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"We definitely try to create situations that are uncomfortable -- and it's conscious," confirms Ben Weinman, guitarist for the metalcore maestros in New Jersey's Dillinger Escape Plan. "We think that's important, because music's so safe and everything's so predictable."
In contrast, Weinman is devoted to confounding expectations, and he's gotten plenty of opportunities lately. Following a 2005 car crash in which he herniated discs in his neck and damaged his rotator cuff, he underwent surgery that left him unable to power-chord for months -- so he holed up in his bedroom and made music on his computer that was demented even by his standards. "I more or less went crazy, and I was pretty happy about it," he says. "I think every musician needs to go completely insane every now and again."
Once Weinman's arm was back in playing shape, he and cohorts Brian Benoit, Chris Pennie, Greg Puciato and Liam Wilson made another move that some fans may find nutty. They cut Plagiarism, an online-only EP dominated by relatively faithful covers of Nine Inch Nails' "Wish," Massive Attack's "Angel," Soundgarden's "Jesus Christ Pose" and, most surprisingly, Justin Timberlake's "Like I Love You." Weinman expresses genuine affection for Timberlake's solo material, and if that flips out the faithful, he's fine with it. "We don't want to be a band that's only going to do what people are used to," he emphasizes. "We never want to be confined to those boundaries."
This philosophy has been a constant since Dillinger's earliest days. For Calculating Infinity, the band's 1999 debut full-length, Weinman says, "We played things as fast as we could, and when we listened back, we were like, 'This is going to be hard, but it's got to be faster. We want it to be unsettling, so you can't even nod your head to it.'" Even today, when Weinman hears the disc, "I think, 'Oh, my God! This would be kind of interesting and cool if it was a little slower.' But it was supposed to be uncomfortable, because we were pushing everything: pushing, pushing, constantly pushing."
For their next CD, 2004's Miss Machine, Weinman and associates went in a different direction; astonishingly heavy tunes sit alongside the likes of "Setting Fire to Sleeping Giants" and "Unretrofied," which are downright mainstream in comparison. (The videos for these tracks are among the highlights of Miss Machine The DVD, a first-rate package released earlier this year.) Some of the most rabid Infinity fans were displeased with Machine's more accessible selections, as Weinman knows, but that won't stop the band from heading deeper into this territory on a new album of originals that's in its germinal stage. According to him, "The lighter songs are going to be obnoxiously lighter, and the heavier songs will make people go, 'What is this? What the fuck is going on?'" His voice drips with pride as he predicts that "this is the record that's going to piss everyone off."
In other words, get ready for another dose of discomfort.