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Dillinger Escape Plan released what I felt was one of this years strongest musical achievements. Miss Machine was a progressive, accessible and uniquely post-modern take on aggressive music.
I had a chance to spend a few moments discussing the record, the band and their future with bassist Liam Wilson,
How has the response to Miss Machine been so far?
Everyone has been awesome, and to me it’s suspicious. I can’t help but wonder when the bubble is going to burst. As silly as it sounds, I think we’re all pretty humble, and insecure to a healthy degree. To me, all great works of art have a level of human insecurity involved.
We're thinking “I hope this [record] is cool and we believe in it, but let’s test fate and see what kind of backlash we’ll get for writing something like “Unretrofied.”“
I’m sure some people were surprised by how accessible it was.
A lot of people suggested that Dillinger was unlistenable; that everything was a technical exercise, so we thought “Oh yeah?” and the result was “Unretrofied.” Whether that is the epitome of what we could do in this dynamic or not, I don’t know. But it’s a first sketch.
Would you release “Unretrofied” as a single?
Yes; we wrote it, after all. Down the line there is a plan to, but we didn’t want to release that first because we didn’t want to depart too much from what people expected us to do first. So we put out “Panasonic Youth,” and we’ll use that as a pivot point.
People usually describe you as a hardcore band, and most of the bands you play with tend to be more in the hardcore and punk vein, Does it feel strange to be on such a renowned metal label?
It’s hard to say; when I first saw Dillinger, the lines were so blurred anyway. And if you were talking about hardcore, it seemed like Youth of Today, or Gorilla Biscuits. It was straight edge or posi; morally or ethnically painted. So, I don’t think it was ever decidedly metal or hardcore.
Relapse is a metal-heavy label, but I think it’s the only place where we feel comfortable. They understand where we’re coming from, and where we’re going and they support us. We’ve done everything our way and been fairly successful so far.
Is the band a full time job yet?
Does it mean I don’t have a day job? No. Does it mean I tour nine months out of the year? Yes.
We’re all still “starving artists.” I still work three or four days a week at a venue in Philadelphia; a DIY punk space venue. I work because I like to work, not everybody else does. The band consumes my time, but only sometimes does it financially support itself.
Do you think there is room for mainstream success or some semblance of it?
To sort of appropriate the question, I think we all have a perverse interest in how far it can go. I don’t think we’re prepared to sacrifice anything though. With the record we just released, we took ourselves out from under the microscope because we’re not pigeonholed anymore. To look at a band like Slayer or Converge – no judgment call – those bands are stuck. Those bands don’t have the freedom to do what we’d like to do.
A band like Faith No More did it right the first time; they went from “Surprise! You’re Dead” to “Underwater Love” and they were free to do whatever they wanted at that point. And we wanted to [impart] that kind of sensibility to Dillinger.
Is the line up more solidified now? The band has has had quite a few shake ups, the kind that many bands wouldn’t even recover from.
The writing force is probably never going to change. Chris and Ben are always going to be 90% of the recipe. But things are more solid [after] the process of making a full length and touring so much since I joined the band and especially since Greg joined.
We weren’t friends since high school; a band like Botch knew each other from high school and that’s awesome. I almost feel like we’re a metal boy band, you know, get the people who can do it.
What was it like working with Mike Patton?
For me, it was hilarious. You meet him and next thing you know, you’re passing around beer and telling stupid stories, and telling bad jokes and you realize he’s just a “dude.” His work ethic is crazy though.
He came down and did the vocals, and at 2-3 in the morning, we’re falling asleep at the soundboard, and he’s still going. I was thinking “This guys insane.” Just a total fucking fireball.
When we did the EP - despite popular misconceptions - we had the music already written. All of it was written for Dimitri, and we didn’t really know about what was going to happen, so it’s hard to say what would have happened had [Mike] been more involved in the writing process.
He just whipped everything into shape. It’s definitely changed our work ethic; we thought we were working pretty hard and this guy came and shut us up.
Were you fans of Patton’s previous projects?
Definitely, Faith No More, and Mr.Bungle in particular. He did the commercial success thing, but never lost his head in the process, and if anything about him was inspiring, it was that.
Were you ever worried about being pigeonholed as one of his many side projects?
We were worried about that if we had invited him to join the band full time. We didn’t want to be one of his pet bands. We didn’t want to tour when he could tour. I think doing the project the way we did released both of us from this stress. He’s always very glad that we did it, and maybe some of us will do something with him again.
You guys have this reputation for being incredibly technical musicians? Are you all formally trained?
Collectively, not really. Chris, our drummer has [had] a lot more formal training than the rest of us. He went to Berkeley for a semester or two, and he spends a ton of time writing and playing music. Ben has a half decent understanding of theory, but doesn’t really work through anything like that.
I feel like there are two kinds of musicians; they’re the guys who do it by the book and get it from the book and then expand on those ideas. What Chris is doing is fundamentally understandable. He takes really simple things and combines them and juxtaposes them in bizarre and interesting ways.
Ben would start doing things by the book, and make mistakes than then hone those mistakes into something else entirely. Like Les Claypool is a good example of somethone like that; you know he studied some bass, but [you never know] where he is going with it.
