Despite all the i-dotting and t-crossing in the studio and preproduction, a live Dillinger performance is a living, breathing, snarling, visceral thing. Counterintuitively, click tracks are used on the (relatively) slower songs. But for the staples of the live set, the really insane stuff like “Milk Wizard,” “43% Burnt,” “Gold Teeth On A Bum,” there’s no click at all. Depending on your point of view, this can be exhilarating or foolish. “Sometimes a train wreck is cool,” he says. “It’s just like, ’Whatever. That’s the end of the song. Goodnight,’ you know? The core of this band has always been a punk rock attitude, which basically means don’t give a f__k. There’s so many times that any rule I’ve ever tried to stick to far as technique is just thrown out the window when I get on the stage. At that point, it’s just survival.” [laughs].
Drums Tama Silverstar (Indigo Sparkle)
1 22" x 18" Bass Drum
2 14" x 5.5" Snare Drum (brass)
3 12" x 9" Tom
4 16" x 14" Floor Tom
A 14" A Custom Hi-Hat
B 20" A Custom Crash
C 21" A Custom Hybrid Ride
D 19" Z3 China
Billy Rymer also uses Tama hardware including Iron Cobra Rolling Glide double bass pedal, Evans heads (Onyx series toms, ST Dry snare, Gmad Clear bass drum), and Pro-Mark 747B Super Rock wood tip sticks.
The same cavalier approach applies to kit configuration whether it’s deleting a tom, mounting a cymbal up high, or anything wacky. It all depends on Rymer’s mood on a given night. “Plus, I can’t afford to get used to a drum set that’s going to be set up the same way every time. Not when you have a bunch of monkeys in your band jumping all over your kit and throwing your cymbals off stage. Life’s too short. Why stress over that?”
Like its prog-metal peers The Mars Volta, The Dillinger Escape Plan is one of those bands that has a revolving door of drummers. First it was Chris Pennie, then Gil Sharone, both of whom have since become drum stars in their own right. As drummer number three, Rymer is hoping third time’s the charm. “I think I’m holding down the fort,” he says. “Overall that’s not up to me to decide, really. There’s never a perfect show, but then it’ll be better the next time. Ben will tell me straight up, ’What just happened?’ Not in a malicious way or anything, just like, ’Yo, nice one.’ And it hasn’t happened a lot, but it’s happened. In this band if you miss one note, it gets scary on stage. But it makes me feel better to know that it wasn’t just me. Just talking to all the band members I know that there’s been hairy moments with both the past drummers on stage. And they’re confident in me. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t be here.”
Playing in a band that requires such a consistently high level of focus and fitness, well, you kind of feel sorry for Rymer: Dude never gets to just sit back and groove – until now. The cheekily named North Korea is a totally random project that came together between the end of the last tour cycle and recording the new record. It started when a random musician in the neighborhood kept emailing the drummer music files, asking him to add some beats to it. The neighbor (who eventually became North Korea’s bass player) would do it again the next week, and the week after that. After showing the demos to a couple members of pop-punk band Envy On The Coast, things started rolling. “Before you know it we had an album, and then a show, then we’re signed to Triple Crown. It’s interesting how something that started out as an email chain could end up being a reality.”
Whatever genre North Korea is, it’s nice to have a break from the calisthenics – mental and physical – of Dillinger. “I can’t compare it to anything,” he says. “It’s a really cool sound. People will get it or they won’t.” North Korea have already sold out a show in Long Island and have another one lined up with a solid guarantee. Now it’s just a matter of juggling the extra-drumicular activities. “Working all this in and maintaining a relationship with my girlfriend is going to be challenging [laughs]. “I do feel some pressure but this is what I signed up for.”
Besides the headlining tour, Dillinger has been invited to perform at the VH1 Golden Gods with Metallica. You can’t deny a certain poetry in two generations of extreme metallers side by side at metal’s main awards show. For Rymer, it hasn’t quite sunk in. “That’s just weird to me,” he says, “but we take it all with a grain of salt.” The thrash-metal icons have their detractors, but in so far as athletic drumming goes, he feels a certain continuity with Metallica and his own band. “They started a movement,” he says. “That breakdown on ’One’ [from … And Justice For All ] – brrrh-dud-duh-DUH, brrrrh-duh-duh-DUH’ – that was the heaviest thing at the time. No one was doing that, so I’m definitely in the pro-Lars camp.”
Maybe today’s up-and-coming drummers are raising the bar at increasingly young ages, but Rymer knows the shortened learning curve would not be possible without the contributions of elder statesman such as Ulrich, Mangini (“He’s given so much to the percussion community”), or Buddy Rich.
If Rymer’s at the vanguard of the new instructor economy, a part of him hankers for traditional musician validation: “I’d love to go to Berklee if I could afford it.” At the same time, he has no interest in being a technician or, ugh, a pedagogue. The drummers who he connects with on a purely emotional level are as inspiring as the chopsmeisters. He was recently following drum forum threads bagging on Dave Grohl until he logged off in disgust. “It’s just some meme that’s going around. All I know is that I wouldn’t be playing drums if it wasn’t for Dave Grohl.”
Rymer is an advanced player in a cult band, rather than a good enough player in a commercially successful band (this is extreme metal, after all). But it’s a trade-off that he came to terms with years ago. “There’s enough money in the pool to keep going, but sanitation workers make more than us.”
And yet nothing could be more exciting that being in a band. “It’s just kind of like cabin fever right now,” he explains. “I’m dying to get on the road.” Option Paralysis? More like option kinesis for this well-rounded drum enthusiast. “I don’t know if I want to only be a drummer in the context of a band or just a teacher or what,” he says. “I don’t label myself any which way. I’d like to do it all.”
Outside of Dillinger, more solo and teacher-aided drum study is the primary objective. After that, audio engineering and editing, and, if he has the time or energy, film and video production. “I love making music and I’m going to do it regardless of who I’m doing it with, and I love who I’m doing it with. But I just plan on making music – even if no one hears it – until the day I can’t.”