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The Dillinger Escape Plan

Het is alweer de tweede keer dat ik gitarist Benjamin Weinman van Dillinger Escape Plan te spreken krijg, en ik moet zeggen, hij ziet er slechter uit. Dat is ook niet zo gek als je weet hoe hij leeft. Waar veel andere bands van hetzelfde kaliber namelijk een manager nemen zodat ze lekker kunnen feesten en alleen aan de muziek hoeven te denken, daar doet Ben alles zelf. Daarbij is hij nog een perfectionist ook, en zal hij zichzelf zonder aarzelen wegcijferen voor het team. Dat eist zijn tol, op het moment van spreken is de man nog steeds geblesseerd aan zijn arm, een kwaal die nu al meer dan twee jaar doorloopt. Een poging tot revalidatie kostte hem direct zijn oudste collega en bandmaatje Chris Pennie, die bang voor een periode van rust was en overliep naar Coheed & Cambria. Ben begrijpt er nog steeds niets van. Maar hij gaat wel door, enige originele bandlid of niet, Dillinger zal blijven voortbestaan.

Door: Jasper | Archiveer onder different metal

band imageLast time we spoke you told me Greg had to be drilled really hard to get to the level that waf fit for Dillinger, so was Greg drilled as much as last time?
I definitely drilled him as hard but I did less. He was much more prepared to bring a lot more to the table creatively on his own. Which was perfect timing, because I became extremely busy since our drummer (Chris Pennie-red) left, so it was really great for him to step up the plate. But we definitely pushed him just as hard you know.

There have been a lot of reactions on his performance, al lot of them also negative.How is he coping with a lot of those negative reactions on him?
When he joined the band, it was really hard on him. The band had already achieved a lot, and he had not been used to being in a band where people talked about. So now all of a sudden he was in a situation where when he Googled his name he got people saying “you're a fucking god”, up to other people wishing he and his whole family got hit by a truck. So that is hard and in the beginning he read the internet a little too much. But now it has gotten to a point where the reactions are more good than bad, and he's gotten over it as well, he just doesn't care. What is happening right now as well is that a lot of kids have never even seen us with another singer.

Do you still have contact with Mike Patton?
Yeah, occasionally I talk to Patton. He's a busy guy doing loads of projects. Last time I talked to him it was a little bit after 'Ireworks'. He just wanted to send his thoughts on the record and he was just saying that he really thought it was the next level, and he thought we had great songs. You must know he is a very, very picky person. He does not pass out compliments easily, so that meant a lot. I don't know if there will ever be another Dillinger collaboration with him, but I'm sure there will be “something” in the future.

Is he like a mentor for you?
Well, it's not so much a mentor in the way that I walked behind him with a clipboard and do his laundry and get him coffee you know, but people like him definitely paved the path for the way that we try to conduct ourselves. He's a very good example for us.

Ok, the big question now. Have you spoke to Chris Pennie yet after he left? Could you give your reaction to this article in which he gives his side to the story? Because that is the only way you saw his side of the thing right? (I hand Ben the Decibel Magazine article in which both Chris and he give their sides of the story).
No we didn't speak again. Yeah let me see that again…there's always more to every story. (reads). I mean everyone is going to justify their actions using some truth to shape a story that works for them. But everybody knows, either in the music world, or in the literary world, or the film word, that editing is everything. You choose the pieces of information you gather, what you leave out or what you ad. The reality is that I had surgery on my arm, because I did not want to take time off. I pulled my rotator cuff, which is something that could be treated easily with taking a month of physical therapy. But the band really wanted to continue touring, and I wanted too you know. The excessive touring without addressing some of these issues put me in a position where I just had to get surgery, there was no way around it, my arm was almost completely out of its socket. So we did not have a choice, we decided that Christmas time was probably the best time to do it, and during the time that I would spend healing we would work on the new record, take care of our personal lives, all of the things you need to do every now and again. Because you cannot just be on tour forever. We thought maybe this is the only way we'll actually take some time off, if we HAVE to take some time off. We wanted to take a year off, write a record, and be back in three years. We all agreed that it made sense from every aspect.

