Interview: Dirty Heads

Interview: Dirty Heads

The Pier was grateful to spend some time with Dustin Bushnell (“Duddy B”-Guitar and Vocals) and Matt Ochoa (“Matty O”-Drums), as we sat down at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe, Arizona, a place that spawned the infamous Rolling Stones cover song “Paint It Black”.

Along with that topic, the tireless road warriors gave a glimpse of what to expect from their upcoming album, as well as a tentative release date. Other topics of note, certainly, include discussions about touring with Passafire, the idea of performing with Slightly Stoopid and how it was to work alongside two legendary producers Mario C and Lew Richards. All of that and plenty more inside this Exclusive Interview with The Dirty Heads! Enjoy!

The Pier: I’ll get the one rough question out of the way early…How has the tour been modified from the opening stages on the east coast with the Gym Class Heroes and how the tour has transformed into a sole headlining tour? What did that mean internally for set times, crowd enthusiasm and attendance, and picking up a couple local bands for spot appearances?
DH: It definitely threw a screw into the mix. It was a big bummer the Gym Class Heroes dropped off, because we were setting up to do this rad co-headlining tour, where you’re like, “Sweet this is going to be nuts! We are going to get to play to their fan base and vice versa. We are going to make new fans, the shows are going to be great!” All the venues got doubled in size that we normally play. Then they dropped off, and we were stuck trying to fill 2,500 seaters by ourselves. We tried to scramble local acts together last second to fill in the spot. So, yeah it definitely hindered the tour, it wasn’t as good as it could have been, but we always make the best of it. It was a still a really good tour. The venues were still packed. We still had a blast, but like I said, it could have been way better.

The Pier: The Dirty Heads have been in the studio quite a bit lately. What was the recording process and interaction like with renowned producer Mario C? I heard your sound is more polished and refined now, and really honed in on the true Dirty Heads sound. Was that Mario C’s doing, Lew Richards in pre-production, or quality back yard BBQ sessions?
DH: Probably a mix of all of them, actually! For recording with Mario C, it was cool. Obviously it was great to work with someone who has produced so many albums we all grew up with like the Beastie Boys and so many others. But, you know, it was different. We had only really worked with “Lew” (Lew Richards) on every album, and our last producer we worked with, it was really night and day compared to Mario. They were very hands on and helped structure the song and helping us grow in the process. Mario was more about letting us do our thing, and saying, “Yeah man! That sounds cool! It’s all good…” There were plusses and minuses for both. I think we all definitely missed the producers who really pushed us to be better and better and better, but at the same time, it’s nice to have someone who understands that it doesn’t have to be perfect. I think overall, we just became way better musicians playing on the road so much, compared to our first album, since we have really learned to play with each other better. The songs have definitely been written more as a band, compared to the last record where it was more of bits and pieces and part by part. This upcoming record is more about all of us coming together as a whole, and that will be the true Dirty Heads sound.

The Pier: Now, everyone knows you guys worked together with Rome Ramirez from Sublime With Rome. Can you guys give us some insight into any collaborations that might be in store for the upcoming album? Possibly something with Mario C, as well?
DH: You know what, there are some collaborations. We will have a few coming everyone’s way, but I think we would all like it to remain a secret and keep it for a nice surprise when everyone listens to the completed album!

The Pier: I’ll respect that! You talked about your past work with Lew Richards, can you give us some insight as to how Lew is to work with in as musician, producer, writer and what it is about his style and mastery skills in the studio that so many bands respect and keep utilizing his talents, album after album?
DH: I think this scene is still a small scene, and it’s really still growing. Four years ago, really, it was only Slightly Stoopid and Pepper. Within the last few years there have been some other bands that have really started to go. So, you are getting some young bands right now within this genre trying to record some good albums, and Lew is really the only producer in this scene that has made a name for himself as, “I produce this type of music”. He has produced some really amazing albums that have been extremely successful. So, if you are young and in this scene, and listen to bands and like them, and then go see who produced them, well, Lew did over 90% of them. So, you will go into recording with him in a second. Lew is great to work with no doubt about it.

The Pier: After releasing the deluxe edition of Any Port In a Storm, and all the success and popularity both the album and the band received, did you guys go into the studio with the mindset that we had to exceed or meet expectations of the last record? Or was it just free form, flowing and organic?
DH: Any Port In A Storm was really our first album ever getting into a full-blown studio and making a full-length album. We kind of did whatever we thought was fun, like “Let’s make every song with huge bass and kick-ass beats,“ you know? But we really found our sound and figured out who we are this time around. We really zoned in on the true Dirty Heads sound. And, I think the final product will really show all of that to the fullest. We are excited for the album, and so should the fans.

