Last month, when the Dillinger Escape Plan revealed that founding drummer Chris Pennie had left the highly technical mathcore outfit to join progressive rockers Coheed and Cambria, no one wanted to believe it. The surprise move baffled the band’s allegiant fans almost as much as it confused the Dillinger dudes, who started to wonder if Pennie had been fostering some strange, secret obsession with unicorns and minotaurs.”We found out about him playing with Coheed on the Internet,” explained guitarist Ben Weinman. “[Frontman] Greg [Puciato] forwarded me a link to an announcement, and I’m like, ‘What?!?’ At that point, though, he was just going to record with them – it wasn’t like he wasn’t going to play with us, but we were questioning keeping him in the band every day because it was embarrassing. But obviously, we felt that his talent was so needed for the band that we tried to make it work, and we let him go through this little midlife crisis or whatever it was, because we never thought he’d join that band over this band. It doesn’t make sense. They’re not Linkin Park. If you’re going to sell out, sell out, you know?
“It’s unbelievable, and the funny thing is, before all of this started going down, he used to make fun of that band, left and right,” Weinman continued. “He’d imitate [Coheed frontman Claudio Sanchez’s] voice and would say, ‘They f—ing suck’ and all this sh–. It’s funny, because everybody just looks at us like, ‘Huh?’ And we had the same reaction. The other day, we were hanging out with [(+44) kitman] Travis Barker, [and] the guy we have playing drums with us now [Stolen Babies’ Gil Sharone] is good friends with him, and he’s a big Dillinger fan, and he’s like, ‘What happened to your drummer?’ We told him, ‘He quit and joined Coheed,’ and he just looked so confused.”
But Weinman said there wasn’t one specific reason behind Pennie’s departure. It had nothing to do with internal strife or a difference of opinion within the band. It wasn’t a matter of not liking the direction Dillinger’s new material was going in. It just was.
According to Weinman, Pennie also came under fire from the band’s label, Relapse Records, for working with other bands on their records without first clearing it with them – for instance, Pennie lent his talents to the forthcoming Idiot Pilot LP Wolves.
“We’re contractually obligated to a record label, and when you are in a contract you can’t just go playing with other bands without getting permission,” he explained. “That’s just how it is. You can’t just go playing on people’s records and not deal with the business side of it. Chris would do that all the time and didn’t want to deal with the legal side of it and didn’t understand why he had to. We were breaching our contract because of it. Really, at the end of the day, he ended up doing a session gig with Claudio for something he was working on for a soundtrack, and I guess [Coheed] were looking for a new drummer and they asked him to play. I guess they offered him a bunch of money.”
Ultimately, though, Pennie didn’t record a single note for Coheed’s upcoming album, No World for Tomorrow. Instead, the band recruited Foo Fighter Taylor Hawkins for the task, leaving Pennie “a fill-in drummer for Taylor Hawkins. He’s basically the f—ing live player for that dude.”
Now that Dillinger have found a replacement for Pennie in Sharone, Weinman said the band can once again focus on finishing Ire Works, the much-anticipated follow-up to 2004’s Miss Machine, which is being produced out in California by Steve Evetts (Sepultura, He Is Legend) and is being earmarked for an October release.
“When Chris hears our record, he’s going to feel like a real a–hole,” Weinman said, with confidence. “He blew it. This guy Gil we have playing on this, his drumming is unbelievable on this record. Some of the best drumming we’ve ever had on any of our records. And now, Gil is going to be known as the guy for this kind of thing. This would have been the record that set Chris up as a drumming dude – as a session guy, a clinic guy – and now, Gil’s already got all these companies doing ads based on him playing on this record.”
Dillinger Escape Plan will tour in support of Ire Works this fall. First, they’ll head over to Europe for a run of gigs with Meshuggah, and the guitarist said the plan, for now, is to bring the same package over to the States this winter. As for how the record sounds? Weinman said fans can expect it to be “just as diverse as” Miss Machine.
“On this record, it’s just sort of like a combination of almost everything we’ve done in the past, but on overdrive,” he said of the album, which will include the tracks “Black Bubblegum,” “Death’s Head Moth” and “Saigon Whore.” “Everything is just right. We figured it out. And everything is pretty emotional, too. Everything’s really super angry, even when the music isn’t all that aggressive. With these songs it’s like, ‘Oh, you’re about to get complacent with where you’re at with this song,’ and then, all of a sudden, it hits you in the ass again and jerks you around. It’s like being on a f—ed-up roller coaster.”