Interview With Cruzh Guitarist Anton Joensson
Swedish melodic rockers Cruzh released their stellar debut album a few months ago, click here to read my review of the record.
An album full of some truly outstanding tracks, this record is a stunning debut with the incredible talents of vocalist Tony Andersson, guitarist Anton Joensson and bassist Dennis Butabi Borg, this three piece outfit delivered one of the biggest surprises of the year, and my number one pick for best debut of the year, with their self titled album.
The extremely talented guitarist, co-founder of the band and super nice guy, Anton Joensson, kindly took time out of his day to sit down and field some of my questions about the band, their music and just what inspires them.
MMR: Let’s jump right in. You are a newer band and, though you have been around for a few years, you just released your first full length record. Congratulations! It is an awesome album. So for those who may not know, can you tell us how the band came together? I know that you all were previously in different bands, so how did Cruzh come about?
AJ: Thank you so much! Me and Dennis played in a band together before Cruzh. We were about to record a lot of songs and needed a keyboard player to lay some tracks. Dennis knew Tony and contacted him. He agreed to record some tracks for us and we really enjoyed to work with him. A couple of months later we decided to put the band in its grave and the idea to start a new band with Tony came up. Personally, I wanted to play more like the Def Leppard/Bon Jovi style than the Crüe/Skid Row style we played in our old band. But it doesn’t matter who influences you or what style you want to play, it’s about your own creations and what defines yourself. I totally love my own creations and I let them speak for my feelings. We started the band in late 2012 and our first line up consisted of me, Dennis, Tony and Matt Silver.
MMR: Well your mix of music definitely has that Def Leppard sound to it. It is a terrific sound and it seems you have found just the right fit for the band!
Before the new self titled debut came out you released a three track EP in 2013. Why such a gap between that EP and the record?
AJ: We actually released a single with demo version of ‘Aim For The Head’ and ‘Straight From My Heart’ in 2014. After that, we started to work on new songs and in May 2015 we were contacted by Frontiers Records. From that time, the work with the album got our full attention.
MMR: Two of the tracks from that EP are found on the new record while the terrific ballad, ‘In The Blink Of An Eye’, is not. The album came in at 11 tracks, how many songs did you write before narrowing it down to those eleven?
AJ: Many of our fans like ‘Blink’ and so do I. There is a big chance you will hear it in a new production on a future album. We have so much material, but we just put together those tracks and loved them straight away. So that was it, he he.
MMR: Well it is a great song! I hope it does make it onto a full release so more people can hear it.
Frontiers Records is not the only label out there putting out melodic rock, there are several more fantastic labels that focus on the genre also and they are doing incredible work, but Frontiers is the largest and one of the biggest contributors to helping keep this outstanding genre alive. How did the band come about getting signed to Frontiers?
AJ: I think there was a British journalist called Rob Evans who contacted Frontiers about us. Then we got a mail from Italy and couldn’t believe our eyes.
MMR: That is awesome. And now here you are signed with the biggest label of the genre alongside legends like Hardline and Tyketto!
The record is absolutely stellar. I love it. Such an outstanding album of some truly great melodic rock songs. Every track on it is excellent with nothing ever coming close to sounding like filler material. So what is the inspiration behind the writing here?
AJ: I’m overwhelmed. Thank you so much!
It’s basically feelings like love, happiness, sorrow and that rock n’ roll feeling. The inspiration comes from when you’re home alone or walking around somewhere and reflecting about things. Suddenly, you get a feeling and a melody is coming to you. We want it to sound big. It’s supposed to be experienced in an arena. The sound is heavy influenced by Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Danger Danger, Firehouse and other great acts from the 80’s.
MMR: The song lyrics are all very relatable to most anyone, which is one of the things that make a song a hit and leave a lasting impression on folks. If you can’t relate to the lyrics of a song then what else is there? A great melody only goes so far.
The sound from the 80’s is certainly there, I love it! It is very easy to see that you are influenced by these bands in your writing.
So following that up, what is the writing process like for the band?
AJ: We’re coming up with ideas by ourselves and then we’re creating some raw demo for the band to hear. After that, everybody puts their own touch on the song and we’re developing and improve it as a team.
