It’s a great honour to have you here in the Sanctum, Altuz. I feel there’s a lot to be said but let’s take it from the very start. What is music to you and when was the first time you felt the need to create and release your own?
Thank you for taking the time to interview me, and thank you for listening to the album, I appreciate your time and consideration. I’ve been surrounded by music since I was a child. My father played the blues on his acoustic guitar and would make up songs with me.Then when I was around nine years old, I started banging on Maxwell house coffee cans with empty bottles of soda. That went on until my older brother’s friend brought his drum set to the house. That’s when I had the chance to practice on real drums. Eventually I got good enough to play with my older brother and his friends. I was 14 and they were 22. Looking back it was actually really nice of him to do that for me. We played covers of Metallica and wrote our own songs. That period of time gave me my foundation as a musician. I’m tearing up as I’m writing this, because that same older brother passed away this year after his long battle with alcoholism. He never got to hear this album.
Can you remember a few artists you admired as a child/teenager and maybe even influenced you as an artist?
I was nine years old when I hear Slipknot’s debut self titled album and it blew my fucking mind. I mean it was a visceral experience. I can’t explain the feeling. It was like all of the hate and anger and rage inside of me from my childhood traumas had a voice and it was being projected through the speakers. I fell in love immediately. Tool is another band that I would escape to. It wasn’t just metal though, I loved Zero 7, Imogen Heap, Massive Attack, Groove Armada, those Trip-Hop groups made amazing music.
Is music a full-time job or just a means of expression existing on the side?
Fuck… I wish it was. Maybe one day it will be if it can sustain my family and I. But for now, it’s a form of therapy for me that allows me to connect with and help others who are going through similar struggles.
If you ask me, your songwriting skill is outstanding in its simplicity. Is there a process you go through or does it come spontaneously? Is there a ‘best moment’ for you to write?
I often use the expression, “the muse done got me again”. It comes in waves for me, large ones. I don’t force myself to write, that’s never worked for me. It’s also random. Sometimes I’ll be playing my guitar and start playing a riff and start humming something, then before I know it I’m reaching out to cello players and producing a huge piece of music with 200 tracks. I’m always feeling these emotions but there’s something about music that opens the door for me to open up and let it fly off the handle.
Which parts of the creative process does Altuz enjoy the most?
I love every process until I hate it. From setting up the microphones and recording myself, to mixing, to sending it out for master. Each process is like a toxic relationship. There’s the initial spark, followed by the honeymoon phase, followed by completely exhausting and unhealthy levels of stress, followed by me saying “fuck this, I’m done!”, that’s when I hit the publish button. Then there’s usually a period of a few months where I don’t listen to the song or the album at all. But then one day, I’ll listen to the final product and think to myself, “wow this actually sounds amazing” LOL. But I’ve actually grown up a bit since producing my last album. I think I took it so far on this last one that I reached a low enough bottom for me to never put myself through that again.
In your latest album Anger, you’re fearlessly exposing your darkest, most private stories. What was your vision for it and what did you want to communicate through it?
Pain. Anger is a massive cry for help. I’ve gone through most of my life not being heard. As a child, it was damn near impossible for me to be heard unless I screamed at the top of my lungs. As an adult, my childhood traumas led me to gravitate towards relationships with people who wouldn’t listen to me. It took me 28 years to go to my first therapy session. I’m 33 now, and through these 5 years of therapy I’ve unearthed so much pain and it’s transformed me into a completely different person. That transformation process is difficult for me, but it’s also been difficult for those around me. For the first time in 28 years I was starting to say things like “no” and “I want this” and “I don’t want that”. Some have transformed with me and that’s been amazing. Other’s haven’t and have been cut out of my life. Some haven’t and I have stayed in my life unfortunately, but that’s a complicated issue and I don’t believe in “doxing” people. With that in mind, I’m sure you can imagine this process (while necessary) has been excruciating and frustrating. It reached the peak of difficulty last year and it nearly drove me to end my own life. That’s where Anger came in. There was a part of me that envisioned this album as my “swan song”. But through the process of making it, I found the strength to continue moving forward. I know there’s people out there who feel just like me. This album is for them. If there’s one thing I want to communicate to them is that they are heard.
Would you say that Anger is your best work to date? Are you still emotionally connected to previous releases of yours?
Anger is hands down the best piece of music I’ve ever made in my life, and I’m both confident and happy to say that it probably will be moving forward. I’m okay with that. I thought this was going to be the last album I ever made at one point, so I threw everything at it. I worked with a dozen session players, I spent about 6 hours a day producing and mixing it for 2 years straight. This album is everything I am capable of musically. I played all the drums, rhythm electric guitar (minus the solos on Anger and In Between), acoustic guitar, rapped, sang, did voice acting, sound designed it. It has every aspect of music that I love. Hip-Hop, Rock, Metal, Blues, Symphony. I absolutely love this album.
Even though the album is fully satisfying from start to finish, I can’t help loving ‘Carousel’ and ‘Anger’ in a special way. Are there tracks in Anger that you feel closer to for some reason?
I feel the closest to Anger. Anger is my Carmina Burana. My anger is the one thing in my life that’s had my back when my world was falling apart. It protected me as a child and gave me a voice to be heard. It fueled my motivation as an adult to get in shape, to launch my career, to protect myself. But my anger and I have always had a complicated relationship. You can’t just make your way through life exploding when you don’t get what you want. You have to learn to ask for it, you have to learn to say no, and that can be terrifying if you’ve always been punished for doing so. So when I began therapy, my anger started to feel insecure and I could feel this visceral unease whenever I was beginning to say “no”. It was like my anger was in the room behind me trying to get me to step aside to protect me. The first time I wrote and played the chorus, “You’ve been working hard for far too long, now that I’m grown, it’s your time to go” I broke down and cried hysterically. Here I was, talking to my anger like a child talking to it’s over protective caretaker, saying “I’m ready to fly the nest”. That’s when I made it a point to say “You’ll always be heard”. I’m talking to my anger, and letting it know that it’s always going to be with me, and that I love and appreciate it, but that I don’t need it to defend myself, because I’m going to make sure that together we’ll always be heard. For that reason, Anger is a very special song to me.
Are there any new artists or albums you are currently discovering and would like to share with us?
I have to give a shout out to Jelly Roll. He’s a huge inspiration. Independent artist from Nashville, TN that started his music career free-styling for 10 minutes on YouTube as soon as he got out of prison. Now he’s on Jimmy Kimmel and playing at the Grand Ole Opry. His music is also extremely genuine and from the heart, and it’s gotten me through tough times.I owe that man a huge hug if we ever meet.
If you weren’t a musician, in what ways can you imagine yourself expressing through? Are there forms of art you’d see yourself exploring?
Most likely drawing or painting. My father was a painter, and an incredible illustrator. His realism was off the charts.
Now that the new album is out, are there any plans for promotion, touring or even writing/releasing new music? Do you take time off between releases?
At the moment, I’m making the rounds on blogs, reaching out to independent playlist curators, reaching out to each and every one of my fans, and doing all the back end work of getting Anger on as many platforms as humanely possible. The response has been great thus far, and many people have been reaching out to me after listening to the album and opening up to me. It’s a good feeling. I do have something else in the works for the album, something big…. TBD on release ; )
How would you like to be remembered both as an artist and as a human being?
As someone who wasn’t afraid to be vulnerable, someone willing to listen to you, someone who despite their obstacles, overcame and found happiness, and as someone who wasn’t afraid to ask what they want.
Enjoy Altuz here: