Alternative/Indie Rock band Diablo’s Dust chats with Guitar Justice Magazine about Maya Angelo, Chinese food, and of course: MUSIC.
A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR BAND
We formed Diablo’s Dust in 2007. The band has had many members come and go through the years but the core group is the duo of Sarah Kilts and myself, Thom Kilts. We met in college and got married after graduation—we have been married ever since.
YOUR INSTRUMENTS ARE…
I (Thom) am a multi-instrumentalist and play guitar, banjo, drums, bass, ukulele, piano, synths, and do the lead vocals. Sarah plays the bass and sings both backup and some lead.
When we play out I play a foot percussion setup that includes a Bass Drum on my right foot and a pedal connected to a percussion block on my left foot. I have played drums my whole life. This helps because in live shows I play a pretty complicated foot percussion pattern on each song while playing guitar and singing. The idea wasn’t really to try and do something impossible, or circus like…it came out of frustration with drummers.
As a lifelong drummer, I have always played it as a musical instrument, and find many drummers only focused on technique and banging away. There is a huge musical quality to drumming but many don’t see that and it gets frustrating sometimes. I basically started learning the guitar so I could play these things I was hearing in my head.
BREAKING OUT OF THE “DRUMMER” BRUSH-OFF
As a drummer for many bands I would want to contribute to the music, especially when we started writing original material, but I was usually dismissed as just a drummer – but I had these interesting musical ideas. So I sold some percussion stuff, got a guitar and taught myself to play until my fingers bled and I wore down the frets.
I continue to try and expand my music by learning new instruments; usually after gaining some ability on a new instrument I can find some songs in there. If I am not finding a new song on the guitar I will then go to the banjo, uke, piano or something and find something new there. However, I do tend to come back to the guitar the most—both nylon string acoustic and my electrics—I play a Fender Mustang and Jaguar—both are shorter necks which make it so I can play more technical stuff with my stubby fingers!
WHERE HAVE YOU PERFORMED?
We have played all over—but primarily in the San Francisco Bay Area and now in the Toronto area. We have been trying out this house party concept—where we setup shows at different fans’ homes. The idea is not necessarily new but comes from the David Byrne book How Music Works.
When you play all originals and have a unique sound it is actually hard to find venues to play at. We have a few consistent places in Toronto we play but again gigs can be hard to come by. These house parties are great in that people come to listen to music which is refreshing when you have been playing some clubs where it becomes clear that you are supposed to be background music! Creating a scene is important and now we have some bands who play with us at these house parties, so we have shows with multiple acts now.
BALANCING FAMILY, MUSIC, AND $$$
We have day jobs and family (and) we usually break even on albums, so any extra money goes back into instruments and funding the next album. I have to say that there are many times it is frustrating because I want to take it to the next level, and it is a good thing I like my day job!
I worry about the “entertainment business” and find that I play music like a painter or other type of artist – I need to create like an itch that needs to be scratched. There still is however a need to share this art with others that I have. Believe me, sometimes it would feel so much easier to just do it as a casual hobby, but I find that I have things I want to say, express etc., and I want to share that with others.
There is no financial equivalent to seeing another person respond to your art in a positive way. Sometimes hipster crowds bug me because there can be this sense that “Hey I paid you now entertain me,” and forget that the whole energy and vibe of the thing is relational.
ALL ABOUT YOUR SONGS
I write all the music and the songs are usually based around themes of ego death, going beyond the self, relationships of all sort, and the tension between naturalism and superficiality–especially in our modern world filled with technology. I try to express this on our more recent albums by exploring the dynamics of electronic instruments with acoustic instruments.
SHOULD MUSICIANS WRITE THEIR OWN SONGS?
I think there is a place for everyone—as our old Vermont grandpa used to say: “You gotta have some of those too!” I think there should be cover bands, tribute bands, original bands, mixes and on and on.
DO BANDS HAVE TO GET ALONG TO MAKE THEIR MUSIC SUCCESSFUL?
I think bands are essentially polygamous relationships. So, we are a tough duo to integrate with as we are married already. What happens is that when you try to bring in a new player it is like dating; they don’t want to commit, or some other drama.
Sarah and I are married and in a successful marriage, we already know how to fight, and with this comes knowing the value of fighting it out sometimes.
We are talking about art here, so people trying to express something personal, and for some it is really, really personal, and for others not as much – So right there you have conflict. That dynamic in relationships (only) works when those tensions serve the art.
ARE YOU GUYS PLAYING THE FAME GAME?
My ambitions are really low in terms of fame—I have always wanted to be the musician’s musician. Not much money in that but the approval and love from others who make and/or seriously listen to music is too hard to quantify. For instance, when our albums’ visual artist heard our new album “The Other Side,” he was genuinely blown away. He had been listening to our music since the beginning and he was like, “this album is like no other, I struggled to believe it was you!” That comment made my day, week, month and even year.
To make something and have other people hear it the way you intended feels like a massive accomplishment—-and it means so much more than fame. Still, I somehow need others to hear this music–and would I balk at some more listening ears? Never!!!
Your all-time favorite food: Thom says “Chinese food”; Sarah says “Chocolate!”
If you could live anywhere in the world it would be: Thom says “Ireland or Hawaii”
Bands in the lime-light: Who’s doing it right and who’s doing it all wrong? Thom says “I really like Josh Homme—all those projects–I don’t like them all but really are inspired by the creativity. This is true as well for Thom Yorke and other members of Radiohead. I am really interested in musicians who are trying to always expand their range and music styles.”
If you could meet any artist, living or dead, who would it be? Thom says “John Coltrane. I am really interested in the integration of music and spirituality. It is sacred and I feel should be moving us beyond the self and onto a higher realm—George Harrison would be really cool to meet too because of the same principal.” Sarah says “Maya Angelo. Because she is interesting, unique and one of a kind.”