Dillinger Escape Plan
- Andrew Borthwick
- 14 February 2008
Do the math
They’ve survived break-ups, broken limbs and Darth Vader to become one of rock’s most ingenious acts. Andrew Borthwick meets with Dillinger Escape Plan
Most bands have their share of bad luck. Dillinger Escape Plan have their share and others’ too. The New Jersey noisecore troupe’s misfortunes include: five years between debut and sophomore albums, approximately seven line-up changes (songwriter and guitarist Ben Weinman is now the sole original member), original bassist Adam Doll being paralysed in a car-crash and nerve-damage rendering long-term guitarist Brian Benoit unable to play.
But nothing hit the band quite like the departure of drummer Chris Pennie, which sidelined the recording of new album Ire Works. Ever since the group’s jaw-dropping Under the Running Board EP and the genre-defining Calculating Infinity album in 1999 Pennie had played an integral role, his mastery of polyrhythms and complex time shifts becoming a key component of the group’s explosive blend of hardcore, metal, jazz and atmospherics.
When a series of physical injuries forced Dillinger into a prolonged period of rest, Pennie began helping out pop-proggers Coheed and Cambria. Neither side is keen to pour salt in (new) wounds but friendships were tested and the end result was that Pennie accepted a permanent slot with Coheed.
‘We were up shit-creek,’ says vocalist Greg Puciato. ‘Chris was an amazing talent and we started to worry that we would never find someone who could replace him. We reached out to everyone possible. But people either couldn’t commit or couldn’t play the material.’
Eventually, Poison the Well drummer Chris Hornbrook suggested his friend, session drummer Gil Sharone. ‘We were sceptical. We thought: “If he’s this good, how come we haven’t heard of him?” But Gil said: “Send me two of your hardest songs.” Two days later he called me on speakerphone and killed the songs. Then he slowed them down – to prove he was nailing every part – and built them up again. I was like, “OK, you win!”’
Sharone’s presence – alongside new guitarist Jeff Tuttle and bassist Liam Wilson – has led to what Puciato’s describes as the ‘best time in this band’s history’. This new-found optimism is also reflected in their music. Dillinger were always experimental, but Ire Works is something else. And, while the group’s mathcore material is more aggressive and complex than before, it’s the electonica, pop and Latin influences that are most startling.
‘I do understand bands who write the same records,’ accepts the frontman. ‘I don’t want to hear electronica on a Slayer record but I think we’ve worked really hard to demonstrate that we’re not one of those bands who can be put under one umbrella.’
Of course such musical outlandishness is bound to bring weird followers. Not least Darth Vader himself. ‘We were in Toronto and Hayden Christensen ended up in the back of our tourbus,’ laughs the singer. ‘You always get people at shows in Hollywood – mostly to be seen – but this was different. This was in Canada, he was completely out of his mind drunk, we doubt he even remembers it. We don’t even know if he was at the show or not.’
Cathouse, Glasgow, Fri 15 Feb.