The Dillinger Escape Plan have been a powerhouse of the worldwide heavy music scene since 1997, constantly evolving themselves and pushing their capabilities well past the limits of most musicians. With four albums under their belt, including 2009’s well-received ‘Option Paralysis’ LP, the band has honed their songwriting complexities down to a knife edge, showing no signs of slowing down or relenting their grip on their rabidly loyal fanbase. Drummer Billy Rymer recently spoke to Kill Your Stereo about how the band makes its music, their admiration for Soundwave Festival and their unpenned direction for the future.
Tell me a bit about yourself and your role in the band?
I’m Billy, I just turned 27 and I play drums in the band. I just got to Ben’s house and we’re just about to start writing some new Dillinger music. I like long walks on the beach, chocolate-filled donuts, and I’m a big fan of Oreo cheesecake.
What have been some of the highlights of 2011 for Dillinger?
The Deftones tour and the Mastodon tour for sure. We actually didn’t tour that much in 2011, but that Deftones tour was killer, you know? They are one of my favourite bands ever, and for me personally, hanging out with Abe Cunningham every day and all these dudes, just being a part of that was so amazing. I’ve loved that band since I was a kid.
So would you say they are an influence?
Deftones are a huge influence on me, personally, and perhaps it translates into the music in my department, through the drums. There’s actually a couple of little rhythm tributes to Abe Cunningham throughout ‘Option Paralysis’, sprinkled in the midst. It’s pretty funny. Everyone listens to music and when it comes time, you just play, and we get together and we have something special. We have a special sound and a special energy and a special chemistry with what we like to do.
How does the band approach the writing process?
Well, we start with the drums. Ben’s also a drummer and he’s very fluent with programming rhythms, so him and I construct the drums first and we both find a pattern that we both get stoked on and we both can relate to and hear potential in. Once we have a solid rhythm down, we’ll come up with a riff like, instantaneously. After that, we will literally work on seven seconds of music all day long. It’s a very slow process and there’s so many different parts and changes in the music. We’re starting today, so hopefully we’ll be able to get about four or five seconds of actual music done, and that’ll be the start. That’s how we did it with Option Paralysis. We literally we got five to thirty seconds a day of all the crazy stuff.
Is the writing process democratic with all members of the band, or are there a couple of core members involved?
Well the writing with this band has always been Ben and whoever was playing drums at the time, and currently I’m the drummer, so right now Ben and I are writing. When it comes to the core of the music, we will construct the instrumentals. Liam also definitely has an input and writes his basslines, but Ben and I are the ones really getting together and creating the foundation of the core of the music. Everyone else kind of has to put their things in afterwards. Still, they can do their own thing, just within the foundation of the music, and Greg will lay his vocals down on top of that.
Your music has been labelled with an eclectic range of genres. How would you classify the band’s sound?
Crazy, mental, I don’t know. I’m not really good with describing sound with words. I can describe sound with sounds. I don’t know how to translate it into a magazine or something written down. It’s chaotic. It sounds like if you took a bear and a piano and rolled it down the stairs through a distortion pedal, but then did it twice, exactly the same, that’s very much what you’ve got.
The band cites a wide range of musical influences. What are the main inspirations behind your songs?
A lot of it is just life, you know, life is an inspiration. Our sound is frustrated music and a lot of us are frustrated people, and I’m not so frustrated because of the music that we play. It’s therapeutic. I remember the last time I broke up with a girlfriend, and then I came downstairs and wrote this crazy riff and Ben’s like, “Oh I love that!”. That turned out to be ‘I Wouldn’t If You Didn’t’. But in terms of musical influences, there’s a bunch of stuff. I’m currently into a lot of these really underground jazz cats like Mark Guiliana, and the new Mars Volta drummer Deantoni Parks is a big influence on my drumming. I love all that stuff. It’s everything, it’s a compaction of everything, everything from an old Dr. Dre record to King Crimson.
Your latest album ‘Option Paralysis’ received widespread acclaim. Do you feel as if the band has reached its peak?
No way, not at all. I feel like with that record we only just got started. That was almost juvenile for me, like I was playing drums for the first time while making that record. I feel as though all of us have been practicing and grown as people and grown as musicians. We’re gonna push this to the next level, but whether we have intentions or not, it’s just gonna happen, it’s gonna be that way. That’s the thing, with ‘Option Paralysis’ we had no expectations of anything. We didn’t know what record we were gonna make and we had no vision, we just made that record completely blindfolded.
Is there a new release on the cards for Dillinger?
