Interview with Nick Woods of Direct Hit!

Direct Hit!’s music is lively, to say the least. Formed in 2007, the punk rock act have managed to release a series of EPs, even while undergoing various lineup changes. Now, with a considerable amount of songs under their belt, the Milwaukee-based outfit have unleashed their debut studio album, ‘Domesplitter,’ which comes equipped with re-recorded, fan-picked favorites ripped from the group’s catalogue. Supported by Nick Woods’ indefatigable voice and amusing lyrics, the record contains a touch of charisma and enough ruggedness to turn any young boy into a man.

During their recent tour with Masked Intruder, Nick spoke with Rock Edition about movies, ‘Domesplitter,’ and his songwriting style. Head below and see what he had to say.

I was just taking another listen to the songs on ‘Domesplitter’ and had a flashback when I heard a line from Home Alone at the beginning of “Failed Invasion.”

[laughs] Yeah!

When I was a kid, I was floored by that film. It was the greatest thing in the world. Looking back, it was completely ridiculous.

It’s fucking awesome, man. I was talking to the dudes in the band that we’re touring with — Masked Intruder — earlier today about Looney Tunes and how fucking violent it used to be. Home Alone is like Looney Tunes brought to life.

Totally. What’s nice is that the movie is still on TV every Christmas, I think.

I remember being a little kid and being so excited to see that fucking movie. I don’t think the second one is as good as the first. People argue it both ways. There are people that think that Home Alone 2 is better than the first.

I’ve never heard of those people!

[laughs] Those movies, and Independence Day — I remember just being pants-shittingly excited to see Independence Day.

Absolutely. That’s another movie that’s on TV a lot. Another movie that’s on every year is Die Hard. I’m not sure if you’re a Die Hard fan or not.

Oh yeah!

I have the ultimate collection box set. It’s pretty cool.

They’re supposed to be making a new Die Hard.

No way!

[Bruce Willis] is going to keep doing them until he’s fucking dead. Eventually, it’s going to be some RoboCop shit. They’re going to glue bionic legs onto him so that he can keep doing it.

That would make sense because in the Die Hard series the crimes keep becoming more high-tech, so someone who’s half robot would definitely work.

Yep, exactly.

Anyway, let’s talk about the album before you have to get onstage. First off, what’s up with this cover art? I believe that’s ground beef coming out of some odd-looking man’s head, right? Who came up with that?

This dude named Josh [Davis] did our cover art for us. He goes by the name Dead Meat when he does his designs. He’s a really cool dude. He’s done screen print stuff and show posters for a ton of different groups. I think he did one for Fucked Up. I really like his stuff a lot.

And he has a bit of a meat fetish?

[laughs] I guess for this one he did. I just told him that the name of the album was ‘Domesplitter’ and to make something head-splitting. He actually just did a poster for our friends Tension Generation, and I’m pretty sure that was ground beef-themed too. I think it was green in that poster, instead of red like on ours.

I guess that’s bad ground beef? I have no idea.

[laughs] Yeah.

You guys are signed to Kind of Like Records now. I’m wondering what your relationship has been like since your band seems to have a sort of DIY approach and Kind of Like Records has a similar approach.

It’s been great working with Lisa [Garelick]. She’s been super generous and has pushed our group. I wouldn’t say that we have a totally DIY aesthetic. I mean, I think that’s totally cool, but it’s not something we pushed hard for with our group — unless you want to say that giving out music for free is DIY.

Yeah, that’s what I was getting at.

There’s certain DIY aspects to our band, but we’re not as punk rock as some of these groups that we play with. We’re working with a record label, for one. With Lisa, we’re kind of on the same wavelength, just in terms of how we release music and what kind of stuff we do to support those releases. She helps us out a lot with that. We appreciate it.

On that same subject of releasing your music for free, what kind of benefit do you think it has?

Giving stuff away for free?

[laughs] I know it sounds like a dumb question, but I mean do you feel like it’s makes it easier scoop new fans in and get more people out to shows?

The big reason we did it in the beginning was because I didn’t want to have to pay for pressing of albums. I never really expected Direct Hit! to go anywhere, to be honest. When I first started, it was a totally different group of musicians. Our songs were certainly a lot different than they are now. It was a lot less stressful for me to just [put] stuff up on the Internet than to have to worry about putting an album together. It took less time, energy, and effort. I think it’s a great idea for any kind of upstart band to give their stuff away for free. It’s a lot easier to convince people to listen to your group when you’re not charging them for it. There are people all over the world — I’m always surprised — that have heard [our music]. When you put it up on the Internet for free, people everywhere get to hear it. It’s not just localized to one small area. I think if there’s one big benefit, that’s been the big one. Everyone everywhere has access to it.

I’m not trying to say that we were breaking ground or anything; there are a ton of groups before us that did that. But I think we kind of got in at the right time, when a lot of people also realized that it’s a lot more fun to get shit out to the people that wanna hear you than it is to sit around and worry about how you’re going to sell something. It takes that stress out of it. It made releasing music a lot more fun.

