When your debut album is hailed as one of the most ground breaking metal records of all time, you’ve got a lot to live up to for the rest of your musical career.
Bass player and proud moustache wearer Liam gave us the following interview…
Interview with Liam (Bass)
of The Dillinger Escape Plan
By Cameron Chambers
Hey Liam, how are you?
I am very well thank you, how
Good mate, thanks for your
time this morning.
Not a problem.
Your third full length record
“Ire Works” was released on November 13th.
Did the album get the reaction that you were expecting?
Yeah, absolutely! When we were
finishing the record our attitude was that this is the best Dillinger record yet. We were really proud of it, we put everything into it so
we were confident that it would be received well. This industry is so
bizarre and un-predictable… just because it was our favourite record
it could have been everyone else’s least favourite record… but that’s
just the way the wheel of fortune turns sometimes.
We’re excited that it has
some staying power because I still love it six months down the track.
I can’t remember the last time I listened to Miss Machine. I mean,
I was proud at the time but we knew it was just a stepping stone for
the next record. With that under our belts I think it’s safe to say
our strategy worked, ha ha.
A lot of Dillinger fans
maintain that “Calculating Infinity” is their favourite album. While
no one can deny the impact that record has had over the last 10 years
does it bother you that some fans are more concerned with hearing a
technical part or riff rather than hearing your more recent
Yes and no. Ultimately, our
band, as much as we want to play and ensure everyone’s entertained,
when I get on stage it’s more a matter of “am I enjoying myself”?
“Is this the best hour of my day”? It’s the same with recording…
the whole process is mostly just… when I started listening to music
and getting into it, it hit me at a really young age. When I was around
twelve I started playing bass and by the time I was fifteen I was in
bands. The whole time I’m digging through record stores and going
to shows to find a band to satisfy this sound. Then you grow
up and you try to make that sound but you never really get there. It’s
fun and it keeps you in pursuit of it so to say, ha ha.
I don’t think the Calculating…
thing bothers us so much. That record exists, so if they want to listen
to Calculating… then they can go and listen to it, it’s there!
Unfortunately there are a lot of people who speak more than they think
and they just go and write off our newer records before they even hear
it, and you know what? In five or ten years they may listen to it and
it’ll click and they will be at a different point in their life and
will have different influences and it might make sense!
Maybe Ire Works fans will go back to Calculating… there are songs on Ire
Works that are as brutal as anything on Calculating… technically
speaking, especially from a “having to play them” perspective. There’s
nothing on Calculating… that challenges me more than Ire
Works… we haven’t pussed out!
I hate to say this because
it sounds so terrible and cliché but I’m getting older and our tastes
are changing. I don’t feel the need to play a mosh part every fucking
five minutes. We’re really influenced by other things. No one in this
band has time for a side project so we’d rather cover all our bases
in this band. We look to bands like Queen or Zeppelin
and it’s amazing how easily they pulled off all these things within
their songs. They were known for so many different things but looking
at their discography… the ground they covered is unbelievable! We
would rather align ourselves with bands like that than Metallica
or Slayer. It’s not that they aren’t a huge influence but
bands that take risks like Faith No More and are into different kinds of song writing… that’s where we want
In my opinion
“Ire Works” is your best record to date… It feels like a natural
progression from “Miss Machine”, both musically and vocally
– can you tell us how you approached the song writing for this album?
When songs like “Unretrified”
or “Setting Fire” from Miss Machine got thrown into the demo pile, we were listening to them going “what
the fuck should we do with these”? Then we just thought fuck it, put
‘em on! We knew we didn’t want o get stuck in a Slayer or Converge position where if they wrote a ballad then people would
lose their mind, ha ha. We knew early enough we didn’t want to get
pigeonholed, so that was the quote/unquote strategy there, so it wasn’t
so much that the writing process was different, it was more the recording
side of it.
For Miss Machine, we’d
write and record three songs and then we’d tour for three months at
a time and do it all again. It worked out, but to my ears there is a
group of songs that sound better than the others. The record is subconsciously
inconsistent in a way that Ire Works isn’t. We all went to
California, got one hotel room and spent every day and night in the
hotel or the studio, talking and exchanging ideas and just nit picking
Having that consistency to
know what you did last night and go back in the morning to have another
listen, instead of leaving a note and coming back after three months…
it makes a big difference! That consistency and flow is really evident
this time around.
