ROXXI CATALANO (EX-DE LA CRUZ) INTERVIEW:
November 29, 2014
Interviewer: Mark Horvath
What is a young musician to do when his band works hard to attract a global music label only to have things implode soon after? Roxxi Catalano was the lead vocalist and co-songwriter for the now defunct De La Cruz. The band released an EP on their own in 2011 and what followed next for Catalano was a whirlwind of activity where his band De La Cruz caught the attention of rock label Frontiers Records who signed them within a year and released their full-length debut ‘Street Level’ in March of 2013. What was supposed to follow was a global distribution deal (which still fell short of North America) and touring, including a stint at Rocklahoma. What ended up happening was losing lead guitarist, songwriter and producer Casey Jones immediately upon the release of Street Level and the overall demise of the band by the end of 2013. Catalano has finally resurfaced with plans to release his solo EP shortly, and has released several tracks via his YouTube channel.
Sleaze Roxx: What have you been up to the last year or so since the last of the De La Cruz shows and final quiet break-up?
Roxxi Catalano: I’ve actually been on a bit of a self-improvement buzz, eating a bit better and drinking less. The other day I drank one of those health smoothies with Kale in it — a bit weird (laughs). I know that’s not very rock ‘n’ roll, but sometimes it’s good to maintain the ol’ body.
Sleaze Roxx: Kale is good for you! It seems that you have moved back to your native New Zealand?
Roxxi Catalano: Yeah, I’m currently back in New Zealand which is nice for a change — it’s a bit of a slower pace of life compared to the Gold Coast. So I spent most of 2014 back here to relax and write new songs, etc. I wouldn’t live here permanently, but it’s nice to have that three hour flight and be in a different country.
Sleaze Roxx: Is there a move planned for Australia again?
Roxxi Catalano: Absolutely dude! I love Australia and I’ll be back very soon… and I can’t fuckin’ wait!
Sleaze Roxx: You mentioned you had got yourself into a little trouble over the years but are all cleaned up now. Can you elaborate on that?
Roxxi Catalano: I guess I’ve never really had that voice in my head that says, “This is a fuckin’ dumb idea dude!” I’m pretty spontaneous, and if I think it’s funny at the time then I’ll do it. So that being said, and the company I’ve kept over the years, I didn’t make the smartest decisions. Being an alcoholic for about ten years — I mean, who doesn’t love booze? But it’s all in the way you conduct yourself when you’re wasted and my anger problems got me in an awful lot of shit. It starts off with drinks when you’re a teen, and then years later you’re in the toilet at work smashing beers on your lunch break and you go, “hold on… this is fucked!” Drugs — drugs are fun, real fun, but lead you into a depressing shitstorm ultimately. People will say, ‘oh that’s so fucking cliche, wannabe rockstar,’ but you know, I just like feeling excited. I like feeling extra alive and stoked! If I listened to Jazz music I’d still have found some way to raise hell. I’m still drinking but yeah, taking it easy.
Sleaze Roxx: De La Cruz had the world buzzing in 2013 with a spectacular album receiving rave reviews from fans and critics. It seemed you guys had the world by the tail, so how did the band implode so quickly?
Roxxi Catalano: Ahhhhh dude, it’s such a shame — really such a fucking shame. I think we had a lot of promise, and it’s hard not to get a bit vindictive about it all, but ultimately it boils down to if people’s hearts aren’t in it then there’s no point. I think the band formed at a time when big life changes were just out of sight for a few of the members. You know people change and grow, and that’s cool, but if you fuck with the ingredients too much it ain’t the same recipe. A lot of people directly contribute the failure to Casey (Jones) leaving, but I don’t agree with this. He was a huge, HUGE piece of the band of course but I think it was merely a catalyst for other members to re-think things. Maybe it cast doubt over the situation, and once there’s self-doubt in a band you’re fucked.
Sleaze Roxx: You tracked down Stevie Strange who seemed like a good replacement for Casey Jones. Strange seemed like another guitar virtuoso with some of the same influences.
Roxxi Catalano: Yeah man, Stevie Strange is a great guitarist — have you seen that shit? Yngwie Malmsteen vibes all over! He’s also a good laugh as a person. I just think it was the wrong time, the tide was going out in more ways than one and that’s the simple fact of it. If we had tried to make a new De La Cruz album it would’ve sucked absolute shit, so be thankful we ended on a good note (laughs). It would have been forced and probably ended up like some of that horrible stuff George Lynch put out in the ’90s or all of Bon Jovi’s stuff since forever.
Sleaze Roxx: In De La Cruz it seemed to be Casey Jones and yourself doing the lion’s share of the songwriting. There was definitely a polished ’80s melodic hard rock sound to the compositions. Was that done on purpose or did it just kind of turn out that way?
Roxxi Catalano: When me and Casey crossed paths we were really into that ’80s thing, our common ground being Ratt, Winger, Whitesnake, etc. I still really love all that stuff but at that time we both wanted to make melodic rock in that vogue — maybe it was a bit too ’80s (laughs). I think Casey felt pigeonholed a lot in that genre — he’s a crazy musician, a real freak of nature kid.
Sleaze Roxx: Getting a recording contract and signing to a label is tougher than it has ever been, especially for a rock act. How did De La Cruz manage to get the attention of Frontiers Records?
