Rome (2008)

 •  Posted in: Kogaionon Interviews

One of the most expressive voices within the NeoFolk scene seems to belong to Jerome Reuter, who in only three years of activity managed to release a number of three albums and as well as that, a mini album, all very appreciated by the connoisseur audiences. His latest album released in 2008 was received very well and it probably got a lot more people interested into ROME. And so, let us meet the leader of this band.

1. Greetings Jerome, how did you spend your summer? Have you been away, have you managed to recharge your batteries in order to perhaps be more musically productive in the months to come?

* I had numerous things on my personal agenda this year. Summer turned out to be not that refreshing, actually. But I did go to Normandy in late summer/ early fall. There's this little place on the coast I go to, almost every year, to write and forget about touring and studios. You can rent a room next to the sea. It's a quiet little town. It's virtually impossible to find cigarettes anywhere close. It's cold, rainy and windy. I am not the sunny type of guy, anyway. I believe I will have to wait a few more weeks – til the turn of the year – until I can really recharge those batteries, though. But we are back at work now and we will soon be recording again.

2. You live in Luxembourg, you very often have business to take care of in Germany, your lyrics are in German but also French and English, and one could say you are quite the multicultural and polyglot person. Could this interesting mix of cultures make you think in a sort of elitist manner?

* I still live in Germany actually, but I will move out at the end of the month. I don't like to stay in one place for too long. I don't believe in ownership or anything. I will return to Luxembourg, but not because I was born there. It happens that there are certain individuals I like to be around, who live there. I don't feel that connected to that country anymore. I see myself primarily as a European. I have lived in different countries of Western Europe and I spend a lot of my time travelling around the rest of Europe, because of friends, shows, labels, etc. I believe I am multicultural, in some way or other, but that doesn't make me an elitist. However, I profit a great deal from the fact that speaking several languages makes travelling and hiding much easier.

3. What inspires you to write the music you do? I'm talking both melody and lyrics.

* Numerous things. The trick is to keep breathing and to keep your eyes open. Things around me inspire me to do what I do. And if they don't, I can always rely on books and movies. The great thing about this project is that it keeps us on the move. We are constantly dealing with different people from different places and, as much as I prefer to be alone, I can't help but be inspired by that.

4. Working with somebody: the music is in your head, it needs to come out and so you have all the bits and pieces that represent your vision (lyrics, concepts, themes, titles, samples, loops, riffs and so on). Is it easy to share your inner creations with someone else? How do you make them understand?

* Well, luckily I only have to share that with Patrick Damiani, who is the other member in the band. As far as the creative process and legal issues are concerned, there's just the two of us in ROME. We have live musician(s), but they may vary. I have worked with Patrick on various projects for more than 5 years now. He has always been the engineer and producer and I have always been the writer. We have become quite the team. I don't really need to say too much for him to understand what I want. That saves a lot of time and sweat. Over the years we have developed our own language as well. And since I base most of the stuff on actual guitar riffs, vocal melodies and samples, it's not that difficult for him to understand where I want to take the music.

5. You have said that you're interested in art, photography and history. … Has the name Rome had anything to do with your interest in history? Or have you been playing with your own name when conceiving it?

* The name ROME came about by coincidence, not because of my interest in history. I couldn't come up with a good name for the project, so I thought about how I would write my own name within the project…you know, for bios, booklets, etc. Not that it really mattered, since I didn't think this would go anywhere. I came up with Rome, as a shorter version of my first name. I thought as a name for a singer it would be quite awful…but I liked it as ROME for the band/project. That's the story. No magic. Since then it has shown to be quite effective. It certainly isn't the best name to google, but what the hell. The internet is overrated anyway.

6. Your third album is more pop and less dark. If Rome reflects your inner world, what does this last album say about you? It is also pretty upbeat, but it is still Rome…

* What does it say about me? Maybe that I am much more mellow than I would like to admit, haha, I don't know. I like Pop music. Just not enough to really do it myself. I like all music, but I have always felt at home in the moody and gloomy underground tunes. M.M.M. is indeed a bit more upbeat, but records come to life in different moods, various seasons and different moments in life. Our records mostly take shape within days. This one was recorded in summer, maybe it was a sunnier day…

7. What's Rome like live? Are you happy with your live performances? What is lost when playing for… lets say… a fully packed stadium (if you could imagine)?

