Synthesizers/Keyboards/Vocals/LP Mixing (February 1979-Spring 1985)
Photo by Bill Sosin
A world-class keyboardist with extraordinary synthesizer programming skills, Javier Cruz graduated with a B.A. in music from Chicago State University in 1975. He then taught the Suzuki Teaching Method from 1977 to 1979 for Dr. Ray Lander’s Suzuki Academy, also at Chicago State.
It was in 1977 that Cruz first became aware of Skafish because of the shake-up the band was causing in Chicago. After attending a few performances, Javier became acquainted with then Skafish bassist Greg Sarchet when the two met at “La Mere Vipere” - one of Chicago’s first punk nightspots. When there was a keyboard vacancy in the Skafish line-up, Sarchet recommended Cruz for the position, and by February 1979, Cruz joined the act.
His ability to channel the distinctive qualities of Skafish’s works into synthetically created sound was amazing. Working with an old, original Moog synthesizer module large enough to fill a room, Cruz dazzled observers with rapid fire moment by moment sound manipulation—unplugging and plugging in patch cords, manipulating the controls like a wizard. He did with unpitched sound what great jazz soloists do with notes. His revolutionary synthesizer work can be heard on the relentless, siren-like wailing solo and finale section of “Take It Out On You” from the debut Skafish LP. His “bubbles” simulation on “Sink or Swim” added an insidious get-under-your-skin element that helped make the recoding one of the strangest imaginable.
In 1981, with Skafish not touring, Javier Cruz started The South Chicago Suzuki Music School with a government grant. Javier also began using his keyboard and composing expertise on sessions and commercials for such clients as Ameritech, McDonald’s, the Gap and Lear Jet, to name a few.
In November of 1982, Cruz brought an even greater level of electronic/synthetic sound innovation to the rejected sessions for the second Skafish LP. Creating soundscapes and electronic effects that were evocative and surreal, Cruz helped to bring the tracks to a more otherworldly reality. Already skilled in the recording process, Cruz began producing and recording other artists in a wide range of styles in his own home studio.
As a member of the Buddy Miles Express, Cruz toured from 1988 through 1992 with the legendary performer. (Besides playing drums for Jimi Hendrix and singing for Santana, Buddy Miles had several hit records as a solo artist, the most well known being “Them Changes.”) In his own studio, Cruz produced several tracks by Miles during the years the two worked together.
Even though Javier Cruz has been extensively involved in a multi-faceted musical career, teaching seems to be his one mainstay. Since he began teaching in 1977, Cruz has helped guide thousands of children to higher learning. Currently, he remains the director of South Chicago Suzuki Music, a position he’s held since 1981. Cruz still plays with his own group, Life, which has been performing in the South Chicago area since the mid ‘70’s.
All photographs copyright by the respective photographers