"Domino's Pizza, is this for delivery?"
Greg Puciato is his usual jokester self when he picks up the phone at 3 p.m. Los Angeles time, freshly awake and wired from his second double espresso. He's on the tail end of a whirlwind weekend putting the finishing touches on "Fuck Content," a virtual event and multimedia sensory feast combining material from his recently released debut solo effort, Child Soldier: Creator of God, with video work from visual-art mastermind Jesse Draxler. Draxler is Puciato's creative partner behind their joint label Federal Prisoner, but as with anything the dynamic musician creates, reducing it to just another record label would do a disservice to the range of artistic output (with music and fashion at the forefront currently) they aim to release.
Puciato's penchant for blurring the lines between genres and forms of expression is longstanding. As frontman for the Dillinger Escape Plan, his physical performances were as important to the group's storied stage presence as the music itself. The last time we spoke, he was in the midst of releasing a book of poetry and photography that underlined a sensitive nature not always perceived in his robust musical presence.
"Fuck Content" is the latest manifestation of his no-boundary approach to art. The streaming event will debut on December 11th at 3 p.m. PT/6 p.m. ET (tickets are available now), and Puciato tells us it will be quite different from the virtual shows being pumped out by bands simply to tide over restless fans during the pandemic.
"There's four new songs," he barks as we settle in for an animated, hour-long conversation. "It's not a livestream, I'm not playing live ... I don't want to not have control over the mix. I don't want some guy editing video in real time. That's not exciting."
And if there's anything he needs, it's excitement. Thus Puciato and his skeleton crew of collaborators set out to create something similar to the VHS releases of the 1990s where artists combined performances, abstract edits, music and interview segments to create a cinematic experience for home audiences. It promises to be a project of substance rather than another daily grind for content (hence the title), and it's sure to deliver the passion we've come to expect from every project Puciato helms, from the Black Queen to Killer Be Killed and beyond.
The "Fuck Content" event also arrives with a collection of exclusive merch that includes slick windbreakers, hats, special-edition vinyl, a Blu-ray release and more. Set your clocks and snatch up the bundles — but whatever you do, don't call it a livestream. Here's why, in his own words.
THE WAY YOU FRAMED THIS EVENT PRESENTS IT AS PROPER RELEASE RATHER THAN JUST ANOTHER LIVESTREAM MEANT TO PLACATE FANS DURING THE QUARANTINE. TELL ME WHAT SETS IT APART FROM THOSE STREAMS.
GREG PUCIATO I don't go to the movies and think I'm watching a play, you know? It's a release. I'm not a dancing monkey and I have no interest in performing a fake concert to make fans feel like they're getting the thing that they miss. Everyone misses it. I miss it, too! But it's not the same thing.
I had to find a different way to think of it as a different thing because I wasn't getting engaged creatively or mentally, and I wasn't getting excited by the idea of a fake concert. Even when I was a child, my least favorite videos were the ones where the band ... hair metal bands always did this ... looked like they rented the arena and were filming soundcheck, but they were really performing the thing. What the fuck is that? I don't want to watch you guys pretend to play live in front of an empty arena. Either give me a live video or don't. I'd rather see a real fucking music video.
So I had to figure out a way to make me feel creatively engaged, like, OK, we're going to make this a sick release. I've never had a live audio release of anything I've ever done. Like you'll get these shitty board mixes back that someone in, you know, Frankfurt has recorded without you knowing and it's missing a guitar and sounds like shit. I was like, "If we're going to do this, we're going to do it for real." Let's get a gazillion takes of the audio and let's do a gazillion run-throughs, or at least, like, three or four takes of the entire set.
We went in and mixed it, then did the video editing and mixed it like we were making an actual release. It's going to sound good. When it's up on Spotify, on vinyl, it's going to sound good. And it will be live audio, and live video, but that won't mean that it's done in real time. That way we can make it more creative, and we can do things with the video and have it feel like we're working on more of a film. We'll make it feel like the kind of thing you bought on VHS in the Nineties where it's a concept, but it's also a documentary.
Then, as we were rehearsing, I thought it would be cool to make little musical segues that weren't on the album. Maybe some new riffs, a new verse, new chorus. I thought down the line, maybe I could use that and people could be like, "Oh shit, that's that verse" or "that's that guitar part he threw in that song" but it's two years later and it becomes a song.
I did that, then I was like, "Oh," and realized it was the first time I'd written anything in seven or eight months. I had all of this coming out of me. I fucked with this little tail I wrote and thought I had a whole song, and then I kept writing and had a whole other song, then another song and another song. So I had this two-week blast and thought, "Fuck, I want to record these right now."
I've got too much slated for next year, and I don't have time to hold onto these and record them later. They feel like they're a part of ["Fuck Content"], because they essentially came from me writing this little interlude section for this. So I have to put it in this release and make this change, and everyone freaks out because I'm changing the thing. And this is what everyone working with me needs to understand: At the last minute, I'm going to decide to do, like, 20 times more.