The Pier: Any Port In A Storm had 23 songs on it with some b-sides and even a video. How lengthy will the next album be, and do you guys have an album title in mind? Will there be a theme continuing with the Any Port in Storm?
DH: I would say it is about 90% done. There is still some work that we need to put in to complete the album. We definitely don’t want to put out a ten or 11-song CD, because it has been so long since we have put new music out. So we want to do at least 14 songs, we are thinking. It’s been almost three of four years since we put out new music. I feel if we did anything less, our fans would say, “Really?” In terms of an album title, we don’t have anything in mind. We were leaning towards “Cabin By The Sea”, and trying to make a theme behind the album, but when we sat down and started writing material for the album it didn’t really go totally in that direction. But, there is a song called “Cabin By The Sea”, so that is a name that is still within the album.

The Pier: You guys have been playing four or five new songs from the upcoming album on this tour, have there been any fan favorites that you instantly say, “Yep, this one is going to be huge!” Or as a band, do you have a favorite to perform live after coming out of recording sessions?
DH: I’d have to say “Burn By Myself” is the one that people are gravitating towards during shows. Personally, I think out of all the songs that we have recorded for the album, that’s the one that is done. I don’t know what else we would do in the studio to enhance that song. When we went into the studio to do pre-production and demos, we wrote them a certain way. Then when we came on tour, we played the songs live and things might change. Maybe we don’t play the choruses as long or jamming on certain parts differently than when we recorded it compared to playing the songs live. Things change, you know? We really bounce the songs off the crowd and take them back into the studio and maybe write them differently, obviously for the better. We are excited about “Burn By Myself” for sure, but “We Will Rise” and “Hipster” have been awesome to play live each night.

The Pier: Is there a release date or time frame in mind for the album? I know it has been an ongoing process going into the studio before and after tours…
DH: Spring! We definitely want to put out the album by early spring. We are leaning towards March, if possible. So, the fans won’t have to wait too much longer!(Laughs)

The Pier: Today in the music world, music videos are not as prominent as before, yet DH is one of the few bands in the Reggae-Rock scene that has continued to expose their music not only to ears on the radio, but eyeballs on the TV screen. Was that always in the back of your minds while trying to breakthrough in the past years, and will it continue?
DH: We always like to make fun videos while we are on tour or videos of live shows, a lot like we did with “Believe” and videos from the past. But once we started getting radio play, it was something that radio stations started asking for almost, like, “Hey man, we will play your song on the radio even more if we have content to go along with the song.” Getting “Lay Me Down” on the radio took us from one level to the next. So, lets make some fucking videos, right? If you are a band and want to get going, and KROQ says, “We will put you on rotation more if you have a video,” you’re going to make a fucking video! It was great for us and great for our success, and it’s definitely something we are going to keep doing in the future. We enjoy the fun, off the wall videos, especially from our live shows, but we will see how the videos unfold in the future.

The Pier: I want to touch on some cover songs. You guys have played a few cover songs in the past, including “Paint It Black” by the Rolling Stones on this tour. What inspired that song?
DH: We always like to do covers. Covers are fun. We love to play them and the fans really love to hear them live. To throw a cover song into your set once in awhile is just fun for everyone. That song actually got inspired from a battle of the bands set that we played here at the Marquee Theatre in Arizona, just a couple years back. It was actually really, really tight! We had to play a couple of our songs, along with the other bands that played. We played one of their songs, and then, we both had to play the same cover song and do our own take on it. We chose “Paint It Black” as the cover song. After that, we were like, “Fuck! Let’s just keep playing it because it came out really rad!” So, that’s kind of how that one came about, and it was really fun to recreate and the fans enjoy it! As far as future cover songs, we are always open to putting our own spin on classic songs like that. No definite cover song in the works, but it’s a guarantee that there will be one or two in the future.

The Pier: Are there any future tour plans set in stone for the 2012? We got word that you guys are really into Passafire. Any shows with them in the works?
DH: Oh, we would love that! That would be awesome. If we teamed up on tour with Passafire, that would be one amazing tour without a doubt. The new album they just released “Start From Scratch” has been on rotation on our bus since it dropped. It really has! We love listening to those guys. If that happened, it would be a really rad tour, no question.

The Pier: Along with possible future tours, the Dirty Heads’ musical background was acoustic and hip-hop with percussions. Another band that came up in a similar style was Slightly Stoopid. How incredible would a tour be with Slightly Stoopid and the Dirty Heads? Do fans ever ask you that?
DH: Oh man! We get asked that all the time. It would be incredibly awesome! But, you got to tell their management (Silverback) and our management (Level 7) to fucking get along. (Laughs) Politics, man! Politics. We have no problems with them. They have no problems with us. Our management, they don’t like each other…That’s why we have never played together before. I think it goes deeper than the Sublime With Rome reformation, you know? Maybe that has something to do with it, but that certainly didn’t help. But, if a tour or a show popped up, it would certainly be memorable for everyone, including us.

Dirty Heads Links:
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Dirty Heads Website

Interview by: Kris Siuta
Photos by: David Norris, Amanda Zancanella and Bill Colbridge

Here’s the official music video to the #1 single “Lay Me Down” featuring Rome of Sublime with Rome

Here’s the official music video to the song “Stand Tall”

Here’s our classic interview w/Dirty Heads discussing Sublime with Rome re-formation