Doing It Live With The Dillinger Escape Plan

Doing It Live With The Dillinger Escape Plan

It's almost hard to believe that The Dillinger Escape Plan are playing this year's Warped Tour. We caught up with the tour's sore thumbs, vocalist Greg Puciato and drummer Billy Rymer, to discuss how not to get kicked off of Warped Tour, leaving Relapse Records, and their outstanding new album, "Option Paralysis."

- Joe Smith
Photo by Corinne

posted July 23, 2010

It's almost hard to believe that The Dillinger Escape Plan are playing this year's Warped Tour. An ejection from the 2005 iteration of the fest notwithstanding, the mathcore progenitors' dizzying algorhythmic metal doesn't exactly mesh with the pop-punk, "punk," and deathcore that fill out this year's Warped roster. We caught up with two-fifths of the tour's sore thumbs, vocalist Greg Puciato and drummer Billy Rymer, to discuss how not to get kicked off of Warped Tour, leaving Relapse Records, and their outstanding new album, "Option Paralysis."

So this is your second go-around on the Warped Tour?

Greg Puciato: This is actually the third time, but we've never done the full thing. We did a chunk of it in 2005 and got kicked off. And then we did a chunk of it in 2008 and that went smoothly, but we only did it for like a week and they were all in and around Florida, the hottest possible dates. This is the only time we've done the full thing.

This has to be a different vibe, a different crowd than you're used to.

Puciato: Extremely different, in every way imaginable, yeah.

How do you deal with crowds that are filled with, let's face it...

Puciato: Posers?

Yeah, and 14 year old girls.

Puciato: Oh yeah. I mean, it's definitely a little bit of a learning curve...not a learning curve, but it took a bit for me to get used to it. Not only that, but it is a slight blow to your ego to not play to anyone who is really that psyched to see you, because honestly it's completely different people than would come to Dillinger shows. And 9 out of 10 of our fans aren't coming to see this, and I wouldn't. Like I wouldn't come if Converge was playing, and I was a fan, I wouldn't be like "Fuck, I gotta go to Warped Tour and see all these bands I don't wanna see just to see Converge." So I get it, but it is still important for us to take ourselves out of our comfort zone and not just play to "our" audience over and over again. You get really comfortable when you're used to going out and playing and seeing that every kid in the crowd knows every word. There's a certain comfort to that, and it is nice to go out and prove yourself at 2 in the afternoon, when you don't have strobe lights, and you don't have a set list full of songs that everyone knows, and to test your mettle in front of kids who are really young. And kids, honestly, have seen a lot of shit. Young kids now have seen the heaviest bands you could've heard, they've seen crazy stage presence, they've seen everything. So for us to do these signings after we play, we've noticed that it's like 80 percent kids who've never seen us, and they're still like "I've never seen anything like that." For us to still be able to have that effect on people is pretty cool.

Speaking of crazy stage presence, I caught your set earlier, and that was pretty tame for a Dillinger show.

Puciato: That was tame for us, yeah.

Is it tough to not be able to break stuff and light things on fire?

Puciato: Well we found out, two or three shows in they were threatening us, like we can't do this, we can't do that. At first, it felt offensive, like "Wait a minute, you knew what we do, and you asked us to play." But I get it; I'm not a little kid. The thing is, we're used to having full responsibility. So if we fuck something up, or someone gets hurt or we break some shit, it's our show usually; and we are the ones that the club goes to or the people go to, and we don't have a problem with that, we pay for whatever damage it is. But on a tour like this, we aren't the ones that people go to; Kevin Lyman and the Warped Tour are the ones that have to deal with it. I wouldn't want to deal with our bullshit if I were them anyway, and we're an insurance liability in a lot of ways, so we get it.

Yeah, during the set, I saw (guitarist) Ben (Weinman) throw a crate or something across the stage, and on one hand I'm thinking "Here we go," and on the other hand I'm thinking, "Well, they probably can't do anything."

Puciato: Yeah, it's true. A couple shows in, I threw a cabinet off the stage and it landed on a security guard's foot. And right away, they were like "That's strike one and two, combined. Stop it."

Is that the kind of thing that got you got kicked off in '05?

Puciato: In '05 it was a string a things. The first show I was breathing fire, in the crowd. And they say, "You can't ever do that, you can't breathe fire again." And the second show I was breathing fire again, and they say, "Come on, man. Knock it off." The third show I threw a mic stand into the crowd and the police came and threatened me with assault. And the only reason we got out of that is because we gave all the cops free t-shirts, and they were Canadian, so they were cool. And then the fourth show I kicked a box fan that was onstage, and it took a weird bounce, bounced off the stage and smashed some kid's face open. He also turned out to be cool, we gave him free merch. But that was when they were like, "You guys gotta go." Understandably so. But I'm not trying to hurt anyone, I just want to make it through the tour and have people come to see us at our show.

