Zachary Jones

Interview: Full Of Hell – Dylan Walker “We don’t need anybody anymore. You don’t really need the record label or anything. You have the tools to do it yourself. And I think in every medium of art that has been very enriching.”

Full of Hell has been a prolific band for fifteen years, with five full-lengths, five collaborative full-lengths, many splits, EB, singles, and Noise compilations. Vocalist Dylan Walker is here to chat. 

Dylan, thank you for joining us.

“My pleasure, man. Thank you for having me!”

Now, you’re an extraordinary band from a remarkable scene, and you always seem to be evolving and soaking up in the sometimes collaborative nature of your output. Does this evolution represent a conscious effort to keep people guessing, or is it just you experiment and see where it takes you?

“It doesn’t really have a lot to do with anybody outside of the band, to be honest. It’s just what the boys are into at that point in their lives. Like when I look back at the different eras of the band now, I definitely see that it’s always kind of been pretty genuine and there’s a vague road map there but we kind of just go beat to beat and just feel it out and do what feels honest, you know? Like that’s pretty much all there is to it.”

There’s an old phrase in fashion: it costs a lot of money to look this shabby. Now, it made us think of the grindcore and power violence scenes a little, not regarding clothing, but it takes a lot of skill and technicality to sound that chaotic. Do you think it’s overlooked how technical the music is and how much skill goes into it?

“No, I don’t think it’s overlooked or underrated or overrated. It’s all pretty subjective. I think there’s a lot of intention sometimes that goes into that stuff, but there are tons of examples of actual psychos playing the music that don’t have intention and that’s kind of also what makes it brilliant, you know? There’s not really a concrete roadmap to it. It really depends on a case-by-case basis. With Full of Hell, it has gotten more technical over the years and I do think that shines through in the music. I think there’s a lot more noodling with different time signatures and stuff that I don’t think those boys would have been messing with about 10 years ago. But yeah, I don’t really have much of an opinion on whether it’s overrated or not, because I just think there’s just so much stuff going on that you can find examples of stuff that’s kind of stupid or stuff that’s very intentional and genius. I mean, most of our favorite bands, there seems to be intention there, but the guys are so out of their minds that, like, it’s debatable and that’s what makes it brilliant. The Body is a great example to me of a band that there is intention there, I suppose, but the intention is like letting the songs find themselves when they’re writing. So the intention is to not touch the wings of the moth or whatever. So yeah, it just depends on a case by case basis.”

When listening to ‘Coagulated Bliss’ there are parts in it that sound easily as technical as anything I have heard a djent band do or like Tesseract or someone like that. That’s really clever.

“It’s cool hearing them move into stuff like that you know most of the bands I’ve been in since I was a kid were kind of trying to do stuff like that was a bit mathier so it’s cool to hear it with Full Of Hell. I just have moments now when I try to look at things like through an objective lens, Full of Hell just feels kind of honest to us because seriously I think if I would have heard it as a kid I would have been like this is fucking insane I love this. So that’s kind of just always the hope and the goal is that it’s good to us or whatever.”

What we can also hear in this album is how hooky it is compared to your former releases. That’s not to say it’s not incredibly upfront and brutal, which it is; you’d be surprised if it wasn’t. But you’ve been quoted as saying that your work with The Body, which you just mentioned, has helped you recognize that there was value in pop music. Amazingly, one of the most subversive things you can do in an already subversive genre is put a major chord riff in there. How do you feel about that? 

“Well side note, agreed! Some of my favorite black metal in America uses major key stuff and it’s just so off and you know those Body collabs we did those a long time ago at this point I mean it’s going on like eight nine ten years and I do remember them kind of cracking open my mind and being like, oh man, there really is like a lot of inherent value and like just about there’s something to find under every rock that’s absolutely genius. There’s something really admirable about a person, to me at least in my experience, that you know, plays maybe a non-conventional genre or something that’s very confrontational and maybe not so accessible, but they kind of filter it with an intelligent pop lens almost. And Machines with Magnets is a recording studio that we used to go to a lot, still from time to time, where I feel like that engineer, Seth Manchester, is just so good at that in particular. Making noise records even more dynamic and listenable, just from his approach to it. There’s a lot of different approaches. But with the Full of Hell record, this was kind of a long time coming. I think we meant to write this record, and we’ve been working towards it for years, but it’s always genuine so we just weren’t quite in the headspace. Those guys have been like enormous post-rock fans their entire or not post-rock, noise rock fans, their entire lives so I think it’s just come to a point where they had the tool set needed to kind of try and filter grindcore through like a Melvins/Sonic Youth kind of format. Just something they’ve always wanted to do, and for me it’s really exciting to write about. So I’m pretty stoked about it.”

