[INTERVIEW] Giraffe Tongue Orchestra

The work ‘supergroup’ is an exciting term for many in the music industry. Nowadays, there are more and more popping up and producing plenty of great music together in different styles outside of their comfort zone. With the boys of Mastodon and Dillinger Escape Plan reuniting once again, their new project Giraffe Tongue Orchestra features Alice in Chains frontman William DuVall, Pete Griffin of Dethklok and ex-Mars Volta drummers Thomas Pridgen and Jon Theodore.

“It’s kinda overwhelming, because it’s taken so long to get this done” guitarist Ben Weinman says when talking about their their debut Broken Lines. “It’s been done over such a long, structured amount of time that it’s been hard to have an objective overview of it all. Songs were written in different times and we all had the right amount of people in the same room. It all came together and it seems like it all happened really quickly. The response has been really great, and it’s the first thing I’ve done outside of Dillinger, and it’s been really fun.”

“Every step was like an accomplishment”, he continues. “You had to find the right people that connected in the right way, getting all the songs together and then finishing and mixing it. To have it being released on my own label and then playing shows for it has been really great at so many different levels.”

As it turns out, Giraffe Tongue Orchestra’s name was created after Brent Hinds took a visit to the zoo during Mastodon and Dillinger Escape Plan’s stint at Soundwave 2014. Weinman and Hinds found that their breaks in between the festival dates were also when the band’s first few tracks would be written.

“He was at the zoo during Soundwave, and before then, we had been working on some ideas in our hotel room. Earlier, at the zoo, he was holding a banana and a giraffe took its tongue and grabbed the banana from him and peeled it with his tongue and ate it in one swoop. We were so impressed and we both love giraffes, and when he told me the story and I was like ‘Holy shit, this giraffe really gets shit done!’” he laughs. “We thought of calling it just ‘Giraffe Tongue’, but we decided to make it Giraffe Tongue Orchestra in order to make it ‘GTO’, which is a really cool car as well. Plus, there have been so many different musicians involved so it feels like a collective of an orchestra, so that’s basically where the name came from.”

Weinman and Hinds’ Soundwave gigs with their bands were also where Weinman first met William DuVall, as Alice in Chains were one of the sub-headliners of the festival that same year.

“Soundwave was also where I met William DuVall for the first time, so we had some time to sit down and get to know each other. Brent knew him from way back in the day because they’re both from Atlanta. William had played in plenty of punk and underground bands back then, so there’s been a good connection with us all.”

Asking Weinman about what concepts were possibly based on the lyrics composed by DuVall, he wasn’t 100% sure as to what had been going through DuVall’s head at the time of writing his own parts in GTO. Although, Weinman has a rough idea of what had been seen as the main influence as he held the pen.

“It seems that all the music touched him a way where he had some conceptual themes in his life. He had a son and try to make a good life with his bands in a scenario where he’s a black man in a country where people are often judging him because of his skin. He probably also has themes of how people don’t realise that he’s a successful musician. He comes from the south, so some of that may have had some influence on some of the recent situations he had been in. There’s also the current political climate in the United States.”

When it came to working with new people for the first time, Weinman was curious as to what the results would be in the long run. Overall, Weinman feels that good chemistry between everyone is what helps shape a product into something special.

“It’s really a matter of having the right chemistry” he says. “So, there were a lot of songs in this band that had been going around for years with some that didn’t make it on the album, and some I never thought would appear. And they seemed to work within the context of the guys we ended up recording with. It was a very typical journey, but once we downed the right scenario, it was very easy and natural. One of the things I’ve learned from this collaborative process, which is different for me, is that you can’t force things. Just because you’re a fan of somebody, or you’re friends with them, it doesn’t mean there’s gonna be a creative chemistry. We hear the term supergroup a lot, but ultimately, this band was just a group of people that have been touring a long time that happen to have the chemistry that ended up working.”

With The Dillinger Escape Plan on the verge of breaking up after they finish one last tour, the axeman states that he’s far from being done with making music. Weinman announced that he has been collaborating and even managing Kimbra, as well as putting a few different ideas together for future endeavours.

Giraffe Tongue Orchestra was already done before the Dillinger decision had even been made. So, it wasn’t really an attempt to replace Dillinger or anything like that. I will say that Dillinger has played its course for me, creatively. Although, it’s gonna be hard to not have that outlet, I’m still gonna be doing many projects and Giraffe Tongue is one of them. We’ve got a whole bunch of shows lined up for it and we’re just gonna take it from there. As far as other projects go, I’ve been doing all kinds of other things and behind the scenes things. Also, I normally collaborate with Kimbra, but now I’ve been managing her.”

Killer Be Killed, which features Greg Puciato (Dillinger Escape Plan) and Troy Sanders (Mastodon), and even Dave Elitch (ex-Mars Volta and Antemasque), effectively consists of members from those same groups. So, how is it that these musicians enjoy this strong rapport and connection?

“The Mastodon guys have been friends with us for at least fifteen years. We’ve known each other before they even became a band, and we’ve also toured a lot with them. So, obviously, when you’re talking with your friends and coming up with ideas to jam with them, the people you’ve known the longest are the ones that are the first in line. It’s interesting because, Jon Theodore and Thomas Pridgen are both drummers I’ve always wanted to play with. I’ve been friends with Jon for a long time and Thomas, I’ve been acquainted with him through other people, and now I’ve had the privilege of finally working with him. I know Dave Elitch wasn’t on any albums with The Mars Volta, but we’ve been friends with him for a long time, and he even tried out for Dillinger at one point.”
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ziPhuiU7Q6c]

Written by Callum Doig

Growing up around tracks at the young age of eight from Rage Against the Machine to Queens of the Stone Age and At the Drive-In, I found my love for heavy music develop quicker and quicker, as I got into countless bands in genres from Alternative, Prog, Stoner and Math Metal over the years. Being part of the music journalism industry since 2013, I’ve had the honour to review the legendary Soundwave Festival twice, Unify, and the last ever Big Day Out, as well as interview big names such as Zakk Wylde, Matthias Jabs, Richard Patrick, Greg Puciato, Mikael Akerfeldt, A Nameless Ghoul and many, many more. With metal and rock music playing a massive part of my life since I was young, and eventually became inspired to pick up multiple instruments, I couldn’t have picked a better genre to influence me into getting involved in the scene, regardless of what the position would be. Heavy music has done more for me than anyone or anything else, and I intend to stick around for more and more as the years go by.

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