The Dirty Heads’ Dustin Bushnell Discusses Music, Life On The Road, The Loss Of An Idol, More

Good evening, everyone.  I know, I know.  It’s late.  Hey, I’m working even when I’m not at work.  But this is for a good reason.  Last month, my wife and I had the pleasure of seeing The Dirty Heads when they came through Raleigh.  Well not only did we get to see the show, but I had the pleasure of interviewing band member Dustin Bushnell.  A.K.A. Duddy B.  I’ve been really bogged down ever since.  But now, i finally got the time to sit down and transcibe that interview from last month.  We talked about the band’s album, thoughts on making music, and even the passing of beastie Boys member Adam yauch.  So for your reading pleasure, I offer you my interview with Dustin Bushnell, of the Dirty Heads at Raleigh’s famed Lincoln Theater.

RR:  I was listening to the new album and you guys are all over the radio right now.  You’ve got two albums out right now.  Both have been released through an indie label.  When you go back and think about that, I’m just curious, what’s it like thinking, “oh my god, we’re on an indie label, and we’re all over Top 40 radio, selling records,

DB:  You know, it’s been, it’s awesome it’s worked out that way and being on an indie label doing it like, uh, we’ve done it the long hard way as far as touring in a van for seven years with no backing, nothing, just growing our fan base, you know from the ground up and then once we did start getting some label help, it started opening up things for us.  And we tour so much just to keep that relationship with those radio stations that help us.  For an indie band, we’re lucky to have the radio play that we get.

RR:  It just seems kind ofalmost contradictory.  Here you guys are in an indie band and you’re all over the mainstream.  Do any of the band members ever look back on it and say, “what the heck?”

DB:  yeah, I mean looking back, I remember when ‘Lay me Down’ first did start getting radio play, it was one of those, “wow, what the heck’s going on?” moments.  I never thought that we would be a radio band.  That was the last thing I thought.  But it’s awesome.  I mean the radio has helped us so much.  It’s definitely taken us to the next level.  And you can see the difference in the shows most of all.  Places we’d go, there’d maybe be a hundred people there, and now there are two thousand people there. 

RR:  So you’re definitely seeing a big increase.

DB:  Oh yeah! Definitely.

RR:  You know, I’m just curious, I’ve listened to both of the band’s albums and I’ve noticed you have a major influence from Bob Marley, and obviously you even throw in a reference to Marley on the new album.  What were the influences on each band member as you grew up?  Did you all have the same kind of influence, or was it from one or the other with each member?

DB:  No, I mean we all listen to…it’s very eclectic.  On any given time, you can go on the bus and there’d be some hip-hop, or some reggae, some classic rock, or you know, country, folk, or whatever.  Everyone listens to everything.  There’s no real style where any one of us says, “Oh I don’t wanna play this or that.”  And that’s the same…we never sat down and said, “Let’s play this type of music.”  We just started playing music and writing songs for fun and this is the sound that came out, you know?

RR:  So are you guys still kind of writing music for yourselves, or do you feel like you’re writing it more for the fans?  You see a lot of bands out there that either they’re making the determined effort of, “okay we’re making music for the fans, or they’re giving the proverbial middle finger and all the critics are saying, “We don’t like their music, we don’t like them.”  They say, “you know what?  We really don’t care what you guys think.”  Is that the kind of vibe that you guys have or is it more for the fans?

DB:  No, we’ve had two albums.  So at this point, obviously the first album you made, it’s basically your first album.  You don’t know how people are going to like it.  But I feel on the second album, we did the same, you know?  We just made music.  We never sat down and said, “Let’s write this type of song or let’s try and make this a radio song.”  We just write songs.  And they all come about different ways in recording sessions.  What comes out, comes out.

RR:  I’m glad that you brought up the whole writing process.  Can you tell me a little more about how the process happens, who starts, etc.  Is it a process of, “okay you’re gonna do this or does somebody just come up with something on one song on a whim and then somebody else kind of builds on it?

DB:  yeah, it definitely is.  Me and Jarred do most of the writing.  And it can come from either one of us.  He might have an awesome lyric idea, or I’ll have a chorus idea or I’ll just have a guitar riff that I think sounds cool.  And Jarred will come back with something and say, “oh I’ve got a great idea for that.”  So they come from different ways.  Sometimes, one of us will have a whole song done.  Look at the song I wrote yesterday.  Sometimes it takes you a month to write a song, and sometimes, you’re done in ten minutes.  They’re all different.

