Art Cruz has been tearing it up behind the kit with acts like Prong and Winds of Plague for years. Recently, he has taken over for legendary drummer Chris Adler in Lamb of God, as well as for Mark Morton’s solo project. zZounds spoke with Art Cruz about drumming with legendary bands, the gear he loves and how he got started with music.
zZounds: What drum kit are you currently using?
I played that one at home as a practice kit in Los Angeles but my touring kit as of now is one of the new [Crush] AXM kits that they just started putting out earlier this year. They are phenomenal, they’re incredible. The [AXM] kit, that thing has surpassed not what I ever felt they could do, but what I knew that [Crush] were going to eventually shoot for. That kit is actually incredible, that’s the kit that I’ve used with Lamb of God recently and I’m using the exact same kit on this tour I’ve got in March with Mark Morton. That’s that’s my touring go-to one hundred percent is the AXM.
And I think Crush Drums are some of the best drums out there. They are so underrated, and I know what they creatively present and it’s the little things. If there’s an aspiring drummer that wants to play some real drums that aren’t going to send them into debt but still live up to what’s expected I one hundred percent go with Crush Drums every time.
zZounds: You’ve talked about using both metal and wood snares in the past, what are you using right now?
Art: It’s the Multi-Species [Crush] are just putting out now. It’s the 13”x7” Multi-species snare. It’s a wood snare. I was using the hand hammered brass one that’s discontinued now and I was using that for many years in the same dimensions: 13”x7”. But I’ve grown fond of the wood snare a little bit more now. There’s a little more of that bottom-end crack that I need. Given the name: multi-species, that snare is very versatile for rock and metal or anything that I’m doing. It’s worked out for me as of late and I’m probably not going to steer much further away from that.
zZounds: Why do you think metal musicians work so well together in collaboration?
Art: I feel like in metal and rock bands as an entity, the fans can relate more and have a more personal relationship/experience with just the drummer, or just the guitar player kind of thing. I realized that metal bands had their own entities, like J.C. from Lamb of God, he’s his own thing, and Mark Morton is his own thing. I find that it’s different, like pop bands like Alicia Keys, although you know who some session musicians are with social media and stuff, but when it comes to general population, non-musicians, most don’t know who those players are and never will. I don’t know who the bass player for Alicia Keys is, I’m sure he’s sick.
Editor’s note: Sean Hurley is sick
With metal, the people are so amped up and creative in a sense that they want to do other things with different bands. Heavy metal and rock is such a big family, a brotherhood. It’s been like that as long as there’s been heavy metal. I’ve made a career out of being a part of different bands, like Prong, Winds of Plague and now sitting in with Lamb of God. People pay more attention to it in metal. It was a big deal when I’m sitting in for a living legend that paved the way for a lot of metal drummers my age. It’s different than with, I keep going back to it but Alicia Keys. You can keep swapping those members out and no one will ever know or pay attention to it. There won’t be a press release.
zZounds: You’ve played in bands like Winds of Plague and Prong, but how fun is it to play in a band like Lamb of God that touches on more groove metal and thrash genres?
Art: Oh dude, I would say it’s a challenge for me because I’ve been playing the same shit for so long, but I’ve gotten a kick out of being thrown into shit. Every scenario I’ve been in, be it just getting into touring when I was young, it was just a friend saying “hey, do you want to go on tour… like tomorrow?” I had no clue what I was doing, I was just selling merch, that’s how I started.
Heavy metal and rock is such a big family, a brotherhood. It’s been like that as long as there’s been heavy metal.”
– Art Cruz
But it’s crazy to me, the Winds of Plague thing happened the exact same way. I was on a tour at Mayhem Fest teching for my friend Alex, from Suicide Silence. Small world, the bands were both managed by the same guy at that time. I had been playing for a couple years and was thankfully blessed with some nice chops and everyone seemed to notice. Winds of Plague had their drummer leave the tour and they were like “can you come out in two days and finish the tour?” I was like, “yeah why not!” I learned the songs on the plane, rehearsed with the band on my lap in a living room with an acoustic guitar before the show. Ten years later and I’m still in the band.
