The Dirty Heads

by Dan MacIntosh

Beach music is not just the domain of oldies acts like the Beach Boys and Dick Dale. The Dirty Heads, who went for a straight-out-of-Compton hardcore rap sound when they first began making music together, evolved into an authentic reggae-rock group. They're much more laid back these days, fitting the vibe of their hometown of Huntington Beach, California.

Their story song "Lay Me Down," featuring Sublime's singer Rome, caught fire with modern rock radio, and the rocker "Check the Level" attracted guitar hero Slash - evidence that talented people are doing more than just surfing in Surf City. Vocalist Jared Watson and guitarist/vocalist Dustin Bushnell (Duddy) took some time to tell us what The Dirty Heads are all about.
Dan MacIntosh (Songfacts): Let's start by talking about "Lay Me Down," which is, I imagine, your most popular song.

Dustin Bushnell: Yes.

Songfacts: And is there a story behind writing the song?

Dustin: Yeah. We were at my house in my backyard having a barbecue with our buddy Rome. We were just hanging out, just relaxing. We had some acoustic guitars and we just started jamming, just for fun. And that's really how that song started and came about.

Jared Watson: Rome had the "lay me down" part, and then Duddy worked on some more words to it that night. I had written something totally different to "Lay Me Down," a little bit more lovey, but then we realized three dudes singing more of a love song doesn't work that well, and Duddy's idea was better. He had the first verse and the lyrics to the chorus. It was a Bonnie and Clyde Western-style story. Once I got that it was a lot easier for me to write the second verse - he wrote the first verse about them getting caught and getting chased, and I wrote the second verse and the bridge about how they found their little paradise.

So it's a story: the first verse they get caught, second verse, they're still running and there are bounties out for them, and then the bridge is they found their paradise in Mexico or wherever they were. Then we changed the lyrics on the out-chorus to "we found our place to stay again."

Songfacts: How often are songs such a collaborative effort? That's three people, right?

Jared: Yeah, that's three people. But with us, it's always collaborative. It's two guys.

Songfacts: You guys are the two primary songwriters?

Jared: We write all the songs for The Dirty Heads, yes. Other than "Lay Me Down" when Rome came in and messed around with us. But other than that, it's just me and Dustin writing all the songs. We go back and forth or he'll have an idea, and that's what's cool about it, because if you're stuck, you can hand it off, "Well, I'm stuck."

Dustin: It's awesome, because sometimes you're in a writer's block and you need that one little spark. He'll be like, "Oh, I have this idea," and I'll be like, "Oh, thank you."

Jared: "Got it." Yeah. (laughing)

Songfacts: So you guys do that for each other, rescue each other on songs?

Jared: Yes. Many a time. And then sometimes it works not in a competitive way, but in more of an inspirational way. I won't be stuck on writing, but I'll write something and it'll be just all right. Maybe I'll have a verse, and Duddy will write his verse to it, and just absolutely destroy it. His verse will inspire me, and I'll think, "I could definitely write a better verse to this or change this." Or one little idea that he had might spark a whole 16-bar verse of mine. So it's really cool to have that - I don't want to say safety net - but that other person you can bounce ideas off. It makes it really fun, other than just you sitting in your own head. You can kind of get out of your own head.

Songfacts: And it doesn't sound like you're competitive.

Dustin: No, we're not.

Songfacts: It's like you're on the same team, basically. The idea is to get the song, not to have the better part.

Dustin: Yeah, yeah.

Jared: Yeah. It doesn't matter who did what or whatever. The point is, let's make the best song we can.

Dustin: Yeah, that's why we started the band with us. We didn't go with just solo guys or whatever. That's what we wanted to do. That's the dynamic that we enjoy, the dynamic that we felt would be cool and different other than just a front man and then the band behind him. You know, it's cool to have two people and two voices, and that whole contrast of my voice and his voice, and my style and his style, and sometimes they're the same and sometimes they're totally different, and that to me is really cool.

Songfacts: Now, your relationship with Rome, when did that start?

Dustin: Years before Sublime came out. He was real young. We met him in the studio that we work at, 17th Street Recording Studios in Newport. And we just met him through that studio. He had the same type of music and the same interests as us, and we just automatically became friends.

Songfacts: I want to let you guys talk about "Believe," which is your new single.