People were like, "Just wait until January or February then we can record those." And I said, "Well, this is called 'Fuck Content,' and what's the opposite of content? Substance, right?" Every time you decide to do something, it's an opportunity. To me, it's like imagining a window opening or an eye, some kind of portal, and once you decide you're doing a thing and you're engaged, you're doing it. Stuff that motherfucker with all the things that are coming through that window. It's like a slow-moving polaroid of time.
So I'm like, the window's open now. It's called "Fuck Content," it's definitely happening, and realistically the window is going to close, like, two days before we upload the video. Then I became hypomanic and started shoveling as much creativity into it as I can. Right now, last night, I finished tracking vocals and mixing starts today. It's all happening right now, and none of this shit existed three weeks ago.
These four new song, I'm just so geeked on. I don't know where the fuck they came from. It's like, cool, still got some gas at 40.
OH YEAH, YOU'RE 40 NOW!
Well, yeah. And it all seems like a lot right now with the Killer Be Killed record out and my solo record that came out in October, now this live thing with four new songs, but all the stuff I wrote for those first two things was written, like, two years ago. To me, I haven't written anything since then and thought maybe that was it for me. Maybe there's nothing else coming down the pipe. So it's kind of cool that there's still some stuff in there.
DO YOU THINK THAT'S AGE-RELATED, OR HAVE YOU BEEN FEELING CREATIVELY STUNTED BECAUSE OF THE LOCKDOWN LIKE SO MANY PEOPLE HAVE COMPLAINED ABOUT?
No, I just felt like I had so much outpour! Between my record and the KBK record, that's 26 songs. That abnormal. Essentially, I wrote 26 songs in a four- or five-month period, then it took, like, a year to work on because I'm so hands on with everything. We spent a year on promotions and getting things logistically sorted, and I'm really hands on with Federal Prisoner and even Nuclear Blast.
It felt really cyclical, too, because I would have been on tour for the next two years. After one record, most people don't have all these other bands. Then I also did the Cantrell stuff last year, too, and had to learn 30 Alice in Chains songs. So it's like, I've just been doing a lot. I've never felt unbusy.
The thing I feel about COVID is that I can't go do shit, and I wanna go do shit. I want to hang out. I don't feel uncreative, I feel unstimulated socially. And I feel bored personally, and I feel mad that there are people to blame for this, and that this could have been prevented. I'm mad that our lives were stolen from us, but I'm not the kind of person where my surroundings influence my creativity, you know what I mean? I don't think I'm going to write anything profound if I go to a log cabin. I don't think I'm going to write a romantic gothic novel if I go sit in a castle all night.
BUT I THINK YOU SHOULD TRY.
[Laughs] I know. I would like to for other reasons, but I can write at my dining room table, the most ferocious shit you've ever heard. I can write the most depressing thing ever on an airplane. It doesn't matter to me. It's coming from inside me.
WELL, I WAS GOING TO ASK IF YOU WERE SLYLY CRITICIZING PEOPLE WHO CHURN OUT SO-CALLED CONTENT WITH THAT TITLE, BUT YOU'RE BEING PRETTY EXPLICIT ABOUT IT. SO CAN YOU ELABORATE ON HOW MUCH YOU HATE "CONTENT."
Oh, no, now you're baiting me ...
I HATE IT, TOO!
I'm joking! Here's the deal: People care about not working. They care about not having a job, and they care about not going back to having a job. So that's different. I'm not a fan of this, like being a singer or being a musician or being artistic. I didn't grow up thinking, "I'm a fan of this so I'm going to do this." Anyone like that worth a fuck, we'd all be homeless because we're crazy people. We have some broken off antenna inside of us that keeps putting out creativity because that's how we process the world and our anxieties.
I detest that being cheapened into entertainment. I detest that being a way you keep your thing going, just because you were a fan of it at some point and decided, "Oh, I want to be a musician," or "I want to be a rocker. I want that lifestyle." It all happened because the bottom fell out of the industry. There's this obsession with why this post did good and this one didn't, or why does this song we think is good not get as many plays? These people are going nuts trying to figure out the right marketing or branding. It's just fucking repulsive to me. I find it fucking disgusting.
I hate it when I talk to anyone and they talk to me about how to keep your audience engaged. You know how you keep your audience engaged? By not sucking. Make something honest, and make something good. If you're honest and you're good, it will resonate with people. Take yourself seriously as an artist if you are one, because you might not be. You might be an entertainer, and there's nothing wrong with that. People do have a need to be entertained. I'm not saying all entertainers should burn in hell — there's room for Daniel Day-Lewis and The Rock!
The more I define myself as I get older, the more I realize that I'm on one side of the fence. I don't care anymore, because I don't have to care. I don't deal with people who try to get me to care more, because that's not how I operate. I started out very hard line with that, then somewhere in the middle I got softer on it, and now I'm going back to being hard line. I'm so sick of hearing about content, this more than any other year. There's a difference between having something to say and wanting to be heard. There's absolutely zero value in just wanting to be heard. You're just polluting the world with noise. You're empty little addicts who need a hit of dopamine because your life is meaningless and sad, but that's a whole different conversation, in general.
