To Hell and Back: Draco Rosa on Menudo, Beating Cancer and New Album, ‘Monte Sagrado’


“The extra gratitude you’ve, the extra highly effective you’ll really feel as a result of you’ll get rid of concern,” muses Draco Rosa, born Robert Edward Rosa Suárez. Puerto Rican by the use of New York, the 49-year-old musician has, in a manner, has gone to hell and again, confessing to darker days up to now: instances when he struggled with rejection, drug dependancy; and when he battled and beat most cancers, twice. Yet at the moment, he’s presently having fun with the blessing of a second probability.

Rosa acquired his first style of stardom through the Eighties, as a member of Puerto Rican boy band Menudo — which co-starred Ricky Martin. In only one yr, he and the band crossed over with 1985’s healthful pop hit “Hold Me,” which peaked at Number 62 on the Hot 100. Yet after his departure from Menudo, and a brief solo stint as Robby, Rosa traded his ingénue trademark for a extra mature act: He joined soul-funk rockers Maggie’s Dream and toured alongside California alt-metal teams Faith No More and Fishbone. Four years later, the previous little one star morphed into the madcap visionary we now know as Draco Cornelius Rosa Suárez, together with his 1996 LP, Vagabundo, or Vagabond.

Released on the tail finish of the rock en español explosion, and produced by Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera, Vagabundo is among the style’s most enigmatic albums. Moody, snarling and wildly experimental, Rosa’s extremely bold fourth solo album was his artistic breakthrough, however made little impression on the Latin music trade. “No one understood [Vagabundo], and I used to be damaged hearted,” recollects Rosa, who on the time felt that his profession entered a trench of uncertainty. Then, on the verge of a brand new millennium, he bounced again after reuniting with former bandmate Ricky Martin to co-write and co-produce the Grammy-nominated mega-hit, “Livin’ la Vida Loca.”

Rosa, nonetheless, can be vindicated almost 20 years later, after Billboard named Vagabundo certainly one of its “50 Greatest Latin Albums within the Last 50 Years.” “[Vagabundo] is a type of magical tales in music [that] turned out to be a cult basic,” says Rosa. “I spotted that lots of people love this album, so we adopted up with [a new album,] Monte Sagrado.” A companion file to Vagabundo, Rosa’s Monte Sagrado, or Sacred Mountain, is due for launch October 26th.

“They each have the spirit of rock & roll, experimental, and psychedelia — a form of freedom,” Rosa continues. “But Monte Sagrado has that spirit of [Puerto Rico].” Rolling Stone sat down with the legendary rocker to debate how Monte Sagrado symbolized his rebirth, and premieres its lead single, “2nite 2nite.”

Monte Sagrado is your first album of all new songs since 2009’s Amor Vincit Omnia. But in a manner, it’s a sibling to 1996’s Vagabundo. Can you clarify the connection?
I believe the story of Vagabundo is an attractive story. It was rejected by some of us within the trade, to my shock. No one understood it, and I used to be brokenhearted. But in a type of magical tales in music, it turned out to be a cult basic. According to some magazines, it’s an album price listening to. Billboard Magazine named it one of many 50 most important Latin albums, and that’s superb. We lately celebrated the 22nd anniversary of the album, and we lastly acquired it on vinyl. We did a few nice concert events commemorating that, and that was very thrilling. I spotted that lots of people love this album, so we adopted up with Monte Sagrado. They each have the spirit of rock & roll, and experimental, and psychedelia, a bit little bit of that form of freedom. I had a sure intensive vitality that grew to become a part of my life inside the final yr and a half. With the diminishing of remedy, I began feeling rather a lot more healthy and vibrant internally. Monte Sagrado is a little bit of that product.

The new album sounds uncooked and invigorating with theatrical and dramatic results, however it’s additionally darkish and vampiric.
In a few of my talks, individuals ask me concerning the theme [of some of my music] being darkish, or melancholic and sullen. That’s one thing that had one of the best of me up to now, which is one other factor I’ve realized to handle. I at all times wonder if this stuff destroy you. In that vein there may be suicide, or the fantastic thing about seeing past. Melancholy is only a factor in your soul that you must study to handle. If not, it should destroy you. When you’re younger, this stuff may be very detrimental when you don’t have a degree head. Unfortunately I needed to be smacked down twice to get a glimpse of what that’s. I’m so overwhelmingly blissful and appreciative that in some way on this universe I forgave myself.

I’ve been given the chance to nonetheless keep inside my consolation zone of textures, atmospherics, and colours, whether or not it’s via lighter or darker music. It’s a life-style, it’s who I’m. It’s one thing that I wish to be consumed by. That vitality turns into your mentor, your information, your bible. Sometimes that’s very harmful, with sure literature you’re consuming. It’s good to know that you simply get that sensation from listening to the music and listen to that reality, that style, that aroma, that ambiance that bleeds from the album. You stated precisely what it’s, and that’s stunning.

You’ve dabbled in lots of musical types all through your profession — first as a member of Menudo, then together with your darkwave electronica mission Mr. Blake, and now as moody rocker Draco Rosa. 
I attempt to defend the concept music is supposed to be felt and never understood. There aren’t any limits, besides the bounds of my very own information and capabilities. I want I might play jazz. I like jazz, however I don’t have the chops to get there — I’m not that form of musician. I’m not essentially right here with a flag that claims, “I’m a defender of this style!” It’s about being open and persevering with to have freedom and experimenting, collaborating with other people that don’t have anything to do with what I do. I look ahead to these alternatives, to have the ability to proceed to remain on the journey and journey of discovering music, whether or not it’d be from Spain, Brazil, Colombia, anyplace all over the world. Every infrequently I’ll come across one thing improbable, as a result of the universe locations it in entrance of me.

