History & Biography
THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN - MISS MACHINE - RELAPSE/KOCH
DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN - IRE WORKS - RELAPSE
InterviewsDillinger Escape Plan’s latest foray, Ire Works, was 2007’s undisputed record of the year for many metal followers, and with good reason. Ire Works is an album that sees Dillinger Escape Plan exploring new avenues, all the while continuing to sharpen its snarling mathcore attack, a sub-genre the band helped form (which has since been inundated by a horde of imitators). What makes Ire Works so radical (in both senses of the word) is the fact that its creators seemingly saw neither boundaries nor linearity during its conception: the record benefits from dynamic and shade, all the while scorching the earth with its inflamed sense of rage. From dark, attitude-laced pop to wrath-filled hatespheres, Ire Works is an album that will stand the test of time and act as a testament to the malaise of this decade. David Perri caught up with ultra-friendly Dillinger vocalist Greg Puciato before the group’s recent Montreal show. - 07.02.2008
METALLIAN: Ire Works is an excellent record; I think you guys really outdid yourselves on this album.
GREG PUCIATO: Thank you. Honestly, it’s the first time we’ve ever finished something that we were totally happy with right away. When we finished Miss Machine, right away we listened back to it and we were like, ”˜Fuck I wish we could change that and I wish this sounded differently.’ I can’t even listen to that record now because there are vocal parts that I cringe when I hear. There’s production things that right away we were like, ”˜I hate the way that snare drum sounds’ and things like that. We kind of went into Ire Works knowing that and we knew everything we were unhappy with on Miss Machine and why we were unhappy with them. It was little things, like tones. On Miss Machine we were kind of enamoured with the whole ProTools thing. If we had a shitty drum sound, we just fixed it in mixing. Or, we’d re-amp it. This time, we wanted to get it just the way people did it like 20 years ago and when we got the snare drum, I wanted it to sound exactly the way it sounded in the room. And then by the time we got to mixing, we didn’t have to EQ or do anything. We just had to raise or lower levels. It’s pretty miraculous that it came out that way, because this record was done under such strain because of the whole Chris (Pennie, ex-drummer) situation. When we got to California to record, Ire Works was literally only sixty percent written. We didn’t even know if Gil (Sharone, Dillinger/Stolen Babies drummer) would be able to play the drum parts. I only had fifty percent of my lyrics written, and we didn’t have a second guitar player. Ben (Weinman, Dillinger guitar player and founding member) had to do double duty and write both guitar parts. But it was one of those situations where”¦ we’re the type of people who the more pressure we’re under, the more we kick it into high gear. We wrote and recorded Miss Machine in spurts; we never went into the studio and recorded it. We were super broke so we were always on tour. And we would go on tour and we were fighting Relapse at the time over contract negotiations. So we would go on tour and then just record three songs when we got back home and then we’d go back on tour and use the money from that tour to fund another recording session and do another few songs. Whereas this time we did what we always said we’d never, ever do: we went to California to record (laughs). Bands always go to California and then it’s the end (laughs). It’s the doom. Cave In went to California and I was like, ”˜No, what are you doing? You’re from the East Coast, it’s cold and it’s grimy. Keep shit real and make a real record.’ (laughs). You go out to California and you end up hanging out with girls and going to the beach and whatever. But we went out there, and it was actually better because when we were on the East Coast, we’d get done recording and then we’d all go home. But in California, we couldn’t go home. We were all staying in the same hotel room and then we’d go to the studio every day even if it wasn’t our turn to record. Even if it wasn’t my day to sing, I’d still be there all day. When we would leave we’d still be together, in the hotel or whatever. And instead of us getting sick of each other, it made the creative flow of ideas so much easier. We were never off. Even at two in the morning watching TV at the hotel room, we would still be talking about what happened that day and what we could do tomorrow.
METALLIAN: I think it shows. It’s a record that you can tell you guys were meticulous about.
GP: Thanks, man. We really poured over every single thing because we figured the only thing you have as a band is... it’s not money. The only thing you’re going to have is shows you played and stuff you recorded. And our attitude on both those things is the same: I don’t ever want to walk off stage and think that there was something that could have made that show more awesome that we didn’t do. And I don’t want to listen back to a record in ten years and think we could have done more, especially in this band where every record could be our last. I mean, I never saw that Chris shit coming (note: Chris left Dillinger for emo-prog lame-asses Coheed And Cambria shortly before Dillinger was to begin recording Ire Works). We’ve already gone through a lot and you don’t know how much more you can take, y’know? So we were like, 'Fuck, man, if every album could be our last, we better make sure we’re thinking about the fact that we don’t want to settle.' I don’t want to listen back to this a day after we finish and wish I would have fought for something a little more. So we fought about things until we got them right.
METALLIAN: There’s this one band I talked to that said your record is on tour for much longer than you ever are. It’s on tour forever.
GP: Oh man, totally. That’s totally it.
METALLIAN: I think you’ve really come into your own as a vocalist on Ire Works and you’ve really outgrown those Mike Patton comparisons that dogged you during Miss Machine.
GP: Thanks, man. Oh man, trust me I’m stoked about that. It’s funny, because I understand why that happened because I joined the band right on the heels of Irony Is A Dead Scene (note: the EP Dillinger recorded with Mike Patton on vocals) so it was such a direct comparison, but it was super frustrating for me. And he was an influence on me, but it wasn’t my only influence and it was the one that got amplified the most because of that direct comparison. I definitely think on this record that I don’t wear my influences on my sleeve as much. I feel like me. And with me and Ben developing a writing relationship with one another... I don’t feel any pressure to not do a certain thing or to do a certain thing. I don’t feel any Dimitri (Minakakis, ex-Dillinger vocalist) comparisons or any Mike Patton comparisons. Anyone who doesn’t like us anymore because we don’t just write Calculating Infinity stuff has already pretty much jumped ship. So that gives us so much freedom because we know there won’t be a lot of people standing there with their arms crossed waiting for us to fucking alienate them. What I learned is that you can’t write music for them because they’re not going to be there for you in the long run. They’re going to leave you anyway. The scene will not be there for you, a certain kid will not be there for you because he’s going to outgrow you anyway. No matter how long you try to make him happy, he’s going to... I mean, even if Metallica wrote Master Of Puppets 30 times, people would still fucking hate them for doing that. We just got to the point where we said fuck it, and we realised that Miss Machine alienated a decent amount of people, but we didn’t really get any smaller. So now the fans who are with us are people who will accept something like Ire Works. They’re not going to be weirded out by “Black Bubblegum” because they already heard “Unretrofied”.
METALLIAN: I think one of the best songs on Ire Works is “Dead As History”, especially when the vocals start and then there’s the line about moths. It’s a great song. What are your thoughts on it?
GP: Thank you man, that’s awesome that you say that. That was the last song that we wrote, and it was the fastest song that I wrote vocally so I actually felt really weird about it when we put it on the record because a lot of the songs we pour over forever. I and Ben are both guilty of thinking that the longer you work on a song, the more value it has. Sometimes it’s totally the opposite. I’ve learned and come to realise that sometimes the best ideas are the ones that you just come up with on impulse. And that song came together so fast that we almost felt guilty about it. So when we started to hear a lot people say that they liked that song, it was kind of, like, not frustrating but we were like... what? (laughs) We wrote that song in a few days and we spent four months writing another song. (laughs) So it’s cool and I’m really happy it ended up that way. The thing I like about that song is that from the beginning to the end it goes through a whole lot of things. Vocally, it was really fun because it goes to a whole lot of places. Musically, it’s kind of all over the place. And that song and the two songs after it - “Horse Hunter” and “Mouth Of Ghosts” - are songs we’re really proud of because they accomplish so many different things.
METALLIAN: You mentioned California before, and I’ve got to ask about that Youtube Ire Works trailer where you and Liam (Wilson, Dillinger bass player) drove from the East Coast to California. That was hilarious (note: check it out at http://youtube.com/watch?v=KmrzUtVmmgc and, while you’re at it, also check out this other Dillinger craziness: http://youtube.com/watch?v=r-lxwlgyhhA).
GP: Oh man (laughs). We were going to be in California for three months basically, and we knew that. And I have to have a car. It’s something I cannot do without. I hate feeling like I want to leave but can’t because someone else is my ride. Or not wanting to leave but I have to, because the guy who drove me is ready to go. I’ve always been a person who even if twenty people were carpooling I’d be like, I’m driving on my own (laughs). I didn’t feel like renting a car in California for twelve weeks because it’s super expensive so I was like 'fuck it, let’s have this crazy adventure and drive across the country.' It seemed like a great idea until about ten hours into it (laughs). Then we realised we had forty hours to go (laughs). But it’s one of those things that when you look back on it, you think about how fucking awesome it was. But I would never, ever want to do it again. And, dude, we got like five-hundred dollars worth of speeding tickets and I didn’t pay any of them on time, so I had a warrant for my arrest in like three separate states. It was a good time though, and we did it pretty quickly. Liam, did we leave Wednesday night? (Note: Liam had just entered the tour bus).
LIAM WILSON: We left Wednesday night at seven and got there Saturday at six in the morning.
METALLIAN: Holy shit. Did you guys really not stop the whole way through?
GP: My first shift of driving, I drove for like twenty hours. We only stopped for the bathroom and food and then Liam drove and then we made it to the Grand Canyon and stopped for six hours. Then we finished driving to California. While we were driving we thought it sucked, but then we thought we had a second wind. And then we thought it sucked again, but then we thought the second wind was coming back. And that process happened many times. But the worst is when you’re five minutes away from being done. We were in the neighbourhood we were supposed to be in and everyone else was asleep, so we were calling Ben to find out where the hotel was but he wouldn’t pick up his phone because he was asleep. Ben was already there because, of course, he flew (laughs). Ben Weinman flew to California while we drove a fucking Honda Accord across the country (laughs). So we couldn’t find the hotel and all we wanted to do was fucking go to sleep. And we knew what block the hotel was in, but we didn’t know the name of the hotel and there were six or seven hotels in that block. We ended up going to four or five wrong hotels before we got to our hotel and slept for like probably thirty hours (laughs). And I didn’t have any idea what time it was when I got up. It was cool man, but I’ll never do it again. I’ll never do it again (laughs). My car is still there. I ended up flying home and leaving for the tour and leaving my car at my girlfriend’s house because she lives in California. I would rather sell my car in California and come back to the East Coast and buy another one than drive that motherfucker across the country again (laughs). Don’t ever do it, man.
