The Dirty Nil are a fabulous Juno Award-winning band from Hamilton, Ontario. They quite literally just walked off the main stage at '77 Montréal, toweled themselves off, and made their way over to the press tent. Luke Bentham, Ross Miller, Kyle Fisher and I all shook hands and apologized to each other for how utterly drenched in sweat we all were. The afternoon heat was pushing well past the 40-degree (Celcius) mark by this point; we were in a tent, and there was no breeze. Kyle Fisher had spilled a coffee on himself and looked down at his stained shirt bemusedly as we took a spot near an industrial fan and tucked in around a small circular table and talked a bit about “things.”
The audio for this interview is included here via SoundCloud. There is a bit of background noise; this interview was indeed recorded at '77 Montréal Festival amidst a melee of music; scurrying festival workers, and press types. It’s decent enough audio that we here at PureGrainAudio deemed it worthy of a listen and have included it for listeners who’d like to hear all three Dirty Nil members discussing their craft. For more of The Dirty Nil, visit their official website, and for some live shots of the band from their gig at Live Nation Lounge last December, check out our review and photo gallery here.
Off of Master Volume, here’s The Dirty Nil in their colourful performance video for “Bathed In Light:”
Let’s talk a little bit about Master Volume and putting that album together after winning a Juno. Did you feel any pressure there? Luke Bentham: Well, I think the only real pressure that we felt was by ourselves. But that might be a bit of a lie. I think we also wanted to make a recording that was really, really good. Personally, there were things that we had done in the past that I wanted to change. I wanted to do something different, which was to make a really powerful-sounding recording and do the necessary work that is required to do that kind of thing. We always put a lot of work into our songs, but there were some pre-production elements that we had maybe neglected over the years because we didn’t know about them. Higher Power was a really good learning experience, but I think this time around we were way more focused on what we wanted. We practiced every single day.
As a writer, it was awesome having Ross join the band because I felt like the idea of what could be a Dirty Nil song and what couldn’t be a Dirty Nil song had been totally thrown out the window. I could bring things with a more delicate sensibility, and we could still transform them into raging rock songs rather than maybe just sticking to one type of song as we had largely done in the past. So it was really exciting for me getting to just bring whatever because Ross can play any style of music that you could name, so we had a lot more flexibility in that way. We were just incredibly focused. We all lived together, and so we just practiced every single day. We were also touring a lot but not as much as we are now. We were very motivated and very excited.
Ross Miller: Stat. We just worked really hard. I think that when I initially joined the band I definitely heard a couple of songs and I thought that this record is going to be the best. So I never personally felt nervous. I think it’s like anything; if you show up to work every day, shit will get done. If you don’t, then you are going to be in a situation where you are coming up with not very good things. So we took our time.
The Dirty Nil’s sophomore album Master Volume was released on September 14th, 2018 via Dine Alone Records. View the artwork:
You’re all very animated on stage. Do you feel any pressure to maybe outdo each other while you’re rockin’ it up? Miller: No, not really. We are all really free in our movements. We like to express ourselves the way that we do and...
Bentham: That sounded like bowel movements.
Miller: Yes, very free in our bowels. We try to express ourselves any way that we can. It’s all very natural for us on stage. Hopefully, the audience can also feel that, and it will allow them to have the space to do whatever they think or want to do out there. As long as it’s respectful to other people. There’s no real thought to it. We just kind of do it. That’s just the way we kind of play and move.
Bentham: I think there is also some kind of an unconscious, but also somewhat discussed stage coverage before we play because I am somewhat largely chained to the microphone, so for Ross the onus is on him a lot of the time to be working that space (which he does a fantastic job of). We have our own little moments, and we have movements to support the other guys’ big movements, things that have come naturally, which is the fun part of the show. We don’t have a fully choreographed set. Although that would be hilarious. But things certainly have evolved over time. We’ve always looked up to bands that do that. That’s kind of how we’ve consumed rock n’ roll. Things on YouTube, all of the MC5 and At The Drive-In footage; these bands that were very animated on stage. That’s where I personally (and I’m sure we all) have absorbed rock n’ roll. That’s part of our expression as well.
