Greg Puciato of The Dillinger Escape Plan Talks New Album, Sumerian Records, Books, and More
Tue, 12 Feb 2013 07:39:13
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"This is art to us," declares The Dillinger Escape Plan frontman Greg Puciato.
Well, Dillinger is almost done painting its masterpiece. The follow-up to 2010's Option Paralysis stands primed to blow the doors open for the next phase of metal's favorite rogues—and for the genre itself. After consistently challenging the status quo and furthering heavy music's evolution, the band once again tread uncharted territory victoriously. Get ready for one hell of a trip when the album drops via Sumerian Records this year…
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Greg Puciato of The Dillinger Escape Plan talks the band's new album, signing to Sumerian Records, what he's been reading, and so much more.
What encouraged Dillinger Escape Plan to evolve on this next album? Where have you grown or changed?
When you're in the middle of things, I think it's really tough to see exactly how they're going to relate to you in hindsight later on or what place they're going to take. If your band is a career band, you're looking at really long timespans. So when you're in the middle of one little sliver, it's impossible to tell what that sliver is actually going to be in context later on. When we were doing Ire Works, I can look back on it and I can totally see exactly what it was. It was the sound of a band regrouping and trying to figure out where we were going to go after Ben Weinman and Chris Pennie split ways. We had to find a new drummer. We literally didn't even meet Gil Sharone until the day he started tracking drums. We just knew there was this guy in California who told us he could play the songs we sent him [Laughs]. There was a whole lot of flying by the seat of our pants at that time. When I listen back to it, I can hear that. We felt really great about Option Paralysis. I love that record, but I felt like we were refining the bursts of creativity from Calculating Infinity and Miss Machine. Those are the two albums where we went the furthest from where we had been before. Calculating Infinity and Miss Machine were both massive jumps. I feel like we've been in the refining process and getting better at what we were doing with Miss Machine. We really made a conscious decision. We were like, "What are we going to do here?" It's the first time since Miss Machine we've had the same recording lineup. We aren't encumbered by having to teach some new guy old songs. We can gel as a band and try some new shit. We tried to go out of our way deliberately. Instead of letting the songs write themselves, we would abort them and make them change direction. We would say, "We've done this thing before. Let's take this song over here. Even if we don't know it's going to work, let's do it on purpose to make sure we're challenging ourselves creatively". We fought a lot in the process, which is good because it means we're doing something right. Now, when I listen to the record, we didn't even know it was happening. In the middle of it, we were just trying to get it done. I realize we made a big jump now. It doesn't sound like the other records to me. It sounds like we made some type of movement.
Lyrically, you've always encoded a visual poetic sensibility into this crazy heavy music. Where do you feel like you've gone in terms of the lyrics on this album?
If I were to write lyrics for any other thing, I wouldn't care as much. To me, Dillinger has become a good way for me to figure out my subconscious and get things out of my system that I didn't know were in there and learn about myself. It's important for me to get something from the source out there. Every time I've written, it's always been very subconscious, automatic writing. I don't like to write until we're pretty close to recording. I want to keep as much stuff bottled up as I can so when I start writing, good shit comes out. I haven't gotten it out six or nine months prior. There's a well I can draw from. I go through and bomb out as many continuous blurbs of writing as I can. Once I've got a bunch of shit written, I say, "Here's what I'm obviously trying to deal with. Here's where this is coming from. This is where my brain is at three in the morning. I'm not trying to lead it in here". Then, I can start refining it and making it more poetic. I can work on constructing it to be more like prose and less like a guy rambling. That's the way it's always been. It's tough to comment on your own style [Laughs]. I know what I'm trying to say.
What themes did you want to tackle?