Greg’s obviously no slouch
when it comes to vocal diversity but I was blown away by his work on
the new songs. Did you guys work as a group on the vocals or was that
something Greg had to sort out for himself?
Mostly we all take our own
personal direction. Obviously there are some things where… well, I’m
a bass player so I need to make sure that what I’m playing fits with
Ben, so there’s a lot of communication and cross referencing there…
a lot “this works, this doesn’t”. It’s usually more of a “we
hand Greg a demo” kind of thing and wait to see what he does. There
are one or two things specifically in the song “Dead As History”…
I actually have an alternate take of that. Anyway, in that song the
vocals have more of a, I dunno, glam feel to them, ha ha, but yeah,
we have one or two alternate takes of things like that. Any time there’s
an issue with a part it comes back to myself or Ben or some other respected
peers outside of the band to give the final yes, no, do this, do that
At this stage of the game everyone
is respectful and trusting of each other. We’re older and more mature
but at the end of the day who would know better than Greg what to do
vocally. Ben will always have the final say so to speak but he didn’t
really pull that card on this record very often… there wasn’t much
need to pull that hierarchy card.
Was it daunting for you
– both on a personal level and as a band – having to write this record
without Brian considering he’s been such an integral part of the group
for the last 7 or so years?
Honestly, not as much as you
might think. On Miss Machine most of the guitars were recorded by Ben. Brian maybe played two percent
of the guitars on that record… same as Calculating… and Irony… He really only had a minimal role in the recording. Our
producer Steve will always take the guitar player who wrote the songs
and tell him to record, coz when you’re doubling track the little
differences in feel will throw shit out, so it makes more sense!
It was definitely different
but without getting too deep into this, Brian pulled out of the band
psychologically long before he pulled out physical. With his nerve disorder,
and I’m no doctor, but some of his nerve disorder had to do with things
in his life outside of that band that affected him personally, but it
ate at him physically and drained him. When he got sick it lead to bronchitis
which lead to his nerve disorder and other little things.
In some sense going into the
studio with only Ben, Greg and myself made it easier coz there were
less hoops to jump through… less opinions.
When Chris Pennie departed
the band in 2007 it made way for Gil Sharone. Did Gil’s playing style
have an impact on the direction of the record or were the songs already
mapped out before he came on board?
It was pretty much mapped out.
Eighty percent of it was already done so we just handed Gil the demos.
He’s obviously going to take things and run in different directions
with them, but everything he played he took the songs and took them
up by one hundred and ten percent! There were a couple of songs here
and there where he’d change something, like Chris would play doubles
and he’d play single kick, or Gil would do single strokes instead
of double rolls.
Especially on songs like “Horse
Hunter”, he just took it and ran with it. It was the crudest demo
I’d ever heard, something where I was like “I don’t think this
sounds like a song” ha ha, I couldn’t even hear roughly what to
do. Within a week or two of Gil listening to it and making it musical
and then it became one of my favourites!
I’m really excited to slow
down on the touring front and start writing with him… but that’s
not going to happen for a while, ha ha.
I think it’s safe to say
that you guys are one of the most abrasive bands that Steve Evetts has
worked with. Were you looking for a more melody friendly producer to
record “Ire Works” or was it just a case of Steve being the best
man for the job?
Before Chris quit we were going
into the studio with… ha ha, I can’t even remember his name but
it’s probably better that I don’t say anyway. Anyway, we had another
producer lined up but when Chris quit we had to push the recording back,
we had to find another drummer who had to learn the songs and learn
how to push them. Not to contradict the “too many cooks in the kitchen”
thing, but we wanted someone who knew where we were coming from, someone
who could make Gil give a Chris styled performance… not a Chris clone,
but to make it a Dillinger drummer kind of record. In that sense,
Steve went above and beyond. It was awesome for Greg and I because we
knew what Steve is like. When we did Miss Machine with Steve
he was a real fucking ball breaker. Do you work with Pro Tools at all
Well, when you work with Steve
and look at your track it looks like a fucking barcode… he makes you
punch in every fucking thing so every note is slamming. Even if it’s
fucking perfect he’ll still nit pick with every little thing. It gets
frustrating and exhausting but then you look at it and you’re like
“oh, I get it now”. It’s his little suggestions like “hit this
note instead” and then you do it and you’re like “oh, I understand”.
