Ashley Osborn

Des Rocs Talks His Lone Wolf Meets Lil Nas X Style of Writing, Recording, & Releasing After Debut LP Drops

“I want the art to be a reflection of the times and to just make something that’s really intense and chaotic seems really fitting these days.”

That right there is this new era of Des Rocs in a nutshell. When Danny Rocco, Des Rocs himself, started off our extensive conversation with that line, we knew we were in for something special. Having already heard his brand new record – his debut LP, A Real Good Person In A Real Bad Place – there was a level of association we could make between the the rocker’s statement and the sentiment of the 11-track album. Rocco eloquently crafted an album in the middle of a global pandemic that not only reflects it’s uncomfortable, (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime qualities, but also leads fans into the deepest, darkest parts of his heart and soul. (One listen of “Imaginary Friends” and you’ll experience it for yourself.)

Des Rocs bares all on this album, but leaves enough room within the electric musicality for each and every listener to find themselves in it, as well as the feelings that ooze out of every single guitar lick and vocal highlight. A songwriter as much as he is a rockstar, though, Des Rocs expressed to us that he wants the lyrics to age well, for they not only mean a lot to the album at hand, but they permeated his entire being. We can’t see the future, but what we can do is tell you that Des Rocs knew what he was doing for both himself and the world at large when he made this album.

We chatted about a year ago and at that time we were still a bit uncertain of what was to come, yet you’ve still been so poignant in all your releases since. I’m wondering, since last time we talked last year, have you found it hard to find inspiration or find places to look to create art, because it’s maybe not the most creative of times?

I think it it really ebbs and flows, but without a doubt when there is something extremely intense going on in current events, whether it was like the election or some of the darker months of COVID, that was actually a very uninspiring time, because, for me, making music is very escapist, but I can’t help when what’s going on around me bleeds into it and really starts reflecting in the art.

When I’m making music, I have to feel like I’m five years old and like there is no world and I’m just kind of in an imaginary land. Those times were especially uninspiring, but then finally these big waves of inspiration came where I would just not look at the news and instead just be in my own bubble for a couple of weeks and make a ton of music.

That’s a great way to approach it – take yourself out of this world for a moment, but in a way that you still have the ability to be introspective about it.

Absolutely. I think all great art should take you somewhere, but still be a reflection of the times. I do think it’s all about escapism. I don’t want things to be too literal. I want to create a place that you can go to and escape your daily life for the 40 minutes of my album.

Speaking of your album, which is your debut, it’s finally in the world for everyone to hear. Before it dropped, though, we have heard music from you and have loved it. You are too much of a dynamic performer to not. Everything you do is so sonically sound and intense.

Thank you.

You’re welcome. What the process of getting this album together in comparison to some of your other releases? Did you go about it in the same way? Because from what I’ve heard, it’s similar enough that it is authentically you, but there is an additional aspect of a maturity and conciseness found on A Real Good Person In A Real Bad Place.

Yeah, the processes was very, very similar. It’s always very isolating and I think the only thing that changed about it was that COVID made it even more isolating. I kind of doubled down on the lone wolf aspect of it. In many ways that is symbolic of the album as a whole, where I’m just doubling down on a lot of my most intensely personal desires and choices as an artist and really not giving a shit about what is in, what is cool, and what people expect. I was just going for something that fulfills me so much creatively.

I think that plays into the title alone: A Real Good Person In A Real Bad Place. It’s very fitting for you, a good person, to be embarking on this record sort of completely on your own during this time, when the world was in a bad place. Was the title already decided before the very uncomfortable last year or so, or did it just come about because it was so obvious?

Definitely the latter. A really eye-opening song on the album is the intro and it’s called “Tick.” The way I made that song was that I wrote this instrumental idea down and then just did one take of vocals over the whole thing, start to finish. Whatever happened, happened. I didn’t write anything. It was just me sort of freestyling how I was feeling in the moment. It all just came out, and then afterwards I was like, “Ok, now let me dive in, let me clean up these lyrics. Let me polish up the phrasing. Let me do some really good takes.” Although then I was like, “No, I just like it for what it is: I’m a real good person in a real bad place.” That just stuck out to me as the north star of everything that I had wanted to write for many, many years. That concept resonated with me and became the theme of the album.

That’s so interesting. You know, the complete and utter undertone of the album is that it’s yours, it’s Des Rocs’, it’s personal, but it also has this widespread cultural aspect where it’s like you’re saying, “This is what we’re all going through, but this is my coping mechanism for it,” in a way. I like that it came up more organically than that, this title and this sentiment, and still makes sense to every listener who isn’t you.

