Enter the Druniverse

I recently came across Dru on Instagram, and I’ve been jamming his latest album titled ‘7.24.20’ ever since. It’s refreshing and doesn’t sound cookie cutter or dime a dozen like so many since the rise in popularity of EDM in recent years. The first half of the album starts off kind of housey, a little trance, lots of big synths. But as you progress down the track list, the instrumentation becomes more natural, and airy. ‘7.24.20’ opens into a greater vision, utilizing more subtle nudges to push the flow forward. The final track features only drums, guitar, a saxophone, and a funky fresh bassline on ‘Parallels’.

Now… Admittedly, my first initial draw to Dru was, of course, his mask. Go check out his Instagram HERE to see what I mean. I was just completely taken by this… absolute creature making music. The mask is SO SICK. I’m so into it. But all throughout his Instagram he has these fantastic shots of it, videos, and some behind the scenes tidbits on it’s creation. The album cover art for ‘7.24.20’ is actually one of his masks buried in the sand at the beach, and I can’t wait to see where else Dru finds himself in the future. Luckily for me, and for you, I was able to catch up with Dru before he sets off for another adventure and get an interview.
So first off, tell us a little about yourself. 
I’m Dru, a self taught musician. I grew up playing guitar in my grandfathers’ mariachi band. I had a band back in high school, played talent shows. Into college I kept recording my own music and started playing every instrument myself. And well here I am… releasing my recordings to the world.
I heard in another interview about your career. Would you like to tell us a little about what you do?
Sure! After high school my uncle hooked me up with a job at his agency as a designer, doing anything from logos, websites, print packages, billboards ads, etc. Then I started getting into coding, bringing my designs to life. Making things interactive is just so much fun. Eventually I got into ‘UX’ user testing, conducting research and designing user friendly flows. Now, because I also weigh business needs, I’m considered a “product designer”. 
How has your career influenced your music? 
To get into my career, I majored in a “jack of all trades” art degree. Learning design, code, video, and audio production programs. You can see in my music, and particularly when promoting my music, I am really just practicing what I learned in college so I don’t get rusty. Also in my career I am not designing “anything I want” it’s usually very specific to user or business needs with constraints. Druniverse is my outlet to design “anything I want”. It’s worth mentioning, My career funds the music, I can invest in myself rather than seek investments from a record label. 
Do you see things at work and want to incorporate it into your music or live performances? 
Currently the speed at which we are getting prototypes created and tested with real users at work has really inspired me to move faster and get more stuff out the door with Druniverse. I used to release one album a year, but now I’m on my 4th release this year. 
So 7.24.20 is your first album release since 2016, what did you do during that downtime between albums? 
In between albums… I lived. 
I had a solid career but did extreme budgeting in order to graduate college with no student loan debt. I traveled internationally for the first time ever, I’ve been to a number of amazing places. I fell in love, had my heart broken…. You gotta have experiences to write about. I put the artificial pressure to “release an album every year” aside for 4 years to concentrate on all that living. I kept up recording and making music, but didn’t release it. This album is a compilation of what I created the past 4 years, well the best of it.
Where was your headspace at during the writing and production of 7.24.20? 
The last half, of the album, is from this past year. And I can say this past year has been the most vulnerable in my life thus far. It really felt like my world was falling apart and completely out of my control. I had the things that matter most put in jeopardy and otherwise stripped away from me. In the last six songs I started to strip away the effects, all the bells and whistles you hear on the first half of the album. In the middle of the track “Solitary” [1:17] you’ll notice all the other instruments but one fall away. Similarly with “Mason St.” at the [1:22] mark I bring it down to one instrument to carry the song forward (to carry me forward). I was shedding who I was and reinventing myself.
What significance does the date 7.24.20 have to you?
It is my birthday. But also my artist name is only three letters “DRU” and there are so many other “DRU”s on streaming platforms. For this album I had to choose a unique name that someone can easily type in and find my music no problem. This year my birthday was spent doing laundry, eating sushi and handling the album launch. 
What do you fans to take away from your music?
Most of my songs are instrumentals and that is to keep it universal. Even when I have lyrics sometimes it is distorted or abstract. I suppose you are meant to take away your own meaning. I do hope my music helps someone fully embrace a feeling or emotion in their own life.
What do you think the ‘role of the artist’ should be? What do you strive to do as an artist? 
The ‘role of the artist’ is to inspire thoughts, feelings, and action. As an artist, I’m striving to express my personal thoughts/feelings into action… the music creation, and packaging. When I’m creating it’s always a test for myself to do better or something new...keep growing. 