When we did Miss Machine
it was a lot more us running free, but this time around I knew what
I was getting into. Greg as well! Realizing that being in the studio
doesn’t mean you have studio magic to get it right is a good attitude.
Steve’s not like that. He will make you give your all one hundred
times, so this time round it was easier and we were more prepared. It
was easier to be like “I’m not doing it this way or listen to every
idea you have”. It’s almost like standing up to him in a way! It
didn’t happen very often but it was good when you needed it, so it
was cool in that respect. To feel like he gave you some respect when
he said “I think you’re right” and then we’d try it his way
and it’d bother me so we’d go back to our original way, which was
have the crowds reacted to the “Ire Works” songs on your recent
Um, ridiculous, ha ha! I remember
playing “Unretrified” maybe three or four times in total and just
feeling like it went over like a fart in a church. It sucked and it
was weighing down the set and I felt like giving up. Aside from playing
all the shit which is obviously going to go off we would play “Black
Bubblegum” or “Milk Lizard” and the same kids were still stoked…
the same metal dudes singing along, ha ha. We thought it would be eighteen
year old girls but the long hairs aren’t afraid to like it!
Any other band they’d say
fuck this but live they might love it…even though they might not dig
it on record. In a live setting it totally fits. On record it’s one
thing but live they have this function… they have a dynamic. When
you put “Lurch” in front of “Black Bubblegum” it makes “Lurch”
sounds more aggressive, know what I mean!?
The Dillinger Escape Plan
is known for the intensity of your live shows. Given the more dynamic
nature of your newer material has your onstage performance changed at
It’s different. You could
look at it that way for us. With a song like “Black Bubblegum” we
say that’s your breather… I can catch my breath and deliver the
last five songs like the first five songs. A song like “Milk Lizard”
is the hardest song I play all set… it’s so consistent and driving
and the bass line is moving the whole time.
Songs like that may not be
seen as a breather, ha ha, I need another one after that! It’s funny,
I don’t think we ever clam down but it’s kind of silly to go off
on “Black Bubblegum”… it has more of a slick vibe so it’s going
to have to have a different dynamic.
All of that feeds into the
songs… not that any of the moves are choreographed but there are certain
things you do get used to in certain parts. I’ve been playing “Baby’s
First Coffin” for six years and it has a certain feel to certain parts
so if I’m on a tight stage it hinders the way that I play it, coz
I’m so used to shaking my booty this way or that and then it changes!
That’s the same for everyone except Gil.
Over the last few years
your band’s music has opened you up to a much wider audience, so what
do you prefer more – playing to a club full of Dillinger die hards
or winning over a complacent audience when you’re opening for another
It’s hard to say what you
like more. I think the shows are better… I have more fun on a selfish
level when I’m playing in a small club to Dillinger die hards.
It feels like a community thing. When you play to an AFI or a System Of A Down type of crowd you’re playing to people who don’t
know, it almost feels as though they are watching you on TV. When you
play to those crowds and you get the response you deserve from putting
on a good show, that’s the best feeling of it all… out of everything!
It’s kind of a challenge
to do it that way and I look forward to that. In this day and age, within
any crowd, and it could be anyone from AFI to Megadeth
there’s always a small circle of Dillinger fans in the crowd.
With every boo or with every dead reaction there’s at least ten or
fifteen kids scattered throughout the crowd who are freaking the fuck
out. They’re like the ace in the hole because they get people around
Yeah, it’s a hard call because
I think we try to deliver the same show no matter what, but when the
crowd is giving you feedback and they’re jumping on stage and grabbing
at you and giving you that reaction then it definitely kicks it up.
You guys are locked in to
come back to Australia this month, and you’ve got Coliseum on board
as well. What are your memories of your last two Australian tours like?
Lots of beaches and amazing
fruit, ha ha. I dunno, everyone tells me the weather sucks at the moment
though so I dunno. All things considered I feel the Australian audience
is more excitable and also more kind… more so than anywhere else.
The people down there are really thankful for us coming that far.
What have you guys got planned
for the rest of 2008?
More touring, ha ha, and then
hopefully by this time next year more writing… but we’ve got a lot
of touring before then!
That about wraps it up mate,
is there anything else you’d like to
Thrash hard man, ha ha.
See you in a couple of weeks.
Dillinger Escape Plan head to www.myspace.com/dillingerescapeplan.