and the U.K. soon. Have any of you played in Europe before? ďNo!Ē
GMP - Are you excited?! ďYeah, for the most part. And kind of nervous. I mean, going overseas at a time when Americans arenít really held in high regard, especially in Germany! I mean, I would hope that when it comes to music that it wouldnít matter, but, another day, another show. I donít like flying at all. I hate flying! Thatís what Iím really not looking forward to, the flight. Itís going to suck. But, it will be an interesting experience [to play over there]. Iíve always wanted to go outside of the country and see what the rest of the world is like. And, being in a band is the best way to do it, because the people that you meet are the people that you would probably hang out with if you lived there. So, you get a better feel for what itís like. But, we are all the same species, so Iím sure that itís like anywhere else. Everywhere has their little differences, but for the most part itís the same, just accents change, etcetera.Ē
GMP - Iíve heard that there are a lot of people in Germany that are really into metal, so that should be good! ďYeah. Iíve always been told that heavy music always goes over a lot better in Europe. Weíll find out,Ē he chuckles.
GMP - Have you played Detroit before? "Yes.Ē
GMP - Do you like it?! ďUhÖ our first several experiences were playing at Harpos, so my first impression of Detroit was kind of weird. Plus, I have sort of grudge against Detroit, because I grew up a Capitals fan. The only time they made it to the Stanley Cup, they get swept by the Red Wings! So, I might be a little biased!", he says with a grin.
GMP - I read in an article that your goal for the band had been Ďto build up a hardcore following and to learn what it takes to be a band on the road.í Do you think that you have achieved this goal and what have you learned? "Yeah, I mean weíve been touring for 8 years and the goal of the band has always been to establish a strong fan base. For me personally, the goal is to stretch the borders of our genre of music and hopefully influence some younger fans and leave a legacy, something for us to be remembered for. I guess that involves building a stronger fan base, but I donít really care about being as big as like Linkin Park or any shit like that. It would be nice to just be remembered. Thatís my goal.Ē
GMP - Based on the song 'Here Come the Butchers', what are your views of the Priesthood? And, please, donít hold back! "Well, I have no problem with Christianity, or Catholicism as a religion, but itís the way that itís taught and the way that people have turned it into big business. Everyone from the Christian televangelist that you see on T.V. to the Pope. These are people that have made careers and lived off of the word of God, and thatís just a little messed up.
The fact that the Pope has Godís ear more than any other human being on earth is a little strange when we are all supposed to be equal in Godís eyes. Humans that have run Christianity and Catholicism are responsible for every contradiction in the religion. They are also responsible for more murder and war than any reason in the history of man. The Bible is like the number one cause of violence worldwide. Shit, half of our problem with the Muslims is that we are considered Christian. I mean, if you look back through history, the Spanish Inquisition, the Salem Witch Trials, and just on and on, the way homosexuals are treated, even the way that other races are treated, I mean itís fucked. I mean, I canít even formulate this right now after everything that they have done that anybody can find out about, and now for all of this to happen and manage to sweep it all under the rug. I read that Ď4,288 people accused 1,250 different priests' ... Wait, let me find it. I want to get this right," he says, getting up to rummage through the overhead compartments of the bus. "Here it is: ĎOut of 177 Archdiocese in the United States, only 16 didnít have a priest face allegations.í The last reported rape case was back in like 1978, and the numbers rose steadily through the 50ís, 60ís and 70ís. So, all of the rape cases in the 80ís and 90ís, these people havenít come out yet. You gotta think about it. Only 1 out of every 8 rape victims actually goes to the police about it. There are probably only 1 out of 20 that would even go to the press. So, now that itís so publicized, even fewer are going to come out. The numbers out there [of victims] are probably in the 10ís of 1000ís. Itís probably almost every priest there, and itís not just the Catholic Church, thereís also Greek Orthodox, Mormon and every other kind of priest probably accused of the same shit. They say that itís because Catholic priests arenít allowed to have sex, but itís not just the Catholic priests, itís all priests. The Catholic priests are just the ones that made the most headlines, because they are supposed to be the most conservative. I just donít know how much more proof our government needs to completely remove that [religious element] from government. Donít they realize that when there is a guy up there saying, Ďoh, Iím a God fearing maní that people instantly donít trust him? And, itís not just from that. This is just the last straw kind of a deal. Out of all of the people that I know, none of them are raising their kids with religion.Ē
GMP - It can also be hard for kids that arenít raised with religion as well "I mean everyone out there should have faith and believe that there is something out there greater than humanity, but donít look to a book made by humans for guidance. It doesnít make sense to me. And, then thereís the whole Ďyouíre supposed to fear Godí thing, [which makes] the basic principal of the Bible guilt. ĎDonít do this. Donít do that. Youíre going to get Godís wrath for this.í Thereís an old saying that goes, ĎThe devilís greatest trick was convincing the world that he didnít exist.