The songs on ‘Domesplitter’ come from the band’s previous EPs. Of course, after re-recording the tracks a few of them sound a bit different. Was that organic or did you go in with new ideas?

There weren’t a ton of new things that we did. The biggest thing was that we were working with the same dude mostly that had done all of our EPs. All our stuff, except for EP #2, was recorded at our friend Shane Olivo’s studio. In a sense, there was less experimentation when we did it this time around. The reason for that was because we knew what would work and what wouldn’t. I mean, we kind of went in and took all the things that worked best on the previous EPs and put them into the full-length. Having a new rhythm section, with Robbie [Schroeder] and Danny [Walkowiak], obviously changed things a lot. There’s kind of a lot of things that went into it. I guess it was more of an organic project.

Cool. I want to ask some quick questions about a few of the songs. In “Satan Says,” there’s a high-pitched scream made by a woman later on in the song. Was that sampled from a movie or did someone actually come in and record it?

That was Shane’s ex-girlfriend.

[laughs] Are you serious?

Yeah! She came down and did it. It’s totally piercing. We had to turn it down a couple of times in the mix because it cuts through everything. It sounds like it’s straight out of a horror movie, but she actually did that for us.

Wow, I would have bet a lot of money that it was from a film. Next up, the song “Kingdom Come” is essentially about blowing people up. What inspired that track?

I wrote that song while I was working at a call center in Madison — I hated it. That’s what I wrote about. I mean, none of these songs have much to do with real life in general. I just kind of come up with them and pull them out of my ass. It’s not like I’m sitting down and thinking about my life and then reflecting on it in song or some nonsense like that. It’s almost like musical Jerry Bruckheimer — he just pulls that shit out of his ass, and so I do the same thing.

But in some ways you’re probably influenced or inspired by things that occur in your life. It makes sense that you wrote that song while working in a call center. Not to put down people that work at call centers, but it’s not always the most exciting job.

To tell you the truth, the way the job was set up was that I got downtime between calls, so if I got a really long call that I had to deal with, I’d get a few minutes after that just to sit in quiet. Sitting on the job for eight hours and getting all those snippets of time [allowed me to write] a lot of Direct Hit! stuff while I was working there. I don’t as much anymore. Usually, it’s like a focused thing where I actually have to sit down and write songs. Back then, I’d sit there all day long and leave with two or three ideas for new tunes. It helped me out a lot in terms of getting stuff written when the band was first starting.

Are you saying that you find it a lot harder to write songs nowadays?

I think we’re busier. We’re on this tour right now, and we’ve been working really hard on getting all our proverbial ducks in a row for the release. There’s so much other stuff which requires attention that doesn’t exactly have to do with writing music, which is a bummer. I really wish I had more time to sit down and work on that stuff. Now, I have to carve out a little portion of each week to work on tunes and come up with new stuff.

That sort of ties into my next question. What are some of the best things and what are some of the worst things about being in Direct Hit!? Is the worst thing that you don’t have enough time for just the music sometimes?

Yeah, that’s probably the biggest one. All of us have full-time jobs, and I have a fiancé now. There’s so much time that’s eaten up that doesn’t have to do with writing songs, recording, and just playing. There’s all kinds of bullshit that we have to deal with on the side to make sure we can keep doing this. It’s kind of a bummer. At the same time, all of us really love climbing up on stage and playing loud music for people that don’t really care two nights a week. I really wish we could do that more.

Will we ever hear any songs about your fiancé? Will you ever go the route of writing songs about relationships and stuff?

[laughs] No, man. That’s sort of the philosophy I started with. I just got so sick of people talking about themselves and their fucking emotions and girlfriends. Some of that stuff obviously works — it makes its way into our songs sometimes, but it’s in a really glorified action movie kind of way. I guess you could say that the movie Taken is every dad’s fantasy or something, but every dad isn’t going out and figuring out ways to fucking kill people that have kidnapped their daughters and shit like that. It’s nonsense. I don’t really know how I got to that point. Either way, I’m going to keep writing songs that have absolutely nothing to do with that kind of stuff. I think it’s a lot cooler to write music [the way I do] than to command somebody’s attention and tell them to respect your feelings and political philosophy. It’s about — at least for me — playing stuff that can pull people out of all the bullshit that people have to deal with every day. It’s supposed to be entertaining.

Direct Hit! released a lyric video for “Monster in the Closet” a while back. Any plans on releasing any new music videos?

Yeah, we just got done working on something, actually. It’ll be out at the end of August. We did it in like two days, which was cool. It was super fun to make. Making a video is always so time-consuming, and it’s always a lot cooler to be writing songs than it is to be making music videos, but I think this one turned out pretty good.

Anything else happening in the near future that we can report on now?

Yeah, we’ve got two more releases coming out — one in the fall and one in the winter. After that, we’re going over to Europe for three weeks next year. In the meantime, I hope we can get some new shit written for a new full-length. We’re hoping to get another one out as soon as we can.

Pick up Direct Hit!’s new album, Domesplitter.

For the band’s upcoming tour dates, check out their website.