Since forming in 1997, New Jersey outfit The Dillinger Escape Plan
have successfully toiled away at their craft. With their hardcore intensity and cathartic rage coupled by an intricate melodic musicality and focused visionary spirit, the group have etched into stone their own unique musical paradigm. Their critically acclaimed 2004 studio outing Miss Machine
- that was visually documented via the recently released Miss Machine: The DVD - saw the band again raising the bar by shattering all sonic preconceptions. Joe Matera
recently caught up with the Dillinger Escape Plan's guitar mastermind Ben Weinman
during a stop over on the group's current American tour for this exclusive interview for Ultimate-Guitar.
Ultimate-Guitar: How's the current tour going?
It has been going really well. It's great to get in front of so many new kids every night. And they seem to be pretty receptive as well.
On the Miss Machine: The DVD, it's revealed that the song Panasonic Youth was constructed from a riff you had brought to the band. Are many of the band's songs given birth through a riff you've come up with?
Yeah most of the time I will either come to our drummer with an idea and we will jam it out. Or I will actually record or program a riff or drum beat and email it to him so he can work on it a bit before we actually get together. It's really important for our songs to have energy and feeling though. So a lot of the riffs that seem like a good idea initially don't always work out when we actually jam on them. Being clever just isn't good enough when it comes to our songs. We don't want to just be technical to be technical. Music is about emotion.
Already having proven yourself that you can play a million notes per hour, the goal you set with Miss Machine was to prove that you could also write a song, do you think you've achieved that?
|"It's really important for our songs to have energy and feeling. We don't want to just be technical to be technical."|
Definitely. We are really happy with the way Miss Machine flows as a single piece of work even though there are so many drastic dynamics. I think the hardest thing for us was writing songs that were untypical of our usual work but yet still recognizable as a Dillinger song. I feel we achieved that.
When it comes to songwriting and recording you tend to take your time, is this because of a perfectionist streak or because of the complexity of the music involved?
We are definitely not a prolific band and I think that is due to a number of factors. The perfectionist thing definitely contributes to our lack of catalog. We also tour a lot and we have never really been good at writing on the road. I do a lot of electronic programming and scoring on my computer but the Dillinger method doesn't really work out very well on a bus. We have also had many member changes through out the years, which always hold's the creative process back because you are constantly trying to get new members to catch up with the past.
Your underground cred seems to be somewhat overshadowed by the fact that many mainstream metal and hardcore acts have embraced The Dillinger Escape Plan, causing many to accuse the band of selling out, what do you say to those detractors?
I don't know what to say about that. All I know is that in the almost ten years that we have been actively touring, I could count the support tours we have done on one hand. We have mostly always just been doing our own thing on our own terms. I have always been evolved in the management of the band since day one. We have always taken bands out with us that we like, never because some label or management company asked us to. We have never bought onto any tour that we have gone on. More than half the bands on Ozzfest could never say the same.
How much does the environment, whether it's the studio or live setting affect the band's music and creative process?
Well a comfortable studio is always important. We just get more done when the conditions are right. We have never taken ourselves out of our environment in order to record or write so I don't really know how it would affect us. I do know that every other day I hear about some band from the East Coast moving to L.A for two months to make a record. How stupid is that! Put a band in a place where no one actually works and tell them to make a record?
How do you go about capturing your sound in the studio?
|"We play every thing on the record even if it takes us ten hours."|
It's definitely a combination of things. For one, we never try to slow things down to create a groove. We just blaze as if we were on stage. Then we try and actually create perfection in the places it needs to be perfect and not worry about perfection in the places it doesn't need to be. I also use different amps and sounds for different parts in songs. I don't worry about keeping the sounds the same for entire songs I worry more about the mood of the part.
Gear wise what is your live set-up like?
