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Interview: Luke Bentham from The Dirty Nil

The dirty nil

Canadian rock trio The Dirty Nil have had a huge year following the release of their debut album ‘Higher Power’, the result of their 10 years as a hard-working band. Recently they were announced as supports for Alexisonfire’s long-awaited return to Australia early next year. We had a chat to guitarist and vocalist Luke Bentham about their Warped tour experience, a few of the big names they’ve worked with, and throwing beer bottles of urine in Toronto!

We’re loving your album ‘Higher Power’, how do you guys feel the reception has been six months on from its release?

Well just by virtue of the fact that it’s allowing us to come to your beautiful country, that alone makes it worth making the whole damn thing! (laughs) It’s been fantastic, it’s really expanded our options in terms of international touring, and the places we’ve been working on for years we’ve just had a massive increase in our ability to draw in markets. We still have a lot of dog sh*t markets in the United States because it’s a pretty damn big country. There’s been a market increase in our ability to have a decent show in a place we’ve never been before, or we’ve only been a couple times.

We’re selling [the albums] at our shows and the actual reception itself has been very positive. We’re still getting messages all the time from people saying “hey I really like the album, and I really like these songs, or I love these lyrics”. So those bits of personal feedback from people, very specific points of compliments, have just been a very encouraging and flattering thing to receive. We had a lot of fun making it, and the fact that people actually like it to the extent that they’re willing to write to us and tell us about it is fantastic.

I watched the video for Zombie Eyed, I thought it was a little strange but still awesome, where did you get the idea for that?

Honestly, this is how the video happened. Word circulated through a friend of a friend that we were gonna make a new music video and our friend’s kids were like “hey, we’ll make one”, and they reached out to us and said “hey we’re gonna make your music video. If you don’t like it you don’t have to use it, but if you do like it you can use it, so we’re just gonna make one”.

So we didn’t really have a choice in the matter, they just made us a music video and sent it over. And we were like “hell yeah, these kids are f*cking twisted, this is great!”. So we just put it out and that was our involvement in the music video. No pitch, no nothing, we just got sent that video and that’s what we put out.

Last year you guys went on Warped Tour, which is something heaps of bands dream of being a part of. So how was your experience?

I guess it depends on who you ask in our organisation. But I kind of viewed it after a while as kind of a prison, it really is. That’s not to say you can’t get some shit done in prison. I read a lot, I listened to a lot of bands, I spent all my free time just playing guitar. But we had long, long hot days, like you wake up at 6am, and you’re in a parking lot in a city and it doesn’t even matter what f*cking city you’re in, ’cause it’s just another parking lot. You might be in LA, or a field outside an hour away.

So anyways, first thing you have to do is wake up and drag your merch tent out into the middle of a muddy pasture where are the other groggy bands are looking to see where to set up their merch tent, approved by a capricious, hungover, grumpy lot dictator man. So you set up your thing and then you go to breakfast and then you find out what time you’re gonna play, it’s a lottery every day.

The rest of the day you’re sitting in shifts at your merch table trying to sell a T-shirt or something to kids, who’ve never heard your band before – if you’re in our circumstances – and are wearing a shirt that says “suck my f*ck”. So you’re just sitting at your table watching as 10 year olds walk around billowing out cotton candy clouds of nicotine poison vape and buying energy drinks and are just all wired up, and running around spending their parents cash, and you’re just like “yeah, this is it, this is the end of humanity”.

Then basically you play your 20-minute set in front of, depending on the day, about 30 apathetic and lost Warped Tour people because you’re playing on the Ernie Ball Battle of the Bands stage, which I like to call “The stage that God forgot”. They usually put it in the most ridiculously remote area that you could never find. But we developed a really good relationship with everyone else playing on that stage, and for all that ranting and raving I say that all with a smile, it was fun, the catering was fantastic and there was a certain camaraderie with the other bands because you’re all “in jail”.

There’s really nothing you can do, you’re stuck on the ground, you’re in a field and that’s it. The tailgating culture was really the relief from it all, you play these funny games in the parking lot, play poker, drink a lot of beer because they give every band a case of beer a day, lots of barbecue’s. So that aspect was awesome, I’m so happy that we got to do it, I always wanted to do it ’cause I thought it was like a badge of distinction, and I’m really glad we did it. It was gruelling, but we’re definitely a better band having done it!

