Yes, you read that headline correctly. As the vocalist for (in)famous extreme metal band The Dillinger Escape Plan, Greg Puciato has seen some shit. Literally. In this exclusive interview, Greg mentions a hilariously disgusting event that will go down in UK history. Have I piqued your curiosity? Read below to satisfy those dire questions that I just know you have.
From what I’ve seen, your newest album has been garnering rave reviews from critics and fans alike. How does it feel to know that something you’ve spent so much time and effort on has been widely praised?
It feels good. I actually haven’t read any of them, I know it’s been positive across the board but I try not to read any of them. I mean, we already recorded it, so we wouldn’t have put it out if we didn’t think it was good. We can’t change anything about it now, so I don’t want to hear why someone thinks it sucks, and I don’t want to hear why someone thinks it good either. It just makes you too self aware. It corrupts you artistically. Obviously, though, someone else liking what we do is a good thing. It always startles me, because we make music for selfish motivations. So when you put it out and other people are able to relate to it, it’s pretty gratifying.
What are those selfish motivations you mentioned?
Obviously artistic people have issues, otherwise they wouldn’t be making art. So the fact that we’re in our thirties and we’re choosing to do something that’s not really commercially motivated is probably the reason why none of us go to therapy *laughs*. We use this to work things through in our lives and because we feel like we have something to get out of ourselves, and the fact that people buy it or show up to see us create it is a huge plus.
“We had to petition to be allowed back inside the UK because apparently we broke some sort of public indecency law sixty thousand times over. They told us, ‘It’s illegal to shit in public in front of one person, and you did it in front of sixty thousand people.'”
I understand that MetalSucks recently voted you as their #1 front man. What was your reaction to that?
It’s a huge honor. I don’t really think about that stuff too much, because once you start becoming too self aware you believe that you have to fulfill certain things. However, from an objective standpoint, I don’t think there’s anyone in my generation out there that’s doing what we’re doing as a band. So I do feel that we’re collectively at the top of our games, and I don’t really think we have any competition at being The Dillinger Escape Plan, but for someone to say that I’m the best current modern front man is crazy. Like I said, I don’t really listen to a lot of this kind of music to know the type of people who I would be “competing” against. I don’t really think of music as a sport, but I get that it’s fun to make lists. I saw the list though, and it’s weird to quantify art and to try to say something like, “This is the BEST director.” But maybe there’s people who do different things? Obviously Stanley Kubrick is really good at making a certain kind of movie, but maybe Judd Apatow is better at making silly romantic comedies. So it’s hard to say that, but I really do appreciate it.
I know you were voted #1 mainly for your insane live performances. Where do you find this kind of crazy energy for every single show? Starting out, what made you decide to do these kinds of stunts?
Really, it’s because I’m a crazy person. *laughs* Honestly, once we start playing, our music is very energetic and very cathartic, and you kind of instinctively become a physical embodiment of that. The day it becomes theatre, I don’t want to do it anymore. There’s never a moment where I say to myself, “Oh I’m gonna climb on this thing or jump on this thing”, and a lot of the time I don’t even know that it happened until afterward when someone shows me a YouTube video or something. Usually I’m very calmed down by then and when I see the video it looks really dangerous, and I’ll say, “That’s crazy, did I really do that? That’s not safe!” I wouldn’t do that stuff if I was just walking around during the day, but when you’re playing you kind of get out of your head. You’re in a different place completely and you don’t really think about that stuff, which is the way it should be. The second I start thinking about something, I don’t do it. I don’t want to corrupt the process.
I watched your performance at the Golden Gods Awards show, and while I thought you guys put on a fucking awesome show, I was disappointed at the crowds enthusiasm. How did you feel about that?
Well, we knew that was gonna be the case. When they released tickets to the public, the people that bought them up instantly were Metallica fans. At that point, we had two choices. We could either meet those people halfway and play catchier songs and tone down our performance, or we could recognize that in those three of four minutes we have the opportunity to show those people shit that they would never ever see in their entire lives. Those people are used to seeing bands like Disturbed and Metallica and Godsmack and, in general, active rock bands that play radio rock. If those people have never seen anything like us, even remotely, then why not play that angle and go in the complete opposite direction and make them look at you like you have thirty fucking heads. We’re not trying to win over a room full of fourty year olds. We were aware that the point would be to be the oddball at the show by a landslide.
I’m excited as fuck for this years Summer Slaughter, but I’ve been seeing a lot of other perspectives, with fans exclaiming how this years tour isn’t extreme anymore. What’s your take on it?
