Unbeknownst to many fans, this interviewer included, there was a point when The Distillers almost recorded new music.
"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?
Yeahâ¦yeah, itâs well overdue. I canât 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 longâ¦so fucking long. So itâs just been a long time coming, thatâs all.
How long were you working on it for?
It could have come out a year ago, yeah. But these things like signing to labelsâ¦blah, blah, blahâ¦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, itâs just the cell. Itâs 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 whatâs going on at the time. Itâs all those things, but there was a lot more going on too. There is kind of a mixture of babies and the future - where weâre headed - and past traumas that have to do with lovers and fathers. Just emotional shitâ¦human issues.
With that mix of really different themes, thereâs 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 donât see why I canât play both. I just want to smash them together, you know?
How has motherhood changed you as an artist?
(Pauses) As an artist? It hasnât changed me per se, but itâs changed how I feel about making music because I donât get to do it that much anymore. So when I do get to do it, Iâm really hungry for it and I appreciate it so much - I put everything Iâve 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 experienceâ¦
Yeah, itâs personal.
Can you elaborate?
Iâd 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, "Whatâs 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 donât knowâ¦theyâre 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 didnât 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 Iâve always kind of dabbled, you know. But when I play the drums, itâs generally a drum machine. [Laughs] Donât think Iâm a monster on the drums because thatâs not true, although Iâd like to be. [Laughs] And you were really involved with the production side of things as well, right?
Yeahâ¦yeah we all worked together.
It sounds like this albumâs a pretty good summation of yourself in nine songsâ¦
Yeah, I think thatâs 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. Itâs not that I mastered the guitar and thatâs 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 - itâs fucking endless.
There are so many different sounds and little noises going on throughout the albumâ¦
Yeah, Iâm 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 thereâs a lot of music to pick from. Some songs Iâd 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 weâre playing some older stuff like "The Blackest Years" - itâs just awesome, itâs fun.
You just finished some dates in your home country of Australia opening up for your husbandâs 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 experienceâ¦exhausting but incredible. I got to play in Australia opening for those guys with my kids and my family - it doesnât get any better than that.
Do you hope the offspring will follow in their parentsâ footsteps?
No, I want them to do what they want to do. It that means being a veterinarian, then thatâs great. If they want to be a musician, thatâs great tooâ¦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 werenât taking care of usâ¦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 shouldnât have ended that way, but it did, you know?
Is there any hope for a reunion?
Um, I donât know. I donât ever say neverâ¦
Because it sounds like youâd like to bring that band backâ¦
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 didnât work.
What do you mean it didnât work?
There wasnât anything there. It didnât feel rightâ¦it was like putting a used condom on or something. Thatâs a really crass thing for me to say, but it felt done. There wasnât 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 itâ¦ It should have been my first solo record. I think Iâm just going to keep making solo records, you know? Itâs really exciting and fun, thereâs no borders, thereâs no box, there are no egos, there are no personalities and itâs not messy. Itâs just fun. Itâs not a drag or a drain or a bummer. The emotional scene is pretty simple and thatâs kind of what I need right now.
There are no boxes or borders to keep you in one genre.
Yeah. I mean, I donât see myself playing world music. [Laughs] Iâd 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.