Talking Pro Wrestling, Big-Name Collaborations And Reinventions With Luis Dubuc of Mystery Skulls.
The songs on Forever, the last month-released debut album from Mystery Skulls, are riddled with honest truths.
Take the album's current single, “Ghost,” for instance. Aside from the absurdly catchy funk rhythms and electronic pulses that are present throughout the album, the lyrics of this cut essentially tell the story of how Luis Dubuc, the project's mastermind, started this new endeavor and his new life.
“This time I might just disappear,” Dubuc sings on that track's hook. And, well, that's basically just what Dubuc did.
After coming of age in Dallas, the musician set off for Los Angeles in 2011 without any real plans in place. He knew he wanted to continue down the path he'd already started to carve for himself as a musician — from 2004 to 2011, Dubuc successfully released four LPs, plus a handful of EPs, under his former, and more pop-oriented, banner of The Secret Handshake — but he knew he needed a change, too. As for what that change meant, he wasn't quite sure. But, for once in his life, Dubuc was OK with that. He was just ready for it to come.
Or, as he put it on “The Future,” another song from Forever: “I'm worried 'bout the future, future. Ain't fucking with that past shit, baby.”
It's all working out for him, too — and in ways that Dubuc couldn't have even imagined. Over the course of the past few years, Mystery Skulls has gained some serious traction. For starters, the act signed a major label deal with Warner Bros, which agreed to release his music. And, better yet for Dubuc, Mystery Skulls has found an audience, too: Forever debuted at No. 1 on the iTunes Electronic charts, and the official music video for “Ghost,” which was created by YouTube animator MysteryBen27, has already garnered over two million views in less than a month.
Yeah, it's safe to say that things are going well for Dubuc. But what's perhaps most impressive about this current run is that it isn't Dubuc's first — or even his second, really. While still living in Dallas, Dubuc even formed a well-regarded metal band called Of Legends as The Secret Handshake started to wind down and Mystery Skulls started to take shape. If there's such a thing as a magic musical touch, Dubuc's clearly got it.
Which is why, in advance of next month's just-announced first Mystery Skulls show in Dallas since the release of Forever, we caught up with Dubuc. We wanted to figure out how he's done it — and, OK, why he's so obsessed with professional wrestling, too.
I feel like I’m talking to the man of the hour. How's the last month for you been?
Damn, that's really sweet of you to say that! Everything's been really good. It feels really amazing to finally have the record out and for the reception of it to be so overwhelmingly positive.
Did you expect such a positive reaction so quickly?
To be completely honest with you? Not at all. I was just hoping people would really like it. I was definitely not trying to let anybody down. It's really nice that people just really love it.
This project isn't your first rodeo. And people who know the history of Mystery Skulls surely know that, too. But how does this rodeo compare to others — like your days as The Secret Handshake?
It definitely feels different. I just feel really proud of the music. It came from a really real place, and I've definitely lived out each of these songs. I feel like the luckiest dude ever. In that sense, I feel lucky. That feels totally different. When I was doing Secret Handshake, that was like being in a band and doing all these tours and putting in all these hours and I think now it's the same. I'm on all these tours and I'm putting in all these hours, but I feel lucky this time around and fortunate to have worked with such crazy people like Nile Rodgers and Brandy and do all these crazy tours. I did a show the other night with Run The Jewels and Zack [de la Rocha] from Rage [Against The Machine] was there, and I’m like, “Dude!” I just feel like the luckiest dude ever. It's stuff like that. I think, in the past, everything felt really hard. And now I feel like things are meant to happen and they're happening. It's crazy.
Speaking of feeling like the luckiest dude, how did “Ghost” end up on the WWE 2k15 soundtrack?
Y’know, I've been a really big fan for a long time, and they found out I was a fan, and it turns out that some of the people that work at WWE and in the game specifically are fans of Mystery Skulls and they were like, “What the fuck? This is so cool! Let's do something together!” And so it's been really cool getting to do all these WWE things. I'm so happy about that. I've gotten to go to so many events because of them. We sat next to Wiz Khalifa at the Monday Night Raw in L.A. It was so cool sitting next to Wiz, like in the celebrity section. I was like, “What the fuck? Where am I?”
So wrestling is like a lifelong addiction of yours, right?
When I was a kid, I was all about Bret Hart. I was a huge Bret Hart fan and then, when I got a little older, I loved The Rock and I got to meet him when I was maybe 11 or 12. I met The Rock! It was crazy — y’know, because it’s so real to you at that time, so you still kinda believe in it and it was cool. Wrestling is what I was into before I was really into music. There was a time when I was just into listening to Wu-Tang and Iron Maiden and into wrestling and skateboarding. And then, at some point, I discovered music and that became a thing.
So you were really into music and started making music — but you were never into the idea of becoming a wrestler?
There was a point where I was crazy enough where I thought, “I should definitely do this!” But, no, not really that serious. I think music has always been the thing I do.
