Greg Puciato's transition from Dillinger to The Black Queen
The Dillinger frontman discusses adapting to a new genre and being mentored by the legendary Justin Meldal-Johnsen.
Greg Puciato is the leading voice of millennially crucial extreme metal band The Dillinger Escape Plan, whose breakthrough album Calculating Infinity changed the face of heavy music forever. However, it’s Puciato’s latest endeavour, a long awaited departure project entitled The Black Queen that is the focus of our conversation. Comprised of members Joshua Eustis (Telefon Tel Aviv, NIN, Puscifier), Steven Alexander and Greg Puciato (Also of Killer Be Killed), The Black Queen tips everything the latter was championed for on its head, and delicately so.
Puciato speaks with an endless flow of detail. His expansive and anecdotal nature shows his passion and willingness to explore and analyse his art form. “We had to learn each-other’s role in the band,” begins Puciato. “If you’re a band that’s a completely different genre to what you’re used to, you have to relearn what your strengths and weaknesses are in the context of the band. My strengths and weaknesses in Dillinger are now completely un-relatable to this. If one of my strengths is running around, out of control on stage, I can scream forever and not lose my voice… or coming up with really intricate and varied vocals over really crazy chaotic high speed rhythms… that means nothing in this band.”
The Black Queen have performed successful launch shows in the US and UK, and Puciato has never been more proud of his art. “I think this Black Queen record is, aside from One Of Us, is the killer. I think those two records would be the two records that I would show people if I had to show them the things that I was the most proud of in life, just because I don’t think there’s anyone that’s ever gone from as aggressive of a band as Dillinger to making something that’s a record like The Black Queen.”
Fever Daydream’s gorgeousness comes from its production process, involving 100% unique sounds. “Pretty much every sound on the album was created,” Puciato explains, “there’s nothing that was pulled out of a sound bank. A lot of the snare drums are a combination of white noise and breath. We use breath for a lot, just because it’s such a human thing and the more human voice you can put in something the more people feel like someone’s talking to you, even if it’s only music your brain will subconsciously pick up the human voice and someone breathing in your ear is a really intense thing so we mixed breaths in with a lot, we blended breath into a lot of snare drums.”
However, the members weren’t thinking about how to reproduce the music live whilst in the studio. “A lot of what we used on the record was old, analog, no longer made, things that don’t really want to be transported around and banged up.” Despite this Puciato commends band mate Steven Alexander who not only has “some kind of super brain” but also picked the mind of A Perfect Circle’s Billy Howerdel to conquer the live aspect. “It’s really strange,” begins Puciato “I’ve never seen anyone do this to this extent but there’s only maybe twenty or thirty seconds of time when we were on stage that what he was playing sounded like a guitar, and then the rest of the time it sounded like crazy, ambient washes and keyboards and all kind of weird shit but if I looked over at him he’s playing the guitar…”
Fever Daydream features contributions from a few notable figures, but it was Justin Weldal-Johnsen’s selfless mentoring that Puciato reflects on most fondly. “Justin Meldal-Johnsen was really important,” Puciato explains, “I reached out to Justin just to see… I really just wanted to get his opinion on what to do with it because he’s been in the industry for so long that I was like ‘Hey! If you were me and you’re in Dillinger, and you’ve only put records out on record labels and the Killer Be Killed record came out on a record label, what would you do with this? Would you self-release it, would you sign a different record contract?’ It was more about the logistical side of it. He more or less said ‘Dude who gives a shit! This is fucking really good, I love this. I don’t want to talk about how to release it, that answer will reveal itself, I just want to maybe help you creatively and kind of mentor you and guide you a little bit, because you guys are onto something here as a band and you as an individual are treading brave territory in respects to what you’re known for’.
"That was a really huge confidence boost for me because Justin, you know has been in Beck for 20 years, he was in Nine Inch Nails, he’s worked with so many bands, produced the huge M83 album… for him to offer his advice and guidance like that was really an incredible honour… we would finish the songs sonically, we would produce them ourselves, Josh doing the heavy lifting mixing work technically, and then we would send them to him and he would give us back really, really detailed notes… he would never tell us what to play or tell us that ‘you should do this note here or use this instrument here’ it was always really abstract. It was really detailed in a really abstract way and in a way where we would know exactly what he was talking about. He spent a lot of time doing that, and for no reason at all. He’s a guy who, I’m sure gets paid a herculean sum of money to produce a major record or work with Nine Inch Nails or Beck and he was just doing it because he believed so much in the record. [He was] Really genuine and selfless with his time and guidance. That was something to me that I will never forget, being able to have someone that I respect so much give so much of himself to something for no promised financial incentive was really cool.”
Luckily for Australian fans more new music and an Australian tour are on the horizon. “Now that we’ve got the first one out I feel like it won’t be too long before we can get out other, you know an EP or a 12-inch or something like that. I’d rather just take my time to do that than play a bunch of shows. Australia is definitely a place where we would love to go. I don’t think coming down there to do a show is too far off honestly.”
Fever Daydream is available in Australia from March 4.