ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, OCT. 2, 1997
The Granville Mall proved a pretty functional location for the stag party I took part in a few months back. After getting the obligatory eyeful at the Cecil strip bar, the toga-clad hubby-to-be was paraded down to the Commodore Lanes, where, amazingly, yours truly decimated all eight five-pin opponents with a championship score that was way over 100 points. When I got home and took a self-satisfied gander at the score sheet, however, I discovered that one member of the stag team—the local actor Bernie Coulson, who played the nutzoid drummer, Pipefitter, in Bruce McDonald’s ’96 punk-rock film, Hard Core Logo—had chicken-scratched the final tallies so that he came out on top.
That struck me as the kind of wacky thing a punk-rock drummer would do, so, impressed by how life imitates art, I decided a rental of Hard Core Logo was in order. (Besides, I’d been pining for a nostalgic glimpse of the shuttered Commodore Ballroom, and knew that the film includes concert scenes shot there.)
The next night I watched the video, and I wasn’t surprised that some of the most memorable scenes featured Pipefitter, as portrayed by Coulson. There’s one in which the hapless “Pipe”—about to vengefully whiz in the band’s van because no one woke him up at the last food stop—accidentally sticks his leg through a hole in the speeding vehicle’s floor. In the ensuing panic to pull Pipe free, he ends up peeing anyway—unfortunately in his pants.
More chuckles at the expense of Pipefitter’s bodily fluids ensue, but he’s not the only member of Hard Core Logo to shine for McDonald’s documentary-style lens. As perennially pissed-off singer Joe Dick, Headstones vocalist Hugh Dillon cuts a dangerous figure: he looks like Johnny Rotten with muscles and acts like Joe Keithley in a bad mood. When the time came to interview Dillon about his real-life group—which plays Graceland on Friday (October 3)—I wondered how closely the lifestyle portrayed in Hard Core mirrors that of an actual touring band.
“It’s funny,” he relates from his “shithole” Calgary hotel room, “because I meet a lotta other bands that go, ‘Fuck man, that’s right on the numbers!’ There were certain things that you can see in any band that starts out or struggles, and I think that’s why it was a good movie. But the guys in Hard Core Logo didn’t hang around with actors, and I happen to, for better or worse. [Costar] Callum Keith Rennie is one of my best friends—he’s like the fifth member of the Headstones—and Bernie’s another talented actor, although he’s got his own set of doughnuts to deal with. What’s funny about those guys is they’ve always wanted to be rock ’n’ rollers, so they got to do it in a movie, whereas I never really wanted to be an actor, you know what I mean?”
If it’s true that Dillon never aspired to an acting career, then he must be quite upset with how things are unfolding in that regard. According to the Headstones’ current Universal Music bio, he recently met with hotshot filmmaker Quentin Tarantino to discuss a role as a cop in the Pulp Fiction director’s latest project.
“He’s a nice guy, and he thinks I’m funny, therefore I like him,” quips Dillon, who nevertheless lost the part to a better-known Hollywood face.
“First of all I thought I lost it to Harvey Keitel,” he says, “so I was going, ‘Cool, that’s not so bad.’ Then I found out I lost to Michael fuckin’ Keaton—what the fuck is that? I’m a good cop! When my hair’s not spiky and I’m not a little punk-rock shithead, I can play a cop. On the street sometimes I’ve rolled into people and done some…[mischievous cackle] street theatre.”
Tarantino’s Rolling Thunder film company picked up Hard Core Logo for distribution in the States, but even if that kind of exposure doesn’t lead to unwanted Oscars for Dillon, he’ll still do alright as a spiky-haired rocker. Along with guitarist Trent Carr, bassist Tim White, and drummer Dale Harrison, Dillon rips it up right on the Headstones’ latest album, Smile & Wave. Bolstered by standout tracks such as “Reno”, “Without a Sound”, and the leadoff single, “Cubically Contained”, the new album is much more diverse and ultimately engrossing than the band’s previous releases, Picture of Health and Teeth & Tissue.
“I think we’ve just loosened up,” says Dillon of the group’s musical progression. “Our friendship’s actually gotten to mean something, as opposed to just ‘click-click-bang’.”
One of the best tracks on the new disc doesn’t even show up in the CD credits—it’s a hidden jam at the end that includes some righteous soloing by Carr and White and a stream-of-consciousness rant by Dillon about life’s addictions and such. Near the start of the jam you can hear him coaxing coproducer Brad “Merlin” Nelson, “More guitar, Merlin…higher, louder guitar,” and Nelson’s quick to accommodate.
“Merlin is a friend of ours,” says Dillon, “and he’d done so much shit work for other shitty producers that we went, ‘Uh, you’re gonna produce with us.’ He knows when to let us go a bit, so it’s like having no parental units. He just let the tape roll.”
Smile & Wave signs off with the director of Hard Core Logo blathering wildly about the fear of death, and Dillon says he allowed McDonald his freak-out thing as a “trade-off” for letting Dillon have his way with the ending of Hard Core Logo. The climax of the film is a real shocker, and shows Dillon’s own cinematic instincts to be worthy of compliment.
“I’m not as dumb as I can be,” he says.