INTERVIEW WITH DYLAN VILLAIN OF THE WILD!
Date: September 14, 2015
EVEN BEFORE THE WILD! RELEASED THEIR PHENOMENAL DEBUT ALBUM ‘GxDxWxB’ IN APRIL 2015, THERE WAS A REAL BUZZ ABOUT THE CANADIAN ROCKERS AND THE RELEASE OF THE ALBUM HAS SIMPLY CONFIRMED THE HYPE AND THAT THESE GUYS ARE DEFINITELY WORTH CHECKING OUT. SLEAZE ROXX CAUGHT UP WITH THE WILD!’S FRONTMAN, DYLAN VILLAIN, FOR AN UNFILTERED AND CANDID TALK ABOUT THE WILD!’S SEEMINGLY METEORIC RISE AND WHAT STEPS LED TO WHERE THE BAND IS CURRENTLY AT.
Sleaze Roxx: It actually took me a while to get your new album because I saw the video “Roadhouse” which I liked but it wasn’t until I heard the full album that I was really blown away.
Dylan Villain: Not all people are like you and I — which I am assuming that we are the same in this regard — in that I want to know what’s beyond the single, you know what I mean? And if a band carries more to them than what’s popular on an active rock modern radio standpoint, you know what I mean? I think that it is cool for people to delve into the record outside the single because they get to hear that there is more to us than just that.
Sleaze Roxx: I just read the story of how you guys got together which I thought was hilarious. Can you let the Sleaze Roxx readers in on that?
Dylan Villain: Yeah. So that is the story about when I moved out to B.C. [the province of British Columbia in Canada] from Ontario [another province in Canada] and met the guys at a house party? That one?
Sleaze Roxx: That’s right. Yes!
Dylan Villain: OK. So I don’t remember what year that was. I was young though. I was a lot younger than I am now because I have lived in B.C. for a while. My buddy said “Let’s go check out this house party,” and it’s on the other side of the city. So we were driving around and get to the house party. I remember it pretty well. There was this band there. In the band, they were teenagers then; maybe 20 for the oldest guy. And yeah. I am watching this band. I had just moved to Kelowna [in British Columbia, Canada]. I had been in bands all of my life, you know, up to that point. I am thinking “Yeah. I am going to start a band here,” and I’m all drunk and shit, and I am young so I’ve got a big of an ego or a chip on my shoulder; however you want to call it. But watching these guys, I am just getting torched and I am just fucking drinking and drinking. They finished their set because — this is part of the story that I think I have ever told — the cops broke up the party and they were playing one of their own songs (laughs) as the cops broke up the party. And they stopped and started playing “Fuck The Police.” So that’s another thing that I loved about them right away. The cops did not love that but we did!
Sleaze Roxx: (Laughs)
Dylan Villain: So anyways, I am drunk as shit and they finish and I’m like “I am going to take you. I am going to take you. I am going to take you and we are going to start a band.” Basically, just telling them “We are in a band together now!” And they were like “Who the fuck are you?” And they were laughing and shit as we are all hanging out. We got to be friends pretty quick just because we were all young, stupid, liked partying and doing dumb shit! Anyway, the whole course of the time that they are playing, their (laughs) — you know you’re a teenager, you’re not getting paid to do a house party! There was a keg. It was an outdoor thing. They put these beer pitchers out and it was like, if you dug the band, throw in a five or a twenty or whatever you want to keep the band playing. This fucking pitcher was full of money and I am drinking this bottle of whiskey straight out of my hand and I’ve been drinking for a while now. I’m getting the spins and I am like “I am definitely going to puke!” So we are all standing in a circle and this jug of money is like right there. And I said “Hey everybody! Look at that!” I can’t remember what I said to divert their attention and they all turn their heads to look at what I pointed at. And I grabbed the pitcher of money — it was their money — and I fucking puked, puked all over it and put it down on the ground real quick as if they would not even notice. All of those guys in that band ended up being grease lightning through this myself and Pistol Pete, we met later. That’s the story of how I met these guys and it is a real claim to fame apparently these days!
Sleaze Roxx: (Laughs) So let’s fast forward a bit, you recorded a video in October 2012 for “Roadhouse.” How did you guys end up doing that and what was the idea behind the video?
