I have always
loved drums; I believe it started when I was a child and my little brother
decided he wanted to become a drummer. Since then, I’ve had the
opportunity to observe him and a few other friends who are also drummers
grow as musicians, developing their unique styles and perfecting their
craft, while I watch in wide-eyed wonder and appreciation for their skill
Having been a Nine Inch Nails fan since 1989’s Pretty Hate Machine,
in 2000 I found myself eagerly anticipating the start of NIN’s
first tour in five years for the newly released album The Fragile.
I attended a private dress rehearsal held in April of that year at
Grand Olympic Auditorium. Trent Reznor returned to the stage with three
members of the band’s previous incarnation – Charlie Clouser,
Robin Finck, and Danny Lohner – and despite the fact that I knew
nothing about him at the time, it was immediately evident that the
drummer was a force to be reckoned with.
Jerome Dillon brought something truly original to the live Nine Inch Nails
experience – a style of drumming that took Reznor’s mostly
electronically-produced industrial beats and translated them into a sound
infused with everything from the rock background of Dillon’s former
band, Howlin’ Maggie, to unexpected jazz and R&B influences.
Dillon went on to spend the next five years working with NIN, both as
the live drummer and as a contributing musician during various studio
sessions. During the break between the “Fragility” tours and
the release of NIN’s latest album with_teeth, Dillon began
working on his first solo album, the nearLY project. But nearLY was put
on hold when Dillon returned to the stage with NIN in early 2005 for a
series of U.S. club dates immediately followed by an extensive overseas
The second U.S. leg of the “Live: With_Teeth_2005” tour commenced
at Cox Arena in San Diego on September 16. That show was cut short when
Dillon experienced what what was later determined to be an irregular
heartbeat. Within the span of the next two weeks, Dillon was hospitalized
and three shows were cancelled. The Internet rumor mill ran rampant with
erroneous reports of Dillon’s condition while he for the most
part remained silent, choosing instead to hold off on making any announcements
until he had concrete information to share.
Dillon played what would turn out to be his final show with Nine Inch
Nails on October 1 at the Hollywood Bowl. Replacement drummers were
in to finish out the tour while Dillon took time off to have his condition
properly diagnosed and treated. Throughout the month of October, there
was a great deal of new activity taking place at JeromeDillon.net, which
provided clues signaling the revival of and a potential release for
nearLY album, as well as clarification about what really happened in
San Diego and a complete reassurance from Dillon himself that the condition
wasn't serious and that he was indeed in good health.
There was however, still no word of Dillon’s return
to playing with NIN. Finally, on October 28, Dillon issued a statement
via his message board announcing he had officially left the band. The
following day, I sat down to talk with Dillon.
Despite having been brought to the forefront with Nine Inch Nails, Dillon
has also spent these last five years of his career showcasing his musical
talents through a variety of collaborations – from working on the
soundtrack of cult iconic filmmaker John Waters’ Cecil B. Demented
to playing drums for synth pop pioneer Gary Numan – and his diverse
array of work gives him a unique and universal musical appeal. Now, with
the completion of nearLY’s album reminder, it will no doubt
become clear that Dillon is more than just a drummer; he’s also
a highly skilled and creative songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer.
For anyone who has not had the opportunity to see Dillon perform, it's
a brutal yet fascinating spectacle, and one might expect some of that
raw energy to spill over into his non-performing persona. Yet while there's
a palpable intensity to him, he is a refreshingly down to earth, soft
spoken, approachable and all around nice guy. Making the interview experience
all the better was the fact that Dillon has the freedom of not being tethered
to a record label or management company, so there were no real constraints
over what he had to say or how much time he would be given to say it.
He was genuinely interested in speaking with TIMBT, eager to talk openly
about himself and his work.
Let’s start right off the bat with your departure from
Nine Inch Nails. What do you want to say about what went on there?
Well, number one, it’s been fairly documented recently
that I had some health issues that kind of stalled the momentum of the
tour. To be totally honest with you, I still have a lot of guilt over
the three shows that were cancelled due to my issues. But, these were
definitely things that were beyond my control. It absolutely did look
like there was something seriously wrong with me there for a minute. Anyone
that has ever worked with Trent or knows the Nine Inch Nails organization
knows that shows do not get cancelled unless it is something serious or
could potentially be something serious. The show has to go on.
So, that said, it did not end up being anything serious. Lucky for me,
it turned out to be an easily treatable condition that was addressed and
diagnosed. Actually it took a little while to diagnose it, but as it turned
out it wasn't anything that could end my career. The drag about it was
that it took three cardiologists, three separate doctors/specialists,
to find what exactly what was going on, which is why more than one show
was cancelled. Let me tell you firsthand, it's embarrassing when everyone
around you thinks you're dying. Anyway, I returned to L.A., saw a specialist,
got diagnosed, started medication and played one of the best shows of
my life at the Hollywood Bowl forty-eight hours later. Josh Freese was
brought in to cover a couple of shows and I was going to rejoin the tour
in a few weeks. I was given complete documentation from two specialists
stating that I was treated and could immediately return to work. Obviously,
that's not what happened.
What did end up happening was I came back to L.A. and started gathering
myself because it was a pretty scary time. I had never had anything like
that happen before and I (and everyone around me) was stressing out like
a motherfucker. I don't really want to get into specifics but it was definitely
time for me to make my exit at that point. It really had nothing to do
with my health because I was and am feeling great. But it had a lot more
to do with the fact that emotions were running very high and there was
a lot of stalled momentum. The band was under the gun because we had just
gotten to a point where we were gelling musically and really starting
to sound good. And those guys immediately had to switch gears and get
into trying to find a replacement, first of all, and then work a replacement
in. I know they had to work really hard to do that and I know there was
a lot of stress that was caused as a result of my absence. I feel shitty
about that but it really wasn't anything that I could control. I think
all of that kind of built up and it was obvious to me that I didn't fit
in anymore. I just had a completely different outlook on things. No big
deal. The most important thing is that I'm healthy and that I can continue
to do what I love and what I'm really good at.
