Dylan Hudecki is a class act. Extensive touring and experiencing success in the music business has a way of changing people in not so pleasant ways sometimes. This is not the case with Dylan, who has taken his years of experience and musical mastery and has chosen to push onwards and upwards and to continue to grow and explore his craft. The overwhelmingly positive reputation among musicians, industry people, and Hamilton music fans is well earned. Dylan goes to every show, he supports musicians he believes in, and he helps and guides people when he can. In the years that Cut From Steel has been interviewing musicians, Dylan’s name has been brought up many times in relation to Hamilton and always in very positive ways. Dylan’s name comes up with successful touring musicians as well as the people who work doors and bars at local clubs. He exudes a zest for life that comes across when he talks about music, his city, and his family.
Some of the musical highlights from Dylan’s musical resume include: the endlessly influential By Divine Right (read about the recent compilation project spearheaded by Dylan), Cowlick, and my personal favourite High Kites. Dylan’s latest musical project is ‘52‘ – a very ambitious undertaking that’s currently being doled out track by track. We’re talking about 52 songs – one per week. These songs are accompanied by original illustrations from local Hamilton artists. So far, the tracks have been a beautiful medley of musings on life, love, domesticity, and more. Check out our interview below and scroll down to the bottom to hear a fantastic new track off the ‘52‘ project.
Q – Can you tell us a bit about how you got involved in music? Are you from a musical family?
I’ve been playing music what feels like my whole life. I picked up the guitar when I was 12 after listening to a song by the Beatles called “I Feel Fine”. There was something about that first note, the slight feedback. I was hooked, and the rest is history. My family is very musical, but I’ve never considered myself a musician. I consider myself a songwriter & producer (and apparently now an art director and project manager). A musician to me is someone who can play varied styles of music, extremely professionally and proficiently on their instrument, possibly several. I can play guitar, bass, drums, and keyboards in passable fashion. But none exemplary, and I don’t pretend anything different. To answer your question though, yes the arts are very important to me. Always have been. It’s second nature. Ever since highschool, I’ve surrounded myself with good art and music.Too much crap out there to sift there. So much to learn about, experience, go back in time for. It’s endless!
Q – A lot of musicians get lost in the whole ‘musician’ thing and lose sight of the real world around them. I think its interesting that you are a really stable, well functioning, guy, and yet you are a great musician who has been around for a long time and who continues to innovate and push forward. Do you have any thoughts about this?
I think because I have already had my ups and downs, toured the world, been there done that in the music industry, that I am realistic and aware of the big picture. After having a career playing professionally with several bands in Toronto for 8 years, I was recently told how I’m now in my second musical career. I believe it. I do feel like I’m in a great, well-balanced place to be semi professional, hobby musician. I’ve already achieved a lot of real life goals. Like a wonderful, fun family, an exciting unique fulfilling teaching job, whilst living in a very supportive and thriving arts community in the gorgeous imperfect #hamont. I’m happy that I’ve carved out this niche for myself. But it’s taken a lot of work and sacrifice. Anything that’s worth doing always does I suppose.
Q – You’ve been involved in the music scene for a long time in different ways. What is your relationship like to the Hamilton music scene these days? Do you have any words of wisdom for people just starting out?
One of the reasons why I love the Hamilton music scene so much and it’s been good to me & vice versa is that it’s small. We’re not in Toronto or New York City with so much competition. A lot of the Hamilton bands (like my previous ones) may never get out our city to play anywhere else, as the reality is it’s a lot of work, full of bad shows, discouragement, ups, downs, for not much back in return. Some bands will put themselves thru that, but only a few succeed, (depending on your definition of success). It’s a shame, because there’s so many good bands here! As good as anyone on the radio. It comes down to a cluster of variables all aligning at the same time over a condensed period of time. But if you know me, you know I’m a champion of this city and a lot of my friends that make it great. Martin (Tielli) recently asked me to describe the music scene and pin point it’s epicentre. I’d never thought about that question before, as there’s a ton of great live venues, and diy spots and recording studios, but I came to the conclusion that it’s in fact Dr. Disc that’s the epicentre of the Hamilton Music Scene. It’s literally in the center of town. It’s not only a record store, but meeting spot, a local show ticket outlet, a social media local scene promoter (see their twitter), a place to sell your bands cds, and now a place in the Spring/Summer/Fall to come see a rooftop show in their parking lot on art crawls, & Supercrawl. Way cool. Props to Mark for making this hub a reality. Thankless amount of work.
I have plenty of advice for bands just starting out. Rehearse a lot. Write a lot. Organize yourself before your shows so they aren’t a cluster bomb of miscommunication between bands and promoters and sound guys. Contact the bands you’re playing with ahead of time about gear sharing so the changeovers don’t take so long. Contact everyone involved about posters, radio, posters, promotion so everyone is pitching in, etc. I’ve always loved Keith Richards sage advice to bands starting out. “Always take your wallet on stage with you!” But I’d add to that and say, “and for God sakes don’t look dumb, put your wallet and phone in your back pockets….& no shorts on stage!!!” Lol! Oh, and bring a friend to work the lights. Godamn! Shows can be so great if someone is doing the lights. Such a small detail to some, but in the moment, it’s as important visually, as the sound is aurally.
Q – How did the ’52’ project come about? Have you been stockpiling these songs for years? Why did you decide to put them all on one album?
