Danny Rocco, a.k.a Des Rocs, is on the cusp of his rock and roll explosion. The New York-based artist spoke with Atlas before a sold out Phoenix show with The Glorious Sons about bringing the glory back to rock, opening for The Rolling Stones and his vision for the future.
Atlas Artist Group: How did you go from playing in Secret Weapons to Des Rocs?
Des Rocs: I was on tour as a guitar player in another band for many years and after two really brutal years on the road opening for really big names, I just felt like there was something missing in rock music that defined what I grew up with. Everything from the same kind of energy harnessed by Queen…and the Talking Heads and I felt like rock had kind of lost its “x factor” of big records and glory and all this stuff. When that band fell apart (because the other half of the band got very sick and couldn’t tour anymore), it was like yeah, just do your own thing.
I’d never really sang before and I was just like, I’m going to make a new project and Des Rocs was born.
Atlas: What do you find most inspires you and your music?
Des Rocs: I’m inspired by cities. I’m from New York and I think the energy of the city is very inspiring to me. There’s a certain chaos and frenetic energy that really seeps into my music.
Atlas: What kind of energy do you get from Phoenix?
Des Rocs: I’ve only been here once before. Phoenix has kind of a loneliness to it. It’s sunny but everything’s like sterilized by the heat and the sun, and it’s so open and expansive. It invokes a sense of isolation, strangely, even though it’s a very sunny place. Anything left out would be like zapped and killed instantly. It’s like a dramatic sense of….it’s inhospitable and it lends itself to death and, to me, makes it lonely.
Atlas: With all the touring you’ve done recently, have you had a favorite crowd or city?
Des Rocs: Yes. Opening for Muse in Denmark last fall and that was insane. That was one of the craziest tours of my life and it was magical.
Atlas: You also opened for The Rolling Stones recently. How did that come about?
Des Rocs: I’m unsigned and I’m unmanaged right now, like I don’t have any connections or know anybody, I’m not anybody’s nephew. The band just legitimately fucked with the music. We kind of just got plucked out of obscurity for a night. That was intense, it was 80,000 people. One of the members of the team came to a show and loved it and brought the music to the band. It was a real Cinderella kind of story.
Atlas: What did it feel like playing your music to 80,000 people?
Des Rocs: It felt fake. It felt like there was a CGI screen 20 yards out- it felt surreal. I had a lot of fun, there was a lot of crazy stuff that happened that day and it was really fun.
Atlas: You’re always writing, recording and planning. What drives that constant creative energy?
Des Rocs: I think it’s just in my nature. I’m always feeling the need to hustle. I just always feel like I’m running out of time, like in life and everything- as dramatic as that sounds- and I just have this constant ‘time is running out’ fear. When I have a record or idea, the first thought I have is “I hope I get to put this out before I die”. I work so hard to get it out so that somebody else doesn’t have to finish it and it comes out posthumously and it sucks. That’s the way I think, as morbid as it sounds.
I just feel the need to be constantly moving forward and creating and expanding on art and everything. I feel like I’ve never done enough. I’m very frustrated by the amount I can get done in one single human day. I always go to bed feeling unsatisfied, even if I’ve worked all day and played a show.
Atlas: Were you like that as a kid as well?
Des Rocs: Very much so. I was like six years old and I’d go fishing with my dad and we’d come back and I’d [stay busy]. It’s in my DNA, it’s a very New York kind of mindset and I take it to an OCD extreme.
Atlas: Is there any artist or band you’d love to collaborate with either onstage or in the studio?
Des Rocs: Absolutely, I’d love to collaborate with so many people but mostly in the urban world. There’s a rapper named SAINt JHN I’d love to collaborate with- I’m way more into what’s going on in hip hop than I am collaborating with any rock artists.
Atlas: What do you hope people take away from your music?
Des Rocs: I hope they take away that what comes out in the show and the records is a lifetime of passion and ceaseless energy and a crew of guys that are always getting kicked down and getting back up just so they can do what they do for 30 minutes or 45 minutes every night. We live and breathe every lyric and everything we do, we mean so much and so authentically. It’s not a gimmick, it’s very emotional.
Atlas: What’s something that’s surprised you about your journey so far?
Des Rocs: I think I was surprised by how polarizing the music would be- where some people really like it and some people don’t fuck with it at all. There’s a reason why I’m unsigned- a lot of people don’t fuck with my music. And a lot of people love my music and it’s weird. I think that’s the most surprising part. For me it’s like, creatively, you gotta take a big swing and either you knock it out of the part or I’m going to whiff and fall on my ass and anything in the middle is a waste of time.
Atlas: What’s something that you can only learn by being in music?
Des Rocs: I don’t think there’s just one thing. I think you can learn what it’s like to be rejected more times, in more ways, than anyone could possibly imagine. Like you apply to college and you don’t get into three or four schools and you’re upset. Imagine having that experience every day and trying to build something at the same time. Seven days a week- someone’s giving you a no, you’re not getting something you’re up for, etc.
Atlas: Do you ever think about a master plan for this project?
Des Rocs: Oh yeah. I’m very thoughtful in the vision of everything I want to achieve. I know what the show looks like now but I also know what I want it to look like five years from now and 20 years from now and 40 years from now. I have it literally all planned out. It sounds a little grandiose but that’s the plan. That gets you through the no’s, a greater vision.
Atlas: Are you planning on releasing an album, or continue with singles and EPs for now?
Des Rocs: I’m going to release more singles this year that constitute a third EP. And then after that I want to do my first album.
Atlas: More touring in the works as well?
Des Rocs: Oh yeah. I have 15 more shows with these guys (The Glorious Sons) and 15 shows in May, so by May we’ll have done 100 shows in one year.
Catch Des Rocs on tour with The Glorious Sons right now!
Story by Olivia Khiel
Photos by Taylor Gilliam