Rome (2011)

 •  Posted in: Kogaionon Interviews

After a waiting period that was far too long (for fans), ROME decided to come back in the most active way, a piece of news that can only bring joy to all. Jerome Reuter is a very talented musician, with a phenomenal voice but also with a very varied lyrical spectrum. As the lastROME concert took place in Romania, in December 2009 at Dark Bombastic Evening 1, I figured that maybe I should start the dialogue from that moment. 

Hello Jerome. What’s your view on your last live performance, a concert held over a year ago? You were the revelation of the event, the fans were continuously asking for encores, everybody was screaming, applauding, cheering… What sort of memories do you have of Bucharest? There were fans from over 25 countries on that night… 

“Well, that concert was truly amazing, you’re right. And it was a very good way of saying goodbye for a while. We all had a wonderful time. It was a very pleasant weekend among friends. I like Romania. And I remember not getting a lot of sleep for those three days.” 

But still, the atmosphere of the Reduta theatre seemed to vibrate a bit more with you, isn’t that right? The intimacy of the venue, the aura of the city of Brasov, the audience that was quieter and somewhat astonished of what a completely unknown band, in the eyes of those present, can do… 

“Yes, that gig in Brasov a year or so before the Bucharest show was very intimate, which is something I like very much. It was very nice for a change to play in a theatre with an audience seated in front of you. And I think people liked it as well. I hope we can play there again at some point.” 

Have you ever thought of completing your show with theatrical stage elements? You have some strong roots in what is related to theatre, should we think of your dad.... 

“Yes, I have (family) roots in the theatre, but I don’t know how I could really incorporate that onto the stage. You know acting and singing for me is like tennis and football. There’s a ball involved and a net of some kind, but that’s as far as similarities go. However, I try to include a specific aesthetic that I learned in the theatre, but it’s two different worlds really.” 

I like the fact that you gave up on backdrops... Does this mean that you reached the conclusion that the music played today by ROME doesn't need projections running in the background? 

“Well, when I first performed as ROME, I was all alone on stage. I did some touring in Spain very early on and for that I needed something more than just a guy with a guitar... so I did work with film, etc, to add some visual dimension to it all. But now that ROME is pretty much a regular live-band there’s really no need for that. It would rather bother me, I must say.” 

The decision to take a break with ROME shocked many people, a lot of rumours surfacing, a lot of gossip and interpretations… That the violin player is joining the army and thus the essence of ROME will be lost, that Patrick is too busy with his studio and doesn’t have time to perform live... that you have lost the motivation, or inspiration… or the will to write something new due to being overwhelmed by fans, having had so many albums out in just 4 years… I think that now, a year after your last live performance, your beard has grown long enough and the rum sipped by the seaside have managed to earn back your inner balance and make you feel more relaxed. What did happen throughout all this time? What is the truth? Do you still consider yourself as a slave to music? Your fans should find out…. 

“Well, the truth is something personal. And my lips are sealed. It was largely due to health issues. But added to that, the band as such was also facing various problems at the same time: Yes, unfortunately Nikos had to leave the band because of the army service and he has decided to stay in Greece after he’s done the time. Finding new musicians proved to be very hard, especially on such short notice. Patrick is indeed busy with his studio and I have moved out of Germany for good. I just needed to get out of there for many reasons. I pretty much cut all ties loose. I had been living in various German cities throughout the last 7 or 8 years and now there was just a moment of complete collapse for me. I knew a specific time in my life had come to an end, I had to face that and I had to get out and start anew somewhere else. I spent most of the later year on the road though-as often as humanly possible. I visited many friends in Europe and the US and when I came back I had many songs in my bag… so, yes, I guess I’m still a slave to the music.” 

You have cancelled a tour in America and some live shows in Europe. Wasn’t it difficult to take the decision not to honour some promises that were made? 

