"You know me," says avant-metal cult hero Mike Patton (see Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Fantômas, Tomahawk, among a million other projects) at the prospect of being interviewed by Dillinger Escape Plan vocalist Greg Puciato and guitarist Ben Weinman. "It's gonna deteriorate into fart jokes." And indeed the conversation does, but not before winding through more fascinating topics. Perhaps what becomes most apparent from the powwow — which was scheduled with much difficulty amid Patton's Faith No More reunion touring and DEP's roadwork behind fourth album, Option Paralysis — is the camaraderie and mutual respect between these former tourmates and occasional collaborators.
That respect started early for the Dillinger guys. Weinman recalls staying home sick from school and poking out Patton-era Faith No More songs on his shitty Casio; and the same band made a 9-year old Puciato understand metal's unlikeliest possibilities. "I'll tell you this. Probably the gayest thing I did was shave the sides of my hair," says Weinman, referencing Patton's signature early- '90s cut. "Then as soon as I did that, Mike got a fucking eyebrow ring. That was one step away from a bellybutton ring. I didn't go there." Patton comments with his usual deadpan, "Thanks for paying attention to my hair, Ben."
It's obvious that Dillinger have paid attention to much more than just Patton's once-flowing locks. They certainly adore Patton's steadfast abidance to his own musical whims — currently displayed on the gorgeous Mondo Cane, an album that teams his flawless pipes with a 40-piece orchestra and a shimmering selection of Italian pop. Dillinger's Option Paralysis is maybe the next level to Patton's math-fucked '90s freakcore, borrowing a little of Faith No More's itchy-sensitive croon, aggressively updating Mr. Bungle's time-signature torture and certainly expanding upon the band's 2002 four-song collab with Patton, Irony Is a Dead Scene. "I always think back to [FNM's 1992 album] Angel Dust," says Weinman. "Faith No More made a conscious effort to not be pinned down to a style: 'Nobody's gonna be able to tell us what we sound like.'"
Interjects Puciatio, "The one thing about angel dust is that it gets you really fucking high."
Says Patton, "Now that's a better answer!"
MIKE AND GREG, YOU BOTH REPLACED THE ORIGINAL SINGERS IN FAITH NO MORE AND DILLINGER, RESPECTIVELY. WAS IT HARD COMING IN AS "THE NEW GUY"?
Patton When you come into a pre-existing situation, you gotta have your own thing going. You gotta be really strong about it and you gotta look at the older material in an aggressive way — "I'm gonna make this mine somehow." You need to put your imprint on the situation that you're in. And that was my viewpoint and I'm sure Greg did the same. Obviously it's worked.
Puciato You have to have a combination of wanting to do your own thing with a reverence for what has already been done. It's hard to make something feel like it's yours. Especially with lyrics — you know lyrics aren't lyrics you wrote, you don't necessarily know exactly what they mean. But 10 years in, I've played them so many times that I don't remember that they were ever not with me.
STAGE PERFORMANCE IS A CHAOTIC, HIGH-RISK AFFAIR FOR ALL OF YOU. WHAT'S THE LAST TIME YOU WERE HURT ONSTAGE?
Puciato A few weeks ago, man. I got hit in the eye with Ben's guitar. It opened up and I closed it with Super Glue, which is the most mind-blowing invention of all time. You can pretty much heal any cut on your body with Super Glue. You never need to get stitches. About three days later he hit me in the exact same spot and opened up that cut plus a different one. After the show kids are like, "That was fucking awesome!" It's not that awesome. They think it's awesome that I don't stop playing. To me that's normal. I think that it would be ridiculous to stop playing. I'm already hurt!
Patton That brings up a question I've always wanted to ask you guys: Do you have band medical insurance?
Weinman We don't. Greg doesn't have medical insurance at all. Which is just a problem. As a fatherly guy, it's just insane to me.
Puciato I haven't had medical insurance since I've been in Dillinger. I know that sounds really stupid, but I'm pretty sure I'll get it soon. I've never been seriously hurt, I don't ever get sick really, I don't have any serious medical problem. For the last nine years, nothing's happened, thankfully. And I know I've saved maybe 13 thousand dollars in insurance premiums. But I just turned 30, so maybe I should get insurance.
Patton Well, when you get to be my age …
Weinman Not only do you feel those things, but nothing ever heals. I broke my neck onstage. Straight up. I shouldn't even be walking. I broke my neck. I tore my rotator cuff
Patton Me, too! Rotator cuff. That's my new thing. I've been going to rehab. I got it in both shoulders, which is the worst thing.
Weinman I tore it all the way around. There was only two pieces of tissue holding my shoulder into the socket.
Patton Oh god!
Weinman So I literally had to have it sutured back together. And it ruined me for six months.