Most people in the band have a little bit of both; Brian is completely untrained, he couldn’t even tell me what note he’s playing on his guitars. Chris and I can read music and exchange sight reading charts and nerd out on theory more so than Ben. So I guess the band is all in the grey scale; I’ve taken a decent amount of formal training, but it was always second fiddle because I was in art school for woodworking.
I’ve even seen you lumped in with the more academic prog.rock like Dream Theater.
Those bands sound very antiseptic and impersonal. It’s too intellectualized; I don’t mind being intellectual but when it comes to music, I want to hear what a certain emotion sounds like.
I think a lot of people start bands because they can’t find that CD or certain sound; you go to every show and pick up every band that was reviewed well. Anytime you see a band you like wearing another bands shirt, you pick it up and you just never find that sound, so as a musician it’s kind of your responsibility to make that sound.
I like crusty bands that are sloppy, but it’s mean as hell. To me, it’s what anger or frustration sounds like. If you can relate to it, its getting one step closer and that’s the fundamental goal of creating music or creating art.
What kind of music have you been listening to lately?
The last Blonde Redhead was pretty awesome and this band Mono from Japan. Necrophagist on Relapse is like hyper-technical death metal. The vocals are kind of neither here nor there, but what’s going on theoretically or musically just blows me away.
I could never get past the vocals.
Yeah. As clinical as they may be, musically, they’re stepping it up by incorporating more orchestral tricks.
Everyone looks at him and wants him to be such a steak head, or thinks he is going to be the next Henry Rollins. He’s probably the most down to earth guy in the band. He’s not really that bold – not to undermine what he’s doing – because most of us do think that most of those bands suck.
Bands like us are having a harder time connecting with people, because music is getting so watered down and uncultured. It’s like fast food; everyone is going for the easy, the simple junk food of music, and it bothers me that people are responding to that instead of digging a little deeper.
Everyone have the choice to do what they want and listen to what they want, but [that music] is neanderthal. There is no reason to write music like that anymore.
I can get into minimalism or modernism, but there is a certain architecture to music and art and a lot of people are missing the point. To invoke someone like Frank Lloyd Wright – and this is the art school talking – everything he was doing involved making these simple designs.
Nothing Chris is doing is theoretically that wild, but it’s the overlapping or the speed. Nothing, we’re doing is for the sake of ornament. If Wright was building a house and there was a wall that didn’t need to be there – like for anything other than structural integrity – he would take it out; it was never a gimmick. We’re not into gimmicks; shitting on stage wasn’t a gimmick. We were trying to stir things up a little bit., but we’re not going to wear masks or put on make up.
I’m not trying to be a cynical modernist, but I do think that to some degree, for some reason, a lot of people put faith in us and some responsibility on us to be purveyors of something more. And not necessarily to destroy everything, but to give people an option.
It’s pretty pathetic that people say they’re still catching to up. We know what we would have done if we had just had six more months to write that record.
Reviews frequently describe newer “technical” bands as being inferior clones of Dillinger. Considering that you've only been around a short time, does that surprise you?
I’m not that surprised, because I do understand what it is we’re doing. Greg and I have the benefit of being objective about the band we’re in, because it was one of our favorite bands before we joined. I knew these guys had their ears to the ground and I knew what was happening was important and I wanted to be a part of it.
People that cite us as an influence; it’s cool and honorable but it’s like when people credit Patton with the nü-metal movement, it’s a double edged sword and a lot of people miss the point. Bands might be cloning the symptoms of what we’re doing, but missing the fundamentals if they’re trying to clone us at all.
It’s honorable and I relate to those people when they come up and talk to us - I’ve been there too -but I just hope they don’t just stop there; I think it’s more inspiring to hear that “Dillinger didn’t do this.”
When I think of heavy bands that are frequently ripped off, Meshuggah and Dillinger Escape Plan would top my list. But a lot of people think it’s about weird time signatures...
And playing angular or off-kilter.
Or lots of blast beats...
Listen to Discordance Axis for that stuff!
I notice you guys tour with more punk or hardcore bands, rarely with your labelmates or “metal” bands.
We just don’t want to get pigeonholed. I just don’t want our crowd to feel bludgeoned before we even play. I’d love to play with a band like Mastodon or Converge, but I’d rather take out different sounding bands. Sooner or later we’ll do tours with other bands like Killswitch Engage or Shadows Fall, but there is a deliberate aversion to packages that are too homogenous.
I think Pelican would be an good choice?
I would love to play with them.
Planes Mistaken for Stars was another great choice.
They’re awesome. And they’re great people, and that has a lot to do with it. For twenty-five minutes we’re on stage together, but for the rest of the time we have to put up with these people. Darkest Hour, Planes Mistaken for Stars, Mastodon, and Daughters; we’ve made these great personal connections with them.
Avenged Sevenfold? The reason why we talk shit is because they’re assholes.
“Don’t you know who we think we are?”
This whole scene is built on humility, and if you want to take it somewhere else, fine, but we’d rather not play with you.
So, any clues about the next album?
It won't take five years is all I can say right now.
Thanks to everyone for being patient and I hope it was worth it.
Relapse Records (52 comments)
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