It’s mid-morning on a weekday. I’m in bed wearing an oversized shirt and a Machine Head beanie, with the greasy screen of an iPhone pressed to my right ear. I’ve been awake around twenty minutes and Dillinger Escape Plan frontman Greg Puciato is on the end of the line, recalling our first chat in early 2013.
“When she said to me, Courtney from Tone Deaf, I was like, ‘Fuck, I’m pretty sure I’ve talked to this person before.’ I remember talking, I definitely remember.”
Puciato is in his Los Angeles home. He’s also only woken in the last hour. It’s 5pm in his part of the world and after our chat, he’s off to see Van Halen. I query whether he could drag them to Australia with him when he and the Dillinger lads hit Down Under for an August tour. He cites our famously strict customs policies as a strong deterrent.
“I’ve never seen them, so before they fucking die, or before David Lee Roth turns into a mummy, I might go check it out, you know. I think David Lee Roth is probably, like, made of cocaine by this point. You might confiscate him just for being made of cocaine.”
The singer brims with the raw, authentic intensity that Dillinger fans feed off within the maniacally therapeutic carcass of his screams and croons, set across a backdrop of urgent percussion, oft described by non-fans as “stressful”.
Triggered by my surprise that he remembers our earlier interview so well, he shares some brooding thoughts on what he describes as the arrogance of any musician who despairs at doing press.
“You know, I was thinking about that earlier, and that’s the worst attitude, and there’s nothing that really sickens me more than hearing people bitch about having to do interviews.”
“You’re in a band, and someone that wants to talk to you about your band, they’re trying to help you, get some kind of exposure for your band, who no one should really give a shit about, you know?”
“No one in Australia should even know who I am, you know? I have no business even going there, probably, if it wasn’t for vacation. So for anyone to give a fuck about anything that you do should be a fucking blessing. God forbid you have to talk to people for a few hours of your precious day to promote your band.
“You know what? You could be doing construction somewhere, you could be on top of a roof putting down fucking tar or something, and you’re bitching about sitting somewhere talking to someone from another country about your band. Suck a dick, you know what I mean?”
Not only does Puciato have business in Australia, business is good. Puciato is a regular on the Soundwave circuit, having played with Dillinger in 2014, this year he occupied an earlier daytime set with Killer Be Killed, his collaboration with Max Cavalera (Soulfly), Troy Sanders (Mastodon), and David Elitch (ex-The Mars Volta).
Puciato’s been stimulating and disgusting crowds with his frenetic live performances for two decades and knows his art, seen to outsiders as inaccessible brutality, isn’t for everyone. He also knows he might seem an intimidating force off stage, though it couldn’t be less true in this interviewer’s experience.
“You get to a certain point where you realise you talk to a lot of people who are nervous to talk to you. And when I can sense that, that fucking weirds me out, too, because I feel like a performing seal, instead of having a conversation.
“You can tell right away, I mean I can tell right away that I’m having a real conversation with you, that’s it a little bit… it’s nicer for me than just having someone read a list, you know? ‘Here’s the five questions I have.’”
“Some people just can’t handle conversation. They ask a question, you give them an answer, then they kind of don’t kick the ball back, and they just keep going down the list.”
“If a person knows a lot about your band, or if they come prepared, that’s kind of cool, you know what I mean? You meet someone and sit down and it ends up being more like a story than a straight interview.”
“When I’m talking to someone who gives me shitty interview questions, I know that they have nothing, they’re nothing like me, we have nothing in common. I don’t respect them because I know they don’t give a fuck about their work.”
He confesses that he sometimes hangs up and pretends the connection was lost, although he says, “Generally, I try not to be an asshole.” He then tells me to dismiss the publicist’s forthcoming cue to wrap up.
“Oh by the way, you’re going to get the beep soon, to tell you your time’s up – you should just ignore it.”
Puciato spends a lot of time watching movies, most recently the thrillers Creep and Coherence. But he doesn’t equate the high-production narrative television series so popular today with the solitary brilliance of a good film.
“I have never seen Game of Thrones, ever. I’ve never watchedBreaking Bad, I’ve never seen any of it. I don’t watch television shows, I can’t do it. I’ve never seen Walking Dead, I’ve never seen Sopranos, I just can’t do it. It’s too much of a fucking commitment.”
“It’s also a little bit of junk food, you know? I think this new renaissance of TV shows, it’s become like the new soap opera. It’s like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna keep stringing people along, and get as much money out of them, or sign on for as many seasons as I can before HBO tells me ‘Hey, you gotta wrap this up,” you know?”
Any punter acquainted with his lyrics knows they bleed black from his pores. He reveals how visceral films are for getting out the sludge.
“I take a lot of inspiration from movies for lyrics and songs, so I feel like I’m more inspired by movies than I am by music. I write really visually, so a lot of the time if I’m having a hold up, I’ll put a movie on that might feel like that song, and then maybe one of the characters will say, like a line, and then that triggers and I’m like, ‘Oh okay, I’ve gotta go in this direction now.’ It happens all the time.”
“There’s two or three references to Twilight Zone episodes on the last Dillinger record [One of Us Is The Killer] that no one will ever find,” he says.