I was completely stockpiling them for years, yes, and I was avoiding putting together and making a proper record as then I’d have to audition a band and rehearse forever, and then start playing live and then dive into “the machine”. The game of record label, manager, publicist, booking agent….all that crap. The formula you still need to follow to make your art legit. Ugh! So not interested in that world, but it’s in that World, that your content becomes legitimized. It has to be critically lauded before it’s sucessful. Before that, people don’t pay things too much mind. That’s one of the shames of it all right there.
Q – Can you tell me about your song-writing process? Do you write constantly, or do you write in project-specific bursts?
I write songs as they come to me. This happens randomly, or in a storm. They come out of nowhere, out of thin air, little seeds. I love watching them grow. When I record the little songs with a guitar and a drummer, the foundation (beds) is there. As I listen back to the mix of the two instruments and voice, I hear the rest of the song and I know what to do next. “There was band playing in my head” like the Neil Young lyric. I hear what I could/should do, and I write it down, or make a voice memo and later do it or have a friend help me accomplished the sound that I hear in my head as simple or as grandiose as it needs to be. It’s definately a strength that I like about myself.
Q – Can you tell me a bit about the guest artists you have on this album and why its important to you to include a wide array of musical friends?
When I realized I wanted to do such a big project, I immediately thought about asking friends for help. Team Dill styles, but in a very honest way. So I sent a lot of songs away to other cities for file sharing and I had a lot of friends come over in a once a month kind of hang out and record for a bit kind of thing, and it was a win-win. It made the project more interesting and fun for me. It was morphing organically in front of my eyes and that made me inspired to keep going. I’m really happy for the songs themselves, as it’s the music that benefits the most at the end of the day with this project.
Q – How involved are you in the arranging, recording, mixing, mastering process of making an album? How much of this do you do on your own?
It’s very time-consuming to do it all, DIY, but it’s often necessary. When I was completely finished everything I was prepared to do on all 52, I was lucky to have friends do some additional mixing (on the stems) on all 52 songs. I had 4 masterers, master the songs too after the mixing, but I pretty much did everything else. I worked in my basement studio in short spurts, late evenings with the kids were down and the house quiet. Little chunks, 1hr windows here and there. Took about 4 years off and on to complete, (while I was also mixing one of my other bands High Kites record, a BDR 25th anniversary comp, and have a new baby – Ollie Echo Hudecki, May 5, 15).
Q – Why did you choose the playing card concept to illustrate each track? How did you find all of these different artists to contribute to this project?
As soon as I realized I was going to have 52 songs come out once a week I immediately envisioned a visual component for them. I didn’t just want a play button from the sound cloud link. So I thought why don’t I make a custom deck of cards? 52 songs for 52 weeks with 52 cards in the deck cards? Made total sense. The fun part in realizing that was looking through my rolodex of visual artists that I’m friends with that I could chat with. In the end, I was able to work with so many people that I admire. Some of them are close friends of mine some are my family members, but the constant in all of them, was that the image included a vibe that spoke to the music thematically or literally, depending on if they made an original piece for the song, or if I used one of their older pieces.
Q – Are you planning on doing any shows to promote this project? What about a marathon Dyl-Fest where you play all 52 songs back to back to back?
Ha ha marathon Dill-fest. I’d pay to see that. Actually the shy guy in me would pay more to not have to be there. Seriously though yes that’s the next thing to think about, it’s videos and live performances. How? Where? Why? But I’m not rushing into either of those, heck I could do that next year and just let this year ride itself out. The smart guy and me think that’s a great, smart long term idea. The impatient ambitious artist in me wants to do more. So we’ll see. This whole project has released itself organically to me very fluidly. So I think the live thing will become clear to me in the coming months.
Q – This is unrelated to the 52 Project – – but can you tell me a bit about the mixtape / playlists your wife and you compile and share online? It’s such a sweet idea.
The comps started as a Christmas present to my immediate family, under the Christmas tree we would have about 10 CDs for people to take if they wanted one. As it took a bit of work to compile them, we started to send a few around online for other friends, and then eventually just put them out publicly for everyone don’t know if we can get in trouble for it, but I look at it as promotion for the bands that we love. Skye and I are very big music fans ever since we were kids, and I personally, haven’t ever lost that spark and that sense of awe from a good song or good record or a show. I still love having that wow moment, and falling in love with a song or band. To me, music makes my world go round.
Q – What are you listening to these days? Can you recommend a good track, or an artist / band?
The last things we been listing to? Hmmm…I love this question by the way. I love championing bands (and people). It’s really exciting for me. Young Rival new “Interior Light”, Junior Boys new “Big Black Coat”, Califone, TV freaks, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, unreleased new Dr. Ew stuff, Tame Impala, Born Ruffians, Operators, Mount Eerie, Daniel Lanois “Flesh and Machine” which is a really cool, cool record. Warpaint, Soko…. She’s a sweet new find. Lots. But don’t worry about finding them, they’ll find you when you hear them next Christmas!
Q – Random question: If you could re-record the soundtrack to any film – what would it be? Sub-question: What’s your favourite film soundtrack?
I make a lot of ambient music as well under the name “Awesollator”. The music is truly satisfying to create as it’s very very simple and slow, and there’s no overhead as it’s all recorded at home in my basement with no need to play it live. I’m a really big fan of that direction in my musical career. So going back to your question, I was lucky to have 5 Awesollator songs placed in 3 films in 2015. A fantastic Hamilton doc “Neighbourhoods Rising” by Ryan Furlong of Fenian Films,. “From Uneasy Dreams” by Mitch Fillion of Southern Souls & “The Rio”, by my pal Joe DiBenedetto. My fav soundtrack? Wes Anderson films of course. Dead Man. Drive. Hard to pick just one.