Shaun Cruda’s Culture LP Welcomes the LA Underground
ShaunCruda’sCulture LP welcomes some of the most well-known artists from LA’s underground scene including Trovarsi, D.Zeledon, Michael Fam, and JulianAnthony. The sonically diverse album not only gives you a fresh taste of each artist’s personalities but also (re)creates the culture of dance music. Monoky also lends his talent and supports Shaun Cruda’s Culture LP with a remix of his own. Get ready and buckle in because this album is one groovy ride.
Congrats on your latest releases featuring some local notable talent including D. Zeledon and Trovarsi. These are definitely some great tunes for the summer season! Can you tell us a little bit more about how they came to be?
Shaun Cruda (SC): This track was actually started like two summers ago. I had recently moved to Norwalk which was a bit closer to D. So we started having sessions, and this track was one that stuck around. Originally this track had a vocal sample on it. We didn’t push the track hard to labels knowing that getting the sample clear would be a nightmare. So after listening to this track over and over one night in the studio I decided to dust off the old TC Helicon Vocal processor and play around with some vocal ideas to replace that sample. After a few takes the track was complete and this is what you hear today.
D. Zeledon (DZ): Yea it was a project that we were sitting on forever. I remember testing it out at a rooftop party and the old vocal sample didn’t fit too much, so we switched it up and BAM.
Was “Believe” the track recorded live in one take? Was this planned or spontaneous?
SC: This track was actually a bit of both. Trovarsi and I enjoy working in the studio and making whatever feels right. Usually, it’s above 130bpm and has that bounce [like in] “Believe.” We perform live together, and this was one of the many tracks we wrote for our live performance. Having a “Live Cut” on the album was special to me because it tells a story.
Trovarsi (T): It was my birthday, and we were in Las Vegas preparing for a show in LA and this was one of the tracks that were written. We basically hauled our gear to Las Vegas, set up and wrote tunes.
It’s always so interesting to hear all of the creative process, even how artists land on a record’s name. Why “believe” and “culture”?
SC: “Believe” was titled after the vocal sample that is sprinkled throughout the track: “Something to Believe in.” So, believe seemed to be the right fit. CULTURE features an original speech written and performed by myself on the track. In that speech, I list all the reasons why I love the Club “Culture.”
Both tracks are smooth, light and fun. Music creates a mood and vibe. When do you envision them being played (day/night, outdoors/inside, warehouse/club) and in what part of a set? Getting the crowd warmed up? Keeping the vibe up or cooling them down? Paint the picture for us.
SC: I would say both of these tracks are hype tracks, mid-set.
DZ: For me definitely at the beginning of a set, especially if I’m playing after someone. I like to bring a different vibe to the dancefloor since I play more minimal tribal-ish.
T: “Believe,” I see it as a late-night or a pool party track for sure. It has a fun vibe.
Are there any fun, eyebrow-raising tidbits behind the tracks? Either production tricks, interesting samples, unique beats, etc you can share with us? (If not, anything you learned while making these tracks?)
SC: Ha, I really enjoy the process. I always try to just let the record be the record it wants to be. If I feel it needs a Basketball kick or a toaster clap I have no problem whipping that up. I actually have a surprise track called “Sunshine Lie” on the record. I had a lot of fun experimenting with that one. I wanted the kick to hit and the clap to snap. It’s slower in BPM, and it definitely sets a vibe.
DZ: What I like about our track is that Shaun killed the vocals haha. Always has a creative mind for coming up with hooks and vocals.
T: Working with Shaun allows me to really dial in on my modular rig. He can handle certain elements of the track while I really dig into synthesis and patching. When we get started writing we plug into the PA and start layering elements.
Listen to Shaun Cruda’s Culture LP – “Believe” featuring Trovarsi
What kind of gear are you using to make music, and do you have a favorite piece at the moment?
SC: Ableton as the foundation, Roland TR-8S, Roland JU-06, Korg Volcas, NI Reactor, Modular Synths as the concrete. Also, the Teenage Engineering stuff is next level. Trovarsi turned me onto the OPZ and the Pocket Operators.
DZ: I’m still in the learning process of Ableton and learning about all the cool gadgets Shanda (Trovarsi) and Shaun use, but definitely the TR-8S. Who doesn’t love drum machines?
T: I use a combination of modular, hardware. My favorite modules right now are the BIA by Noise Engineering and the Polygogo by ER-M. These modules are very dynamic and can get nasty when they need to be.
A creative’s mind tends to get pretty busy and loud, how do you quiet the mind to help your creative process?
SC: Breathing, and exercise. I’m not the best at keeping a fitness routine, but I can tell you the majority of this album was written when I was on a fitness routine. I exercise to relieve the daily anxiety from sitting staring into a screen all day. Once I can find my center again, I can typically have a coffee and get the ideas from my head into a song structure.
DZ: I like to just get away for a bit. I’m really close to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, so I try to head there and just ease the mind. [I also] have a conversation with my parents. They seem to always have something going on and it takes me away for a bit and I get some laughs in, then back on it.
T: I don’t. I multi-task and keep it moving. Sometimes on occasion, I’ll go on a bike ride.
Artists often admit they have many unfinished projects and sometimes it can be very challenging to finish tracks. What’s worked for you to keep you focused and accountable?
