For over a decade now New Jersey’s finest The Dillinger Escape Plan have been a showcase on how to grow as a band without sacrificing yourselves, and how to make heavy music melodic without compromise. With new album ‘Option Paralysis‘ out now, Demon Pigeon caught up with frontman Greg Puciato to talk about the new album, the state of the band, their views on downloading and the chances of UK Dillinger fans getting to see the band up close and personal. Interview by Paul Stephenson.
DP: Hi Greg, thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. Firstly, you’ve decided to stream the full album prior to release, something a lot of bands are starting to do. What was the decision behind this?
Greg: Well I was opposed to streaming it too far in advance, sometimes you see bands streaming really early, and I think that kinda kills the fun and surprise of getting the record and listening to it in a high quality format when it comes out. I’m still up on the air on whether we should stream it at all. Maybe just one song next time, who knows. On one hand, we aren’t really giving the record away, it’s still just streaming, and the audio quality of streams is pretty bad compared to the real lossless audio. On the other hand, like I said, why not just have people wait ’til it comes out. That’s the point of a release date. It’s something new and I don’t think the “pros” and “cons” have been figured out yet from a marketing standpoint, the industry is tanking and people are just throwing things at the wall to see what’ll stick, but all that stuff is really boring to me. Rock ‘N Roll and punk rock isn’t about marketing, to me, it’s about doing something creative with integrity and passion, if you do that, who cares how you get the music out there. Streaming, vinyls, cd’s, whatever. Formats are irrelevant to the larger point of having something quality to say and write.
DP: I suppose the theory is that it stops people downloading illegally, giving them a taste but leaving them to still want the end product. In the past you’ve never been afraid to stand up for your beliefs as artists, especially on the downloading debate. Does it still frustrate you that people will be downloading the album, even if they then come and see the band live or buy merch, or even buy the CD when it comes out?
Greg: It’s frustrating, but it’s an inevitability. I understand both sides of the argument. I understand the theoretical benefits of downloading, and certainly understand the benefits of the technologies that allow downloading to be possible. I understand that it allows culture and creativity to progress at an explosive rate….in theory. In reality? I think it devalues music as a culture, as an art form, and reduces to completely to a commodity. I think it reinforces the already extremely short attention span of listeners, and cheapens the whole experience. It exists though, no matter what. The point is, and this is a point we are trying to make with our new album, is that these new instantly gratifying things in our culture require discipline to be integrated productively and not destructively. People need to understand the economic ramifications of their decisions if they never pay for something, as well as how that economy will inevitably affect the artists and the quality of the art itself. Like it or not, in our society you vote with your money, and people need to realize that the things they choose to support with likely be the things that stay afloat, not just in art, but in things like organic food, mom and pop shops, etc. Plenty of people talk about ethics and change, but then their spending habits don’t reflect their attitudes if it means spending a bit more money to make those choices.
DP: The new album seems to be a move back towards the earlier material in terms of technical dexterity, but without sacrificing the melody you’ve developed over Miss Machine and Ire Works. Was this a deliberate move or did it happen organically?
Greg: It really just happened organically. The truth is that we couldn’t do this before. We weren’t skilled enough at writing melody and different styles to integrate them seemlessly into the style that we are known for, so we had to compartmentalize those things a little bit in order to become equally competent at them. Now that we feel just as comfortable writing melody as we do writing aggressive chaos, we can marry the two together without it seeming awkward, and we can do that naturally without forcing it.
DP: The line up of the band has been pretty fluid over the last few albums, but it seems on record to be particularly tight (Billy Rymer’s drumming is immense throughout) at the moment. Do you see the line up as being pretty stable now, or is the fluidity something that’s strengthened you over time?