As a result, a lot of positive things came out of it. Many things that
would not have happened to me, had I been still on the road with Nine
Inch Nails, have happened since I’ve been home. So as negative of
a situation as it was, some positive things did come out of it. As bad
of a situation as it was with my health and thinking that there was something
seriously wrong when there wasn’t…all of that stuff led to
other things that are happening right now. And obviously, I wouldn’t
be doing this interview with you now if it wasn’t for the fact that
I was in Nine Inch Nails for the better part of six years. I’m incredibly
appreciative for all the doors it has opened for me, and the things that
have happened to me during the course of that time.
I know there was a span of time between the release of The Fragile
and the release of with_teeth. Was that when you started working
on the nearLY project?
The nearLY thing was…as soon as I got off the road from The Fragile
tour, I went home and I was really kind of depressed. Not kind of depressed,
I was really depressed. I kept telling myself that I had no reason to
be, because it had been the best thing that had happened to me in my career
up to that point. It was a great record and I thought that band really
played well together. Charlie, Danny and Robin are all great musicians
and I was really lucky to just kind of fall into that the way that I did.
But I still got off the road and was so depressed and I think part of
it, to be honest with you, was that I was really, really concerned about
Trent. He's been very honest and forthcoming about his alcohol abuse in
interviews and he's not bullshitting. I thought that he was doing irreparable
damage to himself and that it was going to end in tears. So when I got
home from the tour that compounded with other things in my personal life
were taking a toll. As much as that experience and that tour was the best
thing that had ever happened to me professionally, on a completely different
level, it was one of the worst things that had happened because I wasn’t
ready to be in a situation where I’m working with this guy that
I really respect and care about and watching him try to destroy himself
day after day.
So, during the time off I went home and I decided take a vacation by myself
and go to Australia and kind of figure things out and maybe also try to
wash away, cathartically in some way, a lot of what I picked up on the
road. I came back to L.A. and within about a month or two I called a friend
of mine who’s an engineer and sound designer named Brett Pierce.
He and I just started going into the studio – we found a really
nice room and we put all of our gear in it and then we just started experimenting
with different musical ideas. That was kind of the impetus for the nearLY
And then Trent called me and asked me to come down to work with him on
what ended up being the Still record, which is the companion disc
to the live [And All That Could Have Been] recording. Up to that
point I had really been struggling musically, on my own, playing a bunch
of instruments I had no business even attempting to play. It wasn’t
proving to be very fruitful. And Brett, because he’s a friend of
mine, had no problem telling me how bad I sucked. So, then Trent calls
and my self-confidence is at an all time low and I go down to New Orleans
thinking I’ve got nothing to say as an artist or writer or whatever
and feeling kind of beaten. I got down there and the situation with the
Still record was basically that it was Trent, myself, Alan Moulder,
Keith Hillebrandt and Leo Herrera. All of us were just bouncing ideas
back and forth. Some of those musical ideas that were worked on were things
that were left off of The Fragile. Trent basically had almost finished
those on his own anyway. But the other songs, the reinterpretations of
old songs and some new songs as well, were all of us just bouncing ideas
back and forth.
It was such an incredibly inspiring time that something broke open in
me. I also really loved that we were primarily working with acoustic instruments,
which I have a soft spot or an affinity for. During those sessions, I
just really felt like I was able to think clearly and focus in on a lot
of things that I needed to in order to write from an honest place. I went
back to L.A. and my identity crisis as a musician had kind of just lifted
off of me and that’s when we really started making some headway.
Song ideas were all of the sudden sounding like songs instead of just
musical tones or textures.
And you went back to working with Brett Pierce?
Yeah. And I felt like, within the span of the next six months, we got
primarily everything that’s on the record now, and another maybe
20 or 30 songs. So we were able to move very quickly. After that six or
eight months, I started really seriously looking for a singer because
I only knew a few things about the record: Number one, I wanted it to
be honest. Number two, I did not want it to be a rock record, at all.
And I knew that I did not want to sing. I had generated some vocal melodies
and lyrics on my own, but I was more intrigued by the idea of bringing
somebody in that actually is a singer, that’s what they do, and
bouncing ideas off of them to a certain extent. But also having somebody
that’s going to come in and have a completely different take on
what it is that I am trying to create and bring their own thing to the
It turned out that that singer was kind of under my nose that whole time
– Claudia Sarne, who was in a band called 12 Rounds on Trent’s
label. She and I had known each other and I’d even played drums
on the 12 Rounds record that never was released. She was a perfect fit
and the first two songs went down like in three days: we got great vocal
takes and great melodic ideas. The thing that really intrigued me about
her as well was that she wasn’t just a singer that was just coming
in and trying to come up with vocal melodies or just trying to sing over
the top of what was already there. There are certain bands that I’m
not a fan of where it always sounds like the vocals are an overdub. It
never sounds like the vocal melodies and lyrics are inside the music.
And they’re just kind of…
Sitting on top of it.
Yeah, exactly. With Claude, she would come in and after a couple of days
learned my chord progressions on piano and she would play and sing at
the same time. So it seemed like a much more organic, natural process
as opposed to her just coming in and singing and it sounding like it’s
riding over the top of the music. It seemed like a perfect fit. Also,
my friend Greg Dulli had expressed interest in wanting to be involved
in the record. So I picked an old Afghan Whigs song that I was a fan of,
one of his songs. We ended up redoing that as a cover and I tried to turn
it into a torch song without it sounding like “Endless Love”.
You know, a terrible duet between two people that are shitting on each
Let’s stay on the lines of the nearLY project. I thought it was
absolutely gorgeous. It plays very much like a movie soundtrack. Before
you sent it you suggested it be listened to in the dark, alone at night,
loud – so that’s what I did. And I found myself just sitting
there in the dark visualizing things, images popping into my head, because
it has a very visual aspect to it. Then there are certain sounds throughout
the album that reminded me a lot of soundscapes from David Lynch films.
