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Dillinger Escape Plan - Interview

  by Mark Rowland

published: 17 / 10 / 2002

Dillinger Escape Plan - Interview


Always controversial, the American group the Dillinger Escape Plan are one of the few original-sounding bands on the current metal scene. Mark Rowland talks to drummer Chris Pennie about the group's rapid rise to notoriety and new singer, Greg Puciato

I'd been a metal head since I was 13 years old, and I was starting to get really bored of it. The majority of metal bands around at the moment are Nu-metal, a genre that has got to the same sorry state as 80's Glam metal, a watered down parody of itself, with comical looking bands regurgitating chuga-chuga riff after chuga-chuga riff, and whining pathetically about how everyone hates them. It's not even teenage angst. It's a toddler's temper tantrum. With the exception of a few bands, there was nothing interesting going on in metal. Until, that is, a new metal scene started emerging from the underground. The scene's sound is one of complex time changes, the embracing of non-metal styles, with a hardcore attitude and a big injection of true, raw, human emotion. These bands are emerging on both sides of the Atlantic, including metalcore veterans Converge, and newer British bands Sikth and Eden Maine. Each band brings something new into the genre. At the forefront of this metal revolution is the American group Dillinger Escape Plan, a band that has received praise from many music papers, alongside big bands such as System of a Down and, more surprisingly, Hundred Reasons, who are at the London gig at which we meet Chris Pennie, the drummer and one of the founder members of Dillinger Escape Plan. The band, completed by guitarists Ben Weinman and Brian Benoit, bassist Liam Wilson, and new singer Greg Puciato, came to the attention of the press with their first proper full-length album, 'Calculating Infinity', an initially difficult release that shamelessly took in elements of jazz and electronica. At the moment, the band probably have more enemies than fans amongst the metal kids, but slowly and surely more and more people are starting to take account of Dillinger Escape Plan's music. Their recent jaw-dropping Reading set, during which Greg had a shit, put it in a bag, compared it to the other bands on the main stage that day and then threw it into the audience, attracted them plenty of notoriety. On 'Irony is a Dead Scene', their latest EP which they recorded with ex-Faith No More star Mike Patton, they have expanded their sound to a more complex and slightly more accessible sound. PB : You recently recorded an EP with Mike Patton. As a new person coming into your creative process, was he easy to work with? CP : It was really easy to work with him. The only thing that was really difficult is just time and schedules, because everyone's so busy. We tour a lot, and he has several different bands, and a label to boot, so you know, trying to sort out the best time to get to work was the only thing that got in the way. The basic thing that we did was we recorded the music, put it on to disk, and then sent it to him, then he put his ideas on it and sent it back to us, and that enabled us to get the basic idea of what he wanted to do, and what was going over the music. Then he just came into the studio in March, and we laid it all down. PB : What's the story behind the choice of Aphex Twin's 'Come to Daddy' as a cover song for the EP? CP : It's funny, man. We did it as a personal thing. We wanted to tackle something that was basically electronic music, something that was kind of unreal or something that had never really been done before. For me personally, playing drums, that('Come to Daddy')'s like a whole different spectrum of music, because the guy's programming. He's not thinking about what he's doing in terms of like a real drummer, so I just wanted to have the challenge of playing that, and when I presented it to the guys, they thought it was like a whole awesome place to take Mike's vocals to, so we thought it'd be a cool idea. PB : There are jazzy elements to your sound that have become prominent over your last few releases. How did they work their way into your sound? CP : Everybody in this band listens to all styles of music. It ranges from jazz to Latin music, to rock, metal, you name it. It's such a broad spectrum,. We have been listening to all that kind of music since school. I went to a jazz school, and everybody else, they kinda picked it up as we've gone along,so it's just another way of throwing different influences and styles into the metal background that we came from, and we grew up on, the hardcore background. It's kinda something else, a different perspective to throw into the music. PB : You got a pretty negative crowd response when you toured with System of a Down ? CP : I wouldn't say it's like totally negative for us, considering that one tenth of that crowd was like a thousand people. That's more people than we've ever played in front of, so on a whole scale I guess it was pretty negative, but for us, it was actually pretty positive. It was a great opportunity and the System guys were really, really cool, so I didn't care, man. I had a good time. I thought it was pretty awesome. PB : What kind of reaction were you expecting from the Reading crowd when you played there a few weeks ago? CP : I don't think any of us when we play those big types of gigs really expect anything. We just really go in there and do our thing, you know, or whatever. We do what we want onstage and we just let whatever we have bothering us out on stage. We pretty much play every show like it's our last, because you know not many people get awarded the opportunity to do this kind of thing, so we don't take it for granted. We want to make the best out of every show, so it could be a thousand people or five people, and we'd still be out there doing our best. PB : Do you prefer the challenge of trying to convert people into fans that might not get into you straight away? CP : Yeah, I like the challenge, which I guess was like a bonus on the System tour. There were so many kids that didn't know anything about us, and we were just thrown into the spectrum of all these people, so it was cool even if they didn't like us. At least it was up in all their faces and made available. PB : What was Greg (Puciato, singer)'s thinking behind the shitting onstage at Reading? CP : Had he thought about it? PB : Yeah ? CP : Honestly, nobody really thought about it. Greg just had to take a dump, man, and it ended up coming out onstage. That's all. He just really had to go. I don't know. He made a comparison to the other bands that were playing onstage, but that's his thing, so I can't really speak for him. I'm not really into slagging bands, vecause I kinda like a lot of the bands that were playing that festival. I like Incubus and stuff like that, but I can't speak for us as a unit. Greg's actually a big fan of Incubus as well, but it's his thing. It's his agenda. I don't know. You'd have to ask him