Since the mid ’90s, rock music’s death has been announced on a weekly basis. Electronic music, hip-hop, pop — all have taken turns spelling the end for rock & roll, according to numerous critics, bloggers, influencers, and fans. But here’s the thing, rock & roll always finds a way to survive. Whether it’s because of grunge, a fourth, fifth and sixth wave of punk, or any number of sub-genres of metal, rock simply will not die.
Des Rocs is the latest artist determined to breathe new life into the genre. The man born Danny Rocco has been singing, writing, and performing his entire life — playing bars in punk bands since he was 13. Until just a couple of years ago, he was one half of electro-rock duo Secret Weapons alongside Gerry Lange.
“I don’t want to talk about it much,” Rocco says of that time. “It was a whole other life ago. We were a duo, my friend from high school, and we were touring for many years with bands like Fall Out Boy and Panic! at the Disco and Weezer. In the middle of the tour, after a couple of years on the road, the other half got sick. He wasn’t able to tour any more. It was a weird spot for me. This is a time in my life that a lot of the records are written about. It was hard to deal with — grinding it out for years and then it just all went away really quickly.”
Clearly, this is all difficult for him to talk about. Lange was diagnosed with Lyme disease, which pretty much spelled the end for Secret Weapons. The dream could have been over but Rocco picked himself up and started afresh with Des Rocs.
“Over that time on the road, I felt that there was something missing in rock & roll that defined the music I grew up on like Roy Orbison, Queen, Elvis, and Talking Heads,” he says. “I wanted to create something new that was totally myself, taking my core influences and updating them into the 21st century. I put out the first song about a year and a half ago.”
Those influences he listed pretty much encapsulate the Des Rocs sound; the suave rock & roll simplicity of Presley and Orbison, the majesty of Queen and the oddball glory of the Talking Heads.
“In my background, generally it’s a lot of rock & roll and blues. But I equally love a pop record or a dance record. This is just what I naturally write. Des Rocs is an unstilted version of my brain.”
“I mean, I’m influenced by everyone and everything,” Rocco says. “In my background, generally it’s a lot of rock & roll and blues. But I equally love a pop record or a dance record. This is just what I naturally write. Des Rocs is an unstilted version of my brain.”
And that’s what Rocco feels has been missing. Rockers, he says, have been reluctant to push boundaries resulting in stifled, safe music.
“I think rock & roll is in a very weird place, because at some point over the years, people got very scared to take risks and innovate in the genre,” he says. “They didn’t want to get weird and push their surroundings, get cultural. I feel like a lot of rock songs today could have come out 12 years ago, whereas an urban song today sounds completely different than one from 12 years ago. People along the way forgot to innovate. That’s also extremely exciting to me because it means it’s a wide open lane. Talking Heads did whatever the fuck they wanted to do. It was dope, they were artists, and they had a vision.”
Rocco has been taking his vision on the road, winning over audiences while performing with Grandson, The Struts, and the Rolling fucking Stones.
“First thing, [the music] has to be real. Second thing, it has to take a big risk in some way. Get up to the plate and take a big swing, and you’ll either knock it out of the park or fall on your ass, and anything in-between there’s no time for that because there’s a whole lot of it.”
“[The Struts are] some of the nicest guys in the world and they’re a killer rock band,” he says. “I also spent a lot of time on the road with Grandson which was incredible. I played some great festivals this year, and we’ve got a whole lot of touring in the next few months coming up. The Stones was fucking bananas. It was surreal. We went down well. I played to 80,000 people like I was playing to 18 people in a club. I wanted to make sure that every single person knows who I am and what I’m doing. By the end of the show, we had them fucking hopping.”
Des Rocs’ debut EP, the five-track Let the Vultures In, was released in November and has pulled in between 40-50 million streams across Spotify, YouTube, and everything else. So how does he explain his phenomenal online appeal?
“I think you make music that is real,” he says. “I put all music into two categories. Fake or fucking real. There’s a lot of fake music out there, a lot of people who want to be artists but are just mediocre. First thing, it has to be real. Second thing, it has to take a big risk in some way. Get up to the plate and take a big swing, and you’ll either knock it out of the park or fall on your ass, and anything in-between there’s no time for that because there’s a whole lot of it. I don’t sound like Adam Levine or lovelytheband or that kind of shit. So I’m gonna sing what I’m gonna sing, I’m gonna write about what I’m gonna write about, and the production, I want to get weird. I want to make it big and sonically compete with the biggest artists, but make it meaningful and not written by five Swedish dudes.”
Those are bold, impressive ambitions and he’s on the right track. He hopes to follow Let the Vultures In with another two EPs — a trilogy of EPs — before releasing his debut album. EP2 is what he’s focusing on right now. And then?
“I’m gonna be back on tour with The Struts, playing a festival called KAABOO Del Mar in San Diego,” Rocco says. “I’m then going to the UK with an artist named K.Flay in October, then I’m finishing it all off at Voodoo Fest in New Orleans, and putting out two more records, two more videos, then I’ll be on tour all of February, March, and April.”
There’s no rest, it seems, for the savior of rock & roll.