Will the Real Rob Fusari
Please Stand Up?
By Bridget Brady
You may not know his name, but you’ve most definitely heard his music. One of the most successful music producers in history, you might best actually ‘know’ him for his famed partnership with Lady Gaga. You have certainly heard songs he produced for Beyonce, Will Smith and Whitney Houston. What you might not know is that he now goes by “8” or “8-Bit” and has gone through a massive transformation in the last year. We sit down for an in-depth, tell “almost” all about suing Lady Gaga, his new group Cary Nokey, his mother wanting a daughter, and even what this transformation has been like for his long-time girlfriend and family.
You are hugely successful! You've done a lot of really impressive things in the music industry!
You're so sweet, thank you, I appreciate that! Let me just say, it's been a ride. It's been a hell of a journey so far. I've been very fortunate, and I'm very thankful. Every day is ever changing...I've done something right, somewhere along the line; maybe in a past life or something, who knows? It's a lot of luck. It's a lot of key people: a combination of elements that when it comes together, it comes together.
What's interesting is that for all the success you've had, you've stayed mostly behind the scenes.
For years and years, I just wanted to be behind the scenes. I didn't want to be seen, recognized, none of it. I was very complacent and happy being that "behind-the-scenes" producer, who did his job, went home at the end of the night and lived a somewhat normal life within the realm. It's funny because I just got back from LA, and coming back, the attendant behind the counter says, "Oh, you're a friend of Lady Gaga, I believe." I said, "How do you know that?" He said, "I just recognize the name." The point of it is, for whatever reason, that all flipped around about a year ago; almost not by choice, I got up one morning and everything changed. Everything seemed and felt different. From that day on, it was never a question of was I doing the right thing; I just didn't want to produce or write songs for other artists anymore. I want to write songs where I can tell the story. Whether I'm a great singer or not, it doesn't matter; I want to get the message across from author to listener without the interpretation of another artist. It was time to just do this, and do something that gave me some life-blood back into the music.
It got harder and harder to find anything that really hit me hard. I wasn't feeling music anymore, and for someone who does music for a living, that's a dangerous place to be. A lot of not-good shit starts to creep into your life and your life-style, because you're looking for something to fill that void, and it got worse and worse. The search almost stopped being about the music, and it started being about other things. It was a time where I had to make this transition and do something that was about the music and being true to what was going on in my life. It was all those years of working with so many different artists, giving them everything...fashion, stage presence, how they’re going to talk on stage. It was kind of like living though them, and I was cool with that. I brought a lot of people to a lot of good places, but it was time to really turn the tables. It was time for Rob to start producing Cary Nokey, and 8-Bit is my character in Cary Nokey. All the things I would tell the artists, it all came back around, and I put it on me. If I was gonna' preach it, I had to practice it. I never worked out in my life, I started working out. I never took a vocal lesson in my life, I started taking vocal lessons. Just everything...I got so into fashion, and I was never into fashion before.
It sounds like your passion now is performing and being your own voice. Have you lost your passion for producing?
That is very much the case. Anything can happen, who knows what the future brings, but I don't understand it now; I don't know how I would do it. When I do it now, these are whole lifetimes and experiences that I'm putting into songs; I can't do that for someone in an hour. Labels used to send me artists; I'd meet them for an hour and they'd need a single or hit. Even with the Gaga stuff, we spent a lot of time together, so by the time we did a song like "Paparazzi," we were thinking for each other. We were able to bounce off of each other, more of that fluid thing. For me to have that with somebody, it takes time to develop that. That's why I had that kind of success with Gaga; we were spending every day together -every day, sometimes 24 hours a day. It was like that for several months. Then after that, I was trying to find that next big artist. I want to find an unsigned artist and create from the ground up, like I did with her [Lady Gaga]. People would come in, and I tried to write for them, but I didn't get that same feeling like when she walked in the room…this feeling came over me, "What the hell? Is this really happening?" It was surreal; it was watching history. It was like being in a movie, watching from the outside in.
Well, that was such an amazing partnership; I have to believe that was some kind of Divine appointment.
No question about it. Honestly God himself could come down and say "there was none," and I would say, "I don't believe you, why are you pulling my chain?" (Laughing)
So, you know I've got to ask it...Here's this "Divinely appointed" perfect partnership, something changed, and then you sued her?! For millions of dollars...what happened? How do you go from we spend 24 hours a day together and finish each other’s thoughts, to I'm going to sue you for millions of dollars?
