Dan Altuz, known by his simple shortened moniker Altuz, is a musician, magician, filmmaker, and podcast host from Long Island, New York. Through his career path as a music video director, shooter, and editor, he’s taken to the world of Hip-Hop as a recording artist, songwriter, and record producer. Altuz is a talented artist looking to transition the rap game towards a more thought-provoking and lyrically strengthened direction. He does this without overlooking the 21st century’s package of futuristic beats or it’s bent for creative visuals. The hip-hop world – well, those of us who have already discovered him – probably can’t wait to hear what Altuz has planned next!
- How long have you been in the music business and how did you get started in the first place?
Altuz: Since I got out of college, I pursued my long time goal of becoming a film-maker, and I started taking any work that I could get. During this time, around 2010, I shot and directed a music video for these independant Hip-Hop artists, Yung Kapo, Bentley Bell, & B. Dash. Awesome dudes, totally down to earth and I had a great time flying out to Miami to shoot a video with them. Coincidentally it was also the same shoot that I discovered my own hidden talent for rapping. We were in the hotel room after a long day of filming, and the artists were working on a new track. They had this instrumental on loop, and I started writing to it. After a few minutes I randomly started spitting my verse and the whole room was in shock because it was so out of left field. It was seeing their reactions that motivated me to keep writing. At first I was just writing whatever came to my head, there was no real substance, but eventually I started writing about things that affected me in my life. It was then when I really thought I might have something. Since then I’ve stuck with making music videos. I’ve directed / edited for Sony Music, Ultra Records, as well as independant artists. It definitely helped when it came time to shoot and edit my own music videos.
- Who were your first and strongest musical influences that you can remember?
Altuz: Metallica, Slipknot and Tool, no question about it. I grew up as a total metalhead. My older brother, George used to play bass and had a band that I played drums in. I was about 14 years old at the time, and it was intimidating playing with a bunch of 20 year olds. It was him and his friends who played a major influence over the music I listened to, ranging from Megadeth, Pantera, to Primus, Frank Zappa. Nowadays I wouldn’t say it’s much of an influence to my hip-hop music but I’ll never forget where I came from.
- Which artists are you currently listening to? And is there anyone of these that you’d like to collaborate with?
Altuz: I’m a huge fan of Everlast, I love his music it’s just down to earth, from the heart, and when I have the blues in the wintertime it’s great music to just sit back and drink some whiskey too. Same thing with Jelly Roll, I’m a big fan of his music too. I would collaborate with either one, they both come from the same place I’m coming from in terms of pain, heart-ache, and making it through life regardless of the obstacles, keeping family as a priority, and being grateful for every little thing that you got.
- You are a musician, magician, filmmaker, and podcast host. Is that the exact order you would rate your artistic priorities and aspirations right now or do you just run with it on a daily basis?
Altuz: Having multiple interests has always been difficult in terms of balancing them all. Anytime you have something that’s creative it comes at you in waves. I just wait for the next wave and ride it. The one constant is my music, which I feel carries me through my life.
- What do you think separates you from the crowd of emcees emerging right now?
Altuz: Having holes in my shoes. When I walk, my toes point up so I get holes in the front of my shoes.
- Which do you ultimately prefer? Entertaining a live audience or creating songs in a studio setting?
Altuz: At the moment I prefer to be in studio. I’m a complete audio nerd; I freelance as a mix-engineer and I love producing my own tracks. Don’t get me wrong, I love the feeling I get when i perform as a magician, so I do enjoy a live audience, but the introvert in me just loves the intimacy of making something by myself, knowing that in the future people are going to enjoy listening to it. I also just love the feeling of getting in the car late at night, going for a drive, and having good music that suits the mood. There’s something about that, which just calms me.
- If you were forced to choose only one, which emotion, more than any other drives you to be a part of this highly competitive business day after day?
Altuz: Anger. More specifically, it’s the anger that I feel when I’m doubted, or told that I won’t achieve what I set out to achieve.
- What would you consider a successful or high point in your career so far?
Altuz: Honestly… this. I’m just a dude from Long Island that raps. To have someone interview me is pretty awesome.
- Tell us something about your lyrics and music production on your releases. Which part of these processes do you handle yourself, and which do you outsource generally?
