By James Currie
Chicago based musician, Jamie Dull has a lot of irons in the fire and really stirring the pot in the Chicago music scene. He recently recorded a new album with Whitesnake guitarist Joel Hoekstra providing guest lead guitar solos, teaching drums at Chicago and Oak Park’s School of Rock as well as touring and recording with several bands like Stampy, Smoker, The Blind Staggers and a handful of others.
Electric Villains is his latest project. It’s something completely different from other things he’s done in the past. It’s an electric/digital drum record with live instruments. The debut album is titled, Ether Fever and is completely self recorded and produced at home with the assistance of Hoekstra, a few other special guests and a MacBook.
We sat down and talked with Jamie about the new record and its process as well as trying to survive in Chicago and the surrounding music industry.
James Currie (In The Loop Magazine) So Jamie, thanks for taking the time to sit down with us and talk about all this great music you’re creating. I know you’re extremely busy with things lately and appreciate your time.
Jamie Dull: No problem man and thank you for the time.
JC: So tell us a little about this new album and collaboration you’ve done. How did this come to be?
JD: Well, I’ve lived in Chicago for about eight years now and in that time I’ve found it really hard to make music. Just because you have to be able to exist here first before you can make music, and it’s really expensive to do so. Making music and a living in Chicago has been really challenging for me, but I wanted to do something that would work around that and my schedule. So I end up making a lot of music by myself because of logistics and whatnot. I play a lot of different instruments so I can do several things. Making albums by myself is very easy, but not the best way to produce things. I like to make music with others because I feel like that’s where I make the best music. Playing music to me is a very therapeutic thing that I need to stay on track of things and get through difficult times here.
In terms of this album specifically, I had never really fool around with electronic drums before. I’m a drummer and normally play live, but this was something new I wanted to try. I’ve recorded live drums before on other albums and live of course but this was something completely different.
JC: And this was something you did this year?
JD: Yeah, I didn’t have my drums set up at a rehearsal place yet and didn’t really have a place to record and I didn’t have any money to go to a studio and record so this was the next alternative. So I was left to my own devices and a couple years ago I started recording with my laptop. I still have this old white MacBook from 2008. It has GarageBand on it. I had my iPhone as a mic and an app called, quick voice recorder. I’d record off tracks and import them into GarageBand and build off of it from there. It sounded like shit, it was pretty poor, but I got my songs down and the job done enough to save. So that was my first experience with digital recording at home.
So fast forward to this past winter and I was getting the bug to record again. I remembered that GarageBand had all those percussion sounds and wondered what I could create with them. I mean, since I can’t record (live) drums, I wondered if I could create something completely new. It all started with the second song on the album called, Centaurion. It was just a joke song, I mean it’s about Centaurs (laughs) it was just for fun, but turned into something more. I wanted a sort of Mr. Bungle or Primus sound and just sort of fooled around with it and realized I had something.
JC: Where did you come up with the Centaur subject?
JD: Well my fiancé has a shit load of books around the house and I just picked up one that was near me and it was one on Greek mythology. I opened it up and the first thing I saw was Centaurs, so I just went with that.
I fucked around with that subject and noddled on the guitar and before long I had a song that sounded pretty good. I played it for some friends and they all had a laugh and liked it too and thought, you know I might be on to something here.
Next thing I know, I just kept messing around with those loops and next thing I know I’m like 5 songs in to something.
JC: So that just kind of took off on it’s own then?
JD: Yeah, I just put these parameters on it that all the songs where just in the moment stuff where I just went with whatever was happening around me and went with it. Before long I realized I had like 9 or 10 songs and a full album of stuff. I wanted to have fun and keep working with this new medium.
JC: So how did you get Joel Hoekstra (Whitesnake guitarist) involved?
JD: I was siting on Facebook one morning and I saw a post from Joel Hoekstra. He’s someone I had met a long time ago and sort of worked with and thought, I’m going to reach out to him and see if he’d be down with a collaboration or guest appearance. I had like 100% certainty he wouldn’t have time or consider being a part of something like this, but, I don’t know if you know Joel or not, but he is a really down to earth, super cool guy. He responded to my request in like an hour with a simple message that said, yeah I’ll do it.
