Words/Interview by Carly Gibbs
After, what seemed to be, a six-year hiatus, Killer Be Killed released their second album ‘Reluctant Hero’ to a hoard of unsuspecting fans through Nuclear Blast Records on the 20th of November. (check out my review here) I was supremely lucky enough to chat to Greg Puciato from the band about the album and recording process before getting deep into the clusterfuck that is coronavirus, the American election and the general state of the World. He is highly intuitive, interesting and only has the highest of praises for his fellow band mates.
*Note, you may want to grab a cuppa tea for this. It’s a long one!
Today is the release day of ‘Reluctant Hero’. How are you feeling about releasing this little secret baby out into the world?
“Feels good, I haven’t felt this excited…, I mean every time you release something you feel excited but the last album that I released was a solo album so there’s only so much excitement you can get by yourself, so it’s nice. It’s been such a long process, we recorded the vocals in January, we recorded the music last April and May and then like before that it took us fucking three years to write the thing because we could only get together every five months or so. It’s got so many different facets as to why it feels good for each of us.”
I was going to ask you about how long ago the record was actually completed. Once it is completely finished and finalised, do you listen to it and vibe on it in a different way, now that you can kind of release the reins or do you stop listening to it altogether?
“I gotta tell you, there’s records that once they are mixed and mastered, I never listen to them again. I just listened to The Dillinger Escape Plan – ‘One of Us is the Killer’ for the first time in like seven years, you know. So, usually when I’m done, I let them go. But, this one I’ve listened to it a lot. It’s easier to be a fan when it’s not just you singing. We have so much fun in this band which is really weird because making an album is normally really laborious. Emotionally draining, it’s logistically draining. I mean it’s fun, you enjoy doing it, but it’s a lot. It’s intense. But this one for whatever reason, we all get along like 13-year old’s together. I mean even the way we do it, we live in an Airbnb together and we write together. I have so many really great memories about this record, so when I hear it, it makes me think of my friends and it makes me think about how much fun we had together so it feels different. When I listen to a Dillinger record, I hear how difficult it was to make and how intense it was. With this I can hear Troy and go ”yeah Troy” or Max and be like “fucking aye”. It’s a little bit easier for me to enjoy but it’s hard to understand when you’ve had something for a long time between you only having it and now the world having it. So that’s interesting.”
Going back to the Airbnb, how does that work? Are you throwing ideas at each other at all hours of the night or do you make time to shut off and zone out?
“No, it ends up being like you never leave. You create this bubble that you immerse in, you block everything else out. We are so stoked about the record, like if we go out and have dinner or whatever you end up talking about the record. You try to not talk about it but it’s hard not to. If you drink enough or get fucked up enough and you can go to some place where you can have fun like an arcade bar where you can do other things, then that helps.”
Josh Wilbur produced the first Killer Be Killed album as well as this one. Is there a reason, apart from him being a fantastic producer, that you went with him again?
“On the first record I’d never met him, I didn’t know anything about him. We don’t live too far apart and we’ve become friends in the real world now. We play basketball and shit and he mixed the last Dillinger album and I contact him sometimes if I have to do one day of vocal tracking that I don’t want to do myself. He was passionate about Killer Be Killed from the get go, I mean he was really amped. We have the kind of relationship where it’s more of a collaboration. You can treat the mix as a creative tool too. I can’t imagine us ever doing this without him now because I think he crushed it. He got some of the best drum sounds that I’ve ever heard in metal and he pushes us to get the best vocal performance’s we can. When you have a close relationship with someone as a person you want to keep working with them and keep exploring. I’m stoked.”
So, going back to the album, I love Dream Gone Bad and Reluctant Hero is a beautiful sombre way to end the record. Are there any tracks that are close to your heart or for the rest of the band?
