The Dillinger Escape Plan

author PP date 16/10/07

Here I am, still trembling from excitement after being given the chance to interview the bassist from one of the most influential metal bands of our time. After having spent a few weeks listening to The Dillinger Escape Plan's upcoming new album "Ire Works" on the press-stream provided by Relapse to the online press, I can already tell you they have a mammoth of an album coming out, which undoubtably will be one of the highlights of the year. Liam, the band's bassist and the only other original member remaining in the band, had 30 minutes to spare from his busy schedule and gave me a call on late Friday afternoon, and responded to my questions in a level of detail seldom seen from bands this big. What was originally meant to be a quick phone interview turned out to be one of the most interesting interviews I've had the pleasure to conduct, and as such, I decided to make it also available in audio format.

You can download the interview in an mp3 file (packed in RAR format) from our webserver for now, depending on the amount of traffic it will cause it might have to be taken down later on this month. So be quick. Alternatively, you can read the text version below First off, how are things at The Dillinger Escape Plan?
Liam: So far so good. Aside from Ben breaking his foot, I think we are in a good place. I was kind of excited about being on tour right now but at the same time, I don't know. There's other things that we can take care of. There's a lot of, even interviews like this, a lot of clearing the record for landing. The first thing I wanna ask about is the recent lineup changes. First off you have a new drummer, Gil Sharone. How is he fitting into TDEP?
Liam: So far it's pretty interesting. He's definitely a lot more light hearted. It seems like he's more like silly and like, I don't know, he's more I guess friendly than Chris, not that it's always a comparison thing, but he's definitely a little bit more independent, he still has another band, he's really busy with a lot of other projects but, you know, he's taking on the Dillinger thing like it's his mission in life [laughs]. He's definitely working really hard, pushing the old songs in interesting ways and it's just kind of exciting, it feels fresh without feeling like we're battleing the whole way. It's kind of fun, you know just being like, wow, we're pushing the band again. What did you actually think about your previous drummer, I mean he left for Coheed & Cambria..

Liam: He's great. I have nothing bad to say about him as a drummer. He was a great drummer.. and if he wants to be in Coheed & Cambria, then I don't really think he is the drummer for us [laughs], anymore at least. It's a little weird but.. Yeah, that was my first impression as well.

Liam: It was definitely weird and not a complete surprise, but enough of a surprise to be like "really? Is that really what's happening right now?" Just over a month later you guys announced that Jeff Tuttle was replacing Brian Benoit in the lineup as a new guitarist - What was the reason for this change?
Liam: We had Brian stop playing with us probably almost 2½ years ago, and he had some degenerative nerve disorder in his left hand, that was plaguing him for like the first year of the "Miss Machine" touring, so we had this other guy James Love filling in for a while, and then we needed something little bit more permanent, we weren't totally sure that James would be able to committ, so we talked to this guy Jeff, and he said okay I'll do it, so he's been practicing with us for about a year, off and on. It'll be interesting both these guys are yet to play a show with us. With Gil, at least we recorded on the record with him so we kind of have a little bit more familiarity of where he's coming from. So Jeff's just kind of like a caged animal waiting to get out and play, awaiting to kind of justify himself and the band. So you guys have a new album coming out soon, called "Ire Works". Can you elaborate on the title a bit, what it means and how you came to choosing it?
Liam: Okay. Well I guess the long story was that I was on the phone with.. the first time that I was talking to a certain friend, a girlfriend of mine, right when she called all these fireworks started going off at the background. And I'm like that was kind of an ironic, funny thing for us, cause she was just like "I remember the first time I called you I couldn't hear anything for the first 30 seconds". So anyway, maybe six-seven months later in the middle of a fight we started talking about that and I said something like "in my head it was more like 'Ire Works'", which I don't know where it popped into my head and why, but at the same time we were looking for album titles and I was thinking about other things that were band related that were happening at the same time. Before those fireworks, stranger band meeting conversations that we had with Chris and Ben, that was maybe the first day that I thought things were a little more bizarre than ever before, so I guess I kind of like time stamped that date or that event. So anyway, then it was just kind of like a basic play on words. It wasn't fireworks, it wasn't iron works, or something like that. I guess you kind of think about some kind of utility company that was pumping fresh iron into your house [laughs]. But that's really not the only reason. For me, where it really came from, it's just the idea that these songs are kind of produced under a state of dress(?) or like, some kind of tensional frustration. This is the body of work produced, a state of ire, I guess. any other album titles you considered?

