RIP DEP: After Nearly Two Decades, Dillinger Escape Plan Is Bowing Out Gracefully
Guitarist Ben Weinman talks about 'Dissociation,' the sixth and final album for one of hardcore's wildest bands.
It's true. After nearly 20 years of blast beats, off-time shredding, and onstage pyrotechnics, the Dillinger Escape Plan will be hanging it up following the tour cycle for their sixth album, Dissociation, which comes out on October 14 on their own label, Party Smasher Inc.
“I'm 40 years old and I loaded a trailer last night,” guitarist Ben Weinman says with pride via cell phone as the band's longtime bassist Liam Wilson drives a van to a show in Toronto, where they are playing later that night. “Even after all this time, we survive by not having managers and not having a lot of crew.” That self-sufficient spirit and dedication to doing things on their own terms when it comes to everything, from their music to their business model, has helped the band—which also features vocalist Greg Puciato, drummer Billy Rymer, and new guitarist Kevin Antreassian—become one of the true trailblazers in heavy music. On paper, it may seem like their most unpredictable move yet may be bowing out on the heels of such a groundbreaking album, but when you consider DEP's career trajectory, it actually makes perfect sense.
Noisey: You're still a popular band that is about to put out a new album. Why stop now?
Ben Weinman: Well, I think in some ways we didn't want to pull a Seinfeld and go out while we're still on top, you know what I mean? The band has actually never been more prolific and we're as credible and popular as ever. I think whenever we're on stage, there's not another band in the world playing at that time that even comes close to us, and that's our goal. We're really excited about this new album as well, but at the same time, it's going to be our 20-year anniversary in 2017—it might be even longer because I'm not sure when I started writing songs, but the first EP came out in '97—so I think it's one of those things where we didn't want to get to the point where we're stopping because we have to or because we're old or people are kind of over it. Who knows if that would ever happen, but I feel way more empowered in making hard decisions. I don't like the idea of slowing down or doing it less often, I like to just dive in full-force and take things to the extreme because that's what this band has always been about.
Most of your peers who haven't broken up at least stopped being active for a while, but it seems like you guys never took a break.
No, we've been a full-time band the entire time, and the title, Dissociation, refers to the fact that I think we're all finally in a place where we can be individuals as part of a whole. That level of co-dependency isn't an issue with Dillinger. We do this because we want to and we like to and that's a good place to be. That's true maturity when you get to that point with all the relationships in life, so I think that's a big part of this album and this whole kind of celebration of us.
You'd think that after being around for this long, making a new album would be second nature but that doesn't ever to seem the case with you guys.
No, never. It's never easy, but it's gotten to the point where we don't doubt ourselves anymore. When we're making a Dillinger record, I don't worry anymore, because we know how to do Dillinger, you know? We never make records when we feel forced, so when we do it, we take a lot of time and do it when it feels right and when we have inspiration. Greg had the full recorded and finished album for two weeks before he even started a vocal because he just wasn't feeling it yet and we just changed the release schedule. I think that's evidence that with each record, we don't just shit things out because we want to go on tour.
Obviously the live shows are pretty intense. Is stopping the band now informed by the fact that you wouldn't have the physical endurance to be doing this when you're, say, 60 years old?
I mean, it's probably a fact that we couldn't do it when we're 60, but we're not stopping right now because we feel incapable, that's for sure. There's a reality that eventually, the type of show that we're doing wouldn't be realistic—I'm pretty much falling apart at the limbs at this point—but it doesn't matter, because when we play, we play. The rest of the world and anything else going on in our lives doesn't exist. I think that's what I'll miss the most, those moments. But there isn't any time in the very near future where we feel like we couldn't do this; we still feel excitement from it and still get that catharsis when we play because it's uninhibited free expression. But, again, one of the reasons to stop now is because it's great to still feel that way and control our destiny.
Speaking of controlling your destiny, next month you've got a record coming out with Giraffe Tongue Orchestra, your new band with members of Alice in Chains, the Mars Volta, and Mastodon. Does this figure into Dillinger's situation at all?
Not really because I have no intention of replacing Dillinger with GTO at all. It's just about going off and doing these new things in life, new challenges and things like that, which may not be bands at all. The GTO thing for me was just to accomplish putting something out that's not Dillinger, you know? I've been so involved in every aspect of Dillinger for 20 years that I really need to do something else, collaborate with other people and release something that isn't only tied to Dillinger because that isn't really healthy. [Laughs] I know mostly everyone in my phone book mostly because of this band, it's kind of crazy.
Over the past two decades, you've had so many crazy shows that have included blowing fire, fighting security, and stuff most bands could never imagine. How do you look back at your career and legacy?
I think we all still feel like decimating every place we go through. We're all pirates, man. We just go through cities and rape and pillage every club and that's what we love about this. Even when we were doing other jobs or going to school back in the day, we would wait for the weekend to play a VFW and just destroy it, it was really amazing. The feeling I get from being in this band is something that very few people have the opportunity to experience, so I feel very grateful for having that in my life and getting to live through those moments. We were talking about this last night, we'll never regret not doing things in our lives because we've done it all, man. We've seen things you can't unsee. [Laughs]
It also seems like a lot of the things you've done in the past, you wouldn't be able to get away with these days.
Nah, we still do it. If we stop doing things, it's not because someone got in trouble or sued, because all that stuff has happened multiple times. It's because we just don't want to be a gimmick. We want to surprise people, so if every time we come out we're blowing fire, then it becomes a circus. That's not the point. It's supposed to be exciting and unpredictable, so the second we do things that are expected as part of the show, we become Slipknot or Insane Clown Posse, and that's not ever what we want to be. We're a punk band, we like the idea that we have no idea what the crowd is going to do and the crowd has no idea what we are going to do because that's what's so dangerous about our performances. We don't want to create a “stage show.”
So when exactly is Dillinger going to stop performing?
We are going to do the cycle for this album and that's it. But there are a lot of things that go into this cycle. We have a full US tour that we'll be doing in the fall and then we'll be doing a massive tour in Europe in the winter, and that will probably take us towards playing other areas like Australia or wherever we have to hit. Then I'm sure we'll come back around and hit summer festivals and figure out what our very last shows will be around that time.
Even though it isn't in the immediate future, how do you think you'll feel after playing the last note of that final show?
Well, I'll probably have another injury that I'll have to figure out how to take care of somehow. [Laughs] Honestly, I think just knowing the future is going to be different after we've been doing the same thing for such a large part of our lives is going to start affecting us now. There are very few bands who can last as long as we have. It's insane and amazing that we've made it this far. You've got to love each other to do that, regardless of conflict, so I'm pretty proud to say we made it to 20 years of being a full-time active band. It's an interesting life, you know?
Jonah Bayer is on Twitter - @mynameisjonah