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Eastside sits down with bassist Liam Wilson

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dill1.jpgThe following interview was conducted between Jason Cominetto and Dillinger Escape Plan bassist Liam Wilson via email. The band’s latest release, Ire Works, is currently available through Relapse Records.

Jason Cominetto: So how long have you been in the Dillinger Escape Plan? Can you summarize what your experience has been like with the band?

Liam Wilson: I’ve been in the band officially since around September ’00, but I’ve been working with the band, learning material and filling in select shows for about a year before that. The experience has been a dream come true, an all-encompassing epiphany both as a person and a musician. It’s also been, simultaneously a reality check, the dumbest decision I’ve ever made, the best thing that’s ever happened to me, the hardest and probably still the easiest job I’ll probably ever have. It’s been a roller coaster of black holes, inside jokes, disgusting toilets, broken monitors; countless hours of restringing instruments, turning knobs, gorilla glue and window-shopping the world in general.

JC: Now, you released your newest album, Ire Works, on November 13. How do you feel about the way that turned out?

LW: For the first time in my relatively short career, I’m content – but never satisfied – with the record as a whole. There’s always something that I wish I could fix or change, but it’s a lesson in commitment. I really think collectively we put our hearts and souls in this one a lot more than the others, and from both a production and a performance stand-point, I’m really proud of what came out of me.

JC: What is your favorite track on Ire Works and why?

LW: That’s a really hard question. What was my favorite song before we went into the studio (“Party Smasher”) wasn’t my favorite after we finished recording it, and the song I was least convinced of when we were demoing material (“Mouth Of Ghosts”) turned out to be a real gem on the record as far as I’m concerned. Songs like “Fix Your Face” and “Nong Eye Gong” turned out great from a bass player perspective, while other songs like “Black Bubblegum” and “Dead As History” turned out to simply be great songs, and a testament to the amount of ground one band can cover in under 40 minutes.

JC: Was there any hostility or difference of opinion when working on Ire Works, or did all of Dillinger get along in the process?

LW: For the most part we all got along, which was a first and has continued to set the tone even half a year later out on the road. There were differences of opinion, but nothing ever got heated and there was always a good amount of compromise. I think this time around we learned to trust and respect each other more than we ever have in the past. If there was any tension in the studio, it was between us and our producer/engineer Steve Evetts, and even that tension was more in regards to constructive criticism which in most cases is never a bad thing.

JC: You also released a music video for your song Milk Lizard. What was working on that video like?

LW: Honestly, I kinda hate doing videos. Trying to perform without a real ‘live’ vibe to me always feels, well, like we’re faking it, which in a real sense, we are. It was especially strange because we were also trying to shoot a video for ‘Black Bubblegum’ the night before, and our guitarist, Ben, broke his foot during the shoot, so everything was a mess right from the start.

JC: It seems like your new album is getting a lot positive feedback. It has been appearing on all sorts of best of lists (including #2 on Revolver Magazine’s top ten albums of 2007), debuted at #142 on the Billboard 200, and your music has even been featured on CSI. What is your response to all this feedback?

LW: I guess over the years we’ve always received positive (and some negative) feedback that has always seemed suspicious and simultaneously inspiring and through it all my attitude has always been to appreciate it for what it is, but to remain humble. With every goal attained, I just re-evaluate my position and set the bar a little higher. Overall I’m pretty honored by everything, especially because as far as we’re concerned we’ve never compromised our own integrity or our idea of who we are and what we do. It’s a great feeling to do what you love to do, to deliberately walk the razors edge artistically and be critically acclaimed as ground-breaking by respectable sources.

JC: You also preformed on Late Night with Conan O’Brien in February. How did it feel playing on national television?