Altuz: I write my lyrics, compose the music, track my vocals, and mix my tracks. The only thing I don’t do myself is the mastering. Once I do the final mix I send it off to a mastering house to give it a final EQ and push before I send it off for publishing and distribution.
- What do you feel your listeners should get out of your music?
Altuz: Hope. I’ve experienced quite a lot of tragedy in my life. I lost my father when I was nine years old, my mother then had a stroke a couple years later leaving her blind and handicapped. My brother, who suffered from alcoholism alongside my sister struggled to support myself and my mother while I was in middle school. Financially, our entire family struggled. Our parents pretty much lived paycheck to paycheck. I started paying rent right out of high school on top of student loans. It wasn’t until I was twenty six years old that I finally had a savings account. Regardless of all that happened, we’re all okay today. I’m still not 100 percent where I want to be, but I’m far better off than I was back then. It was in those moments though that I thought that I’d live in struggle forever. When I write music today, often times it’s almost as if I’m telling my inner child back then that everything is going to be okay, so long as you’re strong and you survive through it. That’s the message that I want to deliver in my music now. I want people who are going through any kind of struggle or obstacle, no matter how small or large it is…. “You’re going to make it through, keep going.”
- What has been the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure in your life or music so far?
Altuz: All the above.
- Which aspect of being an independent artist and the music making process excites you most and which aspect discourages you most?
Altuz: All aspects. Sometimes I’m feeling it, sometimes I’ll waste an entire day making something that’s whack and I’ll get frustrated and want to quit. Making music is fucking crazy.
- How do you market and manage your music career? Do you have a management team or do you control everything by yourself?
Altuz: At the moment I’m doing it by myself and learning as I go. Right now I’m focusing on making the music since I’ve just been hit with another big wave of creativity. The plan is, once the wave goes away I’ll spend more time actually trying to get it out there.
- If you had the opportunity to change one thing about how the music business works right now, what would that be?
Altuz: I’d say I like the direction it’s going in. More independent artists have a chance at success than ever before. Sure, it’s still difficult for artists to be heard, but that difficulty is what challenges artists to grow into the successful artist that they want to be in the first place.
- If someone has never heard your music, which keywords would you personally use to describe your overall sound and style?
Altuz: I try to hide conscious rap under the disguise of a commercial sound. That sound varies from track to track, but I do my best to make each one entertaining while secretly hitting you with some truth.
- Do you consider Internet and all the social media websites as fundamental in building a career in music today, and what is your personal relationship with the new technology at hand?
Altuz: The internet makes connecting with people easier, it enables them to see your personality more than just what they can derive from your music / music videos. That aspect of it I enjoy. I also feel like (for some) it can drop your ego, make you a bit more human, less mystical. I like that a lot. The more you can relate to me, the better.
- Tell us something about your latest release and where fans can find it.
Altuz: I dropped “Feelin’ Alright (Summertime)” on the June 21, 2017. This is actually the first track that I did that was a collaboration; It was produced by Tantu Beats, who made the instrumental. You can find it on my YouTube channel, the video’s fun too. I took footage over the course of about 3 years on my GoPro to make it, and every time I found myself in a summer-like setting I took footage of myself spitting these verses.
Video can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjTpNgvW8Gs
- You obviously have a strong affinity with visual media. What are your thoughts on the importance of video in promoting music, and which of your clips would you advise fans to see?
Altuz: “After Dark” jumps to mind. It’s a video where I play all the instruments of the song at once on a white background. I shot it myself over the course of 12 hours, I would set the focus on a marker, then stand on the marker and rap my verse. Then I composited all the takes in After Effects and cut all the angles into the final edit in Premiere. I put a ton of effort into that one, and I love the way it came out.
Altuz – After Dark
- If you were stuck on a desert island, which 3 artist’s music would you choose to accompany your stay there?
Altuz: Everlast, Zero 7, Tool
- Do you have a motto or positive message stuck somewhere in your mind to inspire you, or anybody else, at any given time? If so, what would it be?
Altuz: Try not to do too many things that you don’t feel right about doing. You’ll disappoint, you’ll open yourself up for criticism, it will be difficult. BUT… at the end of the day, you’ll be able to sleep at night.