Interview with Santa Cruz – "You have to set your goals as high that even if you get only half way, you get pretty far. Never settle for less."


Around here Santa Cruz, the four-piece rock and roll band from Helsinki, for sure doesn’t need any introduction anymore. After releasing their debut album Screaming for Adrenaline in 2013, the road has been a very interesting one for the band. Now 4 years later, they’re about to release their third studio album in September.
We had the chance to talk to Johnny and Middy after their show in RockFest at Vantaa, to see what’s up, we had a talk about their new single, the upcoming album, consumption of alcoholic beverages and yes, hair.
Santa Cruz Interview Middy Cruz quote Tuonela Magazine.png

First of all thank you so much for making the time to have this interview with us. Today was your first festival of the summer.

Johnny: Yes, our first festival!
How did you feel about today? We noticed it was pretty crowded, even though you played quite early and everyone must have been tired from the festival day yesterday, we heard you had an afterparty yesterday, but we didn’t manage to go ourselves, instead we enjoyed your gig today. How are you feeling about the gig? How did it go?
Johnny: Pretty fucking good, ‘cause these were the first two shows we have had in half ayear, so it was very fun to be on stage again, ‘cause that’s what we love.
Middy: It’s nice to be back and to know the fact that we have these summer festivals coming up and we’re about to release our new album soon and tour our asses off and just to know we’re gonna be away from home for a while… It’s great.
Especially with this kind of weather in Helsinki, even though today it’s the first summer day.
Johnny: First summer day, right!
Middy: First and the last, right? (laughter). We’re enjoying our whole summer right now.
You presented your new single, how did you feel that the people reacted on it?
Johnny: They loved it. In fact the new single was the biggest cheers we got for the whole show.

Maybe it’s just a hunch, but it seemed you were a bit nervous when you started playing the song?
Johnny: It was the second time we played that song. The other songs we have played like 1500 times live. So in that way it was different, but few shows and it’s gonna be the same.
We saw already many people wearing the River Phoenix T-shirt.
Middy: Promotion has done a good job (laughter).
We were thinking about the story behind the song. You are now more or less the same age when River Phoenix died. Why did you write a song about him? Is there a special meaning to it?
Johnny: He was kind of the metaphor for the whole album. We have been touring for two and a half years and it felt like forever. Now we have to rise again from the ashes like a phoenix and then there’s the fact that River Phoenix became a legend after he died. There’s like three different meanings connected to it.