So it’s got a very cinematic element to it and I would just like
to hear you talk about that.
Wow, thank you very much. I’m a huge David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti
fan so that’s a compliment in the highest order, so thank you.
You’re very welcome.
All of the things that you mentioned were definite conscious attempts
on my part to create something that is kind of sound-scapey and maybe
a bit filmic as well, cinematic. But I didn’t want to be tethered
to any one type of approach. I didn’t want to write a bunch of instrumental
music that no one’s ever going to want to listen to or try to do
something that is overtly theatrical or pretentious. But like I said before,
I just knew that I didn’t have it in me to do a rock record.
I also was experimenting around with trying to document in some way musically
a recurring dream that I’d been having for about five or six years.
And it wasn’t a good one. It actually started when I was in the
band I was in before Nine Inch Nails and it continued for about the span
of five or six years. It got to the point where I literally was keeping
a microcassette recorder next to my bed at night. And I was getting a
little bit further in the dream each time I was having it. Without sounding
like “pretentious art dickhead” I started literally humming
melodies that I was hearing in my head when I would wake up in the morning
or in the middle of the night, into the microcassette recorder. A lot
of the piano melodies that are on the record were actually in the dream.
So I started experimenting with that, trying to figure out a way that
I could musically document what was happening in melodies that I was hearing,
or thought I was hearing, in my sleep, during my waking hours. That became
extremely difficult in the studio, especially for Brett to deal with,
because he thought I was losing my fucking mind or that I was doing something
that was incredibly…I don’t know, maybe a bit too ambitious
and also ridiculous at times. But there’s no question that I’m
glad that I did it and the main reason for this is that now there’s
a part of my life that’s totally documented and it’s documented
musically. It’s not just where I was at as a musician, but exactly
where I was at in my life for a few years. It’s hard for me to listen
to the record now because I have those associations with the dream or
the nightmare, however you want to look at it. But I feel that it’s
definitely a cathartic thing and it feels like, ok it’s over, I
can move past it and move on to whatever the next thing is. Although it’s
not by any means a commercial record, the overall reaction and response
to the record so far has been really positive. I’m right now in
the process of finalizing a licensing deal for film and TV with one particular
How much of the album is you on instrumentation and production and
how much of it is outside collaborators that you brought in to work with
Claudia obviously had a lot to do with it; when she came in she kind of
streamlined things because we knew at that point, Brett and I, that certain
songs were just not going to work with her being the primary singer. So
we were able to immediately eliminate probably twenty songs. That brought
it down to one certain batch and on those songs I had played everything
up to that point, with the exception of the live strings, which there’s
a lot of – live cellos, viola, violin. All of the live strings were
played by various people that I had hired to come in: Tanya Haden was
one, her sister Petra Haden was one and Ivy Sebastian. There were various
people that I used.
There are definitely some sound design elements that Keith Hillebrandt
added. Keith, who was the sound designer for Nine Inch Nails, really has
a gift for frequencies unlike anything I’ve seen before. He’s
a large part of the reason – I’m sure Trent would agree with
this – that The Fragile came out sounding the way it did
and the reason that The Fragile doesn’t sound like any other
Nine Inch Nails record. It’s a lot of those textures and tones and
things you necessarily can’t hear in the mix, but if you take them
away you feel their presence is lost. He’s very good at that. I
think there are two songs [on the nearLY album] that he came in and helped
with sound design and also helped with the overall mix. There are a couple
of friends here and there, but primarily the record is me. I mean, it’s
me pretending that I know how to play everything, produce and orchestrate.
You talked about how when you were having this dream you started humming
into your cassette recorder and that’s how you got a lot of the
melodies for the record. Where did the lyrics come from?
I had some vocal melodies and lyrical ideas. All the songs had titles
before Claude ever even came in. For instance, there’s a song on
the record called “prins hendrik” and Prins Hendrik is a hotel
in Amsterdam where Chet Baker fell to his death. The chord progressions
for that song were written there. All of the songs on the record are held
together by various melodic and lyrical threads that run through them.
They’re not very apparent at first, but after you listen to the
record a few times you’re going to notice that a piano melody that’s
on one song will be a vocal melody that’s in another song. A chord
progression that’s played on piano during one song is actually the
bass line that’s in another. So a lot of that work had been done
prior to Claude coming in, but that said, she had quite a bit of input
in terms of helping me to tie all these themes together and make our way
through the record lyrically so that things were cohesive. There is a
very definite beginning, middle and ending to it. She had a big part in
that. Brett even, to a certain extent, was involved in the continuity
of it and trying to make it sound, in the end, like a record as opposed
to a bunch of pieces, parts that were just thrown together. So the majority
of the work was the three of us.
But before Claude ever really came in and before Brett even co-produced
the record with me, I definitely had an idea of what I wanted and what
I was going for, emotionally and otherwise. Musically, emotionally and
the gamut, I knew exactly what it was that I wanted to get and they worked
really hard at helping to facilitate that.
Can you talk about what it was like to be in charge of a project as
opposed to being brought in as a collaborator, either for Nine Inch Nails
or some of the other work that you’ve done?
That’s a good question. I wasn’t nuts about it. I liked the
freedom… Even in a situation like Nine Inch Nails, where Nine Inch
Nails is Trent and if I come into a studio situation or a live situation
or whatever, I knew that there were certain boundaries to that situation
musically. Because it is him and because it is his unique slant on making
music and his voice, I was always going to have to deal with certain parameters.
I got very good at maintaining those parameters, because first of all
Trent and I have very similar tastes in music and very similar sensibilities
musically. So it wasn’t really too much of an effort on a lot of
levels. But that said, I got really good at knowing what my place was.
There were times also during the Still record where he asked me
to play guitar, and on this last tour I was playing upright bass with
a bow on one song. It was good in the sense that I think he knew he could
count on me musically. And he knew that no matter what instrument I was
going to be playing, I was going to be able to play something that was
going to sound appropriate without him saying, “Dude, don’t
do that,” or, “What are you doing with a banjo?” –
you know, that kind of shit. He knew that I was going to have the right
sensibilities because we had worked together for so long.
