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The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world
Ben Weinman Dillinger Escape Plan - Interview
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Ben Weinman Dillinger Escape Plan

Dillinger Escape Plan are no strangers to Australia having toured the country several times including a couple of runs at the Soundwave Festival and in August they return for a headlining run on the east coast. Their last album "One of Us Is the Killer" was released in 2013 and has proven to be very successful for the band who have been steadily rising in their almost 20 year career so we talked to guitarist Ben Weinman on what the fans can expect on the tour and also a little about some upcoming things that he is currently working on.



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Andrew: Thanks for taking the time today, I guess the first thing we gotta talk about is the upcoming headlining run next month in Australia which we're pretty excited about.

Ben: Yes so are we! It seems like we are always coming through for Soundwave Festival or something and it's just time for us to do a real proper run.

Andrew: Yeah the last time we had seen you was last year or the year before for Soundwave?

Ben: Yeah I guess that was last year, not this most recent one but the one before.

Andrew: How was that for you?

Ben: It was cool! It's always wierd because I feel like we don't exactly fit in. There's always a pretty heavy metal presence and then there's some rock bands and it seems like they never quite know where to put us but it always ends up being great. No joke Australia is certaintly one of our favorite places to play and it's always been a very open minded fanbase musically in Australia. From the very early days working with Mike Patton and he had nothing but good things to say about the Australian audiences and then when we finally get over there, we were like wow! He's right, the place is great!

Andrew: Do you have that problem at other festivals around the world where you feel like you don't really fit in amongst all the other bands?

Ben: Yeah we've never fit, we've never felt like we've fit in ever from the very beginning of this band. From the incepion of this band we were by definition kind of uncategorizable and people want to tend to put things into a box and label it and so eventually people started making names and labelling the kind of music we play but it still didn't make any sense anywhere haha! We've been lucky enough to have a lot of bands that took us under their wings so we've had a certain amount of exposure from bands just being like 'These guys are doing something interesting so check them out'. I think a lot of open minded bands who have a lot of open minded fans checked us out and we've been able to maintain a steady incline because of that.

Andrew: Yeah I guess that's one of the positive aspects of being in a band that's quite diverse is that you get to play with a lot of different bands that most heavy bands probably wouldn't play with.

Ben: Definitely true.

Andrew: Have you actually done a headlining run in Australia before?

Ben: Yeah we've played a few times. Our first time in Australia was a headlining run, we did a whole thing with Periphery a few years ago opening for us so we've done a couple. But the last few times were just for Soundwave Festivals.

Andrew: So this time around what can we expect as far as setlists and all that kind of stuff?

Ben: In the last run of shows we've been playing a bunch of songs off of our record called "Miss Machine" which is our second record and a lot of those songs we've actually never played before so we started incorporating them into our set. And a lot of those songs we're going to retire forever after we start over for the next record so not only are we playing a lot of songs off our last record but we're also playing a lot of songs off the record "Miss Machine" which is like 15 years or I don't know...something like that!

Andrew: Haha yeah I think it's about 11 or 12 years.

Ben: Yeah so we kinda missed the 10 year mark so we decided to come out after 10 years and do somne of those songs that people love and maybe get rid of some haha!

Andrew: Haha well speaking of that album 11 or 12 years later, how do you view those songs now?

Ben: I think they are just as relevant. It's almost like over the years we've created this Dillinger Escape Plan vocabulary and that's what has made it interesting bringing new guys to the band is that once they learn the vocabulary, they can help speak the language with us. So I think all our records incorporate this vocabulary that's kind of our sound and then we always try to incorporate new things as well. We've been doing that ever since but those elements that are Dillinger specific that I think make us stand out and hopefully original were there from the very beginning and they are still there today.

Andrew: Yeah and I guess the fans maybe view that album as the pivotal point in the bands career.

Ben: We were definitely at a point where people started to hear about us then. We started to expand a little past the deep underground at that point.

Andrew: You're last album "One of Us Is the Killer" was out about 2 years ago, it's been quite successful for you guys and received pretty well. How has it been for you guys and what kind of responses have you been getting in the last 2 years?

Ben: Pretty great man! We had a lot of new people check it out which is interesting. We've been a band for so long but there's a lot of are getting into heavy more technical music now all of a sudden and they discover us and say, 'Wow you guys are amazing' and I think they are surprised to find out how long we've been doing it and that's always exciting to me, that we have some relevance still after all these years. The last record has been amazing for us and I hate to talk numbers and stuff but it was our biggest first week in North America out of all our records ever so this far into our career and considering the state of the industry, it's pretty awesome. We just think our fans are the best kind of fans, they really care and we don't have as many as some bands but the fans we have and the people that are into our band, we consider them just part of the gang. If they get it and they love it then that means they're like us.

Andrew: Yeah with Dillinger Escape Plan I think they are some of those most hardcore and loyal fans out there so it's pretty cool I think.

