Interview: Dylan Dilella
The Human Shield recording session was incredibly cathartic because of this. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so in-the-zone and emotive throughout an entire session.
As guitarist and founding member of New York technical death metallers Pyrrhon, Dylan DiLella is known for his formidable guitar playing and ability to create sounds that complement the controlled chaos of the band’s music. Dylan has just released a new album as a solo artist and the resulting record which is titled Human Shield mixes a whole host of his influences including harsh noise, drone, metal, shoegaze and free jazz over the course of three epic songs, all played entirely by himself on guitar with no other instrumentation. Gavin Brown caught up with Dylan to hear all about Human Shield, its creation, how the album came to be and what shaped the record as well as what Pyrrhon have planned for the future, the differences between the band and his solo work and who have been the biggest influences on his guitar playing.
E&D: Your new album Human Shield is out now. How was the experience of creating and recording the album?
Dylan: I created and recorded the album very quickly. The material is largely improvisational, and I didn’t spend much time getting organised before the session.
E&D: This is your first full length solo album, was it a challenging experience doing this whole thing on your own?
Dylan: It was actually a very natural process. I had two short-length solo guitar releases before this one, and have also just spent a lot of time working on my improvisation. Recording this album felt like the culmination of several things that I’ve been working on long-term.
E&D: The album features three epic tracks, did you always plan on doing a shirt number of expansive songs for Human Shield or did it just evolve that way?
Dylan: It evolved that way naturally. My previous solo guitar release, which was a split with CHORD, featured a similar kind of expansive structure. It opens up a lot of possibilities and allows me to ruminate on small ideas that I might pass over otherwise. But no, I never set out to record epic 15 minute long tracks, it just happened that way.
E&D: Have you had ideas of doing another solo album for a while now or was it a relatively new thing?
Dylan: My first solo guitar release, Flayed Oration, came out in 2016. And then there was the split with CHORD that I mentioned. So again, Human Shield was really the natural evolution of all of these things that I’ve been tinkering on for a while.
E&D: Human Shield is an intense listening experience Was the pandemic and all the fear around the world an influence on the album at all?
Dylan: Yes, absolutely. August 2020 was right in the middle of covid devastation/uncertainty as well as the BLM protests. Also I was almost fully convinced that Trump was going to be re-elected. It was a brutal period in time. The Human Shield recording session was incredibly cathartic because of this. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so in-the-zone and emotive throughout an entire session.
E&D: Did you want Human Shield to showcase all your different influences and inspirations as a musician?
Dylan: My goal was to create something that is extremely personal to me, and that also showcases my unique style.
E&D: Have you got any thoughts about doing another solo album at all?
Dylan: I’m definitely going to do more of this in the future. My process for my solo material has been to “set it and forget it.” I go long periods without specifically considering this part of my output. I do a lot of work that’s not overtly related to my solo guitar music, but it’s still heavily influenced by it.
E&D: Who have been those biggest influences and inspirations?
Dylan: Merzbow, Sonny Sharrock, Sonic Youth, Mick Barr, John Coltrane, Kevin Drumm, Justice Yeldham, John Wiese, Trey Azagthoth, Villa Lobos, Hendrix, Acid Mothers Temple, GY!BE, Polvo, Brandon Seabrook, and tons more!
E&D: What are some of your favourite riffs and solos of all time?
Dylan: Morbid Angel – ‘Brainstorm’, Cryptopsy – ‘Crown of Horns’ and Black Sabbath – ‘Snowblind’.
E&D: How did you start as a guitarist in the first place?
Dylan: I started playing violin when I was 8, and then got my first guitar when I was 10. I started taking private lessons from the get-go, and continued formally studying music through college. I’ve also always played in some kind of a band, though Pyrrhon was the first band where I really felt like I was focused and doing something I really wanted to do.
E&D: Did you approach the guitar playing while making Human Shield differently to how you would with Pyrrhon?
Dylan: The main difference is that the tone of the guitar has a lot of room to breathe here. In Pyrrhon, I have to consider how my playing fits in with the three other musicians (not just from a compositional perspective, but also from a tonal perspective). Human Shield allowed me to really consider the minutiae of my tone. I approached it almost like it was a drone album.
E&D: Are there plans for Pyrrhon to follow up your last album Abcess Time that you can tell us about?
Dylan: We’re touring the US with Imperial Triumphant Oct 15-31 and we’ll probably do other scattered regional shows for the rest of the year. We’re hoping to make it to Europe in 2022 and then hopefully we’ll have some news about that eventually.
E&D: Are you looking forward to heading back out on the road for those dates with Imperial Triumphant?
Dylan: Can’t wait!!!!
E&D: How much does your hometown of New York City influence the music of Pyrrhon?
Dylan: The energy of NYC is unlike anything else I’ve experienced. It has definitely influenced my creative process, and just my overall musical interests. And then there’s the fact that NYC is home to so many incredible musicians from a multitude of backgrounds and genres. I have the privilege to see so many amazing musicians perform on the regular. I also find that the sounds of NYC really influence me as a musician. Walking down the street results in a cascade of sensory input, in particular aural stimulation. Or there’s the subway, which has a rhythmic explosion of screams, churning, and bumps.
E&D: What other metal bands from New York would you recommend for us to check out?
Dylan: Some of these are metal-adjacent, but NYC has always been a breeding ground for hard-to-define music: Child Abuse, Bloodmist, Deli Girls, Couch Slut, Krallice, CP Unit, Encenathrakh, Machine Girl, more that I’m forgetting
E&D: Have you had any thoughts about taking Human Shield into a live environment?
Dylan: Yeah I’m definitely going to start playing some shows in NYC. And maybe elsewhere depending on interest.
E&D: Would you ever consider playing solo and with Pyrrhon on the same bill?
Dylan: Sure, definitely.
E&D: What have been the best live shows that you have ever witnessed?
Dylan: Sunn0))) at First Unitarian Church in Philly on the Monoliths & Dimensions tour. Neurosis at Brooklyn Masonic Temple in 2008. Defeated Sanity at Saint Vitus in 2017ish? Dillinger Escape Plan at First Unitarian Church on the Miss Machine tour, So many!
E&D: What have been some of the highlights on your musical journey so far?
Dylan: Making and recording music exactly the way that I want to and being able to tour in a band somewhat sustainably.