Dillinger Escape Plan: The Story Behind the Band's Iconic Flag Logo | Revolver

Dillinger Escape Plan: The Story Behind the Band's Iconic Flag Logo

How a skateboard and Black Flag helped shape one of heavy music's most instantly recognizable emblems
Dillinger 2017 Odom, Stephen Odom
Dillinger Escape Plan's Ben Weinman
photograph by Stephen Odom

There are plenty of bands, but very few ICONS. Revolver's ICON Series pays tribute to the heavy-music titans that have created a legacy of iconic imagery that defines our music, our culture, our lifestyle. The Revolver team has curated quintessential pieces that represent watershed albums, songs and events that define the metal experience. All ICON merchandise is officially licensed and of the highest quality.

One of the most iconic logos in heavy music belongs to the Dillinger Escape Plan, the game-changing spazz-metal crew that broke up in late 2017 but will never be forgotten. You can pick up a cool ICON Series shirt emblazoned with the emblem here, and read on for the story behind the DEP "flag" logo.

Ben Weinman was crossing the street near his home in Morris Plains, New Jersey, when he saw a kid on a skateboard plow head-on into the grille of an oncoming car. Hoping to be of help, he ran to the kid's side, but it was too late. With his last ounce of energy, the dying skater handed Weinman his deck; on its underside was a Dillinger Escape Plan sticker, now smeared with streaks of blood. "Hey," thought Weinman, impressed at how the skater's blood formed a flag-like pattern around the name of his band. "That looks really cool! In honor of this fan, it will be our new logo!"

Well, actually, no — that's not at all how the ubiquitous DEP "flag" logo was born, though Weinman insists he's more than happy for Revolver to run with that story, if we want to. "I just thought you might want something more dramatic than what really happened," he laughs.

dillinger escape plan flag logo

Indeed, the real story behind the legendary math-metal band's iconic logo is far less intense than the yarn Weinman offered up, even if it did actually involve a skateboard. The logo's origins can be traced back to 2004, when DEP were preparing to release Miss Machine, their second full-length album and their first with vocalist Greg Puciato. 

"I always felt like it was important to have some kind of branding identity, a stylistic thing that just sort of identifies you," Weinman explains. "And on a number of our early records, the covers all had these letter-boxes with some kind of image in the middle. We did it for [the 1998 EP] Under the Running Board, which was our first label release with Relapse Records, and we did it with our first full-length album, [1999's] Calculating Infinity, and then we did it with the Mike Patton EP, [2002's] Irony Is a Dead Scene. I always loved the idea that, when you see the intro of a James Bond movie, you know it's a James Bond movie, you know what I mean? So I thought that this way, you'd immediately know it was a Dillinger album when you saw it."

However, with a new singer on board and a new album in the offing, Weinman found that he was the only band member who wanted to hang on to the old DEP visual scheme. "There was a debate going back and forth," he recalls. "It was, 'Do we change gears, now that we've got a new singer? Do we go for a new kind of imagery? Do we stick with the old one?' And I was always like, 'Why should we change this? Why don't we continue to build on it?' But I just kind of got out-voted. [Laughs] I was like, 'Dammit, now there's nothing that identifies us, image-wise.'"

And then, like a message from the universe, the skateboard appeared. "Right around that time, someone had made a Dillinger Escape Plan skate deck, and it was covered in all kinds of crazy patterns and things," he remembers. "And this tiny little thing on it caught my eye: a little Dillinger logo somewhere in the collage that just looked basically like the logo that people know now — the 'flag' logo. And I was like, 'Huh! That's pretty cool … that could be our logo, that could be our thing!'"

Weinman blew up the image, cleaned it up, reset the type, and voila — the flag logo was born. "It kind of represented that letter-boxed style and feel that I missed from our early albums," he says, "and it was also kind of a way to identify the band from a distance, and just know that that's our logo, that's our font."

With its stark graphic of black bars stacked horizontally, the new DEP logo bore more than a passing resemblance to the logo of legendary L.A. hardcore outfit Black Flag. "I think that was an unconscious thing," says Weinman. "I always thought the Black Flag bars were super-iconic, really angular and punk. It certainly was an influence …  it definitely represents the attitude and the ethics that we kind of come from, by having a logo like that."

Various iterations of the DEP flag logo have appeared on T-shirts during the 15 years since the band (who broke up in 2017) adopted it, including versions where the bars are flipped vertically, or replaced by feathers. "Sometimes the band and I would say, 'How can we reincorporate this into a new design?' And sometimes, people just identify us so much with that logo that they would think of different ways to do it, like with the feathers — that was another artist's rendition of the idea."

The logo has also, of course, found its way onto the skin of countless DEP fans. "There have been many, many tattoos," Weinman chuckles. "I just saw a new one today on Instagram — a nice, giant, red irritated one on somebody's arm! There haven't been any Earth Crisis face-tattoo moments going on, as far as I know, but I'm sure there's something out there that's pretty brutal. [Laughs] I'm not going to down anyone for doing that, though — that's like free branding, man!"

A decade and a half down the road, Weinman says he still loves the logo. "I'm totally happy with it," he says. "If anything, I wish we had come up with it sooner. I've had people tell me that, when they see someone wearing it from a distance, even if they can't read it, they know the person is wearing a Dillinger shirt. And I can't really ask for anything more than that."