MMR: Going back a question, you mentioned some, but who are some of your favorite artists and bands and who would you say has had the biggest influence over the music and style of Cruzh?
AJ: Def Leppard is number one for me. Their choirs are fantastic and the arrangement of the songs are perfect. They are the masters. Danger Danger has a really happy ‘‘living the life’’ feeling and it’s hard not feel glad when you hear them.
MMR: Both are extraordinary bands! Personally I am a bit more of a D2 fan but I love Def Leppard as well. Both are certainly two of the greatest bands to ever come out of the 80’s.
Like I said, the album is superb and I like every song on it but my favorites are ‘Aim For The Head’, ‘Survive’, ‘You’ and then my absolute favorite of the record, ‘Hard To Get’. Now that song was on the EP, which was in fact titled after the song, so it is obviously one of your earlier songs. Was it the first song written by the band?
AJ: Really like your choices! Yes, it is an early one but our first was ‘In A Blink Of An Eye’ and ‘Stay’ came after that. ‘Hard To Get’ was the third song.
MMR: Cool! Well when you are talking about an album full of fantastic songs like this debut, then picking favorites is almost just a toss up. But you have heard mine so what are some of your favorite tracks from the record and are there any that have a special place in the band’s heart?
AJ: I can only speak for myself and this is a hard question. I think ‘In N‘ Out Of Love’ is special for the band. Dennis wrote the verse, I wrote the chorus and Tony the bridge.
I think ‘Aim For The Head’ and ‘First Cruzh’ are the strongest songs on the album and for the moment I really like ‘You’ and ‘Survive’.
MMR: All are excellent songs but it sounds like ‘In N’ Out Of Love’ is really one that was a band effort.
So moving on, Sweden seems to be almost a breeding ground for melodic rock bands. There are so many phenomenal bands from there and new ones keep coming. Here in the States it is sadly an underappreciated genre and a fairly little known one. What is the musical landscape like there in Sweden and is the genre very widely accepted and appreciated there?
AJ: It’s sad to hear when you know about all the fantastic American bands from the 80’s. The genre is not very big in Sweden. If you ask me, I think everybody is listening to shit. They’re just swallowing what the radio stations are putting in their mouths – modern pop, dubstep and modern RnB. The popular young artists from Stockholm that we see on national television are the worst.
MMR: Yes, and thankfully many of those bands till tour. Bands like Firehouse and Night Ranger and Sebastian Bach still tour all of the time here playing club shows and such and it is fantastic going to see these guys in an intimate setting like that. I am so thankful that they continue to tour and play for the real fans that still follow them.
And wow! That is crazy! I figured what with most all of the bands coming out of Europe, and that the European and Asian markets are the main draw for the genre, that melodic rock was huge over there. It sounds like it is not much different then it is here though. The radio is shoving artists like Taylor Swift, Nickleback, Shinedown and other such shitty bands down the throats of the country and people are buying it hook, line and sinker thinking it is actually real music, not to say these folks aren’t talented, their music just sucks! Meanwhile the real artists, like yourself, are struggling to get by just like the rest of us. Such a sad commentary on the state of music these days.
Now you asked a question on your Facebook page the other day asking folks to write in and tell which song they would like to see you open a show with. My preference was my favorite track, ‘Hard To Get’, as I think the acapella opening lends itself to be a great show opener before it cranks into full band mode and the spotlight hits the band. But on to the question, this is just one example of how you are very active on social media. Now obviously you are a young band so trying to get your name out there prior to social media was something you likely never had to deal with. But how do you feel social media outlets such as Facebook have helped the band in gaining more fans?
AJ: That’s a great opener and I really like your reasoning. I think it’s a great tool to gain an intimate contact with our fans. I’m happy to be able to integrate with the fans we love from all over the globe. The downside with social media is that it’s hard to reach out because there are so many actors on the internet overall.
MMR: You know social media and computers are both good and bad. The bad is obviously the file sharing, pirating and free downloading but the good is that fans like myself are able to sit down and with just a few keystrokes are talking with rockstars like yourself, something that was not possible several years ago. In that sense it is absolutely incredible! I have had the best time running this site and getting the opportunity to speak with folks such as yourself about this music. So that, obviously, is a perk of the computer age.
