What do Werevolves, Hoosiers, and Traditonal Country all have in common? Nick Dittmeier
It’s just one of those things, silly as it may be; to type in an artist’s name into the Rhapsody search engine and it bring something up. ‘Something’ being an artist I represent, one I’ve just meet, or one I’ve just interviewed. So I typed in Slithering Beast. The result read:
There’s really not much about Nick Dittmeier, of Slithering Beast from Clark County, Indiana, that’s traditional. Usually when I ask a musician who taught them how to play I’ll get statements like, “Our house was full of music, so I’ve always played…” or “Taught myself listening to _______”. When I asked Nick I got:
Nick: My dad plays guitar but he didn’t teach me to play guitar; my grandmother did. She is a music teacher who is still working at age 75. She brought me a guitar that was in a closet at the school where she was teaching and taught me the basics, and then later note reading, and music theory.
So I had to laugh at the echoes and desperately wanted to ask does, “Mammaw drive the bus?”
Then there is the steel guitar player….
Franne: Tell me about the guy playing steel guitar. It’s kind of unusual to have somebody playing steel in a 4 piece. Is there a 5th band member usually? How does that instrument affect you when you compose?
Nick: My dad is actually the pedal steel player. He is a full time member and it’s just four of us in the band. When you have a pedal steel player in the band you have the challenge of making sure you have a place in the song for him and making sure stuff does not get monotonous.
Franne: Will you expand on your relationship with your dad, because dude that is just too cool. When you play closer to home do your mom and the rest of your family come to the shows?
Nick: My dad and I weren’t really close growing up, but this band has allowed us to get to know each other. His playing with us was a fluke. When we were working on our first record the engineer kept pressing me to have him over and after resisting several times I relented and the rest is history. As for the rest of my family, they have just given me a lot of great advice over the years about business, and just given me a lot of confidence.
As a faithful follower of the 3 Ronnie Rule, I have a true appreciation for a good front-man. There are standards by which I measure. I have compared my standards to fellow entertainment writer, Tia Kessler. We agree that the word is ‘swagger’. So I asked after Nick’s ‘swagger’.
Franne: You most obviously have the talent to be the front-man, but you don’t really have the front-man swagger. Are you comfortable on stage–I mean truly?
Nick: I just try to be as down to earth with people as possible, I don’t really need swagger; I will let the songs speak for themselves. I have been playing in bands since I was fifteen I have kind of moved on from wanting special treatment because I am in a band. As far as swagger goes, I don’t really understand the question, but yeah I do get nervous before every show and I think you have to, almost. It shows that doing things right are still a priority and you are human. You are going to get nervous about the possibly of not delivering what you want.
There was some swagger in that statement.
The obvious testimony that Nick Dittmeier does measure up is the fact that he not only is the main vocalist, he’s the lead guitar player and damn a good one. How many front-men do you see playing lead…yeah usually it’s rhythm guitar. Not always but often enough.
Franne: You stuck to the same guitar all night, (referring to the May 17th show at the Spillway) well what I saw anyway. Why is that? Name your instrument as I failed to write it down.
Nick: I play just that one sunburst Fender Tele because it sounds great and is so low maintenance; I think I have only broken a string once in five years. I played other guitars—Strats, Les Pauls but once I got the Tele I knew I would stick with it.
Of course one has to ask the obvious….
Franne: Corny question but I have to ask. Talk about those things that inspire you.
Nick: The things that inspire me are when we play shows or I’ll get occasional e-mails from people telling me they’ve listened to my music when they were going through a rough patch in their life or when their friends all hung out and get drunk together—like it’s their go- to listening. It’s easy when you are playing music everyday but you aren’t a rock star to get impatient or cynical about playing. People can get wrapped up in how risky and tough it could be. Then you have moments when you play and people tell you they listen to your music when they were stuck in Afghanistan or going through a divorce.
Another obvious question….
Franne: The name ‘Slithering Beast’ is an obvious question. Why that? I mean it’s kind of metal band sounding name?
Nick: Its funny every interview we get asked two questions—about the name and our pedal steel player. To me, the name has never sounded metal. I used to play in heavy bands and I wouldn’t have named a heavy metal band Slithering Beast. When I started doing this band, about five years ago, I didn’t have any really ambitious plans down the line. I just wanted to write songs and go play and really wasn’t thinking about marketing or branding, I just thought it was kind of funny.
Franne: You side stepped the question Nick. Where did the name come from? Funny? How is it funny?
Nick: It’s just kind of a goofy name, but its not one you will forget. It doesn’t really mean anything.
Obviously I will not get a straight answer. So moving along….