I know that festival has a history of being more of a death metal tour, so I think the criticism is directed at us not being a death metal band, and I think this might be the first year that it’s not primarily death metal oriented. I think it’s a smart move on the promoter’s end though, because if they cater to their audience, then they’re going to be pigeonholed forever, and that’s been our thing too. We never want to give people exactly what they’d expect from us. People might bitch about it on the internet, but they’re going to respect the tour more for doing what it wants to do. It’s not like the rooms aren’t going to be full, they have us and Animals as Leaders headlining. The rooms are going to be packed. If people bitch about it and they don’t want to come, they don’t have to come. But if they bitch about it and they do come and they see us live and they still say that we’re not extreme, then they’re just lying to themselves. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter to me.
What would you say was the craziest show you ever performed at?
It’s crazy because we’ve played so many shows, literally over two thousand shows. It’s so much easier to remember albums and the recording processes because there’s less of them, but shows…Even in the last 30 days we’ve played 27 shows, so a lot of the time I’ll forget them until someone reminds me, but there are still some things that when they happen you’re like, “Whoa that was fucking crazy!” There was a show in Los Angeles at the House of Blues where it basically became a riot and security guards were everywhere and six police cars came. People were throwing shit around, someone got hit with a chair, and it was one of the only times where I was like, “Okay, this is out of control now.” Then there was a show in Virginia where our guitarist’s guitar got stolen off the stage, my foot got ran over by a car when I ran out in the parking lot to try to get it back, and a guy from Cattle Decapitation threw a hammer at the car and smashed out the back windshield. There’s been some stuff that has happened that’s been out of our control, and those are the ones I kind of remember the most. The shit that people talk about, like running on people’s heads, I don’t actually remember those things happening. The crazy stuff is the stuff where you’re on stage and you say to yourself, “Whoa this is getting out of hand” and you become a spectator of the environment instead of them being a spectator of you.
When I was doing research to write the questions for the interview, one of the things I read about was your performance at the Reading Festival in the UK back in 2002.
You’re gonna ask about the throwing shit thing.
You got me!
Haha, well again it was kind of like the Golden Gods situation where we were playing with a bunch of radio rock bands. We played first on the main stage, at about noon. At those types of festivals, a lot of people sleep in tents at the festival itself, and they’ll start meandering around at noon not really paying attention, so we were wondering what we could do to separate ourselves from the rest of these bands that are playing, because we have absolutely nothing in common with Puddle of Mudd and stuff like that. So all these weird radio rock bands are playing, and we’re going to play in front of all those fans. We were gonna be a spectacle anyway, so lets just take it as far as we can. You know, you see people like GG Allin who do all this gnarly shit, but they do it in front of twenty people in a basement. I want people to see stuff en masse that they’ve never seen before, and metal and rock is all about theatrics. If there’s fire on stage, it’s contained, it was planned, it explodes a certain way, and there’s not much risk. If there’s blood, it’s fake blood. If Gwar is shooting feces at the crowd, it’s actually chocolate milk. For someone to see shit being wiped over a person and thrown out into a crowd, or to see you on TV bleeding from the face shooting fire that isn’t contained, that jars people. It takes them out of their comfort zone, and that’s what we wanted to do, and it worked, because it was unheard of and we almost got banned from the UK. We had to petition to be allowed back inside the UK because apparently we broke some sort of public indecency law sixty thousand times over. They told us, “It’s illegal to shit in public in front of one person, and you did it in front of sixty thousand people.” *laughs* We actually had to petition to come back, and now it’s following me forever. It’s really interesting, because outside of the music scene, that became a news story over there, and on mainstream newspapers and stuff like that with the headline, “Dude from band that you’ve never heard of does this horrible thing.” So sometimes over there mainstream press that don’t know about The Dillinger Escape Plan will say, “Oh that’s that guy that shit all over his face.” *laughs* That’s just so weird to me that that’s even a thing.
What do you attribute to playing with all these commercial rock bands? You guys are arguably one of the craziest acts out there and yet you’re playing with all these safe rock bands.
The people that are in charge of those things are still awesome at heart. That’s what it is. And they’re still on our team. Whether it’s the guy who runs Golden Gods or the people who run the Reading Festival or all these fests, they know they have to balance a line between selling tickets and appeasing their inner wish of cool shit running the earth. They’re always kind of behind the scenes to us. We’re really lucky to have those kind of people in our corner that are higher up and get us into all these bizarre situations.
Taking it down a notch from shooting fire and smearing feces, now that you’ve finished One of Us is the Killer, what are your plans for the rest of the year and next year?
