Download 2010: DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN
Greg Puciato and Liam Wilson on Dio, the tales they're saving, what's in a name, and the weirdness of Warped Tour
The one defining moment I'll take away from Download 2010 won't be fireworks or inflatables on the big stages. It'll be the sight of Dillinger Escape Plan's Greg Puciato standing in the torrential storm on the edge of the Dio stage at Download: shortly before they kicked into 'Farewell Mona Lisa', and the set closer that saw the frontman throwing himself repeatedly against the speakers, sweating and screaming as the rain sluiced over him. One of the most powerful moments of the entire festival, fueled by one of the most intense albums of the year, Option Paralysis, their first record through their Party Smasher Inc imprint. It's as much a catalyst for the changes that have happened since, as the personal events and the changes in the band's line-up and ways of working that preceded it.
Greg Puciato and Liam Wilson spoke to Ruth about Dio, the tales they're saving, what's in a name, and the weirdness of Warped Tour.
However, first, there's the little matter of the headliners they wished they'd caught the previous night...
Liam Wilson - "One time they played Philly, they got up onstage, naked and didn't play. Yeah, thanks, my home town!"
Greg Puciato - "Zack de la Rocha is one of the most compelling frontmen of all time, I think. It's in the eyes, you know, and you can see it in that guy. He's like HR, you know, it's that type of intensity, so I would really like to see it."
Anyone you're looking forward to today?Greg - [Before the question has finished] "Aerosmith. Aerosmith is all I care about today. I'm so excited about it that I've been talking about it for months. So yeah, I'm really psyched."
Liam - "He's been talking about it for months, so Aerosmith. I have my own personal stake in that one too, and there's other things, like I wanted to talk to Chinderella. Cinderella. Stuttering over it, but Billy Idol, there's all kind of stuff we're going to miss."
It's 30th anniversary of metal on the Donington site...Greg - "I didn't know that. I remember when it was called something cool."
Monsters of Rock?"Monsters Of Rock, had one of the coolest names ever, and now it's called Download. What the hell?"
Liam - "The thing that's killing music. First we were saving music with the Monsters Of Rock, now we're killing it with Download."Greg - "Call it Hard Drive festival. iTunes fest."
How do you guys feel about playing the Dio stage?Greg - "Well obviously we're really excited to play it, and I wish the stage didn't have to be called the Ronnie James Dio stage, 'cause it's a bummer that he died, but it's a big a honour. We just saw him a couple of weeks ago at an awards show in LA. I was really shocked to find out that he died, because when we saw him he looked so healthy and so vibrant and in such good spirits that I was really convinced that he had beaten the cancer. So it's a shame, but he accomplished so much in his life, that it's an honour to play not only the 30th anniversary but on a stage that's been named for such an accomplished man."
Did you guys talk to him at the awards?"No, we were actually being pushed down this red carpet. Noone really knew who we were, and everyone else was like Slash or Alice in Chains, but Ronnie James Dio was the guy, who everybody, no matter how big they were, was 'fuck, that's Ronnie James Dio!' He seemed very approachable, but we just didn't get the chance."
Liam - "Even people that we work with who've worked with him were like 'he's the man', really personally bummed out."Greg - "I've heard nothing but stories about how nice he is."
You guys are doing Warped Tour this Summer - like the WHOLE Warped Tour. How do you prepare for something like that? I guess this is just something of a warm-up.Liam - "This is kind of a warm up, yeah I mean it's just quick 35 minute burst sets, and yeah I mean I think we're a young enough, adaptable band where these sort of things just... I feel like it's a glass slipper in some sense. I don't like playing in the daytime outdoors all Summer."
Greg - "There's a certain vibe about playing outside. I like nighttime. We're a club band primarily, you know what I mean? I love the feeling of clubs."Liam - "We like having lights and production, you know."
Greg - "And if we're outside, I love nighttime. Daytime and rock'n'roll is a weird, they don't usually get along very well, so it's weird."
Are you guys playing during the day at Warped?Greg - All bands play during the day at Warped."
Liam - "12-7pm every day"Greg - "There's no night time, it's really strange."