Liam: Yeah, I can't even tell you what they would've been now. They're all so distant, they were never.. once we decided it was just kind of like 'okay, that's it'. There might have been something that perhaps turned out into a song title after that, but I don't really know. There was really only like two or three that we were tossing around at the time, and that was the one that we felt kind of soft about. Clear 'ire' is just kind of like intense wrath or hatred. I've had quite some time to listen to it on Relapse's press streamer, and I must say it's one heck of a record. On one hand you've got the extreme brutality of "Miss Machine", but you also have some sounds on it that we haven't heard from you guys ever before. For example parts of "Sick On Sunday" remind me of The Mars Volta. Can you tell me a bit about this song?
Liam: It was one of the things that Ben showed us one day, and he was like "Oh I'm toying around with this", and after we heard it we were kind of like "ohh, it's pretty cool", and then we were trying to think of things to fill the record with, we thought of the six or seven songs that we wanna use, what else can we use, what else can we use? Interludes, or do we have any other ideas demoed out on tape, and that one just kind of popped out. After we heard it we were like "okay lets take it into the studio and see what else we can do". So little things like the little grind in the beginning, the piece that kind of jumps out, and Greg's vocals at the end. A lot of it was kind of like after though, I never really thought too much about that song until after I heard it mixed and mastered, and all of a sudden I was like "oh, there's vocals there". It was really like one of the least, well not least produced, but one of the things that we spent the least amount of time doing. It's cool, I think where it sits on the record it kind of serves a nice function. It kind of bridges the gap between the first three songs, which I think sum up a lot of the record. The first three songs are kind like almost like Cliffnotes or something [laughs], and then like it's kind of a gateway to the rest of it. Right after that song you've got another one called "When Acting As A Particle", which I think also is bit of an "odd" song to be a Dillinger Escape Plan song. Can you tell me a bit about this song as well.
Liam: I think those people who are working on like strings and the percussion on that, were some friends of mine from San Francisco who did a cover of "Sunshine The Werewolf" in kind of like a chamber orchestra fashion. And I heard it, and I was like "oh my god this is brilliant, this is awesome" so we stayed in touch and kept talking about doing some sort of collaboration. So that when this record came up, we were talking about where can we potentially use them. And we were thinking about how much of the record is electronically integrated, like there's a lot of electronic stuff on the record, which was not a concern but we wanted to make sure it sounded like a live band, the whole time. For the most part there coudl be things here and there, but we didn't want it to be overshadowed with sampling and electronic to the point where it didn't feel like a band anymore. So, again, a part of balancing out that contrast was instead of using sampled strings lets get some violin, lets get these other people to come in and kind of offset the balance of the record with some live instrumentation, same with "Milk Lizard", where we added the horn, so we said 'lets get a real horn player', it's not like that's some dark ages type of stuff, most people don't even bother. Then you have that song "Fix Your Face", which opens the album, with your old singer Dimitri Minakakis as a guest vocalist - how did the collaboration surface again? I mean he's been out of the band for a long time now.