Ben: Definitely.

Andrew: As we said it's been about 2 years since the last album so are you guys maybe thinking of doing the next one?

Ben: Yeah we're already writing! We're well onto a new record and the writing process and we're going into the studio around November so we're already getting it going.

Andrew: So I guess with the success of the last album, do you feel any kind of pressure to maybe outdo that one?

Ben: I don't think we really try to think about it too much, we just start moving and start making stuff. It's like just take what you got and get to work and at some point you just got to write the first riff and not look back. We just want to make sure it always moves us, We're proud of pretty much every single thing we ever put out. We've always put 110% into it and we've always been the kind of band where some of our music may seem clever but that's not the most important part. The most important part is that it has emotion and energy so I like to think what differentiates us from some of the technical bands is that everything we do has to feel like it can't just be interesting, it actually has to move us. We have to be able to picture us playing it live and feeling it and so the carthartic nature of our music is the most important thing. So with that in mind it's not about beating something or topping it, it's about maintaining that level of emotion and really feeling or believing that we're creating something honest. And that's the challenge, we have to be in the right state of mind to do it, we can't just force it.

Andrew: How is the writing process for writing new music? Especially for you as the guitar player, how do you come up with ideas and is it a very collaborative effort with the whole band or do you do your own thing and then come together later on?

Ben: It's not that collaborative, I've pretty much been the main songwriter from day one and I'm the only original member in the band so it's great to have some of these guys add their perspective and their flavour to it but still have the consistency of the original vision that went into the band. I think that makes it interesting. Typically myself and our drummer work and create pretty complex demos before anyone else hears it and then we send it to the guys and they work on it, work on their parts and it's really cool especially to hear Greg (Puciato) our singer to come back and hear his take on it. I think the good thing about him not being part of the process until it's almost done is that he hears it like a fan, it hits him exactly how we intended it to hit somebody. To be able to be moved by it and create based on that inspiration and influence and I hear it back almost fresh where it's got a whole new level and layer to it, it's a pretty exciting process to be honest with you.

Andrew: Who do you consider to be your biggest influence on the guitar?

Ben: I guess some of my biggest influences are people like John Mclaughlin from Mahavishnu Orchestra, Robert Fripp from King Crimson, Greg Ginn from Black Flag. There's so many, Stevie Ray Vaughan...a lot of guys that weren't ncessarily the most technical guys but they had a lot of feeling and emotion in their playing and they were eclectic in their influences.

Andrew: And that's obviously an important part of playing.

Ben: Yeah people who took their influences and created their own sound out of it, that's what's really moved me.

Andrew: Just before we end this interview today I wanted to quickly ask you about this little side project you have going on. I'm not sure where you are in the process of it but I heard you were collaborating with actress Juliette Lewis in some band called Giraffe Tongue Ochestra?

Ben: That's right! It's called Giraffe Tongue Orchestra or G.T.O for short and it's myself, Brent Hinds from Mastadon, Thomas Pridgen who is in The Mars Volta and actually Juliette is working on it with us but we also have other singers. William (Duvall) from Alice In Chains is actually doing most of the vocals on it so it's pretty interesting. It's got Juliette Lewis, members of Alice In Chains, Mastadon, Dillinger haha!

Andrew: What kind of stuff is it musically?

Ben: It's interesting because it's really progressive so it sounds exactly what you would think Brent and me and Thomas would make but it's got this kind of real 90's thing going on with William singing on it, it feels like it could be something from the grunge era or something.

Andrew: Like an Alice In Chains kind of thing or something?

Ben: It sounds like a progressive version of something from that kind of era. I hear some King X's in it, I hear some Mastadon in it, I hear some Dillinger in it, I hear Alice In Chains in it. It's kinda exactly as you would expect from that group of people!

Andrew: That's interesting and I had no idea that Juliette Lewis was actually a singer. Obviously people know her from her acting and all that so is she a good singer? What kind of stuff does she sing?

Ben: She's very rock n' roll, very Janis Joplin, bluesy, feeling emotion. If you know her as an actress and how much emotion she can put in to her performances, that's definitely like her singing. I had the opportunity to watch her play Juliette and the Licks many, many years ago in a club and I was skeptical because probably thinking like some actress doing some vanity thing. Like they just want to be in a band and whatever and I went in there and she put in a hundred and fucking ten percent to every song, she was sweating her ass off, bleeding and falling into the crowd. And it was like, she's more real than most bands I know because she doesn't need this, it's truly this free form of expression that's going on which was really refreshing. When I started the project with Brent, we thought of her and said we should do some work with her.

Andrew: OK well that sounds pretty cool! Well I better let you go, it's been a pleasure chatting to you and we are looking forward to seeing you guys do this headlining run in Australia next month so thanks for your time today.

Ben: Thank you man!

Interview by Andrew "Schizodeluxe" Massie on July 15th 2015