“There’s always going to be a reason to create [..] Just because the world stopped in the way it has for now, it doesn’t mean that our creativity has to stop as well.”- Rick Quintana
By Jessica Militello
Ricky Quintana who fittingly goes by the artist name MENYU is an English teacher, father, and husband by day, while at night, he delves into his creative mind to form another piece of expression through his mediums as DJ, singer, songwriter, producer, poet, and beatboxer. He is constantly creating and putting out new projects and I was interested in learning more about his mindset in how he comes up with ideas and what keeps him inspired. He recently released the Dali Moon, which he considers some of his most honest and vulnerable songs yet. I spoke to Quintana about the inspiration behind his work as well as what inspires him and what keeps him creating no matter what.
JM: What is the Dali Moon?
RQ: So normally, when I do any facet of art, I go by MENYU, but Dali Moon is a totally different representation of another side of me. It’s the vulnerable side that deals with my personal issues stemming from my childhood, to present day life, to my worry of the future. So it’s kind of my true other personality that I have never shown to anyone else outside of my own personal realm, which is the reason why it’s called Dali Moon. It consists of two characters known as Salvador soul and Moon Sin.
JM: And were other musicians also involved for this project?
RQ: It’s originally just me; I composed and created everything, the vocals, I wrote all the songs, the original song lyrics are mine. But when I create the music, it is no longer me, it’s these two, different personalities that have existed inside of me that were created by trauma, disorder, anxiety, hurt, betrayal, depression, and anger. These characters that we create subconsciously, are the ones who are coming out through my music. As a poet we have a tendency to write how we feel, some people have a diary. This is, in a sense, my diary, but it’s hard for me to talk about it so these personas that exist inside of me are the ones who are speaking my past, present and my reality.
JM: Do you feel with the pandemic creating more time to sit with ourselves, that it inspired this kind of really honest writing?
RQ: Yes, it was definitely a huge inspiration for me. I can’t function unless I am artistically productive. But being in this pandemic, it’s hard for us to really function the way we normally have, and the nighttime has always been the worst for me, ever since I was a little kid. So because of that, I was always in my thoughts and my anxiety kicks in. And there were times where I would write poetry, or come up with music, I’d produce a song here and there. Some of my best songs that I’ve produced throughout the years have been done at 2, 3 in the morning. But this is an entirely different mindset for me where I’m thinking about my future, relationships of the past, my present relationship, insecurities, my age, and health. I started thinking about my past with my family, I lost both my parents and I had a really tough childhood. That sounds cliche, I think everybody has suffered a severe childhood in one way or another. And with all of that, I started feeling like an overpoured glass of milk, you don’t know when to stop, and it just overflows and now it’s just this huge ass mess all over the table. So I knew I wanted to create music, I wanted to do something different. Instead of writing about my problems and my vulnerabilities, I’d rather just do it in a different way that expresses who I really am.
JM: Do you think when people hear these songs it could be cathartic for them to hear someone else being really honest about what they’re going through?
RQ: That’s a very good question, so the album doesn’t have a title. The title is just two eyes, like when we used to type emojis on a Blackberry back in the day, and the reason why I named it that is because I want the music to be a reflection of whatever way you take it. The title can say so much, but sometimes symbols say so much more. Even with the logo, it’s a crescent moon and Salvador Dali’s mustache. I’m a huge Dali fan and he’s so out there, but his stuff is so surreal. So that’s my music, it may sound confusing, it may seem a little uncomfortable with some parts, especially with the first song, “OCD,” but it’s open to interpretation. People can ask me what the song was about, or they can just take it in and interpret it in their own way and absorb it in a way that might relate to them. Which is the reason why it’s titled the way it is, so it’s your perception of the album.
JM: For artists who may be newer or unsure of what to do with the stuff they are creating or how to even begin to get some sort of following of their work, what advice can you give?
RQ: So there’s always a following and that’s one thing that artists should understand, not to feel hopeless, because there’s always going to be a group of people who are looking for your exact expression. Nowadays, we’re so drowned by this ocean of simplicity and repetition, but if you put a hashtag that is representative and reflective of your craft, that’s who is going to appreciate your artistry. Tik Tok obviously is one of the top three most popular social media platforms now. Also, if you really want to boost your platform, look up artists that are in the same category. I consider myself to be like new wave or new wave experimental, electro, so what I’ll do is, I will look for people who follow that hashtag, who might have a large following and believe it or not, with little comments, you know, people pay attention. And last is the consistency, we have to be consistent.
JM: When it comes to releasing new work, how do you make decisions of what you put out and the order in which you release new projects?
RQ: I’m very goal oriented and it’s also the experience that I have, so I start off wherever I’m starting, you know. Even when I wrote my second book of poetry, it was not an intention. My goal was not to write a second book, but I started posting poems. And without even realizing it, I had about 25 poems, so I decided to write another book. But while I was creating the album, I was writing some other songs that I really enjoyed, but I didn’t want to rush to post them because they didn’t sound good just as instrumentals, they needed the vocals. And I think with real artists, and I’m writing ‘real’ in bold letters, real artists don’t rush anything. That’s why there’s no relevance to Soulja Boy or [Tekashi] 69, because everything is rushed. That’s why you haven’t heard Kendrick Lamar drop anything recently because artists take their time, because they’re going for greatness. So once I started recording the songs, and they were longer, and I needed vocals, I already had a plan to release an album.
JM: What about those who feel frustrated or hindered by the pandemic and its restrictions?
RQ: My advice is that there’s always a way to create and there’s always going to be a reason to create. This pandemic should not be a reason why you have to stop. Just because the world stopped in the way it has for now, it doesn’t mean that our creativity has to stop as well. We’re still going to be thinking about the obstacles in our lives and inspirations, and just because we might not be playing shows the way we used to, it doesn’t mean that we can’t still cater to our audience. So the pandemic is, you know, obviously, everybody’s struggling; I lost a lot of gigs. I was supposed to DJ a gig in the Dominican Republic, and the week we were shut down was the week I was supposed to leave, so I lost thousands of dollars from DJing alone. It’s a struggle, but it shouldn’t stop us from creating and finding a new platform.
JM: Where is Dali Moon available to listen to?
RQ: It’s on Spotify, Amazon music, YouTube, SoundCloud, iTunes, Apple Music, Tik Tok, and Instagram.
JM: Is there anything else that you want to mention that I didn’t ask?
RQ: I will say one more thing; I think that it’s important to be original. Just because you want to get some sort of notoriety or fan base, you follow what you think is poppin’ right now, but that’s not going to last and I guarantee you’re not going to last. It’s just artificially flavored fake sugar as art, so you always have to be sugar in the raw.
Follow MENYU at Instagram.com/DJMENYU and find more of his work at Instagram.com/thedalimoon and DJMENYU.com
His new album Dali Moon is available on all listening platforms