Dirty Honey is part of the “New Breed of Classic Rock” and the band’s been making a name for themselves by writing great music, being the supporting act for some major artists, being iHeart Radio’s “On The Verge Artist”, having a number one hit on Billboard’s Rock Song Charts, all this while being an unsigned act.

We wanted to find out more about the band so Mayhem Music Magazine talked with Dirty Honey’s bassist Justin Smolian to get the low down on the formation of Dirty Honey and their sudden rise in popularity. This is what he had to say.




Hey Justin, thanks for taking the time to talk.

How you doing dude? I just got into New Orleans. Had some Crawfish Etouffee.

Gotta enjoy the taste of New Orleans while you’re there. I was hoping to see you again during NAMM since I knew Marc LaBelle (Dirty Honey’s vocalist) was performing at the Gibson: Live event Thursday evening.

Most of the band flew out Thursday. Marc had the Gibson event so he flew out the next morning. How was that? I saw the video and it was awesome.

He killed it. Marc came out and did Aerosmith’s “Last Child” with Slash. He nailed it. It was one of the high points of the show.

Yeah, he’s pretty good at the Aerosmith stuff.

I know it’s been two short years since Dirty Honey formed. Did you know your band would resonate with so many people?

I didn’t know if it would resonate with so many people but I know that it resonated with me when I started playing with the band. I do remember one of the first gigs I did with them where we were playing a bar in Santa Monica. We did this extended jam and Marc did like an awesome scream, I remember afterwards I walked up to Marc and I was like “I feel like we could do this in arenas”. Then a couple years later we’re opening up for The Who in arenas. It’s been a pretty crazy ride.

Dirty Honey has blasted onto the music scene with a vengeance and is iHeart Radio’s “On the Verge Artist”. What does the band contribute their sudden popularity to?

I just think the timings right for rock right now. There’s been a couple other bands that kind of kicked the doors open for our style of rock. You know Rival Sons, Greta Van Fleet, and there’s other bands and I think it’s just a good time for rock. I think we made a really great record and it seems like a lot of people have been starved that type rock n roll. We just kind of came around at the right time.

Did the band start out making this style of rock or did it happen organically?

I think we all wanted to get to this point. It took a lot of hard work. Trying different people out but it just kind of came naturally that we grew up on and everybody took notice.

Your band is part of the “New Breed of Classic Rock” by bringing back the hard bluesy riffs, and that raw edge with gritty vocals and screaming guitar solos. What genres of music did you grow up listening to that helped form your bass playing?

I grew up listening to KLOS classic radio in LA and some of my bass players were Paul McCartney and John Paul Jones and James Jamerson, who played on all the Motown stuff. Then there’s even more modern guys like Pino Palladino, who I love. Tim Commerford of Rage Against the Machine. Like I love his bass tone. Rage Against the Machine is one of my favorite bands growing up so they influenced me a lot. Then there’s modern gospel guys like MonoNeon and Ethan Farmer. I draw from a lot of different influences but definitely early on it was the big three McCartney, John Paul Jones, & Jamerson. Oh and (Donald) “Duck” Dunn. He’s awesome too.

Congrats by the way on Dirty Honey having a number one hit on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Songs category with “When I’m Gone”. How does something like that feel?

It’s pretty surreal. Even though we’re an unsigned bands and we all believed in the song, you’d kind of have to have your hopes high to think you’re going to have a number one song and not have a record label behind you. Luckily we have a really great manager, and we put together a really great team, and people responded to the song, and it’s totally surreal man.

I first met the band while Dirty Honey was on tour with Slash. You’ve also been the supporting act for The Who, Guns n Roses, and several other major artists. How did this all come about for an unsigned band?

Our Manager Mark Didia, he works at Red Light Management and he was playing our record one day and Slash’ manager walked by and was like “What’s that?” and Mark said “that’s my new band Dirt Honey”. He sent it to Slash and Slash gave us a couple of dates opening for him last October like fifteen months ago and we were offered showcase. We got signed to Universal Talent Agency and our booking agent is Guns n Roses Booking Agent. So a couple things have happened and we’ve been fortunate.

You mentioned Dirty Honey’s manager being Mark Didia. He’s a heavy hitter in the business. How did he end up as the manager of the band?

Our singer Marc played hockey with Mark Didia. He played hockey with him for years and he’s kind of been checking us out over the years and not really biting and then he heard a demo of “When I’m Gone” and he jumped right on board. He started putting together a team for us.

So it must have been Mark to bring in producer Nick Didia to record your EP.

Mark and Nick are also brothers. We were looking at a couple different producers. We were also looking at the guy that did Greta (Van Fleet) also. Nick heard our demo and he loved it and was like “I can make that record”. We realized it was actually cheaper to fly to Australia and make the record with him then stay in the States and pay for studio time over here. We immediately clicked with Nick. Nick also worked on some of our favorite records. Like I said earlier, I’m a huge Rage Against the Machine fan so getting to talk to him and be like “I kind of going for that Tim Commerford bass tone” & he’s like “I made ‘Evil Empire’ and I know exactly what he did”. So when I got to Australia, he already had the rig set up for me.  He was amazing. To hear him tell stories about Bruce Springsteen and about Stone Temple Pilots. That was a dream come true. We were overlooking the ocean, it’s an actual paradise. You couldn’t ask for a better place to go to be creative and make a record.



Did you already have all the material written before you went over there?

We had all the songs. I would say they were all 95% the way there but there were things that Nick did that helped tweak the record and bring it to its full potential. We’re going to go back there in March and actually work on our next record. We’re writing new material for that right now.

Do you feel that band’s need the backing of a major record label in today’s music industry or is it better to continue to do everything fully under your own control?

In our situation it worked not having a record label. I can’t say that would be true for everybody. Like I said we’re very fortunate to have a manager like Mark Didia. He’s help run record labels so he’s known a lot of people and had a lot of contacts. He got into doors that normally you’d need a record label for. Of course having a record label behind you and having their money helps a lot. We were lucky enough to get a publishing deal and they gave us a pretty decent advance which we decided instead of taking the money and paying rent or whatever, we invested it in the band and it ended up really paying off. Now we’re looking at it from a global stand point and how to reach other countries. How do we do Europe? How to do the stuff from there? Do you need a record label? We’re still trying to figure that out. So I can’t say yes or no. They’re definitely helpful but longer you can hold onto your masters (recordings), probably a better deal you’re going to get if you decide to do it one day.

Do the members of Dirty Honey prefer to be a consistently touring band or one that spends more time in the studio?

We all love being in the studio but this is our first headlining tour that we’re on right now and we all agree that we’re having the time of our lives. Obviously it’s been amazing opening up for these bands but to be able to go out there and do an hour set and do it the way we want it and have full control of the stage is so much fun and especially with everyone coming to the show, with everybody singing the songs every night is an amazing experience already.

If we listened to your current playlist of songs, who would we hear?

I just got some new Sony wireless headphones, they’re the best headphones I’ve ever had and so I’m going through all my old records. I just went through my Zeppelin catalog. I’m now doing the Beatles. I’m also a huge Chris Stapleton fan. I love Muse. Right now I’m on a kick of going through the classics again. I just went through “Exile on Main Street” today.

What’s next for Dirty Honey?

We’re doing the six week tour. Then we’ll have a couple weeks off back in LA where we’re going to kind of demo and work on our new songs before we head to Australia. While we’re there, we’re going to fly to Japan and play Download Festival and do a club date there also. Then we’re going to head back down to Australia for another two weeks to finish the record. Then we’ve got a tour coming up in April/May which is being routed around some radio festivals that we’re doing. Then in the Summer, We got some stuff that we can’t announce yet but you’ll be the first to know.

What would you like people to know about Dirty Honey?

That we’re just a good time rock n roll band. If you want to see a great live band and have fun then come check it out because we are a live band. We love playing live and interacting with the fans. That’s where we all love to live.



Catch Dirty Honey on Tour


FEB 11, 2020
Bottom Lounge
Chicago, IL
FEB 12, 2020
Turner Hall Ballroom
Milwaukee, WI
FEB 14, 2020
Old Rock House
St. Louis, MO
FEB 15, 2020
The Riot Room
Kansas City, MO
FEB 17, 2020
Blue Bird Theater
Denver, CO
FEB 21, 2020
Seattle, WA
FEB 22, 2020
Polaris Hall
Portland, OR
FEB 25, 2020
San Francisco, CA
FEB 27, 2020
House of Blues Anaheim
Anaheim, CA
FEB 28, 2020
El Rey Theatre
Los Angeles, CA
APR 17, 2020
Amalie Arena
Tampa, FL
APR 18, 2020
Central Florida Fairgrounds
Orlando, FL
WJRR Earth Day Birthday
APR 24, 2020
Prudential Center
Newark, NJ
WDHA Rocks the Rock
APR 25, 2020
DCU Center
Worcester, MA
WAAF 50th Anniversary
MAY 22, 2020 – MAY 24, 2020
Rocklahoma Festival
Pryor, OK
MAY 24, 2020
Dos Equis Pavilion
Dallas, TX
97.1 The Eagle Presents BFD 2020

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Mayhem Music Magazine