In a wide, wide world of sick bands doing sick things, Direct Hit! is at the top of the heap, banging out killer albums like clockwork. I was lucky enough to catch up with frontman Nick Woods on all sorts of juicy subjects including plans for a new Direct Hit! album, the Domesplitter reissue, potential for a new Galactic Cannibal LP, lyrics, and our Dying Scene head honcho’s claims that he “discovered” Direct Hit!.
Read all about it and more in the interview below.
Domesplitter will hit the streets April, 14th courtesy of Fat Wreck Chords.
Word from the boss says that Direct Hit! was literally the very first unsigned band to be featured in our “Band Spotlight.” Dying Scene head honcho Dave Buck says he interviewed you on the phone before the website even launched seven years ago. To this day, he takes credit for “discovering” Direct Hit! Do you have any recollection of this?
Hell yeah! I don’t think Dave “interviewed” me per se – Rather just called to introduce himself and convince me that his new site wasn’t a pile of fake news like a lot of blogs on the internet have become. At the time, Direct Hit hadn’t done anything. We’d put a few songs on the internet, and Death To False Hope had posted DH#3 or #4, if I remember right, but that was it. Dude was on the ball! That is, if you consider knowledge of unimportant punk bands from Milwaukee “on the ball”-type knowledge.
Domesplitter is being reissued by Fat Wreck Chords. From what I’ve seen the release looks fantastic. How did this come about? Was this something you brought up to Fat or did Fat bring it to you?
We asked em to help us out. We had to scrap our van last summer toward the end of our tour with Problem Daughter and Pkew Pkew Pkew, and needed some money to buy a new one before we split with Tenement in November. We’d sold all the copies of Domesplitter we had on vinyl a few years back, and once we signed up with Fat we’d started getting a lot of people asking where they could get copies, and jerks on the internet selling theirs for too much money. So, I had the master just sitting in my basement, and basically traded it to Fat for a down payment on a new ride – killed two birds with one stone.
You guys do a lot of visual stuff for the band (music videos and such), who did the artwork for the re-release and do you find it important to match music with some sort of visual element?
Eric Baskauskas has been our art dude for a long while now – since just before we put out Brainless God. He did a great job with new art for the Domesplitter re-release, just like he’s done a great job with everything else we’ve asked him to work up for us. Music has never been a kind of expression that’s existed in a vacuum for me – I’ve never been someone who sits and listens to records in a chair with a pair of headphones on and my eyes closed you know? It’s always a soundtrack to something – a movie, or a workout, or driving, something like that. So the visual part of a record provides context. It can change what something sounds like, or the kind of feeling it gives you. Funny how “The Man Comes Around” by Johnny Cash is an entirely different song if you listen to it in church, instead of the end of a Rob Zombie film, you know?
After Domesplitter came out, you had two big concept records, Brainless God and Wasted Mind. It all sounds like Direct Hit!, but the latter two records are definitely a more conceived product. Looking back on Domesplitter, how do you feel about it now and how does it fit in with the rest of the catalog?
I still feel like most of the songs stand up on their own. We play “Kingdom Come” at almost every show we do still, and we learned that song at the band’s first practice, long before anyone but me was in the group. People still call for “Snickers Or Reese’s” more than a lot of our other tunes. “They Came For Me” is still one of our standard closers. In a lot of ways, our band is exactly the same as it was when Domesplitter came out – We still write 2-to-4-chord pop punk songs, even though now we just re-assemble them a couple extra ways on the new songs we write. So I guess the short answer is that our new material really isn’t all that different to me than what we put on Domesplitter. We’re just older, and bored, and do our best to try new stuff and frame it in different ways.
Before the Domesplitter reissue, you guys released the Satanic Singles collection. It’s like you guys are working backwards and forwards through your catalog at the same time. Do you anticipate doing any more re-releases or re-recordings, perhaps a Satanic Singles Part II for some of the material from splits (“Mutant Drunk!”) not collected in the first installment?
Nah, Satanic Singles was really a collection of all the songs from our 7″s and stuff that we could still stand listening to. The rest we’re kinda content to let rest for people who really want to dig into our “catalog,” to use a really unnecessarily aggrandizing term. “Mutant Drunk” is one people ask for a lot. Our old bass player, Robbie, wrote that song, and once we split with him, none of us really felt comfortable playing it without him. Anything else you hear from our old releases that hasn’t been re-released at that point is probably either embarrassing to us, or a song that accidentally rips off another song – either one of ours, or another band I was too into at the time I wrote it.
You have a really wordy lyrical style, and a really naturalistic approach to how the lyrics flow with a melody. They’re dense, catchy, and when they rhyme it never feels forced. How important is the lyric writing process to you, and who do you look to as the ideal lyrical band?
I’ve always been of the opinion that bad lyrics can ruin otherwise good songs, but that good lyrics can never make a good song in and of themselves. Lots of people would disagree with me, but that’s my dumb opinion. A song about cleaning a toilet can be as catchy as one that perfectly reflects an obscure human condition. And that same song about cleaning a toilet probably speaks to someone who cleans toilets for a living in the same way as a song about insecurity or misery or ecstasy does. So the lyrical process, to me, is important in so much as I want to use my music to express thoughts or dreams I have, and reach some kind of common understanding with people who might not know me. But that’s kind of where it ends. I’m not trying to reach a grand truth through my lyrics, or my music for that matter – that’s what living, and a richness of experience provides. Punk rock is only a piece of that for me.
My favorite lyrics are those that figure out clever ways to tell stories that you remember. “Tommy” by The Who, for example. “Simple Pleasures In America” by The Arrivals. Lyrics from my friends Kyle Stembaugh from Bust!, or Zach Rapport from The Passengers. “The Body, The Blood, The Machine” by The Thermals. Those are some of my favorites.
Do you guys have any plans to tour with any other Fat bands come summer? Any plans for big festivals?
We don’t, because we’re writing another new album. We have to be sort of strategic about when and how we tour now because all of us have day jobs and families that come first. We can write whenever we want though. And so if we don’t tour, we might as well keep busy by coming up with new material so we’re not boring when we have the chance to travel.
I loved the Galactic Cannibal record from a couple years back, is there a chance for a sophomore album or any other side projects we can look forward to in the future?
I hope so! Danny and Steve already play in a band called Eradicator with Galactic Cannibal’s old guitar player and drummer. There’s been talk about writing another Galactic Cannibal LP too, but no one can ever find the time. If we could make a living just playing our own music in the Midwest, I think all of us would have a dozen bands we play in. But since our time gets eaten up by other important stuff, and making a living, we have to limit ourselves to keep from going insane and neglecting people we care about.
So, Domesplitter is being reissued. Wasted Mind came out last year. What else have you got in the works? What’s next for Direct Hit!?
By the end of this year, we’ll have released three new records since Wasted Mind – the Domesplitter reissue, a live 7″, and another we haven’t announced yet. We’re gonna write, and hopefully record a new LP of all new material. We’re going on tour with Bowling for Soup in a few weeks, we’re playing Pouzza and a few other shows in May, and we have a tour in the works for the Fall that I hope will be exciting for a whole new crowd of people. We’re always busy, even if most don’t get to see with what, or if it’s with something unrelated to this band.
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