Dennis Cruz Explores the ‘Roots’ of his Dance Music Journey

We catch up with Solid Grooves member and Beatport top-selling deep tech artist Denis Cruz to learn more about his debut album, Roots, out now on Crosstown Rebels.

9 min
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Nov 3, 2021
Cameron Holbrook

Spanish deep tech icon Dennis Cruz has been routing dance floors for decades, fastening his reputation as one of dance music’s most sought-after acts. Since first starting his journey behind the decks at the age of 17, the now 38-year-old DJ/producer has become a huge name in clubland. Performing in over 40 countries around the globe and pushing out mammoth records on labels like Snatch!, Moon Harbour Recordings, Solid Grooves, Dirtybird, Suara, and his own MÜSE imprint, he’s a sought-after headliner with regular appearances atop the Beatport Top 100 chart.

Now Dennis Cruz has achieved a career milestone with the release of his debut album, Roots — out now via Crosstown Rebels. Informed by the melee of musical influences and touching on everything from “funk, salsa, and flamenco to house and disco,” the 10-track LP is full of surprises and features artists like Josh Butler, Ian Ludvig, Leo Wood and more.

We caught up with Cruz to learn more about the sound and process behind his album debut, his relationship with Damian Lazarus, collaborating with the late, great dub legend Lee Scratch Perry (who features on the record), and more.

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Hey Dennis! Thanks for joining us. How was your summer of 2021? Any highlights?

This summer was great, and it’s been so good to be playing shows and festivals again.

Playing in Croatia at Noa Beach and the after-party that followed was so good. It started raining hard, but nobody left, and everyone went crazy. Also, the Solid Grooves party in London with seven thousand people dancing after this long break was amazing — the energy of the crowd was next level.

After nine years of releasing music and hundreds of tracks under your belt, you’re now dropping your debut album Roots via Crosstown Rebels. What inspired you to release an album after all this time?

I think it was the right moment for me to release an album because my sound is more mature now, and I feel much more comfortable with it. That comfort was vital to exploring some of the themes, collaborations, and ideas I wanted to showcase on the album. Also, during 2020 I had plenty of time to focus in the studio, which always helps to finish big projects!

What is the story behind the album title?

Roots signifies both myself as an artist and my influences from all of these years within music — from hip hop and salsa to house, disco and minimal — so I tried to mix all these influences within an electronic music project. The album fuses those influences and inspirations to showcase a project which shows who I am.

What were some of the main pieces of kit used to create this album?

I work with Ableton, VST plugins like Maschine, Komplete, Sub Boom Bass, and Splice, but also hardware and instruments such as my Roland TR8, my bass guitar, and many other gear to process the sound such as the Avalon, Drawmer, and Focusrite to name a few. Also, I love to sample voices and other tracks from different genres to create a unique vibe on the track. However, we also recorded most of the instruments and vocals live on tracks such as “Los Tamales,” including the piano, bass, congas, and brass. It was more of a challenge to get away from the traditional salsa sound and take it to a track made for the dancefloor by recording this way. Still, that effort and hard work definitely paid off, and the authenticity of the live instrumentation and vocals really stand out on the final track.

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Do you have any tips for fans who might want to follow in your production footsteps?

I think everyone has to find their own sound. Get inspired by other artists but not try to copy, and dig and search for those subtle details that will help you create your own identity. The most important thing, in my opinion, is to have a style and sound that you’re comfortable with and that represents you as an artist.

Tell us about your relationship with Crosstown Rebels and Damian Lazarus over the years. How did you first get linked up with them?

I’ve always said that being able to release on Crosstown, a label that has been a favourite of mine since forever, is a dream come true, and being able to do so multiple times is an honour. Damian will always have all of my respect and thanks. I met him three years ago at ADE, and from there, I began to send him music and quickly started releasing on the label. He helped me a lot with the album, from checking new ideas and tracks to suggesting new or alternative ways of doing things on some demos and sketches. He gave me so much help throughout the process, and hopefully, you’ll enjoy the result!

The album features numerous collaborations with big-name artists, but one, in particular, stands out: dub legend Lee Scratch Perry. His vocal accompaniment on your track “Go Down” was his last recording before his recent passing. We’d love to learn more about your work together on the tune, how it came to be, and how he influenced you musically.

I had the opportunity to work with some amazing artists, but it was an immense pleasure and honour to work with the late, great, Lee Scratch Perry. Damian played a massive role in setting that up, and at the beginning, I was a little scared that mixing reggae with my sound wouldn’t work. I had an idea, and we sent it to Lee, and he sent back his vocals shortly after. I almost changed the whole track to make it more dubby, however, we changed a few small things and realised it just worked. I think the final track is a great record, and it was such an amazing experience to work with such a legendary musician and icon before his unfortunate passing.

What’s coming up next on MÜSE?

The next release on MÜSE will be out in November from Leonardo Gonnelli as he returns with his TERRRR EP featuring Adne. I’m playing this EP in most of my sets, and the tracks are killers. My partner on the label Eddy M is also up again soon with a deep and funky house track with a really nice vibe, and then I’m also finishing a new one that will be out in early 2022.

Dennis Cruz’s debut album, ‘Roots,’ was released on 29th October via Crosstown Rebels. Buy it here.

Cameron Holbrook is Beatportal’s North American editor. Find him on Twitter.

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