JD: I’m pretty sure that’s the moment that I like shit my pants (laughs). I dropped everything. I didn’t even really have a song for him yet. So I realized I had to write something for him. Then once he got on board, I knew I had to do something with this. So we pushed it forward and that’s what brings us to today.
JC: So how did you guys work together? How did that process go and how many songs did you do together?
JD: Joel did just the one song called, Cosmic Hope. I sent him the track and he did the guitar solo for it. I like to have special guests on my work as much as possible. I’ve been doing that for years. I love the idea of special collaborations, especially like what Queens of the Stone Age do. Josh (Homme) has that open door policy that really bring out some diverse and incredible music. I want to build up something like that. So Joel did a special guest appearance on the song providing an amazing guitar solo.
The recording process of the album was really weird. I remember that during that time frame my fiancé got food poisoning. We were at home one day and she was just sick as a dog on the couch and I wanted to be around her so I was sitting there with my laptop and headphones. There’s a song on there called, Brimstone. I remember being just frustrated and sad that I couldn’t help her. I just sat there and the solo I played was one take. I just took all my sadness and anger that I couldn’t help her out in that track.
JC: So that one is from the heart. I mean, it definitely developed into something more from a joke thing to something with real feeling and passion.
JD: Yeah for sure. It really all sort of took off from there with real meaning. I mean any time I make music it’s for real. I just took that passion and emotion and recorded it down.
JC: So did you know Joel before being Facebook friends? How did you get him to agree to be a part of this?
JD: I had met Joel about ten years ago in Phoenix Arizona when I was living out there. He was at the time doing a traveling play called, Love Janis, which was with Big Brother and the Holding Company, Janis Joplin’s old band. Well, a former bass player friend of mine named, Corey got connected with Joel and we went to the show. He got in contact with Joel and asked him if he wanted to come by our bands place and practice with us. He said yeah and so the first time I met him was at our bands rehearsal place. He showed up and we just jammed. I was on drums and he shredded guitar. It was great. We were nobodies and he was this already established famous guitarist that just came and hung out and jammed with this local band. What a great guy. That was like 2006 or 2007.
JC: So the relationship just kept going from there?
JD: Well, so I moved to Chicago right after that. We got asked to play this event where Joel happened to be also be playing. I talked to him again and let him know I was living here now. Since then we just kept in touch with messages, happy birthdays and what not. So when this moment appeared to be right, I just asked. We hadn’t been like best friends or anything, but close enough to talk and keep up with things in life. I’m hoping after this, things will foster into something more.
JC: It’s pretty cool that someone at that level can still relate with other musicians starting out or struggling along with things. And it’s cool that you can continue to keep, and build, that friendship throughout the years.
JD: Oh yeah. He is just so humble and nice. Once we got connected on Facebook and started chatting more about this project, he laid it out that he had just a specific time he could work on it. He said that he was going to be touring Europe and starting a new project and that there was a gap of time he had he could work on this.
It just blew me away that he was willing to give this nobody in Chicago time to do something like this, while doing all these other amazing things? He was so crazy nice.
He’s at the level I dream about. I hope I’m lucky enough to reach that level. It just proves to me that no matter what level you’re at, you should just always be on the same level of the person your talking to. If you can do that, you’re a good dude in the book of rock n roll.
JC: I agree and like the quote. That’s all pretty amazing. So now that it’s complete, where are you going with it?
JD: Well, you know what, that’s the big question. Sometimes I have no idea.
JC: I mean, are you releasing it on iTunes? Vinyl? CD? Cassette? Website release?
JD: As of right now, it’s just going to be a digital media release. In the past, I had recorded something and pressed it and put it out. But what I’ve learned is that it’s hard to get buzz around a band that already has a release out. It makes more sense to have something be coming out with a buzz. I want to release it digitally and see what happens. No band. No tour. No physical media. After I release a track or two, I’m going to see what the reaction is and play it by ear. If people like it, of course I want to go on with it. I have a supergroup ready to play live if we get there.
It’s been pretty interesting lately as another band I’m in called, Stampy. We’re making an album direct to tape with no computer or digital influence. So it’s pretty wild seeing the differences in recording both. Gives me a new perspective for sure seeing the process from the two sides.