There’s no set release date, if that’s what you’re asking. Nothings set to be released necessarily, we’re just finishing off the touring cycle for ‘Option Paralysis’ now. We’re in that transferring phase where we’re just going to start writing again and get some solid ideas down, and I don’t know what we’re gonna release. That’s out of my control. Maybe we’ll release a single, maybe we’ll release an EP, maybe we’ll release a full double album, I don’t know, we’re just gonna do it and see where it goes.
2012 will mark the second time the band has played Soundwave. What do you love about playing the festival?
Honestly, I will say wholeheartedly that Soundwave is one of the most efficiently run festivals in the world. The crew is one of the hardest working crews, super legit, everyone is insanely nice, and it was the most professional experience to date, and ironically my first one with this band. To date, I’ve never experienced something so efficient, everything was just so clean and on time and coordinated and organised the right way. I absolutely love that festival and I’m stoked to do it again, and just the attendance and the energy of the crowd, it’s not like anywhere else in the world. I’m not even exaggerating, that is by far my favourite festival that I have played with in this band, even though it was the first.
Are there any bands on the lineup that you’re looking forward to seeing?
Well you know, I haven’t seen Manson yet, so I’m gonna see Manson. I’ve never seen System Of A Down, but I don’t know, I’m just gonna be walking around discovering bands that I haven’t seen, you know, listening to bands that I haven’t seen live. Maybe I’ll get into something.
What are some newer bands and releases that you’ve been into this year?
I don’t know if Deadweather was released this year, but I recently got turned onto them, that band with Jack White on drums. It’s not the sort of thing where I know the song names or anything like that, but that music is incredible. I love that new Phantogram stuff, it’s really cool. I don’t know, I’ve been a little absorbed in the stuff I already know, it’s been hard for me to discover new music. I feel a lot of people share that frustration, you know, like not everyone is out there searching for it, saying “I have to hear a new band, a new song, a new something.” For me, I just listen to new stuff because a friend turned me onto it.
Tell us about the craziest thing the band has ever done?
We lit our equipment on fire at Texas for this one show, and nearly got arrested and all that. I remember one time I was playing a show, and I look up and there’s blood pouring down on my kit. There’s a fan swinging from the lights and there’s just drop after drop, literally a monsoon of blood. He’s just swinging from the lights and there’s blood pouring on my kit and my sticks and my hair and my face, that was just gross.
That sounds intense, man.
Yeah, it gets intense. I remember seeing this one kid’s forehead get cleaved off and I could see his skull, and there was a bunch of blood, I think it was from one of us throwing some equipment off the stage. We took him backstage and we had the medics looking at him and I guess we were worried he was going to press charges, but he was stoked that he got hurt. He was actually like, “This scar will be better than any tattoo man. This is a monumental moment and I will remember it for the rest of my life”, and we were just like, “Okay…” That’s just something that doesn’t happen in this world. I would never think that anyone would thank us for severely injuring them when they could’ve sued us for millions of dollars!
The band has been making music for fourteen years now. What is the secret to its longevity?
Well, everyone is gay, that’s the secret. If you’re gay you live longer, you don’t have to deal with a woman. Wait, please don’t write that! Dude, it’s touring, the touring is the longevity, just staying on the road and playing with the band, it keeps you going. Once you get home, you realise you’re older and you have to be more mature and you realise, “Oh, I’m old, I just turned 27 and all my friends are older”. The second you get back on tour and just the feeling of being in the band, that’s what ensures our longevity. Not many bands is doing what these band is doing, this band has created a niche a developed a fanbase that has been loyal and supportive over the years, and it’s really just the love that the world has given us this band. Consequently, it’s given us the opportunity to keep touring because there’s this ongoing demand for us, so it’s really the fans that keep this band going. It’s the loyal fans that create new fans, just through word of mouth, and ensure our longevity. The fact that we’re still well-received all over the world and we’re able to fly here and there is positive reinforcement, you know? It’s like a puppy dog, give it a bone and give it lots of love and it’ll be there for you. It’s not a financial incentive, I’ll tell you that, it’s other things.
What does the future hold for The Dillinger Escape Plan?
Nobody knows, man, we’re not fortune tellers. I have no idea, hopefully good things. We’ll still play and write new music and people still have a demand for our band, so we’ll play more shows. Hopefully a lot of shows and writing more music. Other than that, I don’t know, I don’t know where we’re gonna play next week or anything like that. We’re discovering as we go, and that’s what this band has been doing since day one.
Any comments you’d like to finish on?
We’re super excited to get back out there for Soundwave, we want all our Australian fans to know we’re super stoked, and there’ll be lots more craziness to come, I can assure you that.