“Yes, that was very bad! I hated to be in such a position! ROME has never ever cancelled anything, really. And now I had to cancel all those shows we had planned for all of 2010. The problem was that I couldn’t really say when I could actually travel again. Only one thing was certain: I was told I wouldn’t be able to play for at least 4 months. So I couldn’t risk keeping shows on the schedule after that either.” 

Throughout all this time, have you received any messages from fans? Did you communicate with them at all? 

“I received a lot of messages, yes! And that proved to be, indeed, very helpful and I am very thankful to anyone who took the time to write. You know, people often think that leaving a comment somewhere online doesn’t really get to the artist or person in question, but on the contrary, these things get attention even if our kind doesn’t have the time or isn’t able to reply.” 

‘What you are looking for is gone for good’… Very theatrical expression that can be read on your old website… What did you intend to express through this? 

“Yes, slightly dramatic, isn’t it, haha. Well, that page is certainly gone for good. And there surely was a time when I thought about completely quitting because I felt rather good being at sea and not having to think about the business. But after a while I realized that it is important for me on a very personal level to do the music and share it with people. I just decided to come back like nothing ever happened, with the only change now being that I don’t care so much anymore about the business aspects of things. ROME’s productions were becoming more and more sophisticated, we were beginning to try and compete with people who are far beyond our reach and out of our league and who have a very long-standing career and a wider audience – and most of all: a far higher budget as we had. So we were forgetting a bit about our roots and the original intent there was in ROME. I partially blame that on others, but I was the one making the decisions. The break that was forced upon me gave me the opportunity to get a new and healthier perspective on things and to think about what I really wanna do. I want this to be art and not necessarily easily digestible for everyone. Money is not my god. I’d rather be skinned and artistically free than really famous and a slave to the industry. Having said that, I must add that I like all the records I did. Every single one. I would never have released anything of which I was not convinced. And the last record was actually released sort of post-mortem, cause I was already on a break for several months, but the work had been finished long before.” 

Although you entered ‘Silentio Stampa’, your new album was released in spring, though very discreetly and with minimum of promotion. At least that is how I saw it. How was it received by the press, by your fans? 

“Honestly, I don’t really know, cause I wasn’t around. For a good part of the year I wasn’t even on the same continent and I really didn’t care. You know, the decision to make ‘Nos Chants Perdus’ and the decision to make it the way it is were made long before the ‘decision’ of quitting. The album was done and it would be released for sure. But that part of the work is the label’s and I know they do a good job, so I wasn’t too worried about that at all. I was exchanging mails with my ‘boss’ from time to time, but that’s it. He didn’t even know where I was. And I guess not playing any shows didn’t really help promoting the thing, haha. As for the fans, I think some really loved it and it took others a while to find out that it doesn’t really suck that much after all. And of course there are those who hate it. But that’s the way it should be, really. As for the press… I don’t know. You know, a lot of people are being paid to write good things about bad things, I don’t mean paid in a direct way, but, you know… one guy does another guy a favour… there’s advertising involved, there’s politics of some kind… time and timing is a factor too and some writers couldn’t care less or know less about what they are supposed to write about… so I don’t really give a flying fuck about what the press says in general, except for what independent and underground journalists have to say and I care about what the fans say, because we are family. The more you know about how the system works the more disgusted or corrupted you get, it’s as simple as that. And in the end, I am quite thankful my health and other things got in the way, so that I could take a sidestep out of it all.” 

Would you agree in saying that this album has brought you a fair amount of criticism from those fans of Martial who wanted a continuous trend of copy-paste rhythms of their favourite genre? Are you at all affected by their reproaches? 

“No, because I know what’s coming next and they obviously can’t. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion. I think most of my supporters understood that I can’t go on making the same record over and over again. There’s some bands who do that and it works very well for them but I want more than that out of it. This is not an office job.” 

Let’s leave 2010 with its own worries, problems or emotions to the side. We are now in 2011. Can we talk about a restart for ROME or just a new chapter? 

