Greg Puciato, the former frontperson for the Dillinger Escape Plan, who wowed audiences for 16 years, with his insane vocal gymnastics and intense stage presence and antics, is finally going solo.
When the DEP called it quits back in 2017, he focused on The Black Queen, his darkwave project, which showcased another side of his musical persona. But, that wasn’t enough, so now, the man widely considered one of the best modern metal vocalists is set to unleash, Child Soldier: Creator Of God, his first release under his own name, on Federal Prisoner Records, a label that he co-owns and runs, with his friend and collaborator, artist Jesse Draxler.
Well, it just felt like the right time.
“A bunch of different stuff just lined up. I’ve never really gone down creative avenues with calculated, strategic motivations. My approach is more to just keep myself feeling open and loose and in tune with my inner compass so to speak, the inner voice, so that when it’s trying to tell me something I can hear it and then follow it through and see where it leads, which is usually to a new room with new doors in it,” Puciato says.
“Releasing under my own name, with so many things happening stylistically on the album, on a label that I co-own, it just feels symbolic of me fully owning myself and everything that makes me ‘me.’ It’s a declaration of integration and actualization and ownership for me. I’m 40; it feels correct. It feels like an important point on the timeline for me.”
After all, it felt great to be able to write songs purely for himself, without any artistic restraints. It also had a positive side effect on the bands in which he is a member. (These include the aforementioned The Black Queen and Killer Be Killed, which is his metal “supergroup”, with Max Cavalera, Troy Sanders, and Ben Koller.) It was a truly freeing experience.
“One thousand percent. And it makes the bands have more of a place. I don’t feel pressure to butcher something to the point to where it’s not even recognizable from its original intention, just to try and shoehorn it into a band,” Puciato says. “There’s a lane for everything now, and with this, it makes the bands make more sense to me too. I can see in my head what goes where, and why, without feeling like I’m not fully actualized. The bands feel more exciting to me because there isn’t any restriction for me overall, so I’m not feeling frustrated creatively.”
On Child Soldier, Puciato takes to owning himself and his music by playing all the instruments on the album except for drums, where he enlisted the aide of friends Chris Hornbrook (Poison The Well), his former DEP bandmate Chris Pennie, and his Killer Be Killed band mate Ben Koller (Converge). This was his way of getting closer to source of his inspiration. It was a way of putting more of “himself” in the music.
“Someone else’s feel isn’t going to be yours, even if they play the notes you tell them to play,” Puciato says. “If I can play guitar and bass, what’s the point of telling someone else to play the thing? It’s not gonna feel like me, it’s not gonna be the tone I want, or the exact same expressiveness. Drums, I just can’t play well enough to have them sound the way I hear in my head, but believe me, I would play them if I had time and inclination to practice and get to that point, but I don’t, and I’m lucky enough to know people who do.
“Obviously, if I need a flute solo at some point, I have to hire someone and tell them what to play, and then not stop recording takes until it feels the way I want it to, which is how it was with the drums. With guitar and bass and a lot of programming or keys, I mostly don’t need any help there to get to what I’m seeing in my head. With solo output, you’re trying to get something to feel the most like you possible, and the more hands you put on the thing, the more you corrupt that sentiment. I can’t imagine being a painter and signing my name in the corner if other people painted three quarters of the painting.”
In addition, the songs on Child Soldier, range from wildly aggressive to more contemplative and everywhere in between. They are exciting, dynamic, and allow Puciato to utilize every facet of his wide open vocal range. There was no set direction except for being true to thine own self. He just let the music flow in any direction it chose to go.
“This is just how it turned out,” he says. “I didn’t have any rules as far as genre or emotion. I’ve just released enough things that I know what works in something and what doesn’t. It’s a feeling thing; it’s not a thinking thing. When you’re writing a story, you just go where it goes, and if you go somewhere that doesn’t feel right, you say ‘nah’ and go a different way. When you’re making food, you know what ingredients are gonna work and what aren’t, what feels like it has a place and what doesn’t. And then you know when it’s done.
