American rising rockstars Dirty Honey broke onto the scene in 2017 and quickly cemented their place in rock history with their hard-rocking 2019 single When I’m Gone. This topped the rock charts in a feat never before achieved by an unsigned artist.
Interview: Marc LaBelle, Dirty Honey
Words: Ben Tschetter
Dirty Honey have spent the past six years captivating audiences across their homeland with successful US tour after tour. Each venture seems to be bigger than the last, with the bluesy, riff-heavy band electrifying audiences moments before veteran rockers take the stage, such as Guns N’ Roses, Skillet, Alter Bridge, and The Who.
The rockers even spent the last summer alongside one of their biggest musical influences, The Black Crowes. Now, Dirty Honey is preparing to bring their big classic rock sound to audiences overseas for their first-ever European tour.
From a rainy balcony overlooking New York City, the group’s co-founder and vocalist Marc LaBelle spoke with MetalTalk’s Ben Tschetter about the upcoming trek to bring the band’s music to hungry new fans in the UK and beyond.
The original interview was rescheduled as Dirty Honey were busy, ending up partying with Sammy Hagar. “Man, that was amazing,” Marc LaBelle says. “I always kind of assumed he was going to be sweet, but he was so fucking nice. (He was) so complementary and was actually joking before he went on stage saying, ‘I might need you to come sing for me. I’m an old guy! You young bucks can do all the heavy lifting!’.
“I was like ‘Yeah right.’ Sure enough, he’s like ‘Where the fuck is Marc from Dirty Honey? I want him to sing Rock N’ Roll by Led Zeppelin with us!’ And I was out at the front of the house watching the show, and I didn’t get the memo. That was a missed opportunity for me, but after the show, he was so sweet and so cool, and I’m very much looking forward to bumping into him again. And Michael Anthony, man, that was even cooler.”
Dirty Honey would drink shots with those guys. It sounds like a blast. “Yeah man, fuckin’ totally rock and roll doing shots onstage with Michael Anthony,” Marc says “It was the time of my life.”
Having seen the band in Kansas City, MO, on their recent US tour, it was great to see their growth. “You saw a particularly good show,” Marc says. “I think it was actually a Sunday night, if I’m not mistaken. It was a raucous crowd.”
The first time I caught the band was in 2019, touring with Skillet and Alter Bridge. Dirty Honey certainly blew me away back then, and it’s really cool to see them now playing similar-sized venues, but now as the headliner.
Dirty Honey recently completed the Young Guns co-headling tour with Mammoth WVH. MetalTalk were impressed with both bands when we covered their New Haven gig.
LaBelle talks about one of the “coolest moments of the whole tour” being in North Caroline. “Wolfgang had to cancel a few dates at the end,” Marc says. “We didn’t really know what to expect. We were in Raleigh, North Carolina and we played slightly longer sets to compensate for the people that were there to see Wolfgang. The show went really well, and then we’re five minutes offstage already at the end of the show… and all of a sudden the building starts shaking, and you just hear a roar coming from downstairs.”
It was the audience screaming for an encore. “We were on a pretty strict time constraint with the two bands headlining, but being that they weren’t there that night, the audience really blew us away and y’know, literally wouldn’t let us leave until we played another song. That was a particularly special moment for the band.”
Everyone still came to check Dirty Honey out, and the cancellation of Wolfgang didn’t really throw the tour into a spiral too much.
“Obviously, there were plenty of people who came out for Wolfgang,” Marc says, “but the point of that tour was ‘let’s introduce two different audiences to some new music.’ But for the most part, people still came and enjoyed themselves, and we put on a pretty awesome show, so… if you missed it, you missed it.”
It was a pretty killer show, indeed, and now Dirty Honey are heading over to the UK for their first visit. “That’s always been a dream of mine,” Marc says, “to get to Europe, and especially the UK, which I know has a big rock market. I couldn’t be more proud and excited that we’re finally doing it. It’s gonna be a crazy, crazy summer.”
Marc certainly sounds excited about the European plans and is looking forward to the challenge of establishing the Dirty Honey name overseas, having already done so well in the US.
“I think it’s just everything we’re doing is just amazing,” Marc says. “It’s like our first trip over there is exceeding all my expectations for who we’re going there with, the shows, the festivals… I’m really looking forward to Download Festival, that’s gonna be amazing. I’ve never been there, let alone played there.
“I’m really looking forward to playing in Milan with Guns N’ Roses. I’ve lived in Italy. I love Italy. They’ve already been a region of Europe that’s really taken a huge, strong liking to us. I get sent videos of us on the radio there every day by Italian fans, so that’s gonna be exciting. I’m also looking forward to the GnR show in Warsaw, Poland… just because that part of the world is going through something right now. It’ll be cool to check it out and hopefully provide some relief to those people who are going through something.
“I’ve heard a lot about Poland bringing in Ukraine refugees, and they’re really feeling it, and it would be nice to give them some escapism.
“Honestly, I’m just looking forward to the whole thing, and I’m really gonna take it all in and enjoy it as much as I can, get out and see as much as I can. It’s our maiden voyage to Europe, and it’s gonna be fuckin’ awesome.”
