WORDS: ADAM HOPKINS | PHOTOS: STEPHEN ODOM
“Every record is so personal to me”, explains Greg Puciato as we sit down to discuss the release of ‘Infinite Games’, The Black Queen’s (TBQ) sophomore album. “I’m not trying to make a contribution to the genre. I’m not trying to manipulate someone emotionally. It’s really truly about what I feel like I need to process.”
This rawness is something we are used to seeing from Greg; reminiscent of his days tearing venues apart fronting The Dillinger Escape Plan, “The Black Queen for me is trying to break down that wall”, he clarifies, “Dillinger was always about pushing people and fortifying that wall and the anguish that comes from living inside of that wall that you create, that’s my life.”
Having brought Dillinger’s violent and frantic instrumentation to an end last year, Puciato’s new musical career sees his vocals punctuating a brooding, synth-heavy industrial soundscape brought to life by Steven Alexander (former Nine Inch Nails) and Joshua Eustis (Puscifer and Telefon Tel Aviv). “Artistically I feel like a made a pretty big jump on this record”, this creative leap of faith proved to be anything but blind, seeing TBQ take a headline spot across Cold Waves festival, a sold out Australian run of dates and of course hit the UK .
“Dillinger was always about pushing people and fortifying that wall and the anguish that comes from living inside of that wall that you create…”
Revealing how his bold introspective approach has given way to some of his best writing yet Greg added, “If you can be unafraid to really get into your feelings you are doing alright, I’m just trying to get closer to the source. If you say something you should be giving somebody something or taking them somewhere, and if you’re not doing that all you’re doing is saying, hey don’t forget about me, you’re just spewing white noise.”
TBQ ‘s initial effort ‘Fever Daydream’ was self-released too, as Greg puts it “keep it pure.” The commercial stake a label would hold in the artistic process violently clashes with Puciato’s strive towards authenticity and substance, “the majority of labels give someone money and they try and groom them into a half artist, half product type thing.” Clearly worn out from surviving this industry ethos for almost two decades he adds, “they think that they have every right to have say over what you are doing … and that’s really dehumanising and makes you feel like shit as an artist.”
“We did talk to a few labels”, he admits. “The first thing they would do is ask you what the template is for this, what band does this sound like? And I was just like “you’re not listening!” It’s a weird mentality. It got really frustrating.”
It was this pressure to create something lacking artistic substance and being typecast by previous work that pushed TBQ to take a DIY approach,” people were still trying to put us into this box, they would get hung up on the fact that we don’t sound anything like Dillinger.” Much to the delight of fans, this compromise at the expense of artistic conviction was never reached; “we just dug in got our hands dirty and learnt how to self-release” reflects Greg, “the more I thought about it the more I realised that we had built this infrastructure to release fever daydream. So why not allow ourselves the ability to do something else.”
I don’t want to have to ask some guy for money or for permission…”
The trio took on artist Jesse Draxler to form their own record label, Federal Prisoner. Adamant to fight convention Greg says,“(other labels) They just don’t give a fuck, all they are thinking about are the numbers, their bottom line, profit margin, I just can’t deal with it”.
Federal Prisoner is more than a label but a resistance, a statement of intent with its sole existence allowing TBQ “to do whatever the fuck we want.” Explaining how this new way of operating gave them the freedom to battle conventions of the music industry Greg says, “I don’t want to have to ask some guy for money or permission or whether he wants to put it out because I don’t need people’s validation. There are people that give a fuck, I don’t need to have some old guy telling me whether he thinks what I’m doing is valid or not.”
TBQ‘s fight for identity in an industry obsessed with the commercial angle is exactly what every artist strives to deliver, true authenticity. Greg is playing the next step in TBQ’s legacy close to his chest, “the second it’s out it’s no longer yours”, saying in giving away his next move “it becomes corrupted.”
FEVER DAYDREAM IS OUT NOW