I was introduced to Slithering Beast when they played a show with Those CrossTown Rivals at the Twisted Tap in Bowling Green, KY. They play frequently together at a venue in Lexington, KY called Al’s Bar, which Nick admits to be one of his favorite places to play. He named the Third Street Dive in Louisville, KY as another. Closer to home he named Gaslight Pizza in Huntingburg, IN. Now he feels he’s found a home in Bowling Green, KY at the Spillway. The band was given a Thursday night. Thursday nights at the Spillway are a double edged sword so to speak. The crowd is already there but they are fully engrossed in playing and watching the corn-hole tournament rounds. When I got to the venue there were lots of cars in the lot, but when I walked in, the inside of the venue was empty. So I asked Jackie, the bartender, where in the world was everybody. She pointed to the door to the deck. I squeezed past people to get to Debbie, bartender-bouncer-scorekeeper-and the bar owner’s MOMMA, to say ‘hi’. I went back in and the band was looking a wee bit nervous. Promptly at 9, Slithering Beast took the stage. They played 3 45-50 minute sets. Three songs into their first set Debbie danced and pranced her way through to get to the bar. Upon returning to the deck, she propped the door open. By the second set and third set, it was apparent that Nick Dittmeier and Slithering Beast had made some fans at The Spillway. Now I had only seen the short set they had done at the Twisted Tap. I had not seen the 3 hour show, though I did get a sample of the set list prior to the show. I sat on the deck listening and speaking with a friend. Both of us would occasionally stop in mid sentence and just listen and comment. Anybody who knows George knows if he’s stopped in mid sentence, something has certainly grabbed his attention.
What I hadn’t done, prior to the show, is listened to all 3 CDs. I had taken noted on songs that got my attention, songs the crowd loved, and the band’s originals. I have now gone through and absorbed it all. I am completely sold. The second CD isn’t on Rhapsody, but it can be heard on the band’s MySpace page.
So with egg on my face admitting that I didn’t know they had done 3 CD’s I went back to Nick to ask about them all.
Franne: Well holy crap this is your 3rd CD. Yelp talk about the others. Talk about your progression from the first to the second to this one.
Nick: The first album, “Werewolf Ballads” was done kind of on the fly. A lot of the songs were not demoed and I really didn’t have any expectations. I was 22 and hadn’t really ever played in bars or anything like that. It’s a really in your face country-punk record that has taken on a life of its own.
The second one was “Midnight Royalty” which was supposed to be the antithesis of the first record. It wasn’t supposed to be as lyrically abrasive, and there were more layered arrangements.
The third album “Delicious” was supposed to be an album of individual singles and it’s our best album to date. Its only five songs and that’s what our next record is going to be probably. In the age of people heavily listening to music online, we can have the freedom to just put out a small collection of our best work, versus the pressure to make more material we are less enthusiastic about for cost effectiveness.
Of course my brain went to business so I asked another obvious question.
Franne: How much and how far have you toured?
Nick: As far as touring goes, we have really just focused on hitting the Midwest really hard.
So I watched videos and looked at all the pictures I could find. I like being surprised, even if it’s my own fault. Through the past years band members had changed up, his voice has matured and his range seems to have stretched a bit. He seems to have incorporated a few old-school styles. He has die-hard fans.
We touched on his current line up a bit.
Nick: The four of us are really good friends and this is easily the best line-up I have had, especially as far as personal chemistry goes. We do talk a lot together, but when we are at shows I guess we are really focused on business.
Franne: Is this a new bass player? Talk about him.
Nick: Well, he is sort of new. His name is Alex Plamp and he played guitar in the band for a couple of years until we needed him to play bass.
Franne: Your drummer?
Nick: The drummer is a good friend of mine name Zach Hilton, and it’s actually his second go-round in the band.
I asked about hundred more questions but mostly out of my curiosity.
I don’t know Uncle Ned….the song “Driving Drunk” off “Werewolf Ballads” sure hits a spot in my soul; it’s snuggled right up next to ‘Laid’ and circled with the notation, “Songs to always sing along with at shows”.
Slithering Beast returns to The Spillway on June 21st. Show starts at 9pm. They will also be playing some Fridays and Saturdays in the future. Told you the man made some fans. If you don’t live in Bowling Green just check the band’s web site for a show near you, ‘cuz Mammaw may not drive the bus, but Slithering Beast is definitely gonna go everywhere real soon.
Slithering Beast also has a show with Fifth on the Floor, and Kara Clark at the Hard Rock in Nashville, TN on June 28th.
Originally published by home publication The Amplifier of South Central Kentucky.