Liam - "And every band, every day, gets a different slot."Greg - "So there's no real headliner."
Liam - "No hierarchy. It's kind of good and bad in that sense."Greg - "The biggest band on the festival could play on 2pm on day and 8pm the next day, it's really strange."
I heard you planning this special lighting rig with sensors that would play off each other...Greg - "We did that in the US on our last tour. In the US we've always had really crazy lights and production and it's always been a challenge to do it overseas, but we recently have started to try and bring that over."
Liam - "Yeah, I think this October we're gonna probably be. Right now, it's kind of a work in progress. We have a friend of ours in Paris who's really kind of taken on this sixth memebr role. He's got some really cool ideas."
I would have thought he'd be the seventh member - with Steve Evetts...Greg - "Steve Evetts is definitely the sixth member already but yeah, he's maybe the sixth live member cos he really cares a lot about it. He's crazy, he graduated with like a neurological engineering degree or something crazy like that, and now has decided that instead of doing that, he now wants to design lighting setups for the Dillinger Escape Plan. So more power to him. We'll see how long this lasts before he realises there's no money, you know, the Dillinger Escape Plan is a black hole for finance. No, I'm just messing around, I'm just kidding. NOT!"
Is it weird coming over here, not being able to use the set-up you like?Liam - "It kind of resets the punk vibe, you know?"
Greg - "You need to be able to kick ass in every situation. I feel confident that there's not a band in the world, that if they played in the same situation as us, we couldn't kick their ass. If we play in a stage with lights and it's night time and they do, then we're victorious. If they play in the daytime and we do, we're victorious. It's only when there's a difference, when they get massive lights and a cool nighttime setup and we have to play in the daytime, that there's a difference. But you know what? If you're a band worth your salt, you should be able to kick ass in a basement, you should be able to kick ass in a field, you should be able to kick ass in an arena at any time of day."Liam - "Not just like oh yeah, we did that 20 years ago. Like okay Aerosmith, can you play in a basement now? That's what I wanna go and see."
So what would you guys have done if you'd had a whole stage to yourselves like AC/DC?Greg - "Light it on fire."
Liam - "Yeah I'd wanna burn it down for sure."Greg - "I would have pre-soaked it in gasoline, and the last set, I would have just set it on fire."
Liam - "And then covered it in salt, so that nothing would ever grow there again."
You could put a sign up...Liam - "Yeah, 'on this spot...'"
Is there a sense of irony you get from playing songs from an album called Option Paralysis at a major music festival?Liam - "I dunno, I'm not really sure. When I think of the title, I don't think it has anything to do with like music necessarily. I guess in some sense, but music isn't the umbrella, music is under the umbrella. I think about more things like..."
Greg - "It's more about culture in general. It's got double meaning for me as it had personal resonance for me, but in general, we were more or less commenting on culture being at a standstill."Liam - "Or the idea of the singularity. Like there's sooner or later going to be a point where you can't make a choice, and one will just get made for you."
Greg - "I will say that speaking things being paralysed, if you look around at all the bands that are playing this Download fest, most of them are nostalgia trips, most of them are older bands. There's not that many big current bands right now at all, and that's a scary thing, that all the biggest bands are like old guys that are coming back."
It's strange, because the attitude of the music industry has been to be always going for the next new big thing...Liam - "There's nothing there! I mean, Thom Yorke just said, the music industry is gonna collapse within months. I don't know if that's kind of sensitive or a little too much, but I think he's kind of got a point."
Greg - "If you think that it's awesome for a band that's old to continue to be relevant and put in these kind of environments, but it is a shame that there aren't any really big young bands that you know now either. Maybe the Deftones was the biggest younger band of the weekend, I think."
Billy Rymer wasn't a fan of yours before he joined. Was that something that ever came into your minds before you auditioned him?Greg - "It's more about attitude. It's really difficult for us to find members, particularly drummer, beacuse right away, our stuffs really difficult to play and it eliminates 99.99% of drummers right away. So then you find that distillation of people that can play the stuff, and then you find the people that you can get along with, and I mean you're looking for diamonds in the rough, you know? Out of those people, then you have to find the people that you can write with, and writing isn't just about being able to play well, it's about an attitude and a feeling. Like if I look at you, and you're playing drums and it's all thought and no cock, like there's nothing, do you know what I mean? You have to be able to fucking play like..."
