Interview with Dugan Cruz (Madus) Full Transcript Here

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Has growing up in LA influenced your play style at all?

100% – all of my family is from new york and there’s an ethos of being upfront with one another; kind of the antithesis of what’s going on over here. I felt like I never fit in over here, that makes me become the person I want to be.

There are a lot of things that I love though, that I look over because traffic and lame people. Beneath all the lame, surface level, culture stuff there’s a deep seeded spiritual thing that’s happening.

Also, Joshua Tree is an amazing place to go.

What kind of music inspired you to start playing music?

Oh man, I’ll never forget the day that I heard Origin of Symmetry by Muse. That was around right when I was graduating high school too and I was like, ‘What am I gonna do with my life?’ I saw that video and thats when I said, “That. However I do that thing. That is what I want to do with the rest of my life”

Had you been singing for a while before that?

No. Not at all.

Oh man you’re really lucky, you ended up being so good!

Dude, no. You can go back and hear some horrible attempts. You’re only hearing the highlight reel. I mean, I sang along to whatever my mom was listening to as a little kid. And then puberty happened I was not really singing or anything. Then I heard that muse album. I went into college, I went into a couple choirs. I was really lucky to have some cool professors that were really patient.

Some of it was really hard.

You know, anything in life, you gotta put the time in, but it took me a while. I mean, I’m still working on it. I’m not a master by any means. But, it’s going good. Just hanging in there.

Thats crazy that you really didn’t start working at it until you were 18 or 19 then.

Yea, 18, 19. I was in that program at community college just doing guitar. My professor, he recommended it. He suggested, “Yea, you know, you should definitely join the choir. It’ll help you with reading lines of music, there’s good people in there, you’ll love it.” So I was in it for two or three semesters, I realized, I really wanna do this singing thing. I love it. I want to take it seriously. I want to be good at this.

Did you finish college?

No, man, I’m an art school college drop out.

I dropped out, it’s just I was in the applied program I was working really hard. I had this weird pseudo dream of wanting to write for tv and film and also do the band thing. But I think I might’ve bitten off more than I could chew.

I just realized I had so much more to learn about songwriting. Being a musician; it takes while to learn the whole spectrum, and then realize who you’re going to be as an artist. I highly doubt bruno mars was like, “Yea I’m gonna be a Michael Jackson type dude up on stage who can dance real hard.” Maybe he wanted to be something different, but he developed into that guy up there.

It’s kind of like creating a character.

Totally. There’s parts of it that are real, they resonate with people, that’s the whole trick, there’s this character that they see that’s always on top of their game. Like Beyonce.

There’s a difference between creating a character and creating something fake.

Totally, it’s definitely not black and white. There’s levels to it.

In some music there is a lot of fake with a little bit of real, and in some music there is a lot of real with a little bit of fake and sometimes that’s a little bit abrasive.

I want to ask you about your EP a little bit, about crowd funding. Tell me about why that’s the route you chose to go.  

Number one, we needed to fund our project. I wish I could work my part time job, my full time job, and use all that money to finance our little artistic ventures we wanted to accomplish, but the fact of the matter is I could not do that. Unless I wanted to be broke and live out of my car.

The crowd funding thing is really cool because there are some people who actually really like our music and really want to help fund it and want there to be more of it.

Some time ago there were these labels where they would have disposable income. They would go “Lets dump 20 grand into this band and see how it turns out.” And maybe they were Motley Crue, and maybe they werent. But that’s a riskier method of things with developing music. Very high risk with low turn out.

So, for us, if someone had given us tons of money when we were 19, writing shitty little songs for our band Tangent Transmission, we probably wouldn’t be a band today. Probably wouldn’t be able to work with a lot of people because we blew tons of money on an idea that wasn’t ready yet. Because we kind of were forced to work within the means we had, we got to the point where we were confident enough to ask people for money. We had really paid our dues.

And it was successful! Was there ever a moment where you were worried it wouldn’t work?

I’m still worried it’s not going to work!

