The Cruxshadows were founded in Northern Florida, in the 1990’s. In the fourteen years since then they have climbed to lofty heights, toured all over the world several times over, are still touring relentlessly in support of their January of 2007 release, DreamCypher, and have had a multitude of their songs reach high numbers on many national and international charts. Sofia, released as a single in September of 2006, was number one on Billboard’s Dance Charts, surpassing Madonna and Beyonce as the most playable song in the world.
I sat down with Rogue in early March, in the home of the owner of The Dart Room(John, who was extremely cool with us and allowed me a great deal of freedom in what I did there) in Fayetteville, Arkansas before the Cruxshadows performed as part of a show thrown by Masque and Veil Productions. Together, Rogue and I did a video interview… which I was very satisfied with.
However, due to a microphone malfunction, the footage came out poorly and required transcription. From the damaged footage I was able to salvage the following…
My apologies to The Cruxshadows, DartRoom John, Masque and Veil Productions, and Jet for the long wait. Here goes the interview, recreated word for word. Thank you for your patience!
(All photos appear courtesy of luc1d and I)
BH: So Rogue, I’d like to begin by asking you a question that has plagued me, and many of your fans for years: Am I saying the name of your band right? I have heard people call you the Crooshadows, The CruXshadows, The Crowshadows…
Rogue: It’s Crooshadows. The X is silenced in the pronunciation… but in all honesty, it really doesn’t matter much to us. If people say CruXshadows its fine. I think Crooshadows sounds much nicer and has a bit more smoothness to the ear… I remember back in the 80’s and early 90’s … Nitzer Ebb.. NITZER Ebb… finally I saw an interview where they emphasized NITZER Ebb and I had always pronounced it Nitzer Ebb and I thought ok, so I guess I was wrong in that respect… But, it’s fine, either way… Crooshadows is correct though. The name is extremely important, but I don’t think the name is nearly as important as the meaning that goes into it. We use Crooshadows, as it sounds a bit more like ‘crescendo.’ It has a kind of… proper feel to it, where as CruXshadows sounds like something’s broken…
BH: So the name Cruxshadows seems like it could show several meanings in the combination of it’s roots. If you were to use the Latin element of the word ‘crux’ it could be interpreted as ‘shadows of the cross,’ or shadows of transformation by reaching a crossing point as suggested by the Anglican definition of the word. It seems like there are a lot of different meanings that go into the name. What intrigues me is your own, personal definition; what reasons, or meanings, did you have when you created it?
Rogue: Cruxshadows is a word that I created, it has no value outside of the band… There is no previous use of this word. The creation of the word Cruxshadows belongs to us. The meaning of the word crux shadows boils down to literally, shadows of the cross. It has to be taken a little bit further to understand what that means… When they crucified Christ, it was his most pious followers, the inner circle as it were, that retreated from the crucifixion. That were afraid to be there. It was the outsiders that claimed him as their own, that stood in the shadow of the cross. That is significant because the outsider is the inner circle, as opposed to the inner circle being the inner circle. What I created with Cruxshadows is a word that means ‘the beautiful or significant outsider‘, the inner circle made up of the outsider. And that was, in a lot of ways, how I saw the scene at the time… as amazing people that were often dismissed by society, and kind of brushed aside. My focus is that maybe we are more significant than people think.
The symbol, the tri-bar cross, is literally a hieroglyphic of the word. There are two fields, a field of light and a field of dark and so you have cross/shadow, or Cruxshadow. The light falls on the left side, the dark falls on the right side, and if you read it left to right: cross/shadow. The two circles that surround the cross and field of light and dark are a mathematical indicator for the set within the set. In this case it represents the set of the outsider within the set of the insider.
BH: So, within your choices of symbolism, as well as the metaphors and myths in your songs, and even your hair being half light and half dark there are a lot of diametrically opposed archetypes. As you said regarding your hieroglyph, the eastern orthodox cross in a field of light and dark represents the balance of forces within as well as without. It seems like you attempt to practice the Golden Mean within your work: how do you think these opposing archetypes add to your music?
Rogue: I don’t think it’s an issue of trying to fulfill certain archetypes in order to create art, or music, or significance. I think its rather that depth within art, depth within any type of artistic endeavor recalls elements of the Golden Mean. The idea is rather that I try and make art, and music, and make things that fulfill both a spiritual, an intellectual, and some element of the physical in the way that they come together… and that kind of balance in art making is what you’re referencing… its kind of a chicken in the egg kind of situation…
BH: Ok… well, I wanted to congratulate you on the success of ’Sofia.’ When you released it, you surpassed Beyonce on the charts… How did that feel?