Liam - "You gotta able to play everything we've done before, everything that we're gonna write, and everything we wanna write. If we had to pick between the three drummers that we've had I would probably take Billy, right now."Greg - "Me Too."
Liam - "So I feel like in some sense, even though some people are looking at it like this band keeps moving sideways, for us it's like we get new blood all the time, and we get to feel young as a result. We don't feel old, I don't think it'll ever feel like that for us."
You guys have quite a centralised writing team, so a lot of people get the impression that the drummer just lifts out, but you can't do that with your music.Greg - "No, it's definitely not. He was very integral to our writing process. There's so much energy that comes from drums that if that attitude's not there the whole song is deflated, that's the foundation of the song. So if there's not attitude in your playing, there's no fire in your playing, the song's going to be limp."
Liam - "He's easily the most consistent drummer we've ever had too. Like I never got onstage and even have to... my brain, it's not even there. More so than ever I'm in a zone, cos I'm not worried about anything. The kid's just a machine."
This was a very dark record for you, Greg. There was a big gap between the album release and finishing the record. When you realised the album was going to be so personal, did that huge gap help?Greg - "Ye-eah, I mean, for me, the writing process happened at the same. I write a lot while we're recording. I'm the last person in the writing process almost, no I am. I like to write a lot as we're recording. That way you capture the essence of where you are. For me, a lot of lyrics isn't just the phrasing and the lyric itself, it's stamping the record with a feeling, and if it's a year ago, it's not real anymore. I don't want to like drag around something from a year ago and try to sing it. I was singing this record, and recording it as I was living it, and then it took me a few months after that to process it enough that I could get through the shit that I was dealing with. There were definitely songs on the record that, when we were recording them, I was thinking to myself like 'how am I gonna sing these songs live if I'm still dealing with this shit, it's just gonna be like scratching an open wound every night'. Now everything's good. I've resolved every issue that I had at that point in my life, so I feel good."
Liam - "I remember having a conversation with him not that long ago where certain things we'd talk about and he would just be like, 'it's a self-fulfilling prophecy, like I wrote it and now it's happening'. It was almost like you had a feeling it was coming or something."Greg - "I astral-projected."
Liam - "It's kind of quantum in that sense. It's cool."
Yeah. I mean, it's not like you have the option to hide at the back like Maynard James Keenan. You're a confrontational band.Greg - "Yeah, it's true. If you're going to sing something and have it be fresh every night, and it's in as aggressive of a band as we are. I mean, it's always going to be a little current, you don't want to sing something and just have it be a constant list of syllables, you have to feel what you're saying, but you don't want to be too close to it either because then it'll fuck you up personally. You've got to find a balance between recreating the art and keeping your sanity."
How do you deal with those huge festival stages where there's that huge gap between you and the crowd?Greg - "Uh, you jump over the gap? I don't know, we've gotten accustomed to both. I honestly prefer being close to kids, because there's something about being in room with people where you're so close that it almost that becomes a big, you can't help but be in the same ball of energy. But sometimes festivals like this, it's a challenge."
Liam - "Yeah, and I think the way that we perform on a big stage I think is very small club vibe, and I hope that that brings a little bit more interaction than they're used to at a festival. A lot of this stuff, you watch it as if it's on youtube or on TV, you're just kind of standing there and it's just kind of happening in front of you. You can't just stand there, like live music's happening right now."Greg - "Exactly, you need to bring it to them."
You guys are know for not exactly taking the expected route, but this album is ten songs. How has that been going down?Liam - "I haven't really heard any backlash. I didn't think so at the time, but when I listen back to older records, I feel like there's certain things that are like undercooked, and with the last record I can point to us losing a drummer, getting a drummer, trying to pull it all together, whereas this time it was like we had to stop ourselves from writing more. We were like we gotta go record, and we got ten and like let's just go... It was the first time that we were ever like toeing the line on prolific, you know."
