Dillinger Escape Plan

Lately I’ve been in the blessed position of meeting artists I admire who are also fans of my own work. The most recent example took place at a music festival in Poland. Despite their being based one state over from me in nearby New Jersey, it was my first time hearing my favorite new heavy band: Dillinger Escape plan.

A couple of the guys told me they were very familiar with my metal and jazz work and said I represent the type of musician they relate to. That’s quite an honor and the respect is mutual.

DEP’s music is completely different, unique and a bit scary. It’s not for everyone. Watching them from the side of the stage, I hear many different sounds and textures, and it’s never clear what they’re going to do next. One minute there is a creepy, sonic loop playing on it’s own evoking the mood of an Alfred Hitchcock film. The next minute, ferocious blast beats in odd time with screaming vocals. From there, a hypnotic groove riff, then a weird, prog rock like clean rhythm and back to odd time chaos.

At times I’m reminded of avant garde jazz sax player (and ‘Mr. Bungle’ producer) John Zorn. There are shades of Zorn’s project “Naked City” which featured jazz artist Bill Frisell thrashing and wailing his guitar to Japanese psycho art vocalist Yamatsuka Eye of ‘The Boredoms.’ Other times, I’m reminded of the band that played immediately after DEP, Sweden’s Meshuggah, who I’m also a big fan of. These two bands are at the forefront of a movement known as ‘math metal.’

Then there is DEP’s stage show. Put simply, they go absolutely fucking mad. Running to and from the stage monitors, jumping on the speaker cabinets, knocking them over, and kicking road cases off the side of the stage. As bystanders, we have to be careful where we stand, for there is a sense of danger, as if anything could happen at any second.

It is clear that this band feels the music and is not acting. It’s one of the best performances I’ve seen in a long time. But much as I’d like to stay, we’re on next and I need to warm up, so I head back to our dressing room next to the stage, where one of our crew members is in there setting up some equipment. The music bleeds through with a fury as he yells out to me:

“What’s the deal with this band?”

“They’re awsome!” I say. ” Did you check ’em out?”

“Yeah. Not getting it at all.”

“They’re really good. It’s just challenging listening. You have to pay close attention for it to makes sense.”

“Whatever! I don’t get it.” he says in a tone of voice which implies that the band can’t be any good because he doesn’t think they’re good.

You don’t deserve to get it. I think to myself.

He leaves the room just as the spouse of one of our band members comes in and says “Didya hear them? They’re kinda playin’ the same thing over and over.”

“They’re really not.” I say. “You just have to listen closely. It’s not like other music. You have to pay attention”

“I don’t know.” she says as if posing a question. “It’s just sounds all ‘duh-duh-duh-duh-duh’ to me.”

I say nothing more. I’m done with futile attempts at enlightenment. I’ve run out of energy and patience. Besides I have a show to do.

I’m reminded of the story of Igor Stravinksy debuting his masterpiece “The Rite Of Spring.” Audiences are said to have booed and walked out in protest. I’m also reminded of an essay by Frank Zappa, where he defends the modern conductor/composer Pierre Boulez, whom audiences, including prominent figures in the classical music world, have dismissed and walked out on.”C’mon people.” he says of Boulez in his book.* “This is one of the REAL guys.”

Fortunately, enough people are taking their heads out of their proverbial asses and listening to something different for a change. There is an audience out there in the hall and in the public that is ‘getting’ Dillinger Escape Plan, enough to enable them to tour steadily to a large crowds of rabid fans.

Thinking about it later, I’m kind of glad most in my touring camp don’t get it. Here’s a band I can claim as my own as a fan. Usually everyone else is fawning over music just doesn’t interest me. Now others are scratching their heads and walking away perplexed, while I’m on the side of the stage smiling, banging my head and cheering. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

*The Real Frank Zappa Book (Fireside)

15 Responses to Dillinger Escape Plan

  1. Also, have you checked Martyr ( canadian ultra technical death metal ) or Gorguts ( a Death Metal King Crimson for the lack of a good definition )? Perhaps you are going to like them.

