An INTERVIEW with
DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN
on the 7th September 2002 by Rigsby
Dillinger Escape Plan returned to Europe for a number of headline shows during late summer of 2002 including several dates around the UK, to promote their latest EP "Irony Is A Dead Scene" which was recorded and written with the legendary Mike Patton. Just before the beginning of their gig at Nottingham's Rock City, guitarist Ben Weinman took some time out to talk with us.
Hi Ben and welcome back to Nottingham. I think the last time you were in Nottingham was at the Arena show with System Of A Down back in April. I attended that gig and the reaction by the majority of a young crowd toward Dillinger was fairly poor. I remember being quite angry as it was the first time I'd had a chance to see you guys live and here I was surrounded by immature dicks actually booing you. What did you make of it all?
It didn't seem to bother us that much, I don't know. Maybe we just expected it or maybe we just couldn't hear it from all the way up there. A lot of people bring that up you know, people will come up to me in interviews, or just kids and say "hey I thought you were great, but I'm sorry for all the dicks in the crowd". And like I didn't think twice about it because we expect much worse to be honest with you, I mean even System (of a Down) themselves were telling us when they did their tour with Slayer they said there were so many boo's they couldn't even hear the music. You know it's like you hear so many of these stories.
Maybe it was a good job you couldn't hear it because I'm sure it would have been so demoralising and you don't deserve that.
Well in a way we don't expect everyone to understand, especially people coming from the mainstream heavy rock because we are doing kind of exactly the opposite. So it's like we expect it but just the fact that we play in front of that many people though and the fact that we are just a small underground band. It's like it's still such a great opportunity. Even if just a small percentage of the audience that even likes it at all, you know because like 10% of say 10,000 people is still more than we are used to playing to at one of our gigs.
I think with System of a Down being so much more mainstream and obviously they've been on MTV, etc and so they are going to drag in more of a mainstream sort of crowd, aren't they?
Yeah totally, there are a lot of young listeners who are not really trained to the more eclectic stuff, but it was still like really beneficial for us because we got so much out of it. Even our gigs after it were just so much better, we were seeing kids with System shirts and there were more kids at the shows, so it definitely helped.
I think this is your third UK date on this leg of your tour. How did Bristol and London go?
They went great. Bristol was weird, as it seemed like a lot people were just checking us out to see what it was all about. You know "I heard all about this band, let me check it out" type thing? The reaction was good, it was just a little more of a spectator kind of feel, you know? And then London was great as usual, we always do really well in London. It's very similar to the United States for us so far as reactions and the type of people at the shows and stuff like that.
How many times have you been to England?
Quite a few times now. About two years ago was our first time, it was like a small tour with a band called Botch. Then we came back with System which was really the next tour we did and then we came back after that and did some more UK dates of our own at various places.
What do you think to the crowds, the scene and the country generally?
It's great, I mean, it's the closest thing to uniformity so far as an audience goes throughout Europe. Having said that you know people say "What's it like playing in the UK or in Europe in general and like what's the average kid like?" And it's like where, where are you talking about because it's not like the United States where there are slight differences because of like climates or whatever to the location you know. It's like the United States is so big and you can just tour. We've done two-month tours and playing almost everyday without a day off in the United States without playing any places even close to each other, you know. So it's like people don't realise that it's like, well everywhere is different. You can play in Holland and the kids are a little tame and some are probably high, you know. Then you play in London and it's very similar to like a New York or LA gig. But the UK in general is much more similar to what we are used to at home.
I don't know how well you know the scene in the UK. Are you aware of the influence you've had on quite a number of bands here in England? For example there are bands such as Sikth, SMILE and even a band called Jim Fear who have taken their name from one of your songs. How good does that make you feel?
