LivingArts: Making a big puzzle with THE DILL

This month, I tapped my friend and collaborator, Dylan Hudecki, to explain a new project that he launched a few weeks ago: THE DILL – 52.

Every Monday in 2016, The Dill releases a brand new song, with a corresponding playing card featuring original artwork.  This week marks the fourth release of the year; you can look back and check out the previous songs here.

This week has a cool inter-Hamiltonian angle, since the song is about Dylan’s friend and local architect Dave Premi & his wife Gail O'Gorman’s house burning to the ground, and their successful rebuild.

It’s a great song and cool story, so check that out HERE

Thanks to Dylan for taking the time to explain this amazing project – something that isn’t different for the sake of being different.  I think Dylan may be onto something here, so please read through the interview.

SM:  Please state your name, occupation and a chronological list of bands that you have played with.

DH: I'm Dylan Hudecki. I'm a Montessori teacher, dad, husband and a songwriter....and I sometimes make videos, play softball, basketball, hockey, drink beers at the Brain with my friends in wonderful tropical #HamOnt. I've played music with a lot of professional and hobby bands in my day. In chronological order I've played in; Basement Boys '90, Mr. Cleavage, Moonkarma, By Divine Right, Junior Blue, Awesollator, Remains of Brian Borcherdt, Holy Fuck, Violet Archers, Cowlick, High Kites, The Dill. I think that's it, unless I've forgotten someone along the way? If I did I'm sorry if you're reading this. I played with you too. 

SM:  As listed above, you have clearly been in a number of bands that have released many records in the standard format.  At what point did you start to think outside of the box, with regards to releasing music?  

DH:  The current music landscape is a StRaNgE place. As much as it's up in the air, commercially, it's also a clean slate. It's the wild west again. Anything goes. Any band can make great content and push it any which way they want. Does it reach the masses? Will it ever? Is there an incredible saturation of amazing bands that are all vying for their target market population’s eyes and ears and wallets to get into their particular thing? It's very complex, and there's no sure-fire formula anything can or will work.

I was just talking to Wayne Petti about this last night. No one's buying music anymore, and getting people to come out to shows is harder than ever. The record companies are only signing and promoting "empty net" "turn key" bands that have already established themselves, have the "machine" running and are starting to make money and has great potential to continue to in the foreseeable future, because they only want low risk bands so there's no revenue loss. So, you could look at it two ways: it's a great time to make music and be in the biz; or a terrible, exhausting, unsupportive, hard working, long driving slog, where the artist is expected to do absolutely everything, not getting too much respect in a competitive playing ground that kills careers as fast as they are born. Therefore you have to think outside the box, if you want your little 3-4 minute creations to fly off and make an impact.      

SM:  What's the deal with the 52-song series?  That's like 5 albums worth of music, all coming out at the same time.  What was the genesis of this approach?  How did the idea evolve over time?  

DH:  I knew I had to release my solo record one day, as I had so many songs dying to come out, most of which never really fit any of the bands I was playing in for some reason or another, but I didn't know how I was going to release it. Then a friend of mine (Cam Malcolm) bugged me about my absence and radio silence from the scene and wanted to hear stuff, and when I told him I had over 160 demos from as early as 1996, he laughed and then seriously suggested I release a Top 50. I laughed too, and then immediately said, "Well if I'm gonna release 50, what about 52 songs, one a week for a year.” And just like that it was decided, with an, "Oh great, now I have to follow through on this ambitious puzzle!" I've enjoyed following my gut instincts my whole life, with a shocking amount of times making the right decision. This here was another instance of that. So there, that was the genesis of it. 

I love writing songs and recording music. Those are my strengths - making videos too, to a certain extent. I'm also really friendly and I LOVE collaborating. So with a 52 song and playing card project and being a dad I came to the conclusion really quick that I should probably start texting and calling and writing to my musician and artist friends to see if anyone wants to help me make a really big puzzle. 

