In February of 2009 Steve had a chance to interview “The Dillinger Escape Plan”. The band had big plans for this year and even with nearly half the year over with the band is moving strong through the months. TDEP plan to release a new album this year and tour heavily.
Credited with a degree in psychology, Ben Weinman believes his decade as a touring musician has been a true lesson in the workings of the human psyche.“I can say that playing in a band is a huge psychological experiment,” reasons the 33-year-old founding guitarist with New Jersey-based math-rock quintet Dillinger Escape Plan. “Dealing with five individuals and living that closely to them all the time where every decision you make affects more than just you is an understanding of restraint.
“It’s really like being married to four or five other people. I don’t know if that’s why I’m the only one still in the band today, ha, but it’s certainly an interesting sociological situation to be in.”
Weinman is no control freak however – far from it. The band’s singer Greg Puciato, bassist Liam Wilson and recently retired (due to injury) drummer Chris Pennie have been by his side since the late 90s, shortly after he formed the group in high school armed with a “crappy guitar and a drummer who played on pots and pans”.
“It’s crazy, it seems like it was just yesterday when we started,” he says. “But I think the common thread beside myself is just the ethic and the intent behind everything. It’s great to know that ten or 12 years ago I had a vision and I got together to make something special. And to this day I’m able to continue to fulfil that need to make music that’s stimulating and exciting because I’ve found great people to help me to do.”
So has that vision been fully realised yet?
“I think so,” he says. “At the moment we’re working on a DVD on the early years of the band and looking back it makes you think a lot about what your purpose was and why you’re doing what you’re doing and how you’ve changed. And the reality is I haven’t changed a whole lot.
“I think what differentiates us from some of the newer bands is that there was no Myspace and You Tube when we started, none of this information constantly flooding peoples’ brains. Back then, our goal was just to make music that we loved in front of a few people and maybe make it to the other coast of America and play California – then we’ve made it.
“All of us were working or going to school, we had no intention of doing this for a living. We started with just the intention of making an impact in the small subculture in which we were playing and to this day we still look at the crowd as individuals, we don’t look at them as one giant entity or market. We like to bring as much intimacy to the shows as possible.”
The said DVD features some interesting footage, says Weinman.
“It will give people an idea of what it was like when we first started with our old singer and what it was like back then,” he says. ‘We have a number of interviews with a tonne of people, some of which are still involved in the music scene today and were around back then.
“There’s really cool interviews with people like Davey from AFI who was good friends with us back then and started playing music around the same time, and Andy from Every Time I Die talks about how all the guys met at a Dillinger show. So there’s a lot of cool stuff in there. It’ll be hard to narrow it all down.”
In the interim, the band is in the final stages of the promotion cycle for 2007’s Steve Evetts-produced Ire Works, an album that drew rich praise from critics and peers alike for its unorthodox grooves and eccentric musicianship.
“I think the most important thing in keeping culture and art moving is to try to create a paradigm shift within your genre but to also maintain the ethics and the attitude that made that genre or subculture great to begin with,” offers Weinman.
“So for us it was always about coming into the punk scene and incorporating all these things that influenced us growing up, from listening to show tunes with my parents or listening to metal or getting into fusion acts like King Crimson.”
Currently training up a new drummer and writing new material for Ire Works’ successor, Weinman expects many of those elements to seep into the next album, slated for release later this year.
“So far the songs are sounding just really uncomfortable and there’s a lot of tension,” he says. “It’s very different and I think it’s definitely time to make people uncomfortable again. As of right now I’m getting migraines working on it so I’m sure it’ll piss off a few people as usual!”
Resting up before hitting the road this month, Weinman reveals he’s carrying some old injuries, most of which have settled down and ought not bother him on stage.
“I had a broken foot and a fractured bone in my neck which isn’t too enjoyable,” he says. “And I tore my rotator cuff, I had surgery on that shoulder where the guitar strap sits. I tore it almost all the way around, almost completely ripped my arm out!”
Wear and tear aside, Weinman says he’s mostly just happy to have had a loyal confidant in punk rock sustain him through the years.
“At the end of the day music is always there for you,” he says. “Friends come and go, girlfriends come and go but music will always be there. It’s such a gift to be able to have a form of expression and pick up a guitar or get on a drum stool and use music and be a part of something that you’re a fan of for so long. Growing up, music was the soundtrack to my life and so to participate and make a living doing it is unbelievable.”