* The live performances are improving. We are getting there. We have had some changes over the last season. We are still working on things. I guess the music was meant to be played in rather intimate locations, although some songs could work in an arena-rock situation, I guess. It's just the mood. I like to see the individuals we play for. It's not music for the masses. In a good way.

8. How important is the visual concept for Rome while playing live? What shows up in the projections you use? Do you create them yourself? What are the messages they are trying to carry?

* Yes, we create them ourselves and we do need them for people to have something to look at. I am not a stage monkey. I don't really dance around a lot. We are currently working on new visuals for the upcoming season, so I don't want to reveal too much. It's just very simple stuff, nothing heavy. But they go well with the feel of the songs.

9. How does your interaction with your fans go? Do you have a fan base? What is its profile (if it can be profiled… there must be some underlining characteristics). Your definition as a loner transpires through your MySpace page as well. Do you find anything in communicating with perfect strangers who have some appreciation towards your art?

* Well the underlying characteristics of our fans are that they are – as far as I have seen – very polite, well-read and open-minded people. That makes us really proud. There's an odd character here and there, of course, haha, but the ones that we have met and were able to talk to have been extremely nice. I don't know if we have a real fanbase. I believe that differs from country to country. I guess most of them are proud individuals. Certainly no fan clubs as far as I know. Maybe that will change. Who knows. Things are spread very thin over Europe and the world. But in every city we travelled to, there seemed to be fans who really appreciated what we do. There's not that much interaction going on with them on stage, because we like to focus on giving them a decent performance. But we like to hang out after gigs. For the most part, we sell our merchandise ourselves (we wouldn't want to pay anyone to do that for us anyway, haha) and that's always a good time to come and talk to us. I am a loner, yes, but not in a room with hundreds of people, haha.

Especially if those people are there for us. I have all week to recharge my loner batteries and write. The weekends belong to touring and fans. I like talking to strangers. But, in a way, they are no strangers. There is certainly a connection. It is always great to see that you can touch people with what you do. That should never be ridiculed or frowned upon. My musical heroes have helped me through a lot and I would feel very proud and honoured to have the same role in other people's lives. We have received some very moving mails. We don't accept comments on MySpace, because you only get spam junk like "I just bought you as a fucking pet" and stuff like that. But comments and mails sent are all read and if time allows we try to answer some of them. We have been in touch with various individuals that way and some of our fans have even helped me in my search for samples! I like the idea of people contributing to what they like.

10. The samples most definitely make Rome. And so does your voice. Its one of those very recognisable types. Like Mr. Cohen's for instance, or Nick Caves… How aware are you of that?

* Well, thank you very much! You just named some of my heroes… I feel flattered. I try to sound as pleasant as I can. I never learned how to sing and now that I hear that people like it, I guess I shouldn't take lessons – so that I don't ruin my crooning, haha.

11. Let's talk a bit about the projects you had before, some years ago. What were they like? I read you now want to concentrate on Rome alone. Most musicians prefer to experiment with different projects, all different in nature (manifestation of their wants/needs/desires). How come ROME is enough for you? No multiple musical personalities in Jerome? Or perhaps all your "demons" blend into ROME?

* All the projects I had before were little steps to be taken to get where I am now. Most of them were punk bands, others ranged from singer-songwriter rock to black metal and ska. I was involved in numerous projects as a singer, drummer, guitar or bass player. Apart from that I was involved regularly as an actor in an independent amateur drama group, for which I also wrote classical and experimental scores. I did all kinds of work with all kinds of people. ROME has become my sole output because it unites almost all my interests and I can act freely, without having to compromise. I have had enough time to experiment. It is now time to create something decent and focus on that. ROME has been very kind to me and my demons, and I don't intend to worship anything else.

