Greg Puciato is best known for being the energetic frontman for Dillinger Escape Plan and supergroup Killer Be Killed. We were lucky enough to catch up with Greg to talk about his latest electronic sounding band The Black Queen.
Firstly the Black Queen album Fever Daydream is truly awesome with so many layers throughout. It’s the kind of album when you finished listening to it you just go straight back to the start and keep listening.
That’s crazy to hear, thanks.
Is it relieving to think The Black Queen music is finally out there into the world?
Dude you have no idea. It’s the biggest relief. It’s a mix of three things man. The most exciting thing and the most relieving thing and the most horrifying thing. Because we worked on it for so long and we were so passionate about it. We were so excited to get it out but at the same time we were all on the verge of having anxiety meltdowns because it was just such a labour to get this thing over the finish line.
The relief of knowing that it was out was like fuck thank god. It just took forever from the time we started making it. Then we decided to self release it and tried to do everything ourselves. Every aspect of it was just so much more work. When we started writing these songs four or five years ago we had no idea we would end up going through so much to get this done. So yeah a relief is the word.
When you started writing was it just experimenting with sounds for fun or was the idea that it would always become a band one day?
Well Steve and I started before Josh was involved. It was based around loose demos that he and I had some of which were kind of a shoegazing vibe My Bloody Valentine kind of stuff.
Some were more Massive Attack style and a lot more abstract than it is now. It wasn’t song orientated. Then when Josh came on board it stayed that way and we were going down a more abstract path and we weren’t aiming as high. When we first started we weren’t expecting much out of ourselves, we were aiming really low. It was just kind of this thing for fun and we were thinking about putting it out for free online and not telling anyone who did it.
Then one day, this is going to sound crazy Steve stayed up all night eating a bunch of fucking mushrooms (laughs) and he got super wacked out. I woke up the next day and I had an email from him that was like twenty thousand words long about how we are fucking up and we are all better than this. Greg you can do way better than this and Josh you can do way better than this. If we are trying to make these abstract safe songs that’s what everyone is going to expect. They are going to expect this kind of ambient electronic band with washy ambient vocals that no one can understand. Fuck that we can do better than that. Lets throw all of this shit out and pretend you’re not from Dillinger Escape Plan and Telefon Tel Aviv and lets just fucking start over and aim really high. Lets aim super high and be on the same wave length as our heroes. We though well fuck it what do we have to lose it’s not like anybody expects anything from this anyway.
So then after that the first song we ever finished was “maybe we should” which was around January 2013. That was done before I even tracked vocals for the latest Dillinger record so when I say this is truly taken forever is so fucking crazy to sit on a song for three years before it comes out. It’s unimaginably anxiety inducing because you want so badly for people to hear this thing you’re doing.
You know then we it come out people will be like oh this is where you are right now and it’s like no this is where I was three years ago. It’s tough but once we threw out all of our previous expectations you lose all of your strengths and weaknesses to so you have to refine your roll. All my strengths and weaknesses in the context of Dillinger mean nothing in this band. Like the fact that I could sing rock parts or scream my head off in Dillinger is worthless in The Black Queen. I had to relearn everything that I though was my identity as a singer.
Dave Grohl did a documentary around how much the cities where bands record can influence the sound of albums. Would you say The Black Queen album is influenced by the city of Los Angeles?
Yeah definitely. When we first started recording Josh was living with Maynard Keenan at the time he lived in a giant mansion in LA. He was kind of like the house sitter for Maynard. So when we first started recording we were recording in Maynard’s house because he has a giant studio setup.
Josh left Puscifer then joined Nine Inch Nails and moved out not having a place to live. Steve and I had both moved out of the place that we were living in so we were like fuck it the only way this record is going to get done is if we all live together. We didn’t want to have to drive to a studio. We wanted to isolate the vibe of what we were going for and go somewhere that was in the vibe of weird dystopian middle of the 80’s Cronenberg Sci-Fi sound we were going for in a lot of the songs.
Then we thought well where better than the shittiest imaginable part of downtown LA. So we found a place that was not a residential area. It was an industrial area a couple of blocks away from Skid Row. We just moved all of our stuff in. There was no heat and no air conditioning. It’ not built for people to live in. There was no other human beings that we would see except for a pimp or homeless person walking down the street at like 3am. So we ended up living in what felt like this apocalyptic version of downtown LA. In the bulk of making the record we had a pretty nocturnal schedule. So we would wake up around sundown cause it gets so fucking hot downtown.