I am definitely proud. The fact that people sight us as an influence or whatever and like when a band does that I consider that to be a great honour, you know. But when bands are compared to us by other people, say when someone is reviewing other bands music and we are sighted as something, then I don't really think much about that. I just remember it wasn't that long ago that we were compared to other bands and called a rip-off band of other bands and this and that. And all of a sudden we have evolved into doing our own thing and then we are sighted as being influential. The scenes go so quickly, you know what I mean. Things change so quickly with the audience and kids grow up so quickly and hopefully we would like to be one of those bands that even when you grow out of going to shows, you still want to come and check us out for one reason or another. Bands like that, like Tool or Sonic Youth that seem to bring people out of the woodwork that don't normally go because it's not in their lifestyles now, they have their careers and their not into that anymore and yet they seem to get people out, you know. We hope to be one of those bands, but the scene and the kids revolve so quickly you know, I am sure these bands will be sighted as influences for other people in the future and not before long. Like I said it wasn't that long that we were said to sound like this band or were a rip-off of this band, or whatever. It's like hard to wear your influences well when you are first starting out, you are just kind of figuring things out, you know.
And then I guess like you said you develop your own style and you progress it from there and then build on it and become individual in your own right, don't you? You still have your influences there but maybe with your earlier music it's more evident.
Before the last couple of UK dates you did a stint of festivals around Europe in late August, including Leeds, Glasgow and Reading. The stunt that Greg pulled at Reading (He took a dump in a towel on stage and then threw it into the crowd) - What do you think he was thinking and what were your thoughts as he was doing it - like did you know he was going to do that?
It was very interesting, the press (that was generated) around that. We know that we are a low budget small band and these festivals are really based around people who are in a bigger dimension than we're used to. It's about lights and for some bands it's about costumes and for some it's about this and that, you know and for us it pretty much stripped down. We kind of got read the riot act, you can't burn anything, and you can't break anything, which is something we are used to doing. And because our booking agents were heavily involved in these festivals we had to be very respectful. So like I knew we were going to do whatever we needed to do to make an impression and you'll either hate us or love us, you know what I mean? And that is kind of what our deal is, like make an impression, whatever it is, just make an impression. So I think that was just kind of a way honestly to make a statement, to make an impression without causing any serious damage, you know.
Yeah, without breaking any of the "rules"?
Exactly, we didn't break any of the rules. No one was saying you couldn't take a crap, you know and like
And what's more natural than that? It's just a strange place to do it
Yeah, the thing is that in the United States, it's weird, we didn't really think of it as such a big deal because that might make a messageboard on a website or something like that in the US but it wouldn't be like headlines. We're like picking up NME and Kerrang! and stuff and there's all these headlines and pictures of shits and stuff and like it's funny because the press here is very different to in the United States, you know what I mean?
Maybe it's a little more desensitised to those sorts of things over there?
Yeah. But its funny, it humorous
It not something that happens very often, in fact I can't recall anything like that happening before at a gig I've been to, that's for sure. Anyway, your playing style is extremely intense, both with the music and the performance, and you always seem to put absolutely everything into it. What's your motivation to put in such performances time after time?
Well because things have changed throughout the time that we've been a band, our motive and intentions have in someways changed a little bit but initially you are kind of driven by the fact that you are the oddballs, playing music that we didn't expect anyone to like. We weren't writing for a particular audience or crowd, we were just kind of writing for ourselves and it was like a backlash to what we thought was wrong in music, you know. It was just kind of like us in a way giving up on music, giving up on trying to make music that people wanted to hear and just trying to write stimulating music. We were thinking, okay we're not going to be rock stars, that's not going to happen, you know, I'm not going to be that guy we see on MTV so lets stop trying to be that and just write the music that we enjoy. So that really was our goal, just to like play our music regardless of what anyone thought. And if people were going to come to our shows, we'd force people's attention and kind of like say "Hey, here it is! You don't have to like it". And most of the people didn't like us and that drove us, it's like a frustration and then like a satisfaction, forcing people to listen to this music that we enjoyed. And that was kind of fun, you know.
