Often, genius is taken for insanity. The Dillinger Escape Plan may come across, to some, as a freak accident, the result of rampant guitars and a mishmash of metal that flies off the map of explanation. Even for those who like their rock heavy, it's an acquired taste, but it's one that's ultimately rewarding.
"There's tons of people who've never heard of us that may like it, but there's also people who may not be ready for this type of thing because it's so different from what they're used to," says DEP guitarist Ben Weinman. "We look at this band as a big machine that trucks over you."
Like a perfectly synchronized wreck that's violent in nature but perfect in execution, the Dillinger Escape Plan (Weinman, vocalist Greg Puciato, guitarist Brian Benoit, drummer Chris Pennie and bassist Liam Wilson) jumps genres -- jazz, prog-rock, death metal -- with abrupt time changes, grinding guitars and jazzy interludes, all wrapped in a package that's as chaotic as it is structured.
"You have bands that just kind of jam and you don't know where the fuck they're going, and the song is like 10 minutes long and it's considered artistic and avant-garde," Weinman explains. "And then you have music that's too calculated and precise. There has to be a happy medium."
Exploring that medium, the band's off-kilter stylings are not so much accidental in nature as they are a result of displeasure with the state of rock music. Formed from the remnants of several New Jersey punk bands, DEP started out along a more hardcore route until its members opened up to non-rock influences. Initially a one-guitar band, DEP soon added John Fulton to its lineup, intensifying its deathly grind. After a steady stream of shows, the band inked a deal with Relapse Records, which released the 1998, eight-minute-long "Under the Running Board" EP.
However, the band faced numerous setbacks that year. In August, then-bassist Adam Doll was involved in a car accident that paralyzed him from the chest down.
"It was really hard to see `Doll` go through something like that," Weinman says. "Me, it made me want to play more. The frustration of the whole situation made me really want to play."
After the accident, Doll, who regained control of his hands, taught Weinman to play bass to prepare for 1999's "Calculating Infinity." To date, he remains an honorary member of the band.
While DEP only has one full-length album under its belt, the band isn't concerned with its short discography -- after all, writing for writing's sake can lead to less-than-engaging music. "We felt it was important to let people grow into us as opposed to us writing a million records that are overlooked," Weinman says. "It's really important for our music to be real and have honest aggression, as opposed to some `that's` fabricated.
"If I don't have anything coming out of me, I'm doing other things. Every now and then that Dillinger bug comes out. Unfortunately, it's not very productive, but at least it's real and not forced."
Although they've toiled in relative obscurity since first forming, there's the occasional reference to Dillinger Escape Plan by more established acts. "For a long time we've been people's favorite band to name-drop as far as bands that are a little more `obscure`. Every now and then they'll drop Dillinger as their ticket to the underground or something."
One person who was impressed with Dillinger was former Faith No More and Mr. Bungle frontman Mike Patton, who offered DEP an opening slot for Mr. Bungle. He and DEP later collaborated on the 2002 "Irony Is a Dead Scene" EP. In addition, System of a Down offered DEP some opening spots during a Europe tour. The band also had one of its songs ("Baby's First Coffin") featured in the soundtrack to last year's "Underworld," which included work from artists including David Bowie, Nine Inch Nails' Danny Lohner, and Tool/A Perfect Circle's Maynard Keenan.
"We always seem to get ourselves involved in things that are slightly a little bit off our genre, which is always cool because we don't really consider ourselves a certain type of musician playing a certain type of genre," Weinman says. "We just want to get involved in anything that allows us to do what we're doing."