The Dillinger Escape Plan's Liam Wilson on the band's evolution, and NH7 Weekender gig
The Dillinger Escape Plan is not unfamiliar with violence. Their live shows have been infamous for their particular brand of frantic intensity, violence and danger. Sometimes the audience and even band members have been injured. Some other times they’ve violently pummelled their way through their set. Fire breathing became a regular feature and the band didn’t seem all that far from inciting a riot. One could leave the concert bloodied, but boy, did they promise a good time.
None of that prepared bassist Liam Wilson for the horror that the Las Vegas attacks were. When the shock subsided, a flurry of emotions hit him. Battling confusion, anger, despair and a suspended state of existentialism, Liam attempted to process the reality of it: A terror attack at a music festival. It could’ve been him. It was an attack quite close to home, literally and figuratively. Speaking exclusively with Firstpost, Liam says, “Even if we had more armed personnel on the ground, even if we beefed up security measures, what can stop something like this from happening again. I chose to be a musician. Shooting is not my agenda. That is expected in the police or military line of work. I just can’t get my head around what could possibly construe as the motive for this (the attack). It kills so many stereotypes about what’s happening in the world today and really makes you question how safe it is to play in any country in the world. I find myself stopping and checking the exits at venues more consciously. I find myself convincing my wife that I’m okay and I will be okay. But are we really?”
Reeling from the attacks doesn’t mean Dillinger Escape Plan will tone down its theatrics on stage when the band plays at the NH7 Weekender in Pune over 8-10 December. Liam is quick to admit that although the band thrives on its violent outbursts, it has matured enough to channelise its energy better. He laughs, “I’m a bass player. I stand right next to the speakers and I’m listening to and internalising the sound of the bass. Those waves just push through your body, alter your molecular structure, travel all the way through you until you start tapping to it while feeling the beauty of your soul vibrating. The more high-pitched performances on stage are that of the guitar player. The nature of the instrument often shapes your reactions. Also, as you get older, you let off this pent up male energy in a healthier way. I have gotten more energetic, therefore more aggressive [laughs]. But I don’t have as much teen angst anymore. This is my drama therapy, my outlet.”
His on-stage persona may be a far-cry from his off-stage life, but the bassist plays every song like it’s his last. That didn’t help him from finding work on DEP’s final album Dissociation the hardest to do. “It was the hardest record I’ve worked on. It’s the one I had most doubts about. I suppose it was me just responding to and projecting the general vibe of the band then. Dillinger Escape Plan is the embodiment of adventure and all things wild, but Dissociation was so much more than that. Different people were going through different issues personally, and I didn’t officially know about the breakup though I heard it through the grapevine. I just went about doing my bit in the studio, playing every song like it’s my last. So in that sense, I can’t really do better than my best!”
Pioneers of mathcore, an avant-garde genre with elements of both hardcore punk and heavy metal, Dillinger Escape Plan announced a year ago that they were indeed breaking up, but not before one comprehensive farewell tour. They will make a pitstop in India in December before playing their finale at the end of the month. The band that was formed in 1997 has seen its fair share of adversities: from band members unceremoniously leaving, to an accident of a band member resulting in paralysis. Liam says, “We’ve seen a lot together and we’ve seen a lot of members come and go. But we want to walk away when we’re not knocked down but in full control of our fate. Yes, there have been some difficult times, but we want to quit when the going is good.”
Liam believes that each of the five members have hedged their lives in different ways, with each of them going through different transitional phases in their lives. He’s non-committal about a possible reunion or the release of singles in the way people are on their extended notice period; decidedly soaking in the present with but a faint eye on the future. “Being a part of the Dillinger Escape Plan has given me some of the best memories. Knowing that at any point in time, some 20 of us can share any given inside joke makes us part of something so special. I have a lot to be thankful for. It’s one thing to have your parents proud of something you do, it’s a whole different thing to have them come around and truly appreciate it for what it is. I met my wife on tour. We conceived our daughter on tour in Australia. Dillinger Escape Plan is like family, and it’ll hold a very special place in my life,” he says, with a tinge of nostalgia.
If nostalgia is on his mind, Liam Wilson will visit India with an unmistakable sense of wanderlust. For an avowed vegan, who practises Bikram Yoga, India is a place of endless opportunities. Although the NH7 Weekender festival will open its 2017 proceedings with its Shillong edition over 27 and 28 October, Liam will take to the stage only in the second weekend of December at NH7 Weekender, Pune. But he has every intention of taking a few days off to travel around. “I love everything about India. It is my first visit, but I feel connected to it through yoga, meditation, food and more. I’m planning to stay on in Mumbai and perhaps travel to Goa as well to explore the local culture, landscapes and more.”