Nails: Todd Jones Discusses the Cover Songs They’ve Done Throughout the Years

Nails performing in 2012. (Photo: Dan Rawe)

In a recent episode of his excellent 185 Miles Podcast, host Zack Nelson spoke with Nails vocalist/guitarist Todd Jones about the cover songs his band has performed throughout the years. There are many hardcore-related podcasts around these days, but Zack has built up quite an impressive bank of episodes since launching in 2019.

Zack was gracious enough to transcribe his chat with Todd to run here on No Echo for our readers. They both grew up together in and around the Oxnard, California hardcore scene, so there's a great rapport there.

I hope you enjoy the nerd-out session as much as I did, and if you'd like to listen to it in its original form, here's the episode.


G.B.H, “Sick Boy” from City Baby Attacked By Rats 12” (Clay Records, 1982)

Todd Jones: Nails started playing that song after we released our last record, You Will Never Be One Of Us. I wanted a hard-ass fucking punk song to play in our set. I think that’s what it came down to and that song fits the description.

It’s super catchy and I thought it fit well into our set. It’s kind of a mid-tempo jam — there’s no mosh part in it. So it gives the set some peaks and valleys after you play like three grindcore songs. It’s a welcome change for your ears and for crowd participation.

Zack Nelson: That song rips. Classic UK82. I’d say it’s a tick faster than mid-tempo because you can’t down strum the whole thing. Maybe you can because you’re a freak but your average guitar player can’t down strum that song.

Jones: It’s hard. It’s definitely hard. You have to attend the school of James Hetfield for that one.

Straight Ahead, “Break Away” from Breakaway 12” (I Risk Records, 1987)

Jones: You and I were together when we heard Straight Ahead for the first time. It was after the Oxnard Floorpunch show and [Floorpunch vocalist] Mark Porter played it for us. That was a big moment and throughout the years that record has become pretty much my favorite NYHC record of all time. I like it more than The Age of Quarrel or any of those classics.

It’s just that song is fucking undeniable. I don’t know if this is true but I think that song’s mosh part might be the first of its kind where there is a descending chromatic pattern. I feel like that mosh part inspired that Striking Distance tune “Fail Me,” which is great. I think it inspired that CIV song, “Do Something.” It sounds like it was inspired by that Bad Brains tune, “How Low Can A Punk Get?”

I just loved the song. That’s all there was too it.

Nelson: The mosh sequence is so good and it’s like how can this get better? Then they lay down one of the better '80s hardcore solos on top of it. So good.

Jones: So tasty. [Straight Ahead guitarist] Rob Echeverria really fucking killed on that solo. It’s hummable. It’s memorable. It’s hard to do a solo in a hardcore song and have it be as important as the chorus or any other aspect of a song.

Discharge, “Ain’t No Feeble Bastard” from Why 12” (Clay Records, 1981)

Jones: We started covering this song very early, probably like shows 5 to 10. I didn’t expect folks to know who the band was yet, so I want to play a song that’s catchy and you can sing along to.

It also has a mid-pace flavor to it and most of the songs that we play were primarily fast. So this is another one of those things that could break up our set list and Discharge was a very big influence on Nails so it just made sense.

Nelson: Yeah, I always lead towards their mid-tempo songs too. It’s wild because they’re known for D-beat and basically creating a full sub-genre of hardcore but I always lean towards “Ain’t No Feeble Bastard,” “Protest and Survive," “Religion Instigates.” Those are the tent pole songs.

Jones: How catchy are those songs? It’s just so hooky. You said it yourself, “Protest and Survive.” That’s so catchy and it’s so aggressive and hard.

Sheer Terror, “Cup O’ Joe” from Just Can’t Hate Enough 12”, (Starving Missile Records, 1989)

Jones: That was the first cover we ever did. When Nails started, I really wanted the band to sound unwelcoming and I think this song is very unwelcoming. It’s very nihilistic. It sounds strange — music, the vocals, the lyrics.

