Who Knew? Dillinger Escape Plan is Playing Kung Fu Necktie and Their Bassist Lives in Fishtown
Early last month, Kung Fu Necktie flashed the news that Dillinger Escape Plan would be taking stage on August 10. Receiving an instant surge of backlash, comments flooded their event listing ranging from “How is this place going to be standing after this?” to “Is this real?”
But, it wasn’t a joke. The 19-year-old band that’s made its rounds at larger venues (Union Transfer, Electric Factory) was coming out of hibernation. As a wolfpack of esteemed thirty-somethings who pioneered a rhythmically complex, dissonant-style of metal and performed maniacally, they hadn’t put out an album since the 2013. That release, “One Of Us Is The Killer,” was their fifth full-length and sold 15,000 U.S. copies in its first week and scored a No. 25 slot on The Billboard 200 chart. Now, after chugging away with high-profile side projects (The Black Queen, Giraffe Tongue Orchestra), they’re back with a promised sixth album, “Dissociation,” by October 2016.
As the question, “Dillinger Escape Plan is playing … where?”, seemingly repeated with snapback judgement, I tapped the band’s 16-year bassist, Liam Wilson, for a look behind-the-scenes. Wilson, a long-time Fishtown resident, revealed it’s common for Dillinger to undergo an intimate, close-to-home tour before launching a new record. (His bandmates hail from Morris Plains, NJ)
“We like to bring it back to our roots,” he said. “It’s about giving something back to diehard fans. [Kung Fu Necktie] is the smallest room we are playing on the tour and we wanted to pick a venue that’s punk — which it is — and is the perfect size. We’ve never played there and it’s going to be gnarly.”
Wilson hinted that a single from the forthcoming “Dissociation” may be part of next week’s setlist. “We did things differently this time,” he said, in relation to producing the album. “We allowed the album to be more of an open-source, working with different people and delegating outside of our usual nucleus. I’m excited and relieved, and I do feel we are making a statement and taking a step forward.”
Earlier this year, Ben Weinman, Dillinger’s founding member and guitarist, went on the record to tease that it’s super-heavy, definitely dark and weirder than the last record. Wilson confirms that he and his bandmates, “have gone through the most life-changing, emotionally dredging times in our lives since our childhoods. We were all processing some heavy adult reality checks—coming of age, gripping with aging, gripping with the highs and lows of life. We went through moments of frustration and doubt [during the album’s production], and questioned if we could make anything good out of it. But, all of a sudden, we made this amazing art and we realized we should just trust that process.”
Wilson wasn’t a founding member of Dillinger—but it sure feels like it. He become a part of the internationally known band in 2000, then a University of the Arts student with a side gig at Rock & Roll Plus (he was hired by Mike Supermodel, owner of Jinxed stores; Diplo worked across the street at Inferno) and a hobby bassist. He attributes his “in” with the band to his friend Jim Winters, a local music legend, who tipped Weinman off to the long-haired, Jaco Pastorius-influenced bassist.
“In the beginning, when I was a fan and going to see them, the shows were aggressive,” he recalled. “I remember the singer at the time, Dimitri [Minakakis], putting his finger on my forehead and screaming in my face and Ben swinging his guitar. It was scary and it made me feel alive.”
Fast-forward to a successful meet-and-greet at the First Unitarian Church and a private listening session of the yet-to-be-released final mix of the “Calculating Infinity” album … and the rest is history. “I just sat in the car and let it wash over me — simultaneously feeling like, ‘there is no way I can do this’ and ‘I have to do this at any cost.’” A few months later, he jumped on a Dillinger tour and was in Europe for a month of shows.
If you’ve seen Dillinger’s extreme shows you know it’s as much about the music as the performance itself. “Our business model is to go out there and be the best band on any stage at that time in the world,” Wilson said. “For that one hour, it’s not just to impress you, it’s to put a dent in the universe. If it’s a bigger stage, you have to make your gestures larger for it to communicate.”
Dillinger’s goal is always to dissolve the barricade between the band and the crowd. You’ll find frontman Greg Puciato making uncanny stage dives into the audience and hell if that results with some blood. Weinman has a laundry list of injuries from their stage chaos, including a fractured skull, a broken neck and a torn rotator cuff. Then, there’s Wilson, whose is more mild-mannered—and maybe even yoga-inspired. (Think about the warrior one pose if you catch his stance on stage.) The ferocious performances have even caused the Westboro Baptist Church to suggest they need hugs and a security guard to proclaim that they needed anger management. “My response to him was, ‘this is anger management,’” said Wilson.
Outside of Dillinger Escape Plan, Wilson busies himself with dad duty — he has a 19-month-old daughter, Ziggy; is an active yogi hitting Grace & Glory Yoga and Amrita; and juggles several musical side projects, including his dark, psychedelic instru-metal band, John Frum. He confesses that Memphis Taproom is his stalwart and anticipates the opening of Fishtown’s Evil Genius Brewing Company taproom. He’s also been known to assist at R5 Productions’ venues and has run the box office — even selling people Dillinger tickets. “They had no idea,” he laughed. “It’s weird to be selling for ‘the man’ for my own band. It’s meta—other people would do that as stunt.”
After all his years of touring with Dillinger, what makes him never leave Philadelphia? “There are a millions of ways that going on tour has made me more open-minded, maybe even more critical of America because I’ve seen it from the outside in,” he concluded. “Same thing with Fishtown and Philadelphia: I can see its flaws, but I can also see what I love about it.”
Catch Wilson on stage with Dillinger Escape Plan as they perform with The Number Twelve Looks Like You on August 10 at 8 PM at Kung Fu Necktie.