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!
(Part I of this interview ran on Wednesday, Dec. 5.)
DGT&G: Stonebreed was formed in 2009, is that right?
DGT&G: Had you been in other bands before that?
CBC: Yes, I had been. My whole life, I’ve been in bands. I started in a band called Triaxe in Detroit. I’ve been in Satyre in Texas, and I was in a band out of Florida for a few years that signed with a label, and I was kind of doing the same thing, opening for a lot of people. I was opening for Lynyrd Skynyrd and .38 Special and Molly Hatchet and bands like that. And then came out to California and we formed Stonebreed in 2009, but then we switched drummers and guitar players, so this form of the band has only been together right around two years.
DGT&G: How old were you when you first took the mic?
CBC: My parents told me I was about 6 years old. We were at some restaurant and they had some band up and the band took a break and I went up and grabbed the microphone and I started singing “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” by Otis Reading, ’cause that was the song I heard on the way in there—so that was my first time. But I remember being in junior high school playing in a band, playing talent shows in junior high school, playing old Lynyrd Skynyrd and stuff like that. So, I think my first time to really say I would grab a mic and get serious about it, I was probably about 15, 16 years old. I remember my first gig was the Snack N Rack Arcade in Dearborn heights, Michigan, right outside of Detroit.
DGT&G: Snack N Rack?
CBC: Snack N Rack Arcade. It was a little place we went to play foosball and play pool and listen to Led Zeppelin. And we talked them into letting our band play.
DGT&G: When did you consciously know you wanted rock ‘n’ roll to be your life?
CBC: Like I said [see the Heart of Rock interview with Carlos], when I first saw KISS on the Midnight Special and Aerosmith released Get Your Wings. I started to listen to music, and I saw that all the girls liked the singers and these bands, and I knew that’s how it’s gonna be—if I wanna get girls I gotta be a singer and grow my hair.
DGT&G: Oh yeah, the hair is important.
CBC: So that was the main factor. Trying to pick up girls was one of the main reasons why I wanted to be a singer.
DGT&G: Did it work?
CBC: Yeah, it sure did.
DGT&G: What do you think are the essential qualities of a frontman?
CBC: That’s a great question. Because I see frontmen that can sing so good, great voice—as soon as the song is over they can’t speak to the audience. They have no charisma, they don’t know what to say, they kind of look like a deer in headlights. Then again, I’ve seen guys that can’t sing very good at all, they’re out of tune, they’re flat, they’re this, they’re that—but they talk to the audience, the audience participates with them—they’re great frontmen. Prime example, David Lee Roth. Not a great vocal singer, great frontman—persona, stage presence, banter with the audience, stuff like that. So, I think a great frontman possesses not only vocal skills to be able to sing the songs, but has to be able to put on a show and keep people’s attention—that’s the main part, keeping their attention. It’s hard to keep someone’s attention for a full 44 minutes or hour set, so you have to be that guy to keep their attention. You have to know how to interact with the audience and keep it going. Keep the show live, no dead air, no dead space; no dropping the show, basically. You’re like the ringmaster of a circus, you gotta keep it going.
DGT&G: That’s true. What’s the largest crowd you have ever performed in front of?
CBC: Oh wow. You know, Stonebreed, we’re just starting off, we haven’t played any big festivals as this band. Personally, I played in front of about 30-40 thousand people when I was in my last band and doing big festival shows in Florida. We’ve probably played in front of five thousand here. We did a big Warrior Dash before, and every time we play the House of Blues it’s 800 to a thousand people in there.
DGT&G: You said the last band you were in was Satyre?
CBC: I was in a band called Bushhounds out of Florida for a while and we opened for a lot of bands, a lot of classic rock bands like Molly Hatchet, .38 Special, Nazareth, Steppenwolf. We used to do these big festival gigs called Livestock, where one year we opened it was Kid Rock and the Offspring, and the next year we opened up it was Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson. I’m talking big shows, festivals. We also played Daytona. So that’s what I’m doing with Stonebreed, we’re getting to that level, we’re getting ready to go out, start doing some touring and try to hit some festivals.
DGT&G: Great. What’s the most memorable gig you’ve ever played?
CBC: Have I ever played? I would have to say, in Tampa, Florida, the biggest venue in that town is called the Ice Palace. It’s a hockey stadium. We had an opportunity to play there with Lynyrd Skynyrd and Molly Hatchet to a sold-out show. We were the local band, and it was a sold-out show in our hometown, and that’s the biggest venue—so that’s probably my most memorable. I thought that was a big deal at the time.
DGT&G: Have you ever had a Spınal Tap moment?
CBC: Oh jeez, lots of them. I mean, lots of ’em. There’s been times where I’ve been on stage and forget what city we’re in and I’m like, “Hey we’re here and glad to be here” and whatever and then I say the name of the wrong town—that was last night. I’ve been there before, so, yeah, definitely. I mean, rock ‘n’ roll is a Spınal Tap moment.
DGT&G: Just a couple more questions. What’s the most richly productive collaboration you’ve ever experienced?
CBC: Richly productive collaboration? I’ll be honest with you. I would say it’s this new album that we just put together. I’ve been in bands my whole life, I’ve recorded before, but this is the one I’m most proud of. This is the one that I did the most work on. I poured a lot of my heart and soul out on this record, on the song writing, and me and the guys just really put a lot into it. I believe that my collaboration with these individuals that put this album together is my most successful attempt at music to date.
DGT&G: That’s great. Who would you pay to see perform?
CBC: Oh geez, I love so many bands. Like I said, I grew up listening to KISS and Aerosmith. I like a lot of the newer bands’ stuff, but my roots are in Van Halen, Aerosmith, AC/DC, KISS, Ted Nugent, Mötley Crüe. You know, a lot of the ’80s bands—I liked all the ’80s bands. As far as nowadays, I like Kid Rock. I’d pay to go see Kid Rock. I love Aerosmith. I’d pay to go see Aerosmith. I don’t know, it depends on where it is and how much it is. If I like it, I’d pay to go see ’em. It’s not like I go, “Oh I ain’t paying to see no bands.” I still try to get VIP everywhere I go, but I don’t mind paying the money if it’s somebody I like.
DGT&G: You mentioned you do have a business. What is that business?
CBC: I own a food distribution company, and I cater to homes and businesses—a full line of home frozen foods and stuff. I have trucks that deliver frozen foods to homes and businesses. Believe it or not.
DGT&G: Is there anything else you’d like to add, that you think our readers might be interested in?
CBC: Just check us out on our website, www.stonebreed.com, or on ReverbNation or Facebook. Listen to a couple of songs, and if you like it, please download it. We’re on iTunes. Our record comes out soon. If you hear of us playing, please come and see a show. We’d love to meet you.
DGT&G: We’re looking forward to seeing you again too, eventually.
Coming next … A slideshow of photos from Alice Cooper’s fantastic show at The Warfield in San Francisco