Dillinger Escape Plan: Multiple Choice
Originally published in Guitar World, June 2010
Do Dillinger Escape Plan have a new album, a new drummer or a new label? How about all of the above? Ben Weinman and Jeff Tuttle get quizzed about the group’s many changes and its latest schizophrenic effort, Option Paralysis.
There are two faces to Ben Weinman, Dillinger Escape Plan’s guitarist and main songwriter: the polite gentleman and the wild-eyed madman. Sitting in Guitar World’s conference room, wearing a longsleeve black-knit shirt and matching skullcap, Weinman is unassuming, soft-spoken and articulate as he discusses the dramatic changes that his band has undergone over the past three years.
But when he steps onstage at New York’s Irving Plaza hours after our interview, a startling transformation takes place. Armed with a black ESP Les Paul guitar and a catalog of jarring and jaw-dropping songs, Weinman becomes reckless and self-destructive. He collides with band members and punctuates rhythms by swinging his guitar in a downward arc, like a lumberjack chopping wood. During a musical vamp, he ascends a stack of amps and precariously spans a four-foot chasm to a platform high above the left side of the stage. Leaping to the floor, he rolls and rises in time to finish a skewed riff, all without missing a note. Toward the end of the show, Weinman takes a running leap into a solid wall and collapses in a heap.
Somehow, he finishes the evening without injuries. He hasn’t always been so lucky. Over the years Weinman’s antics have resulted in broken ribs, a torn rotator cuff (which required surgery), a broken foot, cracked discs in his neck, stitches to his face and staples in his head.
“There is something to be said for being onstage and tasting blood,” Weinman says of his erratic behavior. “I’d be lying if I said that feeling blood dripping in my eyes or mouth doesn’t give me an adrenaline rush. That doesn’t mean I enjoy walking around limping, but there’s something about that moment onstage where I’m in a different mode. I almost feel like I’m not giving it my all—not taking things as far as I need to take them—if I don’t get into those territories every night.”
Taking things as far as they need to go has been Dillinger Escape Plan’s modus operandi since they emerged from Morris Plains, New Jersey, in 1997 with an EP of spazzy mathcore and a diverse range of influences including Today Is the Day, Neurosis, Dazzling Killmen, the Jesus Lizard and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. When it comes to songwriting and performing, the words “safe” and “easy” aren’t in Dillinger Escape Plan’s vocabulary. For Weinman, specifically, the desire to create confrontational music was a reaction to his stable, secure upbringing.
“I grew up in this suburban lifestyle, where everything was normal and my overprotective Jewish mother used to follow me around,” he says. “From the very start, this band was an outlet to take on a whole other persona. There was definitely this dichotomy of us being these good college kids and going to class and then being able to go onstage and have 100 percent artistic physical expression and no inhibitions.”
Dillinger Escape Plan’s fourth full album, Option Paralysis, is even more schizophrenic and complex than 2007’s critically acclaimed Ire Works. The new tunes are packed with off-time rhythms, turbulent riffs that require frantic fretting and rapid alternate picking, atmospheric enhancements that would shortcircuit most bands’ pedal boards, and abrupt tempo and tone shifts that sometimes sound like the band has launched into an entirely new song. There are also colorful electronic and keyboard embellishments that clash with the arrangements as frequently as they work with them. And while the disc features more melodic vocals than ever, they’re frequently layered over aggressive passages, creating a dazzling duality of the tender and terrifying. As wild as the arrangements are, they hold together, and the music remains exciting throughout. It should be especially interesting to see how the Hot Topic crowd at this summer’s Warped Tour reacts to the band’s jarring display.
Weinman wrote a portion of Option Paralysis, including most of the haunting electronic-infused lounge ballad “Parasitic Twins” and the plaintive, piano-embellished “Widower,” over the past couple years. But he and coguitarist Jeff Tuttle (formerly of Heads Will Roll and Capture the Flag) didn’t begin to work on the album in earnest until the band returned from Australia in March 2009.