Liam: Yeah I guess, even if he's been out of the band, there's still a lot of association with him, we still see him and hang out with him. We all went to a mutual friends' wedding earlier that summer right after we started recording and we saw him there. We were kind of joking, maybe not joking, but kind of like somewhat in the way that Mike Patton thing started where it was just like "hey, that'd be cool if you sang on our record", and all of a sudden he was like "I'll do it!" [laughs]. It was almost the same thing with Dimitri. Adam, the old bass player, flew out to California and hung out with us for a little while, and we were like Dimitri, you should come out and do some backups, and he was like "oh, that'd be cool". He didn't get to come out but then when Ben came home, Ben came home about 2 to 3 weeks before Greg came home from the recording. And he was working on stuff at home, and just kind of had Dimitri come over and walk into a microphone and threw him in there, and it sounded good. So it was a pretty painless thing, there wasn't a whole lot of drama or like any kind of big re-union, it was just like "oh okay, lets just do this it'll be funny". So how did this album come together, or better yet, how does any Dillinger Escape Plan album come into life?
Liam: Well typically it starts with.. originally Ben and Chris would have ideas that they would share back and forth, and for the most part they would kind of build the basic structure that would put up the framework. And then Greg and I would kind of come in and throw up some dry wall and paint the walls and pick out the curtains, you know. This time around it was similar, Ben and Chris wrote a big portion of the record and then they would just send me, since we don't all live in the same area, a lot of the stuff would be sent via the internet or something, like they would record a band practice and send it to Greg and I, we would get familiar with the stuff, figure out as much as we could based on the quality of the recordings. And then we would get together maybe once a month, twice a month, and really kind of slow everything down and work on it that way. So a lot of it was just done at home, we're not the kind of band that sits in a room and practices for twelve hours or anything, we get together for like a few hours, share our ideas and go home and work on them. A lot of it is just a matter of widgeting and just getting it to the point that we can play it [chuckles]. A feel like I kind of know what I wanna do almost immediately after hearing the song. Like "oh okay, at this part I wanna do this" so it's just a matter of like maybe even recording yourself humming, you know, leaving yourself a voice mail or something saying "oh okay this is what i'm gonna do there", and then you go home and figure it out. Once I do that I demo it and send it to them. The album cover for the album is quite interesting I think, with the four triangles and everything. Correct me if I'm wrong, but to me it has a slight resemblance to Pink Floyd's seminal "The Dark Side Of The Moon" album. Is that intentional or?
Liam: No it's not intentional, it wasn't something that when I saw the cover, I didn't think that immediately, but eventually it came up when we were talking about it, so it wasn't anything like, oh, wait, what's it look like? [laughs]. I mean obviously I kind of had an idea but I think that it was kind of just updated, not that it was an old [indecipherable], but it stood as like a strong, very clean image. We just kind of wanted something foreboding and kind of bold. We wanted something that was more about colour than context or concept. The "Miss Machine" stuff was totally oversaturated artwork, which I think worked well, but I think this one is a little bit more like one unified theme. I think what caught my attention at the time too was when we were looking at the covers and everything, it was only Greg, Ben and I making all the decision, trying to figure out what's going on and how we were gonna finish this record, so I think for me it was maybe the subconscious 'holy trinity' or something, the unity of the three of us is one thing. So I don't know, I think that ultimately it was just about a simple, clean, sophisticated statement, you know, kind of mysterious, kind of ominious, and as far as the Pink Floyd thing, it's like "yeah I know I'd be feeling questions like this", maybe if we flipped the triangle upside down it would be different [laughs]. But, I don't really wanna.. I just kinda wanna pretend it doesn't exist. Not that it doesn't, obviously it's hard record to bury, but.. To me it kind of implies that you guys feel that this is a really strong record. I thought maybe you put the Pink Floyd thing there on purpose to show that 'this is how we feel about our album'?