I mean, we made our goal and everything but yea, it’s super scary. And I think that’s something people forget about artists before the 20th century – and not that i’m comparing myself to these artists by any means, but if you’re mozart or whatever you were dependent on the kings and queens to pay for the musicians to show up to play their music. And that idea today is so weird, everyone is so familiar with the kind of rockstar lifestyle. You write some hit, you’re famous, everybody’s happy. No, the money has to come from somewhere. Right now, for us, it’s coming from friends and family and that is awesome.

What did you think of PledgeMusic for Crowd funding?

Really good. We definitely weighed out the pros and cons between Indiegogo, Kickstarter and PledgeMusic.

The thing about Pledge that was a little scary at first; every one of those platforms takes a percentage of whatever your end goal is and pledge actually took the most, I think it’s around 13 or 15%, and so it seemed a little counterintuitive: we’re trying to make money why would we give them more?

When we looked into it, they have a one-on-one rep that helps you nurture your campaign and explains to you when it’s good to put up your updates and what updates you really want.

At the end of the day all you really want to do is make music and play shows. We didn’t want to make any of the wrong moves and we had a cool guy over there, his name was Mike, who was a really good rep. He was making sure we were doing the right things and I think it paid off. I would recommend that platform to other musicians as well.

How are you guys going to be publishing the EP?

We’re working with a really cool company called Big Picture Media with the release of everything, and that’s really cool too. Maybe it’s something that destroys the veneer of whatever success we get, because people are like, ‘Oh they’re working with people.’

We are at the point now, we’ve been around, we’ve worked with a lot of other bands, and we’ve seen how people have worked and we just don’t know how to do it. A year and a half ago we would’ve probably just said, ‘Ok guys, May 19th that’s when we’re releasing stuff,’ and seen what people thought.

These people are a lot smarter than us, this is their job. They got us this spot in the premiere for our single ‘With That Under The Gun’. So this going around releasing the EP – it’s been a slow, carefully planned, process and campaign of releasing it.

We released the music video the 22nd and it’s on this really cool blog called EarMilk. And its funny because I remember it being one of the runners up for us to release on and I remember just saying, ‘No way, there’s no way.’ First of all because we didn’t really think we would mesh well with them. But then I started looking closer and they actually do host a lot of really cool rock stuff, and BPM said we’re going to get you on there. And we nailed it, so I’m really happy about it.

The video is cool, I loved the concept. When you were making the video did you have any background in filming before that?

No. Our guitarist (Kirby Shaw) has a background in acting. I’m not sure if he’s ever worked on any commercials or theatrical projects, but he’s an actor. I dont know if you could tell, we all looked so dumb in a lot of the boyband scenes. But he was owning it.

Everything was a really, really small budget. It was really hard. At the end of the day we just want our jobs to be playing music.

Okay, your tour recently ended, can I ask which city had the best crowd?

The best crowd? Ooh that’s hard!

I would say Riverside (California) which was weird because that was the first show. It was weird going there, it was just some makeshift tattoo parlor where they put all the chairs and machines at the back when it’s turning into something else. They opened it up and it was a punk venue. They had all this DIY and all these posters.

We were late, so we ran in there and there was this huge crowd, which was really weird. You know we’re nobodies, we don’t know anyone, and we’ve never been here before. We’re at the door and the guy is all, ‘How did you get so many people here tonight?’ Were just astonished. We just put our music video on their facebook. And he’s like, ‘Oh well you guys made the most money tonight, here’s your cut. This many people came out to see you.’

So we were super weirded out, there we’re all these people dancing. We’re not a big deal, so to see all these kids dancing and they all picked up shirts. For that to kick off the tour was awesome.

Did you get to play any of your new songs?

We played everything, all of them except All The Way, actually. The drummer is kind of the king of our set list, and there were still things he wanted to work on.

Did people enjoy it?

Oh yea, it was cool. We didn’t know anyone, didn’t have any expectations, so to see people super jazzed; it was a lot of fun.

