Todd Jones from Nails is a Scene Bully

  • Axl Rosenberg

There’s a really interesting section in Chuck Klosterman’s stupendous book, Fargo Rock City: A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural North Dakota, in which Klosterman deconstructs the way Marilyn Manson savvily stayed ahead of trends in the ’90s. No, not musical trends — it goes without saying that Manson was never a trailblazer in that regard — but, rather, trends in rebellion. You should definitely read the entire book (it’s crazy fun, and as a bonus, it was one of the major inspirations for the website you are now reading), but I’m going to publish the relevant passage here:

Klosterman on Manson

On the surface, there aren’t many similarities between Marilyn Manson and Todd Jones, the mastermind behind California’s critically acclaimed Nails. And the truth is, I’m not sure if Jones is as slick as Manson — which is to say, I don’t know if he’s insidiously exploiting a certain image for the sake of success, or if he’s just a lucky Schmoe who happened to be in the right place at the right time.

But I am sure of this: Jones, like Manson, has discovered a new frontier in rebellion. And this, first and foremost, is what is fueling Nails’ success.

Of course, this new frontier in rebellion isn’t Satanism, and it isn’t drugs.

It’s part of, for lack of a better phrase, The Meathead and Proud Movement.


Much has already been made about the ridiculous title of Nails’ new album, You Will Never Be One of Us (I keep wanting to call it You Will Never Be as Cool as Us). It’s a celebration of elitism, not unity (e.g., They Will Never Be One of Us). Which might have read as legitimate when Nails were a more obscure band, but seems farcical in the face of their signing with Nuclear Blast, one of metal’s most venerated and successful labels. Nails’s label mates now include Slayer and Nightwish instead of Iskra and Asschapel; they’re headlining five-hundred capacity venues and playing Ozzfest Meets Knotfest; just today, they announced that You Will Never Be One of Us debuted on the Billboard Top 200Metal isn’t really counterculture at all any more, but if there is a piece of the genre still subsumed into the underground, Nails are not a part of that piece. I mean, I saw a young woman who looked like Zooey Deschanel leaving Crunch Fitness in an Abandon All Life shirt two weeks ago, I shit you not.

nails - one of us - truthful

Still, the affectation of the album’s name has thus far mostly managed to avoid being the butt of jokes — presumably because the record is excellent, and at the end of the day, that’s the most important thing. And besides, Nails are hardly the first rock band to ever play up the distance between themselves and the mainstream for the sake of appealing to rebellious adolescents.

But the true clownishness of Nails’ artificial ideology becomes apparent when you see the band live. They sound like such an unpracticed mess that their greatest potential for entertainment value derives from Jones ostensibly being the Hans and Franz of extreme music. Playing the Marlin Room at Webster Hall last week, the singer/guitarist seemed more interested in espousing the virtues of neanderthal behavior than he did in playing his instrument. He spoke in-between nearly every song, always to deliver tough guy fortune cookie platitudes such as “People who like aggressive music should behave aggressively” and “Everyone would benefit from getting punched in the face — myself included.” (Fortunately for Jones’ face and unfortunately for lovers of comedy, no one in the crowd leapt onto the stage to test the frontman’s assertion.) Proposed targets of violence included people on social networks and — whoa is me! — bloggers.

The flaw in Jones’ strategy for dealing with his critics is obvious (Does he seriously think beating up cyberbullies will put an end to the problem?), but you also have to question his motives for even delivering such a suggestion. The fact is, the media has been incredibly kind to Nails: You Will Never Be One of Us has received near-universal acclaim (see: Metal Injection, Heavy Blog is Heavy, No Clean SingingDecibel, Kerrang!, and yes, MetalSucks).

So Jones is either unaware that he’s currently a heavy metal media darling (which seems unlikely), or he is, once again, doing whatever he can to distance himself from the mainstream because he knows it’s good for business — even if a lot of that business now comes from the mainstream. In this context, Jones’ endorsement of extreme music not as an outlet for negative emotions but as a means for inflicting physical punishment on others comes across as being wholly insincere. If we assume that Jones keeps up with the metal media, than we have to assume that he’s aware of the current online battle between so-called “SJWs” (still dunno why that nickname is supposed to be insulting) and whatever non-SJWs are called (a microcosm of the world’s current struggle with xenophobia); we also have to assume that he knows how many blogs have come down on the side of the SJWs, and consequently what effect making such provocative comments would have on a mostly-liberal New York City crowd full of people in the industry. There are fans to be earned by going out of his way to offend people who disapprove of physical violence in any capacity other than as self-defense or fantasy… just as there were fans for Manson to earn from playing up his pro-drug image.

So Jones has deemed himself the anti-intellectual choice for people who feel like SJWs are raining on their parade. Little wonder someone on Facebook made this:

nails fb parody
Jones would no doubt scoff at this joke, but if you’ll pardon the pun, the dude who created this image totally nailed it: You Will Never Be One of Us may be a killer record, but Jones is a frat house bully. His power derives from anti-intellectual tribalism, machismo, and persecution — like a bully, he says “You’re different from us, so you’re not as good as we are, and we’re going to prove it by doing you bodily harm.”

Maybe it’s for the best that you’ll never be one of them.

Update, 6:00 p.m.: After publishing this editorial, several friends sent me versions of the below screen cap. I hadn’t seen it before, but it backs my argument. Jones explicitly sides with the bullies. Sorry to piss in your Pepsi.

Nails Twitter War

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