Jared: Yes.

Songfacts: It seems to me like it's a song of encouragement.

Jared: Yeah.

Songfacts: So was there anybody in particular that you're singing to in this song?

Jared: In that song, we're giving a shout-out to a lot of the bands that inspired us to become musicians. And then a shout-out to all the people out there who are trying to become musicians. Like, it can happen. We had bands we loved growing up, we wanted to be in a band and we did it, like anyone really can.

Songfacts: You name-drop a lot of musicians that inspired you. Can you remember when you decided to be a musician instead of going to college or becoming a businessman or something?

Jared: For me it wasn't until I started hanging out with Duddy that I even knew that I would get into music. I hadn't sang or played - well, I still don't play instruments - but I hadn't written a song or anything until I was 16 years old and met Duddy, and he was in a band. And then on top of him being in a punk band, they had this soundproof garage, and they were making these raps, like these ridiculous hip-hop fake gangsta raps. So we started out making absolutely silly, ridiculous songs. And my first couple of songs or raps I wrote were these terrible wannabe gangsta raps. But I was joking in them, you know?

Dustin: It was so fun. We could have 10, 15 dudes in that garage.

Jared: Oh, all of our friends would come in and we would get everybody. It was hilarious. And they were just the worst - mostly guy stuff, dick jokes and all that. And then I don't know how we wrote an actual song, but we wrote "Antelope" and "I Got No Time" and all these songs. And I was like, "Wow. I'm not that bad at this. Let's give this a go." And then it took a couple of years into me and Duddy actually playing as The Dirty Heads, playing acoustic shows, and people coming to our acoustic shows, and going, "You guys have something I've never heard," for me to go, "Well, this is a lot better than skateboarding." You know, my knees are all messed up, my mom's on my case, I'm probably not going to make it already, I don't know how much money I'll make. Now skateboarders are making tons of dough. But it just seemed like the right thing to do.

Songfacts: It sounds like you guys were just joking around.

Jared: Well, for me. That's not for him. I wasn't speaking for him at all. That was just for me.

Dustin: I was in a punk band with a couple of my buddies. But the rapping that he's talking about, that was something we'd do at night after a party or something. I had a soundproof room in my garage, so we could go there and be as loud as we wanted till 6 in the morning. So that was where a bunch of our friends would go and we'd get some beers and we would just hang out. We had a Casio keyboard and a 4-track mini-disc recorder, and we would make the funniest raps. It would just be a beat and it would just be 10 dudes taking turns rapping over the beat.

Songfacts: Is there any blackmail material available, or have you destroyed all that stuff?

Dustin: I actually have a bag full of mini discs. I'll maybe one day just...

Jared: Burn them. (laughs)

Dustin: No -

Jared: No, they're funny.

Songfacts: Well, there was one other song that I wanted to talk about, and it's "Check the Level," and it's got a couple of really interesting guys on it: Slash and M. Shadows. Did you know Slash before this?

Jared: That was a friendship that him and our manager had. We were talking to M., because M. Shadows has been a friend of ours for a long time. He grew up in Huntington so we all knew the same guys. I was really close with The Rev growing up since we were like 11. So we already knew all the Avenged guys really, really well. Like, really close buddies of ours.

Dustin: Matt Sanders (M. Shadows) and The Rev were in this band called Successful Failure. I was in a punk band called Unknown, and they were Successful Failure, and we used to play shows with each other.

Jared: Yeah, in high school. We've known each other for a long time.

Dustin: And it's funny now to see they're in Avenged Sevenfold and we're The Dirty Heads and we're still both playing.

Dustin: It's cool.

Songfacts: Very different paths.

Dustin: Oh, yeah.

Jared: Totally.

Songfacts: But he was into what you guys were going to record?

Dustin: Oh, yeah. And so we were talking to M. Shadows about getting on the track and then our manager was like, "Well, M. Shadows and Slash are working together right now on Slash's album. What do you think about getting Slash on there?" And I was like, "What do you think?" (laughs) So it was just two mutual friends of the band and that was really cool. It came out.

We spoke with Dustin and Jared on August 21, 2011. Get more at
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Comments: 1

  • Mark & Samantha from Fresno,caHow much to have Dirty Heads to play 6 songs at our wedding??
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