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In Extremis

The Bravest Metal Band In The World?: The Dillinger Escape Plan Interviewed
The Quietus , April 7th, 2010 11:20

Adam Anonymous chats to The Dillinger Escape Plan about their new album Option Paralysis, accusations of steroid abuse and the questions that they find most irritating

Transcending genre restrictions via a dizzying combination of pyrotechnic mathematical riffs and anthemic post-Faith No More sensibilities, The Dillinger Escape Plan might be the musically bravest metal band in the world right now.

Their history sure backs that up, from brutal debut Calculating Infinity over a decade ago, through watershed EP Irony Is A Dead Scene with guest frontman Mike Patton, to the latest albums led by second vocalist Greg Puciato, Miss Machine and Ire Works.

The New Jersey quintet may have labelled imminent fourth LP Option Paralysis their "most metal record yet", but that only tells part the tale. Still crushingly heavy – see nailbomb opener ‘Farewell, Mona Lisa’ for evidence - this is as punishing as anything that has come before, for now even more light balances the darkest shade. And though the sparing use of classical piano and very occasional (whisper it) near-ballad tendencies might alienate less adaptable fans, there’s a definite sensation that it’s going to win over a hell of a lot more converts. The evolution has birthed a fearsome machine.

We grabbed words with the muscular Puciato and bearded bassist Liam Wilson at DEP’s recent one-off Camden Barfly date, between the main evening event and a matinee set that culminated in guitarist Jeff Tuttle shredding from on top of the venue’s bar. And we didn’t even mention their infamous festival shit throwing stunt once...

Listening to Option Paralysis, especially on headphones, there seems to be an insane amount of sonic layers. Were the recording sessions hellishly detailed?

Greg Puciato: Yeah, man, incredibly meticulous. We spent more time on this record than we’ve ever spent on anything, maddeningly so. It was seven days a week, no short days, starting at noon, ending sometimes at two in the morning, for three months. I don’t honestly know how [producer] Steve Evetts didn’t put the barrel in his mouth and toe on the fucking trigger halfway through, because he was broken early. He was like Young Einstein losing his mind early on.

Are you particularly demanding of your producer?

GP: We’re very demanding and he’s very demanding. We’re very intense and he’s very intense.

Liam Wilson: Now I understand why bands wait two years if not more [between records], because it drains you.

GP: We really went as far as we could making sure that every little thing was exactly the way we wanted. How many records are you gonna be able to do in your life? It’s the one thing you can look back on and either say, ‘Fuck, I wish we did that differently’ or ‘We did that exactly the way we were going to’. You’re going to die with nothing, man. This is going to outlive any of us, hopefully.

How do you see Option Paralysis in the context of DEP’s discography? To these ears it almost sounds like a sister record to Ire Works. In a good way...

LW: Obviously it’s easier to make connections from that record. Line-up wise it’s the most similar, and it was recorded in the same studio, with the same attitude, even almost the same time of year. You couldn’t have done Option Paralysis without the Ire Works stepping stone. And everything before has that stepping stone/unlocking thing.

GP: Everything makes sense in hindsight. There’s no way we would have done Ire Works without Miss Machine, but I don’t know if I perceive it as being a sister record. An incestual sister. Ha ha.

‘Widower’ is the album’s most immediately remarkable song, featuring the classical piano of David Bowie/Nine Inch Nails collaborator Mike Garson. How did it come about?

LW: We had him come in and do the piano on [another album track] ‘I Wouldn’t If You Didn’t’ and toy around on other couple of parts that we didn’t use. And then it was like ‘Well, since you’re here, why don’t you check out this’. We had ‘Widower’ fleshed out with piano already and he just improvised over it.

Was it a one-take wonder?

LW: One or two takes, yeah.

GP: It was awe-inspiring, man. Mike came in, hadn’t even heard the song before, sat there with his eyes closed and listened to it in one pass, hit ‘Record’, and went through it two or three times at the most, improv-ed everything. It was jaw-dropping.

A few soundbites on the album – for example the central line "Suffering is love" from ‘I Wouldn’t If You Didn’t’ – suggest emotionally abusive relationships played some part in the record’s inspiration? Is that taken from personal experience?

