Photo by Mike Savoia
Marc Labelle is living the dream. The Niskayuna native moved to Los Angeles seven years ago on a whim because a buddy had an open room. Since then he’s played hockey with movie stars and Hollywood big shots and founded a rock group that is opening for legendary bands.
Born from a classic rock cover band, Dirty Honey opened for The Who and are currently touring with Alter Bridge. The band is preparing to open for Guns N’ Roses at the Colosseum in Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on Nov. 1 and 2. They were the first new band in 2019 to crack the Billboard Rock Radio Top 10 with their song “When I’m Gone.”
Hockey and music have gone hand in hand for Labelle since he was a kid, and the combination opened doors for him in LA. The hockey community he hangs with includes producer director Jerry Bruckheimer, Keither Sutherland and Cuba Gooding Jr.
He met his manager, industry veteran Mark DiDia, during a Saturday skate. DiDia went from radio DJ to record executive at Geffen, Island and Columbia. His time at Geffen included the heyday of Guns N’ Roses and Aerosmith and Whitesnake.
Dirty Honey fits neatly into that legacy, combining the swagger of Aerosmith and Guns N’ Roses with the bop of Motley Crew. The band nearly recorded an album with the folks behind retro-rock sensation Greta Van Fleet’s debut. Labelle met Steven Tyler of Aerosmith when he was 10. Playing classic rock cover gigs helped Labelle hone his skills and piece together the four musicians that now make up Dark Honey.
Hockey and rock and roll have been Labelle’s passions since childhood. “It wasn’t really until I moved to LA that it became something more,” he says. “I never had any formal vocal training, but now I’ve finally started doing vocal warmups and things like that to preserve it.”
Once the band’s lineup came together, there wasn’t much discussion about their sound. “I think it’s in our nature for us as four unique individuals to sound like a lot of things,” he says. “Over the last 30 years there really haven’t been any rock bands that created something fresh and new. With the exception of maybe Muse. How do you create something totally new with guitar bass vocals and drums unless you have a magic recipe?”
DiDia first heard Dirty Honey’s “‘When I’m Gone’ when the demo was playing in Labelle’s apartment. “He was like, ‘What the fuck is that? It sounds like something I’ve heard before!’” Labelle recalls. “It made his radio ears perk up. He thought he could do something with it.”
As the buzz builds around the band, they are set to head to Australia to record something new.
“We do our takes live, rather than doing everything perfect,” he says. “That’s what is making rock suck; these edits mean that no one feels like they have their own identity. Rock isn’t dangerous and loose anymore.”
At recent shows, Labelle has spotted people wearing Dirty Honey shirts and singing along. “We did a gig in Chattanooga with 150 people and everybody there knew the words,” he says. “We really had a blast. I really value those kind of shows over the arena gigs where you can’t even see who you’re playing to and no one knows who you are.”
Labelle doesn’t seem fazed by his success. He jokes about running into Roger Daltry backstage and talks as if being on the Billboard charts is no big deal. “It feels like this is supposed to happen,” he says.