The Black Queen's Greg Puciato Redefines His Dillinger Escape Plan Legacy on 'Infinite Games'

"I'm so much better when I can stand from a position of fuck you," says the hardcore bandleader turned synthwave artist. "I'm a million times better."
The Black Queen's Greg Puciato Redefines His Dillinger Escape Plan Legacy on 'Infinite Games'
Photo: Jen Whitaker
As the end of 2017 came to a head, hardcore's most dangerous band, the Dillinger Escape Plan, made their triumphant exit with a trio of sold out shows at New York City's Terminal 5. The band announced their impending departure upon detailing their final record, Dissociation, and now vocalist Greg Puciato has turned his full attention to his less chaotic electronic project, the Black Queen.
"Once the Dillinger cycle was over, I was so tired of outputting aggression, and I was so tired of being stuck in the Dissociation album mindset, because it was such a fucking depressing record that it was very hard to be stuck in that the whole time. With the context of the band ending, it just felt like — I've said it before but it felt like a funeral procession for yourself that never ends," Puciato tells Exclaim!
While Puciato says there were a lot of fun moments for him on the year-and-a-half long final tour cycle, he explains that the shows were all very difficult because each city's show was going to be its last. Ultimately though, the vocalist says it made the transition from the Dillinger Escape Plan to the Black Queen easier.
"Everyone throws all of this energy at you that has not been normal — this mix of like, excitement and 'Why are you leaving?' kind of energy — and by the end of it, I was just drained. Being able to come back and work on a record that deals with an entirely different emotional range, it was actually really easy, because I was ready for it."
The Black Queen, which also consists of Telefon Tel Aviv's Josh Eustis and former Nine Inch Nails and Dillinger Escape Plan tech Steve Alexander, began working on their sophomore album, Infinite Games, during the final Dillinger tour, but tweaked and re-recorded songs they had once the tour finished. Puciato says his voice wasn't in peak shape at the time, and his vocals needed to be redone once he recovered from touring.
"My voice takes such a beating on tour that when we have two or three weeks off, it takes about two weeks for my voice to get back to 100 percent, then I don't really have that much time to record. I'm kind of stuck not being able to track anything until it's time anyway, but it also takes time for you to be able to creatively build up," says Puciato.
Despite the Dillinger Escape Plan being known for their chaotic hardcore sound, it's not hard to draw parallels between that band and the synthwave sounds the Black Queen create. Ever since D.E.P.'s 2004 album, Miss Machine, they had been experimenting with softer sounds and increasing their use of electronic elements with each passing album.
"I feel like if you hear the end of the song 'Dissociation,' the bridge between that and the Black Queen is not that large. The way I conduct myself artistically, I feel it's the same. I'm not really afraid to take risks, I feel very in control of my output," says Puciato.
Puciato and the rest of the band aren't happy to settle on just being in control of the artistic aspects of the band though, they want control over every single part of it. Infinite Games marks the first album to come from the band's Federal Prisoner label, which Puciato explains will hopefully become an umbrella for a number of other projects.
During the writing process for the band's debut record, Fever Daydream, Puciato could sense he would be better off not working with record labels anymore. The vocalist explains he isn't obsessed with control, but he has a hard time accepting help and hates the idea of someone getting more from him than he does from them in a partnership.
"I'm so much better when I can stand from a position of fuck you — I'm a million times better. So even if I have to create an imaginary enemy to say fuck you to, I'm much better. When you're on a record label, you have to deal with so many people that have nothing in common with you artistically, they don't fucking know shit from Cocoa Puffs, you have to talk to these people all the time and it's a pain in the ass."
The vocalist wasn't initially on board with the idea of starting a record label. His bandmates had tried to tell him about all of the different ideas they could make happen if they started their own, but Puciato wasn't sold until discussing it with Mike Patton over lunch one day. Puciato had asked Patton what he would do if he had the option to go back in time and choose to release records with a major label instead of his own Ipecac Records and after their talk, he was sold on the idea.
"He was like, no, never. Once you go, you can't go back. This is a guy whose biggest hit ever was on fucking Warner Brothers, so for him to say that I was like, I really need to give this some thought. He said 'When I put out the self-released Fantômas record, I didn't really necessarily know what Ipecac was going to become, but when you build it then suddenly your buddy in the Melvins asks if you want to put out a record. Then you do and you're able to do other things besides put out your own stuff.'"
Although Puciato feels a lot of frustration with the way record labels operate, he understands where they are coming from wanting to micromanage every aspect of a band. The singer says bands should be more cautious of the contracts they sign because labels simply aren't thinking about music in the same way as musicians.
"I would never trust a label where the guy running it has never been in a band at some point," says Puciato. "A label run by a guy like Patton is going to be very different than a label run by a guy with a business degree. Being at this point has also enabled me to know that if we do ever put out artist's things, their contract would be fairer than any contract I've ever signed."
Even though the process to create Infinite Games was a breath of fresh air for Puciato, it wasn't without its problems. The band met at their rehearsal space one day to find their belongings had been robbed.
"This was the second time this has happened, it wasn't as extreme this time. The first time it happened, we had a moving truck stolen during the writing of Fever Daydream in which I lost every single thing that I owned. Everything from my toothbrush to every article of clothing, every piece of gear," says Puciato.
Having their rehearsal space robbed and needing to replace a ton of their gear was difficult for the band, but after what they'd experienced in recent years, a robbery was the least of their concerns. Eustis had experienced the tragic loss of Telefon Tel Aviv member Charles Cooper, and in the midst of the final Dillinger tour, the band were involved in a bus accident that hospitalized 13 people. A few months later, the band had to come to terms with Chris Cornell's death during their tour with Soundgarden.
"Every time we're on a plane and there's a little bit of turbulence, we're all like 'Fuck man, are we going to die?' What's the next thing that happens? Getting the storage space robbed by that point was like oh, that sucks [laughs]. We weren't devastated, we were just like ah what a bummer. Let's figure out how to deal with this."
The Dillinger Escape Plan was an emotional roller coaster for Puciato with the Black Queen already showing some similarities, but luckily the vocalist has another project, Killer Be Killed, that gives him a stress-free outlet for his creativity. The supergroup, consisting of Puciato, Mastodon frontman Troy Sanders, Soulfly mastermind Max Cavalera and Converge drummer Ben Koller, are working on the followup to their self-titled debut but there are still no definitive plans for the project.
"It's really difficult to make it happen and when we do it's really refreshing because it's pretty much just pure fun and it's like being 14 in your garage. You just turn the amps up as loud as they'll go, someone's got a riff, you all start playing along to it. It's just very, very stress-free and I really enjoy that about it, so I don't want it to become something that has a lot of obligations and stress around it," explains Puciato.
While Killer Be Killed leans closer towards the heavy tones Puciato sang to in the Dillinger Escape Plan, the vocalist says it's unlikely fans will see him pull off the dangerous stage moves he did with Dillinger. He explains that although he isn't performing in a band that inspires him to do those daring maneuvers at the moment, he still very much feels that same energy inside of him.
"Dillinger Escape Plan for me is very emotional, Killer Be Killed is not emotional for me at all. It's just like the way that someone would go about making a Transformers movie or something," says Puciato. "I don't feel the same intensity on stage with KBK that I feel with Dillinger and TBQ. That intensity makes those kinds of things happen. It's obviously not ever going to be as extreme as Dillinger, it doesn't make sense. I do feel that inside of me still, my level of physical energy is preposterous. It's like a five-year-old."
Infinite Games is out now on Federal Prisoner.