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Nothingface – Heavy and Original Down to the Bone – Thursday, 06.26.03

Matt Holt – vocals
Tom Maxwell – guitar
Bill Gaal – bass
Tommy Sickles – drums

“The Devil lives in Rome, The Devil cloaked in robes…you can’t control your own priests” screams Matt Holt on the newly released Nothingface track “Here comes the Butchers”, possibly one of the first musical backlashes from the priest molestation scandals that plagued the Catholic religion over the past few years. As a matter of fact, the band’s entire sophomore release Skeletons (TVT records) is a relentless controversial stab at modern religion and the state of today’s current political turmoil and controversies.


Their first TVT release, Violence, received critical acclaim and scattered radio airplay, and with independent releases Pacifier and An Audio Guide to Everyday Atrocity in their corner, the success of Nothingface has been on the verge of ignition.

Violence was named the “Heavy Music Record of the Year” by Metal Edge magazine, and after hearing Skeletons for the first time, there was no doubt that, “this is the first standout metal record of the new century and will serve as the blueprint for the next wave of hard music. Nothingface is simply one of the best bands in loud rock today.”

Nothingface’s Skeletons may have been one of the most anticipated albums of the year with fans flocking to be one of the first 25,000 to to hear Ether on the site’s You Gotta Hear This sampler. The band has used this momentum to tour with Ministry and will be on Ozzfest this summer as well.

When Kaffeine Buzz caught up with drummer Tommy Sickles, they were broken down outside of Pensacola, Florida. Humidity, heat and no comfort in knowing exactly how they would get to the next gig, you would think that these guys would be pissed off. Instead they were stoked just to be on the road able to unleash their new songs to the fans that are affectionately called “The Sick”.

KB: I’ve always been curious, with you guys being based out of D.C, how does it affect your music and lyrics knowing that this country’s capital has one of the highest crime rates of the country?

TOMMY: I don’t think it affects us too much because we are on the outskirts. But having the nation’s capital right next to you while you’re trying to write music is pretty crazy. We’re always thinking, ‘Shit, we’ll be the first to be bombed, so what’s our escape route?’ (laughs) But you get used to it. I lived there my whole life. We all have. It’s like anywhere else really.

KB: Everyone complains about the corruption in religion and government, but you are one of the few bands who address it all full on. Is this something you consciously thought about for the writing of this album or did all the recent world events make that fall into place?

TOMMY: Well, Matt’s really tuned into the political side of things. He always makes a point to keep up with that stuff and he felt he had a lot to say when he went to write these lyrics. We would basically just write the music and give it to him to work on. He’s such a product of his environment with a lot of opinions and issues to address so it just came out, you know. In a couple of the songs, the lyrics are so blatantly obvious. I think how good it must feel to be speak what you want in your music.

KB: To quote Tom Maxwell (Nothingface’s guitarist) in the June 03 issue of Metal Edge Magazine, “We looked at this record as if it were going to be our last?” Why did you guys think this?

TOMMY: It had a lot to do with the personal tragedies that happened within the group. During the process of writing Skeletons we just felt like “what else could go wrong’? (Tom Maxwell’s mom died, Bill Gaal’s marriage fell apart, then Matt Holt’s house burned down) Right when we would start a song something else fucked up happened. It kind of made us question what we’re doing. It felt like we were just trading off tragedies for good music…just too weird.

KB: Is this where the lyrics from Beneath came from? (“What if it all came crashing down all around you, how will you save yourself?”)

TOMMY: Exactly, I think about that too when I hear that chorus, Matt writes all the lyrics, so when I listen to the songs afterwards its different because I have the music you know. But two weeks later after hearing it with the words, I’ll really understand where the song is coming from lyrically and it always changes the way I feel about a song.

KB: So changing one member in a band can be tough enough, but changing two after recording a very successful album (Violence) must have been rough. How did you guys cope with that?