So far, so good?

Puciato: Yeah, it's been alright.

And you brought Bob Meadows (singer from A Life Once Lost) out to help on "Sunshine the Werewolf."

Puciato: Yeah, he's a long-time friend, and I didn't even realize he was coming, he just showed up. And it's kind of become like a rite of passage that whenever we see him, he comes out and does that part. He's got a ferocious voice, and he's really intimidating on stage; like I said, we've done that song so many times together, I couldn't imagine if he's not there, it would almost feel rude to him to not have him come out and do it. And he's from Philly, and they have a new record coming out so I felt like anything I can do to help those guys get any type of attention is good.

Well, they definitely deserve it. Let's talk about your new record, "Option Paralysis," which came out a few months ago. It seems to me like it's a culmination of some stuff that you guys were reaching for over the last two.

Puciato: Oh, yeah.

Now is that something you consciously did, or did it just naturally evolve into the sound it became?

Puciato: It pretty naturally evolved. Like with (2007 full-length) "Ire Works," it was a little bit of a struggle just to get the album together. Not just because we had personnel changes, but because we had so many ideas at that point musically, that we still wanted to do crazy, cockamamie style stuff, we still wanted to do the catchier songs, and we wanted to do experimental type of stuff too, but we weren't very good at mashing them together. We still had to separate them because we weren't that good at writing the rock-type songs yet but we really wanted to write them. I think we accomplished that on the record because I think "Milk Lizard" is a really killer song, but the electronics and stuff, we still couldn't really figure out how to implement those influences into our songs, so we just had all these little interludes.

You mean "When Acting as a Wave" and "When Acting as a Particle?"

Puciato: Yeah, and I think they're really cool, and I think that record is a documentation of us trying to figure out how to merge them all. And I think on "Option Paralysis," we actually managed to put them in the songs without having it be awkward, and it sounds like everything goes together. So that was more or less just a songwriting evolution, and us maturing a little bit.

Because it definitely sounds more cohesive, it's not like there's the two songs that stick out; you can't point to a song and say, "Oh, there's the 'Unretrofied' of the record."

Puciato: And another big thing about that was having Billy, because Billy actually lived with Ben during the writing of the record, and they would play every day together. And in the past we would have practice days, like normal bands; you know, "three hours on Tuesday night, three hours on Thursday night we'll get together." There's only so much you can grow and have things be organic when you're doing it like that, you really are just trying to piece things together.

Billy Rymer: Especially when you have a deadline, you work faster when the pressure's on. We were on a rate of maybe 20 seconds a day, we got 20 seconds of music a day and if we got up to that we were ecstatic. We were completely ecstatic just to even accomplish that much. And over time we pieced it together and we basically got the bashers out of the way, like we had to get all of the hard shit out of the way; just get it out there and done. And after that is was like we got to breathe, and we got to write rock songs, we got to write the piano song. And "Parasitic Twins" just came together in the studio.

Well it sounds like this might have been easier to put together than your previous albums. But I read an interview with you, Greg, where you said that "Option Paralysis" was the toughest record you've ever made.

Puciato: For me it was. But I think as a band, it was the smoothest record we've ever written, it felt really natural. We didn't have roadblocks, like I was saying, where we were trying to force our influences together and it wasn't working; everything just went seamlessly, which is really cool. And it was the quickest we've ever written a record, like the path of least resistance, not just creatively but personally. There was no one in the band that was...you know, it's hard to play with people when you don't get along with them, and in the past that was an issue. And with Gil (Sharone, former drummer), we always knew he wasn't going to be the guy from the get-go; not because of personal reasons, just because we knew he was a fill-in that was going to go as long as he could. But with Bill, everything gelled so quickly that the writing process was actually fairly easy. But for me it was the most difficult, just from a perspective of, well, lyrically it was the most honest record I've ever written. It's always really easy when you're yelling and screaming songs to hide behind abstract things, like just yelling nonsense. That seems to be the way that a lot of people in this genre do it, to just yell some vaguely poetic nonsense. But this time it was really close to home, and it was difficult for me. It sounds so cheesy, but it was difficult for me to let go of and really be like, "Fuck, if I'm going to do anything that's worthwhile, I really have to put my shit out there for everyone to see." And anyone that knows me can read those lyrics and know exactly what it was about. So that was really weird for me at first, but also really important, I think.

