Little Bit Louder Now ...
Taking Back Sunday helped to turn melodic, hard-driven rock into a marketable commodity. But along the way, the band has had to contend with lineup changes and the erratic, often self-destructive behavior of frontman Adam Lazzara (booze, drugs, dramatic mood swings, falling onstage, and so on). While bassist Matt Rubano has never been eager to directly discuss the subject, he proved quite talkative during a recent chat with Wack about the band's new album, Louder Now.
Wack: Lazzara has said that Louder Now is "the record we always wanted to make." Do you agree with that?
Rubano: One hundred percent. We had a lot of time and all the means we could want to make this record. At this point for us, we knew what we wanted to sound like. We knew that we wanted to make a record that listened through as a great story and was really something special. Musically, I feel like this is the best thing I've ever been a part of.
Louder Now is the closest you guys have come to capturing your live show in the studio. Was that a specific goal, to amp up what you were turning out?
I think it's about capturing intensity. Sometimes, when you go to record something, you're so caught up in your headphones, the sound of your instrument, and where you're sitting and staying quiet, you lose a lot of ferocity and frenetic behavior you have while on stage. I think this record really captured a lot of that for us.
You spent some five months working on this album. What motivated the protracted studio time, and how do you think this helped or hurt the album?
It definitely helped. It's not really good to have a deadline on stuff like this, the same way it's not good to have a record take a year. For us, we had the time blocked out, the people we wanted to work with, and nothing else on our mind except making this album. You don't rush something to make it better. We wouldn't put time above good music, ever.
Lazzara has described himself as a "total mess." How do you think his at-times tumultuous behavior affects the dynamics of the band and, consequently, the music you produce?
Well, first, I'm not sure what exact tumultuous behavior you're talking about, but, assuming you're just talking about whatever...
Well, as a friend, you surely want Lazzara to stay on the straight and narrow for his own sake. But do you think his past instability has served, in a way, as a muse to the band? Maybe feeding the music it produces?
I wouldn't place value on things detrimental to your health, [things] that are bad for your mind or body. But whatever we go through, we got through it, and we survive it, and if it happens to play a part in how we write our music together, then so be it. But I don't believe in dudes needing to be tortured to be good. That's bullshit. That's rock 'n' roll clich 101.
Taking Back Sunday performs with Head Automatica and the Subways Saturday, July 15, at Reliant Arena. For information, call 713-629-3700 or visit www.livenation.com.
Change of Plan
Dillinger Escape Plan changes gears again
"We definitely try to create situations that are uncomfortable -- and it's conscious," confirms Ben Weinman, guitarist for the metalcore maestros in New Jersey's Dillinger Escape Plan. "We think that's important, because music's so safe and everything's so predictable."
Weinman is devoted to confounding expectations, and he's gotten plenty of opportunities lately. Following a 2005 car crash in which he herniated discs in his neck and damaged his rotator cuff, he underwent surgery that left him unable to power-chord for months -- so he holed up in his bedroom and made music on his computer that was demented even by his standards. "I more or less went crazy, and I was pretty happy about it," he says. "I think every musician needs to go completely insane every now and again."
Once Weinman's arm was back in playing shape, he and cohorts Brian Benoit, Chris Pennie, Greg Puciato and Liam Wilson made another move that some fans may find nutty. They cut Plagiarism, an online-only EP dominated by relatively faithful covers of Nine Inch Nails' "Wish," Massive Attack's "Angel," Soundgarden's "Jesus Christ Pose" and, most surprisingly, Justin Timberlake's "Like I Love You." Weinman expresses genuine affection for Timberlake's solo material, and if that flips out the faithful, he's fine with it. "We don't want to be a band that's only going to do what people are used to," he emphasizes. "We never want to be confined to those boundaries."
This philosophy has been a constant since Dillinger's earliest days. Of For Calculating Infinity, the band's 1999 debut full-length, Weinman says, "We played things as fast as we could, and when we listened back, we were like, 'This is going to be hard, but it's got to be faster. We want it to be unsettling, so you can't even nod your head to it.'" Even today, when Weinman hears the disc, "I think, 'Oh, my God! This would be kind of interesting and cool if it was a little slower.' But it was supposed to be uncomfortable, because we were pushing everything: pushing, pushing, constantly pushing."
For their next CD, 2004's Miss Machine, Weinman and associates went in a different direction; astonishingly heavy tunes sit alongside the likes of "Setting Fire to Sleeping Giants" and "Unretrofied," which are downright mainstream in comparison. (The videos for these tracks are among the highlights of Miss Machine The DVD, a first-rate package released earlier this year.) Some of the most rabid Infinity fans were displeased with Machine's more accessible selections, as Weinman knows, but that won't stop the band from heading deeper into this territory on a new album of originals that's in its germinal stage. According to him, "The lighter songs are going to be obnoxiously lighter, and the heavier songs will make people go, 'What is this? What the fuck is going on?'" His voice drips with pride as he predicts that "this is the record that's going to piss everyone off."
In other words, get ready for another dose of discomfort. -- Michael Roberts
With Golden Axe and Disrhythmia, Tuesday, July 18, at Walter's on Washington, 4215 Washington, 713-862-2513.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.