When It comes to genre-bending and pushing creative envelopes, few do it better than The Dillinger Escape Plan. The band is about to release their latest album, entitled One Of Us Is The Killer. Ghost Cult Caught up with guitarist Ben Weinman to discuss DEP’s upcoming record, his admiration for Mike Patton and the fine art of maintaining one’s sanity on the road.
One Of Us Is The Killer seems rather more song- and groove-orientated than your usual fare, certainly compared to older DEP material. What’s your opinion on this?
Maybe you’re right about that. This time we wanted to write material that we’re not comfortable with. It had be to be a challenge in order to keep things fresh and interesting for us. We used rhythms that are not natural for us, but at the same time the material sounded surprisingly groovy, like you said.
The most interesting part is the musical evolution you’ve made from Calculating Infinity to the present day.
That’s also true, and over the years we really started paying attention to song writing, culminating on Option Paralysis and One Of Us Is The Killer. Many people still think that Calculating Infinity is our most advanced record, because it sounds so chaotic and unpredictable. The real challenge for us is to incorporate all our different influences in our music and make it fluid. That’s difficult at times because of all the different rhythms and time signatures we use, in combination with certain sounds we want to use. The real challenge is to maintain that chaotic side of us and concentrating on writing real songs at the same time.
So how do you actually pull that off? What’s your secret?
There isn’t a secret really. This is what we set out to do from day one. When we started there was a whole range of different bands who started experimenting with different sounds and genres. Hardcore bands were fiddling around with jazz ideas and other bands were looking at other influences, just so they could set themselves apart from their contemporaries. They put all those different influences in one big melting pot and created something new. That’s exactly how we started. Movies, books, everything can be a source of inspiration for us. Even stuff we don’t like can inspire us to write new music.
When listening to One Of Us Is The Killer two names keep popping up in my head, namely Mike Patton and Mr Bungle..
Good! Mr Bungle and Mike Patton are a huge inspiration for our music. Listening to Mr Bungle taught me to be open minded to almost anything and use it as inspiration. Total artistic freedom is very important for us as a band. We toured with Mr Bungle in our early days on their California tour and Mike Patton kind of took us under his wing. His working ethic and attitude were inspirational for us.
What’s the general theme of One Of Us Is The Killer?
One Of Us Is The Killer is more or less a concept album, because all the music and lyrics come from pretty much the same place this time around. A lot of the theme has do with how, as you get older you stop pointing your finger at everyone else for your frustrations and difficulties and you start looking more inward, realising that you’re responsible for your own happiness and relationships in this world. That’s the central theme that most of the songs and the lyrics revolve around.
So how this does tie in with the the album title?
We chose the title of one of the songs on the album, which is about the difficulties of maintaining relationships, especially for people in an active band like us. That’s always a major challenge. That also goes for the relationships within the band. Constant instability can be a threat, especially in the relationship between Greg (Puciato) and I. We’re so dependent on each other, especially in the creative aspect, but we’re also such different people. Maintaining such a relationship is a constant battle, even when you don’t realise it.
How do you manage to keep such an intense working relationship going between you and Greg after all these years?
We fuel each other creatively, but the honest answer is not spending too much time together. We live two completely different lives and we both live in different parts of the country. At the same time we have certain things in common that nobody can share except us.
How was the recording process for the new record in comparison to previous experiences?
It went pretty smooth. With every new record we pay more attention to details; like the demoing process for instance. Technological advances enables us to try different things. Especially with this record, we spent a lot of time on small details within the song before we entered the studio. A lot of that was done in my own studio back home. We also experimented a lot in the studio and all those happy little accidents you can hear back on the record.
The new DEP record is the second release on Party Smasher Inc, your own imprint. What triggered you guys to go completely independent?
We wanted to down our own thing really. One thing I’ve learned in the music industry is that there’s no right or wrong way of doing this, especially considering the shape it is in now. Compared to the old days there are way more avenues to distribute your music and it started making us think about new possibilities without being tied a record label telling us what is right or what is wrong. It’s been a very interesting ride so far and we’re working with many different partners all over the world. In Europe we work with BMG and it’s kind of funny to actually go their office to hire them to do stuff for you instead of the other way around. It gives a whole new perspective on things, haha.
So what did you learn along the way business-wise?
It’s very rewarding to keep your finger in every detail of the entire process, but at the same time you have to have a keen sense of what your strengths and weaknesses are. One thing I’ve learned is that time spent being creative is more rewarding than time spent doing secretary work, haha. Over the years I was the guy who did almost everything in terms of running the band; from printing flyers and telling people to come to our show to renting buses and booking plane tickets, pretty much every aspect of the business. For me it was very beneficial to hire someone who could take care of that, so that I can concentrate on what I’m best at, namely being a musician.
Do you have any plans into turning Party Smasher into a full-flegded label or services company for other bands?
It won’t be anything like a label in the traditional sense of the word, but we certainly have plans to release side projects via our imprint and perhaps albums from a couple of our friends. Perhaps one day we’ll expand into a management company in general. At the moment the focus is entirely on Dillinger though.
DEP shows are known for their intensity and ferocity. How do you guys manage to keep such a level of energy up during an entire tour?
That’s a very good question and I don’t really know. I’m currently looking at a list of a few hundred tour dates on my desk and honestly it’s quite overwhelming. The truth is that we don’t know other ways to play our show. The minute we get on stage we keep on going until we’re completely physically exhausted. That’s just the way we do it at a Dillinger show. There’s no other way.
Finally, with such a lengthy tour schedule how do you keep yourself in shape both physically and mentally?
I try to eat healthy food and some of the other band members are into yoga. We try to take some days off every now and then and watch other bands. I like to do physical exercise as well, so when I get the chance I’ll go outside the tour bus and do a couple of push ups. Sometimes that’s really difficult because you’re so exhausted. The truth is that there’s no real answer for it, because we haven’t figured it out yet. Even I’m still surprised we’re able to do it, haha.