Dylan Villain: Well, Stuey Kubrick, the director is a close friend of mine, which is really cool. Stuey is famous for all of the work that he has done in hip hop; not just Canadian hip hop — international hip hop like Riff Raff. He’s a name in hip hop for direction. When I saw his videos — this complete trivalent like excess — but not in the sense of general hip hop style where it is look at my car, look at my money, look at my chains — it was more like look how fucking Canadian we are! And whatever this artist is, look at every general cliché of them being amplified. And I thought, “This is great from a cinematic standpoint or just a viewer standpoint on how it looked.” Well, I thought “Why can’t we do that with rock n’ roll?” And Stuey is one of those guys — he’s an amazing guy — he’s not confined to being a hip hop guy or whatever. With him and I, we share a mutual love of Bon Scott. He heard the band and obviously being a close friend of mine and shit, I just called him.
This is actually before we were friends. I should add that we sort of became friends through this work in process but I called him and said “Look man. I want to make a video. I don’t do hip hop so don’t think that’s what it is going to be.” And he said, “OK. Cool. What is the name of your band?” I said “We’re called The Wild! and we have a song called ‘Roadhouse.’ It just came out.” He said “Cool! Alright, send it to me.” So I sent it to him. He called me back and said, “Fuck yeah! I can work with this.” And I said “OK!” I wasn’t really sure that he would do it given the fact that he had only done hip hop. To date, we are the only rock band that he has ever worked with and I don’t even know if he’ll work with another rock band to be honest with you. But the relationship that we have together is just so good in being on the same page and understanding the same things so with “Roadhouse,” I had a big storyline for it and all this shit but Stuey — the way he works, he’s like “What are the words of the song? Give me the lyrics.” — and you know, we sifted through the lyrics and could imagine this world together that it sort of creates. And instead of making it a shop list of this happens and this happens, and there is a start, middle and end, what is the world that this song creates in your mind? That is what we tried to do in the “Roadhouse” video and so, it came very naturally to us. We are all in the wild west of Canada just being ourselves, shooting guns, chugging booze and going fast. That’s pretty much what The Wild! is in fucking three sentences right there.
Sleaze Roxx: Cool! Your sound has been described as a cross between AC/DC and ZZ Top. When I listen to The Wild!, you guys are way more aggressive than that! How would you describe The Wild!’s sound?
Dylan Villain: Ooooh. I don’t know. We get that a lot. We really do. First of all, it is an amazing compliment to get. I feel that if you have to pinhole it on them — because that is what everybody wants to do, they want to relate it to something that has already been done for whatever [reason] — sure, there are those elements. But it’s like if you took that and threw it in a needle and fucking shot it up in your veins because it is all of those things, but fucking amplified! We draw from things that are really real. I’ve said this at nauseam but I go to the blues — the original delta blues — because nobody was making music in that time to become famous or to get rich. They were making music because it meant something very serious beyond any of that. It’s the same with the very great eras of punk. I mean — guys just did it because they were purely expressing themselves. I think there is a lot of that going on with us. We are very much aware of what is going on with us in the modern rock or active rock landscape if you will but at the same time, we are not trying to do anything. We’re just doing it. We’re going out there being ourselves and it’s coming to us.
Sleaze Roxx: Now, everything seemed to snowball for you guys when you were able to raise around $9,000 through your Indiegogo pledge campaign. Would you agree that is when things started really happening for the band and how did that impact the band?