There is a point in your record where there is quite a happy-sounding riff, but it’s in a majorly fuzzed-out way. Is the best way to jar the listener who’s used to noisy stuff is to put something actually happy in there? It’s a perfect tool. 

“Those kinds of tones. I think they’re like you can interpret them in different ways. There’s this band, one of our favorite bands of all time is this band, Harvey Milk and it is like just the most devastatingly sad, heavy, unique sounding bands of all time. That song I think that you’re referring to is the really Harvey Milk influenced song. And I just, it strikes me very deeply when a song sounds like that, you know, if you want to say major key or whatever, and it’s just still spiritually devastating. Like it’s so fucking sad and yeah, I don’t know, it would be boring to stick to the same vibe all the time.”

Absolutely, especially with bands like Liturgy, where there’s a real sort of tragic beauty to it because it’s trying to stay happy, but it can’t. 

“Yeah, it’s a different approach, I mean it just can’t all be the same all the time and I really like the contrast and I like peaks and valleys so I think you know having riffs like that and approaching stuff when you go nasty it’s like 10 times better. Oh yeah. The contrast is good. Nothing better!”

This has come up in many recent interviews where we’ve talked about contrast. Sleepmakeswaves said recently they worked with a producer; he said if everything’s heavy, nothing is heavy. 

“It blows out your palate. Yeah, it’s important.”

So lyrically, it’s a lot more direct on this record, and it almost seems like a misanthropic love letter to a small-town America that you love but also despair of. Is that an accurate description of where you wanted to go lyrically with this record? 

“Yeah I actually like that summation that’s really nice of you to say. Yeah so the guy that painted all of the art for this record is an old friend of ours he’s like I guess to me kind of like a big brother type of guy you know and at different points in my life especially with Full of Hell he’s just been there to inspire me to, I don’t know, like quit my job and pursue art full time, for example. So there’s a connection there that’s really important. Like he knows who we are and he knows where we’ve been and he’s been watching us for years. So we finally came around to doing this project together. And there was a moment where we were speaking on the phone before he started making the art and largely before I started writing any of the lyrics even. And he told me something that stuck with me. He said that it was time at my age and with my family situation going on that I should come home and write a record that’s about where I’m from, where we’re from. I don’t know why that didn’t really click for me before, because it just was so obvious when he said it, that I was like, why would I not write about something that I fully know from head to toe, what the experience is.

There’s a lot to draw on in a mundane, rural atmosphere. It has its own struggles. It’s something that everybody in the band experienced. I live in a different town than the other guys, but it’s the same story. What I liked about the idea of focusing on that as well was that I think that story is applicable all over the western world especially, like any small town. A lot of these experiences are universal and they’re benign and they’re every day, they’re in people’s faces all the time and I don’t think that diminishes how awful it can be. I think that’s like in a way looking at it like it being so normalised. A lot of those things we’re writing about I think are pretty horrifying in their own right and very sad.”

It’s one of those things where you’ve got the perfect mirror going on with the music and lyrics. You’ve created a proper piece of art here. You’ve worked with Health on the Full of Health track. You’ve also worked with prominent sonic manipulation artists like Merzbow, Primitive Man, and The Body and NOTHING on that beautifully contrasting, well, we’re talking about contrast, the ‘Where No Birds Sang’ album. With all these artists, are there any tracks that stand out and that you’re particularly proud of or moved by?

“There are a few tracks on, The Body, collabs where I was just really tickled to be able to tell one of my favorite bands, like well not tell, but to try and get them to do things that I wanted to see them do as a fan and also be involved, like making them cover Leonard Cohen was a really cool moment for me. Because I think it’s really important to listen to people that aren’t in your band. That know you and care about what you’re doing and just gain some kind of perspective because I mean it’s truly next to impossible and it just gets harder as we get older to have any real perspective on anything really. I mean, beyond that it feels good to play. So the collabs all have their moments where I’m just gaining a lot from it. The Nothing collab in particular was pretty out there. It made sense for us in the group. It wasn’t weird to us at all, because Post-Rock fills my head, like almost all of them, like Godspeed, You Black Emperor, Silver Mountain Zion, Montreal, are among my favorite bands of all time.