It's so tricky. If this is new for a young artist, there's a swoop to this world of the record business, entertainment and Hollywood. You don't know if you're coming or going. I can't talk about the logistics of the lawsuit, but I can say that…I've gotta' be honest with you, sometimes I don't think I know. I always have to look inside. I think watching this thing, for me, it wasn't that different than it was for her. Where it was different, is I was watching from the outside. Like watching a big glass building being put up, thinking, why can't I... Honestly, I think I got caught up in it too. "Wait a minute, why is this train leaving without me?" I hate that it was such a whirlwind. I had worked with Beyonce, Will Smith, and Destiny’s Child. But this was different, this was my baby. Like with Cary Nokey now, I'm not doing anything else. When I met Gaga, I was in the middle of four projects; I dropped them all that same week. I didn't want to do anything else; I wanted to put every ounce, every cell of me into this project right now because that's how much I believed in it. I don't blame anyone for what happened, if anything I blame myself. I think that's the more mature way. I'm gonna' look to myself; I did a lot of shit wrong.
All things considered, was Lady Gaga your favorite artist to work with, or who was?
I really think she was. I wasn't able to really sink my teeth into anything to that extent, up to that point. A lot of the other work was one or two songs, or the title track to a movie. Which is great, I'm not complaining about it, don't get me wrong. But there was something about taking this jewel, this stone, this diamond in the rough; and piece-by-piece, day-by-day chipping away at it. Then you're like, "Oh my God, it's a building." And you don't get that a lot because artists like that aren't on every street corner, and I learned that the hard way. I thought I could top it. I created this Gaga thing, I can do it again, and I can do it better. Probably 1,000 artists into this, 2012, 2013, I didn't see it. I've met 1,000 artists and not one artist has that "thing.” Something’s wrong...is it me?? I had to stop and try again...then I said, "That's it." People are like, "Why don't you just go write another hit?" Do you think it's that easy?!? You have no idea how difficult it is for the stars to align because that's what happens when you have a hit song. The right song, the right lyrics, the right timing, the right this, the right that. I was producing a single for Destiny's Child called "Happy Face" on the "Survivor" album, and they were putting a ton of money behind it. There was a huge marketing campaign; it was probably going to be their biggest record to date. Then a week or two before the release, 9-11 happens. The song is called "Happy Face,” and they just cut it. No one wants to hear a song called "Happy Face" right now. You just never know.
Did you have a least favorite artist that you worked with?
I did. My most challenging artist to date, for a multitude of reasons, was Whitney [Houston]. I wouldn't say my least favorite, just my most challenging. It was at the point when there were a lot of drugs going on. She was "Whitney"...I don't think her and I, from the day we met, connected. Then I was trying to get her to sing a line a certain way, and rightly so, she was looking at me like, "You don't tell Whitney how to sing." There were at least four or five things that happened and at one point she was like, "I'm outta' here." I was thinking, "Oh my God, I'm working with Whitney Houston; this is a pinnacle for me. I'm working with a legend." It was disappointing, but I have to take responsibility for that too. I probably could've done a lot better to make her feel like that super-star. A star likes to be treated like a star. And that doesn't mean get them red M&M's, but if everything is revolving around that star, then it should revolve around them at that moment. It's not that anyone's better, everyone is equal, but for a star to perform, they need to feel like a star. The song still was a huge hit and went to #1. But I probably could've done a lot more. Now though, coming from the perspective of a performer, if I ever do go back to producing records for other people, I'm going to be an AMAZING producer because now I have the whole other element of how to make that person feel outside of the music. Put them in the right frame of mind, in that comfort zone, with that white pillow on that pedestal. It's a whole other thing.
Tell me more about your current passion, Cary Nokey and 8-Bit. Don't you have a single coming out soon?
Yes. The song is called, "BWhoUR.” A lot of Cary Nokey stuff is darker. Not lyrically, but more in the feel, more of a "Cure," Bowie darkness to it. It's deeper. The song, "BWhoUR" is more of a feel good so I tucked it away. Then I played it for one or two people, and people started freaking out. It's really the story of what happened here. I feel like Rob was the alter-ego of 8-Bit, who I am now. I know that sounds crazy, and I know I lived a life as Rob, but my whole family calls me 8 now, cuz' I won't have it. I don't feel like Rob; I'm not Rob. I understand that Rob exists, and did exist, and had this life, but I compare it to being gay. You live all these years of keeping it from everyone, and then you come out like, "how did I do that?" I feel like this single speaks on that, whatever it is, just be who you are. There's no one like you. You want to be unique, different, and something spectacular? Be YOU because no one can be you. What better odds to play than that?