Greg - "We're getting better at writing songs. Before we wrote, we had a lot of different parts that we were adept at writing, but we hadn't figured out how to mash them all together yet into a song, so we would have a song that was like a pop song, and then we would have a song that was like a crazy, aggressive song, and then we would have an experimental..."Liam - "And we felt like we had to keep those seperate, and I think this time around it was a little bit more like, we can integrate them."
Greg - "We've managed to figure out how. It's organic now."
Talking to you guys, it's almost like New Band Smell, you know?Greg - "It feels really fresh right now. We've been a band for thirteen years, and we're still really young, which is weird, because we started really really young, and at this point in time, we've outlived so many of our heroes and our contemporaries' bands. But right now it's true, I'm glad you can pick up on that, cos even within the band, there's a spirit of like... almost not a reset button, but like a refresh button, where we feel like little kids right now."
Liam - "We talk to other bands like Converge or Mastodon, other peers and like when we're done, we'll all come back on the bus and it reminds us how awesome our system is. These other bands, they're bigger or whatever, but they've got issues that I wouldn't wanna fucking deal with ever. We really are more DIY than I would give us credit for, and it's a cool feeling."
Greg, how did you end up working on the Soulfly record?Greg - "Well, I did a guest thing for the Deftones in LA and for the OneLoveForChi. Yeah, I did 'Passenger' the first night, and then the second night we did 'Battery' by Metallica. Max Cavalera was there, and he was just like, 'hey, I'm in LA doing a Soulfly record, do you wanna come do a guest vocal on it?' And Max Cavalera is a legend, and it was a really big honour that he wanted me on the record. And then when he called me two days later, and was like, 'can you come out tomorrow'. I came up and they had a complete song with no vocals, and I thought they were just going to hand me a lyric sheet, and be like read line three and seven, basically. And he was just like, 'okay let's write lyrics'. And I was like, 'wait a minute, you're shitting me, we're going to sit here and write lyrics together?' So we just sat there in a day and wrote all the lyrics and recorded the parts. It was really cool to kind of objectively step out of it and be like, 'wow I just sat down with the guy who wrote Arise and Chaos AD and all this shit, and we sat on a couch and wrote a song together'. And then they ended up using it as the lead off single for the record. That was just really cool, [a] really cool moment, and really neat to be able to work with a guy who's so accomplished in our field."
Do you still get those starstruck moments?Greg - "Do you know what? I really am a... I don't feel like..."
Liam - "You can subtly see one happening right now, actually!" [laughs]Greg - "Well here's the thing: I feel like we're they're our peers and I don't feel like that they're better than us, so I'm not one of those people who are like, 'oh we're not worthy', because I do feel like we are. I feel like we're as good as any of those bands. So when I'm with the Deftones, or recording with Nine Inch Nails, or I do that stuff with Max Cavalera, I feel like I do belong there. So I'm not starstruck so much as I am 'wow this is cool'. You know, more like look how far things have come, I wish my nine year old self could see this, because my nine year old self would lose his mind. So it's really cool."
Everyone always has this myth about backstage at festivals. So I'd like you to destroy one backstage myth and create one new one.Liam - "Destroy a backstage myth? Wow, I don't even know, cos there's been times where I'm like yeah, it's not like that, and then there's been other times where I'm like it's absolutely like that."
Greg - "There's been times where it couldn't be further from the stereotype that you were saying, and there are other times where it couldn't be more of a bullseye."Liam - "If I told people what the fuck happened that night, they would never believe it. You know, when you start talking about drills and dildoes and..."
Greg - "Moms"Liam - "Weird shit, it's not even like cool so much as it's weird. Just like it was actually disgusting gross, but it's a story. I'm saving that for my publishing debut, I can't give away all mine."
Greg - "Create a myth? I don't know. We're boring right now, I can't think of it."Liam - "It's like a mullet. Business in the front, party in the back."
Greg - "You don't get to see the party."
Option Paralysis is out now. Click here for the RM Review, and click here for our February Interview with Liam Wilson and Jeff Tuttle.