Thursday 12 November 2015

Interview: Rome

A La Faveur De La Nuit...

"[...] I definitely don’t want to be in a political band. I like keeping an open mind, as there is not the one message. I do address specific stuff, but I want to do it in an open minded way."

In Luxembourg, there lies the tales of hollow flowers and exiled lands. There lies the tales of men's fear, recorded and embedded from the eyes of Rome. 2015 celebrates a decade of compositions that led Jerome Reuter’s music into the neo-folk scene. A decade of work, which brings in political questioning from the archives of history, brought to life in a desolate theatrical play of words and sounds. Created in a ballad of acoustical guitars and drums that vibrate tyranny towards silent death, with the softest touch.

The autumn colours of Vienna begin to blossom in the seventh district of Vienna. IVM makes a brief visit before sound check to interview the actor, absinthe seller, now musician on his European tour. 

Intravenous Magazine: So if we are looking at yourself are you a Hamlet or a Coriolanus kind of person?

Jerome Reuter: Yeah I’m probably more of a Coriolanus kind of guy, for the obvious reasons!

IVM: Are you currently a full-time musician?

JR: Yes; before I was basically a student, I studied languages and worked day jobs, then things started happening with music and that led me to Rome.

IVM: What brought you into the “neo-folk scene”?

JR: I was playing in many different bands, and one by one they began falling apart. I was left to my own devices and it ended with me doing what I felt like doing. Rome was my own little project, I was doing for myself and I had no intention of turning it into a band, as it never went that well. Where people have different choices to make in our lives and career options. I did what I was in the mood for; it was influenced in some way by the dark wave/ punk scene. 

IVM: Where were you when you came to this conclusion of making your own band? 

JR: In Heidelberg whilst studying. Basically the current band I was in, was falling apart, mainly due to some of the band members living in different countries, making it not that easy, including myself I was moving around quite a bit. I was not living too far away from the location, which is where I also recorded the first Rome demo. It was a big blur this time as I was participating a lot in theatre also, for a big part of 2005 I was not creating music, just concentrating on theatre. 

I had this big decision to make on which path to choose, as I knew I could only do one properly. So for that one year, it just happened I was in involved in a lot of productions, which was lot fun, though I could do without theatre and not without music. At this same point in time I had no band! (Laughs) Partly because of the theatre, but I ended up being the only one left and having a solo project, in comparison to a studio one, I did not have to worry about how many guitar tracks I am allowed to record. After the project then started to kick off I was in a tough bind, as I had to then find a way to put it on stage, so in the early days there was a lot of backing tapes, whereas now there is much more of a real band with me. 

IVM: What brought about the name Rome?
JR: Well, since I was starting afresh and I had all these nick names back in my child punk days and you would use the nickname on the record label, so I decided to shorten my name. It is kind of silly, though at the same time it is a cool name, especially when you mention history, like you mentioned Coriolanus for example. As much as it is derived from my name, it certainly has a different vibe to it.

IVM: With your 2014 release 'A Passage to Rhodesia'', how does the way Rome was initially compare to the 2014 version?
JR: It has always been different for every record really, when I looked at the discography which I was forced to this year with the anthology release, to look back is something I do not really like doing. When I look at the different albums, what I see is the different people who were involved with it, the period of my life and what inspired me and 'Rhodesia' in that regard was just a different chapter. It was with me for a while longer than others, as I had the idea quite early on. It could have been the fourth album, but the theme and the music didn’t quite gel until last year.

IVM: You touched on the Anthology, Is it a horrible feeling having to make one, is it more of sales thing for the ten years than a studio production?
JR: For the label, they had started talking quite early on about a best of and I was releasing quite a lot, so then there were thoughts of ‘should I be releasing a best of’? But then the market changed, in the old days not that too long ago, the best of CD would be the most with the highest sales figures, as the people who had not heard the band would take this and possibly get another for a friend. But now it’s not the case at all and more the complete opposite.

I did not want to go through the trouble of remixing and mastering it, to give people an excuse to purchase it, as most people will have the songs. Maybe they won’t have the rarer version, but they’re online so the term rare doesn’t really apply any more, not like it used to. It’s a great thing to have when presenting Rome to a new person; but also for me, it is a way of starting a new chapter and taking it from here.