The main difference between this record and the past is my awareness in life that anytime you're upset about something, you're really upset at yourself. Whether it's becoming more mature or old, I don't know. When you're young, everything is "You". You're pissing me off. I'm mad at you. I can't believe you did this to me. You are the reason that this happened. Over time, I've realized every time I've said "You", I'm actually talking about myself. Every person you surround yourself is a reflection of some aspect of your personality you're choosing to keep in your life. You have control over every scenario. I think this became more of an "I" record for me instead of a "You" record. I really feel like there's something to be said for taking responsibility for shit. Maybe I'm a fucked up, it's not just the people I've been hanging out.
The first byproduct of that "awareness" is holding up a mirror.
It's true. Earlier in your life, you have a tendency to think everything is circumstantial. If you have an accident, it's automatically the other guy's fault. Eventually, you get to this other place where you're like, "I'm responsible for every minute of my day". 99 percent of your day you're the reason for all of it.
What other art forms inspire you?
I actually don't care to listen to too many other bands or singers—especially any type of aggressive music—while we're writing because I feel like, "What's the point of gaining influence from something right next door to you?" That's not interesting to you. I want to go somewhere far away from what we're doing output-wise and get input from there. That being said, I feel like everything content-wise comes from me trying to get something out. Stylistically or aesthetically, I feel like I'm just as influenced by books or movies and forms of music far away from hardcore and metal.
What have you been reading lately?
I've been on a Cormac McCarthy kick lately. I love his writing. I don't really care about the stories so much, but I'm just like, "Fuck man, you're doing backflips on one leg with the English language". I like to read people who I know I can't write like [Laughs]. That's inspiring to me. He'll flip around a paragraph around in so many ways I can't comprehend it. I've always been a fan of Bret Easton Ellis. I recently went back and read Glamorama. I like a lot of abstract stuff. I watched a movie called Beyond the Black Rainbow, and I dug that a lot. I like to write lyrics to weird abstract instrumental music so the vocals don't get that way. I'll put on some weird trance-y, ambient noise type thing and let it roll for hours. I'll write imaginary lyrics to that while it's playing. That kind of music tends to put your brain in a trance unencumbered by some guy yelling at you or trying to tell you what the song is about. Ironically, I think singers ruin songs 90 percent of the time [Laughs]. They sing inappropriately over parts, feel like they've got to be everywhere all the time, and they're always late! They're unreliable. I'm aware of how much we suck [Laughs].
Has living in Los Angeles affected your thought process?
Yes. L.A. has definitely shown me an ugly side of humanity that I was unaware of. I lived in Baltimore, and I grew up in a really impoverished area so I always saw people on the outside who were really ugly. They might've been addicted to drugs or they were really poor but I didn't see as low of a quality of person over there. You see all the exterior shit is really fucked up. In L.A., it's the exact opposite. There's all of this beauty and money, but people are fucking turds. There's a high percentage of scum out here. It's uglier because it's presented as this beautiful thing. I'm not saying there aren't good people out here, but there are a lot of fake, superficial opportunists. They're not even humans anymore; they're opportunists.
The good things are true though too…
Exactly! You can't leave because of that. Go outside today. It's beautiful. Whenever I complain about L.A., what it boils down to is, "Is it cold here?" The answer is no. When you go on tour for 70 percent of the year and you're in Ireland when it's 10 degrees, the last thing I want to do when I have two weeks off is shovel snow or chip ice off a windshield. When you land at LAX in February and it's 80 degrees, you remember why you stay here.
What do you dig about Sumerian?
Sumerian was really persistent. We've known Ash for a long time from being around the Baltimore and D.C. scene. Our paths crossed naturally. When we got together to talk to him about Dillinger being on Sumerian, we didn't take it any more seriously than any other label, but the conversation was really kinetic. It was the only one like that He got it. He didn't come from a time where he sold tons of plastic discs and is trying to make that paradigm shift into a new world. He grew his label in the downfall of the record industry swimming against the fucking tide. We've been a square peg in a round hole for our entire existence. Here's another guy doing the same thing. It just made sense.
What's your favorite song from The Dillinger Escape Plan?