SC: I’ve done the “Five Minute” rule game sometimes. I get 5 minutes to lay anything in the session I want after the timer goes off I have five minutes to rough arrange, etc, etc. I find the limited time and pressure help me create something that normally I wouldn’t. I guess I take the four hour week approach you could say. Also, this is not every track. This is just a fun exercise if I get stuck.
DZ: Shaun taught me to work quickly and don’t let the project sit for too long. COOK, COOK, COOK.
T: I have a daily journal, and I have a huge wall calendar. I write a gratitude list every morning and night. I write down things I need to improve on daily. I also write down my ‘Wins’ for the day. I also work on multiple tracks at a time. If I get stuck on one, I move on to the next.
Listen to Shaun Cruda’s Culture LP – “Culture” featuring D.Zeledon
Do you find that ideas for other tracks will come to you while working on a project? If so, do you log this away and get back to it at a later time?
SC: All the time. I will be working on a track, and it will start heading in a new direction. Instead of fighting it, I’ll just follow that road for a bit and once I’ve gotten that idea down on “paper” I’ll just “save as” a new project and reopen the old session. It’s a 2 for 1 special at that point. Lol
DZ: Yes definitely. Sometimes I find elements that sound better or prior tracks and go back and put them in to see if they do sound better. I follow a lot of Shaun’s moves LOL. He taught me a lot.
T: Yes, yes & no. Depends on how I’m feeling.
Inspiration can sometimes hit a wall. What helps you stay motivated and fresh?
SC: I believe trying something new is the key to inspiration. I’ve just come to terms with “sometimes you just can’t write good material” and that’s ok, but don’t stop. The only way you’ll break that curse is by powering through it. The magic is in the process. Learn to enjoy the process.
DZ: I start listening to music from artists that I follow to give me inspiration. Then it gives me ideas or a route to go.
T: I’ll spend time listening to my favorite producers and DJs. I listen to a lot of modular artists that don’t make club music. They make music that is more cinematic and dark.
There are many paths to take and sometimes experience is the best teacher. What’s one thing you would tell a younger version of you? This can be anything like music production, a non-technical aspect (eg mindset), business, etc.
SC: Take piano lessons, haha. Besides that when it comes to music at least I have very little regrets. I’ve always done what I want. I’ve been blessed to work with so many incredibly talented artists [who] have shown me just how talented I am. My advice is to believe in yourself. Everyone has a story to tell. Your story could save someone’s life.
DZ: Learn how to play instruments! Don’t think that DJing is going to take you the furthest.. Haha
T: Believe in yourself in the beginning and stick with it.
People are always growing and changing. What’s one thing you’d like to know or do more of over the next few months?
SC: I’m glad you asked, I will now take this time to think about the next few months…. hahaha just kidding. Over the next few months I want to continue to work on live performances with Trovarsi. I also am working on a project that I can’t mention but I can’t wait to share that with y’all.
DZ: Work on more music definitely. I want to release my own EP by the end of the year on a solid label. *Crossing fingers*
T: I would like to interview more live artists for my series Faders Up with Trovarsi that streams on my YouTube channel. [Also], I’d like to play more modular-only live performances.
Because we can’t play venue shows at the moment, what else are you doing to keep your career active?
SC: Live streams such as Deviation Agency and Incognito. [Also,] finishing this album and just continuing to make music. Honestly, I started my career making music alone in my room with zero shows, so it feels familiar.
DZ: I’ve been doing a couple of live streams with local collectives to keep my feet moving.
T: [For me], focusing on hosting a series of live stream shows [called] Faders Up with Trovarsi and Frequency Shift. Both of these series promote and support work done by BIPOC, female and non-binary artists.
Eating, breathing and sleeping music is great and all, but sometimes breaking away from patterns can give clarity. Are there any other activities that also inspire you and help recharge the creative juices?
SC: Cartoons. Sometimes I need to just veg out on some plant-based food and watch some Bob’s Burgers or The Simpsons.
DZ: Work for me, keeping myself busy and helping my folks.
T: Ride bikes with my wife and hang with my dogs.
Any artists you’re keeping up with as of late?
SC: Joe Kay, man I’ve really been keeping my sanity by listening to the Soulection Radio Show on Beats 1. I find that listening to other styles keeps my ears fresh. Plus it just makes me feel good bumping to all those forgotten gems and timeless classics. Also CHKLTE he’s got nasty grooves.
DZ: Mike Morrisey and Luke Welsch run a label called Libero. An amazing label and my good friend Melé in the UK. [He’s] killing it with his label CLUB BAD.
Is there an album you can listen to from start to finish (without skipping a track) that takes you straight to Emotion City?
SC: Dr. Dre Chronic 2001. This album is all time for me. A true masterpiece.
DZ: Get Rich or Die Tryin’ – 50 Cent
T: David August – Times
Anything else you’d like to share?
SC: I want to thank everyone who has ever supported my career. The journey is long, but the process is the destination. I’m truly thankful for you taking the time to read this. Also, stay safe everyone. I send you love and positivity. Blessings forever. Shout out to my family, friends and loved ones. Y’all make me who I am. I LOVE YOU MOM.
DZ: I just want to thank everyone that has been riding with us in these tough times. It’s been a weird journey this year no doubt.
T: I really like what 6AM is doing to support Black Lives Matter. I would really like to see more of this in the community. Please support more artists of color and female and non-binary artists.