When I was doing my own thing, it’s like all of a sudden your mind
starts playing tricks on you in the studio and you’re coming up
with a guitar part that you think is great. Then, ten minutes later I'm
listening to it and I look at Brett – Brett’s got a weird
look on his face as it’s coming through the speakers and I’m
like, “What, what’s going on?” And he says, “Dude,
I’m sorry but it sucks. And I’m like, ”Oh fuck, it does…
Ok, well, let me go for a walk and come back and try it again.”
That was the hardest part. I’d never found my own identity on any
other instrument besides drums. That was the only thing that I’d
ever really focused in on in terms of trying to find my own voice. But
the interesting thing was that in the end my limitations as a guitar player
and a bass player and piano player were the inherent qualities that ended
up giving me my own characteristic identity on those instruments. A lot
of that faltering and tripping over the guitar neck kind of vibe added
to the record’s emotional instability. I think I’m at a point
now where I’m realizing what my strengths and weaknesses are and
I’m trying to use the weaknesses to...
To your advantage?
Yeah, to my advantage.
Let’s talk about the business aspect of putting out
a record. What are your plans for releasing nearLY? I know you mentioned
that you’re putting together a deal for film and TV licensing; were
you ever planning to release it just as a straight out record?
It was actually supposed to be released last year on Bjork’s label,
One Little Indian, and those people were genuinely supportive at a time
when I really didn’t know if the record was going to see the light
of day. I knew that I wanted to finish it and put it out somehow, whether
it was released on the Web or whatever. But they were there at a point
where I didn’t think there were going to be many labels that were
going to pay attention to it because it is so completely un-commercial.
The deal just didn’t end up working out for various reasons. I was
also at a point where I was getting ready to leave for a tour with Nine
Inch Nails and it wasn’t something I was going to be able to be
around to oversee. I mean, we were in production rehearsals and it was
a very busy time; also, we didn’t have a full band together. Jeordie
and I were still auditioning people at that point and there was a lot
going on. So I bailed on that, and bailed on the idea of immediately releasing
it at that point and sat on it for the better part of this year.
Since I’ve been home from the tour there’s been a lot of positive
response and feedback from various companies. I would really like to put
it out but the situation would have to be perfect. I would really have
to feel like it was with a label that really understood the core of what
it really is and knew how to go about promoting that in some way, shape
or form – getting it out there. I just feel like it will have much
more of a lifespan in film and television. It’s that kind of record.
So we’ll just have to see what happens. But to answer your question,
it’s a very long-winded way of me saying I don’t know. I’m
talking to various people right now and it will be released by second
quarter of next year at the latest.
Did you ever think about self-releasing it or alternative means of
distribution, like you said, on the Web? Were those serious considerations
Sure, just because things are so moving in that direction right now and
they have been for a while. I’m holding out hope that there’s
still enough people out there that enjoy the trip to the record store,
because I know I do. I don’t download songs, even at iTunes. I just
don’t do it because if I am really into a band or an artist then
I want the whole thing, you know?
Yeah, the physical.
Yeah. I want the artwork and I’m an immediate gratification kind
of guy. I want that thing in my hand. I want to be able to look at it
and devour it and digest it. I still do that with records and it still
takes me a while, you know, a month to two months to really get everything.
Those are the records that I really enjoy, you know what I mean? Those
are the records that I am willing to spend money on, something that substantiates
it, so I don’t go out and buy guilty pleasures anymore and I don’t
even download them. If I happen to hear a song when I’m in my hotel
room on tour then great. Or if I happen to hear it on the radio when I’m
in a cab or something then great. But that one song is not going to make
its way into my life unless I really feel like I’m into that artist
or into something that they have to offer.
Are there any plans or thoughts about touring for the nearLY release
or making it a live entity?
I would never rule out that possibility, but because of the density of
the record it would be really difficult. I mean, there would have to be
at least ten to thirteen, fourteen people in the band. I like The Polyphonic
Spree, but I would never want to be in that situation. I did see a band
called Rustin Man, which is two of the guys that are from my favorite
band Talk Talk, and Beth Gibbons from Portishead. And that was very similar
in a lot of ways to the way I kind of perceived nearLY being if it ever
went live, where the musicians are just free to explore and there’s
nothing on tape, there’s no backing tracks, I’m not playing
with a click and there’s no limitations; everyone is just able to
kind of freeform explore at certain points in the set. I would have to
take a percussionist, I would have to take live strings, and I would have
to take at least one if not two keyboard players along with several guitarists
in order to get it across. Rustin Man did that really effectively without
it sounding gratuitous or overdone in terms of production. It was a great
show, one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.
What would your role be in a live setting? Would you stay on drums?
Yeah. I definitely know my limitations.
How much are you involved in the business side of this production,
compared with the creative side?
As far as nearLY is concerned, it’s all me at the moment. I did
have management for a while that was kind of overseeing the day-to-day
things, but it just got to a point where I knew if it was going to get
to where I wanted it to be, it was going to have to be me looking over
things. It was nothing against them, it was just I really knew all along
in the back of my mind that it was going to need to get licensed and it
was going to need to be shopped to licensing companies and that was going
to be a major part of it. So I just decided to take that upon myself and
make those contacts.
Can you talk about your musical background, how you got started in
drumming? You mentioned you played some other instruments – when
did those come along? And do you see yourself trying to perfect your playing
on those other instruments or do you prefer to stick to drumming?
I was always around music as a kid because my mom was a classically-trained
pianist. Then in her forties, she was stricken with rheumatoid arthritis
and so she stopped playing. The piano was sold to buy my second drum kit
and as long as I was rehearsing or really working at being a musician
I didn’t have to work a job. So I got to the point where I got to
be a pretty good drummer; I felt good about where I was at and I wanted
to start writing my own songs. I had originally started on piano at age
five and played for maybe four or five years and then it was all drums
up until around 18, 19. Then I started playing guitar around 21, 22. And
yes, I would like to become a much better piano player and guitar player
than I am. It’s something that I do work on, but that said, I also
feel like I’m very definitely meant to play drums. That will always
be my primary instrument. It’s what I was originally drawn to and
I feel like I was drawn to it for a reason, either through a means of
expression or aggression. Or just to drive the family crazy.
