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Dillinger Escape Plan Interview

A Conversation with Vocalist Greg Puciato

By

The Dillinger Escape Plan

The Dillinger Escape Plan

Sumerian Records
Updated May 12, 2013
The Dillinger Escape Plan have always pushed musical boundaries, blending genres and challenging themselves and their listeners. Their latest tour-de-force is One Of Us Is The Killer, an outstanding and wide-ranging album. I spoke with vocalist Greg Puciato, shortly after their memorable three song performance at the Golden Gods Awards in L.A., which included blood, fire and a cover of Depeche Mode’s “Behind The Wheel” with guest vocals from Chino Moreno of Deftones.

Chad Bowar: Sounds like you guys had a pretty intense performance at the Golden Gods.
Greg Puciato: It’s kind of a blur when you’re used to playing 15 or 16 songs, and then there’s a lot of attention on just three songs. I was happy to be done. (laughs) And then when we were done I realized what had happened.

Did you know you were bleeding?
Yeah. I could feel it coming down my forehead, but you just finish and make the most of it.

How was the mood at Golden Gods, since that was the day Jeff Hanneman of Slayer passed away?
We were doing an interview with Jose Mangin of Sirius/XM, and everyone’s phone started vibrating and we were getting all these texts. Not only was it a horrible thing that happened, but what a day to have this happen. We are all here as a celebration of the genre, and one of the pioneers of the genre has died. It definitely changed the tone of the day.

You guys had a lineup change recently. Former guitarist James Love rejoined the band. How did that come about?
He was one of the people we were never on bad terms with. When he exited the band, it wasn’t for any negative reason, he just wanted to do some other stuff with his life. That was the case, too, when Jeff Tuttle left. It wasn’t negative, he was just at a different place in his life. We had always been in contact with James, and any time we came to the Houston area where he lives, he would come to shows.

It made sense to give him first crack at it. We thought that he would say no, because after six years of not being in a touring band he probably put down enough roots to not be able to do it any more. But we were lucky when he said he was ready to do this again. It has been great.

Was the songwriting and recording process for One Of Us Is The Killer similar to your previous albums?
It took a lot longer. There were some differences. Usually Ben and I flip back and forth to save my voice. He’ll do a song on guitar, then I’ll track the vocals for that song. Then he’ll do another song and I’ll track the vocals, and we’ll go back and forth. That way I get two days on, two days off. This time we did it traditionally and everyone tracked their instruments in succession. So I spent 25 days in a row recording vocals.

I thought it would be a real detriment, because after 3 or 4 days I would start to sound different. But it was the opposite. For some reason, being able to completely immerse and not poke your head out every two or three days really allowed us to go down the rabbit hole and keep the microscope on the vocals without having to switch gears. I think we ended up with better vocals because of that.

You have worked with producer Steve Evetts for a long time. What about that relationship works so well?
Steve has done every record with us, so he is one of the only people in the world that we speak this musical language with that we’ve developed over time. It helps us to move very quickly. Besides that, he knows us all as individuals. He has a very unique role in our band. He’s not just a sonic engineer, he knows us as people, and we are very intense people. He knows us psychologically, how much to push us, how we respond. Steve knows all that. He knows my personal life, what inspires my lyrics. It helps me get more honesty out of my performance.

When it comes to writing lyrics, do you jot things down all the time, or do you wait until you hear a specific song to begin writing?
I wait until I hear the songs. I used to try to write a bunch and pilfer those things, and I realized I was just taking a line from this place, a line from that place. It sounded nice, but didn’t have any particular meaning to me. They might mean things in isolation, but as a whole they are not tying together. So on recent records, and especially this one, I was aware of trying to blurt out as quickly as possible the writing for each song and form the lyrics out of those blobs of writing. That way there’s a consistency and an honesty of taking a snapshot of that time of your life. That way you can get it down and have emotional relevance. If you’re in the studio screaming about something, you should relate to it.

Does that make it more difficult to sing songs from a long time ago that you may not relate to any more?
I feel like I still relate to the energy. Anyone that tells you they feel the same thing when they sing a song from ten years ago are either lying or extremely psychologically stunted. The reason you create art is to get something out of you or learn something about yourself that helps you move past something or grow in some way. I don’t necessarily feel the lyrics when we’re singing a song from 10 years ago, but I understand the emotional energy and intensity of the song, and that’s immediate. As soon as we start playing, I understand.

At what point in the process did you decide on the album title?
Pretty much as soon as I finished writing that song. The lyrics came out really quickly, and a lot of issues on the album relate to co-dependency and unknowingly destroying a relationship and taking responsibility for that and not pointing outward. The chorus of the song says “one of us must die, but the killer won’t survive.” In a relationship, you’re both 50 percent at fault. It’s about accepting responsibility instead of directing it outward.

What happened in your life to make you realize that, and to put it down in song?
I had two really critical relationships in my life that were under a lot of strain. One of them was with Ben, our guitar player. That relationship was a little strained. A relationship with a girlfriend was really strained at the same time. The two important relationships in my life were in a state of turmoil. Everybody in both relationships was doing a lot of, “you need to do this or that.” It became unhealthy.

As soon as I started writing, it became obvious. That’s the great thing about writing unplanned and not having a topic when you go in. You start writing and immediately peel back the layers and uncover what it is you need to deal with. Then you have two choices. You either dive into it and work through it and not be afraid, or you run away from it because you think it’s too much.

And now that it’s out there in song for the world, I imagine it’s a reminder to you to keep on this path and work on the relationships.
Exactly. It makes you keep yourself in check. Once you put that down and it’s out there, there’s no way you can look at it again in the same way. If you have the same problem, you can’t say you weren’t aware.

The new album is being put out by Sumerian Records in North America, but also through your own label?
Yes. We started Party Smasher originally as a quality control stamp so when we do side projects and things like that, people would know it’s under our umbrella. Legally we thought it was a cool opportunity for us to do the opposite of where we had been. When we were on Relapse, it was a traditional three record contract that included the entire world. There was no wiggle room or individual control over territories.

So it made sense to go in the opposite direction. Not only do we want to have control on an album by album basis, we want to have control on a territory by territory basis, because labels are becoming more specialized. There might be a label that’s fantastic in Australia, but would be terrible in the U.S., and vice-versa. It ended up being a little bit harder, and we have a manager doing a lot more quarterbacking now, but we have way more control, and it’s turning out to be such a better situation for us. For a band like us that’s not dealing with mass radio and mass video and those kind of tools, it makes more sense for us to have people on the ground level who know what’s going on in their area.

You’re currently on tour with The Faceless. Do you plan on working in more new material once the album is out?
We have two songs that have come out so far. Those were the songs that we wanted to start playing live, so we wanted to get those two out there. Every show more and more people know those songs. And once the album comes out, we can start doing whatever we want as far as playing the rest of them. We’re in a pretty good place. It’s the longest setup time we’ve ever had on a record. We got the first song out with a decent amount of lead time.

In a headlining set you play 15 or so songs, but there are alway some songs you HAVE to play, or else fans will get upset. About how many songs like that do you have?
I remember when there was one song that we had to play all the time. Now 15 years later, there are probably five or six songs that if we don’t play them, people are going to be upset. I get it. And we love those songs, so it’s not a situation where we hate the song. We don’t have any songs we feel that way about.

You’re headed to Europe later this summer for some festivals. Are there any in particular you’re looking forward to playing?
Yes. We’re playing Roskilde (Denmark) again. That festival is the biggest festival in the world. It goes on for a week, and there are 80,000 people there every day. They have everything from extreme metal to huge pop bands. I really dig that vibe.

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