TOMMY: Well Bill (Gaal) is back in the band now. He was the original bass player. Jerry (Montano) came in for like 6 months until he came back. I came in three years ago. When I came into the band the guys told me it helped them find their groove. We were able to write more quickly, from what they were saying. We feel this new album was the best music we’ve ever written, from every angle. All the guys are really happy with it. And with this being my first record that I’ve written with them, it’s really awesome that everyone thinks that it’s the best one so far. It’s really fucking cool, actually. We kind of went out on a limb with this one, trying to be diverse. It’s a little different than Violence, but I think people are taking it in pretty good.

KB: I think the rest of the band is really happy with your drumming too.

TOMMY: Yea I’ve been getting really positive feedback from the band.

KB: So you guys came off of the Violence tour and fired all of your management. Why was that?

TOMMY: Our management then wasn’t pushing for us. It was due to a lot of negligence on their part. We felt like there were a lot of opportunities that were lost due to bad management. Like, we did a radio campaign for Bleeder and ended up doing a video after it was already off the charts, so it was just bad timing and bad decisions on their part. So we felt like we needed a clean slate. We’ve got Morey management now and they’re great. They’re fighting for our band. Being able to do Ozzfest this summer is definitely one of those things where our new management paid off. We always wondered why weren’t able to get on Ozzfest before. There’s a lot of politics involved and all, but it seems like we are getting a lot more opportunities this time around.

KB: Yea I’d say so. You guys are getting a lot of press now.

TOMMY: We had to stir things up a bit you know. We hired a new booking agency, attorneys, everything, everyone but the record label.

KB: I guess what has to happen will happen right. There’s no need to put up with that shit.

TOMMY: Exactly man, you can’t keep doing this and sacrificing our lives unless we think its going to get better, like if we had proper people working for us.

KB: So Just how stoked are you to be touring with Ozzfest?

TOMMY: That’s going to be sick. I can’t wait to go on that damn tour.

KB: It seems like you guys keep missing Colorado, what’s up with that?
You guys cancelled last year and this year you didn’t make it with Ministry. You’ve got fans here that were bummed.

TOMMY: Yea I know man, its one thing right after another. That’s why I can’t wait for Ozzfest. We’ll hit every city. We dig Colorado but every time we plan a show something fucked up happens.

KB: So what did happened with the Ministry tour?

TOMMY: We had financial problems with our label a lot of fucking money problems. It wasn’t the band or anything, nothing personal. Ministry treated us incredible. Motogrator were the best guys. We can’t wait to see them on Ozzfest. They were very cool guys to hang out with.

KB: How was it working with Bill Kennedy on the Skeletons release? (Bill Kennedy has produced Nine Inch Nails, Motley Crue, Monster Magnet, and Filter)

TOMMY: It was incredible. He’s an amazing guy. We were really lucky to have him produce this record. He gave us the sound we needed I think. Very, very cool guy. This was the first time the band had ever worked with an outside producer. The others were produced by people we knew for years. We came of pre-production out in Maryland and it was awesome.

KB: Did the success of Violence, including the radio airplay, affect the writing and production of the new songs for Skeletons?

TOMMY: Not really at all. I heard our music on the radio the first time only a couple of weeks ago actually (laughs). I had never even heard it before. We didn’t have it in our minds to create radio songs when we wrote. But with songs like Ether and Scissions, it’s nice having songs that crossover without having to sacrifice our art. It’s good to write a song that’s cool and catchy.

KB: I understand you joined after Violence was recorded, and didn’t participate in the writing process. How did this affect doing the songs live during the tour?
You had to jump in and play a part of sorts, so was that tough for you?

TOMMY: It was definitely difficult at first. I was playing a lighter style of music before with a band back home. I’ve always known Nothingface and we have been friends for years, so they gave me the opportunity. I had a month to put on the headphones, sit behind the set and learn all their albums. I would always record my drums on top of the CD with my 4-track. Then I could listed to it with my drums overpowering the rest of the music a bit, just so I could see what I was doing wrong and learn. It was definitely strenuous at times, but I got through it and the guys were supportive. I didn’t have to do it perfectly like Chris wrote it. I played what just felt right to me in some places. I couldn’t do it exactly. It was like, this is my time now I’m going to do my stuff. Having to learn a part that I wouldn’t normally write helped me evolve a lot and made me a better drummer.

