Name: Todd Jones
Location: Orange County, California
The beginning of it all. How did Hardcore enter your life and why, so many years later, are you still involved? What sort of a personal impact do you feel it has made on you as a person?
My buddy Joel put on a Minor Threat album and said, "you have to hear this". That's how I got into Hardcore. Before that, I was familiar with mainstream bands like Metallica, Nirvana and Green Day, and Offspring just got big and I was starting to discover independent music. My life changed as soon as I heard the first guitar notes to 'Filler'. That's when I equate myself to becoming a man. Haha, not really but that was probably the one of the 3 most significant life changing experiences I've ever had. Since then I dedicated my life to music. It wasn't a conscious decision I made; it's just what I did. Throughout the years I've tried to go a different route but I keep coming back to music. It's who I am. I really have no choice in the matter. For better or for worse. I make music because I have to and only for the benefit of myself - anything else that comes along from it or contributes to anything is secondary. I go to about maybe 6-10 hardcore shows a year that I'm not playing. Which isn't that few compared to some people but it's certainly not as many as I used to normally go to. I used to throw about 6-10 shows a year, be part of a 3 person team who did a 3-day hardcore festival in California etc., so I'm used to being really much more active but unfortunately that's not the case for me these days. Personal impact... where do I start? This interview would really be way too long.
Give a rundown of the span of your involvement in bands over the years. How did you first get involved playing and how did one band lead to another?
I started playing instruments when I turned 11 years old. My dad was a musician so I had access to a guitar and he taught me some chords. I joined my first band with my buddy Zack who you might know as the singer of Retaliate. The band was called "It Doesn't Matter". We were all pretty young and the quality was what you might expect out of people who were between the ages of 14-16. Certainly no dis, but both Zack and I went on to do much better bands. That was my first experience of playing with a real band. The feeling I had after playing with them for the first time must've been the same feeling of injecting heroin because it's something I've never been able to kick and I'll continue to chase. Anyhow, I played in bands here and there. When I was 18 years old, I joined Carry On. That was a really rocky ride but looking back on it, it was my favorite of times I've had with any band.
In December of 2001, I got in contact with John Lacroix. He had an advertisement on his website that was seeking musicians in California to start a band with him and Scott Vogel. I answered the ad and told him that Nick Jett and I should try out, or whatever. Nick and I got together with John and everything seemed to go well and then Nick and I met Scott and that's essentially how Terror started. Terror played their first show on April 26th of 2002 in Ventura and I was in the band up until February of 2004; approximately 2 years. Being in Terror was incredible; Scott and Nick are some of my favorite musicians in Hardcore at what they do and being in Terror was a true roller coaster ride. Because we made great music together and Scott knew a lot of people that would help us out, we did a lot of things very quickly that most bands take years to do. The first European tour was with Biohazard. We got to tour with Death Threat more than once. Recording at Mars Studios and Sound City Studios. It was a great experience, but it was also the first time I hit the road hard in my life and I discovered that touring as much as they do was certainly not for me, so I had to go. I think they were disappointed because from the start we wanted to be a full-time touring band, but when it came down to it, the reality of touring that much wasn't something that was for me. Terror seems to be doing what Scott and Nick wanted to do with the band from the beginning, so I'm happy for those dudes. Nick and Scott sacrificed a lot to do Terror at the extent they do it at. To this day, Scott is the hardest working person I've been in a band with.
After Terror, I started Betrayed with my buddies Aram, Todd and Greg. During the same time I joined Internal Affairs. My role in Internal Affairs was basically just to show up and play, which I wasn't used to but it was a welcomed change. I enjoyed playing in that band and not really contributing much song wise. During that time, I also started a band called Snake Eyes which put out a demo and 7" but that was something that wasn't very significant to me.
In February 2007, I joined Blacklisted. I look at this experience as the most significant in my music playing history to date. I didn't contribute anything at all as far as writing any tunes, but it was the most inspiring experience for me. Fuck, I don't even know what to say. I feel like anything I could say would be inadequate. Anybody who was in the Blacklisted circle knows what I'm talking about.
I used what I learned in Blacklisted and started Nails in December of 2007. I'm currently doing Nails and Betrayed. I also play in Knife Fight but my role in Knife Fight is the same as my role was in Internal Affairs.
You've done a great job of keeping all your bands from sounding alike. Is/was that a conscious decision or were you just looking to grow as a musician by playing new styles of music?
Thank you. Mainly looking to explore other sounds. Do something a little different than what I've done before.
What influences have lasted with you over the years and have you found influence in anything new recently?
My drive to create cohesive sounding recordings that maintain energy and flow from beginning to end is the biggest influence I've picked up. Recent influences are my peers and my life in general.
Of all the bands you have been involved in, which are you most proud of? In hindsight, do you regret any of them or find yourself wishing you did or didn't do this or that with any of them?
Nails is the band I'm most proud of. Because I sing and write all the lyrics it represents me more than any of my other bands at any given time. The three recordings I'm most proud of that I have been part of are Nails 'Unsilent Death', Carry On 'A Life Less Plagued', and Terror 'Lowest Of The Low'. The only regrets I have regarding doing bands is the relationships lost or damaged. Some of the relationships lost I am certainly OK with. It's easy to make irrational or harsh decisions that with a moment of clarity, could've been dealt with a bit better. To be into Hardcore you have to be fucked up in some sort of way. People who grew up in good homes and went to private schools generally aren't interested in bands like Straight Ahead or Breakdown's '87 demo or owning an original press gatefold "Victim In Pain". Having to communicate with people who aren't the best at dealing with big issues, that makes it even harder when dealing with sensitive subjects — you have to quit a band, you have to kick somebody out of a band, or you get kicked out of a band yourself, etc. I have very fond memories of all the people I've played music with and it's sad sometimes looking back on how I dealt with certain things. I could've done things a little differently/better if I knew better. Out of all my dealings that I've had, I wasn't the only one who dealt with things poorly, though. I also regret ever having anything to do with Josh Grabelle; but I know karma is very real and will catch up with him (if it hasn't already).
Nails is getting quite a lot of attention lately. How did that band get started and what was the intent of it, if any at all? What have you released and what's on the horizon for the band (releases, tours, etc.)?
I created Nails out of necessity. Throughout the time leading up to me starting Nails, I've been in a lot of bands that have done a lot of great things that for whatever reasons only lasted for a short while. That's why I sing in the band. I don't want to ever feel that someone leaving the band is a reason to end it. We're doing a two week tour in July/August with Ringworm, Bitter End, and New Lows. Our first recording is an EP called "Obscene Humanity" that's out of print. The other thing we have out if a full-length called "Unsilent Death". We're writing a new record right now but I wouldn't expect that out until 2012. It's really much more abrasive than Unsilent Death.
What is your take on the current state of Hardcore? What bands are you into these days?
Hardcore is what you make of it. There's always good bands; you just have to find them. It's your responsibility to make it what you want it to be. Ceremony, Skin Like Iron, New Lows, Converge, Ringworm, Mind Eraser, I could name at least 50 bands. Warcry from Portland is my favorite current Hardcore band going.
If you were to take 1 film, 1 CD and 1 book with you to the grave, what would they be and why?
Ah, I can't pick one of each. If I was allowed 3 of each, Neurosis 'Times Of Grace' and Bad Santa would be in the list.
Thanks for the interest in interviewing me. Thanks to all the Hardcore kids young and old who have ever paid attention to anything I've been part of. Thanks to anybody who read this. Check out Nails "Unsilent Death".