INTERVIEW: Des Rocs On ‘The Dream Machine’ And Life On Tour
During The Dream Machine Tour, Des Rocs made his way to the Netherlands. Prior to his first of two shows in Amsterdam, I had the opportunity to talk with the singer. We discussed not only the tour and his favorite memories, but also his album The Dream Machine and the creative process behind its inception.
First and foremost, how are you?
I’m great, I’m great, still reeling from last night a little bit. Excited to dip my toes into the Dutch world. I’m very excited.
Good to hear! Did you enjoy your day in Amsterdam?
Very much. I really just walked around, and I think the biggest culture shock for me today so far was when I tried to get my shoes shined. So, I went to a couple of shoemakers, walked in, and said, ”Hey, can I get these shoes shined?” And they were like, ”Okay, when do you need it by?” I said, ”In one hour.” And they were like ”We can maybe do February 5th.” They were so shocked at my New York on the man style. I think things are a little bit slower paste here.
How has the tour been so far? What is your favorite memory?
Uhm… the tour has been absolutely amazing. It has been a dream, no pun intended. Too many favorite memories, I think. There is truly not one. Every show has been special, amazing, and I’ve just been so happy to be here. Europe has blown us away.
Have you had any special fan interactions?
I think I was most surprised by Paris last night. Paris has a reputation for being very calm and cool, sophisticated, and people let their guard down last night and went absolutely bonkers. That was cool to see.
Before you go on stage, do you have a pre-show ritual?
No rituals. Not a big ritual guy because if you have a ritual, then every single time you go on stage, god forbid you forget to do it, the whole time you’re thinking, ”Oh, we forgot to do the ritual, something bad’s gonna happen.” So, I don’t like to put that potential thought in my head.
Are there specific venues or cities that you are looking most forward to playing at?
Tonight. It’s historic. I’m really excited about tonight. I think The Ramones played here, and they had a kind of similar path to us. They sold out the small room and then the big room. And they sold that out. So it’s just cool to be in the legacy of a fellow New York rock band.
Having done both, do you notice any difference between performing in the US and performing in Europe?
Yeah, I think the crowds are very different. The crowds in Europe come more ready to rock, and in the US, there’s more guard, and they’re maybe a bit more like ”What are you gonna do for me?” It’s not in a bad way, just that the US is a bit more particular. I think Europe is a bit more open-minded, which I didn’t expect. I thought it would be the opposite. So it has been interesting.
I also wanted to talk a little bit about your album. What was the inspiration behind The Dream Machine?
Dream Machine is like all things big rock music, but very much filtered through my own personal experience and my own life story. Taking all that and putting a strong emphasis on modernizing the production of rock ‘n’ roll records and really pushing it outside the comfort zone. That, to me, is all things Dream Machine.
Were there any particular themes that you wanted to explore within the album?
Oh yeah, so much of it is just about dreaming big. You know, it is the Dream Machine, but it’s a vessel. It’s an emotive escape. That is what rock ‘n’ roll has always been for me, a vessel of escape. And also, in a weird way, like self-realization. Being your truest self in a public setting, that, to me, is a core theme of Dream Machine.
How has the response been so far?
I think it has been amazing! They’re always down to go on an adventure with me. Because I make a lot of different types of songs and records, and they’re always down for the growth of Des Rocs. I always want to be continuously evolving. So the fact that they’re down for that adventure is amazing.
How do the crowds respond to the live performances of the songs so far?
It’s crazy! It’s like what I envision when I’m recording it. When I’m writing it, I’m always thinking about what is this gonna feel like live. And I feel like I have a great sense of that when I’m writing and recording. So when I see it come to life on stage the way I envision, that’s such a beautiful thing for me.
What is your typical songwriting process? Do you start with the lyrics or the melody or does it all weave together?
I would say my songwriting process is me trying to figure out what my songwriting process is. There is no rhyme or reason to my process whatsoever. I’m always just searching for it. Sometimes a lyric or a word will just (boom sound effect), it will just pop into my head. Then other times I spend three, four, five years working on a song and not getting it right. Sometimes I get a better idea in the shower, just a melody in my head in ten seconds. There is really no rhyme or reason to it. I wish I knew what my process was so that I could say ”Today I’m gonna write a song, let’s start the process”. I wish I had that, but I don’t.
What song took the longest time to write?
Well, I mean, there are songs I’ve been working on for five years now that aren’t out yet. But the longest to write recently was a song called ”Natural Born Thriller.” Which went through so many variations over so many years before I figured out what I really wanted to do with it.
When do you know when your song is really finished?
I just know, you know, if you fall in love with somebody, you know, you just know. There’s no test you can take. You know, it’s just a gut feeling.
Is there any song that you’ve put out where you thought, “well, this is an amazing hit”, and the response wasn’t that great?
Yeah, all of them hahaha. I never had, like, a big hit song. There are those songs that I think are just complete bangers that got totally overlooked because so much of life and music is just timing, you know? And some of it’s just out of your hands, and sometimes it’s not meant to be. But coming to peace with that will make you a much happier person. So many years you put out a song, you’re like, no one’s reacting to this. Like, What the heck? What’s wrong with me? And letting go of that makes you much freer to create.
How do you handle criticism from fans or literally anyone?
I’d say medium. You know, sometimes I totally disagree, and sometimes I’ll agree. I think the one criticism I hate is ‘’you didn’t play my favorite song’’. That I hate especially if I’ve just come off stage; that really grinds my gears because every tour is different, and that’s what makes every tour special. I play a certain set of songs, and that’s what makes these Amsterdam shows special. That tonight I’m playing one set of songs, tomorrow another set of songs because we get to have two shows. So I think the whole world is divided into two people: people who say, You didn’t play my favorite song, and other people who are just grateful to have been at the show and had a great time and say, Maybe next time I’ll play that song, you know? It’s two different personality types.
I get that you’re playing different sets for the Amsterdam shows, but throughout the tour, are you playing different sets or just kind of the same?
I make tweaks before I get out there, like to have a good idea of what the theme of the show is musically, curating a cohesive night, musically and thematically, is super important for me. So I have, like, my base, I have, like, 90% of it. And then when I get out there, I start making tweaks.
So when you are on stage or just right before?
More like after, like I’ll finish a show and be like, tomorrow, let’s do this, tomorrow, let’s do that.
And if there was one band or artist where you would collab with, who would it be?
Foo Fighters. Because I just think the whole mission statement of Des Rocs is something that would resonate deeply with Dave Grohl, and I feel like I’m just like screaming from beyond some other void to like, try and get his attention and be like, Hey, look what I’m doing. I think you’re really gonna like this. I feel there’s like, a void in my generation for what we’re trying to do. And I think he would really resonate with it. I could be wrong; he might hate it. So, who knows.
Are you excited for the show tonight? And what do you expect from tonight?
I’m excited for every show. I have no idea what to expect. So that’s my approach to every show. I’m very excited for every show. If it’s 200 people or 80,000, I never know what to expect. That’s the beauty of what I do; you not know until you get out there.