Have you ever been to the Viper Room?
Johnny: I haven’t been there, but Archie has.
Middy: Me neither.
Johnny: I think it was closed at one time when we were in the neighborhood.
Maybe you can visit it someday when you are going back to the US.
Johnny: Yeah, totally. Maybe we can perform there.
Middy: And not play the song there, right? I think we’re just gonna cut it out (laughter).
Or the other option would be of only playing that one song. But now that we are talking about the new single, let’s elaborate a bit more to the new album. How is the work going?
Johnny: It’s done, It’s been done for one month.
Middy: So the work is… (pauses)
Johnny: It’s done… (laughter) The work is done. We actually have a little bit of a vacation now, we only have like 12 shows now. So we’re gonna have a tiny break now. We finished it about one month ago. It’s gonna be 11 songs, great fucking album!
Middy: Now it’s a pain in the ass time, cause now we’ve got the album ready but it’s coming out like only after four months, so it’s basically four months waiting now. It kind of sucks, but that’s how it goes, so what can you do (laughter).
We saw some vlogs from the studio and it looked like you had a blast!
Middy: Yeah, it was fun.
Johnny: Well you only saw the fun part. (laughter) I think when you start recording an album it’s super fun. It’s so much fun when you start doing the drums for example. I was also producing and recording the album, so that’s the fun part: When you got the drums, bass and guitars done. Then with vocals it’s a different story. It’s so personal, especially when you sing about things like River Phoenix or something that has a special meaning to you or somebody. It’s pretty hard to get in that mood every day when you go there, so that’s not fun anymore. Then the work starts when you start finishing it, because then you start thinking is this good enough? You’re battling with yourself everyday.
Middy: And start questioning yourself.
Johnny: But now we can only blame ourselves and I can blame myself when it’s bad (laughter).
Middy: We’re not gonna blame ourselves,  we’re gonna blame you dude (laughter).
When we heard the first single, we felt that it was somehow similar to Bon Jovi, however it has this well known Cruz-style, like as in Aiming High.
Johnny: That’s why we released that song first, we wanted to put a classic Cruz song out there first, but there is gonna be so much different shit out on the album. You can’t even imagine. But it’s all good. It all came naturally and we love it.
How long did the process take?
Johnny: Half a year.
Middy: Yeah, pretty much half a year. Though some of the ideas are way older than that.
Johnny: Yeah, the songs were done in two and a half years or even for some maybe three years, but the process from day one until the finished album took half a year.
Did you have any breaks in between? Or were you just working every day in the studio?
Johnny: No breaks for me. Before the mixing I had a three day break.
But anyhow six months feels like things went pretty fast, if you think about it?
Johnny: Half a year? That’s a really long time for doing a record nowadays.
Middy: Well, if you compare it to a Guns and Roses album then it might be fast but… (laughter)
Johnny: The recording of the album took a little bit over two months. But the pre-production and all that stuff and the mixing. Well yeah, it’s a long process but it’s done. Thank God (laughter).
Can you tell us something more? Do you have an idea about a name?
Johnny: Yes we do have an idea for the name, but we can’t say of course.
When you posted the Instagram photo about the River Phoenix song, everyone was thinking that that would be the title of the album.
Johnny: That’s not gonna be the name. That we can say.
Your second studio album was much more heavier than the first one. What can we expect on this one, is it going to be even more heavy?
Johnny: I think there’s even more heavier songs on this album, but there’s also so much more…
Middy: The variety of the songs is way wider. It goes to both ends.
Johnny: And there’s lots of new elements, like pianos and violins. Not like Nightwish or something, not like that (laughter).
Middy: It’s not like we are going to change to folk metal now or something (laughter).
Johnny: Still Rock ‘n’ Roll! You’re gonna hear it soon!
So when can we expect the new album. We have heard it would be released late 2017. Is there any date already?
Middy: September.
Johnny: Or that’s the plan at least. We want that when the album comes out, everything is done and everyone is ready for it. Promotion wise and all that stuff.
Middy: When the touring starts, you don’t have so much time to do those stuff afterwards.
Talking about touring. We were wondering how you manage, as you were touring a lot.
Johnny: Yeah, we toured for two and a half years.
That’s a really long time. Especially without any breaks and unlike many Finnish bands you also have a lot of shows within Finland. So you do both the shows abroad and in here. How do you get any work done. Do you work at all on tour?
Johnny: No, you can’t do anything else.
Middy: It doesn’t work that way.
Johnny: If you don’t drink every night, you have to focus on drinking every night.
That sounds like it’s definitely something worth focusing on.
Middy: Yeah, you have to focus on one thing and not making new songs (laughter).
Johnny: But yeah sometimes before the next tour we get two weeks off, that’s when you write new songs, or go out with your friends, if you have time and if you are not too tired.
And if you still want to drink…
Johnny: Yeah, exactly (laughter).
Middy: We don’t do that (laughter).
Drinking, or not drinking? Probably you don’t do the “not drinking”.
Middy: Let’s leave it to the readers to find that out (laughter).
But when you are recording you are sober more or less?
Middy: Mostly.
So at least you are trying to sound good.
Johnny: I think I was sober the whole process. No, I was drunk one time. No two days. I don’t remember.
Usually if you don’t remember there have been some occasions where you have had alcohol, no?
Johnny: Well, at least I can’t be drunk when I’m recording or producing. It’s not gonna be good after that.
Middy: I’m not sure about that…
Johnny: Fuck you man (laughter).
Well in September we can all listen to the result. You can even compare in the future, this album sounds okay, we were sober, let’s try it out while drinking.
Johnny: Yeah (laughter), maybe next album. But I tried that, it doesn’t work. It definitelydoesn’t work. We can drink and play on stage, that’s alright. But if you’re in the studio, it’s a pain in the ass, ’cause you’re there for 14 hours and if you start in the morning, then well… (laughter) you can’t really record in the evening.
Middy: Well it would definitely be way shorter days if we would do that                                                                                                              (laughter).                                                                                                                                               Johnny: Well, when we did the single in Sonic Pump Studios, you were drunk all the fucking time, man!
Middy: Well yeah, because I finished my bass lines so fucking quick. 
Well you know what they say about bass players. You’re lucky because there’s not so much to play, that’s why you have so much time at hand.
Middy: That my dear readers, is total bullshit! (laughter)
Now let’s focus on something else than the new album and single. You said as much as you could. Last year something interesting also happened for you guys. You did your first film debut. How did you end up there?
Johnny: A friend…
Middy: He was like taking photos, stills for the movie, backstage and for promotion.
Johnny: The director was looking for a band to play the part. He was like maybe Santa Cruz could do that. We were like: “Fuck yeah! Definitely!” So that’s how we ended up in the movie.
Did you need to think about it? Or were you just straight away certain that you want the part?
Johnny: No, definitely no. We usually just do whatever we can if it sounds great. And it’s of course a great band (Tehosekoitin – remind TM).
Middy: Yeah it was a fun thing to do and of course something totally different than what we are used to.
Of course you already have some experience with video, as you have music videos. Is there a difference between shooting for a film and for a music video?
Johnny: We played the song two times and that was a wrap. We even had one line I think.
Middy: So yeah, that was way faster than the other thing.
In your career so far you have already achieved so much, even though you’re still at the start of things and many things are still ahead of you. What has been your personal highlight so far?
Johnny: I think the warm up for AC/DC was pretty good. 50000 people. That was pretty nice.
Middy: It was great. I agree.
When you were a kid would you ever have imagined that one day you would be opening up for AC/DC?
Johnny: Definitely (serious).
Middy: Of course, I even planned the date and it was pretty close (laughter).
Johnny: You have to believe in even the craziest ideas.
Middy: One thing that I once heard is that you have to set your goals as high that even if you get only half way, you get pretty far. Never settle for less.
Now we have talked about your new album and more serious stuff. Perhaps it’s time for some less serious questions. In your second album there are quite a lot of “fucks”. Have you ever counted how many times the word “fuck” appears throughout your songs?
Middy: In US none (laughter).
Johnny: Actually I don’t think we say it much. I think it’s only like maybe 5 times maximum. In Velvet Rope. That’s 5 times. But you know it’s such a powerful word. That’s why it feels like we say it so much.
Middy: It’s such a poetic word, so of course we use it as much as we can.
Johnny: I think there’s only one fuck in the new album. But then again it’s not even fuck, it’s fucking (laughter).
Middy: Yeah, that’s a totally different thing.
Johnny: But is it really? (laughter)
Middy: Yes, it is.
Johnny: Oh wait there’s another song, and there’s fuck in there as well!
Really? So there’s less swear words in this album. Is it even a Santa Cruz album?
Middy: Yeah, it doesn’t count.
Johnny: But wait… There’s zero fucks in the first album right?
But the second one is filled with it.
Middy: We have to take it back you know. We forgot it when we were making the first album, so now we have to take it back (laughter).
Johnny: Yeah and now of course we have grown adult, we don’t swear anymore (laughter).
But how does it feel, does it mean anything to you when you say fuck? Or is it just swearing?
Middy: Of course it has a different meaning every time we use it.
Johnny: I think you make the next word much more powerful.
Middy: Yeah, totally.
Johnny: Like if you say bitch, or you say fucking bitch (laughter). Good example, right?
Middy: You proved your point, man.
Johnny: (laughter)
Another not so serious question. We were wondering how much cans of hairspray you use per month?