METALLIAN: Well, thanks for the tip (laughs).
GP: Don’t ever do it (laughs). The United States is huge, man. When people in Europe say it’s huge you’re like, yeah whatever. But, dude, it really is. It’s different being on tour and taking two months to drive across the country, but when you drive across that motherfucker in one shot... whenever people talk about overpopulation and how there’s no land -- it’s all lies, dude (laughs). It’s all land! You leave a coast and then it’s all fucking corn and then you get to the other coast and there’s another city.
METALLIAN: This next question is a weirder one. You guys in the band are all in good shape. It seems fitness is a real priority. How do you guys stay in shape on the road?
GP: We’ve kind of all developed something. Like Liam is a vegan and he’s super into yoga, so he’s into fitness in a different way than I am. I’m stronger and faster than he is, but he can bend his leg in like eight ways that I can’t. It’s more or less that we’re super physical on stage, as everyone who’s seen us knows. At this point in our lives, it’s super important that we not get too hurt. We can’t cancel shows or cancel a week of tour due to injury because, financially, we don’t have that big of a margin where we can say, 'Oh, I fucked up and I hurt my leg so I can’t play’. So we need to make sure we’re in really good shape. And the other thing is a mental thing. Fitness keeps you somewhat disciplined and to have some type regimen of some sort is important, because it’s easy on tour to fall into debauchery and vices and things like that. So to just have your own thing where you eat healthy or drink a lot of water is good. Liam will stretch and I’ll do some push-ups and anything like that is good. We’re all getting old, so it’s easy for us to get hurt.
METALLIAN: In terms of the intensity of Dillinger Escape Plan’s music and lyrics, where is that coming from? How do you resolve getting older and still being so aggressive? Most bands mellow out as they age.
GP: Well, that’s the thing, man. The truth is that I am a lot mellower now than when I was 16 years old. I was pure fire all the time when I was 16, and I could never be that guy now. Seriously, I could never do that now, it wouldn’t be healthy for me as a person. I would have a heart attack. It’s true that you see certain bands reach a point, especially with aggressive bands. Certain bands just don’t have it in them anymore. Or it feels contrived. Even bands that still write aggressive music... like a band like Slayer or something like that, it’s not the same as Reign In Blood was. Like even if they wrote the exact same songs, there’s still an authenticity missing. You can just feel it. So for us, we take a really long time to write. And one of the reasons for that is because if I sit down to write lyrics or if Ben sits down to write music, nine times out of ten what we write is not admissible for Dillinger. I might write a bunch of lyrics that might never fit for Dillinger and I might not ever use them for anything. Sometimes I just write on a certain day and nothing usable comes out. And Ben might write and it sounds like a pop song or Aphex Twin. We could maybe make that stuff work in Dillinger, but it would be off. It’s one of those things where you really have to sit and wait and know when the fuel is there to tap into. I hate when people say that you can’t make darker art -- whether it’s a movie or a book or whatever -- without being in a certain mind-set. You hear about actors who almost purposely put themselves through a troubled period so that they can really get in character. But it’s kind of true; you couldn’t write about loss if you’ve never experienced real loss. You could write about it and it might fool some people, but it’s going to reek of inauthenticity. So if I’m sitting at home and everything rules and I’m super happy, when Ben hands me a song that’s just pure fucking piss and fire I can’t just make myself sit down and write some harsh shit. You have to wait on it man, and from a commercial standpoint... I mean, our record company probably hates that because they want another album as quick as possible because they’re thinking in terms of what’s best for your career. They’re like, 'if the Dillinger album was optimized for the right time it’ll come out in the fall of whatever. 'And we’re like, uh guess what... we only have three songs (laughs). And there’s nothing we can do about it. We just have to wait. And the thing that’s harder is that you play every night, and you really want to try to tap into the feeling you had when you wrote the songs and the lyrics. And it’s hard to make it not turn into theatre or an act or something like that. Like, I know what kids expect of us when we play. They expect that it should be crazy and they expect it to be almost horrifying. A lot of times you really have to remember why you wrote the song. And when you’re on stage you have to think about what you’re saying so it doesn’t become autopilot. You don’t want it to become just consonants and syllables. It’d be very easy to just pick up a mike and say the lyrics and not realise what they mean anymore. You really have to think about intent and what I’m saying and what I meant when I said that. I try to look at kids in the crowd and try to superimpose on them the person I was thinking about. I just don’t want to lose that spark, because it’s easy to lose the spark when you’re doing the same exact songs every single night. That’s what I don’t want it to turn into. I don’t want it to be the Dillinger Las Vegas show.
METALLIAN: I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon (laughs).
GP: I don’t want it to be predictable where kids think that first we’re going to break something and then we’re going to do another thing right after, and then we’re going to do this other thing right on cue. I don’t want it to be like that, ever.
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