“The dogma of rock n’ roll needs to go out the window and we’re here to trash that and burn that to the god damn ground.”
In a world where the political and social climate is increasingly becoming intense and rock n’ roll is declared “dead” almost weekly, it’s a good job there is a band who have taken its spirit and pumped it with tonnes of raw energy, fiery riffs and addictive hooks. The Dirty Nil are that band.
“The dogma of rock n’ roll needs to go out the window and we’re here to trash that and burn that to the god damn ground,” declares vocalist, guitarist and self-declared “hype man” Luke Bentham. Joined by drummer Kyle Fisher and bassist Ross Miller, The Dirty Nil have spent the best part of over three years living on the road. From playing basement shows to supporting fellow Canadians Alexisonfire and Billy Talent to sharing the stage with legends such as The Who, the Ontario trio have experienced a lot in recent years. Even though they’ve had their highlights, as their new album ‘Master Volume’ shows, they’ve also been through some low points.
“We would see a lot of destroyed motor vehicles and post-fatal accident drive-bys,” explains Bentham when discussing how their grim touring experiences influenced the new record. “When I was doing the basic outlines of the songs, I didn’t think ‘I’m going to write a song about dying’. It’s just that when you see it so much it becomes a banality and you just get used to it. In some ways, you see absolute disfigured, crazy twisted metal and it almost becomes beautiful in a certain way. It’s just been overexposed to burning, crazy wreckages.”
While ‘Master Volume’ contains songs about fantasising about being involved in car crashes and departed or messed up friends, it’s countered by a monstrous rock machine that takes the ragged, hardcore-influenced sound of 2016’s ‘Higher Power’ and injects it with a powerful and bold dose of stadium-ready venom.
Songs such as ‘That’s What Heaven Feels Like’ and ‘Bathed In Light’ are delivered with assured swagger. As Bentham suggests, playing bigger stages sparked a creative thought during the making of ‘Master Volume’. “I would say that playing in the bigger arenas certainly influenced the way we approached making a song as powerful as possible, especially in terms of dynamics but also synchronisation between the instruments, working out the nitty gritty details of how this is going to work in a big space.
“That wasn’t a goal but playing in those spaces humbles you when you’ve got these speed-fuelled, ripper tracks that are great in a club, they peel off the paint but when you get in a stadium, it has a way of sounding a bit thin.”
“I truly think this band creates a good time for everybody.”
Anyone who has witnessed The Dirty Nil live or even seen any of their music videos will tell you, they’re not a band who completely take themselves seriously. For example, the video for ‘Bathed In Light’ sees them lie out their rock n’ roll fantasies. “It was an excuse to light up the St. Catherines sky in Ontario, but also basically present an image of the band that was a bit different than before,” Luke tells us while his bandmates sit either side of him, drinking Jack Daniels straight out the bottle.
As talk about ‘Master Volume’ goes on, Bentham enthusiastically states; “one of the biggest problems with rock n’ roll right now is that people take things so seriously. They look like fucking idiots. People are very dogmatic about these genres lines, and we’re out to troll all of those fucking idiots as much as possible. We want you to be upset in a joyous way. It’s coming from a place of love.”
Bassist Ross Miller follows by offering a more considerate analysis on the seriousness of rock music. “Everybody is serious about everything. Don’t be so serious about the details of rock n’ roll. You’re either having a good time or you’re not. I truly think this band creates a good time for everybody. Bands that take themselves too seriously, we are doing the complete opposite.”
While it’s Fisher who provides the defining line – “We bring the noise, we don’t want to be a part of it.”
We’d rather be a platform to be reprieved from the constant chatter of all this bullshit. That’s what rock n’ roll is.
On ‘Master Volume’, songs such as ‘Auf Wiedersehen’, ‘Evil Side’ and ‘I Don’t Want That Phone Call’ are considerate, showing The Dirty Nil do have a conscious side to their songwriting yet they’re keen to keep their opinions and views separate from their craft.
“People have often questioned us about our politics, and obviously, we have our own opinions but that stuff is separate from our music,” Luke explains. “We have our certain leanings and once in a while, we’ll chip in about things that are fucking obvious, like our human rights, when it needs to be said.
“We’d rather be a platform to be reprieved from the constant chatter of all this bullshit. That’s what rock n’ roll is. It’s supposed to be separate from all this stuff, and something you can put on, smile and break some shit.”
As their previous material showed, The Dirty Nil have always had a flair for supplying energetic blasts of distorted, fuzz-laden rock yet with the arrival of Ross Miller, the trio believe they now have “complete musical freedom”.
“I try to bring a positive attitude into everything I do. I truly love the band, the music and I was a fan, even bigger fan now, of the band,” reflects Miller. “When I came in, I knew what my favourite strengths of the band were and I want them to be stronger than ever.”
While Luke adds “we don’t believe in any genre borders, and Ross helped blow that wide open. We would jam Shaggy and Limp Bizkit songs along with Led Zeppelin songs or whatever. Once we stripped away any kind of dogmatic walls of music, we had a bit of a creative explosion.”
Whether it’s musical freedom or a creative explosion, Miller believes ‘Master Volume’ still has hints of the band’s hardcore roots. “It’s interesting because the songs to me are definitely still very hardcore, in an element. I grew up on Dischord and Minor Threat and Scream. Even though the songs are more groovy and they’re very well composed, it still has the heart of a band like Minor Threat.”
They might not always be serious; “Our motto is ‘troll the world’” jokes Luke, but The Dirty Nil deserve to be praised for injecting an element of fun back into rock n’ roll. They bring a package of showmanship that doesn’t border on being comical or a novelty in the vein of Steel Panther or The Darkness. ‘Master Volume’ simply shreds with a subtle, heartfelt conscious and an abundance raw urgency, stripped of any lofty pretence. Whether it’s thirty or 30,000 people they’re playing to, The Dirty Nil are ready to be the saviours of rock n’ roll. Or as Benham nicely puts it “we’re going to rebuild your Grandma’s asshole with these new songs!”
‘Master Volume’ by The Dirty Nil is released on 14th September on Dine Alone Records.
Words by Sêan Reid (@SeanReid86)