From the depths of a bedroom in Rushden, Northamptonshire, George Hammond creates catchy, avant-garde art rap, influenced heavily by the likes of early 2000’s power electronics. We sat down with him not long after the release of his second EP Pain.
Who are you and what’s Nailbreaker’s deal?
I’m George, I’m a 21 year old musician. I’ve been making music under the name Nailbreaker since late 2018, mostly a mix of punk, rap, industrial and noise with some other influences thrown in. So far I’ve put out two EPs, a few singles and a megamix, done a few remixes and was gigging a lot until COVID happened. Since then I’ve been sat in my bedroom with a broken laptop trying to make disgusting noise rap.
Describe what it’s like living in Rushden/Northamptonshire in general.
Rushden isn’t that interesting. It’s a bit rough and got rougher during COVID. I live just off the high street and it’s been a bit run-down after the shopping centre by the lakes opened up. The lakes are nice and there are a few good parks but the town’s so small you get used to it quick. Other than that there’s not a lot going on other than crime and a couple of pubs. Northampton is a bigger town so there’s a lot more to it. It’s cleaner, little more upmarket, still generally working class. It’s got a good DIY music scene with a lot of great bands and rappers and the town centre has a lot more stuff to do than Rushden does. Rushden’s where I feel most comfortable though, I know it better than anywhere else.
What was the first ever concert you went to?
I think it was Jack White at O2 Academy Birmingham in 2012. Always been a really big White Stripes fan and Jack White was an early influence for how I approach music. It was a fucking sick gig and blew my mind as a 12 year old. The support act was this guy called Willy Moon and he was dogshit, but everything else was great.
How did you get involved in producing electronic music yourself?
I got into producing myself purely out of necessity. My old band Acolytes had gotten a bit inactive and a couple of the members were off to uni so I needed a way to still gig and make music without other people. Our bassist, Bewlay, had been making his own music under the name Dylon Dean and was making the beats for it on Garageband on his phone, so I took inspiration from what he was doing and figured out how to record my own stuff on Garageband myself. I had no experience of production or beat-making or mixing or anything before then which is why the first two NLBRKR singles sound so lo-fi, so you can hear me gradually figuring out how to produce if you go through my discography chronologically. I eventually started making beats on my laptop but still with a pretty minimal setup, and sometimes I do still make some of my beats on my phone. It doesn’t really matter to me how I make the tunes, as long as I have some way of making them.
You were recently featured on an Anthony Fantano live stream, what was going through your head as he listened to it & gave you advice?
It was a bit surreal, I’ve been watching Fantano’s reviews since 2015 and whether I always agree with him or not I respect his opinions because they’re generally quite well thought-out and nuanced. I knew as soon as it came up there would be a lot of “Bri’ish Death Grips” comments in the livestream. But it didn’t bother me considering Fantano’s fan we base will call anything from Show Me The Body to JPEGMAFIA “Death Grips”. I like Death Grips anyway so I don’t care. I was glad that Anthony seemed to like the track overall and he was very constructive in his feedback, and I had a lot of people reach out after to say they’d discovered my music through the stream and they really liked what I was doing. It’s always good when someone with that big a following gives small artists a platform and I’m happy that loads of people who would’ve never heard of me found out what I was doing because of Anthony giving it his thoughts.
Describe a typical Nailbreaker live show.
Very physical. Confrontational. Probably not very COVID-friendly. Personally I use playing live as a way to get out any negative emotions I’ve got that I otherwise don’t know how to express. It’s not really a performance “for” other people if that makes sense, it’s something I do for my own peace of mind. That’s why I play with the same level of intensity whether the venue is packed or completely empty. I can be quite violent with myself and tend to take up most of the room instead of playing just onstage but that’s not something I put any thought into, I just lose myself in the music and let my primal instincts take over. Not being able to play live admittedly hasn’t been great for me mentally because a lot of feelings I would purge in my gigs which I haven’t been able so when shows come back I’ll definitely be more at peace.
What are some of your favourite power electronics artists?
Deathpile, Prurient, Genocide Organ, Dreamcrusher, Pharmakon, Knifedoutofexistence, Whitehouse and Hunting Lodge. This is also the first time I’ve been asked about my taste in power electronics in an interview and I hope it’s not the last.
Often, artists from the P.E genre tend to tackle transgressive and taboo subjects, often far more to the extreme than say metal or punk sub genres. What inspires you to write about the themes in your songs?
I guess similar to my approach to live shows it’s really just purging the feelings I have that I don’t know how else to express. The reason the themes of depression, suicide, anti-capitalist politics or just taking the piss out of stuff come up is because those are whatever I’m feeling or thinking about at the time of writing. It’s not always doom n’ gloom, sometimes I’ll have lyrics that I write just to make myself laugh. Whatever I write though is always authentic to whatever I’m going through at the time.
When the pandemic becomes more manageable/comes to an end, what do you hope to achieve musically and personally?
Musically I’m gonna keep doing what I’m doing pandemic or not. A lot of people say shit like “music’s the only thing I know how to do” and it always comes off cheesy but music is for real the only thing I know how to do. While I can’t gig right now, the pandemic isn’t stopping me from recording so I’ve got EP3 and a full-length mixtape on the go at the minute, as well as demoing new material for Sharkteeth Grinder (the mathcore band I play guitar in).
Personally, I’m trying to improve my health – physical and mental – and I’m gonna keep working on that. My knees are fucked from throwing myself around at gigs all 2019, the kneecaps float and pop out of place constantly, so I’ve been working on getting some strength and stability back and hopefully they’ll be in much better shape before gigs are back how they used to be.
Do you still believe that Nailbreaker was a mistake?
It depends. When it comes to my knees, head, hearing, back and bank account then yes, a terrible mistake. It gives me something to do though.
Tell us the story behind the closing track Nailbreaker Vs Nailbreaker.
I made the beat in late 2019 intending to use it for a different release which I never finished. I ended up coming to not like it as much so it got put on the shelf for a while. I listened to it again as I was recording Pain and I remembered what I liked about it in the first place so I decided to stick it on the EP. Lyrically, it’s about allowing self-destructive tendencies to get in the way of your own progression, how we sometimes use pain as a motivator and source of inspiration yet have to constantly navigate how we deal with pain so it doesn’t consume our existence. The vocal sample at the track comes from an Instagram story Lewis from the band BLOOD-VISIONS uploaded a couple of Halloweens ago where he was walking home drunk in corpse paint upset about how nobody in Northampton would accept him for what he truly is, a black metal guy in 2019. The video’s since become legendary and I’ve had the audio saved on my laptop for a while looking for an excuse to honour it, I’m glad I finally got to shoehorn it in. Lewis was happy to be included too.
What’s the response been like to Pain so far?
Actually better than I expected. I didn’t expect it to be universally hated obviously but I’ve had a lot of people tell me how much they love it and that it’s my best work yet so the support has been sick. I’m always surprised when BBC Introducing plays my shit anyway so it was cool to see them get behind it too. I am really grateful to everyone who’s given any of my music my time – as I’ve said I make music solely for myself so the fact that anyone else gets anything out of it is humbling. Because the music comes from a very dark place it seems like it’s resonated with a lot of people. Obviously we all had a shit 2020 and I think most peoples’ mental health had gone to shit by the end of the year, and I’ve had a number of people tell me the EP reflected the state of mind they were in or reflects what living in 2021 feels like or whatever. This music exists to help me cope, anyone else getting anything out of it is a bonus.
Pain EP is out now, available to buy here.