Dylan Villain: Yeah. To be honest with you, it was before that. It was when the “Roadhouse” video came out. We saw the video and we were so happy with it, loving it. It came out and I don’t know — there were 10,000 views in a couple of weeks or something like that. We were like “Oh! That is fucking great!” And then, it was like 30,000 in a month. And then it was like “Holy shit!” You know we just kept going and going. And from there, that’s when the phone started ringing. That’s when Mike Fraser called actually. He saw the video. He got turned on to it through management or something. He called management and said, “Look. I’ve got to work with this band.” So imagine us getting that call from our manager: “Hey! Mike Fraser wants to record you.” We were like “Hooooly shit!” This guy has 20 years of AC/DC records, Aerosmith, Motley Crue, Metallica — just to name a few and fucking, he wants to work with us! So we are going, “Oh fuck! Of course, we want to work with him but how in the hell are we going to afford this?” We toured — I don’t know how long, it was a short time — but we fucking just toured and toured and toured. Because the video was out and the song was getting radio play in [the province of] Alberta [Canada] and some in [the province of] B.C. [British Columbia, Canada] and because Jason Ellis featured us a couple of times on his show, there was a bit of a buzz going on so that when we were booking these shows without an agent, there was decent dollars on the table and we had good merch. And just fuck, just being relentless. We never stopped! So we do that. We just saved money everywhere that we could. We fucking ate whatever was available to us, drank whatever was available to us, slept wherever we could and we just pooled all this money and the final push was Indiegogo.
I was so reluctant to do one because I felt really weird about it. I will be brutally honest with you on that. I thought that it was weird to ask people for money for a record because I had never done it in all my years of being a musician. I never put my hand out for anything so I felt a little offside but you know, we did it. There was just that last little bit of money that we needed to make the record. It was weird because when we were first just starting out — we, as musicians weren’t just starting out — but the inception of the band was new. We were a three piece at the time — so the three of us. But to only have that video out and a single that is being played on a couple of radio stations in Western Canada. But then Jason Ellis featuring us on Sirius on his show, we started getting all these donations from people in Australia, in Europe, in America — and it was like “How the fuck are you guys even hearing about us?” It was a really cool vibe and I can’t thank the fans enough for everything that they did and to help us realize that goal — to allow us to work at The Warehouse studio where all of our idols have worked. One of our biggest idols ever who is now one of my closest friends and make this record that brings a guy like you to call me to talk about — so it was a really cool feeling to be able to realize this dream that way. But yeah, that is sort of the short version of how it started to just snowball for us.
Sleaze Roxx: Cool and you are too kind! I understand that you guys were actually thinking of releasing the album and it was going to be called ‘Wild At Heart’ but you never did. Now, you obviously have the new album that you have. So what happened for you guys not to release the album that you wanted to or that you were thinking of?
Dylan Villain: Yeah man! It almost came out two times. The easiest way to see why it didn’t is that when a guy like Mike Fraser knocks on your door and says “What’s up? What do you got? Let me hear everything that you have.” — (a) you fucking answer that call and (b) you listen. It’s so real with Mike man! There is no ego. It’s just like “Is this good or is it not?” So we brought all these songs. For this record that was already out, he said “OK. You have a lot of songs. You got a lot of songs but this is your first kick at the world. You know, we are going to go after labels. You got my name on it. We are going to do this. We are going to do that. What do we want to do? Do we want to put a full-length and blow our wad with a couple of good songs and some mediocre shit or, do we want to put out something that is all killer great songs without any filler tracks at all?” We said “Yes” and it was a viable totally smart business decision as well and from the artistic side, to come out with your first statement and go “This is who we are and we feel this is our best foot forward. We went through our whole catalogue and through shit out that didn’t need to be there so here you go! We’re The Wild! How is it going?” I think that it was the best decision for us to do it that way. Also, what is cool about that is that now, we have a bunch of other songs that did not get used for this record that get put into the hat for the next record so it just makes the pool get bigger and bigger and bigger. It’s cool because sometimes when you leave a song in the past and you go and tour and go back to it, you’re like “Oh yeah. This is fucking cool but we should do it like this!” And then it becomes the next song or whatever. If I had to give any advice to anyone coming up, it is just to bank all of your ideas and never stop writing because you just never know when you are going to need it.
Sleaze Roxx: I understand that you ended up tracking with Angus and Malcolm Young’s guitars at some point. Were you also able to record with those?
Dylan Villain: Oh yeah! Oh yeah! Oh yeah! They are all over the “Slow Burn” single. AC/DC is my favorite band. I’d say in my top five, if not number one. So working with Mike, which like I said has 20 years of AC/DC records that he has done, it took me a few hangs of getting drunk with Mike for me to be able to be cool around him, you know? This guy is my friend and it’s not like “Holy fuck! This is Mike Fraser!” That was that and then that was even before we started working together, just trying to figure out the record — what we were going to do and when and all of this. So then we get in the studio and we knock out four tracks throughout two weeks or something like that. And during that session, he was like “Hey! Have you ever used these Wizard Amps before?” And I was like, “No. But I know those are Angus Young’s [amps] and this is what Angus Young uses and Rick St. Pierre built them.” That’s how I got turned on to Wizard.