Rogue: I don’t know that it’s a ‘surpassing’ of Beyonce… It was a week that we did very well. I think that Beyonce has accomplished a great deal more, in terms of the music industry, than we could ever hope for. I think, for us, the significance of accomplishment is in the art or the music that we make. When we make a song that matters to someone’s life, that is fulfilling. When we make a song that goes to number one on the Billboard Dance Charts it’s exciting, and it’s kind of cool, it’s the kind of thing where you say; ‘Ah. I’ve reached a certain point.’ and many of the people that don’t like the Cruxshadow can’t take away from you… People will constantly try and take things away from you, to belittle who you are or what you’ve done in terms of your music. This was sort of like putting us in the books. Winning the trophy, if you understand what I mean. It was significant in that respect, but what is more significant is when you feel like you’ve actually touched people… when you feel like you’ve made a difference in people’s lives, when you feel like what you’ve done is bigger than who you are and where you came from. It’s something that all of sudden belongs to the world, and belongs to people individually in their lives… that is an amazing feeling. And, it’s the kind of thing that I can’t communicate accurately… That is amazing. It’s the fulfillment of a creative endeavor.
We are really interested in creating positive music. We want to make music that leaves a positive impact. I think Socrates once said, ‘If you change the music of a people, you change the people’. That’s something that struck me very profoundly years ago… of all the different mediums of artistic expression out there music is the one that kind of creeps into our lives. It becomes like a soundtrack for who we are… and that is powerful. I saw so much music, so much negative music, so much deconstruction, so much tearing down of the existing constructs, and I felt like just tearing something down leaves nothing in it’s place, and nothing come of that. It’s the building positive things that is really important… that is what we try to do with our music; to create music that influences peoples lives.
A lot of artists will say that they are only a reflection of the world, that they are only a result of what they see… I don’t think that is where I come from, I tend to be on the other side of the argument and say that what an artist does has a profound impact on reality. An artist needs to have some responsibility, and they need to realize that when people listen to these songs these words seems to seep into peoples lives and really have a profound effect on their psyche. For my part, I really want to write music that does something for people. That empowers them and gives them hope, some degree of strength and courage. And that is what I want Cruxshadows to do for people, so that is what I fight for with my music.
BH: That is a genuinely noble intent to manifest in your work… I try to do the same thing in mine by showing the artists I work with as real people to inspire the readers… almost as if to say that there are no lines between artist and fans… So, in the past, you were a curator for the Oglesby art museum at your alma-mater, Florida State University in Tallahassee, and you were the curator of the poetry society there… did you ever think you would get to this point with your life and work?
Rogue: In essence, in whatever stage in life you are in, you try and give everything you have… you try and find things that make a difference… In terms of Florida State, that was a chapter of my life. I went to school and got involved with student government. Then various things led to the Oglesby Gallery. The thing is that I was doing Cruxshadows at the time… I guess that I’ve always felt that the Cruxshadows would conquer the world. I guess I don’t know how to answer the question… its kind of like saying,’ hey, when you were eating breakfast, did you ever think you might be eating dinner?’
BH: What I was trying to ask was based on whether or not you saw yourself as doing so much to contribute artistically to the world, while you were still working on a smaller level…
Rogue: I think what you’re getting at is did I really see myself as being more of a musician at that time. You know, it’s funny, I don’t really think of myself as a musician now. I mean I am a musician, and I play a few instruments, but I typically think of myself as more of a composer. In terms of the greater view, I tend to think of myself as an artist. Music is simply the medium that I am the most successful in. I work in visual art, I work in poetry, I work in film, I work in a wide variety of mediums. Cruxshadows is obviously the most popular of those…
BH: Obviously, otherwise we wouldn’t be sitting here right now! So, you mentioned working in a lot of other visual mediums… what do you do?
Rogue: Again, my artistic endeavors have always been sort of wide… and varied. I sculpt, I paint, I create installations, I make film, I do photography; I work in a variety of different mediums. But, for me, the medium isn’t so significant as the art that you are creating. The form is not nearly as significant as the matter… and the ideas, the concepts, the feelings, the emotions that go into something are really what makes something powerful, and then the level of aptitude applied to the media gives it it’s musical strength, or visual strength… and then they both have to be really strong for something to be significant. In making music, sometimes I succeed, and we have songs that are really meaningful, and sometimes, I fall short of the marks that I have set for myself. If I find a medium that I feel like I can move a concept in, that is what I do.