I wanted to ask, the title of the record, I think, it's almost like how Dillinger can do so many things, and you can take the music so many directions. Is it tempting, or would it be easy to just fall back onto the typical "Dillinger sound?"

Puciato: I know what you mean; I think it would be easy for us. That's why it frustrates us when, occasionally we have the fan who's like "I wish they would just make ‘Calculating Infinity' again." And they don't realize that that would be the easy thing for us to do, that we can literally shit those songs out, that it's not tough now for us to write those things. Especially with Billy and Ben, they get together and their first instinct, because of the type of people they are, is to write hyper-crazy aggressive stuff. We could bash out, in 24 hours, enough of that to be ten Dillinger songs worth of parts, like crazy insane rhythms and bashing parts and chug-chugs and things like that. And for a certain type of fan maybe that would be rad, maybe we could do that one day and put out an EP of just craziness. But we have to consciously push ourselves or else it's not stimulating, we have enough of those songs to last...

Forever?

Puciato: Yeah, we really do.

And "Option Paralysis" is your first album on Season of Mist, under your Party Smasher imprint. What precipitated the move from Relapse? Was it just the state of the industry, or lack thereof?

Puciato: Yeah. Well, we were with Relapse for ten years and our contract ran out, we didn't really leave so much as it just ended, and both sides seemed pretty uninterested in continuing. I mean, when you're with someone for ten years in a business relationship, we've had our "Fuck you"'s over the years. We ended amicably, but it was a just like "Hey, you've done everything you can do for us, we know what you guys are gonna do, you know what we're gonna do. Let's see what else is going on out there and let's free up some of your resources to go after some other bands, and we'll go do our own thing." And for us, creatively and from a business perspective, we're at a point in our lives where it's really important for us to be as in control of everything as possible. I don't want to sign a three-album deal, I don't want to sign anything that's going to bind us in any way. The cool thing about Season of Mist is that they just came in and took every risk that someone can take, they said "Here's what we're going to give you financially, and we're going to let you have control over every dollar that is spent on marketing, every dollar that is spent on promotions." And we know better than anyone how to spend our money; I know that spending $20,000 on a video is stupid, whereas some record labels would make you spend that much just because they're used to that formula. I know that $20,000 would be better spent on street things like posters, things that matter on a ground roots level, and not some fucking video that's going to be played on YouTube. Because our most famous video is of me running across someone's head that was done on a camera phone. So when you see that, and that has more plays than a video that we spent twenty grand on that makes us look like robots and shit; nah dude, we don't need to do that. So Season of Mist just came in and said yes to everything, and gave us a one album deal which is really cool, because that showed us that they were confident enough in their ability to say "Not only are we going to give you more than any other label, but we're going to tell you that as soon as you hand the record in you're free again." And that's rad, it's basically like they're not trying to control us, and that means that they do the best job possible and we'll do the best job possible. We're both psyched to do it again, it's been really nice.

In the promotional run-up to the album's release, you guys ended up on Fox News, of all places.

Puciato: That was bizarre.

Very. How did that even happen, and did that interviewer even realize you were screwing with her the whole time?

Puciato: We were just taking a piss, pretty much the whole time. It was so surreal, even when we walked into the room, we were thinking "Are you serious?" You know, it was really weird that we were there. The thing that irritated me, I don't even think that they knew why we were there either. I really have no idea to this day how that happened. Because they didn't ask us a single music-related question or a single question about our band.

She kept asking about your clothes and Liam (Wilson, bassist)'s hair and shit.

Puciato: Yeah, stuff like that. And even as we were doing it, we could tell that no one there knew why we were there, and we didn't know why we were there, I still don't really know. I think it was just an issue that our publicist has, you know publicists basically want to get you on anything. It's their job to try to get you as much shit as possible, and I think that Andrew W.K. is on Fox sometimes, and we have the same publicist that he does. So I think at some point in time they were like "We have another band, do you want to put them on too?" It was really weird. It was bizarre to say the least, but we had fun with it. It was one of my favorite things we've ever done, just because of how ridiculous it was. And that chick definitely wanted to bang Liam, he should have followed up on it.

But he didn't.

Puciato: No.

Well on that note, that's all I've got for you. Is there anything you'd like to add?

Puciato: Just thanks to anybody who's ever given a shit about us, whether you've cared for a long time or whether you're new. Everyone's equally valuable to us. So thanks to everyone if you've ever come to a show or bought a CD, even read or given a shit about anything we've had to say.

Rymer: What he said, man. It's all good.

Thanks a lot, guys.

Puciato: Seriously, thank you.

Rymer: Thanks.