í I completely donít believe in that. An all knowing, all loving God wouldnít need to govern his entire creation with such an iron fist. But, on the other hand, if there is a devil, heíd want to make sure to be the dictatorship type of God that we are supposed to have to worship in Christianity and Catholicism. So, I think that they all need to read back through their book and find out which God they are actually talking about. The all knowing, all loving Jehovah or the selfish power hungry Lucifer? And that seems to be what is control of the earth, because there is not one single day of peace anywhere on this planet, whether itís with guns or anything else. The whole world is very unhappy and it doesnít seem to be getting any better. The more people try to fix things, the worse things get. I wish people would just open their eyes and just realize not to literally believe everything that you are told. Donít listen to the fucking news and believe that every friendly fire kill during a war is actually that. Donít believe that just because a fucking senator is up there saying he was a preacher and everything else, that heís going to go in there and do good and protect your interests. Donít believe because a guy says ĎI love God and God loves meí that heís a good person either. I mean, Jimmy Swaggert was a good example of that. Itís been proven time and time again that the most evil people throughout history have been fanatically religious people. Osama Bin Laden [is] a fanatically religious person. And, there are people in the KKK and the Christian Coalition that were raised the same way, except they didnít have an AK 47. But still, you could disagree with that, because the largest army in the world is actually the state of Texas. There are more gun owning people in the state of Texas than there are in any other concentrated place in the world. Iím talking even over military bases. About 22% of all Texans donít own guns.Ē
GMP - Why do you think that is?! "Well, one reason is that their laws are the most lax. But, that makes sense [when you] look at the country that they border Ė the only country in North America that could possibly let another country through theirs to attack us. Iím not saying that we have bad relations with Mexico or anything like that, but Texas is very strategically placed. It is like itís own country almost. Things go on there that would never happen in the rest of the country. Even, George W. Bush, when he was governor there he managed to execute more people during his time in office than in the entire state law history. So, all the way back to the 1800ís, when Texas became a state, until present day. It doesnít make sense! You mean to tell me that more slaves didnít get lynched in Texas, but they swear to God. Bush was also the first governor who never sought out an appeal. Itís no wonder though. Do you know what George Bush Sr. was before he was President?Ē
GMP - Er,
he was in the oil business?! "Director of the C.I.A. during the height of the Cold War. If anybody knows how to make weird spy shit happen, itís George Bush Sr. And, a voting discrepancy in Florida involving George Wís younger brother? His dad having been director of the C.I.A.? Thereís not like some organized kind of connection in the whole thing? The six Supreme Court Judges that decided Gore lost the election were all appointed by George Bush Sr. and not one single Justice appointed by Clinton or Reagan was on the panel? I mean, itís amazing! Iím not sure if you are familiar with the Free Mason Society or any of these small organizations run by very powerful men, but these people manage to step right over democracy. This is what makes me think that conspiracies like this exist. Democracy isnít Ďfor the people, by the peopleí anymore. Itís for the government, by the government. I mean they took a chapter straight from Hitler and they tell Americans what they want them to hear, so we sit here and wonder why there are terrorist attacks and why people overseas have such a problem with us. Most Americans donít have the slightest fucking idea, and thatís disgusting. Nobody gets involved. I read a statistic that only 1 out of every 150 people between the ages of 18 and 21 actually voted. I mean, what do you expect to happen when everyone voting is between 40 and 60 years in age. I donít know, itís just the whole thing with religion and government and their whole connection togetherÖ But, when it comes right down to it, theyíre just businessmen.Ē
GMP -Okay, after that conversation, Iím not sure if I want to ask you the rest of my questions!! "Why?Ē
GMP - They are fun, sily questions to lighten the mood!! ďThatís cool,Ē he replies, a small smile creeping across his face.
GMP - So, whoís the biggest ladies man in the band on this tour? "Tommy, our drummer. Definitely. I mean, itís a matter of choice. Iíve been doing this so long and indulged in the beginning of my career, but Iím not really like that anymore. Tommyís young and having a good time.Ē
GMP - Who was the last person from the band to slap somebody and why?! "Last time I can remember, it was actually me and Tom our guitar player. That was years ago in North Carolina when this drunk guy kept fucking with Tomís wife. Tom ended up getting into it with him. I saw Tom was in a fight, so I was in a fight. That was it really. We get out all of our violent tendencies on stage.Ē
GMP - Reveal an annoying habit about another band member of Nothingface "I canít do that,Ē He gently smiles.
GMP - Who in the band would look the best dressed as a woman and why?! "Probably Tommy I would imagine, because heís so thin. He has long hair too!Ē
GMP - Finally, how would you describe your music and what, if any, messages are you trying to get across? "Our music is kind of schizophrenic. We kind of have a multiple personality disorder when it comes to our music. We canít decide if we are a metal band, or a melodic rock band, or a punk band and whatever else. Lyrically, our music goes from very fictitious things to the church to government. The song, ĎI Wish I was a Communistí is about the record industry. There are also songs about personal failure. I mean, itís [about] everything. I guess, itís just Ďdonít be afraid of how negative the world is. If you stand up facing it and accept it, you will actually get through each day a little better, because you wonít feel like someoneís standing behind you with a knife. Also, just educate yourself. Find out whatís going on in the world. Donít just stick to what you read on the internet and see on MTV. Fucking go out there and learn something!Ē
Interviewed by G.M. Pasfield for Exclusive Magazine
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