“Yeah, From a Crowded Wound is my baby. That song is the only song on the record that I wrote completely. I had thought about putting it on the solo record but I knew that Max and Troy, that part that they sing, I knew that it was a Killer Be Killed song. But that song has been in some stage since 2009. So, I’ve been working on it on and off for 10 years or so. Just tinkering with it. Having that come out was a big step as a songwriter in this band because it changed my role to a director for that song. Telling Max or Troy what to do is hard, like you don’t want to overstep the mark but the fact that the song came out the way it did kind of unlocked a lane for me within the band. The lyrics are also extremely personal to me.
It’s funny that you bring up Dream Gone Bad because I feel that we started bleeding into an almost alternative thing there. The first album was more metal and this is almost like a metal/alternative hybrid and that’s really exciting because most of that alternative is coming from me. To see those things come out now, like 30 years later is cool.”
Yeah, it is remarkable how you can take all of these different elements and genres and meld them so cohesively. Was there ever a time where you thought like “How the fuck is this ever going to work”?
“In my head it worked. I mean I saw it kind of being like an NWA or Wu-Tang thing where you have loads of people jumping in and out. But I mean in practice it could have easily been a mess and I think that the reason that it works is that we’ve come into it with no ego. We joke and fight about who is going to be in the back of the photo. We all try to be the accessory. I mean if Troy is going to do something really amazing then I want to accentuate it or get out of the way of it. I’m not trying to be “I’ve got a better idea!”. We are all naturally pretty egoless people behind the scenes so never once have we had an issue where we were fighting over a part or whatever. You can get your validation from other areas too. Like “I came up with that drum beat or that riff” or whatever.”
Going back to 2015 for those Soundwave and Sidewave shows, Dave had already left and Ben had come down to drum on the tour with you. What was the moment that it solidified in the bands mind that you wanted to have Ben on as a full time Killer Be Killed member?
“When we got off the stage at the last soundwave show, we were in a little carpark and Ben was still doing whatever Drummers do. He was taking forever! Like shining the drums or packing cases or whatever, they are all crazy, drummers. Max and Troy and I were all behind the stage and Troy just looked at me and said “ok so before we break and go off, we are going to ask Ben to join the band, right?” and he looked at Max and I and we were both like “yeah” so Troy was like “cool, I’m gonna go get him” and ran off to get him and brings him down so we asked him. He was like “Fuck yeah!”. It all just felt so natural and that was when we started feeling like a real band. We thought that it’d be a one off, we’d do the Soundwave shows with Ben and then maybe book a few others but once we did them, we started to feel like a real band. Ben was like the missing piece, not just musically but chemistry wise and since then we’ve maintained an almost daily message group for the past 5 years. That’s what makes you feel like a band. You feel like you are part of this thing that is integrated into your life. It’s not about how much you tour or release together. It’s that integration.”
Now that the second record is out people might just see Killer Be Killed for what it is, a prodigious solid entity of its own, and that ‘Supergroup’ moniker will just drop off.
“Yeah that’d be cool! I mean I don’t look at Sepultura or Mastodon or Converge or whatever and think about that. If those bands ceased to exist, we’d still be in this thing so you need to go into the second record just like the first record. There is a novelty or sideshow or a bit of a curiosity. It’s like seeing Brad Pitt and Leonardo Di Caprio on the screen at the same time it’s like “look at that” but if you just rely on that then maybe the scripts not too good, the cinematography wasn’t great and you get lazy. But I want people who maybe don’t listen to much other heavy metal who don’t know about our other bands and they think ‘wait these people have other bands?” and have it stand on its own without that shit. That’s the goal.”
Well, I definitely think this is the album to do it! It’s really impressive and I haven’t seen one negative thing about it.
“Yeah, the reviews have been pretty good! I never read reviews but I did last night and I went down the wormhole and found like 4 or 5 that were all good and that was neat. But I never really get off on it. I mean when you put something out you think it’s good, right? Like you don’t think “this is fucking shit” and then put it out anyways. So, for me like when you finish making a record, it was an opportunity to achieve something and encapsulate something. To me it’s about growth. Did we grow as a band? Did I grow as a person? Mentally, physiologically. Did I learn something? It’s about the growth that is going to enable the next step to show up. If you waste that opportunity then that’s the failure.”