  2. I am happy every time I read that you do not remain within the "egg", only with your own intelligence and talent.

    Enjoy the differences, they´re great, Alessandro !

  3. Challenging. Yep, that ‘bout sums it up.

    I hate to love this band (mostly because the frontman has a tiny problem w/ reporters and unfortunately I take that a little personal given my situation) but I do and I can't help myself. I endure the ridicule. Everything metal in me tells me to reject this band yet I don’t. They are the “new” morphed metal. They embody what metal is all about! I can see where you like their unique tempos & interwoven elements in their songs, but DUDE! lol Got nothing but love for ya though…

  4. Quote taken from this link: http://www.roadrunnerrecords.com/blabbermouth.net/news.aspx?mode=Article&newsitemID=124152THE

    DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN frontman Greg Puciato has issued the following update:

    "Anyhow, we played with a ton of great bands over in Europe, in a ton of unsuspecting places that kick hordes of ass like Poland and Belgium. What did we learn? We learned that Alex Skolnick from TESTAMENT pretty much drives the school bus of metal guitar soloing…blindfolded, and with his feet."

    It sounds like they are big fans of your guitar playing as well….

  5. Dillinger Escape Plan and Messhuggah are quite decent bands. Their weird polyrhythms, weird time signatures, abrupt changes, odd experimentation, and on top of that they just are just fucking aggressive about it. I think bands like these are a breath of fresh air for something that could get little trite after being repeated for many years. It is like a constant reinvention of the wheel. I mean when Testament came and did their thing, they were nothing short of being fucking god-like. But of course, you got a whole bunch of people who want to go all and be like Testament and Metallica. I think what we are in need of is more people that reinvent these collection of noises that we call music. We need something new that nobody has ever done before because it is quite refreshing to hear stuff like that. Dillinger Escape Plan, Meshuggah, Mastodon, Volbeat, The Sword, Machine Head, and Lykathea Aflame are all great bands that have experimented with sounds and were not afraid to sound different and most of them got sonically pleasing results. The problem is that I believe that our society is just like the prisoners in Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". We are shown these forms and we are bound and we cannot be able to distinguish what is good or not. When we are freed from this bondage and shown the light, the light is not good. I mean we see bands do new things to music such at The Dillinger Escape Plan and we go like "Holy Shit, this sounds too weird man, fuck this." And we can turn a blind eye because sometimes the light ultimately hurts us and we would rather be in our cave with the same old stuff. Repeating generic riffs, being brutal, and writing lyrics about why you are fucking angry at the world. I believe that the mainstream's music tastes are lightyears away from people like us who look at this blog. I believe that the people who look at this blog are mostly of very intelligible standpoints because I do not think a non-intellectual would care to read stuff like this which can enlighten them. You were right, you saw members of the tour crew and a band member's spouse go like "What the fuck" in response to this music. They think they know everything and they feel safe within a certainty principle. I believe that the world feels too safe in a certainty principle because I believe it mostly emphasized through many venues such as fast food and music. Record companies will sign bands who they believe to be fucking amazing and if they deviate from their sound they can get dropped or their fans will alienate them. It is an unfortunate truth that nobody is willing to accept change. The bands that you explain, Alex, they are leaders and we are need in more bands who plan to lead and not follow the trends. Your buddies might think they know what they are talking about, but they don't. We just have to accept the fact that people are truly missing out on things because they think they know what is in their best interest. They think they get things, but they really don't. However, we are not really the ones to judge. So, we should let them. Just enjoy the unique music, and roll on with it. Society is brickwalled, in my opinion. Anyway Alex, in light of your new discovery of Math Metal, do you think that these bands are going to influence your writing for Testament's next album? In fact, are you looking to go more brutal or maybe try and veer on a technical edge through your writings?


    P.S.: I am probably going to the Izod Center Date on TSO Tour in NJ! I hope it's a great show!

