Mike Dillon has spent the last 3 decades playing well over 200 shows a year with both his own band, as well as a vibraphonist/percussionist with artists including Rickie Lee Jones, Les Claypool & Ani DiFranco. So when the pandemic hit in early 2020 forcing him off the road, he instinctively directed his perpetually restless creative energy to writing & recording. Recently relocating to Kansas City after spending 15 years in New Orleans, he and producer Chad Meise would track a trilogy of albums. In collaboration with his longtime record label Royal Potato Family, they would offer the records exclusively via Bandcamp just days after they were mixed and mastered. On March 12, 2021, those albums now receive the full vinyl treatment, as well as complete digital release across all streaming outlets.
The first of the 3 records, ‘Shoot The Moon,’ is a 10 track collection, which Mike describes as “Punkadelic-Funk-Psych,” focused heavily on the current political climate in the United States. Assembling an assortment of stylistically uncompromising musicians to contribute, its line-up features Matt Chamberlain, Steven Bernstein, Nicholas Payton, Robbie Seahag Mangano, Jean-Paul Gaster & Nick Bockrath among others. Highlights include the apocalyptic road warrior anthem “Drivin’ Down The Road,” a swirling New Orleans jazz-raga “Further Adventures in Misadventures” and the snarling punk rock diatribe “Quool Aid Man” with its indictment of the American right: “old men and their guns.”
The 2nd recording in the series, ‘Suitcase Man’ is a 9-song cycle through which Mike examine his life & choices made over the past 55 years. It’s a distinct entry in his extensive discography, notable for its strikingly honest lyricism & minimalist arrangements that incorporate sparse vibraphone & percussion with a handful of background vocals by Tiff Lamson of Givers and frequent collaborator JJ Jungle. Songs like “Empty Bones,” “Turkish Rose” & “Matthew” represent him at his most creatively daring, while confirming his ascent into the upper echelon of cult music outsiders in the lineage of artists like Tom Waits, Harry Partch & Captain Beefheart.
Mike completes the trilogy with ‘1918.’ The focal point here are his instrumentals: the dank and dark Moog/tabla/vibraphone psych vibe of “Pinocchio,” the electro analog trance of “Pelagic” and the jungle groove, space rock of the title track. Mike once again calls on friends like drummer Earl Harvin and guitarist Shane Theriot to assist. Thematically speaking, the material addresses the Covid-19 pandemic and recent social unrest.
I had the pleasure of catching up with friend of the proGram, Mike Dillon to discuss the creation and construction of these three different feelings and flavors of sound. We touch on the who and what, the how and the why and how a pirates’ voice for he comes into play.