Johnny: I don’t use hairspray.
No way, your hair always looks the same. What conditioner do you use then? It must be hairspray?
Middy: Kenneth Murphy! Use that!
Johnny: But yeah, no hairspray.
Middy: It’s called sweat, what you’re thinking about.
Johnny: Yeah, sweat.
Middy: You have that when you work out or when you play and jump on stage (laughter).
But then there must be some other secret to it?

Middy: Oh yeah, that is called dirt.
Johnny: It probably has this effect after two shows, when I didn’t wash my hair. But no, no hairspray. Fuck no!
Middy: Yeah, sorry to break it to you this way, we don’t use hairspray.
Well you know, Santa Cruz not using any is of course also news.
Middy: We really care about our environment, you know.
Johnny: What the fuck? (laughter)
You played your first festival and you still have some shows ahead. What are your other plans for summer?
Johnny: Vacay.
Middy: Go see other bands…
Do you have favorite bands coming?
Middy: Guns N Roses.
Johnny: Yeah, Guns N Roses!
They are playing same day as Tuska.
Johnny: Yeah, but we are not gonna be at Tuska. Because well… Guns N Roses in Finland.
There is some people who don’t really believe that they are actually coming to Finland. I remember one time I had to wait 2 hours before they came to the stage, the rumor was that they didn’t want to go from backstage to mainstage by foot and a whole bunch of other stuff needed to be organized at the spot.
Johnny: I think they’re pretty much better right now in that way, they don’t start their shows that late anymore, there hasn’t been any news about that.
Middy: What happened? Is it the same band anymore? Actors maybe? Well anyway, I also want to really see Marilyn Manson. He’s coming to Qstock. We’re actually playing on the same day.
Sounds like you will have a blast! We hope you will have a nice break and are looking forward to be able to listen to the album in September. Thank you so much for your time!

Tuonela Magazine with Middy & Johnny Cruz – 10.6.2017 @ RockFest, Vantaa.

Editor’s note: Some final statistics! We counted out that Santa Cruz has about 37 times fuck/fucking/motherfucking/… in their total repertoire. Which makes the total balance a bit more than well… 5 times. In this interview we have written the word down in various forms about 17 times.