Origins is a recurring new music feature which offers an artist or band the chance to dissect some of the inspirations behind their latest track.
Like the children of Hollywood couples, Pablo Dylan — the grandson of the Bob Dylan — has felt the pressure to live up to the expectations of his famous family tree. He’s never caved in, however; in fact, the younger Dylan decided at an early age that he wanted to explore his talents wherever they took them — even if that meant not going down the folk rock route right away.
So that’s exactly what he did. In 2011, at the young age of 15, Dylan made his debut as a rapper with his first-ever mixtape, 10 Minutes. Dylan then followed up that project with production credits for hip-hop artists like ASAP Rocky and OG Maco.
Dylan eventually took a break from the spotlight, the result of feeling disillusioned with the music industry as a whole. During that downtime, he re-explored his music tastes as well as his fascination with the history of America, in particular the Civil War. As a press release puts it, he was particularly interested in “Frederick Douglass, Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant – all these larger-than-life personalities whose enduring courage propelled them to fight for a better world.” At a time when the US feels at war with itself and is in desperate need of change, Dylan found inspiration in these characters.
The theme of change — the necessity of it and the ability to actually enact it — makes up a good chunk of Dylan’s forthcoming album. It’s also resulted in a transition in his own music, as evidenced by his latest single, “Bells”. Here, the songwriter/multi-instrumentalist has traded in his rapped rhyming for a sound that’s more reminiscent of his legendary grandfather. He works his guitar with rattles, slides, and bounces like a slick rock ‘n’ roll cut straight out of the ’60s. One can almost imagine Dylan playing it while bopping around onstage like Chuck Berry.
Listen below. Dylan’s upcoming, as-yet-untitled album is due out later this summer.
Speaking to Consequence of Sound, Dylan detailed some of the specific influences behind “Bells”, including The Clash, Pusha-T, and Herman Melville’s classic Moby Dick.
The Clash — “London Calling”:
The song “London Calling” by The Clash was a big influence on the sound of the song. When I was very young I heard this record for the first time and it made me feel as if the gates to hell itself were flooding open. I think I’ve been trying to capture that sort of apocalyptic nature in my work ever since and it sort of worked its way full circle on this record.
Always been fascinated with Chuck Berry’s guitar riffs, the way the rhythm falls on the drums sounds like raindrops. We tried to accomplish that here.
I have always loved the complexity of the emotional spectrum shown in Pusha-T’s work and I’ve always came back too it since I first heard grindin’ the way the kick and snare hit, sounded like army’s marching into the backdrop of the story being told by these two bards who just happened to be brothers. Their tales of cocaine and guns rang true just as the stories of old but it was better than that because it was all right here in America.
Moby Dick by Herman Melville:
The great American novel Moby Dick means a lot to me. There was a certain grandness to the whole thing that I tried to capture with some of the images in the song.
Disney Hall in Downtown Los Angeles:
I walked by Disney hall downtown one day and the building itself really struck me. It seemed to me like it was a bunch of pieces strung together in a somewhat simple way and I’m always trying to do the same sort of thing in my work.