His life was short, violent and incredibly elusive. John Dillinger was a bank robber during the Depression, when banks either went bankrupt or survived by foreclosing on farms, homes and businesses.
Either way, they weren't winning any people's choice awards.
But Dillinger was, despite being labeled a cold-blooded killer by FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover. Dillinger became a master escape artist of Houdini proportions, eluding police so often that laws were rewritten in his honor so that his actions would fall under the jurisdiction of the FBI, which was frothing at the holster for a piece of the outlaw.
Dillinger was jailed for nine years, from 1924 to 1933. Like an addict, he knocked over a bank just months after his parole. He was caught and placed in a Lima, Ohio prison billed as "escape-proof." The billing proved empty when three inmates helped Dillinger kill the sheriff and escape yet again.
This was a time when newspapers were proliferating-America was ready for a media-born anti-hero. To an American who waited in a bread line because he'd lost his life savings in a bank failure, Dillinger was admirable, morality be damned.
Dillinger was finally foiled in 1934 by a "lady in red," who tipped off the FBI to his whereabouts. Trying one last time to wriggle free from the clutches of fate, Dillinger was shot dead by Hoover's men.
It's a fascinating story, one that's been told in two Hollywood biopics and a made-for-TV movie. More fascinating than the band named after Dillinger.
But not by much.
The men of New Jersey's Dillinger Escape Plan hate being called "math-core," or math-anything, for that matter. Yet in a desperate effort to describe their stunningly technical mix of hardcore, heavy metal, jazz and punk, that's exactly what critics have labeled them.
The media have a long history of creating handy misnomers to summarize complex phenomena. After all, was John Dillinger really a "cold-blooded killer" or simply a violent, courageous manifestation of a country's economic failure?
Is Dillinger Escape Plan really the result of complex mathematical theories applied to hardcore? No, but the dizzying shifts in tempo (which in concert has caused at least one seizure; strobe lights were blamed, but I'm not buying it) sure seem handcrafted by Pythagoras.
So apologies to all members-Benjamin Weinman (guitar, keys, calculator), Chris Pennie (drums, keys, formulas), Brian Benoit (guitar, multiplication sign), Liam Wilson (bass, square root), Adam Doll (keys, samples, abacus) and professor Greg Piciato-but you're totally trig-core.
Like AC/DC before them, the band recorded an opus only to change lead singers. Dmitri Minakakis was the screamer for 1999's Calculating Infinity, a crushing album heralded as a touchstone for hardcore and metal.
Then Minakakis left the band. He was replaced by Piciato, a friend from the New Jersey scene. While Minakakis screamed, Piciato could actually sing, and it would've taken a leap of faith for fans to accept the change. The band needed a transition, and it came in the form of ever-present madman Mike Patton.
Piciato decided to step aside and let Patton take the mic for the band's newest EP, Irony is a Dead Scene. Patton's operatic warble and DEP's calculated sonic terrorism yielded a good album. It was no Calculating Infinity, but it was the bridge between sounds that they needed.
Piciato established himself in another fashion, one that would make G.G. Allin defecate in his grave with glee.
Before the 2002 Reading Festival, DEP said it was an honor to be included in one of rock's greatest annual gatherings. But backstage, the basement-dwelling, blue-collar band encountered rock-star posturing like they'd never seen.
Puddle of Mudd vocalist Wes Scantlin was suffering a major, flamboyant bout of L.S.S. (Lead Singer Syndrome). Dillinger was then kicked out of their dressing room so that The Prodigy could use it as a massage parlor.
During their set, Piciato was fuming more than usual. His experience backstage had solidified his belief that most bands (not just the ones on the bill that day, although they were the immediate examples) were in rock 'n' roll for the money, the chicks, the fame-everything but the art.
And now he had the mic, the stage and tens of thousands of rock fans in front of him.
"We're not the Strokes! No shit!" Piciato yelled, confronting the difference between his band and that year's sweetheart headliners. He then pulled down his knickers and dropped a big, steaming turd on stage. The ghost of G.G. working through him, he tossed it into the crowd.
To explain his peculiar salutation, he offered: "This is an example of shit on stage, which is all you're gonna get here today."
Somewhere, a math-loving metalhead with a ragged Calculating Infinity tour T-shirt smiled, and the band made its escape.Dillinger Escape Plan plays with The Locust, Your Enemies Friends and Wrangler Brutes at The Epicentre, 7 p.m. on Feb. 21. $13. 858-271-4000.