The guys love Shoegaze. And there’s even a similar approach to the Wall of Sound idea with Nothing and Full of Hell. So, it wasn’t even alien to make the record together, but hearing my band do something that was pretty quiet was really special for me. And singing on a record in a context that felt kind of natural, not forced, it was a good challenge. I think we gained a lot from the Nothing one in particular. And honestly, not to keep rambling about it, but the Primitive Man collab, like head to toe, was just like an exercise in like, I know these guys, I love these guys, and we’re on the same page completely. Because me and the singer Ethan wrote the lyrics for the whole record in an hour. And they’re not weird lyrics, I’m really proud of them and we just write about the same stuff. We feel the same things like on a deeper level and I think that’s like those are the moments that you’re really proud of when there’s like super crazy synergy, you know.”

So, you’ve got a new guitarist, Gabe Solomon. He’s been a fill-in guy with you for a while, right? And now he’s joined the band as a full-time member?

“Yeah, post-COVID. He’s a local guy. I’ve known him since he was an actual little child. When I met him, he was a very, very small boy. But yeah, he’s super crazy talented with a great musical palette, and we needed an international touring guitar player because our guitar player, Spencer, just is not in a mind where he can really be traveling internationally, at least at the moment. So this kind of alleviated those troubles, and it was so fun playing with him. And it’s been something we’ve dabbled with over the years anyway, like discussing offhand, just to make the experience, you know, maybe a bit fuller and wilder live. And it’s been really great. He didn’t help write this record. He joined when the record was already finished officially, but he’s definitely gonna contribute to writing it live, it’s like, it juices me up because he flips out the whole time and he really has a good sense of musicality. I think he compliments the guitar riffs really well. He just adds a nice layer to it. It’s tasteful and I don’t know, it’s been really positive. He’s a fucking weirdo. It’s a good thing!”

It’s great to be an extreme music fan this year. In the UK, we started the year seeing Wormrot on the same bill as Primitive Man, and Wormrot, their ‘Hiss’ album, just changed how we think about that sort of music. And then we saw Knoll on our shores supporting Bell Witch, and that’s also a band like yourselves who are just pushing the envelope, full-on pushing the envelope. Grindcore or Power Violence, that scene has got so much energy. It’s making other genres look lazy because you’re pushing yourself so much. How does it feel to be a fan of the music as well? It seems like we’re hitting a renaissance now, aren’t we?

“Yeah I mean we all kind of hoped that post-covid would be like a general sort of renaissance for live music and art in general. I think as far as my personal experience which is pretty narrow I don’t think it’s universal by any means but as far as I’m concerned my music, I’ve seen, is a slow  enrichment of all genres, all styles. I think no matter what you’re into there’s something going on. Like if you’re into Dungeon Synth, there’s entire labels and scenes that only focus on like RPG influenced Dungeon Synth. Grindcore is a pretty interesting thing because there’s a really rich and brutal scene of like real grind bands that don’t play with Full of Hell. Like we’re different ecosystems you know and it’s really focused like mince grind and stuff. The UK especially England, has a really good grindcore scene. And I don’t know anyone that Knoll is doing like, they’re really young. I met those, I met the singer that he was like before he started, Nolan was just kind of trying to get his band going, super talented. It’s almost like a Portal type, like a swirling kind of grindcore thing. It’s cool. It reminds me of a lot of stuff I liked when I was younger too.

Mainly though I think you’re right. I think any corner of creative music or art that you could possibly look in I think if you think there’s nothing going on it’s like a really hilariously ignorant thing to say. Because I mean there’s a lot of shitty stuff, there’s always gonna be but there’s like tons of incredible stuff happening, not just like bands that actually have attention and tour like ours, like just all kinds of bands. I think a lot of that is just due to accessibility, you know, for all of the ills, the internet has warped and melted our parents’ brains, but its given accessibility to artists. We don’t need anybody anymore. You don’t really need the record label or anything. You have the tools to do it yourself. And I think in every medium of art that has been very enriching, like video games included, you know, film and everything. Little in-depth stuff is important, and I think taking the power away from the resources, the utilities, is like step one. So that’s what we’re living through. Everybody’s able to make stuff.”