The album title is impressed by Puerto Rico. How did you first conceive of the album?
Monte Sagrado is wherever you’re strolling, wherever I’m at. I like touring and have been doing it since I used to be twelve. I completed placing the album collectively after Hurricane Maria. I began in April, put it apart and centered on the inspiration [Vox Forte Alliance, an NGO that donates bone marrow transplants for cancer patients]. It has that spirit of the island, and I do dwell in a sacred mountain. There’s a ceremonial park in Utuado, Puerto Rico that’s a few hundred acres. In these lands, the land of the Taínos, there’s a river that runs via it, which known as Tanamá, that means the butterfly river. All these lands are sacred. Monte Sagrado is Puerto Rico. It’s a metaphor for one thing past Puerto Rico as properly.

Several years in the past, you battled with most cancers. Did that troublesome journey shift your creativity?
Absolutely. Eight years of being out and in of hospitals was powerful, however we’re at an awesome place at the moment. I’m feeling very optimistic and grateful of all issues. When you might be grateful, concern takes a backseat. You have to concentrate to consuming more healthy, being extra at peace with all the pieces, and avoiding the stresses that life throws at you. Five years is a large milestone of being clear, so I’m very blissful about it. It doesn’t take away that I nonetheless must handle the hauntings of most cancers and the realities of taking remedy to take care of the physique at a stability. I’m blissful to see my youngsters develop up, to talk all over the world, and to share a bit little bit of what has occurred and what’s going on.

What can audiences count on throughout your upcoming U.S. tour?
There’s a present known as Sagrado (Sacred) and a present known as Maldito (Damned). Maldito is an excuse to play Monte Sagrado and Vagabundo, and Sagrado is an excuse to play completely different information which can be lighter in spirit — extra religious and extra conventional Puerto Rican types. I began noticing individuals getting a bit upset at a live performance once I would play a “Madre Tierra” after which “Esto es Vida,” that are [stylistically] two polar opposites. I had individuals say to me, “Draco, play ‘Esto es Vida’” — a man who needed to suggest to his girlfriend who was in tears — and I used to be doing this full on rock set. So I needed to differentiate the 2 vibes. [My] catalog is so giant that it’s exhausting to play all of the music.

As a seasoned rockero, what would you advise the newcomers who’re pursuing stardom?
It’s concerning the dangers and contributions. What are you going to contribute to music? Most of us like to slot in tribes and be part of one thing. With artwork and music, that’s a possibility to collaborate with people who find themselves like-minded. But do they wish to destroy conventional paths of education? Everyone can imitate one thing. I believe it’s necessary for musicians to decide to their ardour 100 p.c. The extra gratitude you’ve, the extra highly effective you’ll really feel as a result of you’ll get rid of concern. Fear is such an anchor in life. Life is brief — life is a lottery. I sit right here and I handled this most cancers, I’m right here after two bone marrow transplants. We each know people who find themselves of their 80s or 90s and nonetheless lived a full life smoking cigarettes, ingesting booze, and being wild. The distinction is that they’re very blissful. They are optimistic, had a way of gratitude, and that may be a nice mixture of dwelling an extended life. Wisdom comes over time. If you’re beginning music, be your self, be certainly one of a sort, be passionate and observe that loopy dream. At the tip of the day, it will likely be your greatest journey companion.

A giant factor with individuals coming into the music scene is vanity, which is a factor if you’re sensible. But one thing that folks want to recollect is that vanity corrupts the spirit to a horrible diploma. It promotes a detrimental affect within the thoughts which seeps right into a second the place you possibly can’t actually reel it again in. So be careful for that! These are issues that I’ve handled in my very own life, and I didn’t come to comprehend it till later. You may be nice and be masterful. however it’s about having that humility. The world may be very complicated, there are such a lot of of us desirous to really feel fantastic, however after we run into people like that, it solely makes life harder.

Looking again at your performances all through your profession, what has been one which stood out essentially the most?
When I first began out with Menudo [in 1984], within the span of 1 yr we headlined 20 nights at Radio City Music Hall. You must see it this manner. Before I acquired there, I used to be at a basketball courtroom with my buddies in Puerto Rico and had gotten the information that I used to be going into Menudo. All my buddies there have been towards it [laughs]. They have been like, “What are you doing? Are you loopy?” One week later, I used to be headlining with Menudo [in New York], and I’m simply displaying as much as the get together after that basketball recreation.

Twenty-something years later [in 1998], we had a good time in Bogotá. 120,000 individuals [seeing my band] at Rock al Parque was an enormous milestone on a private degree, as a result of we have been touring Vagabundo, and people 120,000 individuals have been singing the songs. The greatest moments have at all times been on stage enjoying dwell.

Draco Rosa’s Monte Sagrado Tour Dates

November 17 — Miami, FL @ MANA Wynwood RC Cola Plant
November 28 — Philadelphia, PA @ The Foundry at The Fillmore
November 29 — New York, NY @ The Highline Ballroom
December 1 — Washington, DC @ The Howard Theatre
December 2 — Boston, MA @ Royale
December Four — Chicago, IL @ Thalia Hall
December 12 — Los Angeles @ The Regent
January Four-5 — Orlando, FL @ House of Blues