Greg Puciato: "If you’re not unconscious on stage you’re fucking acting"

 The Black Queen band photo.

With their new record Infinite Games out now and an Australian tour on the horizon, we took some time to chat with ex-Dillinger Escape Plan frontman Greg Puciato about his latest synth-infused, ambient 80s pop style project The Black Queen.

MANIACS: Your new record Infinite Games came out a lot quicker than your debut Fever Daydream. What did you learn from Fever Daydream that helped move this one along so much quicker?

Greg: When you’re starting a band, you’re learning how to work with each other. You’re learning a language together. It’s not just about getting together and pasting your output on top of one another.
If you’re really starting a band, it takes time to develop intimacy in not just how to work together with your stylistic elements, but learning how to speak to each other and understand each other, so that took a long time.

While that was happening there was a lot of upheaval in our working environment. When we started Fever Daydream, Josh was living with Maynard James Keenan, so we were doing some of it there and then he joined Nine Inch Nails. Then we started working out of another spot. Then Josh and I moved in together, so we were doing it in another place. Then I was robbed and I lost everything that I own. Someone stole a moving truck from me that was full so I lost everything. Then we had to move again. There were all these logistical obstacles to getting the record done and emotional hurdles.

This time we were in the same studio space right away. We secured our own space towards the end of 2017. We didn’t have to share with anyone, we didn’t have other bands coming in and out, it was just ours at any time of day and having that enabled us to work relentlessly without any setbacks. I didn’t have to leave to go on tour, Josh isn’t in Nine Inch Nails or Puscifer any more, so we were able to move a lot faster. We’ve known each other for seven years now which is a lot different than two.

The Black Queen - Infinite Games album cover.

MANIACS: The Black Queen seems to lean heavily into and 80s-style synth sound. How did the band come together on this?

Greg: You don’t go into something saying “oh we’re going to make music that sounds like this” or "we’re going to make music cos we’re fans of this genre". That’s fucking boring. I don’t give a shit about genres, I just want to make stuff that feels like me.

We found out right away that what we were all into was this like 80s pop or R&B or ambient like Tangerine Dream, Brian Eno or soundtrack stuff like John Carpenter, or even old video game music.

There’s just a lot of stuff that we have in common that I wasn’t exploring with other people that I was creating with. We didn’t decide to make a certain sound so much as we were excited about these influences that we had. We had never met other people that were into the same things. It’s a really unusual combo. I think it’s part of what makes us sound fairly uncategorizable.

MANIACS: If you had to pick one, do you have a favourite track on the record?

Greg: I feel like this record is kind of like one big track. There’re certain tracks that mean different things to me in their own way. Like Porcelain Veins, for example, is a song that we started writing back in 2012 that we literally recorded about 75 different versions of before we settled on the final version. So just getting that done was a fucking miracle.

I like Thrown Into The Dark, I like Your Move. I Like Your Move because there’s nothing. Coming from The Dillinger Escape Plan we were all about cramming the most of everything into everything and Your Move is as far of a reaction against that as I could possibly have been a part of. We were exploring negative space as much as we could and that song was really exciting to me.

MANIACS: Your Australian shows sold out very quickly. What are the chances of extra shows being announced?

Greg: Not that we have any plans for. I’m going to stay for a week after the shows to just hang out. I feel like in the past I’ve never been able to spend as much time there as I wanted to. I know that we could go to Perth and could do another show, but I’d kind of rather wait and come back later and do them again rather than keep fucking with it now at this point. I want to play those shows, I’m excited that they sold out, and then I want to hang out and have fun.

MANIACS: Coming from the intensity of performing with The Dillinger Escape Plane, do you approach The Black Queen shows differently?

Greg: I pretty much get ready the same way. From the time you wake up to the time you go on stage, it’s a slow ramp up so you can hit your sweet spot right when it comes time to go on. It’s just about getting to a point where you feel confident about being vulnerable so that you don’t go on stage and give people a false performance.

You don’t want to go on stage and just hit the notes. That’s fucking boring. You want to be unconscious. If you’re not unconscious on stage you’re fucking acting and it’s two different things.
Daniel Day-Lewis is a different character in There Will Be Blood than he is in Lincoln. I’m not a different character in The Black Queen than I am in Dillinger. I’m the same person. It’s just a matter of accessing the part of you that you wrote those songs from. The emotions are slightly different in those two bands, but they are coming from the same place, so it’s not a whole different approach.

MANIACS: We've heard that you're a fan of video games. Is there anything you’re playing at the moment?

Greg: Steve and I both have the Nintendo Switch, so that’s an easy system to play really fast games on, so sometimes we’ll shred a couple of Mario Kart games really quick. I don’t have the time or the patience to play 40-hour RPGs. I need something that’s mindless and immediate so I gravitate to Mario Kart or Street Fighter 2. I like to play very quick games with millisecond to millisecond reaction times so I can be present and not think about it.

The Black Queen band photo.

MANIACS: Have you ever thought about creating music for video games?

Greg: We talk about that all the time. Josh and Steve are both like scientists when it comes to music. They’re really good at all the technical stuff. I’m purely a writer. I don’t give a shit about too much of the technical aspect of it - just give me a keyboard or a guitar. But then they need to refine that stuff. We would have to do it as a group because I don’t think overall that I have the skill-set to do a video-game score. As a group, we would love to. For sure, I know that we would knock one out of the park.

There’re a lot of incredible scores out there. Hollow Knight is incredible. That game Inside - the sound design on that game blew all our minds. There’s a lot of cool scoring and soundtracks happening in video games.

MANIACS: Is there anything you can tell us about what's going on with Killer Be Killed?

Greg: We have 10 songs that are demos, and how we proceed from here is more of a matter of scheduling and whether we agree if those ten songs are enough or if we need to write more. We have not had those conversations really because we are all busy as fuck on our other things.

We are trying to find a couple of months that we are all free and stay free. We got together in March for a couple of weeks, wrote non-stop and ended up with ten demos. I feel like we should do that again and then whittle it down to the strongest 10 of those 20. Everything takes time when it’s not your main thing.

MANIACS: It must be like wrangling cats?
Greg: It is, but you know what it does is it makes it a labour of love and it keeps it from feeling like an obligation. You’re not doing it because you feel like you have to do it, you’re not trapped in a cycle of doing it. When you get together it must be because you really want to do it and that’s a nice thing to know when you’re doing something.

Listen to The Black Queen

The Black Queen Australian Tour (SOLD OUT)

The Black Queen Australian Tour poster.

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