The Joy Thieves, including drummer Dan Milligan, center, filmed a video with director Joel Lopez of Lumbra Records to accompany the upcoming EP release. Courtesy of Red Liger Studios

The Joy Thieves’ new ‘Cities In Dust’ EP a work born of curiosity

Wheaton native Dan Milligan’s project, The Joy Thieves, just released an EP in June, but as Friday’s release of the new “Cities in Dust” EP shows, that wasn’t enough.

Curiosity and the spirit of experimentation got the better of him.

The Joy Thieves‘ music walks a very thin line between rock and industrial,” said Milligan, a professional drummer and music producer now living in Warrenville. “Depending on how you mix the songs, different elements come out. I have a very particular style with how I mixed the (original) record, but I was curious if other people would be hearing that differently.”

With the help of London-based Armalyte Industries, the label that released the band’s earlier “This Will Kill That” EP, Milligan picked up a few high-profile musicians and producers to dabble in that regard: John Fryer — who had produced music for Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode and Stabbing Westward, among others — and Howie Beno, who was in Ministry for some time and worked with Depeche Mode and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

The Joy Thieves
Dan Milligan, drummer, and The Joy Thieves filmed a video with director Joel Lopez of Lumbra Records to accompany the upcoming EP release. Courtesy of Red Liger Studios

Fryer and Beno put their own spins on two songs from the original EP release, giving each a different flavor from the original material.

When he heard the new tracks, Milligan was floored and decided to pursue remixes of other songs for a full EP.

“To have that caliber of talent interested in my little project was amazing,” he said.

Ania Tarnowska
Ania Tarnowska of I Ya Toyah stepped up to the mic for The Joy Thieves’ upcoming “Cities In Dust” video. Courtesy of Red Liger Studios

Milligan tapped bandmate and former schoolmate James Scott, who runs Populist Recording in Wheaton while also playing in rock bands She Rides Tigers and Cpt Captain. The duo remixed three other songs off “This Will Kill That” and plotted out the new EP.

And for the cherry on top — they did a cover of “Cities In Dust” by Siouxsie and the Banshees.

“It’s been one of my favorites for years and years and years,” Milligan said of the song.

First introduced to “Cities In Dust” on a high school girlfriend’s mix tape, Milligan had tried to work out several versions of the song over the years, but none did justice to the piece that first turned his ear from metal toward more goth, industrial sounds.

“I love the song so much that I wanted it to be amazing. … It literally started me down my path to making the kind of music I make now.” And when Ania Tarnowska of I Ya Toyah stepped to the mic, “I knew this was the round that was going to make it,” he said. “My jaw just dropped. This was what I was waiting for.”

"Cities In Dust"
“Cities In Dust,” the new EP release by The Joy Thieves, is out Friday, Oct. 4.

Friday’s release will be digital-only; fans can download it for free at armalyte.bandcamp.com.

The Joy Thieves, which is more an amorphous collective of musicians than a band, grew about three years ago out of Milligan’s desire to try something a little different from his main project Drownbeat. The involvement of a blend of international artists — such as Chris Connelly and Louis Svitek, both of Ministry, Pigface and a slew of other bands — and Chicago-based musicians such as Tarnowska and Scott has Milligan baffled.

“There’s an energy around this thing I just can’t explain,” he said. “To have these sorts of people interested to work with us … mind-blowing!”

A new EP of The Joy Thieves originals is expected out early next year.