And following that question up since I mentioned the live show, what can a fan expect from one of your shows? Many bands feel that they shine a lot brighter live. Do you find that is the case with Cruzh?
AJ: You can expect pure energy, involvement and rock n’ roll. We want do something extra with our shows. Me and Dennis always have crazy ideas going on.
We’re going to sound as good live as on the record. We’re not satisfied with anything less.
MMR: Having asked that question I can really see the band sounding even better live. Being a young band then the energy level will certainly be there and that transfers to the audience.
I am glad you mentioned sounding as good live as you do on record because that is one of my pet peeves. I realize that some things can’t be done live that are done in the studio but I am a firm believer in not doing something in the studio with all of the effects and equipment available these days that you cannot actually do live.
Next question. We are all aware that bands actually make very little from album sales these days and unless you are a Bon Jovi or a KISS or a band of that magnitude that will sell hundreds of thousands of albums then you make your money by touring. So what are your plans for touring to support the album and is there any chance of you getting to the States?
AJ: We would love to come to the States. That would be amazing. We’re in the middle of rehearsing and are constantly contacted by venues about gigs. We haven’t decided anything yet, but we’re looking forward to hit the stages in spring of 2017. Hopefully, we’ll play in the States as well.
MMR: Well come on! You are welcome to tour here anytime, just make sure North Carolina is on the list!
Going back to social media, and you have somewhat covered this already, these days it lets you talk to your fans on a personal level. Do you enjoy the closeness it brings you with your fans? Signing into Facebook or Twitter or whatever the case may be (I really am not up on the social media lol) and having messages and comments from fans telling you how much they enjoy your music and what it means to them and then in turn being able to connect with them personally over these social media sites, is that something you have found that makes you feel more connected and in touch with your fanbase?
AJ: I really enjoy it. It feels so good to be able to thank your fans personally for their support and love. We always try to answer all our fans if they comment or write to us. It is really important for us. If anyone wants to ask us something or anything else, don’t hesitate to write us.
MMR: That is awesome! Don’t ever lose that. I understand that some bands do get so big that they can’t possibly respond to every fan, but, as I have had the unfortunate opportunity in finding out first hand, not everyone cares for their fans. They seem to have forgotten that without their fans they would still be singing to the steering wheel like the rest of us. The fact that you take the time to talk with and respond to everyone that writes you speaks volumes about your love and appreciation for every fan you have. So, as a huge fan myself, don’t lose that appreciation!
So, you have your first record out, and on a giant of a label for this genre no less. You have made a big splash in melodic rock circles, you’ve garnered rave reviews of your album and have seen fans embrace your music around the world. What has been the highlight for you so far?
AJ: For me, it’s all the amazing comments from the fans. We just play what we like and it’s fantastic that so many people enjoy and can relate to our music. Some have mention that there are tracks that help them through difficult times and that is huge.
MMR: Music is one of the greatest things in the world. It can hurt, heal, make you happy, make you sad, make you laugh or cry. It is about the strongest force there is. I can only imagine the power of emotion it sends you when you receive a message from a fan saying a song you wrote helped to get them through a tough time in life, or changed their life. Amazing.
As we draw close to the end here let me ask, having just gone through it as a newer, and younger, band, what would your advice be to a young artist or band trying to get started, not only in the music industry, but in the melodic rock genre more specifically?
AJ: Create and play the music you love. Put your soul into it. People always have opinions but stay true to yourself. Use a lot of reverb delay and chorus when you mix your demos!
MMR: I totally agree. Be true to yourself. Write and play what you love and what makes you happy and the rest doesn’t matter.
Well, Anton, thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions. I really appreciate it, I am a huge fan and it has been an honor. Again, congratulation on the record, I can’t stop listening to it. I wish you the best of luck! So last question and the final words are yours my friend. What is next for Cruzh?
AJ: Thank you for having me and thanks again for your support and kind words. It really means a lot!
We’re rehearsing for live shows right now. But we already have so much new and great material. I want to record the second album really soon.
Follow the band on their Facebook page.