How has COVID affected you? Effected the music scene? I know I haven’t been to a show in ages and I’m missing them so hard right now 
Luckily I still have my day job. I don’t take that for granted. Financially I am on track and was able to get the album out as planned. I wanted to host an album launch party, and play shows but with COVID I’ve just repurposed my budget and energy to promoting the music on social media. I honestly love how the music scene is becoming more digital/virtual. Audiences are more open to experience something from their phone or television. It makes me excited to build/code something. 
What do you think the music scene will be like post-covid? 
You’re asking an introvert these questions. I think having the audience spaced out at concerts is exactly what we needed. Can’t tell ya how many shows were ruined by fellow audience members. I started paying for VIP just to get away from the discomfort of a show. Right now we are so deprived that we glorify what it was. I hope the music scene elevates the experience. Because artists will without them, from home.
Alright, now it’s time to speak on the elephant in the room, the mask. What made you decide to don the mask in the first place? 
I started getting more experimental with my recordings, one of my friends told me my music sounded like a video game. I’m a huge fan of Sega Genesis games, and their mascots. Each game had some lead character and some epic cover artwork. That’s when I went on a search for a mask/prop/helmet on ebay. I found a guy who made nautical equipment selling these custom Iron Man helmets he made from steel. Well I collect Marvel comic books and Iron Man was one of my favorite action figures/comics so I went ahead and bought these chrome iron man helmets some guy made free hand. This would become the face of my music.
It looks like the mask has evolved over the years, what was the process like going from one design into the next? 
I started with a chrome helmet but decided to paint it white to differentiate from the Daft Punk’s chrome helmet. Then for Tron Daft Punk came out with a white version of their helmet and I was like “NOOO!!!!” but then they came back to the gold and chrome, so I maintained the white. My helmets were made out of steel... they were too heavy to wear during shows. I did an hour long set and would have whiplash for weeks. In this past year I learned 3d modeling and had friends help me print the newer model that is lighter plastic and 100% my original design. 
I’ve always loved masks for artists, it has this sort of dehumanizing effect. It’s more like... there’s this entity or creature creating this art, and not an actual person I can put a name and face to. Is the anonymity on stage something you enjoy?
Definitely! When I started using the mask to represent the music I got way more support than my own face. With the mask people would hold up their phones at shows and take pictures and videos. Without the mask that never happened, unless it was like a close friend. Also I get all sweaty, make dumb faces/expressions. Seeing a video/picture where I’m not worried about how I look is great Let’s be honest, people are mean. I have seen so many comments on social media criticizing my music or mask and it doesn’t phase me. I’d much rather have people talk crap about the things that I create rather than things I can’t change like my actual face. I like the focus to be on my artwork not me. Funny story… I played a festival here in San Jose, CA and after the show a couple young ladies wanted to take a photo “with me”... before we took the photo they ask “can you put the helmet on?” and I realized they wanted to take a photo with “DRU” not me. lol It was a humbling experience.
On your Instagram, you show a lot of the design process, your studio, a lot of behind the scenes things. I feel like this brings back the human element which is a nice touch. Do you get questions from other artists to make things for them? 
I’m currently getting messages asking if I’d like to work on a track together “collaborations”. Second runner up is to do a remix of my songs. Otherwise there’s comments from 3d print dudes, and cosplay folks loving the mask. And I get questions from other musicians on equipment or software I’m using. 
I heard that you listen to Beirut, I have them with Neutral Milk Hotel on an oldschool euro vibe playlist on Spotify. What other bands do you listen to? 
I have a very eclectic taste in music. I like listening to classical music (Mahler, Beethoven) , big band era (Artie Shaw, Dean Martin), Motown/Funk (Isley Brothers, Gap Band, Zapp), Metallica, 90s rap/r&b, Ed Banger Records, Boys Noize, and that’s not even scratching the surface.
Alright, last two, quick fire round. You gotta answer fast! 
Cd or vinyl? 
Cats or dogs? 
And finally, what are the odds of me getting a signed prototype mask? 
Prototypes and history of the mask is something I’m going to keep, the latest model was a $400 build. There has been a lot of interest in owning a physical mask though, more than I anticipated. I’m looking into using plastic vacuum forming to create a more cost-effective version of the mask I can give away. I do have an instagram filter of the mask in the meantime. Vinyl records of 7.24.20 are coming very soon so can get ya a signed one of those for sure!
I want to give a big shout out to Dru for taking the time to answer some questions for us. Down below I have linked all of his sites and accounts. And thank you for checking out this issue of Musica//Obscura.
Dru Links:

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