So how long did you take off?
The doctor said I was going to need about a year and a half more, and I already had taken half a year. Otherwise I would take the risk of having to have surgery again and be out for another year. The problem was that we got offered a tour with AFI at that point, which everyone wanted to do. So I tried all kinds of shit to postpone the surgery, like acupuncture and stuff, but the insurance would not pay it so I had to hire a lawyer. Insurance in the States is brutal, it's like organized crime. I paid a fucking four hundred dollars a month o health insurance and they did not want pay for any of my treatments. So I had a 40.000 dollar medical bill, and both my lawyer and my doctor were very much against it. So it was a really tough decision but at the end of the day, we all decided we really wanted to do it. We took the tour, did a month of shows with AFI, and got a couple of days with Coheed&Cambria. When I got home my lawyer dropped the case because of me touring and I got stuck with a shitload of bills. And my arm still hurts up to this day, I cannot sleep on that side.

So where does Chris come in at this point?
The point is, that was six months within the two years off. Chris dismisses this as personal issues, but if you're in a band you have to support the team. If you go down, we all go down, and that's why this has been very hard for me with Chris. I feel like I have sacrificed physically, financially, and emotionally…and he just wants to play drums. To me, you can play drums in a million side-projects, you can do a bunch of projects, you can go and play session-work, or be hired by studio's. But you don't have to join another full-time band, he did not have to do that. That was not an artistic decision. It was a real stab in the back. Being in a band is a marriage, you don't divorce someone you love and have a family with because they have an injury and can't go to work for a year! You make it work! Deal with it you know; “eat out less”. He did not want to “eat out less”, let's put it that way.

How did the story end?
So anyway the story still continues after the AFI tour. A month later we got offered a tour with Killswitch Engage, and I said I would do it. But the band decides we should write. Then another six months after that we got offered a tour with The Deftones, and then Chris said no. And then he does this interview in which he says it's because we're two years off (a little later he would “jump ship” to Coheed&Cambria-red). So, (sighs) it's funny to me, I don't ever care. It does not matter, we are a better band now, I'm happy, hopefully he's happy. He is not giving interviews about the situation and that's probably because he knows he's wrong.

Could you compare and contrast Chris and Gil?
First of all, they are both phenomenal talents, and I have grown -and will continue to grow with Gill- by playing with both of them. Chris is all technique, Gil is all “feel”, all natural. There is something to be said for Chris, who sits through practices 24/7, practicing rudiments, reading through musical notations, learning things out of a book. That is a level of work-ethic that is insane. There is nothing I would do that long. And then Gil, he does not pick up a fucking pair of sticks all day. Then he gets down on a drumset and destroys it. He hears something, he can play it. That simple. I've always been kind of a natural myself, never looked into books or charts, I never considered myself a “shredder” you know what I mean. I'm not proud of it, it's just reality, I don't play the guitar that much. I'd rather play piano or a computer program or write a Dillinger piece on the drumset. The guitar is a limited instrument, it's nothing close to piano, I think on this record that really came out. I wrote songs completely electronically and then we all jammed to it. I am more of a composer or songwriter than a guitar player. I mean, I wrote the title track of 'Calculating Infinity' on the drums, and the guitar was just a couple of notes to go along with the rhythm.

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So Dillinger is not a real technical guitar band?
There are bands that are far more technical than we are, like Between The Buried And Me with whom we toured in the UK, those guys are a phenomenal guitar band. They sound “record-perfect” every night. Their stuff is just notes-notes-notes, and they are probably much better guitar players than we are you know. They practice a lot too, even backstage. They play to a click-track and it's exactly how they would sound in the studio. Meshuggah is very similar in that way, they want to sound like a machine. We want to sound like a punk band, but still care about musicianship you know. We want to have energy, aggression, emotion, all those things, so it will sound different live.