“Does it feel like the source feeling overall? That’s really what you’re looking for. Does this feel like a singular piece, and does that piece feel like me? I’m very much into the making of ‘albums’ as singular things, not collections of random songs, so in that way it’s a bit more deliberate than just gathering things up and throwing them together. I try to have the songs individually stand on their own, but it’s honestly more important to me that it’s an album. Otherwise, why even bother making an album? So, I think of it sorta like a movie, which isn’t just a collection of unrelated scenes thrown together in haphazard order. “
As mentioned earlier in this article, the new album is being released on Federal Prisoner, which is a label he co-owns and runs with Jesse Draxler. They have a very unique approach to running their label. Some might call it a bit unorthodox, but that is the way they are choosing to roll with it.
“The philosophy is just to do what excites us,” Puciato says. “I don’t wanna put anything out that we don’t feel excited about. Otherwise, what’s the point? If we don’t feel almost as passionate about someone else’s output as we do our own, then we are doing that artist a disservice by working with them. Also, I’m obviously very controlling about my own output, and about owning as much of it as I can going forward, if it makes strategic sense to do so, so this allows me that control as well. It’s just something else to build that feels like a part of me, the way a band or album does.
“It’s a creative expression that also happens to be a business, just like a band is. Jesse and I, we intersect in a lot of ways personally. There’s a personal excitement there and a spark and a lot of overlap in the Venn diagram so to speak. We worked together a lot on The Black Queen, and we’re good friends, and this is us just continuing that but broadening the horizons and expanding the boundaries. Usually, when I have those obvious intersections, they eventually become musical collaborations. With him and I, our collaboration is the label. Again, it just sorta made sense and created itself, and the timing is right. This has all been a really natural progression.”
In fact, running the label and putting out music has helped Puciato deal with the insanity of the times we are currently living in.
“Well, having a couple releases already finished that are coming out during this time definitely helps. I’m so busy with all of it, the releases, the label, I’m so deliberately involved in every single facet of everything, that I don’t have much downtime really,” he says. “Of course, I’m bummed about the touring aspect not being available because it’s a huge component of my life and how I choose and have chosen to spend my time. Of course, I’m also bummed to not be able to do a lot of the social or extracurricular things I would normally do that provide a personal counterweight to my work, but with that being said, I pass time quickly. The touring will return. You play the hand you’re dealt, and this is the one that we’re all dealt, so there’s not too much sense in complaining about the weather.
“Also I’m really introverted, and by that I don’t mean shy, I just mean that I’m very, very internal. I charge from being alone, and I pass time easily. Any free time I have feels like one minute, even if it’s a few hours. I don’t lose too much energy from not seeing people or not doing social things. I’ve always sorta lived in my head most of the time anyway; I don’t care too much about the wallpaper or background changing. If I didn’t have these records already done, I would be losing my mind from having something external slow my output down, but that didn’t happen, so I’m fine,”
However, Puciato also has a prescient take on dealing with the world as it exists in 2020.
“As far as the ‘madness of our times,’ meaning the state of the world as far as idiocy and inequality, yeah it pisses me off, I feel embarrassed for the fucking species a lot of the time, but ultimately, I think this giant, slap-in-the-face wake-up call will do us some good collectively,” he says.
“There’s a lot of important conversations and realizations happening. Sometimes, as individuals and a society, you have to be still and stop moving and distracting yourself to be able to look around and see what’s broken or see how off track you are. Like, the car broke down, and now everyone’s like, ‘Wait, how the fuck did we end up here; this isn’t where I wanted to go; this is fucked; I thought we were going somewhere else. Not only is the car broken, but I’m in fuckville.’ Yeah it is, and yeah you are; time to sort it out.”
So, maybe it is the perfect time for a Greg Puciato solo record.
Buy the album on Puciato’s Bandcamp here.