Even in the places where there were hiccups on the tour. There was this one place they booked us where we showed up and they asked, ‘Where is the PA?’ And we’re there saying, ‘Uhhh you’re supposed to have it,’ and they’re just said, ‘Nope you are.’

So we had to scramble in Prescott, Arizona to find a place to rent a PA, set it up and do our own sound.

We got it, everything worked out.

Then, when we first started playing there we’re only 3 people and it was really cold out. But by the time we were done it was this big crowd and they were getting all drunk, we were playing covers and jamming. So even the lowest point was still really awesome.

Which Cities do you look forward to going back to?

All of them. Definitely Riverside, that quirky little town. But also Arizona is really fun. I can’t wait to go back. The Phoenix/Scottsdale area was really fun, I didn’t know what to expect but everyone there is just really down to party. Prescott is a really beautiful area, high altitude desert.

Since You Rock has been supporting you, we feel that you’ve really grown. Do you feel that?

Oh yea, 100%. For the longest time it had felt like we were just bouncing off all these different walls of possibilities of who we could be, we finally feel like we know who we really are. And you guys were really there at the inception of that because you were around when we got our new bass player. Just the chemistry.

Is there one difference from when you first started playing compared to now?

Yes. I just care a lot less about what other people think. I just think that really matters.

I felt like there used to be this little voice in my head saying, ‘Oh don’t do that, that’s too this,’ or whatever. I finally got to this point where I feel comfortable doing what I really want. And if there’s this quirky little heady thing to do musically, that’s cool then I’ll do that. As far as a difference: just really trusting myself.

So when you guys practice do you have a space that is yours, your studio?

We do now!

Yea there was a period where we had one that was really rad where we were sharing a space with a band. And the band that had it before was this band called Mini Mansions with the bassist of Queens of the Stone Age. So that was really cool going in knowing that, and they left us this great space. They left us a piano and everything. So that was a really cool spot and it was super cheap. But we had this thing happen where the landlord stole everybody’s money and skipped town.

But yea, we have a place now and it’s awesome. It’s this place out in Glendale.

What are some of your favorite instruments you’re playing around with right now?

The kazoo.

I love the kazoo. That’s half serious half not serious. Yea, I love the kazoo – it’s like your voice but kind of distorted. And it kind of forces you to not give a shit. I’m telling you, we’re going to have a kazoo band and it’s going to blow people away.

But really, I used to be a one instrument kind of guy, but now it’s just whatever can create kind of a sonic space for writing music. Sometimes it’s the piano, sometimes the guitar. Usually it stays on guitar, because I don’t like carrying a big piano to shows. Maybe one day when we have have more people to help us carry stuff I’ll start playing more piano.

Okay, last but not least – how are you incorporating MIDI into your play style?

So MIDI is really good for songwriting,  especially now when you’re talking about having a place for your writing.

I used to, I still do, but I used to just write in a room with me and the guitar. And thats great, that’s great for practicing and rehearsing. But everybody nowadays writes in the box; if it doesn’t sound good in a shitty logic session or pro-tools session, it’s probably not going to sound good when you throw a bunch of money at it. So MIDI is really good for, you know, laying down drum ideas, bass ideas.

MIDI is huge, it cuts out time of worrying about sounds when you’re trying to write a song. And I know that that sounds like the antithesis of Dave Grohl who’s telling everybody to rehearse in their garage for 30 years before you release an album. And I respect the hell out of that, but when you’re trying to keep up with the pace of how fast other people are putting music out these days, you gotta find the easiest ways to cut corners. Having an instrument such as You Rock Guitar is huge for that. Sometimes, if you have to learn the part before laying it down you get attached to that part then, ‘Oh I don’t want to change it I want to keep it this way.’ It ruins the openness of that song.

The MIDI thing is rad because it’s almost the speed of thought; you can lay something down and immediately take away from it. Is this cool, or not cool.

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About the Author
Francesca Maldonado: As a graduate from California State University, Northridge, with a B.A. in Electronic Media Management, Francesca has a background in film production and a passion for the arts. A firm believer that with the right motivation; any man or woman can accomplish the greatness within them.
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