I recently had the opportunity to interview Rogue, the frontman for the mysterious and down right cool band, Cruxshadows. Here’s what he had to say about his music, touring, life, and more.
Alex: Describe what it was like recording your latest album, As The Dark Against My Halo.
Rogue: I think recording is a fairly-involved process and I get into a particular mindset when I go in to sit down to write and record an album. That’s exactly how I do it. I start writing it and recording it at the same time, so I build the songs in the studio. And then it becomes something that you take out to perform live. It’s kind of a process that I have done over and over again with most of our albums.
Alex: How have the shows been with the new songs involved?
Rogue: The audience response has been really great and the best way for a band to promote an album is to get out and play the songs and kind of connect with your fans the way that you can live. It creates a love for the songs that really helps to drive sales of your album. The response is really good. We’ve been really happy with a lot of the energy and the enthusiasm around the new material.
Alex: When you’re touring, how do fans in other countries differ from fans in the U.S.?
Rogue: In a lot of ways, to us, it’s very much the same and I’m kind of oversimplifying because really, in the U.S., you have fans that have completely different backgrounds. I mean, fans in Florida and fans in New York are very different and fans in Oregon and fans in California and fans in Texas, these are very different areas, culturally, and you see a lot of the cultural differences within your fanbase. In some ways, they’re very much the same. The same kind of thing is very true internationally, wherever you go, people are basically the same, but there are very different cultural attitudes, or in some places, people are more enthusiastic, and in other places, people try to act more respectful. It’s really interesting, the differences from one place to another. It’s almost like every city or every legion really has its own identity and because of that, it’s really hard to say how fans in the U.S.A. differ from fans abroad, because they’re different everywhere you go. German fans are different than fans in the U.K. are different than Scandinavian fans are different than Italian fans are different than eastern European fans. Everywhere is different. At the same time, I think there’s something that ties together Cruxshadows’s fans and people who like our band, like our music, have a particular something about them, maybe it’s a way of seeing or maybe it’s a way of thinking. I don’t know, but there’s kind of a unity and a similarity everywhere we play as well.
Alex: When you’re going around the world and touring, where are some of the places over the years that you’ve really enjoyed visiting when you have free time?
Rogue: We don’t really have free time, but we have done some sightseeing. The last time we were in England, we stopped and saw Stonehenge. We’ve done a few things like gone down to the Tower of London, we’ve been to the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Great Wall of China, the Stein Castle in Germany. We do a lot of the touristy things when we have the opportunity. It doesn’t happen very often. But when we do, it’s always good to get out and see what a place is all about.
There’s some really beautiful countries, I’m really fond of Scandinavia, particularly Norway. There’s Bavaria in Germany, which is really nice. Same with Austria. Austria’s gorgeous. I like Eastern Europe, it’s always an adventure. You feel like you’re going into a new frontier, if you will. When we went to Asia, that was pretty exciting and very, very different for us. I think there are so many things you can see when you travel the world. It’s really interesting because things are much bigger, the places that you’re at, wherever that is. And it’s nice to be able to see so many parts of the world tied all together and gain perspective on why things are the way they are.
Alex: Where are you about to go on this upcoming tour?
Rogue: We’re going over to Germany to play a handful of shows there and we do some shows in the U.K. and then we’re back to the U.S.A. and we do a big show in Atlanta, it’s called DragonCon. And then we’re going up to the Triton Festival in New York City. Later this year, we’re supposed to go to Australia and that should be fun, that’s some place we’ve never been, which seemingly, fewer and fewer of those as Cruxshadows continues on. But it’s always fun to see new places and to experience new things.
Alex: Relating to the music, what does it mean to you to be in a darkwave band?
Rogue: I don’t know, it’s not my term. It’s not my definition, I didn’t make the word “darkwave” and I think it’s one of the things that’s been hung on us. I never once said, “Hey, I’m gonna set out to make some darkwave music.” It’s just where we’ve been classified. Largely, I think because we and a few other bands are very difficult to classify, so they kind of made up a new genre for us. I tend to think of us as being an extension of new wave, new wave kind of died in the late 80’s, but if it hadn’t died in the late 80’s, I kind of feel like we would be where it was going. I’ll let the historians and the music historians figure out what genre we belong in. From my part, I just wanna make the best music that I can, reach as many people as I can, and do something positive in the world.
Alex: Who influenced your stage persona and presence?
