ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, APRIL 20, 2000
By Steve Newton
Technical difficulties have been gnawing away at me lately. First, the automatic garage door at our house doesn’t feel like opening; next thing our freaky cat, Toonces, sets off the burglar alarm we just got. Now, 20 minutes into an interview with Headstones vocalist Hugh Dillon, I notice that the little red light on my Sony tape deck—the one that’s supposed to waver when someone talks—isn’t wavering. I put Dillon on hold while I test it, and, as dreaded, discover that everything he’s said since “How are ya?” is an indecipherable drone. Cursing its shoddy craftsmanship, I ponder winging the device through the nearest window, but that would only throw off the air conditioning in my office, causing yet another technical difficulty.
When a helpful colleague quickly offers up a recorder that works, I’m left with the unenviable job of asking Dillon if he’d mind doing the interview over again. I don’t think he’ll be too thrilled. For one thing, he’s stuck on the road in Hicksville (Thunder Bay) with a bad head cold. For another, he’s got a song on the new Headstones CD, Nickels for Your Nightmares, called “#$%! You”, and I envision him borrowing a few choice expletives from the chorus to send my way. Top it off with the fact that I’ve seen Dillon at his angriest—portraying a perennially pissed-off punk rocker in Bruce McDonald’s Hard Core Logo—and it’s no wonder I’m a tad trepidant.
When I do finally get up the nerve to inform Dillon that the last 20 minutes of his life have been a complete waste, he doesn’t get upset at all. The guy is actually very understanding. “It’s okay,” he calmly replies, “that sort of thing happens.” Huh? Hello? What happened to the in-your-face rocker I had on the line here, the one who’s pictured in the new CD’s booklet brazenly offering whoever looks the finger?
“I’m not like that all the time,” Dillon explains. “I mean, everybody’s got things that they can be disgruntled with. But certainly I had a rough coupla years, the last two years. There were a lot of personal problems with myself, and the band, everybody. Births, deaths, just regular life, you know. And some days you can sit around and whine and bitch about things, but ultimately I’m finding that I’m fortunate to have this to do for a living. You know, the odds of actually doing what you dreamed about when you were a kid are definitely against you.”
Although Dillon has managed to make both his rock ’n’ roll and his acting dreams a reality, neither goal came easy. “I was always interested in both,” he says, “but I really had to fight for it, ’cause when I was growing up in Kingston I didn’t really get along with people, so it was hard to get in a band. And with the acting thing, it didn’t really happen until later on, when I became friends with Bruce McDonald, who was supportive and saw that I had some talent. He was willing to give me a break and not just believe all the negative press and shit.”
Dillon is hoping to score a role as a cop in an upcoming McDonald film, but until then he’s happy to be rocking out with the Headstones on a tour that visits the Commodore Ballroom on Wednesday (April 26). The concert will showcase plenty of material from the 14-track Nickels for Your Nightmares, which is without a doubt the band’s finest album yet.
“I feel good about the record,” enthuses Dillon. “I mean, you say that about every record, but this one, there’s just something… I mean, people come up going, ‘You know, I always hated you guys, but I like this record.’ I’m even finding some begrudging reviews in some of the indie magazines, where they go: ‘I hated the last three records, but this is a good one.’ ”
While their impressive new disc is the Headstones’ main calling card for international fame right now, it doesn’t hurt that, just before recording it, the Toronto-based band signed a deal with the same management team that handles the Tragically Hip’s career.
“It’s just been a huge shot in the arm,” asserts Dillon of hooking up with the Management Trust Ltd. “It opens a fuckin’ shitload of doors.” One of those doors, Dillon says, could lead to his band breaking through to the vast U.S. market, but there’ll be no whining and bitching if the Headstones don’t become tuxedoed Grammy recipients. “That’s the business side of it,” Dillon says with a laugh. “It’s never really been my priority, quite honestly. I’m happy to be successful in my own little way in my own country, you know, and in my own petty little way get back at the people from high school.”