Hammer of the Dogs: Hammer and the Nails Interview

Rising from Boston harbor like a Godzilla with a shitty east coast attitude, HAMMER AND THE NAILS seem to be a band that everyone is talking about. Rather than a new batch of kids making noise, the ranks of The Nails contain veterans of the Boston scene, and therefore dispense with the pretense of trying to impress. Rather than jump on any existing sound, they choose a plodding attack based on various European and Japanese influences, with a decidedly American point of view, all shrouded in a sense of foreboding.

In the last installment of The PLAY IT LOUD! Interview Series, Saturday Night sits down and picks the brain of the demented.


Saturday Night: To the majority of people in the scene, HATN seemed to spring up out of nowhere; they arrived fully-formed in sound and vision for a seemingly “new” band. But I’d say that’s not exactly the version of events as they happened. If I might be so bold, HATN are new AND old, yeah? Give us a quick story of how this group came to be. Wasn’t overnight, am I right?

Nails: You are correct sir. The concept for the band came to be when one of the guys and I wanted to start an Oi! band on the darker, mid-tempo side like some of our faves.  This was around 2001.  We later approached/confronted our esteemed colleague/vocalist/rhythm guitarist about playing aforementioned tunes for fun and excitement.  Little did he know at the time that he’d be singing as well as playing the rhythm git fiddle.   It was basically the three of us for maybe 6-9 months until our lead noodle/wah technician suggested we recruit our favorite garage band bass player who also happened to be into Stars and Stripes, Boston sports, and was incidentally of Polish descent.

So in that sense, we’re an “old” band, but in another sense, our first gig was last September/October 2008 with Ultimo Asalto, the Glory Boys, and Tommy and the Terrors, so we’re to some people’s eyes neophytes on the Oi! scene, not grizzled veterans of the street(haha).

Saturday: Exactly. Something old, something new…..

Nails: Totally. There’s also borrowed and blue. Borrowed: Buddha from Blood for Blood did a short stint with us between BfB incarnations, but sadly left due to touring commitments. The blue part, well that would be our fucking collars, fellam8.

Saturday: “Fellam8″…nice nice. So you hit upon something I definitely wanted to address – the “darkness” of the band…

Nails: Ah, yes. Well, we’re all into taking the left hand path in life, sorcery, mysticism, etc..wait, oh the MUSIC…

Saturday: I know oi! isn’t by nature the cheeriest of subjects and the canon isn’t wine and roses, but you guys have a tendency to be really NEGATIVE, as in, every song is pretty much pulled from the headlines of “what’s wrong with the world.” Sign of the times? Attitude of band members? All of the above?

Nails: Hmmm, I suppose we aren’t the type of band that writes “working class anfums” or what have you about the glory of Tarzan and the apes. I suppose, and it is probably cliche as hell, we write about what we see and what pisses us off, and try to keep the subject matter as UN-cliche as possible. Maybe taking a cynical stab at people’s attitudes about their positions in life, be it financial, their political stance, or with the archetypal “cop” Oi! song, being about actual events that took place near where one of us grew up.

Annnnnd the piss-poor attitude of the band members.

Saturday: I hear that. As an aside, stuff like “product of this modern age” and “legislation not rehabilitation” are nothing if not non-cliche, delivered in a manner not seen in American oi! in some time.

Nails: I guess, but it’s not like they haven’t been covered in the “world arena” of Oi!…

Saturday: Right but was it important to not tread on any US influences? it doesnt seem like typical US of Oi! sounding stuff.

Nails: Ah, although this could get us in hot water by sensitive types, we tend to dig a lot of the European bands, their sounds, etc.  We all grew up with Hardcore, which is the Jazz of the punk genre(pure Americana in its inception), and a lot of U.S. Oi! bands glean influence from that, or country music, or whatever, to varying success.

And a lot of U.S. Oi! bands, while great, especially in the ’90s, tended to have the whole “Those Unknown”-style sound.  There was them (not saying they invented the sound, but whatever), and then there were a million bands in that fast-mid-tempo to fast-tempo stuff that just all blurred together.

At the band’s conception, we deliberately wanted to play a style that brought together French, Japanese, and some late ’80s early ’90s UK, and yes US, skinhead band sounds, mixed with other influences like Lionel Ritchie and Yanni…

Saturday: “ALL NIGHT LONG”

Nails: Haha, I really do love the Lionel Ritchie. But again, so many bands play fast, it’s just a given.  We take the approach of slow, bludgeoning, and speed it up now and then for dynamics. It seems like there was the US Oi! or skin bands that wanted to be Sheer Terror/Blood For Blood, those who went for more of a gutter punk sound, and then those who just took the word “cliche” to a whole new level with their sound, their lyrics, and the general art direction of their records/tapes.