It feels like when you’re in elementary school and it’s a rainy day and you go outside to play with your friends and for the rest of the day until you get home you have to deal with wearing a wet sock until you can change it. I feel like that’s the vibe of this song. It’s fucking dreary and depressing and that’s why I wanted to cover it. We only played it once or twice.

Nelson: You’ve got to be a band like Nails to pull this song off. Sheer Terror has a lot of classic songs on that record but I feel like this is one of the songs where they needed the recording to match with that wild ass guitar tone that’s on this record.

There’s that long kind of slow gallop-y part at the beginning and if they were in E Standard without much distortion that song would be kind of sorry. But milking it with that tone they have, it makes it almost stoner metal. Then the more uptempo gallop on the end - this song is just a fucking vibe.

Jones: Absolutely. That guitar player definitely tried to chase the same tone as Celtic Frost turning the tone knob on his guitar all the way down so it sounds sludgier.

READ MORE: The Anti-Krishna Flyers Incident of 1990

Final Conflict, “One Answer” from Ashes to Ashes 12”, (Pusmort, 1987)

Jones: This is the last song that Nails have covered. We never played it live but we recorded it in the recording session where we recorded “Sick Boy.” There was a compilation 12” that was released for Big Frank Harrison, who played in Carry Nation and was a promoter in Southern California and is now a tattoo artist in the Sacramento area.

Basically dude, I love fucking Final Conflict. I love all their material but this is the second song off the first album.

I think bands like Framtid have a sound like Final Conflict. I feel like it was a huge influence to that bands, just as much as Discharge. I feel like Final Conflict is almost like the Southern California version of Crucifix in a way. They have that same style of hardcore. I love all kinds of different styles of hardcore but to me, Battalion of Saints, Final Conflict, and Crucifix, those are like the epitome of what hardcore is in my mind — super fucking fast, not overly moshy, punk-influenced mosh parts. That's fucking hardcore to me.

Breakdown, “Sick People” from The Way It Is 12” compilation, (Revelation Records, 1988)

Jones: It’s just fucking “Sick People.” Like, what more can be said? I think we covered that song after Unsilent Death and before Abandon All Life came out. We didn’t play it a whole lot. Another reason why I choose to play cover songs is to stoke out my friends.

I’ve made a lot of friends with people who like Breakdown and it was just like one of those things, like let’s just fucking play “Sick People.” It’s like the heaviest song from that era and it means a lot to me.

I don’t know if you remember this, but I was like 14-years-old and you had a Sessions catalog and it had a page with an advertisement from a distribution. We did a group order and one of the things I ordered was The Way It Is on cassette.

At the time, I was more stoked on bands like BOLD and WarZone. They were faster and I didn’t really understand the NYHC stuff that was more sludgier or chug-y. I don’t know how to classify “Sick People” but it wasn’t fast like BOLD or WarZone but it’s something I grew to love and it’s like the ultimate turn up song. It’s about smashing people. It’s just a fantastic song. It’s a raging song. Commit some bad behavior when that song plays.

Nelson: Two things on this. It’s interesting to me that you say it’s a song you got into later on The Way It Is. I agree totally. That’s like the ultimate Revelation stamp album. It’s got a little bit of everything but there are some ugly pieces.

There’s like Breakdown and that Nausea song and they’re kind of like the ones you get into a little later, once you’ve been playing “As One” and that BOLD song a million times. You’re like, let’s get into this other shit and you’re like ooh, that Nausea song is nice.

Jones: Yeah, I love Nausea and that was like a weird outlier. It was a little crusty and I was looking for something more like Youth of Today then you realize later this is the shit.

Nelson: And it’s in the #2 slot too. They’re not burying it. It’s right there.

Jones: Yeah, they really champion them on the track listing and put them right upfront. I think that’s cool. I wonder why that decision was made. I’m sure part of it was because it was a fast song and they probably wanted to show diversity on the comp right away.

Nelson: The other thing [about covering “Sick People”] is at the first Terror show you do two Breakdown songs, right? You do “Kickback” and “Life of Bullshit?”

Jones: We did “All I Ask” into “Kickback.”

Nelson: So yeah, it’s a nice little circle back.

Jones: It is, it is.


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