How did you develop your sound and your style? You’re self-taught
on everything, except piano, you said?
For the most part. I mean, I definitely did take piano lessons and I also
studied with a couple of drummers from my hometown that I really respected,
jazz guys. I wanted to learn as much as I could about the instrument and
how to play as many different styles of music as I could so that I could
get to a point where…you know, it’s the old saying –
you have to know the rules before you can break them. Then I just got
to a point where I really started developing my own style or my own identity
on drums when I was in my twenties.
I think that was a large part of why I originally got hired in Nine Inch
Nails, because it was very definitely a perfect fit for Trent’s
music and also the kind of approach that he has to a live setting. I think
that’s why we ended up working together as long as we did. I fully
intend on spending much more time on piano and guitar. I’d like
to also play drums with someone that no one expects me to play drums with;
you know, fall into a musical situation where it could not be any more
different than my identity or my musical approach with Nine Inch Nails.
That said, do you have ideas for people that you want to work with?
I’m actually talking to a couple of people right now. Those situations
are going to arise next year and one of them I’m really excited
about. The opportunity or just even the idea of being able to play with
this songwriter is incredibly exciting to me. I’m hoping that it
What is some of the mental or physical preparation you go through before
With Nine Inch Nails, it was important that I had my shit together on
many levels. I always made sure that I was going onstage prepared due
to the violent shenanigans that would sometimes occur. I would spend about
fifteen minutes of warming up in terms of just actual playing backstage.
Then maybe just a little bit of trying to focus; not necessarily mediating,
but just trying to feel like I’m getting out on stage and feeling
centered. That’s another reason it was such a surprise to me that
I would have any kind of health-related issues, because I train constantly.
I’m always in the gym and I was doing a ton of cardiovascular training
leading up to this tour, just so that I knew that I was prepared for it.
I take my job very seriously...too seriously at times.
I read some things on the Web and I know Trent has already addressed this,
but it was really disturbing to me that people would assume that it was
excessive partying that could lead to Nine Inch Nails canceling shows.
I mean, anyone that knows Trent, especially anybody that’s ever
worked for him, would know that he would not fucking tolerate that for
a second. If anybody, especially at this point, had substance abuse problems
they just wouldn't be there. It’s disrespectful for them to be living
that kind of lifestyle around Trent and he’s not going to deal with
it. Management’s not going to tolerate it. It’s just not going
to be a part of it.
I didn’t read them myself because I was pretty busy at the time
trying to find out what was wrong with me – but I did hear that
there were a lot of things that were said on the Web. And there were many
completely erroneous reports in various music magazines online and otherwise
that were saying that I had a congenital defect. I even heard from a friend
of mine who’s in Velvet Revolver who called me and said, “Dude,
I heard you had a stroke on stage. I read it online today.” That
compounded with the comments about excessive partying – Jerome’s
evidently got a substance problem that he needs to address – or
whatever, in terms of drugs or alcohol, it’s just not true. It was
frustrating for all of us at that point because the band had just gotten
back from Japan and Australia and we were sounding so good and everything
was firing on all cylinders and then that happened and it totally undermined
the momentum that we had gotten going at that point. But when that happens,
you just have to step back, reevaluate and deal with it and be tough.
What was the transition like for you coming from Columbus, Ohio, to
L.A.? What made you make that move?
I’d gotten to the end of my rope with the band I was in, Howlin’
Maggie. I really enjoyed the time I was in that band, but it had definitely
reached a point where I couldn’t go any further musically, artistically.
There was inner turmoil as well. So I left. At the time I had a very serious
girlfriend that was here in Los Angeles and I made the move, I think it
was in July of ’98. I came out and didn’t have much luck for
a while. I played with a few people and things were going ok, but nothing
that would substantiate me staying here for a long period of time. I think
when I went down to New Orleans to audition for Nine Inch Nails I had
like thirteen dollars left. That said, though, I definitely got lucky.
I got really lucky because I was only completely unemployed for about
six months as a musician before I got hired by Nine Inch Nails.
Were you looking for a band situation or were you just looking for –
I was looking to eat. I mean, I literally could not get hired anywhere.
I turned in a résumé to Guitar Center, the drum department.
This was in ’98, right at Christmas time, because they told me they
needed help. So I turned in my résumé and I called back
and called back, and they didn’t hire me. Then in March, I got the
gig with Nine Inch Nails and I went back to buy some gear with a friend
of mine and the guy in the drum department recognized me and said, “Hang
on a second dude, we’ve got your résumé up on the
wall in the office because we realized you’d gotten the gig with
Nine Inch Nails and we didn’t hire you.”
So then how did you make the transition from playing Howlin’
Maggie’s style of music to going into Nine Inch Nails?
The band that I was in prior to Howlin’ Maggie was a band called
Nevermor. It was actually pretty terrible but we were really good friends.
My cousin was in the band, and it was just kind of an excuse to drink
a lot and basically play ridiculous raves, I think is what they were called
at that point. I had experimented around a lot with electronic drums and
playing a half-acoustic, half-electronic kit. So going into a situation
where I was playing a lot of drum samples and things wasn’t all
that foreign to me, and that kind of helped. In terms of making a transition
musically, I think I just naturally knew what I had to offer as a musician
and I just did what I do. I wasn’t trying to play like the old drummer,
or wasn’t trying to really do anything that was that drastic, either.
I kind of went in with the idea that if they want me for the band then
they’re going to see that and if I’m right for it then I’ll
get it. And lucky for me it worked out that way.
How did you go about taking the drumming that was written for Nine
Inch Nails, which for the most part, is mostly programmed, right?