Saturday: Understood. Let’s talk about some of the gigs you guys have played – not exactly “typical” Oi! gigs. You’ve played with metal bands, more rock-ish bands, regular punk stuff. A plan of some sort? Just how the gigs shaped up? What’s the story?

Nails: Yeah, our most recent gig was with Panzerbastard (Keith from Wrecking Crew’s band– badass) which are like Discharge, Celtic Frost, etc., and then some crazy Black Metal band with robes and makeup, other gigs have been at art spaces with our friends’ bands, some hardcore gigs, and then a couple basic Oi! gigs.  I think we like to keep it interesting, not to mention, why play to a roomful of skins all the time, when you can actually piss people off or maybe get somebody else to come see you again and use that as a springboard to finding out about a whole other slew of bands they hadn’t known about.  I mean, not every gig has been spectacular for us in relation to audience response, but that builds character and helps you as a band.  So fuck ’em if they don’t like it.

Saturday: So, would you say you are actively seeking other scenes out though? Or just play gigs that interest you guys?

Nails: Nah, we just like to play gigs with our friends sometimes.  If that pisses off people who follow us,  people who follow the other bands on the bill, or anybody else, then good.  It’s not just a “going out and seeing some bands that all sound the same” thing.  The Oi!/Streetpunk scene in Boston isn’t what it used to be, but we’re not trying to latch onto any othe scenes. We’ll play a hardcore gig, a metal gig, an emo gig(well…), etc.  I don’t think as a band we’re REALLY trying to “support the scene” as a raison d’etre, although I DID say something about supporting said scene earlier. But seriously, I think that by default of just attending and setting up gigs we’re doing just that.  At least two of us have our ears to the ground seeking out new bands, grabbing new records, etc.

Saturday: I think you guys have been doing a definite good job of keeping douchebags on their toes. You mentioned cliched art direction earlier. I think that is an extremely valid point – so much of today’s shit is “let’s take a beer bottle logo and put ours on it” or “how about a picture of a skinhead looking tough” and shit like that – you guys seem to think orig art is part of the whole pckage, like the orig oi!/HC bands did. How important is that to you?

Nails: Well yeah, I think that playing within the paramaters we do, we try to be as original as possible with the chord structure, song structure, DEFINITELY with the lyrical content, and to complete the whole package, the artwork. Granted, the cassette version of the demo has a viking and a chick or something a la Heavy Metal magazine, but that was what I believe to have been a joke of sorts. I mean, how many Oi! releases have you seen a giant squid on the front? (that’d be one of the many CD versions of the demo).

The Offending Item!

The Offending Item!

Saturday: Viking and chick artwork a joke? Bullshit! We are your overlords, son! Led Zep! Conan!

Nails: Haha, yeah man.  “Valhalla, I am cominnnnnggggg”

Saturday: Did I tell you I hated Zep until like a year ago? Now cant get enough.

Nails: Yeah man,  congrats. It’s about time!  Keep up in the back, son. Anyway, with that being said, and being the elitists we are, we realize we’re not breaking a lot of new ground. We’re writing tunes that we would want to hear, and trying to make them as high-quality as possible.

Saturday: And doing a damn fine job at that. But let me segue off the METAL comments. Now in grade school/early jr. high, I was weaned on metal like alot of Midwestern kids my age were. I still like certain bands from the genre and I know you do as well but METAL in the oi!….how do you feel about it? I wouldnt say HATN are metal-ish really, but definitely bringing the heaviness.

Nails: Right. I think like any fringe music genre, Oi! has room for metallic influence.  Look at the most cliche Oi! anthem there is, “Violence In Our Minds”.  Even that choon has some heavy metalness to it.  Nowt wrong with it, we just don’t overdo it. Some Oi! and RAC bands take it pretty far with the metal.

Look at, on the Oi! side, RETALIATOR, especially their earlier releases.  Very, very metal in the execution of the songs, if not their chord structure. Or even Condemned 84’s Storming To Power. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  I don’t particularly like much metal, but a lot of NWOBHM really floats my boat.  Those bands had a great punk edge, and are influential on our songwriting.

Saturday: Retaliator were the very band I thought of when mentioning metal. Their early stuff was to me, too much, but they then got REALLY good at the combo. I think the combo of NWOBHM and oi! could be one the Gods listen to myself……

Nails: Haha, that’s awesome “the combo of NWOBHM and oi! could be one the Gods listen to myself…..” but yeah, Retaliator seemed a bit overboard at first and I really couldn’t get into them, but that “When Duty Calls” was fucking mean sounding and tunefully pleasing at the same time. I think the solos got a bit less wanky/aritificial harmonic based. A couple of those guys are in The London Diehards with one Terry Hayes of East End Badoes fame. Hard stuff, but more Oi! than even later Retaliator.