Patton I remember hearing stories that you were in a body cast. You know how news travels. I've had at least a couple botched surgeries. They've been no fun.
Weinman Obviously the breast reduction was the worst one you had.
Patton And the ball-wrinkle removal. No wonder I look so young!
DO YOU REGRET ANYTHING YOU'VE DONE ONSTAGE?
Patton Eesh. You guys start, please.
Puciato I guess I did that thing where I shit onstage in England [at the 2002 Reading festival]. But you can't be mad at yourself for something you wanted to do at the time. I never want to get to a point where I'm second-guessing myself onstage. If the time ever comes where I go to do something and my rationale stops me midway through, that would destroy the entire point of performing. So, there's nothing I ever regretted, but there are things that I don't understand what my mindset was back then. Like the whole shitting at Reading. I would not do that now. Fuck, man, I don't know if I would want to see someone shit.
Weinman I can say this: I never saw Faith No More until, like, a week ago.
Patton Is that true?
Weinman That's absolutely true. I never saw Faith No More and that's honestly why I was so choked up at the show. Until YouTube came out, I didn't know that Mike was such a crazy frontman. All the Dillinger antics were just influenced by me hating people. I heard things about the punk scene, but there was none of it happening. We were seeing these old guys who probably saw Minor Threat and were so bored; a shitty, Xeroxed-a-thousand-times copy of it. So I started throwing my guitar across the room. I would literally have to go to a guitar store and buy the cheapest guitar with stickers all over it to play my next show. So later when I actually heard about Mike having stage presence, it just tied it all together. It made me feel more an affinity to them.
Patton To me, the stage is like the free zone. That's what makes it exhilarating. For whatever reason there's this weird little square where it's kind of a romper room for adults. So I've done some things. Some of them are good and some of them are not so good. But none of them are planned. You don't think, "Hey, I'm gonna stage dive tonight." Or, "I'm gonna rape a bouncer tonight."
Weinman I couldn't agree with that more — aside from the fact that I actually do regret certain things.
Patton Oh, me too! Oh God, are you kidding me?
Weinman I legally can't talk about some of it.
Patton I'm not talking about hardly any of it, OK? When you reach out with a microphone and fully punch some kid in the head — and realize he's the wrong kid? Shit like that. I'm not saying that happened, of course.
Puciato Yeah, I used to think that you could do whatever you want onstage and not be held accountable — and about 20 lawsuits later I learned that's not true. You can get carried away and think this pirate-ship mentality where you come to town, rape, pillage, fuck as much shit up as possible, and then you leave without any repercussion. But we're in a different time. You can find out six months later that something you did at a show you don't even remember anymore, someone is trying to sue you.
Weinman We were playing a show, more people than I ever expected, shortly after we released Irony Is a Dead Scene with Mike on it. So there was a lot of kids coming to see us that didn't normally know Dillinger. Mike Patton fans. So some of them weren't used to our very … interactive experience.
Patton Interactive experience!
Weinman I remember being extremely pumped by the attention and at the end of the show I decided to throw my guitar across the room, as hard as I can in attempt to make it explode on the back bar wall. Which was a little farther away then I thought.
Patton Uggggh …
Weinman And I literally almost killed a girl. Now for 99 percent of that crowd it was probably the most amazing thing they ever seen. And I'll tell you, they'll never see a band in 3-D — no matter how many times they see Avatar.
Patton There has to be an element of danger, or at least an element of intrigue for a band to be interesting.
Weinman But I really debated what my purpose in life was after that. This is what it's about? This girl that got severely hurt? I really had to think — and I don't like thinking.
Patton Yeah ...
Weinman The two guy friends that were with her wanted to kick the shit out of me. She was so scared. She ended up being OK, but it was very traumatic. I remember talking to this girl while she was on the floor. Saying, "Is there anything I can do? Is there anything I can do?" And the one thing that she said to me? "Can you introduce me to Mike Patton?"
Patton Ha! Fuck you!
Weinman I swear to God.
Patton Ah, you're killing me. You're killing me. Still, you could have done that same thing and hit a dude who would have gone, "I'm gonna tattoo this scar on my forehead!"
Weinman And that's happened 1,000 times since. But that's an interesting story. So thanks, dickhead.
Patton Yeah … my fault, as usual.
Weinman No, but that also was a great thing because it showed how amazing it is that you've touched so many people.
Patton No, no, no … I didn't touch anybody! You touched her.
SO WAIT, DID YOU END UP INTRODUCING HER TO MIKE PATTON?
Weinman No. She sued me actually.
Patton These things happen because we want there to be action at our shows. Sometimes when you look out there and see a sea of heads it kind of gets you. And you feel the need to stir the soup a little bit. When I'm out there, just singing with a microphone and have a chance to look? Things happen.