So how did you take that and turn it into live drums?
Well there are certain characteristic sounds that Trent fabricated in
the studio with Alan Moulder and Flood and other people. Like, there’s
certain snare drum sounds and certain bass drum sounds and certain tom
sounds that you hear and you immediately associate them with “March
Of The Pigs” or any Nine Inch Nails song, because they’re
all so vastly different. When those things are programmed, the first thing
that we noticed is that when Nine Inch Nails goes live, a lot of those
samples still have to be there, just because they are so characteristically
right for those songs. They are also part of the characteristics that
make you immediately know what song it is. So we experimented around and
actually I think Chris Vrenna had experimented around with putting those
sounds out on a live drum kit.
When I joined the band, I also actually mic’d up the acoustic drums,
which they didn’t really do; before they were all triggered. I mic’d
up the acoustic drums and got more of an acoustic, fleshy sound out of
the drums as well. When you do that you can also play more dynamically
because you’re not tethered to the electronics or the sampled drums
all being at the same volume every time that you hit them. It took a while
to work that out in rehearsals for The Fragile tour; I spent a
lot of time with the techs working that out. Robin Finck had spent a lot
of time with his tech as well because there were so many different types
of guitar tones and textures that he wanted to try and recreate as best
he could. We both worked very hard to try and keep it from always being
a scenario of like, “Ok, we’ll just throw that on a sampler
or we’ll put that on backing tape,” or whatever. We played
That was a serious feeling of accomplishment after that tour, feeling
like we had done that record justice because when we first sat down and
listened to it we thought there was no way we were going to be able to
do it live. It’s too dense and there’s too much there. How
are you going to make your guitar sound like that? How am I going to try
and play something that I need three more arms to pull off? I think we
did a really good job with that. On the with_teeth stuff the biggest
challenge was the fact that Dave Grohl is a fantastic drummer and has
a very definite style that’s all his own. I just don’t naturally
play that way…it’s not how I play. So working what he did
on the record and his nuances into my playing was also a challenge –
putting my own stamp on it and making it feel like I own the material.
Were you more concerned with recreating it note-for-note, or like
you said, giving it your own stamp? And how much leeway did Trent give
you on that sort of thing?
Trent’s MO is if you don’t have the right musical sensibilities
and if you’re somebody that he thinks he’s going to constantly
have to watch over to say “No dude, don’t play the snare like
that” or “Don’t play bass like that” or whatever,
then you’re not going to be in the band. He doesn’t want to
always be the guy coming in and saying, “No this isn’t the
way I wrote it,” or “No, that’s not going to work.”
He wants to hire people and have people in the band that he knows that
are going to immediately be able to take what he did, interpret it themselves
and add their own fire and intensity and emotion to it. If you can do
that, then great; if you can’t, then he doesn’t have the time
How much time did you have to prepare between when you were hired
by Nine Inch Nails and when you went into the studio? Because you did
live drums on “We’re In This Together”, right?
I did. That was at a point where I had just gotten hired. The record was
still being worked on, actually, when I got hired.
So you just jumped right into it?
Yeah. The record was almost done. But that song was a serious bone of
contention with everybody because it took so long to finish it and it
took like three weeks to mix it. It was just so dense and there was something
always wrong. Alan and Trent would think, “Ok, we got it nailed,
it sounds great. The mix sounds great.” Then they would go in and
listen to it a few hours or a few days later and it would be, “Wow,
it’s terrible…why is it terrible?” And they couldn’t
figure it out. At the end it proved to be a couple of very simple moves
that had to do with the drums. I was part of that because the drums for
the choruses needed basically to be completely re-cut. So Trent said,
“Do you want to give it a shot?” and I said sure and that
Then how much time did you have in between when you were hired on
and when you guys went out and started touring?
That’s a good question. They set me up with a separate studio that
they rented out for me to be learning the old songs and the new songs
so I would be prepared when the band went into rehearsals. Also at that
point we didn’t know for sure who the guitar player was going to
be so there was a huge audition process that was going on as well. We
didn’t know if Robin was going to come back or not and luckily he
did. That tour would not have been the same without him.
Speaking of band members for Nine Inch Nails, you’ve been in two
different incarnations of the band now. Can you talk about how that might
have changed things in terms of playing for you? I’ve noticed that
Danny and Charlie played a slightly different set of instruments than
Jeordie and Alessandro do. Did that change the dynamic of the band and
how you guys had to work the songs out for the live setting?
I think when we started rehearsing with the new band – and once
again we had a really tough time finding a guitar player – but once
everything was in place, I know I felt this way and I’m pretty sure
Trent felt this way, it would have been a mistake to try and make this
band try to emulate what was going on before. A lot of those musical ideas
and the approach to playing certain songs, like “Hurt”, we
completely reinterpreted for this tour. Certain songs just had to be completely
reworked. Also, they needed to be reworked because they wouldn’t
fit the context of Trent’s new record. Does that answer the question,
or not really? Or was the question more in line with how did the two bands
differ from one another?
Well, did you find yourself having to change anything you did in terms
of your set up or your style of how you were going to play this particular
set of songs because these two new band members were playing different
Ok, gotcha… Yeah, I noticed that I had to play more notes to compensate
for the fact that there was not a Theremin on stage. No, I’m just
kidding. I knew that I really wanted to play much bigger sized drums than
I did on the last tour. I felt it needed it and the new record required
it. So there was definitely a learning curve there trying to get used
to playing drums that were on the average about two to three inches bigger
than the ones I’m used to playing across the board. That definitely
affected the sound of the band and made it, I think, sound a whole lot
more powerful this time around than it did last time. Things just sounded
thicker and more brutal.
Also there’s the fact that Aaron is a completely different type
of guitar player than Robin is. Aaron’s coming from a much more
punk rock aesthetic and it’s much more a kind of searing tone and
attack vibe than Robin. Robin is much more about fluidity and has his
own unique sense of timing and groove. Aaron has a completely different
take on those types of things, just intuitively as a musician. So that
was the major drastic thing. Jeordie and I really didn’t have much
trouble locking in as a rhythm section, which was good. We immediately
kind of just fell into a pretty good routine and pocket with one another.