Turns out, more than 100 people wanted to! ONE HUNDRED musicians, artists, and mix engineers! I think this will go down in the Guinness Book of World Records as the "most contributors on a solo record ever.” A fair amount of musicians helped via their home studios, and a bunch of others dropped over to my pad for dinner or a drink and added a few colours to a couple songs in my basement studio, "Maluka Laki.” I started by narrowing down my demos to about 60 tunes that had some sort of charm to them. Then I re-recorded a bunch of them, and booked studio time and a different drummer (every session). I'd send them 5 or 6 songs (or sometimes 11! ;) and then we'd go in and lay them down. Most of the time I had already recorded the guit and vox and had the whole song flushed out at home to a drum beat.  Then, when we got to the studio, the drummer would just have to add their thang and the song would immediately sound legit. None of this canned drum sounds stuff. I'd sit in the control room with a mic and headphones and literally live conduct the drummer. It was SOOO much fun. I hired them to add THEIR thing to each song, and we would collaborate on vibes during the songs. As they were playing I'd say things like, "Nice... nice... I like that beat... stay on it for a while… ok chorus coming up.... switch to the toms," and so forth, and I'll never forget that particular intimate feeling of collaborating. It was very powerful and special. Not many people will ever get to do that... not only that, ANY of this. I'm quite humbled, happy and astonished by the whole thing. 

SM:  The cards are super cool.  How does that work?  Who are these people?  Can I get this pack of cards now?  Are you going to have a cribbage tournament when this is done as an album release show? (YOU SHOULD). 

DH:  When I realized that I HAD to release 52 songs, like a ton of bricks dropping on me AFTER I've just been hit by lightning, I knew I had to combine the release of the music with a deck of cards.

52 Songs - 52 Cards - 52 Weeks.  Made too much sense. I wrote a message to a ton of artists I know and love, and drew an invite on paper and took a picture of it at a cottage I was (lucky to be) at, and emailed it to them all. Again yet another organic moment that materialized out of thin air with this project.

I think when my friends and acquaintances saw this and they heard about the teamwork aspect of the project, they were immediately down with it. A lot of them gave me a brand new piece, others who didn't have the time, were generous enough to let me use an older image they've already made that could act as a connection to a song theme, or lyric, or abstractly to a vibe. That was a win/win for me. Most of the artists are Hamilton based, but I did reach out to a bunch in Guelph and Toronto too. Playing cards will be fun. I haven't manufactured the deck yet, but it's gonna happen in the Spring. I was originally going to make 100 decks, but then I realized that I wanted to give each artist one deck each (45 artists), and every musician one too (50+ artists), so I guess I'll make 200. Ha! John Smith (Young Rival) has helped me arrange them all, and put them online and in video form. Putting the finish on all the hard work. I'm indebted to that guy for sure!

SM: How do you feel about the reception so far?  

DH:  Very sweet. Very supportive, and it's just begun! I'm only 4 weeks (4 songs) in, but everyone I've talked to, or read comments from has been really positive about it. The scope of the project has blown a few minds, and I'm sure on the negative side, it's size has turned people off as it's a LOT to take in at first. But what I'm trying to convey now, is that it's not supposed to be overwhelming, it's a very slow roll out with only one song released, without hoopla, regularly, every Monday morning.

The project is also coming out with NO CALCULATED END GOAL or schemed hypothetical outcomes, nor does it have a big commercial business plan attached. At the end of the day, it's a collaborative recording and art project with me and a bunch of my talented friends. My bud Liam (O'Neil- Eight & Half, The Stills, Kings of Leon, etc.), mentioned when I told him about this, that he liked that the project seemed simple, even though it was grand, and that he could see that one of the redeeming qualities of it was that it was pure and true and organic and grassroots and that it wasn't about making money. He anticipated the response would be favourable because of that human element, which I agree with. I think it'll continue to be a fun "happening" for the whole year, especially with the unveiling aspect of it. People are telling me they are "looking forward to Mondays for once." It’s really nice to hear it's having that effect! 

I also think that it’s cool that I get to promote all these artists with these images every week.  People are talking about that as much as the songs sometimes.  Their style gets shared, their websites and contact.  Who knows what will come of that for them!