Dirty Honey will be supporting some big names overseas like Guns N’ Roses, KISS, Rival Sons, and bands that have played over Europe countless times. How does he feel about these big upcoming shows playing with all these legends, and who does Dirty Honey plan to win over the new fans while you’re opening for these big artists?
“I don’t think we really do anything different than what we already do,” Marc says. “We have a very strong introduction to the Europeans with these shows and festivals we’re doing. I think the big thing is just look and play great, and obviously, if you’ve got great songs, you’re performing well and trying to feed off their energy, I’d imagine that the European crowds are gonna be pretty energetic and excited to see us for the first time. It’s just up to us to play great and prove to them we’re worthy of their support and attention.”
Marc says there are no pre-show nerves before these big shows. “I kind of have an athletic background,” he says, “so I just like the challenge and hopefully rise to the occasion. Yeah, it’s like playing a big sports game or something. You should be excited. I don’t think anybody’s really nervous. It’s more like adrenaline – you’re psyched to get out there and get it going.”
If you have not experienced that before, I would imagine if you get in front of a stadium full of 50,000 KISS or Guns N’ Roses fans, you would have an excuse to feel the nerves.
“Obviously, I have never experienced that yet, but I’m excited,” Marc says. “I think if you love Guns N’ Roses, you’re gonna love Dirty Honey. So I think there’s sort of a surprise element of ‘Wow, I didn’t think I was going to see this band today’ coming for a lot of those people.”
Dirty Honey have been very busy. What keeps Marc and the other guys busy during your off-time? “I’m actually heading to Pittsburgh soon to go to a hockey game,” Marc says, “and I’m gonna go to Montana after that to see some wildlife, go camping, stuff like that. I’m kind of a nature freak. I like getting out into the wild.
“I go to Europe all the time. I go to Italy to hike and go motorcycle riding… those are all the types of things that keep me busy for now. Obviously, you have to make and write music for a portion. I pretty much could fill up a good month and a half with just that right there. It’s nice to go from the craziness of human nature and human existence at all these shows to complete wilderness – quiet.”
Something which probably helps him appreciate both even more.
“I like having the two extremes,” he says. “You know, I’ll be walking around New York City in an hour just flooded with people and energy, and then 48 hours from now, I’ll be in Montana in the middle of Yellowstone, all alone in Lamar Valley looking at wolves.”
What inspires Dirty Honey to make a great song, and when they have written a song, can they tell if that song is going to be successful or not?
“I think, y’know, I’ve heard Keith Richards say it,” LaBelle says. “All songwriting is, is putting the right words to the right music. There’s definitely a chip on the shoulder of our song When I’m Gone. It’s about my experience living in LA. It’s got a great riff, it’s got great lyrics. I think people really relate to ‘You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone’, and it really speaks to them.
“Whether they’re coming at it from telling a boss to go fuck yourself, to a relationship gone wrong or something… it’s up to you to take what you want from it. But there’s certainly gotta be a great riff in a rock song, lyrics that mean something and speak to someone in a very visceral way, and obviously, great melodies always go a long way.
“But I can’t really put my finger on it. I didn’t know that song was going to be a huge song. I kinda knew Rolling 7’s was going to be because it’s so fun, but I don’t know what it is. It just has to be authentic and feel right, and who knows what kind of life the song will take on? But you’ve gotta start with a great riff. If you don’t start with a great riff, you’re basically just spitting notes.”
Dirty Honey recently released a new combo EP/LP, a package which contains their excellent debut album. “If anything, the album gets better as you listen along,” MetalTalks Sid Kissinger said, “and there is no way you’ll be able to sit still in your seat – it’s infectious.”
“I think we wanted to go to Europe and introduce people to our entire catalogue, rather than slow-roll it out like people tend to do these days,” LaBelle says of the reasons for combining all their existing music into one. “It’s obviously been out in America, and I think we have a lot of European fans already that know about us on the digital platforms, but I don’t expect people to buy two different mediums, so let’s just give people the entire thing rather than separate it – it just seems like the obvious thing to do. And the LP is like an extension of the EP already, so they really go together well. It makes sense.”
The band are also working on ideas for a new album. “There’s a ton of stuff in the works,” Marc says. “We actually got an email today from our producer about some demos we sent him, so it’s coming. I just don’t know when. We are so busy this summer, it’s just almost impossible to get into a studio before Autumn, so we’ll see. But maybe we’ll play something live – we’ll see.”
As for the future, “my ultimate rock n’ roll dream is playing about 30 blocks north of here at Madison Square Garden,” LaBelle says, “and that’s where I hopefully see myself in five years as well. That would be kickass.”
But there are plans for the nearer future. “Hopefully, we’ll get to do Canada,” Marc says. “I’d like to do South America, Australia, New Zealand, Japan this year… I think those are in the works, I hope. Fingers crossed, but there’s nothing definite yet.”
Be sure to catch Dirty Honey all across Europe this summer for a show you don’t want to miss. The band will be hitting new markets, including Sweden, Denmark, the UK, Poland, Germany, France, Ireland, Croatia, Italy, Austria, and more, through June and July!
Visit dirtyhoney.com for a full list of tour dates to see one of modern rock’s most impressive bands on their first journey overseas.