Artist Interview: Robert Caruso
Tell us about yourself and your music
I’ve being performing live since I was 13. As a teenager I played and I was friends with Nico and New York Dolls’ Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan. I started as a fan of electric Blues and ’50s Rock’n’Roll and got into early Punk Rock (Ramones, Sex Pistols, Johnny Thunders) which I saw as a progression from early Rock’n’Roll and ’60s artists like Bob Dylan, John Lennon, The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, and especially Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground, Iggy Pop & The Stooges and David Bowie, i.e: direct, straightforward Rock’n’Roll, the return to the 3-minute song, with realistic lyrics with something to say, music with energy and attitude and that one could dance to (as opposed to Hippie California music and Prog Rock). After keeping a band for a number of years as a teenager, I later performed for a few years solo and acoustic: hence the songs acquired a Delta Blues flavour and I toured all over Europe and beyond; I performed as opening act for Blues artists like Ray Charles, BB King, John Lee Hooker, John Hammond, Taj Mahal, Honeyboy Edwards, Louisiana Red, etc.. and Rock acts like Johnny Thunders, Steve Marriott, Suicide’s Alan Vega, ex-Dr. Feelgood’s Wilko Johnson. Got signed by Acetone Records and released the acoustic album When My Train Comes in 1996. Took a break after being constantly touring for several years (playing an average of four gigs per week) all over Europe. I then got back into playing electric guitar and with a band, and since 2013 I released 3 albums – 1) The Best-kept Secret In Rock’n’Roll (2013). 2) Love And Death (2014). 3) Three Minutes to Midnight (2016) – and 11 singles via iTunes. Apart from a few exceptions, I play everything myself on my songs (vocals, guitars, organ, piano, bass, drums, harmonica, synthesizers) and all three albums are complete in “video format” (i.e: a video for each one of the 12 or 13 songs on each album) on YouTube’s Robert Caruso (Official) channel.
Talk to us more about your latest release
My next scheduled release is new single Burn Baby Burn, which will be released on February 18th 2017; its video is on YouTube already.
My latest release is the album Three Minutes To Midnight, released in September 2016 (download on iTunes, GooglePlay, Spotify, etc.. CD on amazon.com – as all my releases) which includes 6 singles (Nobody’s Girl, Diabolical, Nowhere Fast, Sooner Or Later, You’re Driving Me Insane, Shallow).
What inspired you to write this release?
New single Burn Baby Burn will be on Soundcloud when it will be released on February 18th 2017. Technically, the latest release is the album Three Minutes To Midnight (11/2016) which includes 12 songs. Diabolical is the latest single (06/2016), which some have described as “Power Pop”. The song is about a woman who uses her good looks to attact and manipulate men to further her own objectives: a pathological case of narcissism. It’s one of a few songs of mine which is “organ-driven” rather than “guitar-driven”. My backing band is usually a 3-piece: guitar, bass and drums, with me on vocals and guitar and switching to organ for about a third of my repertoire. I use a ’60s Vox organ (as used by The Doors, The Animals, John Lennon with The Beatles, etc.. – all the way to Elvis Costello and The Damned) which are rare (manufactured only 1962-1970) and typical of some of my best-known songs (Indian Summer, Nobody’s Girl, etc..).
Any plans to release a video?
Every song I release has a video. On iTunes, GooglePlay, Spotify, etc.. there are 37 songs so far (there will be 38 with Burn Baby Burn in less than a month). There are videos for each and every song released so far (and then some: demos, covers, live performances, etc..) on YouTube’s Robert Caruso (Official) channel. The videos are usually just performances of the song, either solo or with a band (as in the videos for Red Pills, You’re Doing Nothing Now, Days Of Wine And Roses, Get Crazy, Sooner Or Later, Last Tube To Brixton, etc..). Some longer and “atmospheric” songs have footage that illustrates what the song is about (Indian Summer, Candy Brown, White Dimension, Nightride, Boulevard Of Broken Dreams – an 8-minute “dark” ballad with an orchestral arrangement, originally written for Nico who unfortunately passed away before she could record the song herself). Generally, the videos are like neo-realist cinema applied to Pop videos.
Any plans to hit the road?
Performing live regularly is a problem, because of keeping a 3-piece band together for long periods of time. Most people I audition are clearly not capable of doing this music thing professionally. Ironically, I’m at my best live and I’ve played 1000s of gigs over the years, but to keep a band together is a problem, about which I don’t have a ready solution at present. I can easily perform live solo, but that wouldn’t do justice to the songs of my releases, as they’re mostly written and arranged for a 4-piece band (guitar, bass, drums plus myself on vocals and guitar, and alternating on organ for a few numbers per gig).
As an indie artist, how do you brand yourself and your music to stand out from the rest of the artists out there?
A) I have my own sound and style. B) Like “my” sound, I created an image that’s my own: black leather, shades, cowboy shirts, the oval Vox Teardrop guitar, the ’60s Vox organ; I’m also very slender (and I can move and dance very well): the two things together – “sound and vision”, to quote David Bowie – make me instantly recognizable. To reach the audience – apart from performing live – I use mostly the internet: different promotion companies and their websites, social media, videos, advertizing, etc..
Who have you been listening to lately?
I listen to all kinds of stuff: from Beethoven to Duke Ellington, from Jacques Brel to Ali Farka Toure. Naturally, I often go back to favourites like The Velvet Underground, The Stooges, ’50s Rock’n’Roll (Elvis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Bo Diddley, Eddie Cochran, etc..). I hear new stuff usually through friends. Recently I re-discovered the first three pre-Midge Ure/New Romantic albums by Ultravox, when they had John Foxx as singer and Steve Shears and then Robyn Simon as guitarists. I got the idea of using a layer of synthesizers and electronics on top of a more traditional Rock sound from them, as in my singles Nowhere Fast and Shallow (both on my latest album, Three Minutes To Midnight).
Tell us about your passions
Literature, philosophy (I have a BA and MA in those subjects), films, art.
What else is happening next in your world?
Music – i.e: Rock’n’Roll – is not just music or my job for me, it’s a way of thinking, an attitude, a way of life with all that it involves, including “cliches” like fashion and clothes, traveling, other art-forms, women, things that some would consider “taboos” (yes, I’m a rock’n’roller, after all), politics and knowing what’s happening in the world, the people I see and places I frequent, etc.. etc.. Most of my time is taken by producing music (from writing to recording to making videos, etc..) most of the day, every day.
Thanks for an awesome interview, Robert!