Interview: Rocco Deluca - A Bluesman With His Eyes To The Sky.
All photos were taken by the very talented Ted Newsome.
Born the son of a professional guitarist who played with Bo Diddley, Rocco Deluca had blues in his soul since he was a boy. Inspired by the classic Delta bluesmen, Muddy Waters, Son House, and Robert Johnson, Rocco Deluca has created a blues/rock sound that pays homage to these late greats. The kind of blues that make you want to rip off your shirt and howl.
Deluca played for two years at the Gypsy Cafe before getting noticed and signed to Ironworks Music, a record label run by Jude Cole and Kiefer Sutherland. Rocco Deluca will be playing all January long at the Spaceland during his Monday night residency in support of his second album Mercy. He was kind enough to speak to us yesterday.
How old were you when you picked up an instrument?
I was really young, before the age of ten. I used to just mess around with the instruments that were lying all over my grandma’s house. My father and my uncles were musicians and would just leave all kinds of stringed instruments lying around.
When did you decide you were serious about music?
Probably when I heard Muddy Waters’ Hard Again. Also when I heard Son House and Robert Johnson records, I got fascinated with them. There was something precious about it.
So you were never going to be a chemist or a lawyer?
(Laughs) I was never going to be a chemist. I am so bad at math. An alchemist maybe, but I was not going to be a chemist. I don’t know. I never thought I was going to be a musician or poet as a career. I just thought that this is what people do. It’s part of life like cooking or watering a garden. You come home and write some music and play your guitar for a bit. It’s part of your daily ritual. It was never a career choice.
I heard your father was a guitarist for Bo Diddley. Did that put a lot of pressure on you as a kid to follow in his footsteps?
I had no pressure of any kind as a kid. My dad was kind of a gypsy and got into trouble a lot. My grandma frowned on the life he led, so there was no pressure for me to follow him. There was no real pressure to do anything. I just gravitated to music because I loved it. I thought it was the only thing worth doing. Growing up I was a lonely child and music kept me company.
How did you form Rocco DeLuca and the Burden?
I did a record by myself, and in order to promote it I brought some friends on the road. And then some friends of friends went on the road. The Burden is made up of friends who feel like playing with me at the time. When I was playing up in San Francisco, I met this childhood friend came up to me and said he had been living in his car with his dog. He’s now my guitar tech. I think for this next tour it’ll just be me and Ryan, my drummer.
What is your writing process like?
I don’t really have a process. The method that I found is to be available when things come to you. To be listening all the time. Be aware. You don’t make anything out of nothing. We conjure up something that never existed from the elements around us. We take pieces and sew our own little blankets of what we find.
What do you like about living in LA?
Well, I don’t own a car. So I either take the bus or walk everywhere. I moved from Long Beach to Silver Lake recently, and Silver Lake is just great for me. I can walk and hear four different bands a night. I can walk to get my clothes cleaned. I can walk to get tea. I can walk to get my weed. I don’t need to drive anywhere. And the people on the street will talk to you about politics, music, whatever, you know? It’s a lovely community.
Is it odd to have your music be so closely linked to Kiefer Sutherland in the media?
Publications look for content. Anything that has got a celebrity in it will sell. They concern themselves with shows I’ve played with famous people, who owns my record label, or who I had lunch with last week. It doesn’t matter to me. I don't really read anything. Keifer is such a great person, though. He’s become a real friend.
I read that Ironworks made a documentary about you. What was that like?
Imagine going through hell and then square that by ten.
It was weird for me. They filming me playing shows during Christmas time in Europe when no one showed up to the gigs. They basically filmed me failing.
It must have been surreal watching a movie about yourself.
I didn’t watch it. I couldn’t bear it.
Your first album is called I Trust You to Kill Me and your new one will be called Mercy. Are you having a lot of near death experiences?
(laughs) I guess, I’m a bit dramatic at times.
Who is Colorful written about?
It’s a collage of a couple different people. People who are wild flowers or wild spirits. They’re just going to do what they do. You have to just admire that. This song is my way of honoring that kind of person.
I read somewhere that people bring you socks at shows. Why socks?
I didn’t realize the effect blogging had on people. You know, when you blog you really don’t think anyone is paying attention. I wrote in an entry one time that on the road one thing you need is socks. After that at every show someone would show up with socks for me. My guitar tech told me that the next time I blog it should be about how you need weed on the road.
What’s worst thing about touring?
The worst thing is that if you’re out to sea too long you become a ghost. There is no home base anymore. No one is expecting you and your friends give up on you at home because you’re never there.
What’s the best thing about touring?
You’re forced to meet new people. It forces me to experience things that I would otherwise never do. I’m a real bedroom person. If I had a choice I would just hide in my bedroom and never go out. Touring also allows you to share your music with new people. That’s really exciting.
Do you have any local bands that you really like?
There are no real organized bands that I like. There are a few street musicians and bums that I think are brilliant, though. There’s this girl with a nylon guitar who’s just great.
If you could change one thing about the music industry what would it be?
I hate the classification of music, you know. They’re such dumb categories. The terms rock, world music, blues, are so simple minded. Being called a blues band is just a bummer. Categories demystify band and takes away what makes them unique.
What’s the worst show you ever did?
Oh man, there’s a ton. (laughs) Do you really want me to relive the horror?
Ok how about, what was the weirdest thing you ever saw at a show?
Every once in a while you see an iconic figure at your event. That usually makes me pause. Also any venue that has a JumboTron is really odd. All of a sudden you look up and there is a giant picture of your melon on the screen. I never liked that.
Would you rather be burned alive or frozen to death?
Well let’s see, there is something about walking in a fire that’s romantic, isn’t there? But if you’re frozen it turns you into some kind of fossil that could potentially be brought to life again. Ah, fuck it. I’ll go with walking into a fire.
Be sure to catch Rocco Deluca and the Burden at the Spaceland on Mondays all this month. You really have no excuse not to. It's free!