Roxxi Catalano: We were lucky. It was a pretty simple format — good songs plus free EP plus magazine/online exposure equaled label attention. People ask me all the time, “How do you get signed?” and I say the same thing, “Good songs!” Just honestly write good songs — there are so many bands that look incredible but the songs are just nothing. We were lucky, really lucky, but there weren’t any tricks, it was hard work — rock ‘n’ roll is hard work. It may have seemed that it fell in our lap, but as individuals we had been slaving away (and still are) for years — it was merely the sum of its parts.
Sleaze Roxx: Could that be a repeatable strategy for your solo effort ‘Catalano’ to get signed?
Roxxi Catalano: With this Catalano band I’m just having fun. I hope people don’t get too carried away with it or I’ll wish I’d written better songs (laughs)! At the end of the day I just wanted to put more music out. I love writing music — I’m not a very good guitarist but I can play a bit and I put some songs together, got a band together and did an album. Naturally people are going to go, “Oh this sucks, you need Casey” or, “De La Cruz sucked, this suck even more!” etc. But truthfully I’m not fussed, I’m not trying to re-invent the fucking wheel here ya know? I like writing ’80s music, and if like-minded people get something out of it then I’m happy. That’s the funny thing, fans are fickle — it’s like people complaining at a free restaurant after they’ve finished eating. As an artist you buy instruments, write and rehearse songs, organize members, studios, distribution, promotion, travel, all this simply because you love music and then fans go, “It’s shit, try again” and all they had to do was roll out of bed and switch on their computer (laughs)!
Sleaze Roxx: Indeed. How did you put the songs together for your solo project? Do you have a band or any outside assistance?
Roxxi Catalano: Well, now I wish I had tried a bit harder. The whole EP was written in a week, five days actually — it’s no labor of love, but maybe it should have been? I’m quite A.D.D. — I just like to get stuff done. So I lock myself in my room with a guitar and lots of Captain Morgan Rum and just smash song demo’s out until there’s a few that I don’t entirely hate. Then I’ll work a bit more on them, hone them, give them a bit more life, and then it’s rehearsals with other members. I’ve had assistance in the recording side — drum tech, drummer, studios, etc. I’m lucky I’ve got friends in that scene willing to help — in fact my good friend Voya from the Sydney band Lakoudis performs the guitar solo on the track “Metal Dreams”. But writing wise it’s all me, and maybe that will be obvious. In De La Cruz it was a five person puzzle — this is just me so I hope people go easy (laughs). People will naturally draw the comparison, but if I’d wanted to I could have used the De La Cruz name and kept pounding music out like the Whitesnake/David Coverdale franchise. Maybe I will exhume De La Cruz one day, but for now it’s just something fun and should be regarded as such.
Sleaze Roxx: Who would you say are your biggest musical influences? Do they appear on the EP?
Roxxi Catalano: The usual ’80’s suspects (laughs). Nah, actually in the last year I’ve been listening to W.A.S.P., Slik Toxik, Alice Cooper (metal era), Whitesnake’s newer stuff (‘Good To Be Bad’, ‘Forevermore’), Kane Roberts’ solo stuff, Lillian Axe, Skullfist, Ozzy Osbourne… a bit of variety sonically. I don’t know how much of that comes through in my music though — my music is a weird hybrid.
Sleaze Roxx: You play guitar on the new solo EP. Would this continue for live shows?
Roxxi Catalano: Yeah definitely, I love playing guitar! I’m not great, in fact I’m pretty crap, but it’s fun and it gets the job done. I’ve had an influx of offers from guitarists offering to do live duties so that’s very cool and something I’ll look into down the track.
Sleaze Roxx: Have your vocals changed at all recently? Your vocal cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock And Roll” seemed more powerful than the De La Cruz material.
Roxxi Catalano: I don’t think so, in fact I haven’t sung all year aside from the obligatory shower recitals. I’ve been off the grid, my voice doesn’t know what’s hit it! It’s probably more a style of singing, or a production thing. In De La Cruz we used more alien reptilian shit, compressors and dynamic whatevers. I don’t know how to do that, I just know how to plug in a microphone and add a bit of reverb — I’m no Mutt Lange (laughs), so it probably is just a more raw sound.
Sleaze Roxx: Are there any plans to tour following the release of the EP?
Roxxi Catalano: I love touring, I could live out of a suitcase — I love the stage! So if this EP does ok and if there’s any demand, sure I would love to take it on the road with a bunch of rad dudes! It all depends if there are people that want to see it, so if fans want to flail around to it live I will come to them. I have the best fans — honestly, the people that pay for my free downloads and mail and promote is terribly humbling.
Sleaze Roxx: Would you ever work with any of your old De La Cruz bandmates again?
Roxxi Catalano: Well Lacey (Lane, drummer) has re-located to the UK so that’s currently unlikely — but yeah, there’s no animosity at all. I don’t think Casey is doing any music currently but of course it’d be a fun collaboration to consider. I talk to R.J. (Rory Joy, guitarist) almost daily, he’s one of my best mates, and I talk to Stevie several times a week. I definitely will work with R.J. again, he’s a great musician, and actually me and Stevie have been talking lately about possibly doing some interesting sort of Steve Vai/Rising Force project at some point for a vibe. It’s all about the music!