Greg Puciato has made a name for himself as one of the most uncompromising artists out there - from his wildly-chaotic presence at the helm of The Dillinger Escape Plan, to the dark soundscapes of The Black Queen and the riff-heavy Killer Be Killed, Greg has just released his debut solo album titled Child Soldier: Creator Of God to acclaim from both fans and critics.
Puciato was kind enough to jump on the phone with Maniacs to talk about how he achieved such a variety of tracks on his solo effort, creative burnout and the absence of touring in 2020 - scroll on to read the full chat:
Hey Greg - bet you're just relieved to have 'Child Soldier: Creator Of God' out now after it got pushed back and then forward again!
Oh yeah, well it came out a couple weeks ago because it leaked, right? But yeah I was relieved, because it got me all twisted up for like a day and then I was like "okay, fuck it" - we adapted really quickly, and I was really grateful that we are in a position to adapt quickly, because if I would have signed my record to another label then it would have been this giant, slow-moving process and we probably wouldn't have been able to adapt and been stuck sitting there for three weeks with a leaked record.
So like I hadn't even gotten out of bed yet, and I just looked at my phone and was like "alright cool, let's just release it to Bandcamp" and went into the back end of the digital distro to change the date to the 9th (of October) and felt great. Shit happens, you know. It keeps life exciting anyway - if everything always went according to plan I'd get pretty fucking bored.
How have you been affected by the absence of being able to play shows in 2020?
Well I wasn't supposed to be on tour until mid-September, so up until then nothing had really changed for me. I was so busy having two records done at once (Killer Be Killed), and coming out at around the same time, which creates this massive workload - even without one being self-released, it's still a huge workload. So I've been working so much this year that I haven't really had time to feel it.
But like right now I would have been on tour, and would have been until the end of 2021, juggling different things, and it was all pretty much mapped out. So from now on I'm in a different reality than I would have been had this not happened, but right now I'm still doing so much for both releases that I can't even process being on tour right now. If I had to play a show tonight too I'd just be like "that's wild"...I mean I'm sure I would have figured it out but it's just crazy to me.
It's not bothering me to not be on tour, it's just not being able to make those plans. 'Cause I'm in LA, and LA is like the leper colony of the United States right now, we just can't get our shit together. We can't meet any benchmark and we're just blowin' it over and over. Everything's closed and so the social aspect...I have a really high capacity for work but it's usually juxtaposed with being able to go do shit and have human experiences with the people in my life that I care about.
It's been fine up until now but it's starting to crack me a little bit...everyone's going through this and different waves come and go man, like you feel fine and then you start to bug out. I have a lot of people in my life who are similar to me in their lifestyles and paths so it kind of helps to have a lot of people like that around you so that you don't feel like you're going through it by yourself. Regular people are back to work, you know? So everyone in the world is going to be back to work before the touring industry is back, that's going to be the absolute last thing to come back.
And this is the longest I've ever been off tour since I was 21 years old. It's not like a financial thing either, it's more of a lifestyle thing. But I think that when this is all over man I think it's gonna be like the roaring 20s. The whole world is like a spring that's being held back right now, and it's gonna be buck-wild. There's gonna be a couple of weeks of weirdness of people feeling out the situation again, but then it's just gonna be energy, people that have never partied before in their life, it's gonna be out of control!
Let's talk about your new solo album - what does the name Child Soldier: Creator Of God refer to exactly?
So Child Soldier is what I was gonna call the whole thing before I decided to use my real name, and I just like the title because to me, as I get older I realise that there's a pretty direct line to who I was when I was 5 years old, 10, 15 years old. You have this idea in your head that you're gonna become an adult and you get to a certain point where you realise that you're just this kind of cumulative thing, that's just growing and morphing, distorting, changing...but you're kind of adding on to this core thing that you can still draw a line to.
For me, there are things that happened when I was 15 or 10 that I remember really vividly and close to, but then there are things that happened last week that I don't feel close to. Time is just so weird in general...I don't really process it linearly, and that's kind of a by-product of ADD that I have a hard time with linear time. So I feel as close equally to who I was as a kid to who I was a couple of months ago. You realise as you get older that you're just this thing that woke up into the world and then you've just had to figure it the fuck out.
Then the flipside of that is the Creator Of God thing where you become self aware, you start dealing with all your issues and taking ownership over yourself, starting to steer the ship instead of letting the ocean toss you around. Then once you get to that point you can create the world that you want, the life that you want. You are the creator. I don't know what religious people think but I think God and us are the same thing, you know? We create time and this existence at all times, kind of mass-hallucinating the world into existence.
How did you achieve such a huge variety of sound on this record? Did you just write according to whatever mood you were in at the time?
Yeah, I start writing when I feel like I have something coming out of me. I don't sit down and make myself write. I've been doing it long enough now that I just know if there's something good in there or not...if there's emotional anxiety, I'm like "okay something's trying to get out of me, let me put something into my hand that will allow that to come out of me".
Because really, your thing is inside of you, and the guitar, bass and microphone is just a tool like a camera, or a fucking pen and paper - it's just a tool that you're using to translate the abstract feeling that's inside of you into something tangible form of expression for other people to be able to see or hear or look at.