I’m most likely going to release this exclusively through my website, SoundCloud and BandCamp. And another new service called, Orpheum. A great new company that has good returns and assistance to get into film and TV.
JC: So what did you know about making electronic music before hand?
JD: Doing this Electric Villain project really opened me up to that world. I never really had given any time or attention to electronic music before. I felt like I didn’t understand it you know because I wasn’t doing it or really listening to it. I wanted to get a solid understanding of it before giving it an opinion. So I felt like for me to truly get an honest opinion was to do it myself. I liked doing this, but I’m a drummer. I need to physically make things happen with beats. So I think the next time I do something like this, I’ll use a digital drum kit.
JC: So how was the actual process of making this album verse a live one in the studio?
JD: This was really hard. I don’t like fine tuning digital drum beats or lining up things. If this were a real drum kit I could just bang it out, but this was a process. To sit there and move this kick drum beat 1/64 note over is just a pain in the ass. I got so frustrated. But I absolutely want to proceed down this pass and do more.
JC: So going back to the beginning of all this, where did you get the name from?
JD: Oh man, I am really bad with coming up with band names. I mean, the heavy hearses? Are you fucking serious? I’ve never been good with coming up with names and so I guess that fact that this is electronic music and all, that something needs to fit. For me, being a real drummer, it was kind of a slap in the face of drummers to make a record as a drummer, with no real live drums. So, I felt like a sort of villain. By calling it Electric Villain, it was almost like I was doing something I wasn’t supposed to do. It was fun. Doing it makes me feel like I’ve kind of tied (music experiences) all together… Plus, it was one of the few names I could find that wasn’t already taken on Facebook or Twitter.
JC: I hear ya. I was a challenge for us here to come up with our name. Same deal, everything we liked, and we had at least 20 names on the list, was either taken by someone else now or in the past. It’s tricky. But I actually love the name you came up with. It truly fits what you are doing and what it’s about. Great job!
JD: Awesome, thanks man thanks. And the worst part is when you find a great name, and someone has it, but not using it. Pisses me off so bad.
I’ve actually even expanded the name to include more than just a band name. I was thinking I could cross over into the comic book world too. I can see the whole picture. I don’t think music always needs to be so goddamn serious. It can and should be fun. I mean don’t get me wrong, there will always be a place for serious music and that’s great, but sometimes you just gotta let go.
JC: So what are some of the other fun things on the record?
JD: Well, besides Centaurion, there’s another song called, Cosmic Hope. The one with Joel. It’s about extra terrestrial live. That’s all I’m asking. You know about space and aliens. The song after that is about zombies! (laughter). But then there is one called, I Still Have To Try. It’s about me still struggling about music and making it. Should I keep going or retire from live music.
JC: Well you definitely have a direction in mind for this. I see it and dig it. I think others will too.
For more info about Jamie Dull, click here
For more info on Electric Villains and the debut release, Ether Fever, click here
For more on Joel Hoekstra, click here
More about Jamie Dull: Jamie has been performing and recording within the Chicago music scene since 2008. He has played drums for the local dreampop band SMOKER since 2011 and additionally records and performs currently with Stampy, The Blind Staggers, Uncle Jesse & the Rippers (A Tribute to the 90’s) and Of Evermore: The Music of Led Zeppelin. He has performed on stage with, recorded with, or shared a bill with Jim Peterik (Survivor/Ides of March), Don Barnes (.38 Special), Joel Hoekstra, Murder by Death, Lobster Newberg, The Dancehall Twigs, The Heavy Hearses, Marcus Rezak (Digital Tape Machine/Stratosphere Allstars), Bryan Beller (Dethklok/Joe Satriani/Steve Vai), Mike Keneally (Frank Zappa/Joe Satriani), Jim Ward (At the Drivein/Sparta) and many more.
Electric Villain : Ether Fever (2016)
Album Artists:Jamie Dull – vocals, guitar, bass, keys, drum/percussion programming, mixing, production
Joel Hoekstra – guest guitar solos on ‘Cosmic Hope’
Laura Zielinksi – guest vocals on ‘Blasto Fantastico!’
Tony Lee Wilburn – guest guitar solos on ‘Blasto Fantastico!’
Zachary Drummond – keys on ‘Beautiful Sunrise’
Mastered by Joshua Avila