Tell us about the time you met The Rock
This was, like, '97 or '98, and my cousin and his family had just moved to Miami from Venezuela and my cousin was like, “Dude, The Rock lives in my apartment complex.” And I was just like, “The Rock doesn't live in an apartment complex. There's no way.” And he's like, “That’s his door over there. I dare you to go knock on it.” So I went over there and just started punching the door and, I swear to God, he opened the door. And I was like, “Uhh, can I have your autograph?” And he was like, “What do you want me to sign?” “I don't know, I have nothing. I didn't think this was gonna work!” So he leaves and comes back with this photo and he signs it. I still have it to this day. I always remembered that — and it was super cool to meet this guy.
Was this like the Rocky Maivia days or the The Rock and his “Jabroni” days?
[Laughs.] He had this GMC Yukon that said “Maivia!” OK, I skipped this part of the story, but basically my cousin was like, “The Rock lives here,” and I'm like, “No, the fuck he doesn't.” And he was like, “That's his truck!” And it said “Maivia” on it. But I was like, “That could be anyone! Or you could get a custom plate.” “No, dude, that's The Rock and that's his door.” Yeah, it was pretty hilarious.
How do you compare the new WWE to the WWF you grew up on?
It's definitely different. I've gone through waves of watching the product, but I'm definitely into it now way more than I ever have been. I just think it's a little bit different. The stuff on the main roster — like John Cena and Randy Orton — is cool, but what I'm really into, as far as WWE, is I really love their NXT program, which is their developmental stuff. It's on their network, and it's pretty sweet. They just signed all the biggest indie stars over the last couple of years, and they're all down there in developmentals right now. All these dudes like Sami Zayn and Kenta from Japan, who is like an unbelievable Japanese wrestler. It's pretty sweet. It’s on Thursday nights on the Network.
I was looking through your Twitter accounts and saw some old tweets that stood out to me like this one: “Most people pick schools, lovers, and jobs almost completely based on proximity. If you are unhappy with what you see change your proximity.” Does that pretty much define why you moved from Dallas to Los Angeles?
Absolutely, but I think it applies to anyone. It's just one of those things that people don't consider. I feel really fortunate that we moved around a lot when I was growing up so I think the idea of starting over new isn't that crazy to me. I think I went to four different high schools, y'know? A lot of people don't consider that proximity is a thing, but it's totally a thing. Yeah, I stand behind that statement 100 percent. With that said, it's not about not liking what you see. If your life isn't working out, then you can just change your proximity and it’' as simple as that. For some people, it's moving down the road, for some people it's moving to another country. But I think it's a true statement. Some people are meant to live by the beach, and some people are meant to live in the country, and some people are meant to live in the mountains. If you can figure that out, you gotta do that.
One of things that's interesting about your story as an artist is that you seem to keep reinventing yourself. Is that how you see it, or are you just making music?
I feel incredibly lucky that people have followed me through a bunch of different types of music. I didn't expect that, but, man, I don't know. I'm just doing my thing. I honestly go day to day and I don't think there’s some bigger plan. I didn't know that I was going to do this new project. If you asked me six years ago or something, “Yo, are you gonna do this thing called Mystery Skulls?” I didn't know. It just kinda evolved on its own and that's why it's been sweet. It comes from an honest place. I guess, in a sense, yeah, reinventing is a way of talking about it, but it's interesting. I'm just happy to be doing music, and I feel blessed that people love it. To do this day, people still tell me, “I've been following your stuff for close to 10 years now!” That’s crazy. How's that even possible?
Now that the album is out and you've got some touring planned, what else is next for Mystery Skulls?
I'm about to start doing new sessions with people now that the record is out. So I'm working with some people in the coming weeks. I'm just hoping to make some new music. I know I just made some new music, but it's hard to explain. Records are made so far back. Even though it's new to everyone else, I'm like, “OK, let's make some new shit with Charlie Wilson.” I was thinking the other day: We have to get Charlie Wilson on a song.
And you've worked with Brandy and Niles Rodgers now, so you don’t really have any limitations with who you'll work with, right? It’s just a matter of reaching out to them?
As long as they say “Yes” and wanna work with me! I would be down to work with pretty much anyone who's exciting. I like to do things that are sometimes just a bit challenging and sometimes a little bit disruptive. So if anyone wants to fuck with my stuff, I'm down. That's an open invitation to anyone. Especially now that the record's out, I wanna do more collaborations. I just finished a remix for Theophilus London. I just put out a Halloween mix, which is pretty sick.
So, basically, you're just a busy-ass dude, and it's all working out for you.
[Laughs.] Well, I appreciate it!
Mystery Skulls performs with Anamanaguchi and Wrestlers on Thursday, December 18, at Trees on Night Two of the Red Bull Sound Select series' two-night Yearender party (RSVP for entry here). Night One will feature The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Son of Stan and Dark Rooms on Wednesday, December 17, at Club Dada. (More information that show can be found here.)