"I love The Distillers - I grew up in that band," says lead singer Brody Dalle. "But I also tried to resurrect it and I got Greg Ginn from Black Flag to try and produce some songs with me and Andy (Granelli, drummer) and Tony (Bevilacqua, guitarist) and it just...it just didn't work."
What do you mean it didn't work?
"There wasn't anything there," she recalls. "It didn't feel right...it was like putting a used condom on or something. That's a really crass thing for me to say, but it felt done. There wasn't really anymore for us to do or anymore ideas to share."
And so the band continued to be no more and Dalle continued to create and sing, eventually resulting in her upcoming solo album Diploid Love, coming out on April 28.
Just before rehearsal at an L.A. studio, Dalle spoke to Punknews interviewer Gen Handley about the reunion that almost was, her diverse new album and what's changed with motherhood.
So are you really excited for the new album to come out?
Yeah…yeah, it's well overdue. I can't wait for it to come out.
"Well overdue" in what way?
Well, I made it and then I tinkered on it for a year and then we were looking for a label for it and that takes so long…so fucking long. So it's just been a long time coming, that's all.
How long were you working on it for?
It could have come out a year ago, yeah. But these things like signing to labels…blah, blah, blah…It all takes a lot of time.
The title of the album, Diploid Love, means baby love?
[Laughs] No, not really. A diploid is not really a baby, it's just the cell. It's a human cell, the very first conception of the human cell when the chromosomes from both your parents come together to make you uniquely who you are.
I read that you wrote it literally days before you had your son?
Yeah, I wrote "Meet the Foetus" and then a week later I think I found out I was pregnant. There was kind of some weird psychic connection to myself. Which makes sense, right?
On the album there are a bunch of different themes like maternity, but also technology. Did those appear consciously or did they just pop up naturally?
Yeah, I mean I always write about what's going on at the time. It's all those things, but there was a lot more going on too. There is kind of a mixture of babies and the future - where we're headed - and past traumas that have to do with lovers and fathers. Just emotional shit…human issues.
With that mix of really different themes, there's also that hybrid of the punk rock of The Distillers and the new waviness of Spinnerette.
Yeah. I kind of like to have a foot in both, you know? Because I love dance music - I love to dance - and then I love punk rock and I love thrash and hardcore. And I want to be able to play both and I don't see why I can't play both. I just want to smash them together, you know?
How has motherhood changed you as an artist?
(Pauses) As an artist? It hasn't changed me per se, but it's changed how I feel about making music because I don't get to do it that much anymore. So when I do get to do it, I'm really hungry for it and I appreciate it so much - I put everything I've got, into it.
Is the second song off the album, "Parties for Prostitutes," about betrayal? Listening to the song, it sounds like a pretty personal experience…
Yeah, it's personal.
Can you elaborate?
I'd rather not. It is personal and it is an experience. Yeah. [Laughs]
I really like the song "Underworld." It was written back while you were in The Distillers?
No, well, the verse riff was. After The Distillers broke up, I wrote that and I kind of had it sitting around for a long time. Then I composed the section that is now the mariachi horns, but I thought at the time it sounded Russian and I was like singing it and thinking, "What's a good Russian instrument?" But then I decided that it needed horns and the only people I knew that played horns were Mariachi El Bronx. So they came in and it became this Mexicali mariachi monster - it just kind of happened.
How did the other guests on the album come to be? Are they all friends?
Yeah, I knew all the people who played on the record before and I asked them because of what they could bring individually to the songs. I don't know…they're all awesome. Nick Valensi is an amazing guitar player and is really tasteful and is really an underrated guitar player - I love the The Strokes. And obviously with Shirley (Manson, Garbage) and Emily (Kokal, Warpaint), I love their voices and I wanted a girl gang kind of sound on "Meet the Foetus." And everyone from Michael Shuman (Queens of the Stone Age) and Tyler (Parkford, Mini Mansions), they played on "Carry On" together, to Darren Weiss from Papa - I love every person who played on this record.
