If there are any doubts about the Dillinger Escape Plan's intensity, just check out the scar tissue on guitarist Ben Weinman's 37-year-old body. The list of injuries he's sustained during the band's 16-year history—all during live performances—could rival that of a Hollywood stuntman or professional wrestler. He's just finished rehabbing his most recent injury, a broken wrist suffered earlier this year on the tour for the band's new album, One of Us Is the Killer, released in May.
"I just broke my wrist, I've had rotator-cuff surgery, I've broken a bone in my neck, I'm covered in arthritis," says Weinman, the only original member left in the band. "There are the realities of the wear and tear a body can possibly take for the amount of years that we've been doing this. But at the same time, it's more intense now than it's ever been. And our drive and energy and passion is even higher than it was then. It's more unpredictable, more crazy.
"I don't know if we just have a death wish or just live for the moment, but we've lived our whole lives jumping first and hoping you land right and not even thinking about it. There's certainly been a lot of luck involved—I probably should be paralyzed or dead at this point, considering some of the things I've done to myself. Age definitely takes a part in it, but we haven't accepted yet what that is."
For all the physical demands of the band's shows, though, DEP (Weinman, vocalist Greg Puciato, guitarist James Love, bassist Liam Wilson, and drummer Billy Rymer) is more than just a meat-head hardcore band for jocks. Over the course of five albums, the band has maintained a fierce commitment to creative evolution, from the brain-melting prog/punk shredding of its 1999 debut, Calculating Infinity, to the left-field pop experimentation of "Black Bubblegum," from 2007's Ire Works. There's no consensus about the band's best album—some fans love Calculating Infinity, others pick the 2004 breakthrough Miss Machine, and some prefer the streamlined stability of later albums. Part of that is due to the band's constantly shifting lineup—One of Us Is the Killer is the first DEP album that has the same personnel as the previous record—and the band's geographic splintering—DEP was originally based in New Jersey, but now all five members are spread out in five different states. But Weinman suggests that the band's artistic progress has happened because they have started thinking bigger.
"It's really interesting to look back at the catalog of music, and because this band has existed independently of any specific lineup, it almost feels like it's just a force and entity that exists," he says. "I've stopped looking at records chronologically, record one, two, three, four, and five, and really just look at it as a body of work, and all of it seems relevant, whether it's songs we did with Mike Patton or new songs or songs we did back in the day when we were just starting and had no aspirations to do this for a career. It's interesting to have all these different motivations, but at the end of the day still be trying to do really the same thing, which is trying to write honest music that represents our past but is also honest about where we are now."
As much as things have changed, though, and as much as the band's ambition has grown, the primary goal is still the same as it's been since 1997.
"When we go on stage, our focus is the same, and that's to be the best band in the world," Weinman says. "It's not that we think we're the best band in the world, that we're better than anybody else, but when we get on that stage, we definitely intend on being the best band in the world at that time. That's it. That's our focus."