The Busy World of Ben Weinman

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The Busy World of Ben Weinman

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“I think this ‘extended hiatus’ thing has been a little overexaggerated,” he says of The Dillinger Escape Plan’s decision to take leave following the release of potentially their last record Dissociation. “You know, this is it! The band is over. However, that doesn’t mean we won’t ever get into a room together again. I mean look at Van Halen the original lineup was playing shows at some point, 40 years later, so who knows? It’s less likely that we will get back together, but it’s possible.”


Thankfully for The Dillinger Escape Plan fans, Weinman confirms the band will make the trip to Australia as part of their final tour, “Oh yeah, man, we plan on it!”


Since the band’s formation in 1997, Weinman has been a major driving force, simultaneously commanding the role of musician, producer, manager and record label owner. “I think with the knowledge that this would be the last album – we didn’t let anybody tell us how it should be done. We literally took it by the reins and made sure everything went how we wanted it to go. From putting it out on my label, Party Smasher Inc., to doing the album’s artwork – we’re just so hands on with all of it. This is our last chance, we don’t have next album to try it. I think that has had a big influence on the album.”


Weinman’s DIY ethos and drive has made him not only an influential guitarist, but also an entrepreneur, launching his brand Party Smasher Inc. in 2009, which has since transformed into a record label, its first release being The Dillinger Escape Plan’s 2010 record Option Paralysis. It’s this juggling of roles that has shaped his career into one of various talents and responsibilities – a facet that has come at some cost to his development as a musician.


“I think it’s had its upsides and downsides. I’ve been so busy with this band behind the scenes – self-management and production, setting things up and dealing with all the logistics – it’s definitely taken away time devoted to playing guitar. [In the early days] As the band got busier, I played guitar a lot less and it probably crippled my growth a lot. If I had people wiping my ass all over the place, I’d probably just be sitting in front of the TV, eating Doritos and playing guitar all the time.


“But it also forced me into this really narrow vision of, ‘this is what I do and this is what I’m good at.’ I want to be the best at what I do, which isn’t even being the best guitar player, but being in the most badass band, one that I’m really stoked and proud of as a whole. It’s grown me as a person and as a musician, but it’s also made it hard for me.”


Tied up in everything Dillinger, it’s understandable that only now Weinman’s other project, Giraffe Tongue Orchestra, is seeing the light of day. Consisting of Thomas Pridgen [Drums; The Mars Volta, Trash Talk, Suicidal Tendencies], Pete Griffin [Bass; Deathklok, Steve Vai], William DuVall [Vocals; Alice in Chains, Comes with the Fall] and Brent Hinds [guitars; Mastodon, Fiend without a Face] – it’s hard not to associate the band with the insufferable label of ‘super group’, for Giraffe Tongue Orchestra is indeed a band of well-seasoned and accredited musicians.


Both Hinds and Weinman worked at the group behind the scenes on and off for a number of years. The band’s debut, Broken Lines, is a record that combines the two guitarists’ signature sounds into one cohesive stream of guitar magnificence, complimented by the best in the business. Weinman says writing with the band has been a whole new experience for him,


“It was definitely a lot more collaborative than I’m used to. “It was the type of thing where Brent [Hinds] and I played around with different ideas and different people. A first it was the kind of thing we wanted to collaborate with musicians that we had toured with over the years, people we wanted to be in a band with. We would jam with various people and it either worked or it didn’t. The guys in the band now just happen to be the guys who had the chemistry. It ended up working and the magic just happened. It’s weird to think about how long we’ve been working on this project, and to know that a lot of the work has been done and finalised only in the last year. What I learned the most by playing in a new band is that you can’t just play with people you like or people you are fans of – you really have to find the right chemistry, and I did with this group,” explains Weinman.


Band chemistry aside, it’s a wonder the two guitarists’ differing styles have found a middle ground; working together, rather than competing for sonic space – a feat considering each guitarist’s varying strengths and abilities on the guitar.


“For some reason we work really well together. Brent’s one of my best friends. We’ve known each other for over 15 years. We do this weird thing where he’ll play something and I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s really interesting, I could never play like that.’ And then I’ll do something and he’ll be like, ‘I can never play like that!’ But then there’s this tie that binds us together and we play and it just makes sense.


Though both guitarists have emerged from the heavy music scene, their playing styles couldn’t be more different – Hinds’ with his blue grass and country techniques and Weinman with his jazz influenced time signatures, and abrasive tonality. Weinman concurs that although both are polar opposites, their musical roots stem from similar influences. “I started out on blues first, like Stevie Ray Vaughn and stuff like that. And I think he [Hinds] did too.


“He got into country and some of the fingerpicking stuff he’s known for; I got more into fusion. We kind of came from the same base and just went off into different directions, and it’s that base that really melded together, and you can hear it on Broken Lines. Somehow it just works,” says Weinman. “Like on the first track ‘Adapt or Die’, there’s these back and forth solos and honestly it’s hard to tell who’s doing what. It was cool for me to sit there and improvise with him and just have it work out like that.”


Although the writing process was different to what Weinman has grown to know with The Dillinger Escape Plan, the recording process remained the same, “I mostly used my signature LTD BW-1 Evertune guitar on Broken Lines. That guitar has so much diversity with the pickup selections and the semi-hollow body,” he says. “The truth is, having that Evertune bridge is just a dream come true, especially for recording. You can play out of time or a little sloppy and show feeling and aggression, but you can’t get away with a whole bunch of guitars and instruments out of tune, it just doesn’t work. Being able to tune that thing up and have it stay in tune throughout the whole recording process and barely ever having to check it makes your life so much easier for recording an album like that, so that guitar definitely came in handy.”


Recording with Steve Evetts, a long-time friend of Weinman’s, and producer of The Dillinger Escape Plan’s entire back catalogue, Giraffe Tongue Orchestra produced an album that steers clear of its comprising musicians’ well-known projects.


“We [Evetts] have a really good chemistry and throughout the years. I’ve learned so much from him. We’ve now got this kind of rapport with each other; we’re very honest with each other. We’ll sit there and fight like cats and dogs in the studio and just push each other.”


“It’s a really cool combination because we really just do push each other and sometimes we can finish each other’s thoughts,” says Weinman. “Having the two of us together in the studio and then having a guy like [Pete] Griffin, who’s one of the most naturally intuitive bass players I’ve ever played with in my life is just amazing. Every single note that guy hits is perfect for the situation, everything he does is perfect and appropriate. Then having Thomas Pridgen who just likes to play drums all the time. Like all day and enjoy it and never ever get tired, and just have fun. Being able to sit there with Pridgen, Griffin, DuVall and Hinds and sharing that chemistry that Steve [Evetts] and I have – it’s incredible.”


Dissociation by The Dillinger Escape Plan is out now via Party Smasher/Cooking Vinyl Australia. Broken Lines by The Giraffe Tongue Orchestra is also out now by Party Smasher/Cooking Vinyl Australia.