this article was first published in May 2010
Back From The Black
Dillinger Escape Plan Interview
By Dan Collacott
Dillinger Escape Plan have been described as mathcore, mathrock and more recently tech rock - all these labels aside all you need to know about massively revered New Jersey quintent is that they rock like a complete and total muth bitch! In fact since they first hit the rock scene in 1997 they have evolved their sound and challenged metal conventions with each and everyrelease.
Their fourth full length studio album 'Option Paralysis' doesn't disappoint as it serves up a aural maelstrom of disorder and intelligently crafted song writing. Sure the band have veered slightly away from the measured chaos of some of their previous records, instead opting for a more structured sound with Puciato's full vocal range coming more to the fore. Slower tracks such as the haunting and claustrophobic 'Parasitic Twins' and the piano driven 'Widower' are both as beautiful as they are disturbing. 'Gold Teeth on a Bum' feels like a slice of neurosis channelled through Mike Patton's own skewed mind, whilst 'Farewell Mona Lisa' and 'Crystal Mornings' showcase the band's trademark aggression, intensity and sweeping tempo changes.
Although this record might divide some of the band's more hardcore fans who expect and want the same formula repeated over and over, with this release the band have still managed to maintain their importance and relevance, proving that they are one of the most important metal bands of the last fifteen years.
'Mathcore to me implies putting the technical aspect of playing, above the emotional. We've never done that. Ever. The emotion and attitude comes first. Being a good player is just a tool to reach the end, it isn't the point.' Greg Puciato
From the opening quote above you can tell that the Dillnger Escape Frontman is a intelligent and deep human being we continued to press the versatile lead singer about the brilliant new album and got initimate insight into the albums lyrics and writing, the rigours of touring, the bands progression and the past, present and future.
How was it to be back in the UK and London?
Fantastic as always. The UK was one of the first overseas places that really embraced us, and seems like they've always stuck by us. It's something we really appreciate, and we always enjoy being there.
How are preparations for the US tour going - what can the fans expect this time around?
We're about two weeks into the tour now, and we're fully in our stride. We've got a lot of energy right now, with the album coming out in a few days, a bunch of new songs, a lot of pep in our step so to speak. We're playing with a lot of fire. Haven't been beaten up too much yet ya know? We're fresh and it shows on stage and in the playing.
You have an awesome reputation as a live band - how do you maintain your focus and intensity on stage?
There are so many things that come together to make a show great and there are so many things that can derail your focus or your intensity, especially with a band like ours where those things intrinsically need to be at a really high level. We aren't a band where the playing is second to the hanging out or the partying. The playing is the point, and we tour for a long time and it's very physically and emotionally demanding. You have to stay on top of your health, not just physically but mentally, and you have to know how to keep yourself from getting worn down by the more grueling aspects of touring. There is no one secret, you just learn as you go along. Sink or swim really. We just try and control the things that we can, like our diets and health and having a routine, things like that, that way all the random insanity that can derail you is easier to deal with.
Can you tell me about Option Paralysis how it was recorded and the stories/inspirations behind the songs, titles and writing?
We had the title “Option Paralysis” before we wrote one note or one lyric. The title refers to an instance of having so many options, so much bombardment, that you end up being frozen and unable to make a choice. That is sort of a thing that we see is happening right now in the world. We are bombarded, whether it be by marketing, technology, or just sensory overload. It's causing what we feel to be some sort of cultural recession, as people struggle to figure out how to retain the core of the human experience, how to decipher the melody through the noise so to speak. This concept flavored some of the lyrical themes, but the lyrics also reflect a mindset that I was in at the time regarding things and issues in my personal life. I don't really want to get specific, because it really isn't any one's business for me to get specific about them, but people can read into what they want from the lyrics that are there. That's the point of lyrics. The art is the art, it's not really up to the creator to spend time explaining what the art is about. Lets just say that I was in a very depressive mindset about a number of things, and writing the lyrics really made me face a lot of things that I had buried for a long time in my subconscious. It's kinda like if you have a ten year party, and at the end of that party you look around and realise that there's a lot of shit you need to clean up because your place is a fucking mess, and you have to take responsibility for a lot of it. There's a lot of that in there, and there's a lot of what I said before, commentary on the situation I see going on in the world as far as cultural stagnation and detachment is concerned.
How does this record differ from Ire Works?
