“It really drove each of us into the ground. Emotionally and logistically, there was just a lot of stress involved in the process.”

Those are the first words to come out of the sincere vocalist’s mouth as he contemplates the band’s sixth and final album Dissociation, dropping late last week. It was just under two decades ago that the mathcore greats from New Jersey formed, originally starting out as a trio before Greg Puciato joined as frontman in 2001. Since then, he’s made five Dillinger records, stamping his unique mark on heavy music and stages across the world since their blistering sophomore effort Miss Machine (2004).

Fifteen years later, the five-piece have announced that they’ve run their course, with the group set to hang it all up after finishing the tour cycle for this last release. Coming to terms with their decision certainly hasn’t been easy on the frontman, and as he puts it without hesitation, “It was terrifying”.

YouTube VideoPlay

“It fills so many roles in our lives, like family and friends, your job… You end up projecting so much onto it and it becomes this emotional, heavy thing for you. So to imagine it not being around anymore… It’s the thing that makes you feel panic and dread, like ‘Whoa. What am I going to do? What’s going to fill all of these emotions and roles in the absence of this giant thing that I’ve being dumping this into for so long?’. Then you realise everything’s going to be okay, and you can start to see where those things might go. It becomes exciting to start looking for the possibilities and new beginnings.”

Capturing the band’s essence while still pushing boundaries is Dissociation’s defining quality, and here Puciato thoughtfully puts finding the album’s themes into perspective.

“It’s like you’re digging up a dinosaur, dusting the dirt off some bones and you see there’s something on the ground and you keep trying to scratch away at it,” he relates. “On every record you get closer and closer to figuring out what you’re dealing with. I feel like a lot of those things were resolved on this one, and musically we took a lot of the elements that make us who we are to the absolute limit. It’s not about bettering yourself so much as it is trying to get to the root of what you’re doing and achieve that raw honesty. I think we got pretty close to that.”

The five-piece have been breaking out of their comfort zone so creatively and consistently over the years, often to the point where it’s tough for the rest of us to keep up. Yet it’s Puciato’s personal drive that really shines through. Forming electronic three-piece The Black Queen last year with ex-Dillinger and Nine Inch Nails tech Steven Alexander and Joshua Eustis (Telefon Tel Aviv) was a huge step, as the dynamic and often violent vocalist sought an outlet removed from the aggression he’s been accustomed to for at least 15 years.

As Puciato reflects adamantly, “One of the things that I really resist is feeling like I’m being put in a cage or like anything’s expected of me. I worry about becoming a caricature or some sort of cartoon character.”

“Every chance that we can, we’ve pushed the walls back musically, and as far as what people expect from us. Obviously that record (Fever Daydream, The Black Queen’s debut album) for me was a giant departure, and it was necessary for me to step really far out of my comfort zone to the point of not knowing whether people would be able to follow. Not just musically.

“It was a very vulnerable record for me, as someone who usually sings and creates from a position of aggression, which is also a defense mechanism. But you’re able to access a lot more emotional depth. Finishing that record in between One of Us Is the Killer (2013) and Dissociation was a huge leap, because then I could approach this one being able to access that level. People scream for two reasons, either because they’re mad, or on fire and crying for help, and I feel like doing that record changed the way I even hear my scream. It sounds less aggressive and more inwardly frustrated.

“So the last three or four years have been one really massive evolution in terms of how I approach everything.”

While the band’s fifth record was a critical success, it revealed the significant fissures forming within as tensions boiled over. Honest as ever, the frontman reflects “One of Us Is the Killer was a really tough album for different reasons to this one. We were in a really dark place as a band.”

“We were not getting along, and some of us weren’t speaking to each other. Ben (Weinman, lead guitar) and I were really bad at communicating, and we had both put up so many walls between us that made it impossible to be around each other. That was a difficult record to make because everything was so ugly, and there was a lot of really tragic stuff happening in our personal lives. So making that record and navigating through it while all that was happening… The really hideous vibe was present in the band all the way through mid-2014, so that one I was really happy to be done with.

“This one was more difficult creatively and logistically, even though we actually were in a better place as far as communication goes.”

YouTube VideoPlay

However, it’s the frontman’s singular relationship with Weinman, who particularly felt the same way as Puciato about the band coming full circle, that he will never forget.

“That relationship is one that I will probably never have again.” His tone is at its bluntest here. “We had a strange history, like we’ve accomplished a lot but also really butted heads, and I see it really clearly now. You can tell in the band that there’s these people that don’t get along, but they can’t do it without one another. That’s a really heavy relationship and something that makes you closer than anybody, but also repels you off each other in a way that can be really unhealthy. It becomes this crazy co-dependence.

“But now that we’re coming to an end and looking back at it, we were both fighting so hard for the same thing, regardless of us getting along or not. That’s what I will really look back on. That kid’s a fucking fighter, probably more so than anyone I’ve ever known. At various points, he and I have both been that way and on the same team, and I’d say that’s pretty special.”

Experience the closing of The Dillinger Escape Plan’s final chapter with your copy of Dissociation, available here, and keep an eye out for Aussie tour dates as they launch their very last world tour.

Get unlimited access to the coverage that shapes our culture.
to Rolling Stone magazine
to Rolling Stone magazine