I keep it pretty simple. I use a Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier. It has been really reliable and considering most of what we do on stage is pretty aggressive...it works out perfect. I also use ESP guitars. I have a couple including a semi hollow body, which I use in the studio a lot. And I also have some regular LTD models that I play on stage too. When it comes to my pickups, I'm currently using a new Seymour Duncan model, which is semi-active. Kind of like an EMG-81. They are prototypes I am testing out.
Who are your musical influences and how much do they play a part on your guitar playing?
Anyone who thought outside the box tends to really inspire me. A lot of the fusion bands of the '60s and '70s really made me want to create in the way that we do. Bands like King Crimson and Mahavishnu Orchestra were a huge influence on my playing.
Are you constantly seeking out challenging guitar parts in order to push yourself as a player?
Kind of, like I don't sit around trying to shred harder than everyone. I play guitar so that I can create songs. I don't create songs so I can play guitar. Most of the songs that are in my head push me technically when I actually try and play them.
Do you spend much time wood shedding on the guitar?
I am starting to get a lot more into practice than I used to. It's hard because I always considered myself a musician more then just a guitar player. I play drums and piano and bass a little too but I just happened to be a little better at guitar than those other instruments. I don't enjoy guitar any more than those other instruments though, so sometimes it's hard to focus on honing my guitar skills specifically. My main concern is being able to play anything I come up with in my head. I'm not interested in showing off. I usually work on things that feel uncomfortable and try to make everything possible. A lot of things, that other guitar players practice all the time, I'm just not interested in. They are not 'practiced' in the way I write songs so I don't worry about it.
With all the poly rhythms inherent in Dillinger Escape Plan's music, is it difficult trying to bring all these differing chaotic elements together into one cohesive structured unit?
|"I play guitar so that I can create songs. I don't create songs so I can play guitar."|
The key to writing music like this is to just go for it. Make it as fucked up as you want, but then go back and try to listen with a constructive ear. It's hard to remove yourself from all the work you put in to coming up with something complicated. But you have to sit back and be able to say, 'Ok, this is just a mess
Since The Dillinger Escape Plan are happy to embrace technology as evident on Miss Machine, how do you reconcile the electronic aspect to the raw hardcore elements of the band, do you think without one or the other, the band would not be who and where they are today?
Yeah I think both aspects are really important for what we are doing. We are creating music and playing music during a time when retro is almost always considered better. We are not one of those bands that want to sound like a cut and paste Pro Tools robot on CD. We play every thing on the record even if it takes us ten hours. We do embrace technology however and will always use it to expand our creative palette. Musicians who do not keep them self abreast of current technology are really selling themselves short.
How do you go about trying to condense the wealth of your ideas into one song?
It's hard. I usually start out with an idea and jam it out with our drummer. Then I'll just close my eyes and try to hear what comes next naturally. After getting some natural flow in there, it's easier to then say 'oh this idea I had from a while back now fits really well here
' or maybe 'let me take this noise that I just started playing out of nowhere and tighten it up and turn it into something real
With the music seemingly calculated and scrutinized, how do you keep the spontaneity aspect to the music consistent?
We just try to even surprise ourselves. We don't even feel comfortable all the time when we are writing and playing our music and I think that is why our listeners don't either.
Your live shows are very physical affairs, usually resulting in numerous injuries to band members. Do you think that because you put in so much heart and soul into your music, all these sorts of 'accidents' are just a residue of all that energy being released?
|"It's hard to remove yourself from all the work you put in to coming up with something complicated."|
I don't know. I have never really been able to answer questions like this. Sometimes I feel like we created this monster that has just gotten out of hand. I may have created it but now I don't even understand it.
Does this physical aspect also tend to seep out into your life out on the road, finding an outlet in things like partying hard?
No? all we want to do on the road is kick ass and have a good show. We try and have fun and enjoy the experience but not if it gets in the way of our show.
Have you started putting together ideas for the next album?
Yeah... I have never been more excited by our music.
So obviously we can expect more pushing of the musical envelope from the band?
2006 Joe Matera