It's more cohesive, more to the point. Ten songs, no interludes, no instrumental songs. The songs are longer, we took them to their logical limits. We really fought our tendency to let our short attention spans dictate our song output. It was written really organically, most parts were written in a room with guitar and drums and not as much electronics, and with much less inner band turmoil than any other album.
Do you think mathcore adequately describes your sound or do you hate such labelling?
I understand where the term comes from and what it means. Having said that, I think we're at a point where we're painting with a little too many colors to be labeled as mathcore. Mathcore to me implies putting the technical aspect of playing, above the emotional. We've never done that. Ever. The emotion and attitude comes first. Being a good player is just a tool to reach the end, it isn't the point.
Your music is often brilliant and also challenging, what is the ethos and intention behind your music? To push boundaries and provoke people into feeling like they've experienced something. Not to just be. To push back against the world around us, not just allow it to push us. Our music is not trying to change the world, we have no grand agenda, we're just trying to keep our vision pure, uncorrupted, and honest. We don't have a mission statement that we repeat everyday. We just go out and try and show people that we're alive, that they're alive, that art and expression is alive, and this is our contribution to keeping it all going. If art and human expression were taking it's dying breath, I wanna be part of the oxygen up until the very end.
Do you feel the new album has developed your sound and/or taken you in a different direction?
It always does. If it didn't, we would stop playing. There's no point in staying the same. You have to move, as an artist. If you don't, you may as well do nothing. Art doesn't HAVE to be made, it's not a product for us. If we have nothing new to say, nothing stimulating us to change, to destroy, to grow, in any direction at all, we would stop. We certainly don't keep doing this because of the paycheck involved.
What is your favourite track off of the new album and why?
It is so soon it's hard to be objective. Right now I love playing “Farewell” live, and I love playing “Good Neighbor” live, but I am also really happy and proud of “Widower”, it is a really different song for us, a really special collaboration, and really honest moment for me as a lyricist and singer. Very fulfilling in every way that creating could be.
Do you think the new material will please the core fans and/or bring in new ones?
I have no idea. It seems so far that fan reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, which definitely feels good, because we put so much into this, that seeing our fans enjoy it is definitely rewarding. All in all though, I have no idea. It really doesn't matter too much does it? We already wrote it. We try not to think too much about that kinda stuff because too much thinking of whether people like what you do corrupts the purity of the creative process and puts too much emphasis on the “product” aspect of it, rather than the quality of the substance itself.
Are you enjoying the freedom of being on your own label? Yeah it makes a lot of sense for us right now. We've been around a long time and we've learned enough a long the way to know how we do and don't want things to be done as far as the business aspect of our band is concerned. This time period in the “industry”, is total chaos. The only way to survive is go first of all, be good. Aside from that, at our level, you need to be self sufficient and flexible. Starting Party Smasher Inc, and the structure we have in place on this album with Season Of Mist, allows us to have those things.
You're line-up has changed many times do you feel that has hindered your progress as a band or helped you stay fresh and develop your sound?
It's like pruning a tree. You don't keep the dead leaves, you pluck 'em off, or they fall off on their own. Either way, it's necessary for the health and growth of the tree. For us, we don't lose members, with the exception of people being physically unable to continue, we don't lose members and think of it negatively. When someone goes, it's been pretty mutual aside from the injuries. You can feel that there's dissonance. Why would you wanna keep someone that didn't wanna be there anymore? Who's heart wasn't in it anymore? On the flip side, why would someone wanna stay if their heart wasn't in it? It's good for everyone. We lose the dead weight. Right now, this lineup is extremely healthy, and extremely fruitful creatively. I think we'll be able to get a lot of mileage out of this particular group of people, just based on how killer the shows have been and how organic and, in a way, easy, the writing process was this time.
What is the most rock n roll thing any of you have ever done?
I could never ever ever put those things in print. Suffice it to say that in ten years of being in this band we have seen and done things that most people would never see or do in a hundred lifetimes. What has been seen and done cannot be unseen and undone. It's like how some people came home from Vietnam and were shell shocked forever, but could NEVER talk to other people about that shit. That's what it's like. Imagine the gnarliest shit you could ever think of when you think of stereotypical rock n roll debauchery. Multiply that exponentially in terms of scope, weirdness, and insanity. Then bury it deep down inside ha ha and don't ever let that shit out.
What is the best and worst thing about touring?