KB: I have friends that don’t believe me when I tell them that Matt (Holt) does the singing and growling on your albums. How is he able to pull this off, is he an alien?

TOMMY: (laughs) Yea, there’s something different about that character. I’ve never met anyone like Matt before in my life. I’ve known him since I was about 14 years old. I met him in science class…we used to blow stuff up mixing chemicals. (laughs). We were our first band together in high school called Ingredient17 before we knew Nothingface, so I’ve known him along time like the rest of the guys. We actually played a show with Nothingface at a local bar that plays metal on Sundays. Matt had made a call to the club to get us on because we had heard of Nothingface on some radio show with Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. We ended up playing the show for 5 bucks, but we got to meet the guys. We ended up doing our demo in the basement of Bill’s house with this guy Frank Marchani who produced Pacifier. We were in the middle of doing our demo, and Nothingface ended up losing their singer. I forget why, but they needed a singer and Matt demo’d one of the songs, what would eventually be “A Perfect Person”. He rocked it out. It was awesome and he ended up joining the band. It was very cool. I was blown away…Matt had never screamed like that until he joined Nothingface. Before that we sounded like James Hetfield meets Fudgetunnel meets Sepultura. It was crazy off-time signature stuff. You can’t tell its Matt now but you can tell he’s involved with something alien.

KB: I think all hard-working musicians today feel like most bands are rip-offs of others and there is a lack of real original music. Do you feel that this is due more to the sterilization of the industry itself or just the fact that it’s harder to do something original since there are so many bands out there?

TOMMY: There a strand of metal out there right now that I’m not sure about. I’ve listened to the radio a lot lately and there’s some that’s okay, but the majority has that Linkin Park “too polished” sound.

KB: Yea I like to call it “Pop music with distortion.” They sing about relationships, getting screwed by your lover, the same shit Britney Spears sings about but they put distortion on the riffs and for some reason call it Metal.

TOMMY: Yea I think Linkin Park is the N’synch of metal right now.

KB: So what bands out there right now impress you?

TOMMY: Strapping Young Lads are pretty crazy. I like them a lot. Gene is one of the best drummers out right now. He’s so fast. There another band out, I heard a rumor that they were a Christian metal band, but I’m not sure. They are called Demon Hunter. It’s a polished metal sound too but it sounds good, really heavy. They are one of a kind right now…setting their mark. It’s the album Fear Factory album should have made.

KB: Yea, I actually recently bought that album. Some songs are great, really heavy, great rhythm. Others are a bit too pansy for me. But overall it’s a good disk. So what kind of advice can you give newer bands starting out?

TOMMY: Stick to your guns. Don’t try to copy another person’s sound. Write what you want to write, don’t try to stem off of another band. Don’t care about trends. Eventually you’ll find musicians that make a sound that’s unique. We kind of lucked out. The guys I’m in this band with right now, we just write and it comes out great. I’m very fortunate to be in a band like that.

KB: Yes, yes you are. Any special thanks or plugs before I let you go?

TOMMY: Just that I can’t wait to see everyone on Ozzfest. I want to be able to hit every city in the world at least 3 times. I want to be able to just get out for the fans as much as I can.

Ironically enough Ozzfest isn’t coming to Denver this year, but Nothingface does plan to hit Colorado with a headlining tour later this year. If you’re looking for a band that combines melody with brutality without sounding like a bunch of cock rock radio-metal pansies, then Nothingface is for you. I personally rate Nothingface as one of the best bands out right now.

Nothingface’s first video video from their album Skeletons, “ETHER”, premiers on their web site,, on Friday, June 27 in the format of a CNN-like news station called NFN (Nothingface Network). It also debuts on MTV2’s Headbangers Ball this Saturday at 10PM (Check your local listings for details).


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