My first reaction on listening to The Headstones’ new recording “Love + Fury” was “What the hell! Nobody makes records like this anymore?”
A record that contains 13 incendiary rockers in the two-to-three minute time range, all punk energy, snarling lyrics, raw, in your face arrangements with the allowance of one more melodic tune (Midnight Of This Life) tacked on for good measure. Not a hint of auto tuned lyrics or computer processed arrangements. This is rock n’ roll for the masses, the stuff a young Rolling Stones or The Who used to crank out with regularity during their peak in the Sixties and Early Seventies.
The type of material the likes of The Sex Pistols, The Clash and yes Iggy Pop produced as an effort to rail again commercialism in the Eighties. Only difference here is that this is 2013, radio has seemingly killed rock and roll and replaced it with a conveyor belt of pre-processed pap.
But don’t despair people, Sgt Ed Lane has hung up his service pistol, stuck his handcuffs in a draw and said adieu to his Flashpoint TV cast to once again turn back into Hugh Dillon, leader of Kingston, Ontario rock band The Headstones who have just released their first studio recording in 10 years. TV fans will no doubt recognize Dillon as the Special Forces cop who starred for five seasons in the popular television series but they probably won’t identify with the aggressive figure storming through tracks like `Longwaytoneverland’, `Change My Ways or `BinThisWayForYears’
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“We’re thrilled with the results,” enthused Dillon, on the phone from Vancouver where he is starring in two TV shows; `Continuum’ and `The Killing’ which he is shooting simultaneously on the West Coast. “Love + Fury” is authentic rock n roll, it’s the band firing on all cylinders,, it’s all about honesty, integrity and instinct there’s not second guessing or fixing things that weren’t broken.”
An emergency contact from Randy Kwan, who co-wrote `Cemetery’ with Dillon on the first Headstones’ album,”Picture Of Health” provided the spark for a Headstones’ reunion. “Randy was terminally ill with cancer, he had a young son but no health insurance so he asked me if I could help him out,” recalled Dillon. “So I called the guys together, we put aside our past problems and played a comeback gig at Toronto’s Sound Academy. We had a riot!, over 3,000 fans showed up and went totally rabid. We made a few bucks for Randy, set up a college fund for his kid, but more importantly realized that our fans were still there and as supportive as ever!”
“It was Randy who pointed out that time is fleeting and that I had this great thing that I missed,” reflected Dillon. “I realized that I had missed the camaraderie with the guys and it came down to appreciating what we had. But it was the fans that sealed it for me. I had forgotten who our fans were and that there were people who really cared about us and who fed off our energy.”
“So we got together and wrote `BinThisWayForYears’ which was a reflection on how we felt about getting together again,” noted Dillon. “I loved singing that song and we sent it out as a free download to our fans. Then Trent (Carr) came up with the guitar riff for `longwaytoneverland’ and in 15 minutes I had the framework for the lyric – and we were off, the creative process kicked in.”
With production help from Chris Osti, Dillon, Carr, drummer Dale Harrison and bassist Tim White, stormed through the sessions, using their Facebook and twitter feeds to communicate with their fans. “We recorded ABBA’s SOS because the fans reminded me that we used to feature that in our set and they loved our version. “It never occurred to me to record it, there had been such a disconnect between us and the fans but it was helpful to get them involved because they remembered stuff that we had forgotten.”
Now that Dillon is a famous television celebrity as well as an established rock star, does he feel he has won over new Headstones’ fans from his TV audience? “
[quote]I would have gotten into acting earlier but I didn’t like the structure. I wanted to write my own words and have my own voice. I found music to be more exciting and more expressive.[/quote]“Not when they hear the profanities on the record,” he laughs. “No I can’t honestly see a crossover between my TV audience and fans of the band,” reports Dillon. “Maybe a small few will check me out, but a television audience aren’t necessarily music fans and Headstone fans are diehard. If anything, they have tolerated me being on Television but now they want me to pay attention to the band again.”
I am sure some of the officials in Kingston Ontario who chased a young Hugh Dillon out of town in the early Eighties are now boasting about his accomplishments. Dillon could say something, or point an offending appendage, but nah! He can’t be bothered.
“I was pretty fucked up on drugs and booze when I left Kingston for London England but living on the streets of Brixton was a great experience for me, “allowed Dillon. “I was busking on the streets and I learned that if you write your own songs they had better be authentic or people will call you on it. My lifestyle was just like that Ewan McGregor movie, “Trainspotting”, busking on the street for a pint or some weed, crashing in some squat house or on the street. I learned to be very intolerant of anything that wasn’t authentic.”
Returning back to Kingston in 1986, Dillon channelled his newly cultivated lyrical creativity into a new band, the Headstones which enjoyed platinum sales for their 1993 debut, “Picture Of Health”. “No one was writing lyrics like what I was writing.” explained Dillon. “It is one thing to be in Canada and try to emulate British bands but when you’ve been there like I had been, lived on streets and experienced the entire vibe; I found channelling this into my lyrics was a very creative process.”
The Headstones racked up two gold records with their 1995 “Teeth And Tissue” and 1997 “Smile And Wave” albums but when sales for their 2000 “Nickels For Your Nightmares” and 2002 “The Oracle of Hi-fi” started to slip, Dillon had already moved on to being a feature star in two Bruce MacDonald movies; the 1995 “Dance Me Outside” and 1996 “Hard Core Logo” in which he plays group leader Joe Dick alongside Callum Rennie as Billy Talent as their band makes one last fateful tour across Western Canada. Hard Core Logo was so well received that superstar producer Quentin Tarantino released the movie in the United States via his Rolling Thunder Pictures Company.
“I had a great drama teacher in high school in Kingston,” noted Dillon. “Really, I would have gotten into acting earlier but I didn’t like the structure. I wanted to write my own words and have my own voice. I found music to be more exciting and more expressive. It was Bruce MacDonald who convinced me that he would give me some leeway to improvise and develop my own characters which is why “Dance Me Outside “ and “Hard Core Logo” worked for me.”
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Encouraged by Tarantino, Dillon landed a series of cameo appearances in films like “Assault On Precinct 13”(2007), “Ginger Snaps Back” (2007), The Trailer Park Boys movie (2007) and “Down To The Bone” (2004) which was featured at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival
Following guest appearances on “The Degrassi Reunion” show and “The Eleventh Hour” Dillon found fame on television by performing simultaneously on two shows; the first as a mysterious homicide detective Mike Sweeney in Durham County which was quickly followed by his breakthrough role as Sgt Ed Lane on Flashpoint which ran for five seasons on CTV and was picked up in the States for two seasons by CBS.
“My satisfaction with all of this stuff is to have good scripts, good people and a good end result,” explained Dillon. “When we filmed the pilot for Flashpoint, we had no idea it was going to be a bomb. Our attitude was, `whatever happens to it, we’ve made something special and we can be proud of it and I feel the same way about Love + Fury
“Everything about this record is so personal,” continued Dillon. “We shot the video for `Bin This Way For Years’ with Agency 71 and it’s the best video we’ve ever done. They also did our CD artwork and it’s the best artwork we’ve ever had. It just seems like so many positive things are coming together.”
Dillon is still busy shooting his two TV series (“Continuum” and “The Killing) in Vancouver but he vows The Headstones will step out an reward their fans with a major Canadian tour starting in Edmonton in June.
“Yes I enjoy who I am,” concludes Dillon. “I’ve stopped raging against the machine. I am directing my energies in a positive manner. I enjoy the people I am with and when you have that, you have everything.”
Photography by: Chad Maker