Fleur the Kiwi
Carlos Bates Cruz is the frontman for Stonebreed, a Hollywood-based hard rock band with a Southern kick. Carlos first sang in front of an audience when he was in junior high, and hasn’t really stopped since. Over the decades he has shared the bill with rock ‘n’ roll acts large and small, including Lynyrd Skynyrd, .38 Special, Cinderella, Ratt, Adler’s Appetite, Steel Panther, and many, many more.
Editor’s Note: We had been playing interview tag for a few weeks with Carlos—between his day job as a business owner and his nighttime vocation as the frontman for Stonebreed, we’d had a hard time connecting. And then on Nov. 11, out of the blue, the phone rang and it was Carlos, on his way from a radio interview to a barbeque at the house of his buddy Bobby Blotzer, the drummer from Ratt. We thank Carlos for taking time out from the Sunday Night Football party to talk to us!
(Click here for part 2 of this interview)
DGT&G: You did a show last Friday night (Nov. 9) at the Whisky a Go Go. How did that go? You did it with Gilby Clark, right?
CBC: Yeah it was great. You know, Gilby Clark used to be in Guns N’ Roses. Great guitar player, singer, songwriter. Had a great time. He’s got a really good band. He’s got a drummer, Troy Patrick Farrell, from White Lion and Pretty Boy Floyd and a bass player who is also in White Lion. They had real good set, and we had a great time at the Whisky. We love playing the Whisky. We love to play on the Sunset Strip. Everybody’s played there. A lot of people got their start there. So, Friday with Gilby Clark was awesome.
DGT&G: Stonebreed seems to play quite a bit at the Whisky. What is like performing at a venue that’s played such a large role in the history of rock ‘n’ roll and the Sunset Strip? What was it like the first time you played there?
CBC: The first time, I was so nervous, because you know where you’re playing. Everybody from Janis Joplin to The Doors to Van Halen to Mötley Crüe to Poison to everyone in the music business has played that stage. The very first time I was in shock and in awe of being there. And I remember walking on the stage going, “Wow, I’m on the same stage that Van Halen has been on.” So it’s kind of surreal, you know, but once I got up there and got going, I was like, “Alright, man, this is cool. I’m loving this.” But the first time I was nervous.
DGT&G: So do you have an arrangement to play there regularly, or is it on a gig-by-gig basis?
CBC: Well, it depends on who it is. Basically, we like to open for national headlining artists. We were supposed to open for Dangerous Toys, but they had to cancel, so Gilby Clark filled in. So, you need to expand who you want to play with, but we obviously wouldn’t fit in with a death metal or ska band or a punk band. A good hard rock band or Southern rock band, they’ll call us and say, “Do you want the opening spot?”
DGT&G: You have shared the stage with a remarkable number of big names from the days when hard rock ruled the world. How did that come about?
CBC: It came about a couple of different ways. First of all, if we hear of a band that’s coming to town that we know we would be a good fit for, then we try to get the opening spot. Sometimes the promoter will call up and say, “Hey I got so and so coming, you guys interested in opening for these guys?” And we’ll say, “Yeah.” Sometimes the band calls us. For instance, I’m friends with the guys from Ratt and Quiet Riot and Hollywood Allstars, and some of the guys say, “Hey, why don’t we get Stonebreed on the bill.” Most of the time we see a band we want to open for and I call the promoter and say, “Can we get on the bill?”
DGT&G: So what’s it like playing with these big names? Has that been a thrill?
CBC: Oh absolutely. I mean, for a band, if you’re first starting off and you go play a Friday night in front of all your friends and family at a local bar, but then if you’ve got a chance to go open up for someone … like, for instance, we’re opening for Lita Ford next Saturday night.
CBC: Lita Ford has a big following. So, we’re going to go up there and not only get to play for our fans, we get to play in front of Lita Ford’s fan base, and hopefully some people who came to hear her who have never heard us, see us, like us, and go home and look us up and become fans of ours. It’s definitely a plus to be able to open for all these different bands. It’s cool to be able to share the stage with big bands and get in on their following and present what we’ve got to their following as well.
DGT&G: We saw Lita Ford when she opened for Def Leppard and Poison. She rocked!
CBC: Yeah, that was a great show.
DGT&G: Stonebreed recently released its first album, titled Stonebreed. How has the response to the album been?
CBC: Well, to be honest with you, it just got released. We don’t have hard copies yet. It just came out last month. And it’s only available digitally right at this second online—iTunes and all that stuff. A matter of fact, we did our first hard copy, and we’ll be selling the first hard copies at the Lita Ford show coming up.
DGT&G: How long was it in the making? How long did it take you to put it together?
CBC: Well, you know, it’s weird. Some bands get into the studio and knock it out in three weeks. We were in no hurry; we kind of took our time. We went in and did parts and pieces by pieces. Our producer was working with other bands, so we took our time, we didn’t rush anything. It took us about nine months to record it. We could have done it in a month, but we just took our time. We’d go over and lay down the drum tracks and then a week later we’d come in and do this or that and two weeks later we’d come in cut a few guitar tracks and come back and do vocals. So it took us about nine months to actually record it and get it mixed and mastered.
DGT&G: I saw that “Roses on My Grave” is on the album. That was one of my favorite songs from the show at Rumbo Studios. (On Nov. 19, 2011, Adler’s Appetite headlined a concert of LA-based bands to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the recording of Appetite for Destruction at Rumbo Studios.) And that was when you asked the audience to help come up with a name for the song.
CBC: Yeah, I remember, we didn’t even have a name for that song at that point. We were asking the audience to name that song. Yeah, I’m glad you liked it. And it’s definitely one of the songs on our new record.
DGT&G: That was the title I voted for, too, so I’m glad.
CBC: We could put it down that you’re the one that named that song. (Laughs.)
DGT&G: There we go. Let’s do that. (Laughter.) How much do you enjoy that kind of interaction with fans and audience members?
CBC: Well, that’s how we got our name. We asked our fans. We were putting the band together back when we had our MySpace page up, and we put a thing out saying, “What should we name the band?” We had a guy that wrote in from Illinois somewhere, suggesting Stonebreed, and we went with that name. That’s what we’re all about—our audience. That’s what drives us, that’s what makes us, and that’s why we do this. So, when it comes to participating with our audience, that’s definitely what we like to do. Its 100% what we want to do, to connect with our audience like that.
DGT&G: You’re very active on Facebook. What part has social media played in Stonebreed’s growth?
CBC: It has tremendous impact on us. Because, through the power of Facebook and MySpace, ReverbNation, we’re not only able to reach fans from around here, but fans from around the world. I mean, my friend that lives in Hawaii told his friend that lives in Japan, told his friend that lives in Germany, and then pretty soon we got people writing us and emailing us and facebooking us, requesting from all over the world. Italy, Japan and Germany—all these different places. So without the power of the Internet and social media we would never have that. We could only put up flyers saying, “Come and see us Friday night at Joe’s Bar & Grill.” Now, from our Facebook page, we keep them separated, who lives where, so that way if we’re in Tennessee, we can look them up and see who our friends in Tennessee are. If we’re in Kentucky, we know where our fan base is at. I think social media is a 100% great tool for any band to use.
Coming Friday … Part II of the interview with Carlos … his very early start as a frontman … all the great bands he’s shared the bill with … why you don’t have to be a great singer to be a great frontman …