RR:  Do you guys ever get tired of playing the same stuff night after night when you’re out touring and switch over to something else when you get off stage?

DB:  Yeah.  Definitely.  There are songs that we play sometimes in our sets that we’ve been playing for……13 years, I think?  You look back at that and you say, “wow, I’ve played this song a million times.  Oh my god.”  But at the same time, some of those songs are the songs that the crowd goes crazy for.  So it’s like, yes it gets tiring playing them over and over, but when you’re on stage and the whole crowd’s freaking out, it’s still fun.

RR:  Is there one song from your first album or this one that the band considers its favorite? 

DB:  Not really.  I haven’t chosen a favorite from this album.  The title track, ‘Cabin By The Sea’, I really like playing that one cause we get to jam more.  A lot of our songs are just very structured.  I’ve enjoyed playing that one live.  Yeah, I haven’t really chosen a favorite yet.

RR:  I noticed on your new album that while you do have a lot of reggae influence.  But near the end of the album, it starts to switch over to almost a hardcore rap type of thing.  Can you talk about that?

DB:  Hah, yeah! We definitely have that side to us.  We love doing that.  We love writing songs about things.  And then we love writing songs about nothing.  I just want to talk junk for two minutes on this track.  And I don’t mean anything.  I just want to make stupid punch lines.  I just want to try and make my friends laugh.  So we still like to do a couple of those per album.

RR:  I want to ask you about the tour that you’re on right now.  The Dirty Heads is one of the two headlining acts right now.  Matisyahu is on tour with you.  He’s on this record.  Did he come to you and say, “Hey I want you guys to tour with me.”  How did that come about? 

DB:  We met Matisyahu probably about six or seven years back.  One of our first big tours we did was with him.  Through the years, we’ve kept contact, running into each other at festivals, and different shows that we’ve played together.  The road becomes a small world, especially when you’re playing the same genre of music.  You see everybody, you know?  So when we were recording this album, we felt like Matisyahu would be perfect on this one track we were working on.  We felt like he would be great.  So we called him up and he came down t our studio and did the track with us while he was in the studio.  We were talking and discussing the tour and realized we both had albums coming out so we might as well just tour together.  So we set it up and it’s been awesome.  It’s been a lot of fun.

RR:  Are there any other acts that you look down the road and say, “I’d love to tour with this act or that one?” 

DB:  Yeah.  I always wanted to do a tour with the beastie Boys, which would have been the best.

RR:  What was your reaction at hearing the news of Adam Yauch’s death?

DB:  You know, it was really a bummer.  They were one of the biggest bands influencing me growing up.  They were one of the bands that showed me, you don’t have to do this one style.  You can be a band and play five different styles of music and just blend them all together and no matter what; they were doing their punk song, they were doing their rap song, right when it came on, you knew it was the Beastie Boys.  There’s no doubt who it was, you know? 

RR:  Was there a favorite song of theirs that you had?

DB:  Oh man, ummm the Paul’s Boutique album.  It’s hard to choose a favorite.

RR:  What was it about that one in particular that you relate to?

DB:  It was just funky and I felt like that was where they really had their smart aleck comments.  That album was just an amazing album. 

RR:  They were doing it just for the heck of it.

DB:  Right!  But no, it was a bummer.  Me and jarred, we were both like, “Wow, that’s really a shame.”  And then a couple months went by and he asked me, Are you really that bummed about that?  I told him yeah! It’s weird, like, you hear about all these celebrities passing away.  It’s always sad.  But it’s always like, “oh you know that sucks.  I feel bad for them, but if you didn’t really connect with that band, you’re like, okay that’s a bummer.  But they were a huge influence on me, so I started thinking about how much they influenced me, how much our band probably wouldn’t sound the way it does if it wasn’t for them.  It was really a bummer.

RR:  Being that the Beastie Boys are gone, are there any other acts that you look at and say this could be an option?

DB:  Yeah.  There are so many bands, haha.  I think Incubus would be a rad tour for us.  I’ll go with that.

RR:  I appreciate the time.  I know you’ve got sound check.  I’ll definitely be there for the show later.  Thank you again.

DB:  No problem, man. You’re welcome!