The Dillinger Escape Plan
While heavy metal comes with a host of occupational hazards, from excessive consumption to accidents on tour, the physical toll that being in the Dillinger Escape Plan has exacted on members sets the band apart. The experimental math-metal group have left a swath of broken bodies in their wake, with injuries suffered ranging from a torn rotator cuff and broken foot to spinal injuries and gunshot wounds. Despite this carnage, they have managed to produce some of the most exciting and challenging music in the genre. Known as much for their contorted, highly technical guitar work and explosive, even dangerous live performances, complete with death-defying acrobatics and fire-breathing, the Dillinger Escape Plan have consistently challenged themselves and their audiences throughout their storied career. Despite a litany of injuries, line-up changes and an ever-more demanding performance schedule, sole founding member, principle songwriter and guitarist Ben Weinman and company have remained committed to creating challenging, intense and mercilessly aggressive music at any cost.
1975 to 1992
Ben Weinman is born on August 8, 1975 in Morris Plains, NJ. Dimitri Minakakis is born on June 16, 1977 and grows up in Morristown, NJ. Chris Pennie is born May 31, 1977. Weinman says that his parents musical tastes were uncommon and that they "didn't like anything that people of their generation were supposed to like." They introduce him to Broadway musicals and show tunes, which instils in him a deep appreciation for musical theatrics, complex scoring, and dynamics. He finds himself drawn to darker musicals, like Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Chris Pennie takes up drumming at the age of 13. At the age of 15, Weinman drinks alcohol for the first and last time. In his early teens, Weinman is introduced to extreme death metal through a friend's older brother's extensive tape collection. In 1992, while sitting in his car outside of a party in Hollywood, CA, future bassist Jeff Wood is shot in the head. He recovers from the injury, though part of the bullet will remain in his brain for the rest of his life and gradually bring about a complete personality change.
1993 to 1995
At 16, Chris Pennie decides to pursue music as a career and joins New Jersey band Prozak. Pennie's father accompanies the under-aged teen to gigs at local bars so that he can play with his band-mates, who are nearly a decade older. By 1994, Ben Weinman starts to find death metal formulaic, though he still appreciates the dense technicality of it, and moves on to develop a keen interest in hardcore and punk, as he is exposed to New York hardcore bands playing alongside local metal bands. He is drawn to the unpredictability of the genre, as well as the ferocious energy. Chris Pennie leaves Prozak in 1995 and begins two years at the Berklee College of Music, earning a certificate in Music Synthesis (which focuses on electronics, sampling and effects). Also in 1995, Pennie forms short-lived pop-punk band Boxer with classmate Jeremy McDowell.
1996 to 1997
Weinman, Minakakis and Pennie, who all know each other through the local hardcore and metal scene, form the hardcore punk band Arcane, along with bassist Bruce Fulton and second vocalist Brad McMann. Arcane are an expression of the acerbic, aggressive political hardcore and punk rock they all enjoy, but is not an innovative project. Weinman describes the group as a "lost cause," an act of mimicry rather than an attempt to create anything new. After playing together for several months, they scrap their aesthetic entirely and start over. Ben Weinman enrols in the psychology program at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, NJ. By March 1997, McMann is replaced on bass by Pennie's friend Adam Doll, who is interested in the group's new, more chaotic direction; Fulton leaves as well, and guitarist Derek Brantley takes his place. Their new work is deliberately alienating and strange, technical and chaotic, with no attempt to be pleasing or easy to listen to. With this new aesthetic in place, they re-christen themselves the Dillinger Escape Plan, named after notoriously difficult-to-incarcerate American bank robber John Dillinger. The members consider it a purely artistic outlet rather than a career choice or attempt at mainstream success. The band are initially managed by Weinman and friend Tom Apostolopoulos, and release a self-titled EP in March 1997, which features complex and technical guitar work as well as unpredictable shifts in tempo and tone. The EP is released by indie label Now or Never Records, who send them on a club tour through the Northwestern U.S. later in 1997. Derek Brantley, who played guitar on the record, is replaced by John Fulton before tour. While on this tour, Dillinger begin to experiment with their stage show to create a sense of unpredictability and danger, something that Weinman always admired about the original New York hardcore movement. They do things like set objects on fire on stage; at one show, a friend of the band spontaneously sets of firecrackers in the audience, leading to rumours that it was a planned stunt. These early shows add immensely to Dillinger's reputation for shock and awe theatrics; some of the reports are entirely invented. After the tour concludes, their track "The Mullet Burden" is included on the Nothing Left Fanzine #7 CD compilation. Based on their first demo and their post-tour reputation, Relapse Records offer the Dillinger Escape Plan a long-term, multi-record contract; after a lawyer friend looks over the proposed contract, the band quickly sign.
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