Hello and thanks for taking time out to talk with us.
Can you first introduce the band and give us some background to how it all started and what brought you all together?
When I moved back to my old hometown in Texas a few years ago, I couldn’t find a local band to join. So I thought I’d ask the musicians on some of my favorite albums if they’d be willing to record with me remotely from their home studios. Amazingly, they were interested, and CRUEL JUNO was born. With Italian guitarist Luca Princiotta (DORO, BLAZE) and Sicilian vocalist Gandolfo Ferro (Heimdall) signed on as special guests, I produced the first single, “Swallow My Medicine” – and then went in search of additional artists to work with, such as Fabio Lione (RHAPSODY, ANGRA, VISION DIVINE), Oliver Palotai (KAMELOT, EPICA), Gian-Andrea Costa (DREAMSHADE), and Jasio Kulakowski (KOBRA AND THE LOTUS). And there’s still more people I’d like to work with! I sometimes think of the project as “My Avantasia,” since it’s more of a collection of guest musicians than a band.
Have you been/are involved in other bands before? If so has that had any impact on what you are doing now, in maybe inspiring a change of style or direction?
I’ve only done the typical bar band scene, playing clubs and parties. The rest of the guys, of course, are kick-ass pros, and it’s their music that I’m listening to most of the time, which is influencing what I’m writing…Creates a bit of a circle really.
What inspired the band name?
I am a huge fan of Heimdall’s concept album “Aeneid” – which is based on the epic poem by Virgil. (That’s how I discovered Gandolfo Ferro, who lends his amazing voice to most of our songs.) The name CRUEL JUNO is a direct reference to the Aeneid, and is also meant to honour Gandolfo and Luca being from Italy/Sicily.
Was there any specific idea behind the forming of the band and also in what you wanted it and your sound to offer?
I had an idea for both the sound. I wanted CRUEL JUNO to be straight up full-throttle hard rock. Loud at any volume! Drum-wise I play single bass, and it was a very purposeful decision. I want the songs to sound wild through the music itself, not because I’m just slamming double bass underneath it. I want each song to sound like a car swerving down a narrow road.
Do the same things still drive the band when it was fresh-faced or have they evolved over time?
Well, I’m running low on great monsters – although I’m currently wrapping up collaboration with Jasio Kulakowski (KOBRA AND THE LOTUS) to do one about Medusa.
Since your early days, how would you say your sound has evolved?
I am open to the ideas that each musician brings to the table. “Wound Too Tight” – our most recently finished song – was the first song I’ve done with Oliver Palotai on keyboards. His contribution really transformed the song – adding a melody that didn’t previously exist and just beefed everything up. The song evolved simply by having him on board. And now with the Medusa collaboration, Jasio is taking the song in a much different direction than what I’d originally written. I love that about the song-writing and production process – the song takes on a life of its own as other people bring their own ideas and insights into it. Medusa will sound like nothing we’ve done so far.
So it is all pretty much organic as things change and evolve?
It happens naturally. There is no deliberate effort to make changes. Instead it’s simply a result of what happens when various combinations of ideas and people are brought together.
Presumably across the band there is a wide range of inspirations; are there any in particular which have impacted not only on the band’s music but your personal approach and ideas to creating and playing music?
I interviewed session drummer Victor Indrizzo for the December 2013 issue of Modern Drummer. He plays for Alanis Morissette, and on a good percent of the pop music that’s on the radio. That interview, though, was life-changing for me. He laid out his blueprint for playing with a click, using backing tracks, working in a studio, etc., and overall opened my mind to a whole new way of making music. None of this music that I’m making would exist without Victor.
Is there a process to the songwriting which generally shapes songs?
Preparation is key. I record my own acoustic drums, but I have to know what I’m going to play for it to sound good. And so I start with EZDrummer2 in my DAW (Reaper) and I sequence what I intend to record, note for note, by painting each note into the piano roll. This lets me listen to what I’m planning to play and see how well it actually fits. Once I have a perfected sequenced file, I will remove EZDrummer2 from the FX, but keep the MIDI I sequenced, so that I basically have a drum chart (or map) of what I need to record – it simply won’t generate any sound. And then I can place my laptop where I can easily view it while playing, open the MIDI in full screen, and I basically have a self-scrolling drum chart that I can watch while I record my acoustic drums. It’s a process that works really well!
