INTERVIEW: Twenty One Pilots' Josh Dun "the world felt a little bit darker"

scandal 21/05/2021

"I would say the [pandemic] did affect where we were coming from on this album." - Twenty One Pilots drummer Josh Dun

Today Twenty One Pilots have released their brand new album 'Scaled And Icy' - a product of a global pandemic, and a response to a world which feels jsut a little bit dark. We caught up with drummer Josh Dun to talk through why they've made a departure from their darker aesthetic, what fans can expect from the first ever Twenty One Pilots livestream, and so much more.

How are you? How is everything where you are in terms of pandemic restrictions, concerts, etcetera?

Josh Dun: "I’m very well and these days - I don’t say that lightly because I know that a lot of people aren’t doing well, so I feel lucky to be doing well. I’m in Columbus, Ohio and I would say that it feels to me like life feels pretty normal here. Probably not as normal as where you are I don’t think, but people are respectful - people will wear a mask in public, but you can go and do most things that you wanna do. 

"Concerts are not open, and I’m hoping for that sooner than later. Until then I’m just gonna play drums at my house and pretend that I’m on tour."

Concerts are a thing here in New Zealand, just if you wanted to come on down and perform to us...

"I would love to! I saw that not that long ago. I have a friend who lives in New Zealand, so we’ve been kind of kept updated and I was really jealous. I want to."

Something that we didn’t know about Twenty One Plots that we've learnt in the last couple of days is that there’s a whole bunch of characters and a whole world within Twenty One Pilots’ music. Can you tell us more about this?

"Yeah! When we started playing music it was just me and Tyler, and we would go and play shows in Ohio - the state where we’re from - but we always felt like two guys performing on a stage may not be enough to be entertaining. We thought ‘how can we involve the people there and have them be a part of the show?’, so we started to implement things we could do throughout the show that kind of relied heavily on them. As we started to learn and realise how much they wanted to be a part of it, we started to implement even more and put some extra narrative and storylines within our albums.

"Our fans were on board with that, and really dove deep and uncovered a lot of that stuff really quickly - which gave us a lot of freedom to add some of that stuff in, whilst simultaneously making sure that we were writing music where people wouldn’t just turn on the song and feel lost or confused, or like they couldn’t be a part of it because they didn’t know the extra layers to it. It’s been a fun process getting to create these extra themes and still make songs that we all enjoy listening to."

Your new album 'Scaled and Icy' comes out today, and it was quite the process to make this – it was during lockdown last year and you and Tyler were apart, is that right? 

"Yeah, most of the time we were living in separate states and travel wasn't really existent – it was all near the beginning of the pandemic, too. Tyler had a new daughter, and we were all hesitant. We did a lot of zoom sessions - Tyler recorded in his studio in his basement and I recorded in my studio at my house. That was the first time for me to record something there that would go on one of our albums! It was a really fun process and I really enjoyed it!"

Did that influence the music? Does it have a more ‘homely’ feel to it, or are there on-going themes throughout the album like loneliness or being apart?

"I think stylistically it does - through our lens the state of the world felt a little bit darker and so to balance that we felt like a brighter, more colourful tone was warranted. I would say the whole thing did affect where we were coming from on this album."

We know that a cornerstone for Twenty One Pilots is your live shows. With the future of live concerts up in the air, has this affected how you wrote the album at all?

"Yeah, I think so, because historically it’s been like ‘Oh cool here’s an idea - during this part of the song we could put the drum kit on the crowd so we’ll build in some extra time on the album for that.’ Thinking about the live show really has been a driving force for decisions that we make within the writing process, and there were times when that felt discouraging because I didn’t even know if we were gonna be able to tour this album. How could we envision what this is going to look like ‘live’ when there’s no ‘live’ in sight? And ultimately, we had to keep going back to ‘this isn’t going to last forever, and we will go back to playing shows, and these songs will see their time in a live circumstance'."

You’re doing a livestream today as well! What can fans expect from this?

"Unfortunately it’s still a situation where we can’t be in front of people. So to a fan - one of our biggest band members, which is you - is missing. When the idea of a livestream performance was brought up, we felt pretty against it simply because of that. Like I said, we’ve always relied on our fans. Once we gave it some more thought, we realised we would have to get creative and change some things because the most important band member was missing. We’ve definitely had a lot of conversations and there has been a lot of preparation, and I’m excited for this! I think it’s going to be really fun and different from anything else we’ve ever done before. I think it’s going to be cool, but I don’t know - I’ll let you guys be the judge."

You guys broke a Guinness record last year for the longest ever music video! How does it feel, and are you keen to break another world record? What would be your dream world record to break?

"It feels cool! I think that music video ['Level Of Concern'] went on for like three months, and I messed it all up because I thought I was unplugging my Christmas tree and accidentally unplugged the hard-drive. It could still be going today but yanno, realistically we had to have people working around the clock to flick through the videos contributed to make sure there wasn’t anything ridiculous being put online. That was a pretty cool accomplishment, so we do have the Guinness world for that - and if we were to break another one I’d say hopefully that Tyler and I could win the world record for the world’s best friendship."