ALRIGHT SO, TO CLARIFY: THIS IS YOUR SOLO MATERIAL PLUS THE FOUR NEW SONGS, RIGHT?
It's just me playing harmonica for 45 minutes, eating pizza.
OH YEAH, THIS IS DOMINO'S I'M TALKING TO.
Exactly. But yeah, it's just me. I'm not playing Dillinger, KBK or Black Queen songs. That feels weird to me.
THE LAST TIME WE TALKED, YOU WERE PUTTING OUT YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY AND POETRY BOOK. I REALLY LIKED HOW YOU COMBINED DIFFERENT MEDIA TO CREATE A WHOLE PIECE OF ART.
A whole pizza art …
JESUS CHRIST. ANYWAY, I LIKE THAT YOU'RE DOING THAT AGAIN HERE, WITH THE MULTIMEDIA ASPECT OF IT. WHY DO YOU THINK YOU'RE SO INTO THAT STYLE OF CREATING?
Well, I just don't see boundaries creatively. No genre, no boundaries, and I'm not saying that like [intense hippie voice], "I don't see boundaries, maaan." It's hard for me to realize that other people do see them, and that that's not normal. I don't understand when people operate in one lane or one genre. I don't even understand the parameters of releases, like, how come this thing can't have this in it, as well?
And I get it, because over time, marketing people have corralled artists into packages. Like, think about pop-up books when you were a kid. You're not like, "Holy shit, that's not supposed to happen!" Because you know, that's not how your brain works. You're not just seeing a movie, picture, etc., you're seeing the expression. If you're an artist, there's something inside of you that needs to get out. The tool or medium in front of you is incidental, because your output is a representation of this abstract emotion inside of you.
So you pick up a guitar or a video camera or a pen or a laptop, and you capture and translate that thing that's inside of you for other people to see. It's like, what if I want this to be a book, and a few songs, and some pictures? Then that's a release to me. It's coming from the same source. It's like how people tried to say to just take these four songs and release them separately so I could make more money because I had enough already for "Fuck Content." They told me I wasn't going to make any more money, but I knew this was part of it. I didn't choose for this to happen, it just came out. The four songs are connected to this, so this is where they go.
ON THE TOPIC OF COLLABORATION, LET'S TALK ABOUT THE MERCH LINE YOU HAVE OUT IN TANDEM WITH THIS RELEASE. I LOVE THE DESIGNS.
Jesse [Draxler] is an animal. Jesse and me are really close, like artistically and personally. Federal Prisoner is more or less our band and we operate like a band and just happen to be a label that I happen to be the mascot of the thing. And that thing ended up being our ability to creatively collaborate. Usually when I meet someone who's on the level, per se, artistically, that turns into a collaboration, and until this point, those collaborations have been musical. He's not a musician by trade, so we didn't go down that path.
This goes back to when we were talking about boundaries, but the record label just became this thing we could keep working on together. He started working with me on the first Black Queen record, then we just kept working together on album covers, merch, then videos, then another album and more videos. It was like, So how do we keep this thing going? We're so jazzed on our shit and see eye to eye on everything. You know, how I'm talking to you right now is pretty much how we talk to each other all the time. That's where "Fuck Content" came from — it came from a conversation where I was like, "Fuck content!" And he goes, "Yeah!"
And with Federal Prisoner, it's a way for us to get our little creative marriage out into the world. I make the audio and the music and have a lot of the say in that department, then he steers the visual part of it. Wait until you see the merch drop we're going to do the day after this stream. Let me show you, but don't post it or I'll have to kill you. [Puciato sends a private link to view the collection.]
I LIKE HOW THIS IS LESS LIKE MERCH AND BASICALLY MORE LIKE A STREETWEAR LINE.
I think we're more or less going down the path of being a record label slash production house slash apparel maker. It's tough for me because I don't think in these terms, so when people ask if we're a record label or a clothing line, I'm like, I don't know, man. We're just doing our own thing and whatever it turns into it turns into.
If you look at it or saw someone wearing these shirts, you wouldn't even know it was a band or record label on there. That's what excites me, it's the blurring of those lines. The more I can blur lines, whether it's operating without genres in mind on a record or not thinking about what looks like band merch, or "Are we a record label or an apparel line?" I don't care. If you're excited, it will find people. I don't need it to be neatly summed up into a sentence or two.
I'm just trying to keep doing what I'm excited about. Like, it's excitement and honesty and not putting parameters or limitations around yourself. It's not telling yourself you are the thing you were yesterday, not telling yourself that your release has to stay in these bounds. If you want to make music that sounds nothing like your former band, if you want to put a book out, if you want to add some songs to what you originally market as live audio, who fucking cares? You can do whatever you want.