Rogue: You know, I don’t know. I’ve been asked that question a few times over the years, but there’s not any particular person that I got my stage persona from. As a kid, I was a child actor and I did musical theater, professional productions, and I think that to some extent, some of that really carried over. There were people like Peter Murphy who had that kind of on stage charisma that I said, “I want to be able to be that guy.” But I don’t think that I’m trying to do things really like they do, so it’s a hard question for me to answer. There’s not any one in particular. I kind of take little bits of things from all over the place and unexpected places and kind of make my own thing.
Alex: Who are you listening to lately?
Rogue: I don’t have time to listen to hardly anything, to be perfectly honest. Cruxshadows is a full time job and this is a new music world. It used to be that everything was about the labels and the labels would take care of everything and like that. We were signed to a label for a good while, but we tried to change as things have changed and really, as the industry becomes more and more devoid of money, it becomes a whole new game. We spent a lot of time working on the business of Cruxshadows, as well as the art of Cruxshadows. And that really dominates my time and energy. I have a two year old, so I hear a lot of the things that she wants to listen to, but I have very little time for sitting and listening to music.
In some ways, that’s kind of a bad thing because it’s hard to stay on the wave of what’s popular, but to be perfectly honest, I’ve never tried to stay on the wave of what’s popular. I try to do what it is that I like and I want, so sometimes, I’m disconnected from a lot of things, musically. The music that I’m making is much more my own and not so much trying to mirror trends.
Alex: I see that you handled music back in the day with DJ’ing a New Wave/80’s night, what was that like?
Rogue: That was a long time ago. I think that was in the nineties and as I’ve said before, I love new wave, a lot of that music that was around in the eighties. One of the things that had a particularly profound effect on Cruxshadows was that I’d play songs and notice the kinds of things that people danced to, the things people got excited about and that experience certainly had an impact on a lot of the songs that I’ve written because you feel through your audience. I also DJ’d darkwave and goth and industrial and EBM and a lot of the other varies of music that we’re also associated with. The experience that you get from DJ’ing and the experience that you get from literally spinning the music, spinning the kinds of rhythms and kinds of beats to understand. It gives you the understanding of what is going on in a head of your listener. I think that helped Cruxshadows a lot. I don’t DJ very much anymore. I’ll do a Rogue from Cruxshadows guest DJ spot and I’ll DJ at night. I’m not doing any regular DJ’ing anymore, it’s just too much to try and balance everything.
Alex: Back to the music, something I’m curious about, what influenced the decision to have Marilyn, My Bitterness and Marilyn, My Bitterness V 2.0?
Rogue: Marilyn, My Bitterness has been one of our most popular songs over our twenty year history and it was written in the first year or two of the band’s existence. A very popular song, still very popular. It connects with people on some level. In the late nineties, we decided to do a version two just because a lot of the recording methods and what have you that we were faced with back in the early nineties had been improved upon and our options had gotten better and we were able to make a better sounding track. I’m planning on, at some point in the future, putting out a Cruxshadows collection. I think it might even be possible that we would do a version three.
The truth of the matter is, is that songs are alive and in the old days, back before recording music, a song was written on paper and people would play the songs and the song was a great song as long as people were playing it and enjoying it like that. But we’ve gotten in this world where we write a song, record it, and it moves in and out of popularity and what have you, but truly, a song is something that’s alive. It has the ability to affect people and so updating a song, re-recording a song, when you have better options, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that and a lot of fans appreciate it. The ones that don’t, they don’t have to buy the new stuff, they don’t have to buy the new version of a Cruxshadows song. But I’ve been redoing songs from earlier in my career for a number of years now. Sympathy for Tomorrow, which was originally recorded in 1992, and then we recorded it again in 1993, and then we recorded it in 98 or 99 because as we’ve played it and improved on the song, you end up with something where you go, “Wow! People would like to hear that.” You feel like the old track doesn’t necessarily do justice to where the song has progressed.
I think also, as an indie, you take a little different approach to the whole mechanism of the music industry. A lot of people operate on that a new album only matters for a month, and then after that, it’s old news. But I think in the indie world, it requires so much time, so much effort, and so much energy to really put out a solid release. For us, we continue to build things around that even for a few years afterwards, so our new album is not quite a year old, it’s maybe nine months old right now. But the point is that we’re still putting together videos for the songs and we don’t have the major label budget, so we have to produce things as it’s feasible and possible to do so. And I think that’s the thing, I think we look at it as the music is alive and it matters and not like, “Oh, we recorded that. That’s old and we don’t care about it anymore.”
Alex: Before readers listen to the latest album, As The Dark Against My Halo, which song do you recommend they listen to first before purchasing the album, just to get a feel for what the album is like?
