It was a slow progression, but quickly, Pennie’s double duty came to a head. “The first thing that came up was we got an offer to do this Deftones tour, and even Ben was like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it,’ even though he wasn’t ready to tour yet,” explains Wilson. “These are the tours that we need, we can’t turn this down no matter what. And when we brought it up with Chris, he was like ‘Oh, I can’t do it, it conflicts with Coheed’s schedule.’ It was like, ‘Oh, wait a minute, they’re your priority now, we’re the side project.’ And we’re not that. I’m not playing second fiddle to that band. If you never want to play ‘43% Burnt’ ever again, if you want to tell all the throngs of Dillinger fans and drum student fans and any musician that looks for you to inspiration, you want to tell them that it’s okay to take the money and not the substance, then go for it. But I’m not going to help you get there. That was pretty much it, and then it became, ‘I hate you guys because Relapse won’t let me get out of my contract.’
“We weren’t trying to twist his arm, we were even like, ‘Hey, why don’t you come record the record and then shake our hands and say goodbye. Fulfill your obligation.’ He didn’t want to do that. He was playing hardball with us and hardball with Relapse about getting out of his contract, which didn’t really happen and he didn’t end up playing on either record. And that’s all there is to say about it. He gave me a leg up when I joined the band and he was cool for six and a half years, but the last couple months were kind of one of those true colors moments, like, when you really needed to be a dude, you totally bailed. But if you’re the dude for that band, you’re not the dude for this band, and I’m glad you’re not here. No hard feelings.”
DEP eventually recruited the services of Stolen Babies drummer Sharone, who took to the material right away. Still, there were precautions taken. The band’s sole founding member, guitarist Ben Weinman, had programmed all the drums for the record in case there was a need. But it didn’t end up being necessary.
“[Sharone’s] real quick. You just say, ‘No, it’s more like this,’ and he’s like ‘Oh, okay.’ And he just changes, and you’re like, ‘Yeah, exactly like that.’ He’s really natural, you know, not to take anything away from Chris. Chris is a phenomenal drummer. Gil just has a more natural thing. I feel that if Gil practiced as much as Chris, he would be the most insane drummer I’ve ever seen—and he does practice—but he’s just one of those dudes who seems like he doesn’t have to practice.”
It comes through, as he’s more than held his own on Ire Works, the group’s most enveloping recording yet, incorporating bossa nova (“Mouth Of Ghosts”), pop (“Black Bubblegum”), glitch (“Sick On Sunday”), and of course, the “bashers.” The only hurdle was to make sure it still sounded like Dillinger, and that meant it had to be the best possible effort.
“I think the only intent, or the only thing that’s really ever verbalized, are little things like ‘Well, we’ve got to make it better than anything we’ve done before.’ Like if we’re going to have a poppier song, like a ‘Black Bubblegum’ or something. To me, ‘Unretrofied’ [from Miss Machine] is good, but it came out a little undercooked. It was good by Dillinger standards but not necessarily good by pop standards, at least to me. I just felt like it was kind of a draft. And so, we said, ‘If we’re going to write poppy songs, we’ve got to make it more us.’ Same with what we just call the ‘bashers.’ We’re like, ‘We need more bashers.’ And we decide whether or not the record has a good flow. Is it balanced enough? Is there enough heavy aggressive Dillinger to balance out the less aggressive Dillinger?”
A few years back, it would be strange to even imagine of a “less aggressive” Dillinger, given the math-metal mythos surrounding the band from their landmark Calculating Infinity, as well as the formative Under The Running Board and the Mike Patton-fronted Irony Is A Dead Scene EPs. But as far as embracing that again?
“No, not again,” declares Wilson. “I think there’s a chance that one day we would do like a Running Board– type EP where we do three bashers, you know. It sounds silly, and I don’t want to be like, ‘we’re getting old,’ but I don’t really think that we have it in us to do another Calculating. Because it’s kind of silly. The world doesn’t need another Calculating . The world needed one then. Hopefully for now, we’re just allowed to do whatever it is we want to do.
“You look at a band like Slayer, who are gods, they do their thing, but they’re kind of stuck. If they ever wrote a record that didn’t sound at least sort of heavy, people would revolt. I don’t want to be that band. I play with people who are really talented; we have a lot of influences. I don’t ever think I’ll ever have to do a side project. I get to explore just about everything I want to here.”
But the bashers will not likely cease any time soon. The bright side of DEP’s ever-changing lineup is the ever-present new perspective on the Dillinger legacy. “It’s the fact that Greg, Jeff, Gil and I have at least seen the band from a third person point of view, whereas Ben has never watched the band. Ben has never been a fan of the band. I think the rest of us kind of feel the responsibility to keep our 15-year-old selves happy and live up to the legend of what we thought the band was supposed to be.”
Still, they’re not teenagers anymore. Injuries take longer to heal, people come and go, priorities change. For example, can Wilson keep up with his yoga on tour?
“I’m going to try. I’m definitely going to try. I’ll just get a mat and try to have a personal vocabulary. It’s a yoga practice. You’re never there, you just keep practicing.”
The Dillinger Escape Plan will be performing with A Life Once Lost and Genghis Tron at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park on Dec. 14, the Starlight Ballroom in Philadelphia on Dec. 15, Blender Theatre at Gramercy on Dec. 16 and The Chance in Poughkeepsie, NY, on Dec. 18. Ire Works is available now through Relapse Records. For more, visit dillingerescapeplan.com