But for the last two months, members of the legendary mathcore/metal band have been living under the radar behind the Orange Curtain, putting in 12-hour days at the Garden Grove studio of their longtime producer and friend Steve Evetts and laying down a new batch of brutal tracks for the band's yet-untitled fifth full-length release.
This is the third consecutive album that the unapologetically Tri-State band has made at Evetts' Omen Room–a nondescript office-park studio just off of the 22 Freeway–a trend made that much easier since singer Greg Puciato moved to SoCal after the completion of Ire Works in 2007. The latest album will be released (hopefully) some time in April on Sumerian Records under the band's own imprint, Party Smasher Inc.
We caught up with DEP bass player Liam Wilson at a coffee shop yesterday (his last day in town) between a morning Bikram yoga class and a lunch-time studio call to talk about recording the new album, bringing back guitarist James Love and making a few scream-free jams. Read the interview after the jump.
OC Weekly (Sarah Bennett) So why do you keep coming back to Garden Grove to record albums? Seems sort of out of the way for the rest of you.
Liam Wilson: It's Steve because he's the only dude that can understand what we do. I go in with my parts and I think they're great and Steve just tears me apart and I end up rewriting everything. And it sounds better and he's usually right. It's like a process in surrendering yourself, but it really matters because our rhythms are so fucked up, even for us this time. It is detailed and obviously every crafty, but he's one of the only people I feel who truly could do it for us. He's mixed and mastered everything we've ever done. I call him the goalie because you can't let anything get by you unless it's good. Nobody pushes me as hard as he does.
All your previous work with him was out in Jersey, right? Did he have a studio out there?
Yeah, he used to work at Trax East in Jersey, the studio that Skid Row and all those bands recorded at. He cut his teeth there. And Miss Machine was recorded with him, but in our old practice space. That's a more interesting recording story in that we were in our practice space but we couldn't record when other bands were playing. So we had to record from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. Ironically enough, though, that place is now a recording studio. It's funny because the Miss Machine thing is on the wall even though that guy didn't do it, but it was recorded in that building when it was still a practice space.
Are you trying to finish recording this album before the holiday?
Ben [Weinman, lead guitars, founding band member] and I are trying to get our stuff done so we don't have to come back. Greg will probably start tracking on Christmas Eve, but Steve has a record on January 6 with another band so we do have a time crunch in that. Part of the reason why he's not mixing it this time is that availability.
Did Hurricane Sandy delay any of the recording?
Oh, Sandy was a total nightmare. We were still out there, but were supposed to be out here. The storm hit on Monday or Tuesday and we were supposed to fly out here on Friday. Ben was in North Jersey and lost power for three or four days and Billy [Rymer, drums] was in Long Island and lost power for seven to ten days. But Billy just flew out here–there wasn't any point in him staying out there without power. So Ben and I because of Sandy pushed our tickets back. A few days without power might not seem like the worst thing in the world but when you're cramming to get a record done, that means you can't have practice, you can't demo anything on your computer and that's crunch time. If you're in school doing finals, no matter how much prep you do, you crunch harder before you leave. Then we got out here the next week, kinda behind the gun, and Mitch from Suicide Silence died. Steve had to go to the funeral so it stalled everyone out, then we had to practice for a few days because we had just lost a guitar player. It was all good in the end, but Sandy definitely messed with our flow.
I read somewhere that Ben said the last album was the “most metal” album you guys did.
I think we thought that. When you're writing this stuff, it seems really aggressive and it is, but then when you're recording it, it's always different. For one thing, Greg is kind of over screaming and I don't blame him. It kind of dates what you're doing.
So this is the first album that he's come in saying he didn't want to scream?
He would always sing on other records, but there would always be something in the song that's heavier. This time I think we have three songs that have no screaming whatsoever. And even on the last record, it was heavy and the songs that weren't heavy even had one breakdown part that is Dillinger-ish, but we thought what's the point of doing this thing to break from our style and then we were castrating it by screaming over it. So this time we have songs that are entirely singing, which we've had examples of on other albums, but again, the songs always fell back into a heavy part where he would scream. And these new songs do have the heavy part or a bridge part that would be heavy, just no screaming. It's a small shift.
Do you know what you're going to call the album yet?
My girlfriend may have titled it, actually. She has a blog called Filth & Feather, Bones + Moon at Sea and Ben really likes the “Filth & Feather” part. I like it enough, but I don't want her idea to get poached without her permission, so I've put it out there and we'll see.
You don't name the albums until you're done recording them?
It's the same as song titles–they're all working titles right now. Greg knows the titles, but I know it as “The Happy Accident Song” or “The September Bashers Song” or “The Song With The Never Ending Story-Sounding Part.” It's really whatever the file comes in Dropbox as, that's the working title.
Do you find that the response to you guys is greater in Europe and Australia? Your album tours always seem to spend a lot of time there.
Australia, definitely. We get radio airplay. Here, we get Sirius, but there, we get decent radio. But you can only go there once every two years. Europe is pretty good, but if anything in the United States, I feel like we're the smallest, but it depends on where you are. Our last label was a French label, but they had a hard time getting Option Paralysis out here. It was harder for people to get and the price point was high because it was technically an import so we didn't sell as many.
Do you guys aim for an album every few years or is it just when you have enough songs, you start recording?
It's more of a concerted effort, like, 'Oh, shit, better start writing.' Sometimes there's ideas that come out but not until Ben decides to start the process again. He's pretty much the fountainhead for 95% of the stuff. Billy's come up with a lot, I come up with some stuff and I get a lot of poetic license with my parts, but for the most part, it's Ben doing the majority of it and Billy giving it its rhythmic twists.
You guys have such diverse musical interests. Do you ever have the urge to play a different genre?
I would love to do something else, but I'm definitely self-introspective enough to know that there are certain things that are not my forte. I love jazz and I'm a bass player, but I'm also white. I don't have saucy groove–I just don't. Maybe compared to most other dudes in a metal band, I do, but I don't consistently play funky, saucy parts. I can get in and jam with people that way, but it's not my forte. Metal's the constant, anyway. I listen to everything now, but I've always listened to metal. I would say every year, I hear 10 bands that aren't metal for every one that I hear that is metal and I like. I think all of us have some other things cooking, various side projects in various states of completion. I think those will be the non-Dillinger-ish things, but then again, I have one that is still very metal, so who knows.
Sarah Bennett is a freelance journalist who has spent nearly a decade covering food, music, craft beer, arts, culture and all sorts of bizarro things that interest her for local, regional and national publications.