Let’s talk about your other collaborations and other
projects that you’ve worked on. How did the arhythmiA project that
you did with Keith Hillebrandt come about?
We were down in New Orleans and Keith and I did a remix of the Nine Inch
Nails song called “La Mer”. He and I got to talking and he
had already done, I think, a CD ROM for another company. I’m not
sure what it was but he had noticed through our working together that
I was really into rhythm and polyrhythm in terms of trying to juxtapose
rhythms against one another. He thought it would be interesting to try
and collaborate on something where I’m bringing that to the table
and he’s bringing everything he knows about sound design to the
table. So we got together and started generating ideas rhythmically and
otherwise. It led to something that was even more way out of the box than
we ever thought it would be and we were really proud of it. But it was
pretty intense… you have to have a pretty long attention span to
get your head around some of the stuff that’s on there.
We put it all together and were really proud of it, you know; we thought
it was great and what a huge accomplishment. Then we sent it out to all
these companies and nobody bid. Everyone looked at us like, “What
are you doing? Do you even know what a drumming CD ROM is like? Here’s
what it’s like….” Then they would show us a Mick Fleetwood
CD or Shawn Pelton or any one of these drummers that I do respect, but
it was a completely different vibe. It’s like you could hear them
just hitting a snare drum or a kick drum or something in a room that sounds
like a typical L.A. studio with wood parquet floors and you know…that’s
not what we were going for.
What we were going for was something that was the completely opposite
end of the spectrum of that. We wanted to challenge people. We wanted
to assemble a complete arsenal, assault, of drums that don’t sound
clean, that are manipulated and processed, heavily, through a whole batch
of effects and gear. Also, all of these polyrhythmic ideas are all done
at different tempos in different time signatures so that someone who does
have a keyboard or someone who is a musician, or maybe even not a musician,
can put that thing in and immediately start creating something on their
own through just experimenting. There’s no set way, or there’s
no manual on how to use any of that stuff that we generated. You can just
install it into your computer and go with it.
Finally, someone at Sony called us back like six or eight months after
we began shopping it and was like, “When did you send this to us?
This is great. We really like it.” They even gave us a bit more
money to go back and do more so that we could release two complete volumes
of it. There was enough source material for one and a half, but there
wasn’t enough for two. So we went back into the studio and did some
more source material and went to Keith’s place and processed it
and then ended up releasing it. I think it’s been out at least a
year, two years now.
And it’s been doing well? You’ve gotten a lot good response
Yeah. That as well has opened a lot of doors. I’ve gotten a lot
of response and mail, and Keith has as well, from people that didn’t
know that he could do those types of things or didn’t know that
I could play that way. And it definitely got us out of the box. Also,
it’s a really good feeling of accomplishment when you do something
like that, that you really believe in and everybody’s scratching
their heads at you and looking at you like “No, this is not going
to fly. No one’s going to care about this,” and then a company
like Sony comes in and says, “Ok, we believe in it and we understand
what you were going for.”
Can you talk about some of the other artists you’ve worked with?
I know you worked with Gary Numan. You mentioned the 12 Rounds record
that unfortunately didn’t get released. You did some work on the
Cecil B. Demented soundtrack. And then you’ve done a lot of with
Greg Dulli, right?
The 12 Rounds record actually was a heartbreaker, because that’s
a beautiful record. I always thought to myself if I ever took the nearLY
thing live, there are at least two or three songs on that record that
I would love to play live because Claude wrote some really beautiful songs
on that record. There’s one called “Chicane” that, every
time I hear it, it literally brings me to tears. I think I only played
on one or two songs on that record. Once again I just happened to be in
New Orleans at a time when Trent was overseeing the production on it and
asked me to help out.
The Greg Dulli thing is, he and I are like brothers. We’ve known
each other for a long time; he’s from Cincinnati, Ohio. So anytime
he needs anything he calls me and vice versa. The Gary Numan thing…I
met Gary in London after a Nails show. We went back to the hotel bar and
his guitar player and I were pissing in stalls next to each other in the
restroom and he said, “You know, Gary loves the way you play drums.
But he would never ask you because he’s too shy.” And I said,
“Ask me to do what?” And he said, “Well, he’d
love to have you play on something of his.” I’ve been a Gary
Numan fan since I was, you know, fifteen or something. I’m a huge
fan. So I immediately went back upstairs and into the bar and was like,
“Please, let me play on your record.” It just ended up happening
very quickly. He sent me some mp3 files about two weeks later –
it just so happened that Nine Inch Nails had a break then – and
I took the mp3 files down to a studio in Silverlake. A friend of mine,
Jamie O’Connell, has a studio called Monkey Den. We just went in
and went for it and I think we got two songs done in one day or something
like that. It was cool and I think it turned out great and Gary was really
happy with it as well.
I’m trying to think of anything else. There was a very small amount
of time that I worked with Weezer when we were off the road, when Nine
Inch Nails was taking a break. Those guys are super cool guys. Especially
the bass player, Scott; he's a great guy and I really enjoyed that time.
I worked with Dave Navarro for a little while on a break. He basically
just hired me to do Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien; he was doing a press
and TV jaunt. I really enjoyed working with him as well. He was not at
all what I expected. He was a very down to earth and funny dude. Really
smart and definitely knew what he wanted; a nice guy. I enjoyed working
with him as well.
Who are some of the artists you would like to work with?
Oh well, unfortunately most of them are dead, but there’s a long
list of them. Jeff Buckley, Mark Sandman, Marvin Gaye. I don’t know…
I think there are a few true artists around that are doing great work:
Chris Whitley, Joseph Arthur, Tom Waits, Iron and Wine, Lisa Germano.
