On May 16, 2022, I had the pleasure of interviewing my dear friend Dillon Dix, the frontman of SameStory, who is a local industrial/goth musician. Their music is self described as an industrial/noise/punk project, offering a look of disgust at what is ugly in life.
This interview is taken from New Moon, hosted by Isabella Stevens, on Mondays, 5-7PM.
Isabella Stevens: Dillon, thank you so much for being here with me today!
Dillon Dix: Yeah, I’m happy to be here.
IS: So, the first thing I’d love to know is how you first started making music, and what was your initial sound like? Was it similar or different to what SameStory is today?
DD: SameStory took a long time to develop, because I taught myself how to orchestrate digital instruments in the middle of high school and I thought, for a really long time, that I wanted to be an EDM artist or something of the sort. So, it was really minuscule and stripped back when I first started SameStory. I made a few songs that were on Soundcloud that were essentially just house tracks that I called “industrial.” What I really wanted to make was this, kind of, in-your-face, nosier sound, and that took years to really figure out. So, it’s been a learning curve for the most part.
IS: Yeah, and branching off of that, what do you think has helped you in that process and what have some of your influences been?
DD: Um, a lot of pioneers in the sound have done better versions of everything that I am trying to accomplish. Bands like Throbbing Gristle, Nine Inch Nails, Skinny Puppy, Ministry… they’re all influences on me. What I try to draw from is bands and artists that make albums that stick with me for a really long time, and I try to carry over the influence of it, whether it’s apparent or not. There’s some things that I’ll hear from other artists, and the way that they convey their music is something that I’ll carry with me into making whatever comes next.
IS: That’s great. I’m also wondering, is there a story behind your stage name?
DD: So, in 2015, when I first conceptualized this project, there was like… you know, everyone in high school goes through this phase of, “I’m gonna start a band with my friends, and we’re gonna be the next best thing ever,” but the truth about working with other people artistically is that you butt heads more than you accomplish anything, I think. So, when a couple projects that sprung up didn’t go anywhere and I became an outsider in my friend group, musically, because a lot of them wanted to create the same type of thing, and I didn’t, I kind of took things into my own hands and tried to make a project on my own.
IS: Mhm, makes sense.
DD: The term, “SameStory,” is like, continuing and breaking the cycle at the same time, and the immediate thought is of the snake eating its own tail, right? And my goal is to not continue doing the same things, to do something different than somebody else.
IS: That’s fascinating. Similar to that, what have been some of your biggest motivations in creating music, and what has been your goal for your musical expression?
DD: For expression, the first thing that comes to mind is that SameStory in and of itself is a cathartic experience, for me. It’s a way to come to terms and reckon with experience and trauma, in a lot of ways. So, what drives me is overcoming the past. There’s, whether it be emotional damage or religious trauma or things related to my upbringing, there’s a bit of a man versus nature and a man versus nurture theme, literarily, in what the songs convey, in the end.
IS: Gotcha, that’s really interesting. On another note, what has your experience been specifically in the music scene and how did you get involved there?
DD: I mean, I’ve been around for a bit. I’ve seen a lot of bands come and go. I go to shows a lot, I’m all over the place. I catch shows in every genre around, and I know a lot of people and different projects. My involvement, for the most part, has started in the college house show scene. I went to a lot of those shows for a long time, and the pandemic obviously stopped those from happening. Whether it be a noise show in a dirty basement or something at The Camel, I’ve probably seen your band before. My involvement is just like, I’m around. I’m definitely here in the city.
IS: You mentioned the pandemic, how has that affected your own music and performances?
DD: It definitely put everything to a stop. I mean, it put everyone to a stop. I was just, for the first time, playing bigger shows to actual clubs when the pandemic hit. I think I canceled, maybe, three in 2020 that were planned already, which is not as many as other artists had to, but for someone who is confined to local shows, it was a big deal. I took that time to hone my craft, though, and that’s really what this current iteration of SameStory is definitely a showcase of. There’s a very big difference in my past work from 2018-2019 to what I’m releasing now.
IS: Yeah, totally. What do you think have been some of the advantages and disadvantages of being a Richmond-specific artist?
DD: So, the biggest advantage of making music in Richmond is that this is one of the most diverse scenes, I think, in America. I feel like a lot of scenes, in the past, have been relegated to a certain type of sound in a certain type of place. Richmond has had famous artists to come out of here in all sorts of different directions, whether it be hardcore punk, which is definitely the closest to the biggest thing that Richmond is known for, but there’s so much more under the surface as well.
DD: The advantage is that you have a lot to draw from, you’re not pushed in a corner in Richmond, in any way. The disadvantage is that for some reason, I feel like more often than not, artists will skip over Richmond when they’re playing. We’re a pretty close distance to D.C., and that’s obviously a hot point for selling yourself as an artist. So, more often than not, bigger shows skip over Richmond in the end, and I think it’s a bit of a shame because it’s such a good city to play music in.
IS: Definitely. Speaking of live music, what’s your relationship with that, and what have some of your favorite experiences been?
DD: So, when it comes to live music, I really had a long process of figuring out how to play my songs. With this project, I used to be really scared of seeming “fake” for using backing tracks, but I’ve seen some of the most admirable artists that sell way more records than a lot of people doing shows with backing tracks. From that experience, I learned that it’s all about keeping attention live, and giving someone a memorable experience more than anything. I think we’re past the point where technical ability is the most important thing in watching a band play. I think it’s about resonating with and getting to see the songs that you care about played live, now.
IS: For sure.