Liam: I think that when Ben and I had a conversation recently about this, as so many people are asking about the Pink Floyd thing, I don't know whether it'd be, not embarassed, but I'm sort of second guessing whether or not that was a good idea. He was like 'I don't really know what to say about it', and I just said 'why don't you just wait and hear how many other people comment, commenting other interviewers comment on what their thoughts are', so I guess never really thought about it in terms of 'this is our Dark Side Of The Moon', or something like that. If that was the case, maybe I would've made the record white or black or, you know, there's so many other records that I feel are more relevant to Dillinger. I don't think any of us really considered "Dark Side Of The Moon" a very seminal record for us, you know, so I think.. I don't know, I guess now, I could, after hearing you say it like that, say 'yeah I guess that could be subconsciously part of it'. But like I said, if I was looking for something strong, I mean we decided on that cover before a single track had been made. I knew the demos sounded good but I hadn't even met Gil at that time, so I had no idea what was really gonna happen, it was just like "okay yeah we gotta start deciding this stuff now'. It's crazy to think that that happened in like June. The album has been available for press since about middle of August on Relapse's streams - how come it is taking this long..
Liam: Wait a minute, August? That's impossible! get it in the hands of the eager fans?

Liam: Just to correct you, I don't think the record was even handed in until the middle of September. I could remember wrong, must have been mid September then.

Liam: I doubt that that stream has been up for two weeks. What was the rest of the question, sorry? I was just wondering, cause the album's coming out is it 12th of November if I remember correctly, it's quite a long time to sort of have the album ready but not really out for the fans. There's a lot of people who really wanna hear it.

Liam: I don't know. I feel like most of the bands I know, my room mate was recording a record at the same time as I was, and he's in a band called Painted Black, who aren't as big, but certainly aren't small, and their record is not coming out until February [laughs], and Every Time I Die recorded right before us and their record just came out. So I don't think it's too much of a time frame, because we were going up until the 11th hour any way, and it's already coming out three weeks earlier than we thought. I don't know, I guess I never really thought about it that way, I don't really think it of as a concern, or something worth noting at least. Last year you released an EP called "Plagiarism". One of the covers featured on the record was Like I Love You by Justin Timberlake - how come, out of all the songs you could have done, you guys chose Mr Timberlake?
Liam: Well, I guess.. one, yeah we could have chosen a million songs. I think when we were recording that the easiest thing.. or the first reason why we did it is because pretty much all of those songs except for "Jesus Christ Pose" were songs that we had covered live at least once. So we knew them, you know, it was partly just a convenience thing, like we all happened to know it. Two, I think it was again, with "Miss Machine", part of the intention was that we don't want to get into a situation like Slayer, where you pretty much have to write the same record for the rest of your career or people won't buy it, people don't care. Slayer doesn't have the option to do like a 'Fade To Black' or a 'Nothing Else Matters', the way Metallica did. And Metallica took a risk doing things like that, but even like 'Fade To Black' it was like they got it out of their system pretty early, so people were ready for whatever. "Miss Machine" is kind of like that for us, like we don't wanna get stuck, and if we're not gonna get stuck, we gotta start making our move now. So with "Plagiarism" I think again it was just a matter of 'we're not what you think we are', you know, and every time you think you know what you should expect, or every time you want us to be what you think we are, because we are your band or your favorite band, then we're just gonna kind of stick it to you. And also just to kind of showcase, yeah we're not just a metal band, we do like other things, we genuinely kind of like this stuff, it's not ironic joke, if it was we would've done it in an ironic way, but for the most part we played it pretty straight forward. Yeah, we understand the humour, it's kind of tongue-in-cheek but it's also kind of just like 'hey, we're not afraid to be who we are, we're not afraid to not be the metal band you guys want us to be'. And there's tonnes of other covers we can do, and it's challanging for me as a musician too, like I can rip, I can shred a song, but I don't always want to. Sometimes I just wanna sit back and be a simple bass player, and just rock one really known thing, and just have a groove. Have you actually heard about if Justin Timberlake has heard your cover of the song?

