I had a chance to chat with, in my personal opinion, one of the very best frontmen of any rock act in the 90’s and likely even to date in Canada. Hugh Dillon was leader of the fist pumpin’, beer chuggin’ & hard rockin’ crowds in the 90’s right across Canada for the band, Headstones. The band took a brief hiatus to regain some steam and hit the ground running for their second lap 5 or 6 years back. If you don’t know who the Headstones are keep reading; you’re about to get educated. And if you do, keep reading. Hugh gives one hell of a interview. As a general disclaimer, this is a conversation more than an interview, because Hugh is someone you talk with, not to.
Corey: Hugh, thanks so much for doing this. Real pleasure to chat with you.
Hugh: Oh, dude my pleasure, thank you.
Corey: Let’s kick things off with talking about the handful of shows you guys just did over the last couple months. What did it feel like being back in front of sold out venues?
Hugh: Ya you know after Love & Fury we use to play whenever we could or wanted to. Really it’s just a different way of playing. We play when we want to play as opposed to having to play or feeling obligated to play. It’s just total fucking freedom man, and that is why we enjoy it. If we don’t want to do it, we don’t do it. And when we do, do it. It’s at like at 100 MPH. I really think fans can tell the difference. It’s the same with our song writing and releasing records and releasing a piece of vinyl last year. It’s just the only way to do it. It’s such a luxury to be able to do it this way, because then you are not in any kind of grind or on anybody else’s agenda or schedule.
Corey: Is it nice to be more in the independent world now, maybe where you don’t have a record label breathing down your neck to be on tour or pumping out a new album and things like that?
Hugh: Ya, but it’s not even a record label. You know people just vilify record labels, when the truth is most bands would love to have a record label because they are somebody who covers a lot of the costs. But,for us, because we go back such a long way it’s just like the independent days in terms of it’s really driven by how much you want to do. We have hardcore fans. That’s what it really comes down to. The kind of band we are and the time we have spent being in this band and from the early days on, those live performances back in the day echo in people’s minds because thats why they come back again and again. And about 5 years ago when we got back together, people come to see whats changed and then when they realize its better than ever and there are new songs and new records, it’s just a power house now. We are a machine now, so I think people then come back again and then they remember why they were fans in the first place. They remember “Fuck Ya, I love this band”
And when they come and see the band and it’s not just people who, well not to belittle anyone else, but we fucking go. It’s a fucking prize fight. There is a reason why we do what we do. It’s not just me,.Tim White is just a monster bass player. People forget he is educated. He has been to Berkeley and him and Trent have such an incredible bond. So much of the band is the fact that we have known each other for so much of our lives. I have been around [with the band] for about 25 years, so we go back. Even our road manager, he played keys for us. He was also Trent’s brother. It’s just a really intelligent group of people to be making music with and it’s a lot of fun and we get a lot out of it. Then you know the flip side is that its super creative. We are always either rehearsing for gigs or Trent and I are writing songs or Trent and Tim are writing songs and it really comes down to if it’s fun and if it’s creative then of course you spend more and more time on it. And if it’s a hassle and a drag and nobody gives a shit then you might as well get any job, you know.
Corey: Not to go off topic but not sure if it was you or someone on your PR team that read my review of the show that you guys did up in Barrie. I hadn’t seen you guys perform since my college days at Durham College. Didn’t say I stopped listening but hadn’t seen the band live since then. But I do recall that show and you crawled into the crowd after some loser had been spitting and throwing beer on you for a good chunk of the night and you popped him a couple and then jumped right back on stage not missing a beat.
Hugh: Fuck, I remember that. Ya i read that article.
Corey: But when you hit the stage in Barrie that night I have to admit it was like you turned it up another notch. And I just went right back to that night and to be honest I really wasn’t expecting that. It was 20+ years later and you guys just killed it that night. I relieved my college days in that 80 min set. It was unreal.
Hugh: Thanks man that really is our goal, making the fans feel like they did the first time they saw us.
Corey: Let’s touch on the acoustic album you guys put out just over a year ago. One In The Chamber. Honestly one of my favourite Headstone Albums. I would love to see a tour possibly maybe where its stripped down.
Hugh: So would I man, but the thing is it’s something that we have in the can. We love playing that way but what we noticed, we did a thing for our fans only and I would love to do an acoustic tour or play that kind of stuff but what happens is – just to be honest with you ’cause I can tell you are a fan. And the fact that you remember the Durham thing, because I remember that like it was yesterday. I remember that guy mouthing off, throwing shit at the fucking band and I was worried about getting electrocuted or whatever and warning him 2 or 3 times, and eventually you gotta put your money where your mouth is. I remember that, and I remember having to wait it out and make sure I had the right guy and when I found him…well, you know. And it’s funny, we were crazy then but we are stronger now so it’s bizarre. It’s the same kind of mentality but we are just healthier and stronger, which almost makes it crazier and more intense in a weird way. At least then you had time to light a fucking cigarette but now you can’t even light up a cigarette because it’s 100 MPH with no stops.