Being awake during the night time of this desolate completely removed from society area of downtown was perfect. It was like the perfect wallpaper to make a record. I can’t even imagine being in some studio in the county where its like nice after having done this.
The lyrics throughout the album are full of emotion and very captivating. How did you attack the lyric writing process?
It wasn’t very different to anything else I have done. I just had to tap into a different emotion and not be scared of it. Certain songs the lyrics came out in like three minutes. “The end where we start” lyrics were written in about three minutes front to back just on the notepad app of my phone outside at like two in the morning. If you feel scared about something then it’s probably worth going into.
With Dillinger I kind of relied on being very aggressive and fuck you for the last fifteen years. So with Black Queen I’m able to write songs that are fragile and vulnerable. Well most things I write about are to somebody in my life. So they are either addressing something in myself or to a specific person. Some of the songs were about a girl that I knew or know. Or about a situation in my life that happened that only one person on the earth is going to know exactly what I’m talking bout. But for those things to not be aggressive is a lot more vulnerable.
Most people only think of me in the context of an aggressive band but It’s terrifying to put yourself out there as something people aren’t used to seeing. I’m a human being first and foremost so I was really aware of not becoming a cartoon character in my life. Dillinger Escape Plan is like 20% of my personality and I don’t want that to become 100% of what people think is my personality.
We love the song “Ice to never”. Was the 80’s style video fun to put together?
Yeah man it was super fun. Rob Sheridan who was a friend of ours and who did all of the Nine Inch Nails stuff for the last however many years. He kind of volunteered his help right away.
I originally came up with the idea for the boom box and for Steve to walk into the Ocean at the end but there was a little more of a storyline involved. Then when we started to piece it together we thought lets just throw the story out and have it be this absurdist 80’s style video.
The great thing about videos from the 80’s they didn’t make a lot of sense. They were just things that were thrown together that felt right but you always remembered them. Thriller was a story but a lot of things were just imagery that kind of made sense in an aesthetic fashion more than a linear story. We wanted to obviously use a lot of the area that was near where we lived as an homage to where we lived in at that time. We ended up filming a lot of it right down the street from where we lived just like the outdoor scenes in the video for “maybe we should”.
When I read about all of the setbacks that you had in the making of the album it’s amazing you came through the other side. What advice can you give to people in regards to pushing through depression?
Well you have to give yourself a lighthouse. You have to have some sort of beacon of hope in the dark. Even if it doesn’t seem like it makes any fucking sense you have to give yourself a lighthouse. For us this record was the lighthouse. No matter how bad shit got if we were broke or not knowing how we were going to pay a bill or having all our shit stolen.
I woke up one day with nothing. I went to bed and I woke up with only the clothes that I was wearing and my car. Like at 34 years old I lost fucking everything. I lost every piece of equipment I had. I lost all my clothes, tv, microwave, cabinets, couches everything you can imagine. Every piece of Dillinger Escape Plan memorabilia, anything I had from my childhood.
It’s all gone. I woke up one day and it was all gone. I got into car accidents during the making of the record also. We just had so much shit happen that we haven’t even started to talk about that no one will ever know. We just had so much happen but we just kept thinking we just need to get to the end and finish this record. You have to have something to focus on and to wake up for every day as silly as it sounds. It’s not like when you get to the end you’re going to win the lottery you just have to have something to give your days meaning. That thing was this record for the three of us.
Can you describe the feeling of hitting the stage for the first time with The Black Queen?
There were so many different things about it. There’s no drums on stage, there’s no crushingly loud guitar amps. It put a lot more pressure on me. I used in ears for the first time ever.
This music is so much more nuanced than rock based music that I had to have them. That was all just really terrifying. When you go out and don’t have aggression and ferocity to hide behind it’s way more terrifying. It’s like going out without your skin on. It’s really strange when you don’t have that immediate second by second response. When we play a Dillinger show within 25 seconds there are bodies falling all over themselves and people trying to tackle me. You get a very instant response that you know that the show is kick ass.
With Black Queen that doesn’t happen. So you kind of just look at people and they are staring at you like you’re in a aquarium or a zoo or something. You can’t really tell if anyone is into it or not you just have to rely on the fact that your in it and sound good and feel good. It took me a few songs to not bug out. Like I was bugging out for the first three songs (laughs) inside I was like fuuuccck. I guess I’ve never played in a band without millisecond by millisecond reactions but I realised once you leave the world of hardcore and metal that’s the way it is for most people. Like if you go to see The War On Drugs it’s not like people are flipping out or falling all over themselves it doesn’t mean they aren’t doing a good job.