Liam: I have no idea if he has. We've never heard anything from him or received a cease and desist or anything like that. So back to that you mentioned earlier, about your guitarist Ben breaking his foot during a video shoot. The video must be pretty brutal by the sounds of it, I mean you don't always get people breaking anything during a shoot?
Liam: We haven't really talked too much about it, but Dillinger is kind of cursed [laughs]. It's kind of always been this black cloud thing where like no matter what, something will go wrong. I'm telling you, we did it for the poppiest song on the record, it wasn't that crazy, and Ben broke his freaking foot. And even when it happened it was like 'you didn't break your foot', and all of a sudden he came back from the hospital with the x-rays and we we're like "damn, you broke your foot" [laughs]. So it's kind of funny, like there's so many other things that he could've broken his foot doing, or we could've had a much more aggressive video, but it wasn't, it was just like a fluke thing, I didn't believe it happened. That forced you to cancel your scheduled European tour. Are there plans to AGAIN reschedule it?
Liam: Yeah we are in the process of doing it right now, it's just hard, because it usually takes two months to really promo, and even in December, the rooms are already taken, so it's hard for us to.. it set us back quite a bit. We don't wanna go out too early, because then we run the risk of him injuring himself further. It's not really a Dillinger tour with Ben sitting on a bench or a stool or something, it's not really any fun. When do you guys expect to have those dates, are we talking about December, January, February or?

Liam: To be safe, I would say probably more like January. There's talk of maybe getting at least to the UK and trying to keep the boat a float. But as far as a full European tour it'll probably be more like January-February, I hope soon as possible, we haven't been there in forever. Do you think you'll add some more dates to the tour - like for example Denmark?

Liam: It's almost out of my control. I hope so, I would like to. I'd rather be up North than down South if it were up to me. I don't know if you've heard, but here in Denmark we have one of the biggest festivals in Europe actually, called Roskilde Festival. I don't suppose you guys have been approached by the festival or anything, about playing next year?

Liam: If we have, they wouldn't call me. I play the bass man [laughs]. Not that we're like a big corporation by any means, I mean I'm calling you from my office job, just so you know that I'm not exactly driving a Bentley, but I'm sure it's up to our booking agents. I would love to, I'm pretty sure we've played it once, or at least it's always been this kind of like jewl for our crown or something. What have you guys been listening to as of late?
Liam: I think sometimes when you go into do a recording, I personally have a tendency to go back to the seminal records, the ones that really had a big influence on me, or things where I'm like 'man I really dig that tone, how can I get that tone?' So I remember I was listening to like Death and Cynic and things like that, I was also really into the Blond Redhead, this African thing called Orchestra (Battle?) Bob, and trying to think what else.. Bartok, a lot of Bela Bartok. Final question - how's the foreseeable future shaping up for The Dillinger Escape Plan, except for those tours you have to re-schedule?
Liam: Hopefully, I would like to see everything rolling the way it was. I would like to see the band get bigger, and we are technically out of our contract with Relapse, so we have some pretty exciting choices ahead of us. This new Radiohead album kind of makes my brain tick, like "okay, wow, we have options". So I think it's kind of just of a matter of finding out the next way to make the band bigger, and take it to the next level, and hopefully this record is a stepping stone for that, and we learn how to keep doing what we do without making too many compromises. Hopefully lots of touring and another awesome record in two or three years. So does that mean you are possibly heading towards a major label?

Liam: Umm, I think we are heading towards anything. I'm willing to entertain anything, I'm not afraid of a major label, I don't have this punk ethic about Dillinger to the point where I can't.. I mean I've already signed a contract, I sold out seven years ago. [laughs] I just remember reading in an interview, must have been about three years back or something, saying that you guys actually had some meetings with some major labels, and everything went okay until the very end when you were supposed to sign the contract, and then they started saying 'oh, yeah, but we want you to do this, and you can't do this'..

Liam: Oh yeah, things like that happened, but I think that maybe with this record being out, we'll be able to say like, we're not the same band we were five years ago. We are twice as big now, and we want twice as much control over our creativity, or whatever. I don't think we would ever sign with a label that's really going to compromise us. If that means Epitaph or whatever, so be it, but if that means Warner Brothers, then so be it too, you know. Thanks for the interview, any last comments for the fans?
Liam: I don't know, thanks for the interest. Buy the record or the terrorists win! [laughs]

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