The same shit happened with Prong. I had been friends with Tommy from Prong and Winds of Plague had played with Danzig in 2008. Tommy was in his band and it’s more of that family thing; you keep your family close and really awesome things can happen. He reached out and asked if I wanted to tour with them as a merch guy and driver. All pride and bullshit aside, I didn’t mind going out as a merch guy on tour, I love what I do and just wanted to get back on tour. There’s no sense of “oh wow, I’m a drummer. I shouldn’t be selling merch!” You know what, no, I started there and I just wanted to tour. So long story short, I’m on the tour and Prong’s drummer gets into a fight with Tommy, breaks his hand hitting the wall. “Hey man, tomorrow we’re playing the first ever Knotfest with Slipknot in Iowa. Like 30,000 people and we don’t want to drop off. Can you learn the set?” Yeah, I’ll learn the set. That was actually Randy from Lamb of God’s first show back and my first show with Prong. We actually played a Misfits cover together, “London Dungeon.” The show was great and I’ve been with Prong ever since.
Same with Lamb of God, I was on Chris’ radar and got a call once everything happened. I’m just prone to being thrown into a diversity of things, including music. I’ll take on the challenge, no problem. I like the challenge and I like being diverse. The diversity is great.
zZounds: That almost sounds like fate.
Art: Really scary shit. Because it happens and my entire life has been based around incidents like that. It’s just like “yo this came up” and then boom! It’s just run and gun. I guess I’m just into that “run and gun” shit.
zZounds: How did you begin playing drums? What was the moment where you knew you had to be behind the kit?
Art: It leads to the first time I heard drums. I’m a very family oriented person. I’m a Mexican-American born in L.A. My parents were also born in Los Angeles, but I know where my roots are in that my family is from Mexico. There’s a certain lifestyle that comes with being born in L.A. a Mexican, it’s its own thing.
It’s not like I’m just from Los Angeles, I’m from East Los Angeles, El Monte, the San Gabriel Valley is where I come from, it’s where I reside. It’s like a culture of it’s own. And the sounds of this culture were Santana, Carlos Santana. That’s the only dude, the only reason I can tell you why I play drums. The only reason I grew fond to the sound of drums was Santana. Santana was a guitar player, but his music as an entity was all percussion. It sounded African inspired and Latin. It was just thunderous drums. He’s my number one inspiration to this day.
And thankfully my father loves music and he wasn’t a metal head but he was into Black Sabbath, Van Halen, he loved that shit. But Santana was the music in our household. That music is like a Sunday barbecue, it reminds me of making hamburgers and shit. That’s my childhood in a nutshell. [My dad] took me to my first concert, low and behold my first concert was Santana at the Hollywood Bowl. Can you imagine, I think I was like ten, eleven years old. It was just thunderous drums, it was Santana. It shook me. Live music shook my soul. As soon as I walked into that venue I was like “I want to be a rock star. I want to be on that stage, I want to be playing drums on that stage.”
zZounds: You’ve mentioned Lamb of God being your favorite metal band. What does it feel like to being playing with them up on stage right before that first song starts?
Art: Unbelievable. That first song was “Omerta” and it was in New Hampshire of all places. I can’t even, I’ll never forget that. I had this shock through my body, it kind of changed me as a person, I saw a light and thought I was dead for a second, but here we are. Same goes for my first show with Prong, that feeling is very universal. It was a little extra obviously with that first show with Lamb of God; it was different. But it’s that same feeling, same as the first Winds of Plague show and it will probably be the same feeling before that first show with Mark Morton. I’m playing with Mark, to me he’s a modern day guitar legend. People just don’t realize it yet, that dude writes everything. He’s the guy, he’s a lyrical genius too. It’s constant, it’s like he’s writing a book everyday. Music, lyrics, everything.
zZounds: Speaking of Mark Morton and Lamb of God. There are rumblings of new LoG material on the horizon. Have you been involved in any of those new tracks with Chris or the guys?
Art: I don’t really know. I can only speak for what I know that they’re doing creatively, but I know they are always writing. I can imagine that happens with any band on any given day, whether you’re writing a record that’s due or a record for 10 years down the road. There’s always something going on in warm ups before a show.
Like Willie [Adler] will be smashing some crazy riff and I’m like “what is that?” and he’s like “it’s some new shit.” Oh man, it’s just like I have no idea if I’ll be involved or when Chris is coming back. You’ve got to just let the cards play out. Who knows how much longer I’ll be with them, or if I’ll be with them any longer but we’ll see. But they’re like a machine, always writing. And I know Mark [Morton] just released his solo record, so I’m sure he’s got some Lamb of God stuff going on in the background ready to go. As a fan I feel it’s overdue. I’m sure when I know, you’ll know.