But I gotta say I am glad to hear you say that. I love music and I can tell you love music and that’s why we are still talking. And the fact that you cover so much of it and I love live music. But what i felt like such a shift, I mean that One In The Chamber is really for music fans and particularly Headstones fans and we would love to do it. But what happens is if you go to play a club and people are so used to, and I understand, but they are so used to seeing the band they know when they go to a show they are going to see an amped up, unpredictable show with fights in the audience. It’’s fun. It’s crazy and you know those songs the way that you know them. You may have seen the band a bunch of times. So six drinks into it the people want to hear ya fuckin’ go! So I don’t know if people would really get the acoustic stuff. You would really need to almost sit down with each fan individually and say, “Well, guys this is gonna be a little different. ” You can’t rip people off. You can’t pretend you’re going to be something and then people come and see a completely different show. And if people are coming to hear the Headstones they want to hear the electric and hear the “Fuck You”. They want to experience that assault, because there is no band like it. That also have the lyrics and the melody and you know the band is an authentic rock and roll band and thats why I do love it. It’s a pleasure to be involved in it.
We are very careful about not trying to be something we are not. And I don’t expect people to buy into that. These acoustic songs are beautiful. They are awesome. They are cinematic. We can use them in movies. So I think it would have to be a very special thing and having said that its something that we would look into doing maybe 5 yrs down the road when we have kind of slowed down, and maybe do a one-off here, and there. But you’ve got to be careful that you are not pissing off the people who really do give a shit, ‘ya know.? Because they have shown up, spent their money and say they love your band and everything about it. You can’t really go back to them and say, “Hey, you know that whole band you like and all those songs? Here it is all slowed down and we are sitting down and everybody has to be quiet and watch their alcohol intake.” [Snickers a devilish snicker] –
Corey: I totally get that. It’s really more like a song writer’s circle kind of idea for that one. And your fans want that in your face, lets party type show.
Hugh: They do. They really do. But it’s something I would do down the road because we have done it. It has been successful, but it’s something you need to do in smaller venues and you’ve got to do it where people really get a handle on it. And right now we are going the opposite way. We are playing these big festivals, which is just basically more amps and louder guitars, and adding a couple more songs, and checking out the back catalogue as well as playing songs that we have just written. So we are basically doing what we always did. Back in the old days you were basically playing the last album with a little of the next album along with a couple of songs that we always loved.
Corey: Let’s talk a little more about the festival season, you currently have one on the tour schedule and that is happening June 11 in Burlington for the Sound of Music Festival.
Hugh: Well there are a couple coming up but yes, Burlington – it’s coming and those are the festivals that when your manager calls, and we go, “Fuckin’ eh”, because I was a huge Cult fan and when you get a chance to play a big festival like that in Ontario, specifically for me, because that where I learned to play Rock & Roll, and playing with a band that I respect is awesome. Then there are a couple other great bands that are playing that day as well. The Glorious Sons are a young band from Kingston and a few other amazing bands. But I can tell you that I had The Cult, She Sells Sanctuary, I was living in England at the time and I was busking on the streets and learning to write songs, and that album came out and I have it. I bought it. And I bought it in England where they were playing back in 1985 or ’86, something like that. And then later we worked with one of The Cult’s producers for demoing songs in the early 90’s. We demoed Don’t Follow The Leader. That was actually on our last album. I have always been a fan and [it’s an honour] to be able to play on stage with bands that you genuinely love their songs. I remember when The Cult went out on tour and Gun’s & Roses were the opening slot just before G’nR’ broke. So they set the table for a lot of music and a lot of electric rock & roll. And I have always loved Ian’s lyrics, I always thought that he was a real lyricist. In my books it was Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, Gord Downie, Ian Astbury. I like real lyricists. I like real song writers that have melody and have a little bit of story. So it’s lining up to be a pretty great summer. So to answer your question the whole last year was killer, because all those shows went off. The Barrie show was magnificent. That crowd was fucking stellar. Sometimes from my point of view you walk out of a gig and go, “Fuck everyone was great.” The people were engaged and they make it go off. They take a great gig and make it exceptional and that was one of those gigs. And those photographs, whoever that photographer was, was fucking awesome. [Yup, he is talkin’ about you Scott Burns].
Corey: Appreciate that Hugh, but being 100% honest I don’t typically cover anything that I don’t like. I can’t do it. I am not the type of guy to go out and write a fluff piece just to appease someone.
Hugh: We have a real killer fan base and we are so thankful for that. They like what they like and say fuck everything else and I can relate to that.
Corey: Hugh, thanks so much for doing this. It’s been awesome to chat and talk music with you. Looking forward to seeing you in Burlington in June.
Hugh: You bet man, and seriously, we really appreciate what you guys are doing. That’s why we love playing in Ontario because of guys like you out there that keep it going, and remind us that people do care about the difference between shit and good chocolate. Thanks for your time and see ya’ in June.
Don’t miss Hugh and the rest of the boys in the Headstones June 11th in Burlington. You can grab your tickets HERE…
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