by Jonathan Williams Photos by John Dekkers
From the August 2003 issue of Prick Magazine.
Singer Matthew Holt.
Drummer Tommy Sickles.
Guitarist Tom Maxwell.
"I really wanted these wings to look like whatever individual this may be [had gone] through fucking war," says Nothingface guitarist Tom Maxwell regarding Paul Brown's tattoo-inspiring winged skeleton that adorns the cover of the band's latest release Skeletons. "They're all battered and torn and ripped and just used. You can really take it and make it anything you want."
But to hear the personal hardships the members of Nothingface survived in the two years between the release of their last album Violence and release of Skeletons this past April, it would seem that not much more interpretation is needed.
"We had so much bitterness and anger towards the industry when we came off the last record - you know, we got kind of screwed here and there," says Maxwell. "Personally our lives went into a downward spiral for a straight year. Our singer got caught up in heavy fuckin' drug use and became a recluse within his own house. Our bass player was going through a lot of personal problems with his marriage. Our drummer was homeless for a while because him and his lady broke up. You couldn't even foresee on top of all this personal shit if we were even going to be a band anymore."
"The image of the skeleton holding a fucking heart," he continues, speaking of the cover art again. "That heart represents everything that we've ever dreamed of, it's our passion. And there's this skeleton just kind of dangling it in front so you can't really grab it because he's still in control of it."
Bill Gaal on Bass & Keyboards.
Singer Matthew Holt.
Once the band came together to begin writing and recording the songs that would eventually comprise Skeletons, it wasn't long before it was obvious that Nothingface would not only carry on as a band, but would also be able to seize that dangling heart and put out a metal album that lashes out lyrically and musically against personal demons as well as broader societal issues.
"It's a fucking good record, man," Maxwell boasts. "We put a lot into it and it's the first record that I can truly say is a true exorcism for us. When the songs started coming out, everything that [we] were feeling inside came out through the music. Lyrically, Matt [Holt, vocalist] just says what he wants to say and does what he wants to do and that's kind of what makes our band. Sometimes it can be two different stories - you can have Matt voicing one thing and the music is saying something else."
Part of what sets Skeletons apart from the band's previous albums (aside from the production sorcery of Bill Kennedy) is a focus on the craft of songwriting and incorporating things such as groove and melody into the band's aggressive sound.
"There are definitely the elements that we've always had, but I think we've accentuated the melody a lot more this time," says Maxwell. "There's a few songs that are really artistic like 'Machination' and 'Incarnadine' where we looked at it as a piece of art and you go in and it's just so all over the place that it really doesn't have a main focal point. We really wanted to dig into it and not have Matt just screaming. It was like if we're going to do it, let's really do it. Let's go full on and write a real passionate song with tons of dynamics and melody. When we do really heavy shit, let's just take it to the stages and imagine it in front of a fucking arena."
As a part of Ozzfest's second stage this summer, Nothingface no longer has to use its imagination when it comes to bringing its grandiose sound to arena-sized crowds. And I'd be willing to bet that at least a little bit of that bitterness towards the industry has worn off at this point.