What we like about Hugh ...

Hugh Dillon, Headstones-era.
Hugh Dillon, Headstones-era.
Journal File Photo

All-around entertainer Hugh Dillon has been around the block a few times. The former frontman of The Headstones is now exploring the acting world while simultaneously maintaining a music career, thanks to his current project, The Hugh Dillon Redemption Choir. With The Choir hitting the stage at the Across the Causeway benefit this Sunday, Hugh paused for a moment with the Journal to reflect upon his past, present and future.

JOURNAL: What’s it like being a local boy and coming back to play a huge concert like this? Is this a homecoming of sorts for you?

HUGH DILLON: Of sorts. It’s where I’m from, but I’ve played in Kingston so many times. I can remember playing Richardson Stadium with the Headstones like 10 years ago. Kingston’s always a blast. There’s still a pressure for sure, but it’s just a great opportunity to play these songs live. A Hip line-up is always a really cool thing to be a part of. I really love the other bands on the bill, and it will be great to be able to spend time with them, as opposed to the quick bills where you’re just running in and out.

So what’s your relationship to the Hip? I heard that [Paul] Langlois is producing your next album?

I’ve known Paul [Langlois] since I was like 10, and I’ve known the rest of the guys since I was in high school. So, I’ve got nothing but incredible things to say about them. It’s just awesome how they’ve handled everything they’ve earned.

Paul just happened to be the one that heard the songs I had recorded, and he offered to produce this record. People approach you about different things, but he’s got an incredible ear for detail, and to move up to the board to produce, I consider it a huge honour. He’s ridiculously talented. He’s a quiet one ... It’s always the quiet ones!

How have you found audiences responding to the Redemption Choir?

Great, I mean, you know, unbelievable really. I had some hesitation at first, there was nothing better than having people you respect, like Paul Langlois, say that you have to act on it, and I’ll help you.

What is the sound of the Redemption Choir? Do you find this is a more musically pure group? Did you plan this record to have a more back to basics sound?

I’d love to say that I planned anything, but I didn’t plan anything. It was very organic with the people involved, just in how it came about. If it was left to anyone else, like a record company, they’d fly in the best guitar players, and the best drummers. And this was just friends and friends, and it was anything that sounded good. It’s unbelievable. I’ve never played a gig where you play 10 new songs that people have never heard, and people are into it. It’s really not about me or the band ... the bottom-line is the songs. If the songs don’t draw you in, smoke and mirrors aren’t going to make that gig rock. I knew I was on the right track guys like [Langlois], they’d be the first ones to say “it’s not my cup of tea.”

What’s with the name? Do you feel you have sins to answer for?

You know, I just fucking hated all the bands that are “and the.” Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. I wasn’t going to be something solo, and I thought it was witty and funny. Super witty and super funny. Honestly, how many cheesy fucking solo acts are there out there? Why not have a little bit of fucking humour with your ego?

Have you noticed a backlash from old Headstones since the break-up?

Not really. I think it’s because I’ve been so up front about what I’ve been doing, and with these songs, there they are. I think that if [the songs] weren’t coming across on a certain level it would come up more. People would want to move on. But, I think people are hearing them and saying: “Fuck, these are amazing songs!” The response in Vancouver was outstanding. It’s different, if I had a single out, they’d say ‘Oh there’s the single.’ But they’re not, so we’ve gotta be doing something right, to have crashed through that.

So, Headstones fans seem to be impressed with the Redemption choir?

The funniest thing was my drummer. Some guy came up to him and said, “You guys didn’t play ‘Tweeter and the Monkey Man.’” And he said, “Yeah, we didn’t play ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It?’ either.” laughs The other thing is that people miss the sense of humour ... that I dig. That’s because The Headstones had a good sense of humour. When you laugh your ass off, you play the music better. These guys I’m playing with now are wicked musicians, it’s not any big struggle. We like hanging around together. We have a common purpose in working on the record, and then working on the live show, and moving along like that.

What’s your relationship with director Bruce McDonald? I know you starred in his film Hard Core Logo, and more recently you were in his new film The Love Crimes of Gillian Guess.

Well, I Refused to do Hard Core Logo at first. But, Bruce talked me into it. We just have a great relationship, Bruce knows me better than anybody. He’s been encouraging my whole career, for most of my adult life really, and he’s just been totally not listening to the hype. He just believes in the creative process. He’s like that with pretty much everybody he meets and he’s been pretty awesome with me. I’ve written a couple of scripts that he’s looking at right now. For the Bobby Tomahawk character, he had to talk a lot of people into using me. There were lots of people interested in that role. The Love Crimes of Gillian Guess, it’s an awesome piece. It has a lot of people who worked on Hard Core Logo working on it, so it had a similar vibe. That’s the beautiful part about it, I think that comes through with the songs, and Bruce has got a slew of options from which to pick music for a film, and he took two of mine for this one.

Do you have problems with people trying to classify you as a rocker turned actor, or rocker actor?

I just do what I do—why bother classifying yourself as anything, Matt? When I play rock and roll, I’m in a rock band. It’s funny how the world works, unless you’re into music, you don’t have any real idea. If I audition to anyone in America for movies though, chances are they’ve never heard of The Headstones. Here, people are aware of your work, it’s all kind of part of the entertainment business. What are you supposed to say? I guess, it depends on the day. I don’t show up for a movie I’m shooting, and yell, “Let me sing, goddammit!”

Essential Event Guide


WHO: The Tragically Hip and special guests, including: Matthew Good, The Hugh Dillon Redemption Choir, The Sadies, James McKenty & The Spades, Chris Koster, The Trews, and hosted by Dan Aykroyd.

WHAT: A massive benefit concert, supporting three area charities: The Community Foundation of Greater Kingston, Camp Trillium and the Joe Chithalen Memorial Musical Instrument Lending Library.

WHEN: Sunday, September 12, 2004. Gates open at 12:00 P.M.; event starts at 2:00 P.M., rain or shine. Tickets are available at Sunrise Records on Princess Street or on ticketmaster.ca Tickets are not available at the gate.

WHERE: The Royal Military College (across the LaSalle Causeway, Kingston).

1) Park in the downtown area and walk across the LaSalle Causeway to the concert site on the RMC campus. The only traffic that will be permitted on the causeway during the event (approximately 11:00 A.M. to 11:00 P.M.) will be pedestrians, bicycles, emergency vehicles and city buses.

2) Kingston Transit will be providing free shuttle service to and from the concert, with pick-up areas at the Richardson Stadium parking lot and the St. Lawrence College parking lot.

The first shuttle departure will be at noon from all locations. The shuttle will operate continuously until 7:00P.M. Return trips after the concert will depart from the concert site at 9:05P.M. and will operate continuously until 10:30P.M.

-The P1, P3 and P4 shuttles are express to concert site. -P2 shuttle will service bus stops at Union Street and University Avenue.

-P3 shuttle will service the downtown KT terminal at Brock Street and Bagot Street.

-The following items are not permitted at the concert site: umbrellas, blankets, lawn chairs, strollers, pets, hard-sided coolers, alcohol, cans, bottles, professional cameras, video or recording devices.

-The following items are encouraged: one sealed bottle of water, sunscreen.

-For those individuals with special accessibility needs, please book through the Kingston Access Services bus as for other events.

-For further information, visit the event website at: cfgk.org/acrossthecauseway

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