Ben Weinman is a busy man. Aside from writing new material in his New Jersey basement studio for The Dillinger Escape Plan’s fifth studio album and sorting through three month’s worth of mail, he has another project in the works that’s on the tongue tips of all Dillinger loyalists.
Giraffe Tongue Orchestra is a supergroup collaboration with Brent Hinds of Mastodon fame, Jane’s Addiction bass player Eric Avery and One Day As A Lion stickman John Theodore, perhaps better known for his work with The Mars Volta. Ben spoke openly about his new project, the humble beginnings of The Dillinger Escape plan and the psychology behind keeping a band together through the good times and the not so good times.
“We’re all really excited about it because our bands are all pretty busy,” he spurts with his characteristic youthful exuberance. “Eric Avery’s working on a solo record and we’re all pretty busy with our own things but we’re all very excited about this. Our heads are all in a million places right now.”
Ben has been a fan of Jane’s Addiction since he was a youngster and the process of working with a childhood hero has him more than excited for the future.
“Jane’s Addiction were really like the alternative, weird band that somehow managed to break into the mainstream and still maintain some level of weirdness. I was always drawn to that and somehow I relate to Eric and those guys. I was a huge Jane’s fan and I always just thought of them as the biggest band in the world for me.”
“It’s funny he’s from my time period growing up when music was the most important thing in my life. Those were the guys where you thought, ‘Holy shit those guys are sick you know, I love em’. So it’s been a real pleasure to work with him.”
It’s been a long journey for Ben since the early days of Dillinger. The group has survived many a lineup change for various reasons over the years, and with yet another album in the pipeline Ben explained how he managed to turn his childhood dream of playing heavy music into a reality.
“A couple of us played in bands together before and basically the guys from Dillinger pretty much had our drummer in common but we were playing in different bands. Our bass player Adam and one of the guys that was playing guitar with us early on had played with our drummer Chris in a band. I played with Chris in a band with Dimitri who was the singer with Dillinger and some other guys. We kind of just formed one supergroup out of the two bands that were playing. The band I was in initially was just noisy and heavy and the band that those guys were in was kind of melodic and technical and textured, much more about technical stuff. I was into more hardcore and punk but the thing we had in common was we were all into fusion like King Crimson and stuff like that so that was the tie that bound it all together.”
“I actually met our drummer and bass player through an ad in a record store. It was this real punk rock record store that only had vinyl. It was one of those types of places where some old punk guy’s sitting there like a total dickhead and totally treats you like shit when you walk in because he’s just so punk and you’re just some snot nosed kid who doesn’t know anything. All he wanted to do was just recommend what’s cool and you just walk in there and sort through 7 inch vinyl and get whatever the hell looks cool. It was literally 40 minutes from my house and I saw a sign on the wall that said ‘Looking for a guitar player’. So I called them and it just happened to be that the guy lived 5-10 minutes away from my house. I just went over there, we jammed and that’s how it all started.”
It was at this point Ben recounts what was to become the first of hundreds of Dillinger live shows across the metal globe. “I think it was at a BSW Hall where we played literally in a little hall that our friend rented out and we just put flyers around town that said, ‘$3 come and see our band.’ I think what happened was that our friend needed to put our name on the flyer and we just said, ‘Well we don’t really have a name and we don’t really care’.
“There was a TV special on John Dillinger the gangster just on TV while we were sitting there and think the guy on the screen said something about ‘Dillinger’s escape plan was to… blah blah blah’ and that was it. We really put no thought into it at all. I think that show our friend put on was technically the first Dillinger show and I remember that pretty well actually.”
Ben has pretty much taken care of the management side of things since these humble beginnings and also holds a psychology degree. I asked whether his education has helped him at all in the music game.
“Nothing can prepare you for the bullshit I’ll tell you that,” he states straight of the bat. “I think that no matter what you learn in school it takes a certain level of maturity to actually practice what you preach or practice what you learn or know. I think it’s interesting to look back on the band and the interpersonal relationships and having to deal with five guys in a band and then in a bus together for years on end with different personalities and different priorities.”
“Looking back at it all I’m seeing how it all fits into psychology, and I’m seeing that the reality is that when you’re not in a band you work with people but you choose who to spend your time with, you choose who to go home and hang out with, you choose who to tell things to and who to involve in your personal life. When you’re in a band you don’t have that luxury. You’re kind of stuck with a bunch of people who in many cases like ours aren’t the original members who you first were friends with. They’re people who came along later who fit the description and play well or whatever.”
“Throughout the years of dealing with personalities and going through fights, drama, crisis, tragedy and all these things it’s very interesting to see how it all folds into different schools of psychology. Whether it’s cognitive or behavioural or Freudian or any of that stuff, it’s interesting to see how all these theories apply.”