Greg: The loss and addition of various members throughout the years, with the exception of the people who have left due to injury, has definitely strengthened us. The process of being a band, for us, is evolving, and if someone has lost their fire or their way, they need to go. It’s a purification, a distillation, a pruning of dead leaves so to speak so that fresh ones can grow. The lineup that we have right now, for us, is the best for this time period. We are getting along personally better than ever and feel more creatively stimulated than we ever have, and that is insane considering how long we’ve been a band. Having said that, it is obvious that we have a winning formula with this lineup, and we’d like for it to continue as long as it feels natural. It’s easy to tell when someone is burnt out or their heart is somewhere else, and when that happens they will work themselves out of the band, but like I said that hopefully won’t happen, at least anytime soon.
DP: The new album is obviously very focused, but the sound is very punky and aggressive in places. Have you had a chance to try out any of the new material live yet? I imagine ‘Endless Endings’ will crush live.
Greg: Yeah so far we’ve been playing Farewell, Chinese Whispers, Good Neighbor, and Room Full Of Eyes, and they’re all going over really well live. We wrote this album pretty live, very organically. It was like being 15 and being in a room all summer just bashing out tunes. It was all written loud, in a room, live, so we knew going into the recording that these songs were gonna be mother fuckers in a live setting.
DP: So far the UK is only listed as a few dates and your Download appearance. Any plans to do a full tour?
Greg: We’ve been confirmed for the third day of Download, which should be insane, we’ve always had fun at UK fests. We’re coming back in September, October or so for a full proper headliner.
DP: Obviously you’re a band who have never been content to sit on your laurels, and have always tried to evolve your sound each time out. Does it frustrate you when there are a certain contingent of fans who bitch whenever you do something different?
Greg: You know the saying “you can’t please everyone all the time?” Well we never try and please anyone haha, so of course some people are gonna bitch each time. We’ve thrown so much at people now though, that I think we’re finally in a position where nobody knows what to expect from us, or at least is ready to expect anything, and that’s the best position artistically to be in, or at least the position with the most freedom.
‘Widower’ is pretty staggering the first time you hear it, it’s the most epic thing you’ve done (and to my mind the best as well) and the piano parts from (keyboard legend) Mike Garson are beautiful. How did that come about? Was he familiar with your stuff?
Greg: We met Mike backstage at a NIN concert. We were both special guests, and we ended up talking and realizing that we share a lot of similar attitudes regarding music and it’s creation. It just made sense to do something together, and that song in particular really lent itself to his talents. He came in and just improvised the whole thing in a few takes. Really incredible and inspiring, just a blast of creation.
DP: Jeff does a great job on vocals on ‘Parasitic Twins’, do you think we’ll be hearing more of his vocal styling’s in future? He could do a mean Maynard Keenan if you guys ever wanted to cover Tool.
Greg: I love Jeff’s voice and he has great ideas too as a writer, and him and I have really developed a camaraderie onstage in terms of performance, vibe, and vocals, and I really wanted that to appear on the album. I hope to have even more of that next time. It helps to make the albums feel the way our live shows feel. People always talk about a seeing a band live, and saying “wow they sound just like the album”. I think it should be the opposite. When you hear a band’s album, it should sound like they sound and feel live. The Maynard comparison is funny, I didn’t hear that when he first did it but then once everyone started saying it I could totally hear it.
DP: You guys had the privilege of seeing the last NIN tour up close and personal as support acts. I remember the first time I ever saw you was supporting System of a Down on their arena tour of the UK. You seem to like going up against crowds that wouldn’t normally be ‘your’ crowds. Is this a conscious effort to broaden your fanbase, and do you face it any differently from your own shows?
Greg: I love playing to our fans, but it keeps things interesting to go out in front of unsuspecting victims so to speak. You get people that instantly hate you, love you, or in most cases, are morbidly curious, and then eventually fall into one of the first two categories. It’s fun and keeps us from getting bored, and we get the benefit of getting some new fans here and there out of it too. Mainly it just keeps us from getting bored. You gotta put yourself in new environments constantly, in every way, or you’ll never grow in any way.
Option Paralysis is out now on Season of Mist records