But now, because of the certain amount of attention we've got and a small fan base that we have acquired for various reasons, are intentions and things have changed because we can't really use the idea that nobody likes us as a source of inspiration like we used to, when we're playing shows where everyone's there to see us. Now it's more like we got to provide people with a choice. It's like we're getting some cool opportunities right now, things that we never expected, we never thought we would go this far. Now our intentions are like let's see how far we can take it. It's like we have gone further than we thought, hey this is fun, lets see what we can do with this, and we never expected any of this. So, let's see if we can give people a choice because there wasn't really any out there.
The music that Dillinger produces isn't exactly easy to get into, nor could it be interpreted as mainstream, it requires the listener to put in some effort - and I think that actually happens to be the appeal to a large number of people. But with that in mind, is commercial success important to you?
No. We would never ostracise anyone for not liking us or we wouldn't want a certain type of person to not have our music available to them for some kind of weird reason. We feel that it's very important that everyone should have the right to hear all kinds of music and everyone should have the right to pick what they want to listen to or what they choose to be good. We are a band in this position where, it's weird, people say to me "You are the best band in the world" and people say to me "You are the worst band in the world", you know what I mean? And like that's just how we want it and that's just how it is, you know.
Your music does kind of attract those contrasting viewpoints and that sort of criticism, doesn't it?
In my opinion that is kind of the goal at this point and to not compromise ourselves. If you were playing in a band that everyone could kind of say "Yeah that's pretty good", in my opinion then someone has already done it, because it's something that someone is used to hearing and what they already expect and it's easy listening because they're used to it. A lot of what is considered metal today is in my opinion easy listening, because it's been heard before. If you are used to it and you know what's coming then it's easy listening. I don't care if your swearing, I don't care if your screaming or if it's distorted guitar. So, in my opinion we want to provide something that is a little more challenging and as far as selling out to a bigger scene, it's not that important to us to change our music to hit more people but it is important to us to continue to grow. To continue to reach more people so that we can continue to do it, you know.
You have had quite a number of changes in the line-up since forming back in 97', the most recent being your vocalist. I get the impression Dimitri (the original vocalist) didn't want to move with the band onto the next stage of development and that is why there had to be a change?
It definitely is. Lots of people don't believe me and ask what is the true story as to why he quit or why did you kick him out or one or the other. And the truth is it was just like you know, he enjoyed playing in this band and he enjoyed some of the things like travelling around. And probably a couple of things that we've done in the last couple of months that he wasn't able to be included on, he would of liked to do. But the truth is that we got to a point where we got a lot of opportunities coming to us but not a lot of resources. We are on a very small label, we don't have financial resources that a lot of other bands doing some of the things we're doing have. So, it was like a decision, we had to dive into this head first, right now and like sacrifice a lot. Many of us lost serious jobs, relationships, all kinds of things just to like hit the road and be serious with the band. To go on tour with System of a Down or do whatever we have been doing, we didn't feel and he didn't feel that he was willing to go 100% into that. So we figured that now was the time that maybe we could take this a little bit further and just do a little bit more, or lets stop and take it to the next level. So we all agreed that it's probably best.
It takes that extra level of commitment really, doesn't it?
Yeah, as I say it was that we'd got to a certain level with the scene and we thought fine, lets just see if we can take it as far as possible, we didn't expect to get this far so, now lets see how far we can take it.
How has Greg (new vocalist) measured up since joining? Are you pleased with him and do you think he has added more than just replacement vocals to the band?
He's great. I mean the fact that he is so young and he's got a lot of the attitude that we had when we first started which kind of brings us back. And he's got a lot of healthy competition in him and that's kind of like what we wanted. Demitri was used to the whole thing and the fire that he had when we first started was not there like it used to be. So, like with Greg we get on great because not only is he an awesome vocalist, like completely into vocals as an instrument, versatility and all that but he's like got that attitude of like healthy competition. Like we got to kick the shit out of everybody in this place, right now and that's a good attitude. Not that your better than anybody but you will do everything in your power to make it work.
