As a response to the pandemic, artists and bands have embraced streaming events as both a revenue source and a new platform for artistry. This weekend, don’t expect Greg Puciato to perform tracks from his solo album from his kitchen or in front of a digital fireplace between sips of eggnog. On Friday, Dec. 11, the former Dillinger Escape Plan vocalist, and current frontman for the Black Queen and Killer Be Killed, aims to turn pandemic culture on its head with the astutely titled event, “Fuck Content.”
The creation of Puciato and close friend/artist Jesse Draxler, the event will feature Puciato playing songs from his recently released solo album, Child Soldier: Creator Of God. The pre-recorded event will feature Puciato backed up with a band, with Draxler’s video works interspersed within the event. “This is not some way to placate people who aren’t seeing shows or something to keep me busy,” the filter-free singer says. “It’s something we sank our teeth into creatively, as much as a record. I’m excited for everyone to see and hear what we’ve got to show them.”
Puciato talked to Alternative Press about the making of “Fuck Content,” from its initial vision to the event’s coarse title. It’s crucial to point out that it is not born out of confrontation and shock tactics. Puciato and Draxler are making a commentary about the perceived resonance of any kind of art. As surmised, they aren’t fond of the base-level term “content.” You shouldn’t get Puciato started on “content creators,” either. But we did, anyway.
I’d like to start by making sure the name of the event should be read as verb-noun and not adjective-noun.
[Laughs.] We have had fun behind the scenes joking about it being the reverse. I don’t know what kind of person you are [regarding] the kind of stuff you’d like to listen to to get it on. But I would assume that it’s not that. [Laughs.] But it’s verb-noun.
In the press release, you state the idea of “content” as a pejorative term. Back in the ’90s, many alternative/underground rock artists felt that way about the word “product.” Like, “We don’t make products. We make statements.” I understand that, but obviously, what is the conduit for you to put your statement upon? With the world’s immersion into digital life, you’re making the argument of content versus substance.
I hate hearing the word “content.” I can’t stand the idea of branding and marketing taking precedence over focusing on your art, the substance of your art and the quality of it. I can’t stand it when people ask, “What advice do you have for bands, or what should they do for themselves?” They think that that means you’re going to tell them the strategy to focus on. As if you’re talking to some regional sales manager of Best Buy about how to get in the lineup for the quarter.
I think it’s caused so much damage in the music industry. Particularly more than any other industry because the bottom fell out of our industry financially. So now there’s this obsession with analytics more than ever. “What songs do better on playlists?” “How can I get more followers?” “What do I need to say?” “What time of day should I post?” One of the things that people keep drumming into peoples’ heads is this idea that you have to have “content.” [adopts haranguing tone.] “Have some constant content. You’ve got to feed your audience content. You’ve got to engage! Find ways to keep giving them content!” No, you don’t.
All you have to do is fucking focus on what you’re doing. Find your voice. It’s either going to resonate with people or it’s not. Make something of substance, invest in what you’re doing, invest in yourself and take pride in what you’re doing. Then you decide. It’s not for everybody. Do you want to be a content creator? Because there are plenty of people that do that. Every single fucking Instagram influencer, huge gigantic celebrities that are essentially just content-creator people. They don’t do anything except make YouTube videos. If you’re in a band, you have nine gazillion Instagram followers. I’ll tell you what: It doesn’t make your record any better.
And if you post every single day when you were in the studio? “Playing guitar today.” “Playing drums today.” “Bet you wish you could see these lyrics.” At the end of the day, the records are going to be good, or it’s not going to be good enough. And if you’re spending all your time worrying about marketing and fucking content, the thing that you’re doing is probably not going to be that good. How fucking good can it be when you’re not even present in the studio because you’re sitting there tweeting and Instagramming and trying to take a picture of yourself and your guitar and worrying about whether or not you got that take on camera or not.
I don’t fucking need Daniel Day-Lewis to make content; I need him to make a good fucking movie. Then I’ll keep paying attention. I’m sorry, I’m heated right now. I just get so fucking annoyed.
In the ’80s, there were a lot of compilations, audio and video, of people working in various mediums. There would be non-LP tracks from cool bands, an interview with an indie film auteur, a writer reading his famous works. Is “Fuck Content” similarly modeled like a countercultural digest?
I was planning on doing a livestream concert type of thing. While we were rehearsing for that, I started to write this new idea, like some sort of bridge or tale that was only going to happen [on the livestream]. It wasn’t going to be on the record: It’ll just be some new piece. Then I went home afterward, and I’m thinking this is the new song I’ve got. I’ve got a new song, and I want to record it. I don’t want to fucking waste time.
I feel like those little windows open. There’s a window of time. If it’s a record, you need to get all your things in before the fucking buzzer sounds. Because once the buzzer sounds at the end of that time period, that’s that time capsule. So I book studio time. And besides the live component of this, I want to go into the studio and try this new song. And I’m going to videotape the whole thing. I have a lot of the same director and video people, and they can really get the in-studio portion, too. So there’s going to be the making of the new song. I think there’s going to be two or three songs.
It became this hybrid of rehearsing for the live thing that becomes real time. Then a pivot of going into the studio, making a recording of this other thing. There’s a lot of other stuff, too. It’s a little more esoteric and peppered in with that. It’s this combination of live recording and the studio for new tracks. Our knob for abstraction is naturally turned up pretty high. So even if you were to make a straight-ahead documentary-style film, the idea would look a lot more out of bounds than most people’s ideas. You’re making a record, and you think you’re going to go straight through with 10 singles. By the time you get to the end of it, you’ve got four singles and six really weird interludes. I think if you’re a more abstract-thinking person, there’s no getting your way out of it.
“Fuck Content” sounds like it’s a work in progress that’s moving constantly. Like it’s never going to be finished. Maybe until transmission.
It’s a real-time exercise showing people that if you’re making a release, it can go wherever you want it. This was just going to be a livestream. There was no idea of doing anything beyond that—and that would have been fine. This is how I am in general. Anyone that works for me will tell you just prepare yourself for the last 10 minutes of whatever is planned. It’s going to go slightly different. You have to be able to move really quickly and fly by the seat of your pants. Because I feel like that’s where you get the real shit. Just being able to let go of your plan and go where the thing is trying to take you.
The way you’re describing it, “Fuck Content” feels like an ambitious, logistical and financial undertaking.
I’m a fan of making the most substantial meal that you can give people. Every time you say you’re going to make something, that’s an opportunity to make the most substantial thing you can possibly make. That’s what you want to be associated with: substance. The stuff that you don’t want to be associated with is content: pictures of your food or you pumping gas or whatever the fuck you show people. You need to let people know that when you’re doing something, it’s going to have some substance to it. Even to the detriment of how the fucking profit margin is going to be for you. Because in the long run, you want to be associated with substance.
You can get tickets to “Fuck Content,” along with bundles including physical/digital formats of the soundtrack here.