As the clocks struck eight and the bands went on late, Scandinavian rock groups Amaranthe and Santa Cruz graced Corona Theatre with their foreign presence this past Tuesday evening. I was fortunate enough to get an interview with Santa Cruz, one of the few glam metal bands born in the 21st century. Reminiscent of Def Leppard and Alice Cooper, Santa Cruz was formed by four longhaired youths in 2007. Giving audience members a satisfying revival of rock’n’roll, Santa Cruz gained popularity in Finland until they booked a deal with TKO (a pretty solid label that has signed big bands such as Motorhead, Anthrax and Blue Oyster Cult). This contract marked the turning point of their career, since Santa Cruz then began touring internationally, going from the UK to North America.
What I personally find quite interesting about this band is how much they focus on the glam metal aesthetic – the musician’s lusciously long hair and usage of makeup (two feminine characteristics highly exploited by bands such as Twisted Sister) is over-compensated by their raw masculine energy. Furthermore, Santa Cruz’s music mostly seems to explore themes such as sex, drugs, rock’n’roll and excitement, four concepts that the lead singer simply labels as a part of “crazy partying”… There is a reason why bands from the 80s glam metal fad ended up being deemed as sell-outs… The public eventually sensed the immaturity permeating from a constant need to advertise an image of “osé” partying, instead of using art as a medium to convey meaningful messages. The Dead Kennedy’s song Pull My Strings fully summarizes the latter idea. However, Santa Cruz pulls off glam metal beautifully, because 20th century music revival bands are always appealing for nostalgic reasons.
Anyway, on May 11th, the band called me up for a quick interview. Originally, I was supposed to speak to Taz, the drummer of the band. However, I was thoroughly relieved when it was Archie, the band’s lead singer, who called me up instead – I would not have been able to resist sharing a few snide comments from my huge drummer joke repertoire with Taz. For instance, what does one call a woman on a drummer’s arm? A tattoo. Cheesy drummer jokes go on forever, and sharing them all was not the purpose of my interview.
Nadia Blostein (NB): As you must know, glam metal really peaked in the 80s. Do you guys believe that you are contributing to a 21st century revival of the genre?
Archie Cruz (AC): No, because we are most definitely not a revival band. Yes, we play glam metal, but we are bringing the genre to the next level by doing next level “crazy” things.
NB: Santa Cruz has really mastered the glam metal aesthetic; are you guys also able to maintain the glam metal lifestyle of “sex & drugs & rock’n’roll” with all the restrictions musicians have to face today?
AC: Yes, of course we must live the glam metal lifestyle, since it is the most crucial part of rock’n’roll. I am so sick of modern bands like Mumford & Sons who try to pretend to be good boys…
NB: How long did it take you guys to grow such long hair? Does it require a lot of maintenance?
AC: I don’t really remember, to be honest. I think it took me around ten years, although I’ve always had long hair. And yes, a minimum of maintenance is necessary because when I don’t wash it for days, my hair looks like dread locks.
NB: Santa Cruz reminds me a lot of Spinal Tap, not only because of your musical genre, but because your band has changed drummers so often… Have you heard of Spinal Tap? Why have you changed drummers so often? Did any of them spontaneously combust, or was their hair not long enough for you to let them stay in the band?
AC: Ah, well, a couple of them blew up and the last one OD-ed. Santa Cruz is currently really counting on Taz, so we’re trying hard to keep him off the drugs…
NB: One mysterious aspect of your band is the origin of its name. Have you guys ever been to Santa Cruz, California?
AC: Well, we’ve never actually been to Santa Cruz, but we have visited California and the word “Santa Cruz” just sounded pretty cool.
NB: When I explored the Santa Cruz website, I noticed that each band member has a specific symbol associated with him. It was somewhat reminiscent of the Led Zeppelin members’ dark magic logos; what do the Santa Cruz symbols mean?
AC: Just like Led Zeppelin, our symbols are derived from old dark magic. We don’t actually believe in that stuff though; we were simply referencing Led Zeppelin.
NB: I understand. Led Zeppelin is, after all, the best band of all time. What is your favourite Led Zeppelin album?
AC: Either Led Zeppelin II or III.
NB: What bands would you say have influenced Santa Cruz the most?
AC: Motley Crue, Guns & Roses, Aerosmith, Van Halen…
NB: And what would be your personal favourite band of the Big Four: Anthrax, Metallica, Slayer or Megadeth?
AC: Well, it used to be Anthrax because they have the best attitude, but it has evolved to Megadeth because the latter have composed my favourite songs. I also still love Metallica, even if they are accused of being sell-outs. The Black Album was just awesome.
NB: Having performed in various countries, where would you say your best crowd was?
AC: Definitely in Germany. The crowds there are very hardcore. New York was also pretty good. One thing that freaked me out was in Italy, when a girl in the front row started crying… I felt like Justin Bieber.
NB: A terrible feeling, I can just imagine. Now where would you say is your biggest fan base? Metal is very big in Scandinavia, but glam metal is a far more American phenomenon…
AC: Honestly, our biggest fan base is probably in North American and in Latin America (especially Venezuela, even though we’ve never actually performed there).
NB: I would just quickly like to brush over the messages conveyed by your songs. I feel like there’s a lot of the classic “sex & drugs & rock’n’roll” involved, but do you guys express anything more? Such as anarchy?
AC: Oh, anarchy is definitely a big one. But our songs are mostly just about having fun and partying.
NB: The classic glam metal bands are known for being slight misogynists, with their incessant objectification of women. What would your stance on feminism be?
AC: We’re part of the new glam metal movement so we definitely support female emancipation. When we are sexually involved with women, we do not see them as objects; there is always a form of love and respect involved.
NB: Not to abruptly change the subject, but if you got a tattoo in middle of your forehead, what would it be?
AC: I was going to say a swastika but that’s a horrible idea; no one should ever get that… I guess I would just want something related to anarchy. Something like a penis or a vagina, done in graffiti style.
NB: And is this your first time in the beautiful city of Montreal?
AC: Yup, first time in Canada, in fact. I hear that weed is highly accessible here, right?
Thus concluded my fruitful interview with Archie Cruz. It was quite charming to detect a cute Finnish accent behind his attempts to sound as American as possible. I personally always sense something rich and captivating in the voice of a lead vocalist (especially when that voice is completed with a foreign accent).
In Montreal, Santa Cruz performed with the pop rock band Amaranthe, a group that basically sounds like Katy Perry vocals dubbed over hardcore instrumentals, with the inclusion of occasional whines from a gothic Justin Bieber impersonator. Even under a band aesthetic that cheaply copies the “badass” quality of Hell’s Angels, Amaranthe still managed to come off as terribly corny from the two tracks my ears were barely capable of enduring. However, I feel like the contrast between the raw and old-school Santa Cruz with the overly melodic Amaranthe must have offered Montreal audiences quite the spectacle!