The new EP - Irony Is A Dead Scene - is a collaboration with the talented Mike Patton (ex Faith No More, Mr Bungle) and it sounds amazing. How did it come about?
A couple of years ago, before our full length record actually came out, we put out a three song EP and Mike got a copy of it somehow and took hold of it and really liked it. He got in touch with us and asked if we would join him and his band Mr Bungle at the time. So we went out with them on a US tour. Of course we are huge Faith No More fans, huge Mr Bungle fans and huge fans of Mike Patton and we're like "We're there!" you know. I think part of the reason that he wanted us on the tour was to freak out the crowd, like maybe he had done in the past when he was younger. Because, like the album they were touring with was California, which was a very mellow almost lounging record, so I think that Dillinger was the perfect band to come out and just destroy the crowd. And then we got to lounge, you know and I think that's what we did. It was interesting to be part of that relationship and the respect and obviously we already had a respect for him, but fortunately he gained a respect for us on that tour and he took us in as legitimate little brothers, you know.
That's one hell of a big compliment, isn't it?
It is because he's very, very critical, almost too critical. Sometimes it's like "Mike, not everything in the world sucks, right. Incubus is not Stinkubus, Tool is not Fool, just accept it!" Yeah, he is so really picky, he's so particular with who he works with and what he does, so it was a huge honour that he would consider us in some sort of peer group, to like work together.
The "Come To Daddy" cover is awesome - are you going to play that live tonight?
Thanks... Err maybe, I'm not sure if we have it on our set list, but we have played it at a couple of shows.
What sort of a mix of new and old material are you playing live now?
Well, we have pretty much been playing a whole bunch of new stuff, probably half-and-half. There is one of the songs off the EP that we won't be playing tonight because of a problem with equipment that we need for that song, unfortunately. But we have been playing the other songs including Come To Daddy and we also play a new song that's not recorded yet on anything, and we play a couple of our old songs.
That leads neatly onto the future, new songs and a new album?
Yeah, I mean we are well into a bunch of new songs. With this question it's like, I never really give anyone the answer they want because I can't. We are well into a new record, but we don't like to say a date, we don't like to put deadlines onto our new records because the music we play, we are like really eclectic music listeners and we don't listen to a lot of heavy stuff. It's hard to listen to a lot of heavy music when you're playing it all the time, you're listening to it for so long you get desensitised.
And maybe that would restrict the way you write as well?
It definitely does. So, sometimes to invoke the heavy, aggressive kind of things is not easy when your listening to Bjork or something, but there is always a time and place for Dillinger and it's like when it's time, it's time. We can go like three weeks and write four songs and then go like five months and write nothing, because it's just not right. We are not the type of band that has a bunch of songs that we just write and write and write or we say this is the time we are going to write and this is the time we are on tour, we just can't do that. We can't just say okay, we are going to be in the studio and we are going to write 40 songs and we will pick the best. Every song we write is on that record because it doesn't even make it that far, if it's not right it's gone. Even if it's like technically cool or cool time signatures, in theory that's cool but if it doesn't involve that energy and we don't feel it, it's gone. So it definitely takes a while for us to write but I can say we are well into some new songs that I am really happy with, and that usually snowballs and keeps things rolling, so it shouldn't be too long.
The EP has been released on Epitaph. Have you changed labels?
No, we haven't changed, we actually just did the EP as a one off. I can't say that we won't work with Epitaph again in the future because they have been really, really, really awesome and really cool to work with.
What's the situation with Relapse? Is it likely that new releases will come out on that label?
I mean we are still under contract with Relapse. It's bound to be on Relapse, I mean we are still working out some technical things and some politics and things like that. But we are still under our contract with Relapse, we're not with Epitaph at this time.
Ben, I like to finish it there as it's getting fairly close to the start of the gig. Thanks so much for taking the time out to talk with us. Is there anything further you wish to add to conclude the interview?
Just thank you for your interest, I appreciate it you know. You're like one of the select few that can dig what we're doing and it makes a big difference to us, so we really appreciate it