So it’s going to be your first time down in Aussie in January, what are you excited for and how does it feel to be supporting Alexisonfire?

Man, I’m so f*cking excited! Alexisonfire were this huge band when we were growing up, I’m proud to say that some of the members are our personal friends now. To get to do this and go to your part of the world in these circumstances, it’s nothing short of a dream come true. Not to be cheesy or anything but it’s f*cking amazing.

Second of all, what I’m looking forward to, it’s gotta be the Koala picture, I know it’s standard cookie cutter. So I’m really excited to take that picture. The second thing, I really wanna go to TYM guitars, I think it’s in Melbourne [actually in Brisbane]. But it’s a really world famous one, and I’m obsessed with guitars, so I’m excited to go check that out. We’re actually trying to get an in-store there, cos that would be really fun, I know bands like Shellac and Dinosaur Jr. have all played there.

You guys have worked with a lot of huge names, like Fat Mike from NOFX on your previous label, and you toured with Black Flag, so how have those people shaped the band?

Well, in December of 2013 I got a text out of the blue from Fat Mike saying that he loved one of our songs, I thought it was a prank or something. We talked on the phone, and to be completely honest with you I’d never listened to NOFX before, it just wasn’t part of my musical development. But his endorsement, a very public one at that, really put a boost in our social media numbers after he mentioned us online.

It really allowed us to tour the United States for the first time, because we put out a 7-inch through Fat Wreck, he wanted to do a full-length but we weren’t quite ready, we were still getting our catalogue of songs together. People came to all of the shows, we did a full tour that Dave, our bass player, booked himself, so people came because they knew of Fat Mike.

With regards to Black Flag, getting to play every night with Bill Stevenson, Chuck Dukowski, Keith Morris, Dez Cadena, and Stephen Egerton, guys from The Descendents, Black Flag, and Circle Jerks, like that’s the stuff of fantasy, man! Words can’t describe the feeling of getting to do something like that. On the last night we got Dez Cadena to come sing I Got A Right by Iggy Pop, like it’s hard to compare that to anything. I feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to have that opportunity and to play with that band across America, and see the United States with them!

I read in another interview that you guys think of yourselves as “gear snobs”, so what’s some of your favourite gear at the moment?

I was in Chicago and I bought a 1975 Les Paul Custom, and I’m a big sucker for any Gibson that has a split diamond inlay, like the super embellished Les Paul or SG custom I love all that super crazy looking sh*t. So I saw this guitar on the wall and it was like TV yellow ’cause the white had faded so much, and you could feel there was this Rolling Stones tongue on it, a faded discoloured on. So I was like “I cannot leave without this f*cking guitar”, so I moved some money around. I’ve pretty much been glued to that thing for about six months now.

I’m just a big fan of heavy, really decadent, flashy rock and roll guitars, classic vintage guitars. Subtlety is not my strong suit (laughs). Rock ‘n roll to me is the most fun thing in the world, so I just try and do the things that allow me to have even more fun. I have a few of them, so I’m kinda at a place now where guitars are kind of like clothes, it’s about what guitar you play and what it says about you. I just love guitars, and I always have, and my tastes have changed over the years. And big, big loud old amps, that’s the second part to my gear obsession.

Seeing as you guys are called The Dirty Nil, what’s the dirtiest thing you’ve done? But keep it PG rated…

Let’s see, ok well I won’t tell any Amsterdam stories then! Alright, I remember one time, we were at a party in Toronto for Canadian Music Week probably three years ago and there was a party at the top floor of one of the most legendary hotels in Canada called the Fairmont Royal York. So the bathroom was full, the whole place was packed, so we just started peeing in beer bottles and throwing them out the window for some reason, we were quite well lubricated…

Nobody was hurt, but there was maybe some pee filled projectiles flying around Toronto. That’s the first thing that’s coming to my mind… that’s a pretty dirty thing, peeing in a bottle and releasing it into the mass of the city (laughs), thank god nobody was hurt!

The Dirty Nil’s debut album ‘Higher Power’ is out now via Dine Alone Records / Cooking Vinyl

Alexisonfire 2017 Australian Tour Dates
supported by The Dirty Nil

HBF Stadium, Perth
Adelaide Entertainment Centre, Adelaide
Festival Hall, Melbourne
Hordern Pavillion, Sydney
Riverstage, Brisbane

Get Tickets HERE