The Curse of the Dillinger Escape Plan

The Curse of the <b>Dillinger Escape Plan</b>
"I think there’s a Dillinger Escape Plan curse,” says Ben Weinman, the lone original member of the genre-defining metal pioneers. "I’m on the verge of being like, ‘Alright, where the voodoo doctor?’ I’m seriously about to stick a chicken up my ass and crack an egg over my head. Something’s going on.” Weinman’s susceptibility to the last resort of the ass-chicken is mostly sarcastic, now that new album Ire Works is finally out. But six months ago, chickens had good reason to be nervous around the virtuosic guitar player.

In June this year, it was revealed that Dillinger’s drummer (and last remaining original member), Chris Pennie, would be leaving to occupy the drum stool in none other than Coheed and Cambria. The announcement was made a mere two weeks before Dillinger were scheduled to enter to the studio with long-time producer Steve Evetts, and it certainly wasn’t a first for the band. "Before we recorded [1999 full-length debut] Calculating Infinity, our bass player was paralyzed. Our other guitar player quit the band, and it was just like, ‘Oh great, let’s go make a record now,’” says Weinman. "That was amazing training for what would be a long road of pains in my ass.” That Calculating’s brutal heaviness and utterly insane song structure would go on to become the accepted benchmark in technical metal could not have been predicted by anyone in the band. Prior to its recording, bassist Adam Moll was in a car accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. The accidents continued from there: years later, guitar player Brian Benoit would be forced to retire from the band due to crippling nerve damage to his left hand, sustained while playing, that left him unable to perform. Weinman would tear his rotator cuff so severely that the band would be forced off a tour with Megadeath. The injuries were so serious the guitar player actually quit the band, reconsidering and rejoining soon after. Then, Pennie left.

"I started programming the drums,” Weinman says. "I was just like, ‘Fuck this.’ There was no way the record wasn’t coming out. I started working on this program called Drum Kit from Hell, trying to make it sound as human as possible. I didn’t sleep for two months.” The band didn’t mince words about Pennie’s poorly-timed departure either. In an interview with MTV, they said outright, "When Chris hears our record, he’s going to feel like a real asshole.” Listening to Ire Works, they’re probably right, but its mix of lightning-fast riffs and a surprising number of melodic passages didn’t come easily, even without taking into account the band’s changing line-up.

"When we started recording the album, every fish in the studio’s fish tank started to die,” says Weinman. "I threw up once when I was seven years old, and when I started recording guitars, I threw up 40 times and was put in the hospital. I felt like I was dying. Our producer’s back totally went out completely. He couldn’t even move. The whole recording he was on pills and steroids and anything he could do to get through it. On our first day of recording, the engineer’s assistant’s car got broken into outside the studio, and everything inside it, including, for some reason, every CD he owned, got stolen.” The end result of all that puke, drug use, and loss of personal property is a record that takes the sonic deviations of the band’s second full-length, Miss Machine, and makes them the standard; there’s still the all-out mathematic rage of tracks like opener "Fix Your Face,” which recalls Calculating Infinity in all its glory, but there’s a lot here that’s guaranteed to anger anyone who was disappointed by the band’s move towards melody and non-calculator-requiring structures on their last record.

"There was a purpose to Miss Machine,” says Weinman. "It was so we could weed out the people that didn't want to hear us do anything that didn't sound like Calculating Infinity. It was to get us to that ultimate artistic position where we can do whatever we can.” With Ire Works, it sounds like the band have really done whatever they can, and whatever they want. "Black Bubblegum” is the first sign that things have really changed in the Dillinger Escape Plan camp; the song is downright danceable, complete with falsetto vocals and the sense that maybe the band took a page or two from their own iTunes-exclusive cover of Justin Timberlake’s "Like I Love You.” It’s great, and totally unexpected. Then there’s "Milk Lizard,” which could be a Rocket From the Crypt b-side, raging horns and all.

"I always feel like I'm the one trying to convince everyone,” says Weinman. "Greg will be like, ‘No, I want everything to be fucking ripping! We can’t have a song like this!’ But I wrote that song, I wrote this song. Same shit. It doesn’t matter. If I worry what other people will think, or try to make everything sound a certain way, not only will we not be happy, but we won’t be the band we were when we started: a band that does whatever the fuck we want. There's a song called ‘Sick on Sunday’ which I wrote predominantly all electronic, and we added more stuff to it later. That was the first time that we really focused an entire song on electronics. We've used them in the past, but more as ear candy, as opposed to the song itself. That was the biggest step for us, in terms of a new element to out sound.”

It took a few months of no sleep, but fans have finally been given the chance to sample this new side of the band. Taking a look back over the past few years and the road that led Dillinger to Ire Works, however, makes clear that a career in music has been anything but easy — or safe — for Weinman and company. "I’d like to think what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but I have to say there are a lot of times where I’ve said to myself ‘I don’t know if this is worth it anymore,’” he says. "For some reason, we keep going. We just feel like there’s more to say and more to do. We still want to make the record we haven’t made yet. We still feel important and relevant after all these years.”