Well we’ve still got like one hundred and forty shows booked in 2013 so we’re slammed. I actually just looked at my schedule for this year for the first time and it’s pretty nuts. We only have about six weeks off between now and December. So, we’re gonna do this tour, we’re gonna go straight to Orion Fest with Metallica, go to Europe for a few weeks, come back to the states, and do Summer Slaughter. THEN in the month of September I’m going to record a project with Max Cavalera and Troy Sanders from Mastodon as a kind of one-off album. In October and November we go back to Europe and in December we’re looking at possibly going to Australia and Japan, and then probably another headliner in the U.S. in early 2014. By that point hopefully we’ll know what we’re doing for the summer of 2014. As you can tell, once you put a record out, the opportunities to go places and do stuff are endless, and we want to keep doing as much as we can because we won’t be able to do this forever.
Is that collaboration with Max and Troy the one planned back in 2011, and do you mind expanding on it a little bit?
Yeah, it is. We’ve got about twelve songs written and it’s a little thrashier and doomier than my usual stuff. It’s kind of like my homage to more straightforward metal and what I grew up listening to. Max Cavalera and I met each other at a Deftones benefit for Chi Cheng (former bassist for Deftones) a few years ago, and I sang a song for him on a Soulfly record, and we just wrote really quickly together and had a lot of fun, so we toyed around with the idea of writing a whole record together. We would test one another every time we saw each other, asking if we were serious about the project, but after a while we just said fuck it, and started writing some songs. Then we were on tour with Mastodon, and I was telling Troy about it, and he asked who was playing bass. When I told him we didn’t know yet, he said, “I’m playing bass. I’m throwing myself into this. You’re not saying no.” It was at that point when I realized that this could turn into something really cool, because we have three different singers, all writing riffs for this thing. We only want to do one record, I’m not trying to launch another band. It’s something a lot of jazz and hip hop musicians do, where they get together to write something, maybe play a few festivals together, and then be done with it.
You’ve done collaborations with a lot of artists over the years, from Devin Townsend and Prong to Soulfly and Genghis Tron. You seem to really enjoy doing these one-off collaborations.
I love em man. I feel like you grow so much, artistically, when you take yourself out of your comfort zone. I love writing songs with Ben (DEP lead guitarist) and Liam (DEP bassist) and we are definitely growing, but if we didn’t take things from outside influences, we wouldn’t have anything new to bring to the table. You have to grow as an individual and put yourself in crazy life experiences to write crazy music, but you also have to grow musically, and the best way to do that is for someone to throw you a pitch you’re not quite sure how to hit. That’s why I like doing it so much. I wouldn’t have written Dillinger vocals on this record anywhere close to how I wrote them if I wasn’t doing other collaborations on the side.
When I talked with Misha Mansoor of Periphery a year or two ago, he said that the reason why they write what they write is because of their love for electronic music and the influences that genre has on them, and it seems to be the case for you as well.
Yeah, I think it’s important because if you’re listening to just your peers, you’re going to regurgitate all the same stuff that they’re doing, but I think it’s way more interesting for people to not be able to trace your influences. If you’re listening to some weird underground electronic thing that only a thousand people like, and you bring that into what you’re doing and filter it and put it into Dillinger, people will ask where you come up with that. But if you’re just listening to Converge and Lamb of God and stuff like that, it becomes too incestuous creatively. You’re not making any forward progress.
You guys write a lot of weird time signatures, which is why many dub you as “mathcore.” I’m actually a math major myself, and I’m super into math. Are you guys into that kind of thing as well?
We’re terrible at it. Absolutely terrible. *laughs* We don’t really write thinking about that kind of stuff. Other people tell us what they are. We’ll have people tell us, “You guys are playing in sixteen over seven, that’s crazy!” I’ve never once in my head counted Dillinger time signatures. In four albums over twelve years, I could not tell you off the top of my head what time signature any of our songs are in.
Does that just happen organically?
Yeah, I think we just write very instinctively, and Ben’s brain is really out there too. I know that when he sits down and writes, he’s writing based on feel. To me, the alarming thing is that that’s what that guy writes when he sits down by himself. He’s a crazy person. Normal people sit down and it doesn’t sound like pots and pans falling down steps. When Ben sits down and writes that, the fact that that’s what’s going on in his brain when he picks up a guitar and writes is terrifying.
[Author’s note: Ben was in the room chuckling to himself as Greg discussed his lunatic ways]
Is that what you base your range and lyrics on?
