By Nick Patch, The Canadian Press | The Canadian Press – Wed, 22 May, 2013 6:45 PM EDT from yahoo.com
TORONTO – Headstones snarler Hugh Dillon has never been particularly gentle with fans — after all, his habit of spitting indiscriminately into the audience during the band’s notoriously fiery performances has become a key part of the group’s mythology.
But now that the Kingston, Ont., band’s first album in over a decade was made possible by the contributions of their devoted faithful, who in 1,597 separate contributions poured in more than 295 per cent of the band’s budget goal via PledgeMusic.com?
Well, Dillon certainly feels the love — and pressure.
“It makes you want to work harder,” the 49-year-old said in a recent telephone interview. “If we’re getting a shot at this, we’re going to give it 150 per cent. We’re going to give it a million per cent. We’re giving it ten bazillion million per cent! It’s like, these people are going out of their way to help you. They’re putting their money where their mouth is, they’re going, ‘We believe in this thing. We believe you guys can do it.’
“It just makes you go: Holy (crap), these people are really expecting something,” he added with a laugh. “It was our baby. This was it. There was one chance. And these people had invested so much and believed in us. It’s like, you can’t disappoint. Disappointment is not an option.”
And, in the eyes of the always-candid Dillon, the Headstones didn’t disappoint. With “Love + Fury,” out now, he says they’ve made the best record of a career that stretches back more than 25 years.
The band — known for no-nonsense serrated hard rock — had its greatest success in the ’90s, with a stretch of commercially successful records beginning with 1993′s platinum-selling debut “Picture of Health” followed by consecutive gold records with 1995′s “Teeth and Tissue” and 1997′s “Smile and Wave.” After two more albums, the band went on indefinite hiatus following 2002′s “The Oracle of Hi-Fi.”
There were many reasons for the breakup — a one-time heroin addict, Dillon relapsed before checking himself into rehab and disbanding the group — but they had also become drained by the constant push for airplay and record sales.
“You get the (crap) kicked out of you on the road and playing in a band for a long time, and especially in Canada,” he said. “There were a couple years, a couple decades, that weren’t that … hot.”
They reformed in 2011, brought back together in an effort to help past contributor and longtime friend Randy Kwan, who was dying of cancer and didn’t have insurance. Quickly, the quartet assembled for a tour that generated some money for the cause.
“Out of that tragedy, came nothing but an incredible, positive and creative experience,” Dillon said.
Despite its heartbreaking overtones, the cross-country trek reminded Dillon and co. how much they’d missed one another.
“It’s like lightning in a bottle — it’s just that natural chemistry,” he said. “It’s explosive when we hang out. Your senses are just heightened. We laugh a lot. Life just seems exciting, you know?
“It’s very much like a family,” he added. “We’re like brothers. You know, they have very little patience for anything that isn’t 100 per cent honest.”
When it came time to start crafting a new record, they started fresh, not bothering with most of the sketches or ideas that had built up during their break. Co-producing with his friend Chris Osti, Dillon endeavoured to claw back the layers of polish that were typically applied to the band’s white-knuckle rock and roll (he says such older records were so “weirdly polished or weirdly enhanced” that he “would always be vaguely disappointed with the final” product).
Album opener “Change My Ways” establishes the record’s Rottweiler growl, while first single “longwaytoneverland” finds Dillon spewing stylishly over a hard-charging riff. The album rarely lets up the guitar-driven intensity, though stark album closer “Midnight of this Life” is something else entirely, a piano dirge that finds Dillon softly singing some revealing lines: “It’s just the midnight of this life has proven to be the hardest to bear.”
He’s not looking for external validation this time out, he says. The Headstones had the support of their fans, and the band is happy with their album.
“I no longer look at numbers or business,” he said. “That was what killed us — we didn’t even realize we were on the treadmill. We were running so fast, and then, bam.
“Life is too short,” he added. “If you can find great people that you like to be around, and a great project that you’re really honestly passionate about and interested in and not wasting your time and not doing (it) for money, your life is infinitely happier.”
And there’s a certain pride Dillon takes in the Headstones’ unwillingness to rest in peace.
“We’re that little pitbull that gets up and survives through decades and through illness and death and destruction and everything else,” he said. “We really love where we’re at right now.”
Of course, during Dillon’s hiatus from the Headstones he established himself as an in-demand actor, having landed regular roles on “Flashpoint” and “Durham County.” Soon, he’ll be featured as a regular player in the third season of the AMC mystery “The Killing,” while he also landed an arc on the sci-fi series “Continuum.”
He’s also about to turn 50, a milestone that he approaches with some enthusiasm.
“I’m lucky to be here,” he said. “I love every second of it. I’m turning 50, I’m shooting two television shows … and I’ve got the best rock ‘n’ roll record I’ve ever made with the guys I’ve grown up with. It’s a testament to great, really exceptional relationships and great friends.”