ROLLING HEADSTONES: Hugh Dillon’s new road trip – Headstones
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ROLLING HEADSTONES: Hugh Dillon’s new road trip

Jun 08, 2017

Hugh Dillon doesn’t pay attention to that old saying: Keep your day job.

The frontman of Canadian punk/hard rock outfit Headstones for the last three decades – minus a 10-year group hiatus that began in 2003 – has also forged a successful acting career in films like Hardcore Logo and TV series’like Durham County and Flashpoint. So why does the 53-yearold, who’s been sober for “about 13 years” after well-documented struggles with heroin and booze, continue to make music? “What makes me really tick is the cathartic nature of being able to write because those are my words,” said Dillon – who last year alone shot the films The Humanity Bureau with Nicholas Cage in Osoyoos, B.C., and Wind River with noted screenwriter Taylor Sheridan (Hell or Highwater, Sicario). “Everything else is somebody has written what I’m saying. I do like rock n’roll for that because it is your own vision, it is your own voice, it is your own self-expression.”

The Kingston-formed, Toronto-based Headstones latest disc, Little Army, arrives Friday (June 2) with two shows that night at T.O’s Velvet Underground before a fall tour.

We caught up with Dillon, who’s also got two TV projects in development – one with Sheridan in the U.S. and one in Canada – in T.O. recently.


“I loved his voice, but I really loved the songwriting. That’s what it all comes down to is the songs [like] Jesus Christ Pose. There are certain songs that when I hear them, it’s a time and a place that was defining. My mental visual is sitting behind the driver in a s–y van with the radio stations in Canada and [Soundgarden] would come on and that was the soundtrack of us driving across this country. It was them and Nirvana and The Tragically Hip … nothing else mattered.”


“So much of it, with our history, is linked to alcohol and drugs and underneath that is depression and whatever else is there. What you’re always trying to do is be honest and be upfront. And what’s great about our relationship as a band, we’ve known each other so long, you can see any little warning signs so it helps all of us. I do know enough that you have to be vigilant, you have to know yourself because if you slip in that downward spiral of isolating yourself … you can isolate to a place where it seems to be pointless. And it isn’t. I mean I’ve been there.” SOBRIETY “I played all the, ‘Let me see if this combination works. If I just have half a Valium and one shot of whisky, yeah good.’And it comes back to the concept of fooling yourself. You’ve got to know yourself. You can’t fool yourself. I have done it so much. And that’s what our band is like because we know each other so well. Any misstep or anything that’s bulls–, everyone is lasered on it. And so it kind of makes you accountable. Because it isn’t just you, your actions affect everybody. And if you want to f–ing be part of [a band] – be honest.”


“[Nic] was just an awesome professional. You know I like working hard and it’s just you have to be on your game. He had such a grounded, hard work ethic and for me that guy’s been married to Elvis’daughter [Lisa Marie Presley], his uncle is Francis Ford Coppola, he was in [the 1983 film] Rumble Fish, and yet it’s all about the work. And I like it to be about the work … It’s gratifying to see somebody through life’s maze bulls–is on the ground bringing his A game.”


“My grandfather’s a writer. It’s storytelling. I’m Irish. It runs in the blood. I’m black Irish so I’ve got to deal with the temper and the nonsense. You’ve got to know yourself. You’ve got to not let your thoughts take you into some dark alley. It’s like being able to put it somewhere. And even when I didn’t have the band [during the hiatus] and I was trying to find my way and doing Flashpoint, I had a solo band, I was always write. It stops me from acting in ways that I used to act. That’s why I love writing because it calms you and it puts everything down on paper.”


“I ran some of the lyrics by Gord Downie, we go back so far to us being 17 and in high school together [in Kingston]. We just loved music. We talked about [Bob] Dylan and Jim Morrison and it was all about writers and songwriters. We were friends. There was such a musicality about that period of time – about two years. And in this bar that I referrence [in the song], the Prince George, e, we would go down there. And Gord and I loved music and it was Dillon and Downie, we were in a lot of the same classes. We were in a dramatic arts class together, we were in home room. All of it goes back to him. It’s not just the singer and The Tragically Hip, and this band that I love. It goes back to I would not be here, literally, without him.”


“I feel that guy’s going to live forever. I can say that. It’s like I want to think positively every day and every moment like, ‘You f–ing kidding me, I just saw him with Bobby Orr.’ ‘It was a hockey game and I think it was the Senators against Boston. I know it’s naive but I feel he’ll live forever.”


“I thought for sure we were going to buy it in some ridiculously stupid way. It was so lawless. It is weird. It is the chemistry. It is the writing. It is the ability to recognize each other so honestly. It’s like [guitarist] Trent [Carr] and [bassist] Tim White have been friends since 1972, lately it’s a big numbers game. [Trent’s brother] Steve [Carr] has been in the band as well but nobody talks about it – he’s on the cover of the new record – he plays keys, he’s been our road manager, so this record he’s on the cover and in the promo shots.”

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