In the 20 years since the release of their platinum-selling debut album "Picture Of Health," Canadian rock band the Headstones have seen the highs and lows of the music business, literally and figuratively.
Just last week, the Headstones took one giant step towards reclaiming their rightful Canadian rock crown with the release of their first studio album in more than a decade, "Love + Fury." "Love + Fury" embraces the group's long-standing ethos of no-holds-barred rock 'n' roll. In an age of pre-manufactured pop idols, one-hit wonders and monkey-toting superstars, the world needs them more than ever.
Rejuvenated by the band's return to the concert stage in February 2011, Headstones lead singer (and "Flashpoint" actor) Hugh Dillon suddenly wondered why it had taken them so long to get back together.
"I had forgotten all about the stuff that I despised about the music business," Dillon tells HuffPost. "It wasn't about putting the band back together for money or anything like that. The fans never forgot about us. We suddenly had people from all over telling us how much the band meant to them. It was exactly what making music was supposed to be about."
Buoyed by their fans response to those 2011 shows, the group released the single "binthiswayforyears" as a free download. The group made a video to accompany the track ("Easily the best video we have done and for all of $200," Dillon says) and suddenly found themselves with a whole new outlook on the crazy world of the music business.
"We had rediscovered that indie spirit that moved us in the earliest days of the band. There was no pressure. There were no expectations upon us. We were just having a blast hanging out and making music together again."
It used to be a blast a long time ago. It was the Headstones' fearless approach to making music that made an indelible impression upon record company executive Cam Carpenter. Carpenter signed the band to MCA Records in the early '90s. From the first time he saw the group, he instinctively knew they were something special.
"I was told by two industry friends that I needed to see this band," Carpenter says. "I went to an almost empty club, watched the band and was immediately captured by vocalist Hugh Dillon. It was like he was playing Maple Leaf Gardens. Between spitting, swearing and threatening to crush the monitors with his microphone stand, it was pretty apparent this guy was a rock star."
Carpenter's instincts were right. The group, comprised of Dillon, guitarist Trent Carr, bassist Tim White and drummer Dale Harrison would become one of Canada's most dynamic, bloody-fisted rock 'n' roll bands.
The first time that I met Hugh Dillon and the Headstones was September 1997. Riding high on the success of their third album "Smile And Wave," the group was, as Carpenter had observed all those years prior, a force to be reckoned with live. Few bands in Canadian rock delivered the goods night after night like the Headstones did. One packed show after another, fans devoured every word and every note uttered by the band. After that, the Headstones would release two other studio records, 2000's "Nickels For Your Nightmares" and 2002's "The Oracle Of Hi-Fi." And then the band ground to a halt in 2003.
Dillon remained in the spotlight via a pair of post-Headstones albums. He also became a sought-after actor, landing roles in acclaimed dramas such as "Flashpoint" and "Durham County" among others.
We can't assume that the Headstones would never have reformed at some point in time. Bands often do, though nothing is ever for certain. But when Dillon received a phone call from one of the group's earliest collaborators who shared devastating news, the possibility of reforming the band took on a new kind of urgency.
"Randy Kwan was a friend of the band who co-wrote some of the material on the Headstones' first record," Dillon begins. "He was this really funny guy that I met in high school and was someone you could always count on. Randy actually started me being the singer that I am. He really pushed me when no one else thought I could sing.
"I hadn't seen Randy in a number of years and one day while I was shooting 'Flashpoint' I got a phone call from him. So as we're catching up, he tells me he has good news and bad news for me. He says that the good news was that he had a two year-old son and the bad news was that he was dying from cancer."
Dillon flew to Vancouver to see his friend where, amongst other topics of discussion, Kwan shared with Dillon just how much the Headstones meant to him.
"Here he was, our friend who was basically at the end of his life, talking about how much the band meant to him. Randy had no health insurance and so putting the band back together was about helping him out. It wasn't about us in the least."
So the band got back together for some shows and decided to make an album.
On October 19, 2012, the group announced plans to fund a new record via online crowd-sourcing site Pledge Music. A little more than 48 hours later the band met their goal. When all was said and done, the band raised a whopping 295 percent of their original goal. Indeed, Headstones fans are passionate about their rock 'n' roll.
The resulting album, "Love + Fury," is dedicated to Kwan.
But what about Dillon's "other life"? Although he's considered by many to be a musician and then an actor, the inverse will prove to be true for many television and movie fans that might not be aware that Dillon is even in a band. Asked for his thoughts on converting fans of Hugh Dillon, the actor, to Hugh Dillon, the musician-actor, he admits that it's not something he's terribly concerned about.
"Some fans will definitely be discovering the Headstones for the first time," he says. "Some people that watch the movie and television shows I am a part of are not always rock 'n' roll fans, while other people like absolutely everything and follow everything. At the end of the day though, I turn off those concerns because I can't worry about who thinks what. They will either have a taste for the Headstones or they won't. I think it will largely depend on the fan's personal tastes."
If there is anything that Dillon has learned over the course of the past decade, it's to be grateful for the gifts you're given and the time you share with those you care about. Although this might betray the rough and tough persona Hugh Dillon is arguably best known for, you had better get used to it. This is the second coming of the Headstones, where band and fans are a part of a mutual admiration society of which Dillon is proud to be a part of.
"There is a difference between creating art and really having passion for what you do," he says. "Happy people will enjoy what they are doing and take the time to make sure it's done right. I don't take anything for granted anymore, especially with Randy's passing. During that visit I paid him in Vancouver, Randy told me over and over it was such a shame to let our talent go to waste.
"You know what my reply was? ‘Yeah but those guys bug me sometimes,'" Dillon says with a laugh.
"I am so glad I listened to him, though. We are very lucky to be able to do what we do. The same stupid jokes between the four of us are funnier than they ever have been before."