INTERVIEW: Ben Weinman of Dillinger Escape Plan

one-of-us-is-the-killerThe Revolver magazine Golden Gods awards are always a huge highlight on the metal calendar. It’s a chance for the heavy music community to get together over a few drinks – okay, a lot of drinks – remember a few fallen comrades (this year’s event took place just hours after the announcement of the death of Slayer guitarist Jeff Hannemann) and to just generally celebrate heaviness in the same way that the mainstream music celebrates itself at the Grammys, or the film industry celebrates itself at the Oscars, or the theatre scene does with the Tonys. Of course, with the exception of the Bret Michaels incident a few years ago, the typical Tonys telecast doesn’t involve screaming, or bleeding copiously from the head – which is what happened when Dillinger Escape Plan took the stage at this year’s Golden Gods, with the added bonus of fire. Lots of it. “Aaha. There was certainly a lot of confused faces in the crowd,” laughs guitarist Ben Weinman. “I think that’s why they asked us to do the job.”

Dillinger’s latest is One Of Us Is The Killer. It’s a crushingly aggressive, engagingly eclectic modern metal album that doesn’t shy away from being confrontational nor inviting. The reception from fans and critics has been overwhelmingly positive. So how does that feel? “Kinda weird,” Weinman says. “I think before every record we have all these expectations and predictions and things like that, and on this one we had none. I don’t know if it’s just because we’ve made so many records now, but it’s been really surprising. But I’m still at the stage where it’s hard to listen to, which is always the case when you first finish a record. You need to take a few months to listen to it before you can be objective about it.” The old saying that albums aren’t finished, they’re abandoned? “Right! That’s a great saying! I’ve never heard it.”

Dillinger Escape PlanThere’s a very fine balance in crafting a Dillinger Escape Plan song: it typically involves focus, precision, aggression and a progressive attitude that manages to express itself without ever veering into the often-dicy ‘prog’ territory. “For us it’s not tricky: I just don’t know any other way,” Weinman says. “For us, part of the aggression is in the tension of it not being predictable, and part of the technicality of it and the unpredictability of it is in it being fast and crazy and chaotic at the same time. And I guess when you put it all together it’s kind of obnoxious, isn’t it! But that’s just what we do. And people who are looking for that or are sick of what else is out there, we fill that void.” But it goes deeper than that: Weinman says the band strives to write music that mirrors the reality of living a fast-paced, dynamic life. “That’s what most musicians try to do: not back themselves into the standard everyday life that most people are in. And we really try to live to the fullest. That’s what we want to do and what we want to express in our music, in our art. So our records try to recreate the dynamic of life. There’s always anger, there’s always sad. If you made a record that was just always angry or always sad or always aggressive, I don’t see how it could possibly be real.”

Ben WeinmanIn some ways, this is expressed in the complex chords and intervals the band uses. This isn’t your standard minor-key stuff. “It makes sense to put the listener through some of these unpredictable changes and some of these tones that aren’t necessarily comfortable. It seems like we’re now in a generation where even most parents have heard Slayer and Metallica and things that are much heavier – Slipknot and things like that – this is the generation that is now having kids, and metal is supposed to be something that all parents should like or not understand! It should not be easy listening and it should not be formula. To me, doing things that aren’t typical classic metal is the most metal thing we could do!”

Weinman’s axe of choice is an ESP custom instrument with a semi-hollow body and EMG pickups. “It’s very diverse,” he says. “It’s a guitar anyone can use. You can play Foo Fighters, you can play metal you can play jazz. I mean… I saw Prince the other day and he was using a semi-hollowbody too, and he is one of the most amazing guitar players and most talented people I’ve ever seen perform in my life. And it’s just more diversity from these guitars. They’re amazing.”

When not writing and playing with Dillinger or on designs like the wireless system built into his ESPs, Weinman has been known to perform with Kimbra. “Yeah! I was just hanging out with her last night. She’s in LA and we played a show, so we just hung out and checked out some music. We’re good friends. She’s really awesome. I even played her the first demos for this Dillinger record, and she gave me her feedback. So we have a pretty tight relationship with her. There are not many people in the pop world who are truly creative and experimental. There are people like Bjork but there haven’t been any new artists that have done it as well as Kimbra.”