Dustin Bushnell - Vocals/Guitar
Jared Watson - Vocals
Jon Olazabal - Percussion
DJ Rocky Rock - DJ
“We want to be positive and entertain,” says Dirty Heads vocalist Jared Watson. “We just want to make you feel good.”
Those feel-good roots of the Dirty Heads are grounded in the Orange County community of Huntington Beach. Founded nearly a decade ago by Watson and guitarist/vocalist Dustin Bushnell, the Dirty Heads humble beginnings feature too many late night sessions in the garage with nothing but a four-track recorder and an abundance of great ideas.
Watson met Bushnell during their freshman year of high school at a local party. Stumbling upon a quick rap tape that Bushnell had recorded, Watson became inspired enough to invite Bushnell to collaborate with him on ideas. While Bushnell had been playing in a punk band at the time, Watson had never been in a band, never wrote or sang – rather, his interests ran deep in the surf and skating culture. But he was willing to give this a shot.
With a far broader range of ideas, both musically and lyrically, they started writing hip-hop songs with reggae inflections and a punk attitude in Bushnell’s soundproofed garage.
“We’d get our brothers who weren’t even 21 at the time, who had fake IDs, to get us 40s and go get wasted in the garage and write stupid songs,” says Watson. “We never said, ‘Let’s do this certain style of song,’ we just automatically started writing Dirty Heads style songs. And we loved it. It was the music we wanted to hear.”
In due time, Bushnell and Watson began performing locally, latching onto gigs from Bushnell’s older brother’s band, H.B. Surround Sound. The only problem — the pair was still running short on material.
“We practice one song and then play it at shows with my brother’s band. And people really started to like it,” says Bushnell. “They’d say, ‘Play another song!’ And we were like, ‘We don’t have another song!’”
“We didn’t really pick the name – that was our song,” says Watson. “And then everybody was like, ‘When are the dirty heads playing again?’”
As for the origins of the song’s title, chalk it up to the band’s wilder side. “Someone’s older brother called us ‘dirty heads’ one day,” says Watson. “We actually stole a 12-pack of beer and he was pissed, so he was like, ‘Come here you little dirty heads!’”
The duo hooked up with Dirty Heads’ percussionist Jon Olazabal, whom they had appropriated from H.B. Surround Sound. With a set of solid material, the Dirty Heads began taking their craft seriously and began to perform acoustically.
“We’d play a show and we’d sell them out,” says Watson. “We’d play acoustic songs at shows at small venues and the crowd would be so loud that it would be hard for us to play the songs because we couldn’t hear anything! They were singing the words as loud as they can. We definitely needed to get a band that was loud and in your face.”
It was about this same time that the Dirty Heads headed into the studio to up the production ante. “We started putting bigger beats behind our stuff, like bass and samples,” says Watson. “And then we thought ‘how do we portray that at the show?’”
Enlisting H.B. Surround Sound as the Dirty Heads’ backing band, Watson and Bushnell suddenly found their homespun songs buttressed by live percussion, acoustic guitars and a DJ.
The Dirty Heads next connected with producers with Steve Fox and Stan Frazier. Cutting tracks with the production team, the Dirty Heads began showcasing in the Los Angeles scene, chartering party buses so their fans could make the 30-mile trek from Huntington Beach to L.A. and back.
“We went from one bus to two buses to four buses,” says Watson.
After entertaining offers from several major labels, the Heads selected the Warner Bros. deal, with renowned producer Rob Cavallo executive producing the act’s debut, Sails To The Wind.
Under the direction of Cavallo, the band continued to refine its material. “We worked 12 to 14 hours a day for 12 months straight,” says Bushnell. “We got a studio in Newport Beach, which really helped our vibe,” says Watson. “We could take a break and go skate, or surf, or the bar to have a beer. It was ten minutes from our studio.”
Recording with Fox and Frazier opened opportunities for the Dirty Heads to enlist guests on its album, including high-profile drummer Josh Freese (A Perfect Circle, Sting, The Vandals), veteran percussionist Alex Acuna and the late Billy Preston. “That was the cherry on top of everything,” Watson recalls.
With the album tracking sessions wrapped in late 2005, the Dirty Heads recruited mixing engineer Mario Caldato Jr. “We loved the way the Jack Johnson and Beastie Boys albums sounded, and we asked, ‘Who mixed both of these albums?’” says Watson, “and surprisingly, Mario C. had mixed both.”
In the interim, the Dirty Heads re-connected with longtime friend and world-renowned DJ Rocky Rock. A 14-year veteran of the genre, with several years of battle competition experience, Rocky’s credentials include working with Q-Bert, scratching on Black Eyed Peas’ remixes, and winning the 2001 Guitar Center DJ Championship, Linkin Park’s 2002 DJ Championship, 2004 Philippines DMC Championship and the 2006 WMC/DMC DJ Spin-off. Upon learning of his return from the Philippines (where he had been hosting charity events with the Black Eyed Peas), Watson and Bushnell reached out to Rocky to recruit him as a fourth member of the group. Rocky immediately accepted the invitation, surprised and excited about his new role in the Dirty Heads.
Sails To The Wind features a variety of compositions from all angles of Watson and Bushnell’s lives. “Morning Light” talks about a three-day, up-all-night party, binging on booze, with gnarly days filled with girls, fighting, scouring across Huntington Beach’s bars and the band’s various trips to Mexico … for more partying. “Neighborhood” is just that — a song about the act’s vicinity, the environment and surroundings.
As for the title of the album, Watson says, “We’re just getting going. Plus, it still has the ocean vibe, coming from Southern California scene.”
And the Dirty Heads want to make sure that this first step isn’t its last — that the sails pick up as much wind as possible. “Ever since we met when we were 14, all we talked about was getting signed and doing this,” says Watson. “And that’s it.”