With the new record I get the feeling that everything you've been working on fits perfectly into place. One gets to wonder, what's next? What is still left to explore?
I really don't know. It is not that every record is a hundred percent new, but it is just more developed. Like on the previous record there was a small bit of piano and some electronics, and now there is a whole song. And now we are actually able to play those electronics on stage too. We even played with a live trumpet player once on our last tour, a friend of ours just got on stage and started to play along, and I felt like a fucking ska band! It was awesome.

How's everybody's solo stuff coming along?
I do a lot of remixes lately. I did a couple, one for Thrice, even for some bigger artists but I can't say who yet. I definitely keep active as I do most of my stuff on my laptop so I can work on tour. And there is some stuff I am working on with Zach Hill from the band Hella. It's all on my Myspace ( Well, Gil of course has Stolen Babies and he did some session work, for example with Maynard from Tool (Puscifer-red.). And Greg has got Spylacopa with Julie Christmas from Made Out Of Babies, she's pretty crazy. That's going to be out soon. I don't really know what Liam is doing, but I know that he is jamming with some people.

So what is your opinion about downloading?
It can help bands like us a great deal. We don't have a big major label marketing us or anything, we never had that ability. So it is just based on hard work, and playing in front of people. Most of our exposure, even before internet got going, was from somebody just burning a CD for someone else you know. And at the same time it almost hurts bands like us more than bigger bands. Big artists get so much money out of endorsement deals, or getting their song on a TV commercial, you know, there is a lot of income other than record sales. We don't have that. But you know, major labels are going down, but we will survive. The internet itself is a good thing because bands can get exposure for themselves without major marketing machines. The bad thing is that there is no quality check any more. In the old days you had the main stream that just shoved everything down your throat. Or you had the underground where everything was incredibly hard to find and you had your brother or sister to show you bands, and then you got to know more bands, and record labels or fanzines you could trust. Right now, there is no underground anymore, it's all available for anyone. Bands are now more marketing promotion teams than artists. Every little kid can be another marketing asshole.

You really hate commerce and marketing don't you?
I'll tell you something. You know Avenged Sevenfold opened for us, and nobody cared and people thought they sucked. Until somebody told those kids they were awesome nobody knew it. First they had to make a video with an arena full of fake fans getting fake Avenged Sevenfold tattoos in the video! So they just told you they were huge, and only then they got huge. That's just the reality of how it works. We've been doing this for ten years, to just basically survive. And not surviving very well, you know what I mean? I want as many people as possible to hear our music, but I would never make music for the sake of money. I mean I would, but not with Dillinger, I would write a fucking jingle or something like (sings) tumtumtum water!!! (holds up the water bottle) and get fucking rich!

So will the next album be on a major label or will you stick with Relapse?
This is our last album on the Relapse deal actually. Everybody asks us what we're going to do next, and it's funny, but for the first time, I don't know. I don't really care, we're touring. A lot of labels are contacting us but I just don't think that any of their scenario's are attractive. The industry is changing, so we're going to have to do something extremely creative. The problem that record labels are having is that they refuse to adapt to the situation. All they want to do is try to stop it. Penalties, give people viruses, or shut down their computers, copyright protectors, whatever. They refuse to accept that the records are not worth anything. They are a piece of plastic. It is the bands and the people behind them. Bands are still worth money, and celebrity is worth money. If people care, there are ways to survive off your music. I've been talking to other bands in similar situations but I don't know if they have the balls to act. They all have managers, we've just got me.

Aren't you sometimes tired of being the manager of the band and having to think about stuff like this?
I'm here to make sure that we're not taking care of someone else's family. I think about quitting this job all the time and concentrate purely on the music, but I haven't found the person who could do it. I won't hand money over for work that I have already done. There are maybe one or two managers that I see fit and they won't be interested because we are not big enough. Everybody else wouldn't know what to do with us or could not do anything that I couldn't do myself.

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