Well, he and the rest of the band send me finished songs, and then I try to write as close to recording as possible. That way I have emotional relevance of what I’m screaming about. I mean, if I wrote six months ago, and tried to pick pieces apart and fit them in a song, not only would they not make sense together, I wouldn’t even remember what I was writing about. Or, if I did remember it, I wouldn’t have any emotional connection to it. If I went into the studio to try to scream, which should already be a very intense emotion, you’d be screaming trying to remember what you were pissed or depressed about, which you probably won’t be pissed or depressed about six months down the line, so you have to create a facsimile of it. Then you’re giving someone a copy of your genuine emotion. That sucks, you shouldn’t do that. So I pretty much try to make a mess out of my life close to the recording process, and then write all my lyrics really quickly.
I know you fairly recently took to Twitter and Facebook to rant about religious and political issues. Was that part of the writing process you mentioned?
No, I write pretty much completely autobiographical. The only people who really know what I’m writing about are my producer, the people in the band, and everyone else directly around me. I also never start writing with a topic in mind. I just start writing to see what comes out of me, and maybe about halfway through the song I’ll see what I’m dealing with and try to hone in on it a little bit more. But when I write, I write almost automatically and abstractly. I just sit down and blurt it out, and afterward I’ll try to figure out what’s going on in my subconsciousness that I need to dive into. To do that you only really have two options. You can either pull it out and lay it out for everybody to look at, or you can hide from it and say that’s too much, and not go there. But pretty much everything I write about is coming directly from my subconscious.
Have you ever written something so wild that your band mates or producer don’t want to use it for a song?
Nah, I don’t think they’d care. I don’t think they even read my lyrics to be honest. They weren’t there when I was tracking vocals, they had gone home already. However, they have very high respect for my process, and I don’t think they’d ever question what I put out there. We are more of an artistic band than a lot of other bands, so it’s not necessary for us to spell things out for other people. If we were writing a pop song, and the lyrics were really abstract, we’d reach a point where we’d have to make our message more obvious because we’re trying to reach a wider audience, but like I said before we are doing this very selfishly, so I don’t really care if other people know what I’m talking about or not.
Last question for the day and I’ll get out of your hair: who, or what, would you say are some of your outside influences?
Like Misha, I really love electronic music too. That’s probably the music that I listen to the most right now. I like electronic a lot. I’ve been writing music on the side with this electronic guy, who is in Nine Inch Nails now, and he’s been feeding me all of this really out there electronic stuff. That’s kind of been my last two years of listening, all this bizarre out there ambient electronic stuff. When I was young the stuff that planted the seed for me was death metal and thrash and punk and hardcore and that kind of thing. I grew up in the city so I listened to a lot of Hip Hop and R&B as well, which I think has colored my note choices and overall sound. Certain inflections in my voice probably wouldn’t have been the same if I hadn’t grown up listening to a lot of “urban music”, for lack of a better term. Now though, I just like music that moves me. I don’t really care what genre it’s in. If there’s an Oasis song on that I like, I’m not bummed. I’m not like, “Oh man I can’t like Oasis!” There’s different stuff for different times of day or different vibes in your life. The music you want to party to isn’t necessarily the music you want to drive somewhere in a hurry to.
I remember reading somewhere that when you first joined Dillinger, you were a fan of their music. How was being in a band that you grew up listening to?
It was definitely weird. Well, it’s not weird now because I’ve been in the band for twelve years, and I pretty much separate my life by Dillinger and pre-Dillinger. Pre-Dillinger to me is like childhood, because I was only twenty-one when I joined, so before that I was a baby. I had only known about the band for maybe a year and a half before I joined, and we moved so fast between the time I joined the band to our recording of Miss Machine that I didn’t really get a chance to stop and think about it until like four or five years flew by. But now, looking back, I don’t know what else I would be doing. This band and the music that we’re playing and the creative relationship that Ben and I have…not that I believe that things happen for a reason, but I could not have found a better vehicle for my skill set as a writer and performer than this band. I wouldn’t be writing aggressive music or playing in any other capacity. I believe that people manifest their destiny, somewhat, so I think that Dillinger and I are on a great journey and that we were supposed to meet.
That’s all that I have for you! Do you have anything you would like to add?
I just want to say thanks to all the people that give a shit about us, whether you’re new or old. I know that we’re not the easiest band to like, but if anyone is into it at all, I know that you put some work in to get here, so we really truly appreciate it.
You can catch Greg and his band The Dillinger Escape Plan on their headlining tour with The Faceless and Royal Thunder before they play Orion Fest on June 9th.