Saturday: Yup. And they (Retaliator) do interesting covers like “A-Bomb in Wardour Street” and “Bed and Breakfast Man” in their own style and KILL it

Nails: Right, exactly.  Nothing wrong with putting your own spin on a classic instead of doing it verbatim.

Saturday: Let’s roll into this, then: Do you guys similarly have any tunes that the band thinks would shine in the HATN style?

Nails: As in cover tunes?

Saturday: Word.

Nails: Well, we were doing Killing Time’s “No More Mr. Nice Guy” in a more rock manner.  Unfortunately the two gigs we played it at weren’t chock full of Killing Time fans.  Also, there’re currently a Slade cover being talked about, an ELO tune, and, Christ, I forget, but some other weird shit in the oven, too.

Saturday: Damn, man. That’s great for us who may possibly get to check them out. Slade and ELO. Awesome. So at this point, and not to get too hard on the jock here but….

Nails: ELO wasn’t my idea, but it could work…

Saturday:…but HATN are currently a band on everyone’s “hot” list. Playing PIL! you have lots of people psyched esp for you guys. Alot of attention pretty quickly once people heard your stuff. Flattered? What does this type of kind of “popularity” mean for you guys’ plans down the road?

Nails: Honored, sure.  Unfortunately when they hear us this inflated hype machine might just shit the bed. Down the road?  Who knows man.  Three of us have kids, we all have very demanding jobs, and want to just keep this fun.  I don’t think there’ll be any touring plans in the future.  Maybe weekends or overseas single gigs in the UK or Europe, but we’re not quitting our day jobs.

Saturday: “We’ll conquer your city for Frankincense.” Hardest motto in oi! right now….but what the fuck does it mean? I think you need to lead w/that on a shirt.  It’s all Biblical-scary, son!

Nails: It’s a euphemism for the insects’ plight in this world supposedly run by man.

Saturday: The wrath of God cometh in the form of the Hammer?

Nails: Hammer of the Dogs. Haha, I don’t know what it actually MEANS, but it does at first sound cool until you consider that we’d rape your horses and ride off on your women just for a fancy incense.  Actually it makes us sound like a bunch of chutney ferrets or something.

Saturday: ‘ard as fook ferrets playing OYE OYE…..

Nails: Right up there with the Midget Protection League

Saturday: So let me just ask this very generic question: Gimmie a dream bill HATN and 4 others – any genre, any time period, anything.

Nails: OK: Us, STRAW DOGS(UK), THE JAM and BULL THE BUFFALOS. That’s it.  The rules are “4 band bills” unless it’s some clockwork pumpkin fest in a baseball bar. And that’s off the top of my head.  Maybe throw MOTT THE HOOPLE in as a headliner.

Saturday: Damn. That might sell out a few Legion halls

Nails: Depends what country.

Saturday: Well, you got anything you wanna get off your chest, sir?

Nails: Yeah..Wait…Nah. I guess that I’m really looking forward to this weekend.  Some quality spinning and good banter on Friday, and some great bands and hopefully great people on Saturday. Brian from the Play It Loud! Committee for Non-Shitty Oi! Fests has put together a great day of quality hard reality rock of several genres and I’m looking to enjoy myself.  That coupled with the fact that the RIFLES are playing Wednesday prior makes this a great fucking week.

Saturday: Yeah, caught Weller and The Rfiles in Chicago. Northern Soul DJ between bands. One of my top gigs of the 2000’s so far. High marks. But yes, PIL! is going to be a great time, the weekend will be excellent and HATN are definitely a big reason for the excitement. That being said, as I have been ending interviews with: The Oasis split. Who the fuck is to blame and how can I do something about it?

Nails:…some brothers get along like, well, brothers, and some hate each others’ guts.  I, having a male sibling, couldn’t pettily hate my brother so much as to not visit his wife and see my 4-year-old nephew/niece.  That’s just cold. My money is more likely on the plausibility that Liam is just a total douchebag with his head stuck up his own bunghole…

Saturday: You say that like I don’t own his Pretty Green hat. So callous

Nails: Oh SNAAAAAAAP! …and then Noel is stubborn as a mule. Bad combo.

Saturday: Ha! I thank you for humoring me, sir. Any closing thoughts?

Nails: Yeah, thanks for the interview and good luck with the bloggadiccio.  I will see you this weekend in Boston. I’m hopeful that Play It Loud! will become an annual Oi!-tastic pilgrimage for da’ kids.

Saturday: Indeed.

Thanks to HAMMER AND THE NAILS for their time, and get out on 9/26 and catch them live! live! live!


One Response to “Hammer of the Dogs: Hammer and the Nails Interview”

  1. Sound like a bunch of dicks…

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