Check out our Tourpedoed video interview segment with Luke Bentham and Kyle Fisher at Riot Fest:
It’s ironic that I have seen you more on big stages than in clubs. I like seeing you in clubs because Ross will jump into the crowd and stick his tongue out and get in people’s faces and get them interacting. That’s kind of hard to do on a big stage like this (today). Yet, you were still awesome. Bentham: Thank you. Well, the big stage has its challenges, but it also presents other new opportunities that we are kind of discovering show by show, which are very exciting. When we are a little bit closer to home, and as our profile and career begin to rise, our means by which we can employ a more grandiose stage set-up is really exciting. We’ve experimented with cryogenic jets and pyro and fireworks, and that stuff is super fun, so we look forward to bringing that continuously into our live show. But at the end of the day, it’s a proper rock n’ roll show with loud amps and the greatest songs that have ever existed.
Miller: I’d like to add, on top of Luke’s very great answer, that it’s almost a necessity that we are playing bigger stages now because I am terrified of hurting these guys while we are playing. I’ve come very close. I’ve fallen into Kyle’s drum set a million times.
Kyle Fisher: Today.
Miller: Yes. Today actually. I hope they caught that on camera. The world is letting me not hurt these guys, which is great.
Bentham: We go home, and we practice our jumps. We lift weights, and we train ourselves for these big stages, so it’s very exciting to get to actually do them.
Some shots of the Dirty Nil boys backstage at ‘77 Montreal (Parc Jean-Drapeau, Montreal, Quebec) on July 26, 2019:
And watching David Lee Roth videos. Bentham: Yes.
Miller: Actually, yes.
Bentham: David Lee Roth is our hero.
Fisher: I’m going to enroll in some gymnastics classes. I’m going to push the limits.
Bentham: A baton portion of the set.
Fisher: I’m not going to do a drum solo, I’m going to do a ring routine.
Miller: And spoken poetry.
I liked that you dropped the Metallica cover today. And I think everybody in the crowd liked you dropped the Metallica cover. That was well-played. Bentham: Well thank you. We like to give the fans what they want. I just love playing that song. It took us a long time to get proficient at playing it. There are the covers that we play that kind of come really quickly. That’s another fun element of our band; that we love playing covers. Not only does it passively add new elements to your arsenal of skills for songwriting, but it’s just that we love rock n’ roll. We love the songs and being able to play them.
That’s one of the songs that took a while to get. Form a technical playing standpoint, it wasn’t the simplest, but that one kind of came along with all of the Master Volume material. Whenever we were hitting a little bit of a lull with an arrangement on a song we’d just try “Hit The Lights” again. We just kind of worked it up and kind of slowed it down and then built up the speed again. We recorded it, and actually, a lot of people think that it’s our song because it’s on Spotify. And we are not here to say anything to counteract that.
Here’s a video of the band jamming out “Hit the Lights,” live from Paste Studios in New York City:
Fair enough. It could be your song. Bentham: It could be our song. I think we’ve made it our own.
I like that you are pulling an audience that maybe wouldn’t listen to Metallica into that track. Because they were in a genre that was considered to be crossover back in the day. It was elements of punk and elements of metal. They were really abrasive, and that is an underproduced, gritty sounding album. Bentham: It’s an awesome album.
Miller:Kill ‘Em All is incredible. And we were thinking what Metallica song are we going to cover and we just picked the first song off the first record. The easiest choice.
Fisher: Next up is “Some Kind Of Monster.”
How about some of these covers you are currently releasing online digitally. There’s five I think so far? Fisher: Close. And two more came out today. So there’s eight now in total.
What songs came out today? Fisher: Today was “Queen Bitch” by David Bowie and The Who’s “The Kids Are Alright.”
How many are you guys going to do? Bentham: I don’t know... How many years until the end of the world, man?