“For me personally it’s both. On a strictly personal level it’s a new chapter… but a big one at that… you know, like being reborn or something. And for ROME I think it’s also both, cause we start afresh. There’s a new team around me. I moved to a different country. I work with other people. I write new stuff that somehow seems more like myself, the older self that is. On the other hand, it is also (and I am sure most people will have forgotten about this break soon enough) just the next chapter. ROME was still present in 2010 in a way, because of the record and now in 2011 I play shows again, so I guess people will say ‘what the fuck was all that drama about?!’ But believe me, some moments of last year I wouldn’t want to relive for all the whisky in Ireland.” 

Do you consider yourself a fan of modern technology? Would you like to release completely analogical albums? Do you think there is still a future for vinyls? As the CD sales have dropped considerably... good thing there are special editions...

“That’s the ten-million-dollar-question, isn’t it? If I had the answers to that problem I’d be living on my own private island by now, wouldn’t I? I am kind of tired of worrying about that. You know, people who are true fans will want to own the original record. Feel it in their hands. I work more like a novelist than like a musician, in that way and a lot of thoughts go into words and visuals and all that. And people know this. That’s why there’s still people wanting to own the original thing and not just a digital file. But times are changing a lot in that respect and I don’t know where’s it’s gonna go. The only thing I know is that my music needs a proper packaging and lyrics and visuals and what not, so I will always release the albums the way I want. Right now I feel like doing a bit of vinyl as well, so maybe there’ll be that too if the opportunity presents itself.” 

If the drop in merch sales continues, the only financial source for a band remains the live performance. Are there any other ways of living off music, maybe? 

“I can live on very little money and have in the past. I don’t have a fancy car or anything. Music is all I do. So you actually really help me getting to the end of the month when you buy my shirt or CD or attend the shows (climbing over the fence to see it doesn’t count) or whatever. That’s what we pay our bills with.” 

What do you see as a big compromise in music? Have you ever made one? 

“Every artist has to know that for himself. It’s a thin line often already crossed when you have one foot in a studio. I don’t recall ever really feeling like making one, though.” 

I am happy that you have decided to resume your live performances. How will the new concerts look like? Are we to expect a different concept? Can we talk about a live band now? 

“The only thing I can say right now (because it’s the only thing I know, haha) is that it’s gonna be a real band on stage. No instruments will be coming from a computer. But there will be samples in some way or other, of course.” 

Tell me a few things about the new members (live or even studio). Who are they, where did you meet, how did they end up being part of ROME? 

“I have a live band now, yes. I had to buy them drinks to persuade them. I am not working with any musicians in the studio right now. I am doing everything myself again like I did for the first three albums. But I have a new band around me live. It’s more like a ‘band of brothers’ because I chose old’ time friends of mine. We all go way back and I chose them for who they are not what they can do on an instrument. In fact, except one guy, they were all only bass-players before. We randomly divided up who’s doing what and, guess what, the best bass-player in the band drew the shortest straw and ended up having to do percussion – which is something he’s never done before. We don’t know what the fuck we’re doing, but we’re having a lot of fun. And fun was something that had been missing from the whole experience for a while now.” 

You have a pretty busy calendar for this new year, seems you will be attending a lot of important festivals. Should we conclude that you will be dedicating yourself to this band completely? Meaning… to live only from music? 

“I already do. Like I said, I can live on very little money and I had to change my diet anyway, so I need less money for food, haha.” 

What will your set lists look like? Some new tracks as well?  

“Yes, for sure.” 

It is time to give us some more details regarding your new album. What sort of musical line will it follow? What new elements? Describe its concept to us. 