Rogue: I recommend that they listen to a little bit of everything. I mean that’s what I do before I buy an album. We live in a world today where people can buy songs one at a time. And so, you write a hit song, everyone buys that song off the album. The album sales suffer because people are buying one particular song. The popular song of the day, let’s say Gangnam Style or whatever is the hit song. Most people aren’t buying Psy’s whole album, they’re buying that one song, right? So as somebody who speaking as somebody who has a child and I support my house on the sales of music like this, I look at it and I say, “I have to write the best album I possibly can. There’s no filler. There’s nothing on that album that just takes up space so you can make a CD that is x amount of length. In fact, our CD is almost eighty minutes long, that’s an hour and twenty minutes, which is the longest running CD that you can make without having to sign waivers that say “CD may not play”.
Each song that I write is like a child to me, each one has the ability to go out and make a difference in the world. I try and write things that are meaningful. I try and write things that will have a positive effect on people’s lives. I try and write music that I think makes a difference. I also make music that people want to listen to, that people enjoy dancing to, that people appreciate on all the various levels. So, it’s like, “Hey, what song would you listen to?” I don’t have an answer for that because different songs connect with different people. I did a poll with my fans regarding their favorite track from our new album, maybe a month or two ago, and what was interesting was that pretty much every song comes back as people’s favorites.
I guess that’s the whole point of it is write your best music with every song that you write and try not to load it up with filler and then you have an album and somebody wants the album, not just one song, because there’s too many good songs and they look at that $9.99 iTunes price and they say, “Man, there’s twelve, thirteen, fourteen songs on here, I love every one of them. That’s cheaper than paying ninety nine cents per song, so I’m gonna get the whole album.” And that’s my desire, is to make something that makes people listen to the whole thing. I don’t want just one of these songs, I want the whole thing. I don’t have a good answer other than take a short listen to everything. It’s all available online, there’s always samples and if somebody really thinks they want to hear the whole album, well then buy the whole album, it’s easy enough to download it via Fileshare. If somebody listens to the downloaded file and says, “Hey, I like this stuff.”, then please go and buy it. But I encourage people to try and listen and get a feel for things. I think if you hit two or three songs and you’re not liking it, well, probably you won’t like us. But if you listen to two or three songs and you do like it, you’re probably gonna like the rest of it too.
Alex: Well, I think that was an excellent answer, to answer your statement. It made a lot of sense.
Rogue: Well, I mean, I don’t envy your position as an interviewer because you try and get inside my head and you ask a question that resounds in some way, but I think that there’s a lot to Cruxshadows music. There’s a lot to what we do. There is an entire mythology culture around Cruxshadows. There is a lot of thought put into the specific words that are used, a lot of references. If you’re into digging up secrets that are written in music, Cruxshadows music is full of it. I love that kind of stuff, and so I put it in there. It’s a music that I thoroughly and completely believe in. If you listen to the fans that we have and what they have to say about it, those are people that get it. There’s also people out there that hate Cruxshadows. There’s lots of people out that think that it’s ridiculous that we have the popularity that we do and obviously, what we make is not for those people. I’m not trying to make those people want to like our music. I’m not out to win a popularity contest or anything like that. But, I am out to reach people, make something that matters to people and I think that the real power of music is that it becomes the soundtrack to our lives.
So earlier, you asked me that question, you said, “What are you listening to right now?” The truth of the matter is is I’m writing the soundtrack to my life and so I’m connected to the songs that I’m putting together because where somebody else is having a difficult day or they’re having a real important, significant thing happen, they can turn on the radio or they can pop in a particular CD or they do something along those lines and it connects them through that music to vent and it can be positive, it can be negative, it can be neutral, it can be any number of things, but we are using music to sort of bend the pages on the books of our lives. My experiences will happen to me and I will think a new song from what I’ve experienced or maybe what I’ve seen someone else experience. I think that’s the power of music, not only do we learn to vent, but it gets inside of us and it has the ability to change us, really for the better or for the worse. It’s my mission that I make something that in a small way, makes the world a better place for it having been there. That’s my real goal, in terms of Cruxshadows.
Alex: First of all, I’d like to thank you for your time. I really appreciate it.
Rogue: No problem. It was very nice talking to you, Alex.
Alex: You too. Do you have any sites that you can plug for Cruxshadows or for yourself?
Rogue: Absolutely, www.cruxshadows.com or www.thecruxshadows.com, it’s the same. I think cruxshadows.de is another one that’s our’s, that’s our German website. On Twitter, twitter.com/thecruxshadows. On Facebook, we’re facebook.com/cruxshadows. We’ve got tons of social media. I think that Twitter, Facebook, and our website though, they’re probably the ones that we most often interact through. Reverb Nation as well.
Alex: Thank you very much for everything.
Rogue: Thank you.