Noah Dillon | Road Rage
Noah Dillon and I sit side by side on a satin hot pink bed, watched over by paintings of Elvis Presley and Jesus Christ that hang above our heads.
It’s 3 p.m. on a Thursday and he’s already spent his day at a shoot prior to this one, with plans to continue shooting his own music video after. You may know Dillon in relation to Hot Mess, him being one-half of the creative force, the other being Luka Sabbat. But that’s not what we're here to talk about today. Because frankly, there is much more to Dillon’s life than that.
The story of how a 24-year-old from the middle of nowhere has already done a shoot for Maison Margiela, currently collaborating with Vivienne Westwood, and generating his own sound as the frontman of his band The Hellp isn't entirely untroubled.
To understand how Noah Dillon got to where he is today, I find it best to start from the beginning.
He comes from a small town in southwest Colorado. A town that left him unfulfilled, the reason for his determination to create. It started after he got kicked out of his house following his senior year of high school, due to what he refers to as, “being an idiot.”
“I was sneaking out finally, because I was super unpopular, then I became really popular the last year of high school. That was everything to me. I didn't care about college. I was living totally in the moment. Then all my friends went off to college, I got kicked out of my house, and I was just living out of my car for months. I didn't have anything to do,” he says.
In Dillon’s case, having nothing to do but run around town led to a depression he knew he needed to pull himself out of. He enrolled into a local college and lived in the dorms, which actually furthered his depression, placing him a purgatory of seclusion of sorts. “I wouldn't talk to anyone for months. I didn't hear my voice for a month, I swear,” he tells me, eyes wide as if for a moment he couldn’t believe that time in his life. “I didn't talk for a month because I was so depressed. Then one day I saw online some article that was like, “the top young creatives doing blah blah blah,” and I was like what? Nobody ever told me that was a thing. All I heard was the most successful thing was a doctor, lawyer, or whatever. So I thought, I can actually do this.”
He started by taking photos, making his own lookbooks, and delving into one of the many various mediums that interest him. However it was his documentary on native reservations, Chemical Sunday, that people took notice of. Fast forward a bit, he’s working with Sabbat on Hot Mess and at the same time going back to Colorado to finish college and work various jobs, one being a substitute teacher at his local high school. (For those interested, he did graduate, with a major in physiology and minor in education).
“I’d be in these crazy situations, and I’d be the most broke guy in the most expensive situations. Things that people dream of being in, and I’d have no money or anything and I’d go back home. I was in these paparazzi photos with the Kardashians and kids I’d be subbing for were like ‘You know the Kardashians! Why are you teaching?’ And I was like, ‘I don't know either.’”
With the extreme highs of that scene came equivalent lows, leaving Dillon to question what was next. “One day I was like, What would I most regret? If I’m on my deathbed, what would I look back on and be like, I can't believe I didn't do that. And the first thing was that I wasn't in a cool band,” he laughs. “So I made a band with a couple of my friends in town and we made a song that night and it was pretty good. Then you're hooked. As soon as you make something cool you didn't know you could do, its over at that point.”
As we speak, he is constantly moving, burying his face in his hands as if to get a hold of his thoughts, intent on being understood. He explains how he got to where he is now in a hushed, calm voice — one that you wouldn't recognize as frontman of The Hellp.
He describes his band’s recent sound as “Bruce Springsteen and Crystal Castles sort of together.” Dillon draws on mid-2000’s electronic music and country and folk style vocals from his upbringing. “I grew up in the mountains, in the countryside — horses, small town isolation, all those sorts of things that are now coming out, the things that impacted me most. I’d listen to all this electronica music in early high school so I'm just merging those two things in a new way. I just kind of sing into the mic and it ends up becoming that.”
The Hellp is currently collaborating on a party with grande dame of punk, Vivienne Westwood. Dillon reveals his biggest fear when it comes to live shows is not being taken seriously. “We just want to innovate and take it to the next level to try to make as entertaining as possible. There’s no reason not to.”
He shifts between self doubt — “Lou Reed existed. What business do I have making music?” — to the realization that his desire to do something different isn’t going away anytime soon. “Maybe I can't be as good as those people, but there has to be some sort of beacon of hope, I mean I’m not some sort of savior, but I just feel like there's room for innovation and I want to infiltrate that space and make cool shit that I feel good about at the end of the day so I can go to bed and not feel like a total loser that I know I am.”
He’s working on a few short films, a solo photography exhibition with Milk Studios towards the end of the year, and more music with The Hellp. His goals for this year are laid out with raw honesty — “I just want to get what I deserve. Whatever that means. Hopefully that means I get a lot of opportunities, play shows, make actual music. I haven't made actual music yet. We put sounds into a format and play it and it can be catchy but it’s not actual music.” His list continues with sarcasm and a smile — “I’m trying to lose five pounds, buy way more Rick Owens that I need, and to go to Erewhon even more than I do now and eat even less of the salad bar than I do now.”
On a sincere note, he concludes his plans for this year with, “trying to make a little bit more money so I’m not so stressed out, and I'm trying to help the people around me that are close that are also struggling. But whatever, I chose this life. I could have been a physiologist or something.”