about it really. PB : Do you know if he regretted smothering himself in shit? CP : No, not really. He didn't care. PB : He looked as though he was going to be sick. CP :(Laughs) We got it on tape, man! I didn't see it, because I was back there behind the drums, and we saw it on tape. He just caught like a windful of shit, man, and he looked like he was gonna puke, but I don't know. He doesn't care, man. He's just like 'whatever'. PB : Quite a while ago, there was talk of a split EP with the Icarus Line. Is that going to happen still? CB : It's gonna happen. It's definitely gonna happen. The Icarus Line just recorded three other tracks. They're all finished, but we've still gotta go into the studio and record ours. We're gonna do two of our songs and then like an electronic song that we'll do together. We don't have a release date for it yet. We've still gotta get in and record, you know, and do it, so you know it should be pretty soon. Probably I'd say about late October, because we've got two weeks in the States that we're doing with the Icarus Line. It should be good. PB : Your artwork on your releases is quite distinctive- black strips at the top and bottom etc. Where did that idea come from? CP : Basically how that came about is that we wanted a simple theme, like the same type of thing for everything that we did, a kinda more classic style, not crazy letters and everything, but more brief and to the point, like the radio tunes on the previous album. I mean even when it came down to the EP 'Under the Running board', it had that clear, sharp look to it,more like a vintage, retro kinda thing. It wasn't conscious and it wasn't like we went "Yeah, it's gonna look a bit like this" or anything. It just came out that way, and then we just stuck with that type of them. We use it for all our albums and EPs now, so now it's like our trademark that we use. PB : Will you be recording a new album with Greg soon? CP : Yes. As of right now, we have like four or five songs. The reason I say it's between four or five is that four of them are already completed with vocals and stuff, and the fifth we're in the process of recording. We wrote half of a new one so, I dunno man. The cool thing that's awesome about this band is that we've become more efficient now, with the addition of Greg. He's got so many ideas and he's so eager to get all these ideas out and work really hard at it. He's totally at the same level that we're all at musically, which is awesome, so things are going forward really, really quick. It's good. PB : A lot of the songs on 'Calculating Infinity' are love songs. CP : Yeah, they are. Dimitri, our old singer, a lot of the lyrics that he wrote at the time was when he was going out with this girl, and they were doing through a break up. The girl dumped him right before we went into the studio, so he had plenty of stuff to jot down about it. Usually Dimitri and Ben handled a lot of the lyrics, and usually a lot of it dealt with relationships, and the whole message within the title means calculating the hours. Nothing really lasts forever. PB : So you're an Emo band gone wrong then? CP : (laughs) Sensitive guys, yeah. Sensitive guys who play weird music. PB : Lots of people have said that you'll eventually be a really big band. What's your views on this? CP : Honestly, I don't care man. It's cool that it's positive, and that there's people here,but it's just awesome to get the opportunity to come over here. This is the fourth time we've been over here, and that's cool, man. It's awesome to just walk around town and to see how everything is e compared to America. It's just cool, the different way of life.It's a cool opportunity, man. I like that, you know. PB : Are there any other influences you're going bring into your sound in your new songs? CP : Yeah, the band is always growing. Ben and usually sit down, and we hash out the ideas at first, and then everybody adds their ideas later on. We had tons of ideas, and tons of other things we wanted to add into some of the songs on 'Calculating', but I don't think our band was ready for that, at that point, and I think the opportune time was for this EP, now cause we were able to add synths and some different moods to the EP, and it's gonna be continued further with the addition of Greg and Liam. Liam's fairly new to the band as well, and he has plenty of awesome ideas also. Things are always changing, so we are always getting fresh and new ideas coming in. It's awesome. PB : You can hear it in the Mike Patton EP. 'Pig Latin' especially on that EP has a more expanded sound. CP : It's got a different feel to it, yeah. That was again something we wanted to do, a more unreal electronic side to it, but with Mike's ability and Greg's ability too, we were able to throw more different vocal styles, into that, which is cool. PB : A friend of mine heard the first track off that EP, 'Hollywood Squares',and said it sounded like Iron Maiden. How far would you agree with him? CP : I know exactly what part he's talking about. There's a part where it breaks down, and then kicks back in, and there's this part with all double bass, and it sounds like total 80's metal. I can totally picture a couple of kids hearing it and going 'Dude that sounds like wank rock,80's Mr. big or something! That's forbidden! Yeah, I can definitely picture that part, if that's the part you're talking about, then, yeah. Iron Maiden. dude! I was listening to Iron Maiden when I was four years old, I got 'Number of the Beast' when I was into He-man. I don't know if you guys know about He-man? PB : Yeah. CP : Yeah, the cartoon character, in the States and shit. PB : Everyone knows He-man. He-man and Mr. They're the best things to come out of the 80's. CP : Yeah dude! He-man and the A-Team! (laughs). That's cool, man, if somebody is saying we sound like Iron Maiden. PB : Do you prefer playing big gigs, or smaller one's like the coffee bars and garages you played when you started out? CP : We used to play like wherever, dude. We used to play coffee shops,kids' basements, just wherever. That was cool because it was a completely like a raw do-it-yourself punk rock show, and the energy at those shows was just awesome. The kids were from just around. Everybody was like having a good time, and there was nothing formal about it. Youput your stuff down and played. There were no sound checks or nothing. It was cool, and in some ways I kind of miss it, just going "Hey, let's go set up in that kid's basement and play a show", but this is cool. It's cool that more kids are showing up. That's awesome. It's definitely cool. We've built up our show over the years, but it would be cool to just strip down and play a really raw set, like no electronics, nothing, just guitars and drums and vocals. Straight and raw. Total rawness. PB : That's the end of the questions. Thank you.

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Dillinger Escape Plan - Interview

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Dillinger Escape Plan - Interview

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