Endless Endings: The Dillinger Escape Plan
The American mathcore torchbearers’ bassist Liam Wilson on coming to India in December, the same month they will play their final shows in New York City
In 2005, The Dillinger Escape Plan’s hulking frontman Greg Puciato literally leapt and tread over the crowd that had gathered at a Virgin Megastore mall gig in New York City, reaching the end of the crowd before he surfed back to the stage. It is an image that perfectly captures the madcap intensity of a Dillinger show, even 12 years later.
Needless to say, the New Jersey mathcore band didn’t play any more malls. Bassist Liam Wilson says over the phone from Philadelphia, “What a strange show to have given us so much mileage. We turned that megastore into chaos.” And if that wasn’t crazy enough, they followed a Beatles cover band, whom Wilson recalls were “really good.” He adds, “We turned that place into a punk squat for at least a half hour. It’s sort of like the crowd follows us like some noxious gas.”
The crowd he’s referring to are their fans, who had probably just picked up their 2004 aggro masterpiece Miss Machine, one of the most forward-leaning for its time. There’s invincibility and consistency both on stage and in their music that has followed the band through six albums, insanely turbulent live performances and the legacy of being one of the greatest modern metal bands.
But they’ve decided to lay the beast to rest. In August last year, a few months prior to the release of their sixth album Dissociation, guitarist Ben Weinman said in an interview that they wanted to “go out while we’re still on top.” Understandably, the news of a breakup overtook the band’s new release. Wilson says, “It makes it so hard to talk about this thing, because it’s been an issue the whole time this record has been out.” He remembers just how much the news preceded them, recalling when bassist Justin Chancellor from prog rock pioneers Tool was chatting with him and thought Dillinger had already broken up. Wilson explains, “We were on tour with Soundgarden and playing off shows with them when Chris Cornell passed away. I was saying to him, ‘Dude it’s so weird, because we were on tour with Soundgarden.’ He responded with, ‘Man, I don’t know where I got confused, but I thought you guys were done.’ If I’d know you were still playing shows, I’d have offered you this show we’re playing in June. I was like, ‘Oh man, that stinks!’”
According to Wilson, he has different answers at different points of time if he’s asked about putting the band to an end. “If you asked five of us individually, you’d probably get five different answers. I think it’s also [different] if you ask me when I’m at home and when I just get off stage, or when I’m getting ready to leave [for a show].” He laughs it off later on, saying, “I hesitate to answer in some ways, because I know that I’m not even going to know what I think until like January!”
Dissociation, however, was called a “thematic conclusion” by Puciato, which echoes what every band member has been saying in interviews. Wilson says, “Every good movie needs to come to an end, what’s the point of the movie going on forever? You need everything to wrap up.” He adds that Dissociation, which closes with the experimental, half-electronic title track, “doesn’t feel like unfinished business.”
They have, however, promised to go out in style – the culmination of nearly a year and a half since the news of disbanding was out – with three consecutive shows in New York City with special guests at the end of December. Wilson describes, in his morbid humor, that planning the shows has been akin to “talking about my own funeral. They want to know what casket I’m picking out.”
And just weeks prior to the New York shows, Dillinger will make their India debut, something that Weinman spoke about with interest in a previous interview. Wilson says the setlist may not include as many deep cuts as they’d like, considering they have a fairly new player in guitarist Kevin Antreassian and drummer Billy Rymer (although in the band for a decade), never got the chance to play much off their debut Calculating Infinity. But he assures that it’s an interesting position to be put in when “you’re going to a place for the first and simultaneously the last time.” He adds, “Since we’re not headlining with a two-hour set, so we’re probably going to lean on the ‘hits’ and maybe one or two things we’re trying to get ready for the New York shows, maybe like one or two blooper-cut things.”
Off the stage, the India trip also means a chance for Wilson and the band to “lick their wounds.” The bassist namechecks his “enriching” interest in yoga and love for south Indian food, while adding that “Indian culture just speaks to me on a very deep and primal level.” Wilson plans to spend some time in India after the show. He says with a laugh, “After that show, it’s just going to be the last three New York shows. Psychologically, I’d like to take some time to relax and maybe go to a beach in Goa one night and think about my life.”
All through November, however, the band is off the road, spending time with family, prepping their New York setlists and possibly future plans with their other projects. Wilson mentions he’s just got off the phone with a few festival promoters for his death metal band John Frum, who released Stirring in the Noos earlier this year. Puciato has electronic project Black Queen, metal act Killer Be Killed (with Brazil’s metal veteran Max Cavalera) and Weinman has Giraffe Tongue Orchestra, which also features vocalist William DuVall from Alice in Chains and stoner band Mastodon’s guitarist-vocalist Brent Hinds. Wilson says, “I spent the last 18 years doing Dillinger pretty exclusively, and it sort of equips you with a lot of other interests that I’ve only been able to scratch the surface on. There a lot of things that are not strictly music-related that I’m looking forward to. I’m a lifer.”
This article appeared in the November 2017 issue of Rolling Stone India.
The Dillinger Escape Plan will perform at Bacardi NH7 Weekender on December 8th, at Mahalakshmi Lawns, Pune. Watch the video for “Limerent Death” below.