12. While here, you'll be sharing the stage with Spiritual Front and its main man, Simone. A review made by JudasKiss read "With a very rock'n'roll mentality that shares aesthetic similarities to that of Simone from Spiritual Front, Jerome Reuter, the man behind Rome, is always attempting to pilfer the core of the genre and then expose certain aspects of it to his ideas before remoulding them in his own vision". What are your feelings on this?

* Well, as far as S.F. goes, I don't mind the comparison because I like Simone and I like his work. We get along well and I am looking forward to sharing the stage with him. We have some shows coming up together. I don't think there are too many similarities though. And as for the review, well I thought that was quite a good one. It is certainly not our intention to copy anyone, but we try to remould things in our own way. Glad that that came across.

13. Can you give me some examples, or should I say, recommendations of "obscure music" worth looking into? Perhaps share some musical preferences, some interesting bands.

* I am very much into French Chanson right now, some of the names have been mentioned already (Jacques Brel was Belgian, I know). And for the time being I like listening to Brecht's work in all its varieties. Well, I guess that's not that obscure… mmh I don't know, I will let you know.

14. How is Cold Meat to you? Are you happy with how things are going? Have you managed to meet Roger? I invited him to Romania, but he is not that easy to move…

* Of course I met him. I wanted to see the man before I signed. And we did several shows together, in Germany, Spain, etc. As to your other question: Well, we are on Trisol now…so much for that, haha. Just kidding. CMI have been perfect for us so far, but it was time to move on. Roger has managed to put us on the map. He put a lot of time, work and trust in us, and we will never forget. He was the only one who didn't think twice about signing us, no matter what. He believed in me and this project right from the start. That was an enormous step to take. Without CMI I would still not know what to do with my life, so…I owe them big time. However, all good things come to an end, and we thought it best to leave at this point, in order to be able to take the next step. We will see how things will work out, but I am glad there are no hard feelings on either side. I also believe that we did well by each other.

15. What made you sign with Alex's label? What is a good offer for you? Besides the financial part, what else came with the package? A better promotional and marketing related deal?

* I am not at freedom to discuss any details of contracts and offers from labels. All I can say is that it was time for us to move on and see where we could go. I met Alex in Heidelberg where I had been living for a couple of years, and we got along fine. I like his professional approach and his offer was indeed a good one. We will see how things turn out.

16. Can you name any other bands working with Trisol that you like and perhaps find to have things in common? How would Anna-Varney's voice sound on ROME? :o)

* Actually I believe Anna-Varney's voice would be interesting in a ROME song, haha. Apart from Sopor there's of course Spiritual Front on Trisol, who we've talked about earlier. Trisol is a bit different from CMI. In many aspects. You don't get the family vibe that much, but it has other things to offer.

17. I guess this is a question that will always come up: what are we to expect from Rome in the future, what other sounds, experiences, realms will we be introduced to? Is there something you always wanted to do within your music but haven't got around to do it/try it out? You said you have very specific ideas of what you want to accomplish… How would a fulfilling musical career look for you?

* I am obviously not going to reveal the themes and realms we are currently working on, but we have several things cooking! There are still other things we want to do on records to come, we have a lot of plans, but they keep changing as time moves on. I really don't think it would be smart to reveal anything, sorry. As for the fulfilling career, well, I don't really know. As far as the financial aspect goes, being able to pay the rent is enough for me. As for the music, we can only try to retain the fire that we have inside, and make the best music we possibly can – by our own standards.

18. Playing in Romania – what are your expectations? What do you know about my country? You know, you mentioned intimate places, theatres with seats as preferred venues... Reduta Cultural Centre is just that…

* I am quite interested in your country actually. I have read several books on things loosely related to its history, especially the chaotic times from let's say 1919 to 1960. So I don't think it's all about Vlad, no worries. I am very curious to finally see it. And now that you tell me, I am looking forward to that venue as well…

19. Some last words addressed to the people who will come and see you play?

* Well, first of all thank you for considering us to come. We will do our best to entertain you in some way or other. And to our fans – we really look forward to meeting you!

(The interview's complete version will be published in Kogaionon 10 printed edition)

October 2008.