In a nut-shell, "BWhoUR" is the Cary Nokey story. It involved crazy shit that I wouldn't want people knowing, but there was a ray of light there. I'm a rock-dude, I'm a dance-dude, I'm a soul-dude. I'm very much a chic; I'm very much a guy. I have a song called "My Name is Lisa" and it's about all my alter-egos growing up; when I'd be in my room, and I'd wanna wear lipstick, and try on my mother’s jewelry. My mom was very feminine. She had three sons; she always wanted a daughter. I was the youngest, so I became the daughter. I was the one that she dressed up every Halloween like a girl. And she did a great job; she was a cosmetologist. She did my skin and my hair; it was amazing. When I went to high school, I never wanted to be around the guys. They'd be joking about the stupidest stuff. I didn't belong there; it was so uncomfortable to me, but I couldn't say anything.
Can I ask how old you are?
Really? You're young!
Wow, I thought you were going to say I'm old.
No!! I was just wondering where this sudden shift came from...I thought maybe it had to do with a significant Birthday.
Yeah...I really don't know...
Where do you live now?
In New York, in Hell's Kitchen.
Tell me more about your personal life. Are you in a relationship, what do you do with your time, and what are you passionate about outside of the industry?
Wow, nobody's ever asked that before. It's interesting because even through Cary Nokey and 8-Bit, I've started doing things that I never did. Obviously, I'm a clothes and fashion whore. I can't control it, it's so bad. I'm obsessed with designers and garments and I started making my own stuff. I also started doing more drawing, and I've started having head-pieces I've been designing built. It feels Liberace and Freddie Mercury to me; it feels very feminine to me. I'm so obsessed with really being in touch with my feminine side. It's funny because I have a girlfriend and all I can say is, it's tough. The feminine thing was always there, but you know what I'm getting at...there's other things happening. Sometimes it's amazing because you didn't realize these things were in you, but sometimes it's very difficult because people don't get it. It's taken a while for people who are really close to me. My mother just started calling me 8. I said, "Mom, you can call me Rob, I'm just not gonna’ answer." So it's been a really interesting transition.
The things that Rob used to do, I don't find that interesting anymore. Rob would go, at least once a week, to a movie, every day sometimes; it was almost an escape for me. I haven't been to the movies since I can't tell you when. I don't really take down-time...it's not really a good thing. I should be doing the things that people do when they shut their engines off. I won't hide that fact that I have to take medication for it because it's hard for me to shut the wheels off. I'll go rehearse all day, I'll write a song, I'll come back to the apartment, and I'll get on the laptop to produce a track. There are too many things that I feel like I can do, and I want to do. The problem with that is you don't stop and smell the roses. You gotta shut it off sometimes, and that's the challenge I'm having. I was always like that. Like I said before with Gaga, we'd work 7 days a week. There were no weekends, no Friday night. There's stuff as an artist...go to the parties, go meet the DJs, but I'm always in that "I can be better" mode. And it's crazy, but it's what it is, until I can tame that beast.
How long have you been with your girlfriend?
We've been on-and-off for ten years.
Wow, that's a long time! You just came through this massive personal transition, and this massive expansion, how is that for your girlfriend?
I feel like I have to give her the time to decide that "I love this new person too." It's that serious. She's learning something new every day about this person. It's a year old for her, just like it's a year old for me. It's almost like starting a new relationship for both of us. The great thing about that is the new person [8-Bit] has both sides. You wanna be with a chic tonight, I can do that. You wanna be with a dude tonight, I can do that. Now you've got the whole thing.
One of the most interesting interviews I've ever done, 8-Bit then proceeded to invite me to an "off-the-record" hang! 8, I can't wait!
If you are in the New York Area this week, you can see 8-Bit live, Friday, June 13 at the Gramercy Theater..for more info...
To learn more about the author, go to: http://BridgetBrady.com, http://TheVoiceGenius.com and http://MoreOnlineIncome.com