So then we go back later to cut this next tune for this record in a different session in a different studio in Vancouver. First session was at The Warehouse and the second session was at the Armoury [Studios]. So we’re in the Armoury and I can’t remember how it came up — but Mike and one of his runners were like “You probably would not want to use these, would you?” Angus’ SG and Malcolm’s Gretsch. And I’m like “Are you kidding me?” I almost buckled at the knees — you know what I mean — just seeing them on a couch in the control room. Basically, they were tracking something else for another record and he was doing it in a live room. So I asked to go in a booth and I said “If you can give me two hours, four hours, and just leave me alone for awhile….” Everyone just nodded and respected it. I took both guitars in that booth and played every AC/DC song that I had ever learned in my life as a kid growing up on either guitar. Every song on either guitar just alone and vibed the fuck out hard. I couldn’t even believe that I was doing this! After that moment of “holy fuck” was done, I started playing some of our songs and then Mike was like, “Hey. “Slow Burn” sounds really fucking good on that Gretsch.” And so yeah, we tracked “Slow Burn” with Malcolm’s Gretsch. Malcolm’s Gretsch is all over it, the intro, the main riff, the chorus… The whole song is tracked with that guitar and there’s parts with the SG. Dude! It was insane! And you can hear it! If you’re an AC/DC fan, you can hear Malcolm’s Gretsch on it. I mean, it doesn’t sound like Malcolm playing it. Nobody does but you know it is his guitar and it sounds like his guitar.
Sleaze Roxx: How did you guys come up with the album title because the logical thing would be to just call it ‘God Damn Wild Boys.’ But you guys used initials instead! So why did you do that?
Dylan Villain: Yeah! Well, it just became a thing. The whole thing about “God damn wild boys” started in the early days of touring. We would bring Boozus — he’s been with his girl for forever and she’s awesome and she has always been a supporter of the band — but we would bring him home after the tour and he was always the first guy to be dropped off and the last guy to drive. That sort of thing — which means that you are going home drunk! You got to keep in mind this is when we are younger. I don’t know. I’d say that is when we were a little crazier than we are now but is hard to believe that is fucking the thing (laughs). We would bring him home (laughs) just so shitty and it started as a half-serious kind of mad like “God damn wild boys. Fuck!” It kind of became this thing where we would always laugh. She would always say to us, cursing us, “You God damn wild boys bringing my man home drunk again!”
And then we just started saying it and then the fans, I don’t know how it tricked through but it became “G D W B” — just abbreviating it. We always shortened the words, abbreviated things. It’s kind of thing that our crew has always done but I think how it really started is we made a shirt that had “G D W B” on it that became really fucking popular. We still sell that design to this day but we sold so many of these fucking shirts in a year. It was ridiculous! So when the fans started saying it, “G D W B” and they started putting it on hats and shit. And then we started putting it on the outside brims of our hats. People would just say “God dam wild boys! G D W B.” It just really stuck with the fans and the fans really got into it. They’re putting it on their hashtags and their posts and their things. We just started owning it. So with the record, it was kind of a cool way to throw that back at everybody and bring it all under the same roof so to speak.
Sleaze Roxx: If you guys could open for any one band, who would it be and why?
Dylan Villain: One band — fuck, that’s tough! That’s really tough! There is always the AC/DC thing without a doubt, without question. That would be a great fit for us. I think that we could. There are other ones too. God bless his fucking soul but maybe to God but there is also Motorhead. But now Lemmy is going through his stuff right now so there is that. Pantera — we are huge Pantera fans as well. I’d done three, not even one (laughs). White Zombie would be killer too! I could do this all day! I really could!
Sleaze Roxx: I forgot to ask about Pistol Pete. Why did you guys bring in a fourth member in the band?