I think you nailed it. You summarize in a way that I’d never even really thought about to be honest. The whole process of this album was extremely, extremely personal and in a sense it’s like reading almost a musical diary from me where you’re getting a sense of a person and what that person is going through. Also, though, through what’s in that diary, you get a sense of the time.

That is exactly how I felt. You made something really comprehensive and all encompassing, but with heart and soul. Another thing that I love about you – and I believe I’ve told you this before – is just how much of your music translates well on a stage and in a live setting. You have a knack for creating these soundscapes that are immersive, but so much more so in person. Are there any songs or moments off this upcoming record that you are just the most excited about bringing to life in front of people… or even created with the live setting in mind?

Oh yeah, so many! I call them ‘fall off the stage moments,’ when I’m just having so much fun that I’m clearly going to not be looking at where I’m stepping and I’m gonna fall off the stage. I think the second song on the album, “Why Why Why” is going to be one of those philosophical, fun moments where I am just going to be playing so hard and screaming my lungs out that I’m going to just pass out or fall off the stage in the first five minutes of the set.

That is a good one! I think “Why Why Why” is going to be one of those songs where everyone’s whipping their phones out. Fans are going to say, “I have to capture this and look back on it.” Another song that I think is going to have that effect is “Rabbit Hole,” which is… I don’t want to say different, but I think that it will be more of a reflective moment for people to get on board with the way that you approach music and the sort of glorious personal aspect of what you’re about. Do you agree?

Oh, totally! That song is deeply, deeply, deeply personal to me. You know, I got put in this lane where people are saying, “Oh, he’s just rock artist.” You know what I mean? I don’t know any rock artists who are making songs like that, like “Rabbit Hole,” to be honest. That’s the way I want it to express this one personal song. I didn’t take out the acoustic guitar and the drum kit to just play it like that. I hope that song really connects and really gets across how much I want to just push what a rock artist can be in the 21st century.

Being vulnerable right now is needed, and in your lyricism as someone who is in the rock genre, showing wholeheartedly who you are, comes with an edge. You have an edge over people, almost. There’s nothing haphazard or false, it’s just you making this punk rock meets classic rock take on music. Do you ever write a song or go about something in your artistry and think “Oh, maybe that’s too much to share at the moment,” or at all? There is so much in this album that is individualized, which works in your favor, but resonating wise… it could hit or miss. (We think hit.)

I think that when I have those moments that it’s a good sign that I’m making art that is true to myself and worthy of sharing. I’ve been in those rooms of co-writing sessions and stuff where you walk in and someone’s like, “Hey, what do you want to write a song about today? So-and-so needs a song.” I cannot imagine writing like that. What’s the point if you’re not sharing a story or a song or a message that’s deeply, deeply important to you? So whenever I’m like, “Is that too much? Is this too far in this?” I just view it as a sign that I’m actually in the right space. On the songwriting side, especially, I think you just need to go for it and you need to take those big swings. It’s usually never as weird as you think it is or the out of the box as you think it is. In fact, I think we often need it to push even farther.

For sure. I think it’s important to recognize that and allow yourself to put your talent and your passion first. It’s admirable to put yourself and your art out in that way, but still rack up fans and followers that not only accept what you are doing, but accept you.

Thank you so much. On a similar note, I saw a really funny tweet yesterday from Lil Nas X. Somebody tweeted at him saying something like, “Yo, Lil Nas X only has 10 songs and he’s so successful. Imagine being that successful without having to work that hard for them.” He responded with something like, “I put the work in because I believe in them. I put more into that than some people put into like a hundred songs that they release just to be able to release stuff.” He was posting about taking his time to release a whole album, too. It resonated with me like… he is so right. I never thought like I would be really on team Lil Nas – at least not as far as like his approach to art and creativity – but he was dead on. Actually I am a fan of his music. It’s just so true, though. Artists are just like, “Oh, let’s do this track with this person! Sounds good enough! Put it out, maybe we’ll get five more followers… maybe we’ll get a hundred more followers!” You really need to have a long-term approach to it and it is tough. I’m a very impatient person myself, but it’s still all about the long term. If something is going to last forever with my name on it, it needs to be perfect. For me, even if nobody ends up loving this album and I’m finished with this or whatever, I will know for the rest of my life that I put every single ounce of myself in every word and every element of the production. Sometimes I did something in one take and I loved it and that was perfect. Sometimes I did a hundred takes of the same verse over and over again over five days and drove myself crazy. At the end of the day, though, it was how I wanted it to be and that gives me immense peace of mind.