On the surface, vocalist Greg Puciato has had a fulfilling career – devastating stages with mathcore legends The Dillinger Escape Plan since 2001 and founding heavy metal supergroup Killer Be Killed five years ago.
Until forming The Black Queen, an electronic trio far from the violent crowds and years of aggression, his life has been far from it however. In an emotion-fuelled chat, Puciato took us through his journey of fear, self-destruction and finding himself again.
Standing Out From the Crowd
Between The Black Queen and The Dillinger Escape Plan, Puciato felt like he was “given the opportunity twice in life to be a part of something that can’t be directly compared to something else.”
“Dillinger Escape Plan sounds like itself, you can obviously hear certain influences, but for the most part it’s very unique sounding. That’s so tough to do. Some of the people that I admire the most are instantly recognisable. So I’ve just been trying to do that with varying degrees of success.”
With Dillinger however, Puciato started to feel “less like a human being and more like an animal over the years.”
“I felt like such an aggressive, out-of-control performer and I was carrying a lot of that. Dillinger was never something that I turned off,” he admitted.
“I was consuming life in a really self-destructive fashion. I didn’t realise that over time, I started to lose my sensitivity. I had some giant blow-ups in my personal life, around the time of One Of Us Is the Killer, that were really alarming, and it was because I couldn’t sustain that level of being anymore.”
For Puciato, moving in with former Dillinger and Nine Inch Nails tech Steven Alexander and Telefon Tel Aviv’s Joshua Eustis was a necessary path to finishing The Black Queen album.
“We all had massive life transitions happen at the same time, and we didn’t have many other people around us… the record ended up becoming like a lighthouse. As weird as it is and no matter how bad things are, just having a thing to walk towards is so important.”
“The record happened over such a long period of time that the album and the band and the friendship has been merged. So to me The Black Queen and Fever Daydream is not even an album so much as a really visceral period of three or four years in my life. We didn’t tell anyone about it… until we released our first fully-finished song… [yet] this album was the thing that every single day we were focusing on.”
“The more that we worked through, the better the music would get… the more in touch with our raw sensitivity we were able to get, the more honest and fearless we could be.”
No More Running
“Once I got over needing to hide behind aggression and figuring out why I was hiding behind it… it’s the most freeing feeling. Now I can sort of control Dillinger instead of allowing it to control me.”
“That’s more or less what the album is a homage to – to being in certain relationships in my life. I’m still dealing with shit all the time. There’s a ton that I didn’t deal with for a really long time, that I didn’t even know was there. Then you’re at the point of your life where you just cannot run from those things anymore.”
A Crippling Fear
Puciato was raw with emotion as he remembered struggling with fears earlier in his life.
“Something in my teens started making me really pissed off and I internalised a lot of it, and I didn’t remember it again until a few years ago,” he confessed.
“Once I started working through it, I found that I could access a whole other realm of emotion that I feel almost embarrassed I’d been covering for so long.”
“When I was a kid, I used to have a real fear of being in front of people, which is really strange now obviously ‘cause I do it all the time. It was so bad that I couldn’t get in front of a class and talk. I would shake so badly and my mouth would get so dry and I would nearly black out to the point where I physically couldn’t do it. I think a lot of the way I got out of that was becoming a really aggressive performer, and I thought I conquered it.”
Reliving that fear at 35
When Puciato recently played his first show with The Black Queen in Los Angeles however, he was “terrified” and all that fear came rushing back.
“When we were a minute away from going on stage, I was like ‘Fuck! My mouth is getting so dry that I don’t even think that I’m going to be able to make sounds, like it’s crazy.’ Then I realised it was because that was a period in my life that I became crazy and aggressive.”
“Over the past three years, I’ve chipped away at a lot of that, and not having it any more made me feel exactly the way I felt back then, and it took me two to three songs to not feel like I was bugging the fuck out inside. Then you’re like ‘Okay. You can do it.’ The London show was 20 times better.”
Overall, Puciato reflected that both making Fever Daydream and playing the shows made him “grow so much” thanks to being taken so far out of his comfort zone.
Check out an earlier interview with Puciato and The Dillinger Escape Plan here.
Artists in this post
The Dillinger Escape Plan is an American mathcore band from Morris Plains, New Jersey and currently signed to Sumerian Records. The group originated in 1997 after the disbanding of Arcane, a hardcore punk trio consisting of Ben Weinman, Dimitri Minakakis, and Chris Pennie.The band's current line-up consists of guitarists Ben Weinman and James Love, bassist