At this point in the interview I was about to wrap it up as I had already exceeded my allotted time but Greg was ever the gentleman and invited me to continue.
My next question opened up “a crowded wound” and is too much to transcribe for this interview but I have included the most prominent ideas that we discussed. I can tell you though, I felt his energy shift. Whilst he held a friendly, jovial and excited tone when we spoke about Killer Be killed, the tone in which he spoke his final words held all of the aggression of those that may have previously been channeled into Dillinger. His passion, anger and frustration were palpable, and I was suitably enraptured listening to him speak.
So, with the world being a boiling pot of varying intensities, how are you and the band trying to expend the extra energy that you would have normally used on touring, writing or press?
“I am really internal, I’m an only child, I need a lot of alone time. I process the world by spending time alone, I write music all the time and I never really stop creating. I love creating more than anything and it doesn’t really matter to me where I am in the World or what the conditions are in the world are. I am not one of those people who think I’m going to go to a log cabin and create something really profound, it’s gonna come out wherever I am. So, it hasn’t really affected me from that standpoint because I’ve been busy with these two albums coming out and I still feel super creative. I have a lot of vessels so if I hit a wall in one area, I’ll just pivot. But the stress of this other shit with coronavirus and the election is relentless. It’s creeping up everywhere, this weird right-wing nationalist, fascist shit but we are peaking with it right now and it’s alarming. That to me is a separate thing to being creative. It stresses me out on a humanist level which may change my mood but it doesn’t make me less creative.
The disgust and embarrassment that I feel from 70 million people in this country that believe backwards ideologies that should have been eradicated years ago, that’s what stresses me out. We shouldn’t be talking about abortion; we shouldn’t be talking about healthcare; we shouldn’t be talking about education. We shouldn’t have civil rights issues and racism and police brutality. We shouldn’t be fucking talking about any of this, it’s fucking 2020. We are trying to realistically, go to Mars, fucking Mars dude! People talk about World War 3 but we are already in it. It’s just an ideological war. It’s an information, ideological war, just without weapons and we are at a critical junction with it right now. If you are looking at things in a really simplistic way then I understand when people say “I don’t want people coming from other countries and taking our jobs” or “I don’t want my fucking hard earnt money going to someone that doesn’t want to work”. I mean, I understand yeah when you say it like that. But that’s not what’s happening. It’s all because of non-education, you know? Or fundamentalist religion which is another thing we shouldn’t be dealing with in 2020. You shouldn’t be quoting the bible as a reason to make fucking legal decision on things like abortion or homosexuality. Sometimes you need a really loud alarm to wake you up and we can’t go back to sleep after this alarm. If you engage in shit then you can make shit happen and I think young people, gen Z and below seeing this happen around them, understand now that they have to be more engaged. They are more socially engaged, more politically engaged and understand it more than we did. We were pretty apathetic.”
I thanked Greg for his time and wrapped the call at 45 minutes long. Twice as long as it should have been but it felt half as long as it was. Greg Puciato is knowledgeable, invested and extremely eloquent in expressing his views and although I only spoke to him, judging on past musical output and various interviews I can assume that Max, Troy and Ben echo these sentiments. I loved chatting about Killer be Killed and how amazingly talented each member is and what they have created on ‘Reluctant Hero’, but we all know the extent to which they are brilliant, and if you don’t then I advise you take the time to school yourself! But the one thing that interested me most about this interview was the candid way Greg spoke about issues that the world is facing with as much, if not more, conviction as he did for Killer Be Killed. He could have stayed to the script but he stood up and used his platform in a constructive way, and personally, I find that decidedly admirable.
Go and purchase/stream Killer Be Killed ‘Reluctant Hero’ now!!
Killer Be Killed line up:
Max Cavalera | Vocals, Guitar
Greg Puciato | Vocals, Guitar
Troy Sanders | Vocals, Bass
Ben Koller | Drums
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With thanks to Nuclear Blast Records