DD: So SameStory live, now, is basically just me taking my studio setup and sticking it on a keyboard stand. But, I’ve integrated more elements, after watching certain noise artists play, to my live setup, like vocal effects. It’s grown more professional over time, while still maintaining that ethos of, “I don’t need to play all of those instruments to maintain an audience here.”
IS: Absolutely. In terms of your sound, is there any particular reason why you were drawn to this genre of music?
DD: I think industrial music, right, is like the humanizing of the machine. It’s this idea of taking electronic music and using synthesizers, or electronic instrumentation, and adding that human feeling to it, which is interesting, because I think I make music that is extremely emotional, but synthetic at the same time. So, it’s like a crossroads, the perfect crossroads of electronic and rock music. The middle, I think, is what it encapsulates. More often than not, it’s just a great way to make a project on your own; it’s the best type of genre to be in. I’ve seen a lot of industrial projects that are just one person, and they were all fascinating at the end of the day. I feel at home within it.
IS: Yeah, that’s great. And speaking of creating, what does your creative process look like typically, and how do you go about recording your music?
DD: It could be a lot of things. It could be, I sit down and sometimes, I’ll get a drum line stuck in my head that I want to write, and I’ll put it to paper or I’ll go in the studio and immediately track something. I’ll try to create the best version of what I hear in my head, and then it goes from there. There’s also the possibility that it could start from a certain lyric, it could start from a riff, it could start from a synth line… it could start from anything, really. And then, for building it up, I tend to have a general idea of what, at least, I want about half of the song to sound like before I really sink in and get to it. I mean, my demo drive could be, like, fifty different tidbits of songs. They don’t become fully formed until something, kind of, clicks with them, I guess.
IS: Sure, I totally get that. When you’re creating your music, is there any common theme or message that you hope to convey?
DD: So, currently, I’m attempting to make the ethos of this project transition more from, like, dealing with emotional damage, to reckoning with trauma, as the forefront of the project. A lot of my work these days is using comparisons of religious trauma in my upbringing to talk about ways that abuse affects people. I try to resonate with somebody in that way. So, it can be a lot of different things, at the same time.
IS: Gotcha. Speaking more specifically of your music: you just released a new single, “Thine Hands.” Congratulations!
DD: Thank you.
IS: Could you break that down a little bit for us and explain what it means to you?
DD: Yeah, so, on the subject of religious connotation, there’s the concept of “the hand that feeds,” right? So, that song is about breaking off a toxic person from your life, and kind of discussing and venting about the idea of giving yourself in chunks to people who give nothing back. The idea when I wrote the lyric that “thine hands be the ones that feed me,” is that you can’t trust anybody but yourself, sometimes. Especially when realizing that someone is not the person you think they are.
IS: Wow, that’s really interesting. Branching off of that, could you tell us a bit more about your upcoming EP, Lamentations?
DD: Yeah, so Lamentations, it’s an EP, but it’s my biggest project, as an undertaking, to date. A lot of these songs started back in 2019; some of them, at least two on the EP, were conceptualized back then. So, this began as writing a bit of a demo to have throughout the pandemic as songs that I think are the best SameStory songs I have now. But then, I’ve become involved with two new labels now, with Tiger Squawk, an industrial label from Massachusetts, which is my digital label. They’re wonderful people, they’ve got a great network here, and they’re helping me push this out. But, I also have local label Death Eternal helping me out with my physical copies, and they’re a wonderful project as well of a lot of darker, experimental artists in the city. So, I think I’m in good company through it, thankfully. Lamentations just gets to be a new debut of a different SameStory, now.
IS: Yeah, similarly, how do you think you and your music have progressed over the years?
DD: Like I said towards the beginning, SameStory was almost, like, an EDM project, but I wanted to make a punk sound at the same time. So, the difference is that my first releases were really bad bedroom recordings, and house music. Then, I put out an EP in 2018 called Living to Death, and it’s more or less a darkwave album. It’s definitely very goth and very overt, while being danceable at the same time. These days, my flourishes tend to live in trying to be more noise-oriented and trying to, I guess, get the message out and put it in your face. So, it’s more in the realm of a noise rock band, or a classic industrial artist, like Swans or Big Black.
IS: Gotcha. On another note, what do you think your greatest accomplishment has been so far, as a local artist?
DD: Well, we haven’t even spoken on it yet, but Unity Fest was my biggest accomplishment, so far. I was the co-head organizer of the event, and it was easily the biggest show I’ve ever played and the biggest show I’ve ever booked as well. I know a lot of bands in the scene, and I’ve helped a lot of concerts out before, but it was truly nothing compared to what Unity Fest was. It was an entire behemoth of its own, in the end.
IS: Yeah, it was really amazing. I can say for myself, I’m very grateful for the opportunity.
IS: When people are listening to your music, what do you want the most important takeaway to be for your audiences?
DD: I think someone should be able to listen to it and at least be able to come away and say, “That was different.” I don’t want to create music that feels the same to anybody, ironically. The fact is that I think music should be a confrontational experience as much as a joyful experience, and if something can challenge you to think differently, then I’ve accomplished what I’m trying to do.
IS: I love that. Final question, what direction do you hope to see this project moving in for the future?
DD: There is an album in the works. There are new things coming soon; I’m working on a tour that will hopefully be announced by the end of summer. We’re just seeing where it goes from here. There’s a lot of coming back and falling back, due to the nature of the pandemic. So, SameStory is still going to be here as long as I’m still here, and I’m planning to continue to harness my craft and to make it the best version of a cathartic project for me as I can.
IS: Yeah, that’s so great! Thank you for coming on the show today.
DD: I really appreciate it, thank you so much.