LW: I was more nervous to watch it later than to do the performance itself. Aside from the obvious excitement and pride behind getting to do something as significant as that, and to be able to play to more people in 5 minutes than I may all year, there’s the overall satisfaction of knowing my grandmother set her alarm to wake up and watch the show, seeing my mom get teary-eyed backstage before we were taped, and to see the rest of my family, and some of my band’s families in the audience cheering us on is a genuinely priceless moment. In a very real way it helped legitimize what I do and the sacrifices I’ve made for a lot of my friends and family who may not have completely understood the appeal of the band to the general public, or what the band has done for me personally.

JC: You just finished touring with Killswitch Engage, Every Time I Die, and Parkway Drive. How was touring with each of those bands and how did it compare to your other tours?

LW: Well, we’ve toured with ETID before and they’re good friends of ours. We’ve always felt like our bands complimented each other well on most bills, and we’ve always had a very sportsmanly attitude about playing with each other and simultaneously against each other. Killswitch aren’t my favorite band, but we were grateful for the opportunity to play in front of their fans and as people they were very generous to us. Overall, it was a great tour for us to help work in the new members of our band and to prepare them for the headlining tours we have planned for the rest of the year. Personally, I prefer headlining our own tours to supporting other bands on theirs, but any chance to play in front of new kids is a chance we’ll gladly take.

JC: Any funny stories from the tour?

LW: This one is arguably more G-rated than most of my stories; regardless, we’ve started calling fans who are a little too obsessed, a little too interested, a little too forward or stalker-ish “punishers.” One night, one of the stage hands was helping us load out our gear, and was a big fan of the band and started asking us a million questions. I guess he was starting to break a sweat and un-zipped his jacket, ironically enough he was wearing a ‘Punisher’ skull shirt, like the comic book character. We’re still laughing about that one.

JC: It also seems that Dillinger is planning on doing a small Japanese tour in May with Mayhem and At the Gates. Any thoughts on that?

LW: Going to Japan is always a special event for us, but getting to go and play alongside At the Gates, who are one of my favorite bands and who also broke up before I ever got to see them live, makes this trip extra special. All I can say is that I’m really excited and they better deliver!

JC: Exactly how long have you been playing bass guitar? What are some of the styles and techniques you use when playing with Dillinger or just by yourself?

LW: I’ve been playing bass guitar since February 1992. I’ve always toyed around with other styles and techniques like slapping and tapping, but for the most part I keep things pretty pure, taking most of my inspiration from players like James Jamerson and Jaco Pastorius. Since joining the band I’ve been forced to turn to a pick, which originally I was a little too ‘purist’ for, but now I think it’s really opened up my playing and helped me really break through some personal boundaries and has helped me appreciate other players like Dave Ellefson and Trevor Dunn. I try to keep my skill level as equal as possible, forcing myself to learn how to play even the most difficult things with both my fingers and a pick.

JC: Is there any advice you would like to give to any hopeful bassists out there that want to improve and/or get noticed?

LW: I think one of the most important things to be conscious of is to always have a beginner’s mind. To always remember that no matter how far you’ve come, you still have a long way to go, that you never really get there, and that you should be aware that sometimes it’s the journey and not the destination that you should most concern yourself with. Be open-minded and open-eared. Remember to learn the rules before you go breaking them and that it takes more than talent to make it. Any worthwhile discipline is a painfully slow process, but any knowledge gained in any discipline can be applied to other aspects of your life and vice-versa. In the last few years I’ve also become very fascinated by yoga, and I’ve come to realize how my discipline for the bass has helped push my yoga practice and vice-versa. So, I think it’s especially important to live your life, and to take your passion for life and your relationships and apply it to your bass, and then take what you’ve learned on your bass and re-apply it to the rest of your life. Nothing worth anything comes easy.

JC: Does Dillinger have any plans for the future that the fans don’t know about yet? What should we be looking forward to in 2008?

LW: We’ve got a lot of ideas, but no concrete plans. We’re trying to ‘be here now’ and live in the moment. We’ve got a whole year of touring ahead of us, and we’re all just pacing and bracing ourselves for that and any other surprises that may happen along the way.

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Eastside sits down with bassist Liam Wilson