So when I start to feel that sentiment, I just start writing. I didn't always know what it was going to be...and I have basses, guitars and synths, drum machines, all that shit. So that I kind of just grab whatever I want and start fucking with it, and then it starts to form something. I feel like I had a big well of music at that moment. Whatever it was, I just knew it wasn't going to be one song, but it was gonna be something big coming out. The more I wrote, the more I realised I didn't have a home for it - it wasn't something else that I already had a vessel for.
And that immediately made me go "well, what else am I going to do with this? I guess I'm writing a solo album", which is horrifying and exciting at the same time, but it is what it is. I just kept tapping that vein until it dried up, and then those 15 songs are what came out. I don't really think about genre, I just think about being true to the emotional state that I'm in. So I mean if you pick up a guitar and something ferocious comes out of you, what are you gonna do? You can't fuckin' lie to yourself and make yourself write something else. That expression is kind of a snapshot of that time in your life.
So once it all dried up I just looked at it all and was just like "well that's what it is" - I didn't see it as genre, I see it as emotions or scenes in a movie or something like that. Especially on a solo record, what's the benefit of limiting yourself? You already have limitations in the bands you're in...when you're in a band like The Dillinger Escape Plan there's limitations by nature, simply by way of having to merge your idea with someone else's. So if you're gonna make a solo record, what the fuck's the point without just letting go of the wheel and seeing where it's trying to go?
There was a hard steer away from aggression with The Black Queen, but there are flashes of it here again on the solo record, and you've been talking about reclaiming your abrasive side again - do you think that has manifested from the absence of Dillinger as a creative outlet in your life?
100 percent. Dillinger Escape Plan is about 80 percent extreme violence. So when you go on tour with that for like 200 nights a year, you just become this manifestation of violence, chaos...and I feel like you have so much of that coming out of you that by the time you reach the end of an album cycle or reach a certain stage in your career... I was so emotionally and creatively frustrated by that with The Black Queen, that I naturally tried to create space for yourself in the other direction...for me at least.
Now in the absence of that, the pendulum is sort of landing in the middle where I'm all of those things. I've found that I still have all of that in me, I'm just not beating the fucking life out of it for fuckin' two straight years to the point where I'm not doing it anymore, so naturally it starts to come back out of me.
You are clearly a workhorse when it comes to musical output - do you ever suffer from creative burnout as a result?
No, because I never turn it off. I feel like I'm in the creative process at all times and I don't stop. Like if I wake up in the morning and I'm in the shower I'll come up with a drum beat or a melody. Or when I'm driving I'll just constantly put things into my voice notes...I don't need to be playing guitar or whatever, if I'm out I'll hear or see things in certain ways...I feel like if I don't turn it off you don't think of it as work, it's just a way of living.
Like, I just decide that I'm living artistically every day, and that's what makes me excited to wake up every day. That's just the way I've always viewed the world, I'm pretty daydreamy and I'm pretty internal and I'm an only child, so I've always just processed everything a bit differently...just the amount of time I spent being alone as a kid and using a creativity as a way to kind of express myself...so I never turn it off.
What burns me out is the administrative stuff. I've spent so much of my life not having a manager so I'm so heavy-handed with everything, a control freak and micro-manage every goddamn little thing. Every little thing from any band I've ever been involved in was either done by me or heavily filtered through me. It wasn't until recently that I got past that, and it was only because I was starting to hit burnout with my record being self-released it all just became so much to not drop any balls or cross t's...I had to put other people in place to help me and start delegating work to because that's not my actual skillset.
I'm not a person that's good at bookkeeping or money or accounting or whatever. I don't wanna do it, I'm not great at it, and I was only doing it because I was a control freak. I've had to let a lot of that go in the past year and it's been amazing, but it was sucking the joy out of my life, making me feel like I was browned out at all times. So yeah I guess I was close to burnout over this past year, but once I got other people involved, and trusted them and they showed me I didn't have to be that way about everything, it's been really nice to get to that point. But it took me a long time - one of my biggest fears in the world is being misrepresented or artistic representation, or something going out that I didn't approve, whether it's a t-shirt design or a fuckin' Instagram post or anything.
I've just been so heavy-handed about everything for the last 19 years that it was exhausting, so you have to put people around you that you trust and show them how to do shit and then let them do their thing. Then you can concentrate on all the creative stuff and none of that.
There's obviously a lot still happening with the new Killer Be Killed record on the way soon as well, but do you plan on touring this solo stuff when you're able to?
Yeah I'm planning on touring everything, I wanna do it all man. For the solo stuff I kind of want to keep it isolated to shorter fly in and out, play the record front to back and at least do Sydney and Melbourne, and New York, Chicago, London...just do fly-ins, 'cause the nature of the thing (touring) is that...I dunno, it's (solo) not as fun. Like a band is fun - you're out with friends and you're kicking arse together. It's like a pirate ship, you know? And then the solo thing to me is more...well, I wanna keep it a little bit sparser and use the bands for touring.
Hopefully we'll see you back here in Australia as soon as you can make it back over!
Can't wait dude, it's no secret that Australia is one of my favourite places to tour!
Listen to Greg Puciato now.