Like I said before, I really want to branch out and explore different
sides of myself musically. And I don’t really want to limit myself
right now. There are a few people that I’m talking to that I would
love to work with next year. But once again, anything is possible. I’m
pretty busy right now and I want to stay that way. I love playing drums
and luckily the phone has been ringing and I’m getting the chance
to work with a lot of people that I not only respect musically but I like
them as human beings as well.
Do you ever, or can you, see yourself working as a mentor for an up-and-coming
band? Have you ever done that before, or is that something that you would
want to do?
In terms of getting into production?
Yeah, sort of helping someone along those lines.
I did that with one particular band from my hometown and it kind of backfired,
blew up in my face. But I definitely at some point would like to move
into production in terms of finding somebody that already has a real definite
identity. Maybe they’re not established yet, but they at least know
exactly what they are as a band because I’ve unfortunately worked
with or been around a lot of people that are all struggling, not really
knowing who they are or what they are as a band or as songwriters yet.
But it would be really exciting to me to fall into a situation where I
just get to bestow upon them the knowledge that I’ve gotten from
years of working with different people and helping to streamline and that
sort of thing. That would be really exciting to me. I think that’s
a little ways down the road right now. I’ve still got a lot of work
to do on myself before I get to that point.
Can you talk more about not necessarily the film and TV licensing
but rather creating more music for film and TV – is that something
that you’re looking to do?
Sure. I did a lot of work with a film composer friend of mine, Basil Poledouris.
He would hire me to either play drums or come in and kind of oversee things
in terms of programming or orchestral percussion or what have you. And
being around him, I learned a lot. He’s a really intense character
and incredibly gifted composer. I unfortunately saw the bad side of the
business being around him; I saw what it’s like to become emotionally
attached to something that you’ve written and feel like you’ve
totally hit the ball out of the fucking park and then the producer comes
in and says it’s shit. That’s not something that I ever think
you can ever really get used to…writing music not for yourself,
but for somebody else to the point where even if it’s something
that you feel like you’ve outdone yourself or you really made something
extraordinary, it always could potentially fall on deaf ears.
It seems like a difficult thing to do because you’re coming
at it from an artistic perspective whereas they’re looking at it
more…I mean, it’s business.
Right. I have a friend who’s a film composer; his name is Eric Colvin.
He’s got the best attitude in the world about it. He’s like,
“I’ve got my studio, I’m a businessman, I’m no
longer a musician. I gave up music, writing music, being a musician years
ago.” And this is a guy that really knows what he’s doing.
He’s a great piano player. He’s a great drummer. He’s
really gifted but he got to that point where he just shut it off. He no
longer has an ego about anything. He no longer emotionally connects, or
allows himself to be emotionally attached to anything that he writes.
I don’t know that I could ever shut that off.
I don’t know that you’d want to…would you?
It definitely works for him. He’s a really happy guy. He’s
very successful. And a lot of people hire him because he is so malleable.
It’s what he does and what he does well. Follow your bliss.
So what do you think is next for you? Do you see yourself working
on another personal, cathartic project like nearLY?
Or are you looking to put together a band?
Probably not…I don’t know. If the opportunity presents itself
I would not hesitate to take nearLY out on the road; put the musicians
that I really respect together in a band that could really kick ass and
play it live. But I just don’t see that as being a realistic possibility.
It would take too much tour support. It would be too ambitious of an undertaking.
I will most likely be touring with someone next year and I'm looking forward
to being in a completely different musical situation.
Do you have any other musical ideas that you’re working on right
now in terms of writing your own stuff?
A little bit. Writing songs with people and recording at various studios
in L.A., and also dealing with paperwork for my record.
The business side.
Yeah, all the things that go along with protecting yourself and making
sure that everything is in line on the business side of things. But that
said I’ve got a few things lined up to play drums in the studio
with people right up until the holidays and I've been asked to score strings
for a couple of records. That’s pretty much it.
One last question for you: as a photographer I have been very intrigued
by the nearLY Web site and your own site. They have a very unique and
very beautiful visual component to them.
I noticed that some of the photography on the nearLY Web site is credited
to you. So I was wondering if you could talk about that. For the nearLY
project in particular, how important is the visual side to you and how
involved are you in putting all that together?
Once again, I’m going to walk a fine line here without trying to
sound incredibly pretentious. But I knew the visual side of the record
was going to be key and I didn’t want to hand that over to somebody.
When I’m not playing drums or working on music, most of the time
I’m either reading, painting or taking photographs. All of the photographs
that were generated for the nearLY record were done with Polaroid. I just,
for some reason, got really into that texture for a while and the way
that things translate. So I started messing around with different concepts
that I thought were easily relatable to the record. I always thought that
once the record was released and the artwork was out, people would get
it and they would see how things were related. It would all make sense
why the Web site looks the way it does and why the photographs are the
way they are.
Now, I just think that it’s once again incredibly ambitious of me
to think that, because they’re all very cryptic and kind of disjointed.
I’ve kept that nearLY site up without really updating it for a long
period of time and it has stayed pretty cryptic because I didn’t
want to completely update it or overhaul the site until the record was
ready for release. So I’ve made a conscious effort at making the
JeromeDillon.net site – which started off as basically just a Nine
Inch Nails fan site – more of an official site and working with
the person that runs it, figuring out ways of making it more of an official
site. There are regular updates on it now. I’m also posting photos
that are personal ones taken by photographers or myself or what have you
and making it feel like it’s more of a place where it shows exactly
what’s going on with me musically and otherwise. We’re going
to continue to work on that in the next few months and really get it up
and running. And probably, I would imagine that the nearLY site would
be up and running by the first of the year in terms of a complete overhaul
Are you done with all the artwork for the actual album?
Yeah. The record was pretty much done with the exception of the final
master in November of last year. But we had to revisit some things in
terms of the mastering, just really kind of refining it. Some minor changes
needed to be made and those were all done just a few months ago.
As of press time, TIMBT has learned that nearLY's reminder will
be released online and in independent retail stores nationwide on
December 20 - preorders are available now at Kufala. More information
about Jerome Dillon can be found at his official
web site or at the nearLY