IVM: With music creation, is there a past, present or future though behind it?

JR: There is definitely some songs and records that look towards the past, but then you have this big present aspect coming in, at the end of the day, it is just one of those you mentioned. I was always interested in history, not because it is gone but mainly because it is still very very present. I was never interested however in history that has been too far away and difficult to see the link; the historical things that inspired me, are still very close to me and my family, such as ‘Flowers in Exile’, these are not too distant and you know there is a link.

IVM: Do you consider yourself then more European in that respect?

JR: I do, I am first a European and then I am from Luxembourg. Obviously it is easier to say if you are from Luxembourg, compared to a country as big as France or Germany, which had some sort of colonial history. We do profit a lot from the European Union and were one of the six founding members. We also had a lot of people from all over come to Luxembourg; if you go from one bar to the next, the language changes and going abroad doesn’t have the same ring to it, as you’re only travelling 5 miles. Also with my background, from my father being a theatre director, we went to a lot of international film festivals, in Europe, Eastern Europe and Russia. This was right just after the wall went down, so this definitely had a big impact on me. 

IVM: Would you say then, creativity is in your blood?

JR: Of course your environment will have an impact on you, though I know a lot of people without a background with connections to creative arts that turned out to be musicians. I was around actors a lot in my life, and I liked that crowd. 

IVM: Is your work a touch of opinion, or motivation from current and past affairs?

JR: I see it as a personal thing, then again it brings about the old discussion, should music be political? I am in no position to foresee the events of the world.

IVM: In that case would you see it as more complimentary?

JR: It’s like human life, you can always have both and you cannot shut it out, but I definitely don’t want to be in a political band. I like keeping an open mind, as there is not the one message. I do address specific stuff, but I want to do it in an open minded way. My opinions have changed so much in the last ten years, I would dare not name any, as next year they will be different due to change in affairs. And now this impermanence, may be the new theme. 

IVM: Is there anything you could say to give the readers a realistic view how it is to live the life, as a successful musician in this particular genre?

JR: Well the truth is, we are still trying to figure it out. In many ways the genre is dead and you don’t want to be pinned down, as you could end up creatively dead. And as for the life, I guess some of it is in the songs, on what we go through. When you are a multi-millionaire, you cannot really sing what it is like to be at the pub with the lads, as your life has changed. Some of the truth is in the songs but also the dream of a better world is there too (laughs).

IVM: Is there a method behind the songs? A Pint?

JR: Most of the time it is me sitting down reading books with a guitar, and the words slowly fall into their place. But that is not all of it, you are working all the time and collecting ideas, and that’s the main chunk of the work, finding something and keeping it for later and then you sit down and things will fall into place. A film might create a world, and I dive into it and try to create a sound and we start from there.

IVM: So this would be like for example 'A Passage to Rhodesia'?

JR: Exactly, it took a longer while to collect I guess, the main problem was I had the idea around the time I was doing 'Masse Mensch' in 2007 and I knew right there I had an album. I then started digging and I was really confused in looking for the voice to tell that story, in a not too clichéd way. It also took me a long time to find the truth in researching sources; and that took a while and then with pre-production being on the back of the Trilogy album. For example 'Hell Money' took only a few days to make and I ended up using production time booked for Rhodesia, for work on 'Hell Money'. The artwork was very important for the trilogy. 

IVM: Once upon a time you did the living room tour. How was it?

JR: It was good, but was impossible to afford and exhaustingly difficult in relation to logistics. I am not ruling out another one, but definitely not this year! Some people really invested into us and paid for flights, for us to get to them.

IVM: What would be your cocktail, or drink?

JR: Well right now I am doing my best not to drink. We have had a few band drinks over the years, currently it is this Tequila that I am never buying, because it is ridiculously expensive. Our bass player Patrick is the barman!

One of my day jobs was selling Absinthe, and I was quite into it. I haven’t been inside the job for a while now, but my personal recommendations are:

Rome's latest album 'Anthology 2005 - 2015', is available to buy now through Trisol Records. For more information on the band, please visit the official website.
Interviewed by Dominic Lynch aka DJ LX-E

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