Is it true you played all of the instruments?
I didn't play all of the instruments, but I played most of them. I played all the instruments on "Meet the Foetus" - I probably played 90 percent of all the music.
Were there any instruments you had to learn quickly for the album?
No, not really because I've always kind of dabbled, you know. But when I play the drums, it's generally a drum machine. [Laughs] Don't think I'm a monster on the drums because that's not true, although I'd like to be. [Laughs]
And you were really involved with the production side of things as well, right?
Yeah…yeah we all worked together.
It sounds like this album's a pretty good summation of yourself in nine songs…
Yeah, I think that's how a total record should be, you know? I wanted to keep going in that direction of delving more into things like production and mastering more instruments. It's not that I mastered the guitar and that's not what I meant, but you know, playing more instruments, having fun, making sounds. There are so many interesting landscapes and textures and tones you can make - it's fucking endless.
There are so many different sounds and little noises going on throughout the album…
Yeah, I'm really happy about that.
While touring for the new album are you playing Distillers and Spinnerette songs as well?
Yeah, I have like five records under my belt and there's a lot of music to pick from. Some songs I'd probably never play again, but there are a lot I would. You know, some of those songs, those Distillers songs are really fun to play live and they work really well with the new stuff.
Which Distillers songs are still fun to play live?
I love playing "Coral Fang," I love playing "Dismantle Me," I love "Die on a Rope," and then we're playing some older stuff like "The Blackest Years" - it's just awesome, it's fun.
You just finished some dates in your home country of Australia opening up for your husband's band (Queens of the Stone Age). What was that like? Did you bring the kids as well?
Yeah we did. It was incredible. It was a really great, fun experience…exhausting but incredible. I got to play in Australia opening for those guys with my kids and my family - it doesn't get any better than that.
Do you hope the offspring will follow in their parents' footsteps?
No, I want them to do what they want to do. It that means being a veterinarian, then that's great. If they want to be a musician, that's great too…whatever makes them happy.
Going back to The Distillers, why did the band break up? You ended things on a pretty high note with Coral Fang...
I know, we ended at the height of our career [Laughs]. We were at the top and we imploded or exploded. We were just exhausted. We were on the road for like six years and had just come out of the intense two-year tour for Coral Fang. We were all kind of battling our own addictions and it just spiraled out of control. The management we had weren't taking care of us…They kind of overlooked this guy who was just raping us for money and we ended up in debt owing this guy $150,000. So nobody was paying attention, especially not us. It was just a bad scene and it just ended - the end of the road. I kind of wish we had taken a hiatus instead of breaking up. It was a very emotionally charged time and it shouldn't have ended that way, but it did, you know?
Is there any hope for a reunion?
Um, I don't know. I don't ever say never…
Because it sounds like you'd like to bring that band back…
I love The Distillers - I grew up in that band. But I also tried to resurrect it and I got Greg Ginn from Black Flag to try and produce some songs with me and Andy (Granelli, drummer) and Tony (Bevilacqua, guitarist) and it just...it just didn't work.
What do you mean it didn't work?
There wasn't anything there. It didn't feel right…it was like putting a used condom on or something. That's a really crass thing for me to say, but it felt done. There wasn't really anymore for us to do or anymore ideas to share.
How about Spinerrette? Would you want to do that again?
Not really. I think I probably should have had my name on it… It should have been my first solo record. I think I'm just going to keep making solo records, you know? It's really exciting and fun, there's no borders, there's no box, there are no egos, there are no personalities and it's not messy. It's just fun. It's not a drag or a drain or a bummer. The emotional scene is pretty simple and that's kind of what I need right now.
There are no boxes or borders to keep you in one genre.
Yeah. I mean, I don't see myself playing world music. [Laughs] I'd just like to approach it like anything goes or anything is possible and I can play and write what I want. I want that freedom and I have it right now. I love it.