Where do you, more often than not, draw the inspirations to the lyrical side of your songs?
For the most part, I follow Helloween’s model of writing cool metal songs that are not evil. Wound Too Tight, for instance, can simply be a song about a mummy, or for someone looking for a deeper meaning, it can be about someone struggling to understand the purpose of their existence, contemplating suicide, and choosing to live. I don’t like getting preachy, though, but the message is in there for people who like to look for one.
Give us some background to your latest release.
Our first EP, “Playing With Monsters” was released January 10. Available on Spotify and everywhere else online. I also have a very limited number of CDs. People can email us through http://crueljuno.com/ if they’re interested in a CD.
Give us some insight to the themes and premise behind it and its songs.
When I started out, I wanted to tie all of our songs together, not as a concept album, but using a general theme. I mentioned our first song, “Swallow My Medicine.” It had an overall Jekyll/Hyde feel, so I decided that each song would represent a classic monster: Jekyll/Hyde, Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Mummy. The monster theme also provided a great way to have quality music videos. I’d edit old monster movies and set them to our music. They’re fun to watch, and it’s really the only affordable option when musicians are spread all over the world. – Although for the new mummy single “Wound Too Tight” released mid-December, there was really not enough footage of mummies in any old mummy movie, so I had to shoot my own video. I bought a spandex bodysuit mummy costume and filmed myself in front of a tomb backdrop. It was all going OK until the zipper broke midway through the take. Ever worn a spandex bodysuit? Let me tell you a secret: They’re just like Cinderella. You have until the twelfth stroke of the clock to get home before you’re naked, because those suits will literally just peel off your body once the zipper fails. The suit was ruined, so I had to reuse the first half of the take I’d filmed, making the mummy video I filmed genuine B-Movie material. Rock and Roll!
Here’s the links to our brand new “Wound Too Tight” lyric video on Facebook and YouTube:
Are you a band which goes into the studio with songs pretty much in their final state or prefer to develop them as you record?
We record one song at a time, from our home studios, in our spare time. It’s the only way I can afford this project. I pay the musicians, and then pay for mixing and mastering. It all adds up. And I never add it up! Don’t tell me the cost! LOL
Tell us about the live side to the band?
CRUEL JUNO only exists as a recording project. We are spread across the world, and the various guest musicians are all involved in their own much larger projects.
It is not easy for any new band to make an impact regionally let alone nationally and further afield. How have you found it your neck of the woods? Are there the opportunities to make a mark if the drive is there for new bands?
Reaching people is the hardest part. I know that there are large numbers of people who would be interested in this project if they knew we existed. For instance, my “vampire” song with Fabio Lione reached about 6,000 people. That same week, he released his first single with Turilli Lione Rhapsody, and they had over 100,000 views within a few days. I can’t help but think that those 100,000 would have also listened to his song with us if they’d known about it. And so I am not aiming locally or regionally at all. I need a way to let global audiences know when their favourite musicians are recording a single with us.
How has the internet and social media impacted on the band to date? Do you see it as something destined to become a negative from a positive as the band grows and hopefully gets increasing success or is it more that bands struggling with it are lacking the knowledge and desire to keep it working to their advantage?
Our audience is 100% through social media. I don’t necessarily like their rules, though. Facebook does not like posts that send people outside their platform. And so if I try to promote a YouTube link, Facebook will downplay it. I end up having to upload the video within Facebook, which results in zero traffic to YouTube. So if you look at our video counts on Facebook, we’re doing pretty well, but our YouTube clicks are abysmal. It’s a nut I’m still trying to crack. If you have the solution, let’s talk!
Once again a big thanks for sharing time with us; anything you would like to add?
This project is unlike any other that I know of. I’m an ordinary guy who decided to hit up the people on his favourite albums to see if they’d be willing to jam with him. So for all of you who are banging away on your drums or grinding on your guitar in your bedroom wishing you could jam with your favourite band, I’m here to tell you, it is possible!
Check Cruel Juno out further @
Pete RingMaster 12/02/2020
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