Best things are doing what you love every night, the relationships you form, the things about yourself you learn, the crazy life situations you go through, the places and people you see that you'd never otherwise see. There's a lot of “bests”. The worst? Realizing that one day you'll probably be thinking about it in the past tense. That's what I worry about. When you're on the biggest high ever, you kinda know in the back of your mind that you could never ever get any higher. You just have to get the most and give the most, live fully in it 100% all the time, because one day we'll all be sitting around reminiscing about it, being sixty years old or something, if we make it that long. Or hopefully, if it suits us at that point in our lives, we'll be like Iggy and still doing the damn thing and still loving it. People talk about not being able to have a home life, but that's not true, they're just looking at it the wrong way. This is your home life.
Is there one thing about yourselves that no-one knows?
There's a reason that no-one knows those things.
What is your career low light and highlight so far?
Highlights have been many, it's very hard to pick one. Low is easy. Being almost naked in Kerrang left a bad taste in my mouth, even though I greatly appreciated being on the cover, I would have preferred to have clothes on.
Who have most you enjoyed working with/touring with so far?
Every relationship has a different point. Best and worst lists are hard to make, things aren't really that black and white. I like the guys in Between The Buried And Me because they are good friends and we get along really well on tour. I liked being out with Nine Inch Nails because we learned a lot from them every night, almost like mentors in some way. I'm assuming you are talking about touring only, but if you're talking about working relationships in general, with people who aren't in the band, I would have to say our producer Steve Evetts. We've really done a lot together and our creative/working relationship has continued to grow, and we've become really great friends in the process. That's the working relationship in general that has been the most important to me.
Do you think the rise of downloading and fall of the CD has meant that bands have to work harder and tour harder to get money and recognition?
Yeah, it's just a whole new paradigm. Not a little different, it's a whole new thing. The revenue stream from music sales just isn't there like it used to be. Obviously that changes things. It's weeding people out. There's not enough money to be in this to make it worthwhile for people that don't REALLY wanna do it for the right reasons; they won't survive. We've always worked hard, so it doesn't matter to us. It's not better or worse, it's just different. We're better off now than we were when people bought more CDs, you just have to love what you do and love doing it. If you are good at something and passionate about doing it and not lazy, you'll be fine.
What was filming the new video to Farewell Mona Lisa like?
It was refreshing because we didn't have any crazy external scenes. We just went back to the style we had for “Panasonic Youth”, which I really like, which is just a band in a room doing what they do. Of course we have lights and edits and things to try and match the craziness of the music or perhaps our live experience, but for the most part it's pretty stripped down and honest, just us in a room being what we are...a band.
What aspects of the current rock/metal scene do you hate or love most?
I hate how much people concern themselves with the business of it all. The marketing. Things like that. Just write awesome songs and kick ass and put your heart and soul into what you do. The other shit is secondary. It drives me nuts that bands have a Myspace page before they even write a song. They put a page up and start collecting friends, have a name, etc, and it'll say “songs coming soon”. I hear bands talk about the “image” they wanna have, things like that, before they even have good songs or have learned to even play together. I hate that people focus on technicality of playing, how fast someone can do scales or something. Who cares? This is rock...its metal...its punk...its fucking attitude. It's not an exercise. It's energy, it's sweating in a basement or a garage with your friends on a hot summer day because all you wanna do is play loud music from noon til midnight. It's finding that spark with a new girl that blows your mind, it's getting punched in the face for the first time by the person who ends up being your best friend, its realizing that the best high in the world is the one that comes from being in that moment where you and other human beings are right there on the same wavelength together, and in our case we're trying to find that moment over and over through playing music together. It's not about collecting friends on the internet, how put together or cool you think you look, or how fast and clean you can play guitar. People are losing sight of that, and it really bothers me. Art is feeling and expression, not thought and deliberation.
Who do you tip for success that you have seen or toured with?
When we see people that have “it”, we try to help them. I've tried to help the kids in Genghis Tron, and I'm really happy right now about Tosin Abasi, a guitar player we have on tour with us playing in his band Animals As Leaders. He's a phenomenal guitar player, and he's got the right attitude. He happens to be immensely gifted and technically proficient, but it never gets in the way of the emotion of his playing. We just try to turn people on to things we think are good, and help the people we think are good if we can.
What are you up to right now?
At this exact instant: Sitting in the bus, on tour in Dallas, in the SNOW believe it or not(snow in Texas is pretty absurd), just finished eating dinner, doing this interview, Rules Of Attraction is on the TV, and Jeff Tuttle just walked by with hot sauce talking about how much he loves chicken. It's a slow day ha ha.