Open Palettes and Mauve Boxer-Briefs – A Conversation with Dillinger Escape Plan Lead Guitarist Ben Weinman
Recently I had the chance to chat with one of today’s most uniquely decorated guitarists, Dillinger Escape Plan’s own Ben Weinman. Ranking on lists like SPIN Magazine’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time, and Guitar World’s Top 25 Cult Guitarists, Ben is showing no signs of slowing down or dumbing down, as DEP blasts off with a ferociously progressive new album, One of Us is the Killer. We spoke over the cackling New Mexico cell service about playing with Nine Inch Nails, pushing yourself as a musician, Prince, and the $100,000 question: boxers or briefs?
A couple guys in the band, Greg and myself particularly, are doing a bunch of side projects and collaborating with other artists but not on the Dillinger stuff, that’s just us.
What question have you always wanted to answer that nobody asks you?
There honestly isn’t anything because the truth is everything I have to say I put into our music. You know what I mean? It’s not like I care if anyone knows about my private life or knows about anything beyond what they hear on the cd. That’s really everything I have.
Which new songs are getting the biggest response live so far?
I would say the song “When I Lost My Bet,” which is a song we have a video for, went over really well. I think we perform it really well; it felt really natural playing it from day one so I think that’s a good sign.
The verses in the song “One of Us is the Killer” are pretty soft considering your earlier work. What’s behind the writing of that song?
That one is interesting because it’s really the last song we wrote. It was the least premeditated song on the whole record. Literally my drummer and I were just jamming, exhaling after an exhausting record. So we said “Ok let’s try this, or let’s try that and see how it works out” and we just jammed it out thinking “Hey this is kind of nice.” So we laid it down, gave it to Greg and then he wrote the lyrics really, really quickly. It was probably the most natural song of the entire record. Ironically, it’s one that a lot of people actually really like.
Definitely the last few records have been pretty dynamic. There’s always some little twists and turns. I think that the reality is that we’re trying to make records that are real to our feelings and how we are as people. You can’t put out a record that’s just screaming and aggressive and just constantly in your face. All of these lighter moments are just as important.
Dillinger Escape Plan’s Ire Works
No not really. We try to make things flow. When we make a record we want it to be like a ride – something you can listen to from front to back and not skip around on. It’s really hard because there really isn’t one song on a record or in a catalogue that is characteristic of our entire catalogue. So we really do hope that people listen to the entire record instead of making a judgment off of one track. It’s not easy, but we just try to make it flow.
How do you get into the headspace to write these tremendously complex songs?
I think we just need a lot to be stimulated.
Are there any stage injuries that you haven’t gotten yet?
Well I don’t want to jinx us, but I’m surprised we’re all walking, for sure.
What’s your favorite color?
Hm. My favorite color is mauve, I don’t know, maybe shit brown? Those two colors mixed.
You’ve mentioned before that you consider previous records to be a sort of “timestamp” of different periods of your life. What can you say about the last record in that respect?
It’s really hard to talk about these records right after we’re finished with them because we’re so fatigued from them. We’ve been working on them so hard and there’s so much detail so it’s hard to be objective. That’s why I get more out of listening to them much later on. The hardest time to talk about these records is right after you’re done with them, which is unfortunately when you have to take interviews. I’m sure a year from now things will be really clear.
What about two or three albums ago? How could you compare where you were then to how you perceive where you are now?
For instance on our last record Option Paralysis we wrote really quickly. My drummer moved into my house it was really a lot of jamming. Just the two of us in a room together, and I listen to it now and that’s very clear to me. There are a lot of dark choices, more metal.
Prince. We actually just saw him play recently and it was pretty frightening how talented he was. Not only singing and on piano but also on the guitar.
What do you do to better yourself as a musician?
Just making songs that are challenging, I think. We always try to push ourselves with our songwriting. Also when we’re in the studio we really work hard to play it ourselves, it’s original, we don’t use any computer tricks. If we have to play something ten times, we play it ten times. We’ll play it a thousand times until it’s right, you know. It’s really good training and we’re just getting better and better at our craft.
So you just sit down and do it?
We try to write songs that are challenging to push ourselves. We don’t try to confine our writing to our ability; we try to push ourselves in that respect.
Would you say you try not to confine your writing at all?
Yeah we definitely try not to confine our writing at all. That’s definitely something we’ve consciously tried to do from the beginning: to have an open palette.
Who would you say was the most fun to play with?
Playing with Nine Inch Nails was certainly awesome. We’ve played so many tours, with so many different types of bands, so many festivals. It’s kind of overwhelming. Mike Patton was really rewarding.
One fan would like to know how Greg constantly changes gears vocally without wearing himself out.
Greg, in the background: “Um, I don’t…know.” Laughs He said he didn’t know. You know he’s not really a trained vocalist. He never took vocal lessons or anything like that; he’s just got a lot of natural talent. He doesn’t think about it he just does it. I can tell you right now that being hydrated is the number one thing, that and God-given talent. That’s the winning combination.
Last one, another fan question. Rhawnie, a die-hard fan and dedicated Jersey girl wants to know: boxers or briefs?
Briefs. Oh yeah. Well, boxer-briefs to be honest with you. Laughs.
Written by Peter DeStefano
OurVinyl | Contributor