  6. Hey Alex ! how's it goin ?

    DEP is a great band !
    within the boundaries of math Metla, I'd pick Meshuggah anytime of the day above all others !

    for Jazz/Fusion Progressive bands, I'd recommend the one & only ! (Cynic)… with Paul Masvidal (Death) & Sean Reinert on drums.both r big fans of jazz music, specially Allan Holdsworth style…

    currently I've been listening to anther great progressive band from NC named (Between The Buried & Me), they incorporation lots of interesting styles (Jazz/Folk/Classical) within Progression music (Dream Theater type).

    Great Post 🙂

  7. Hello,
    I'm listening to DEP for the first time and I must say that the music is interesting but not the singers voice. I can understand the originality and the variations in tempo and rhythm, but I don't like the vocals. I like Messhugah much more. What are your opinions on progessive bands like Opeth and Dream Theater? Dream Theater are masters in odd tempo and changes in rhythm. Opeth can combine the most grotesque vocals with soft beautiful vocal melodies.
    By the way, Testament played a great concert at London's Shepherds Bush Empire last month.

  8. Thanks for the references, I'll try to check out some of the bands I haven't heard of.

    I know Robb and Phil from their old band 'Vio-lence'and its incredible how far they've taken things with Machine Head. The other day, they watched us from the side at Wacken Fest. Someone said my performance stood out that day, and I replied 'When you're in front of 60,000 and all of Machine Head is watching you from the side, you'd deliver."

    'Between The Buried'- great band, first heard them last year on a bill w/us in NYC. Also, rode in a van with Volbeat in Finland last week. Great guys.

    The song "Dangers Of The Faithless" (from Formation Of Damnation) was a bit influenced by bands like this. It was a bit of a challenge for the guys, but once they got it, it sounded great. I may throw a couple more things like that at 'em, but don't expect a Testament 'math metal' album any time soon.

  9. Music has such a variety of components and the sound moves created can capture our discerning ears in a positive or negative way. What is music to some is noise to others, but still an experience and benefits us.
    Our Listening Ears are so personal and subjective and scrutinize what they like to hear and can be very prejudiced. By keeping them open, to new and different arrangements, we expand our brains library of sound and increase what is less defined to us thereby developing our overall music storage font. I have not heard them yet, but it sounds like they reflect our changing, complex times. Also, I think that by both visually watching a band while listening to them effects ones opinion vs just listening to a recording.

  10. You certainly have the gift of knowing the culture of music, and as you have said, once you have the educated ear you can be bolder with personal choice.

    Down the rabbit hole of questions, I wander…what it must be like to …

  11. It's great that older musicians can still be forward-looking and appreciate younger ones. DEP are indeed the bee's knees.

  12. Dangers of the Faithless was the first song from your album that I listened to over and over again!
    I do hope you have a few more in that vein on the next Testament Album. The more your band mates open themselves up the more new fans they will Recieve. Taking chances and doing things that are uncomfortable is what life is all about!

  13. Missed my chance to see Dillinger a couple months back, but yes, they're quite talented. "Calculating Infinity" is still violently brilliant.

  14. Alex,
    Continue to go follow your heart and listen to your intuition. They are powerful guides and serve you well. I admire you for having the courage to heed their counsel and navigate a course that is true to yourself.

    It is in our nature wanting to share joy. It doesn’t matter, if someone else chooses not to understand that which brings us pleasure. We need only to accept, everyone travels on a different path and at a different pace. Our hope is that they too will find happiness.

    Keep in mind, the head will always follow the heart. However, the reverse is not always accurate. Some people spend too much time living in their heads. Thinking who they should be, how they should be, or trying to be what others perceive they should be. They are attempting to fulfill the destiny of a false heart. To quote a friend of mine, “I will not should on myself.” If you live the life that is in your heart, then “should have” will not be in your head.

    Pursuit what is in your heart. Your intuition will keep you on course. Enjoy the journey!

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