Miller: We just recorded two more. It’s non-stop. We’re always working. So it’s kind of like what Luke said; when we’re home, we’re just constantly working. We’re always in the jam space. So we don’t beat our heads against the wall on a song, we will just decide on a song we have been listening to a lot lately. We will just learn it and play it and take out the parts we don’t like.
Fisher: We love doing that. We like trimming the fat and re-introducing them to the public.
If you’ve yet to hear the band’s mad old-school track “Fuckin’ Up Young,” you’re missing out:
Can you talk a little bit about being on the best label in the world, Dine Alone Records? Fisher: Dine Alone Records! Dine Alone Records has been so god damned good to us. We cannot say enough good things about them. Every crazy request that we shoot over to them they will say, “Sure. Let’s do it.” Sometimes it comes with a head shake, but always a yes. And I think that kind of mobility and trust and relationship with a label is rare. We feel very fortunate to have that because as you can imagine, we have a lot of friends who have not enjoyed that kind of relationship with their label. It’s had a degree of animosity almost in certain examples (from our friends), so we are very fortunate to have the relationship that we’ve had with Dine Alone. We feel very, very, VERY supported by them in whatever we do. Just a fantastic label and a fantastic group of people.
Can you talk a little bit about what it was like when you signed with them? Do you remember how that went? Was there a story that you can tell about it? Fisher: I don’t know if there is really a story. We had a few meetings with them and kind of talked for a while. We were going to do a thing with them a couple of years prior, but it just didn’t line-up. So it was kind of good that it came around two years later when we had the record. I think it was a better time for us and a better time for them to have us sign with them.
Bentham: The way that we actually got involved with them was Max Kerman from the Arkells, he’s a big Nil fan, and he is good friends with Joel who owns Dine Alone, and he told Joel to check us out. And then Joel came out and saw us at SCENE Fest in Niagara in 2012. And it was an insane show where I think there were a number of injuries, it was just a tornado of people, and he was at the back, and that was kind of how our discussions began.
Miller: I remember, and this was years before my time, but I was at that show, and I remember a very partied Joel and a very partied Dirty Nil having a conversation that went, “Yes. This will be great.” And then it happened, I think, a couple of years after that.
Bentham: Yeah. It was the beginning.
The second single, and music video, from Master Volume was “Pain of Infinity:”
Can you talk a little bit about social media, online engagement, and how you like interacting with your fans? Bentham: Personally, I had a very standoff-ish relationship with social media. I think because I’d spent so long idolizing bands of the past that I couldn’t incorporate it into the modern paradigm and my own sensibilities. Which I said were quite rooted in the past. And they still are, but after we made Master Volume, we had quite a bit of free time, and in that free time we were still geared up to work. And we all just kind of started experimenting with how we could use our social media to engage our fans and a number of things were born out of that, that have been really really successful.
Like Tone Tips, on our Instagram page. A number of giveaway competitions. So much satirical content that had just as much engagement as our music has. So my views on social media have completely changed. It’s a plate that you have to keep spinning; sometimes, it certainly presents itself as a task to be done. You don’t necessarily want to do it because you are just not feeling it. It’s an exciting time to be a band. As much complaining as there is about the modern landscape and streaming and whatnot, there’s never been a better time to be a band if you are willing to put the work in and find an angle that works for you. And we have done that. So I would say this it’s a fantastic time if you are willing to get off your ass and do something.
Kyle? MySpace fan? Fisher:MySpace! Oh yeah. I was big on MySpace. I had like ten friends. It was a good time. I’m trying to keep that page alive. But it’s hard times. Hard times for MySpace.
Miller: Like Luke was saying, I think if everybody is doing the same thing, that is when everything becomes boring. Rather than being “I hate this,” and being a grumpy goose about it, we just decided to find out, “how do we make this unique for us?” We work hard, and I think it’s like what Luke always says; “if you don’t show up for the party, nobody will care. So it’s our contribution to the zeros and ones.”