GP: The lyrics and song are very indicative of people having the nature to justify anything they do by saying ‘I wouldn’t have done this terrible, reprehensible thing if you hadn’t have done that’ and then the other person is like ‘Yeah, I only did that because you did this’. It becomes this pissing match. It’s a blame cycle that you can’t get out of and you’re both losing, the relationship is losing, no-one is winning. It feeds into this whole co-dependency mentality that people get into. It’s a misconception that suffering equates to love. In Christianity they teach that God loved the world because he sacrificed his son, or something stupid like that. How can people get into this mentality where suffering is love?

Greg, you’ve gone on record recently responding to accusations of steroid use by an MTV journalist. Do you endure such lines of questioning regularly?

GP: I’ve heard it before. I’ve had people ask me and I don’t really consider it an insult much of the time because usually it’s a personal conversation. It’s almost a compliment. But when it’s reported on a website, and not even an editorial website, it’s irresponsible. I just didn’t see what he was gaining. That article was about a baseball player. He didn’t even need to make that jump into ‘Let’s speculate on who in the music industry might do this’. It was shady journalism, it didn’t make him look better, it didn’t make us look better; there was nothing about it that was positive. At first I was going to ignore it and then it really rubbed me the wrong way. But it’s over, it’s not a big deal at this point.

Playing DEP’s music must take a significant toll on your collective bodies. Is working out a pretty big part of your daily routine?

GP: A huge part for me. We all have developed nutrition and exercise routines. I work out a lot, run a lot, have a certain way of eating. Liam does tonnes of yoga, runs. In a band like this where it’s extremely physically demanding I don’t think that we would be able to continue to play the way we do if we weren’t that way. It does take a huge toll on you physically.

LW: As much as we joke around about getting old, I don’t think that any of us feels any less energetic. If anything I feel that much more fired. Anybody who said that this band was crazier 10 years ago is tripping.

GP: We’re in better shape physically, more active physically on stage and more energetic than we were 10 years ago. I think that’s because we realised and maybe over-compensated, becoming more aware of being in decent shape.

LW: And not just for the show, but to survive touring. We’re not really a party band. We’re kind of boring offstage. We focus on the show and anything that helps us makes the show better.

So nobody in the band particularly indulges?

LW: Nah.

GP: I mean we do...

LW: But it’s more balanced.

GP: We didn’t start a band because we wanted to party. The party happens, but it’s a secondary thing.

LW: And it’s always a reward. There’s nobody harder on us than us...

The story of the band – injuries, tragedies and a spiralling list of ex-members – is worthy of a rock biography. Have you ever thought about publishing a DEP book?

LW: I’ve actually been keeping journals for 10 years on tour, so if you know an editor...

GP: Ha ha ha. At some point in time we’ll write something, because there is a tonne of shit to find out. People always write about like partying, but there’s a lot of more interesting things that can happen...

LW: Psychologically or whatever.

GP: The fights. And the actual instances of insanity within the personnel of the band is ridiculous. When somebody is like ‘Give us a brief history of the band’ it’s laughable because it’s impossible. It’s like genealogy.

What question do you get most fed up of answering?

GP: Lazy questions. We only have a certain amount of time. You only have a certain amount of time. So why waste everyone’s time asking a question you could read the answer to on Wikipedia?

LW: Sometimes the Mike Patton question gets a little old too because a lot of the time those questions are followed by somebody’s verbal wanking off of Mike Patton. It’s like ‘Do you want me to call him? You can tell him yourself!’

GP: That guy’s got some super-fans. You realise during the interview that they don’t want to interview you; they want to hear your stories about Mike Patton.

LW: It’s not to say that it wasn’t an amazing time in the band’s history, but it was this intersection that happened for, like, four songs, 15 minutes or something. It was a flash upon our radar. Anything I can remember about that time, it’s on the internet, somewhere. It was fun answering those questions five, six, seven years ago but we’ve put out three records since then.

Option Paralysis is due for release on March 22 via Season Of Mist/Party Smasher.