Unwritten Law’s Dylan Howard takes a breather to chat with MXDWN…
I’m here with Dylan, the drummer from Unwritten Law.
Dylan, this last album, Swan, was your first album with Unwritten Law, having been with the band for about three years now, correct?
That is our first studio record with the band. We did Live and Lawless about two years ago, obviously a live album, which was my first official release with the band.
You’ve played with Scott (Russo) on his solo stuff, where you wrote and toured with him, correct?
Absolutely. The first time I met Scott, he was doing this punk/reggae duet with his girl at the time, Amy Allan. The band was called Scott and Amy. We did that record. Also, when I first met Scott he had another solo thing called Scott Russo and the Big, Big Bang, which I also helped him out with.
So that’s two records you’ve done just with Scott aside from Unwritten Law stuff. On the album Swan, looking back from actually making the record to listening to the final product, what is your favorite part of the whole thing?
Drum-wise, the part I’m most proud to have contributed to are the songs “Dark Days” and “Nevermind.” The song I’m most proud to have contributed to writing-wise is “Dark Days,” which I wrote the chorus to.
Having written that song, what do you think the appeal is?
I think it harkens back to a vibe that UL has been missing for awhile. it has an up-tempo feel to it and a big chorus with darker lyrics, yet a positive message, which I can always relate to. That is why “Dark Days” is one of the highlights of the album.
One of our favorite songs to see you play live is “Starship” because it has such massive stage presence. Is it also your favorite to play live?
That song is definitely a good one to play live because it has such a good mix of style. You have the U2 “Sunday Bloody Sunday” style with an almost Oasis-type chorus and the bridge is a Muse kind of vibe.
That’s a holy trifecta.
I know, right? I think we found a way to string those together in a clever way to make that song sound as good as we possibly could. And yeah, I love playing it live. As soon as we get to the chorus, I’m just like “This is sexy!”
I know you guys have seen a bit of unrest early on in the tour such as your bus breaking down and turmoil within the band. How has that affected your attitude or motivation on a daily basis?
Here is the thing. Bottom line, I’m always stoked to be wherever I am. This is like a dream come true. This is my first Warped Tour with the band and it’s been so awesome to be a part of this band. Warped started out with all of these punk rock bands back in the day which I fucking love! And I saw Unwritten Law play on Warped Tour ten years ago!
That is a mind fuck.
Yeah it is! So, to have it come full circle and be a part of it, to be playing most of the same songs, it’s a trip. We’ve had terrible luck with our buses and everything. We had to sleep in the airport one day. We barely made it to the Vegas show yesterday. The bottom line is that if we hit that stage, that is the only thing that matters to me. If I would have missed Vegas because our bus broke down I would have been bummed, but we are not going to miss a show no matter what. When our bus broke down, Green Jelly was cool enough to let us stow away on their bus. And what happens? We get on their bus and their bus breaks down! So what do we do? We get in a cab and take a $150 cab ride to El Paso Texas, got on a flight at 7am and made it to Vegas at 10am before ¾ of the rest of the tour even arrived. I couldn’t be happier to be a part of this.
Last night you guys closed the show in Vegas. How was that?
It was our first night closing down the stage because the sun had finally set, so that was fucking nice. The temperature was like 10 degrees cooler which was awesome. On a lot of the other stages, though, the bands finish at like 7:15, 7:30, so they come right over to see us play. It was great closing the night in Las Vegas.
What venue in Las Vegas?
It was a parking lot. I don’t even think it had a name.
And how was that decided that you guys would close out Vegas?
The set times are drawn at random at 9 in the morning; just a couple hours before the first band goes on. Kevin Lyman picks them out, so we have to wake up at 9 o’clock. I talk to my tour manager and ask if I need to be ready to go at 11:30am or 8pm. I think that’s the best way to go because then you get to share the headline slots. We’re all slugging it out here and Warped Tour is hard! The heat and humidity in dirt and asphalt parking lots? And you’ve got to stay hydrated. It’s tough and to have this cycle where the bands get different set time, I think it’s good for morale.
Then everyone gets a chance to headline. That’s great.
I don’t care what time we play. The fact is, we all get to have a part in it, so I’m stoked.
Do you think there is more camaraderie or rivalry between all of the bands on Warped Tour?
Camaraderie, for sure. I honestly don’t believe anyone has any time for any kind of bullshit, as well as all of their energy is spent literally on just making this happen. From us performing on stage, to all of the merch people doing their shit, to the crew setting p the stages… no one has time for bullshit. If we work together, things get done. If not, nothing gets done. I think everyone is on that page. Everyone had been super-fucking-cool.
I think it was two years ago when I went to both the first show of the Warped Tour here in Pomona, then the last Warped Tour show months later in Ventura and the vibe from the musicians was completely different. Everyone was irritable and bitchy and just wanted it to be over with.
[Scott Russo approaches]
Hey Scott. We were just talking about how the tour has been going for you guys so far. Care to add anything?
The tour has been awesome. We made a lot of friends. The shows have been epic, the kids have been epic, everyone has been very kind to us. We did some Australian and European tours years back and we were kicked off for inciting a riot, allegedly, and beating up a stage manager. That was in 2000.
I know the band has been going through some inner turmoil. What can you tell me about the personnel change up in Unwritten Law?
Shit happens and the band will play on.
Fair enough. Can you tell me about Big B?
Yeah, I’m about to go hop on stage with the guy right now. We’ve become really good friends since the tour. You really don’t have a choice but to be good friends with him because if you don’t he will fuck you up. He’s a fucking legend and he’s the real deal, so I am honored to be friends with him.
Before you go, can you tell me about any other collaborations you might be working on right now?
I produce and write for a lot of side projects. This band, Super Groupie in San Diego is my focus outside of Unwritten Law right now. Scott Russo and the Big, Big Bang will have an album out hopefully before the end of this year.
How to you balance time between all of that?
When someone calls me, I’m just like, Uh, okay I’ll do it.
Fantastic. Let’s go see Big B.
Photos by Dave Gatson