Yeah, it’s funny, actually. We saw an online debate last night about this thing called UDIO that came out, AI technology that can write music. And they’re saying, oh, it’s funny now, but look what happened to the artists, where the people are using AI in album covers. Now, is it going to get to a point where AI makes music? Is that going to push humans to make better music? Because we can’t see musicians rolling over and just letting it happen.

“I think about AI a lot. Honestly, it’s really interesting. I was playing with it the other night, actually. Not the music one, but just like the general, one of the older free AI models. But actually, I would say that I think AI could make indiscernible music, that there will come a point where it will be making music that people couldn’t, the average person would not be able to tell the difference. I don’t know about guitar music necessarily, but especially electronic music.”

Oh, electronic music, absolutely.

“We’re sampling a lot. But I think that’s going to be irrelevant. I think intention is going to be way more important. I think that I mean, it might shift the economy of the music. It probably already is, but I don’t think it’s going to act like human beings from it. I think people still want to see humans making music. Absolutely. So, I mean, I guess I’m agreeing with you and disagreeing. Like, I think it will fuck things up, but I don’t think it’s…I just don’t think people are… Like you said, there’s no way people aren’t gonna wanna have art made by human beings. I can tell the record covers that are made by AI.”

Yes, kids are still going to want to mosh and watch a band plug guitars in and fucking let rip, you know?

“Yeah, man. It is what it is. We can’t stop the steel boots of progress.”

Absolutely not. Talking of the steel boots of progress, obviously, you’re hitting the road with Dying Fetus soon, and in the States, are there any plans to hit our shores over here in the UK at all?

“I mean the UK is like top three favourite places for us to tour like ever since we started the band because we’ve always had such a I don’t know what it is, I think we just like came around at a perfect time culturally, I think the UK just is really into extreme music like it just felt so sick from the first, 2011 when we played in London, it was just like, oh my God, there’s people here that like us. At that point, one seven inch. So, it’s super important to us, so I can say it’s pretty mandatory that if we go over to that side of the ocean, we’re gonna play the UK, even if we like, banned ourselves from ever playing in Europe again, we will go to England and Scotland and Ireland, both sides, for the rest of our lives if possible. So, there are no actual plans right now, but we’re definitely coming next year. I mean, it’s mandatory. It’s just so important to us and the shows are so good that we don’t wanna go too often. It’s like a paradox a little bit, I guess. But I want it to stay really special and good because it’s so fucking sick. I love going to England so much.”

That’s so cool to hear.

“Like it’s so fucking sick. I love it, like there’s so many spots and friends and everything. I’m really into it. We all love it!”

Just looking at the schedule for the rest of summer, some amazing festivals are coming up. We’ve got ArcTanGent and things like that, right. Who would have thought this sort of music, as subversive and as extreme as it can be in all its myriad forms, would fill an entire festival?

“It’s good times man! I don’t know what it was like, you know, 20 years ago on that level at all., I’ve watched like Hellfest DVDs, the American Hellfest and all that stuff obviously grew up with it, but it’s hard to have a perspective because the bands that you thought were massive when you were a kid, maybe weren’t. A lot of the shit that I like was pretty fucking small actually and it really makes the world feel small. But I do think we’re witnessing a very strange era and aggressive music in general. And like that has to do with, you know, all across hardcore and metal, like seeing a band like even Turnstile doing the shit that they’re doing. Those dudes are amazing. Or even a metalcore band, like Knocked Loose. Those dudes are really fucking nice, humble, hardworking people that clearly seem to really care about what they’re doing and they’re just playing venues that like I just would never have fathomed. Even Dying Fetus, who I’ve been listening to since I was an actual child, I always thought they were successful. They were, they are, but like they’re huge man. Like it’s just a cool time and that music is like dude, kill your mother, and rape your dog. Like that’s not marketable but here we are. It’s a good time!”

That’s it. Extreme conditions demand extreme responses, man.


Interview By George Miller –

Photo Credits: Zachary Jones