This story was originally published in 2013.
Greg Puciato was convinced he was dying. One night, in January 2012, the Dillinger Escape Plan frontman — who is well known for regularly risking life and limb onstage — let things get out of hand. He had taken mushrooms and some other things ("I don't want to go into it," he says) and sometime thereafter, he felt he was having a "prolonged near-death experience."
"My heart was racing from something else, and when you're on mushrooms and your heart starts racing, it freaks you out," he says. "And if someone feels your heart and they're freaked out — the person who is supposed to calm you down — then you're in overdrive. Even the presence of the police and a medic was enough to make me go, Oh my God. I started thinking I died 20 years ago. It shook my whole life.
"I was so far gone, I was talking to imaginary people," he continues. "I was trying to make phone calls with remote controls. The only person I cared about was Ben. I was on a stretcher and there was an ambulance there, and all I cared about was calling Ben. I made them tell me that Ben was real. I made my girlfriend tell me whether Dillinger Escape Plan really existed. I needed to talk to Ben."
"Ben," of course, is Ben Weinman, Dillinger Escape Plan's guitarist and sole remaining founding member. Although the axman, like Puciato, is a beatific vision of chaos onstage, he's otherwise very much the singer's foil. For one thing, Weinman won't touch drugs. And whereas Puciato has moved from his hometown, Baltimore, to Los Angeles and sparked a relationship with former porn star Jenna Haze (the singer says some of the paramedics messaged him later to say they recognized her), the New Jersey-bred Weinman reports, "I'm married. I have the same friends I did as when I was in high school. And I live in the same neighborhood I grew up in. I cherish stability."
"He is way calmer, more in control," Puciato offers. "I'm more erratic. His craziness comes from a strange place. I don't know how he writes the stuff he writes. My life is all over the place."
According to the singer, his dark night of the soul led him to realize the importance of his friendship with Weinman. "We've written over 45 songs and continued the band through tons of member changes," Puciato says. "We've both been onstage bleeding out of our faces and continued to play. We're the two people in the band that have been in the trenches for so long. The fact is that when push came to shove, I didn't want to talk to my parents, I wanted to talk to Ben. That is crazy. It was a huge realization for me." It was a particularly big revelation because, as Puciato later admits, he and Ben had grown apart over the years. "We had become different people as we got older," he says. "Even though we were kicking ass onstage, I think we stopped connecting."
The mix of tension and tightness between Puciato and Weinman plays out on the group's latest full-length, and fifth overall, One of Us Is the Killer, which sounds the most emotionally charged and histrionic that the band ever has on a record. Musically, it boasts all the shuddering apocalyptic guitar discord and throat-scraping screams Dillinger are known for ("Prancer," "Hero of the Soviet Union"), as well as some of the melodic, Faith No More-influenced alt-metal ("Nothing's Funny" and the title cut) they've been pursuing since 2007's Ire Works.
Although Puciato is uncomfortable dissecting the meanings behind some of his lyrics, since he writes them "off the top of my head," he says the song titles are about his and Weinman's relationship. With the exception of "CH 375 268 277 ARS," which Puciato claims is a cipher that only one person on the planet will understand (not Weinman), he wears his heart on his sleeve on the album. "Nothing's Funny" references their friendship. So does "Paranoia Shield." But even more significant is the title cut. "I wrote 'One of Us Is the Killer' in 45 minutes," the singer says. "It's about me realizing it isn't about us pointing the finger at one another, it's about just not pointing the finger. Our relationship falls on both of us."
"It's interesting listening to Greg talk about that kind of stuff," Weinman says in a separate conversation, after Revolver illuminates him to some of Puciato's points. "I'm one of those guys that's been the same forever. People who knew me in high school say I'm the same dude. My main virtue is that I've been pretty reliable. You know what you're going to get with Ben Weinman, whereas Greg has changed so much throughout the years since I've met him. So a lot of the relationship is in his hands. I'm like a pack animal — I stay close to my peeps. Greg is the opposite."
As to what sort of changes he's observed in Puciato, Weinman, who, incidentally, has a degree in psychology, says, "I guess he's been a little more open now to opening his life and being more interested in being socially more involved. I'm here for Greg for whenever," he continues. "I'm always here. I cherish the relationship. I feel extremely blessed, not to be spiritual about it, to be able to collaborate with him and the other guys in this band who are far better musicians than I am."
Puciato, however, feels there's something deeper to it. "It was a huge moment for me realizing Ben was one of the closest relationships in my life," the singer says. "Why were we bitching about superficial things and talking to other people? Ben does this, Greg does that. It's like any other relationship when you start to bitch about the little things instead of realizing the main thing that keeps you together is way deeper than if one person is vegan and straightedge and the other person eats animals and does drugs. Who gives a fuck?"
This is a point Weinman agrees with. It's something he wishes to clarify, since he feels some remarks he made after Puciato blogged about his drug experience have been misinterpreted. "The truth is, I'm in the music business," he says. "I've watched my friends literally shoot heroin in front of my face. That stuff is not weird to me. I just love being inspired by people who create and make great things. Some of my friends do drugs, drink, whatever, and they make great music or great art. I don't concern myself on how they got there. Sometimes you just hope they don't die.
"When Greg was blogging about drugs being a huge inspiration," he continues, "people were coming up to me offering me 'shrooms or drugs, assuming that we were a drug band. Yeah, it pissed me off and bummed me out. I thought it was highly irresponsible to promote that kind of thing in a way where it had nothing to do with music, only to do with drawing attention to himself and his personal experience. And honestly, I'm fine with that. That was his experience and he got out of it what he got out of it. I even enjoyed the story, personally. It was interesting. The whole scenario where we were arguing publicly about that stuff, it certainly had no part in the creative process of Dillinger Escape Plan. For most of the existence of this band, Greg didn't do any drugs. I want to make that clear."
Despite the singer's personal revelations, when the duo eventually found themselves in the studio with their bandmates, Puciato says it took a little time for things to get back to normal. "We were still kind of had some walls up towards one another," he says. "As soon as we started to hear the songs come together, it wasn't even a conversation, it was more like a gradual taking down of walls."
Aside from working out his friendship issues with Weinman, the studio experience was difficult for the singer in a different way, namely the contributions of longtime Dillinger producer Steve Evetts. "He would beat me up until I have him a good take," Puciato says. "When Stanley Kubrick was filming Jack Nicholson for The Shining, he made him do certain scenes 100 times in a row, even if he was doing a good job. This way, on the hundredth time, he was literally a crazy person. That's kind of what Steve would do if I wasn't there and the part is supposed to be insane and pissed-off sounding. If the words were in place, and my scream sounded good but not like there was anything to it, he'd say do it again." The singer says he spent 23 days total working on vocals for One of Us Is the Killer and that, because it is all such a blur, he can't even remember which songs took the longest to record.
"I don't even remember writing any of the lyrics on this album," he says. "I remember what it looks like in the room, but it's a bit of a whiteout. I don't remember tracking 'Prancer.' I remember going back into the control room and listening to it back, but I don't remember actually tracking it."
As it stands, the singer is happy with the way both the record and his life have turned out. Jenna Haze stuck by him through and after his drug freak-out ("Who else is going to handle that level of crazy?" the singer says with a laugh) and, even though that experience would be enough for most people, he learned his lesson not to experiment with mushrooms after his next trip. "I've taken them one time since that time," he says, "and it was terrifying. The best advice I can give anyone is, do not take mushrooms with anything else. Don't take them as a party drug.
"Some people need certain things to grow them as a person every now and then," he continues. "I was at a sticking point. It just peeled off so many layers of me instantly. That's what it's for. It's not a party thing."