How do you feel about the idea people will be coming to The Black Queen shows who might not of ever heard of Dillinger Escape Plan or Killer Be Killed?
I love it. It’s great. Obviously it’s great when somebody is into Dillinger of Killer Be Killed likes it because that’s such a giant jump. It’s really cool to see someone be able to appreciate all three. It’s a rare person that can like grindcore and something that sounds like Pet Shop Boys.
One of the coolest things that I find is when someone says something like that singer guy has a good voice. It’s really cool (laughs) for them to have no idea where I came from. That’s rewarding to me because my biggest fear with all of this is getting in kind of an echo chamber where you’re only bouncing around in the pre-existing fanbases your from.
It’s a blessing and a curse. A blessing because you have people who are already listening to you but it’s intimidating to people from the outside. Dillinger fans are kind of cult fans. People who are into Dillinger a lot of them are really into Dillinger.
When I look at your musical career I see a lot of similarities between yourself and Chino of Deftones. Ranging from his projects Crosses and Palms to both of your vocal ranges.
Is there a lot of mutual respect between you two guys?
Yeah man, there’s a lot of history there. I’ve known him since I was like 23 and we’ve always been aware of each others trajectories and abilities. He’s kind of been a little bit of a big brother in some ways.
As far as showing me a model of someone who can branch out and so other things and not leave their main thing. You’ll see some other guys like Patton with all of his other stuff he left Faith No More but Chino kept going and pushing the walls out of what people thought he was. I feel like Dillinger is way more extreme than Deftones but Black Queen is more mellow than even Crosses is. So I feel like we push each other in an unspoken way. He was one of the first people to ever hear Black Queen demos we always kick new things back and forth to each other.
Looking way into the future would you ever release an album as a solo artist?
Yeah I would say that it’s a pretty good possibility. I’ve got so many ideas and so much that I wanna do that if I could clone myself and do everything and once I would love to.
The way things happen is you might have an idea for something but it might not come out for four years because you just don’t have the time to do it. Because I might have to make another Dillinger record then do all kinds of touring. Maybe we will do another Killer Be Killed record or Black Queen and the whole time I might be wanting to so a singer songwriter record or solo noise grindcore record.
There’s nothing else I’m ever going to do. This is what I do. I’ve done it since I was nine years old writing songs and playing music. I would rather live in a box and live on a street and keep doing this than not. At some point in time I’m going to end up doing something by myself because sometimes you have a vision that you can only execute on your own.
When we saw you at Soundwave with Killer Be Killed it was absolutely amazing. Do you have any favourite memories of that tour?
The first tour that we played in Melbourne was overwhelming. It was the most overwhelming moment I think of my entire career. I mean you put records out and you don’t exactly know what happens to them. It’s like dropping a bomb and you fly away from it not really knowing if you hit your target. It’s the weirdest thing. Especially when your going to a place so far away geographically . You just think that you’re going to get there and people will look at you like you’re an alien.
Being in Dillinger for fifteen years you become very aware of who your fans are and when you go to this city there will be this many people there. That never changes too much. So to come to Australia and the first show was at Melbourne Soundwave and people were singing along it just blew my fucking mind. I remember me and the guys on stage looking at each other being like what the fuck? I truly had no clue how the record did down there.
I thought it would be eight people in a field watching us (laughs) so that was fucking crazy. The first minute alone in Melbourne was like being in a dream.
Lastly is there any chance we will ever get to see The Black Queen play live in Australia?
Yeah man I’d say it’s a pretty good chance. The first time Dillinger played Australia I remember going down there at 22 years old and going to Australia seemed like going to Mars. Being on a plane for 17 hours then landing you might as well be on another planet. I remember thinking there will probably only twenty people watching us and we will lose a fuck ton of money. It’s going to be so depressing when we go there and nobody cares about us. Then when we got there we were playing 200-300 capacity venues and they were full.
That was crazy to me I couldn’t believe it. We were so warmly received down there and to have that happen again on a larger scale with Killer Be Killed some of my fondest touring memories are from Australia. So I definitely want to go there with The Black Queen just because I like it there so much and I’ve had such great experiences.
(interview by Christian Ross)