Dylan Villain: We always wanted — even when we first started as a three piece — we always wanted a fourth member, another guitarist. Something to fill it out when I am playing solos and just to fill out the songs in general. And we’d known Pete for fucking ever, for fuck seven or eight years? We met him when he was touring in another one of his bands from before when he was younger and we were in different bands. Him and I got together and we dug AC/DC and were kind of loose cannons like a partier or a wild card or whatever. Him and I were sort of those guys in our respective bands at the time. We were on tour and ended up crossing paths and hanging around for a few days together and just partying and talking. I remember sitting on his deck looking at the lake and we were just hanging out smoking cigarettes and being stupid. We said to each other actually — this is eight years ago — “Man! Wouldn’t it be cool if we got to play in a band one day?” And he was like “Fuck dude! I would so much love to play in band with you!” Eight years go by and sure enough, he was a free agent after awhile and I just gave him a call and said “Hey! Do you want to join The Wild!?” He was like “Fuck yeah!” And I said “Come down and see how it fits, how it goes.” So I sent him a bunch of demos to learn and he learned them all right away. He flew down and hung out for awhile. It was great man! He fit right in! It was perfect because the other guys have known him for that long too right, so it was not like some stranger. He’s great. He’s exactly what a band called The Wild! needs! He’s a loose cannon onstage, very entertaining and he’s a fucking nut. It’s great! He’s an awesome addition to the band.
Dylan Villain: This summer has been more quiet than usual being that it is usually a lot of festivals. Like last year — fuck — it was nothing but festivals last year. it was a regular tour for us but it was just straight festivals, all the fucking time. That was great but this year, it’s been quiet on the festivals scene and I think that’s because the landscape of festivals have changed in the sense that there are not a lot of promoters booking “rock” for festivals. They’re booking what some people call “rock” and I call “alternative.” I am not saying that those bands are not good but they are not rock bands, plain and simple. So we took that to take care of some commitments that we have been dealing with for a while which we will be announcing very soon. That’s going to be exciting! And then getting ready for our next video. It’s not like we have not been playing shows this summer because we have but the time has been filled in between. We’ll play a few shows, have a few days off, then play a few shows, have some time off. So the time off between those gaps, we have been utilizing that time really well. And then writing a lot of new songs because we really have to get ready for our next album eventually, right? It’s always good to be ahead of schedule so we are just getting a lot of songs together in the bank — never stop that!
Sleaze Roxx: You don’t have to answer me on this one but you know I have to ask you. What song is going to be for the new video?
Dylan Villain: (Laughs) Aaaaahhh. Well, I am going to have to plead the fifth and I’ll tell you why. It’s because we had one planned and then it changed. Give us a little time and we’ll see what’s up.
Sleaze Roxx: Last question for you — what are your three favorite records of all-time and why?
Dylan Villain: Oh man! This is cool. This is a cool question. I did an interview with HMV and it was all about favorite albums so I love this shit! Favorite of all-time?
Sleaze Roxx: Three favorite records of all-time.
Dylan Villain: AC/DC’s ‘Highway To Hell’ because every song is just fucking amazing on that record! It is a perfect album to me. I absolutely love that record. What else do I love, absolutely love love, fucking love? There are so many! Give me a half second. I am going to rack my brain on this. I don’t want to miss something in the press. This is a good opportunity to not fuck this up (laughs)!
Sleaze Roxx: (Laughs) You don’t want to say something that you are going to regret.
Dylan Villain: Yeah right! And believe me, I do that (laughs)! I am going to have to give it up for — I am a really big fans of Black Crowes. I love the Black Crowes so ‘Shake Your Money Maker’ from the Black Crowes. There is no doubt.
Sleaze Roxx: One more.
Dylan Villain: One more… Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘Moanin’ In The Moonlight.’ That is a great record. That old delta blues shit — I know that I am not the only one in rock n’ roll who always gives it up to that so I am not trying to act like I am totally unique. Those guys — they just did not give a shit about anything. There was no “I am going to make this record and get girls and do drugs and get rich.” There was none of that. it was just pure music for the sake of being music. There is something about that conviction that I feel lacks in a lot of music these days so if we could bring an ounce of that back to what is cool and modern now, the music landscape in general will be a better place.
Thank you to Eric Alper of Entertainment One Music Canada for facilitating the interview and some of the photographs.