“No, no, no, no, no, it’s wayyy too early to talk or think about things like that. I’m trying to get a band together right now… that’s enough to worry about. The guys are shitting their pants cause some of them don’t have that much stage experience and of course we are starting the tour in June with all these big-ass-festivals with thousands of people attending. They thought I was kidding when I told them. Like ‘oh, by the way guys, the first couple of shows are gonna be quite big ones’… 

The economic crisis created a psychological one too. Do you reckon that all these unwanted but materialized happenings will make us more realistic, more pragmatic, maybe more calculated?  

“No.” 

They say that 2012 will bring the end, as the Mayan calendar ends as well. More so, they say that the poles will reverse, the world will go through extensive changes and only those who are ready will survive. What is your view on these things? 

“Am I to be worried now? Like, ‘shit, we’re all gonna die’, or something? Like ‘Man, there’s a war coming!’ Bring it on! I’m surely not worried about the level of entertainment we’re gonna get throughout the next couple of decades.” 

A volcano erupted and for a few weeks the entire European flight circuit was blocked. Panic was created and it was proven that the human kind is not ready to accept nature and its divers forms, neither are we prepared with alternative solutions. Was this perhaps another sign of the planets aligning? 

“Like the old man with the cane or something… we’re humans, humans are basically bad animals. We know how to fly, we can make do, but we can’t very well make it stop snowing or raining.”  

How does a normal day in the life of Jerome Reuter look like? What about a perfect day (if you were to wish upon one)? 

“Well, I get up quite early. I used to work through the nights, but I just had to face the fact that most people won’t respond to your almost urgent phone calls at 4 am, so I get up early like anybody else now. But I don’t have normal days, really. I have been trying for about fifteen years to get some sort of routine and plan into my work. Every time I move (which was quite frequent in the last 7 years), the first thing I buy or bring is a desk for me to work at. But by now, I have given up on the idea, because I always end up working in the places that were not meant to work at. As soon as there’s a specific spot designed to work at, I kind of shy away. I guess it kills the creativity for me, or something. I admire people who can do that, you know, but I end up doing most of my work in hotels, in bed or in my car… And it’s always a perfect day for me when I get some work done. You know that you didn’t get out of bed for nothing. That’s enough for me.” 

What does family mean to you? Do you resemble an authentic traditionalist maybe? 

“Hahahaha.” 

Do you see yourself as a religious man? Do you look at religion as an escape or perhaps coercion? 

“Hahahahahaha. Stop it, you’re killing me.” 

I know you consider yourself as being an European and not necessarily a citizen of Luxembourg. You lived in several countries, you speak a few languages, you don't see many differences between nations... Why do you think that nationalism is something that gets so much appraisal? Where do you think that patriotism ends and nationalism begins? Or the other way around? Why do you think there is this tendency in extremist movements rising? Is there a new world war approaching? 

“Oh, no, I see a lot of differences between nations – that’s the beauty of it all! But I tend to look at it like tribes. The idea of the national state rings false to me. Those are business borders tinged with fake patriotism. Everyone for himself knows what region and tribe he belongs to. I think we can all work together and all keep our unique cultural and regional identity without all these notions of states and nations and property and what not. I don’t believe in nationalism at all. As soon as things go down the drain, there’s always extremist movements rising. It’s almost a natural thing, really. Given time and opportunity it’s those people who always warn you that there’s a war coming who will bring the actual war.” 

What are the elements that could today create a code of European cultural values? 

“Well, I believe many artists of all sorts are working on that. Europeans are a dying breed, like it or not, so little by little we realize that we should be nicer to our brothers next to us, even though we’ve kicked each other’s heads in just a little while ago. I grew up in a Europe that was still much more divided by the wars and the repercussions of it all, than it is now. Playing shows in the East, West, North and South of Europe is much easier for us now than it would have been, say 40 or even 20 years ago. It’s our job – all of us- to work at creating our culture (and the values that come with it). It’s not something you are given.”   

Are you still in touch with Tomas/ORE and Simone? Did you get to listen to their new albums? Did you enjoy them? 

“Yes, I’m in touch with them somewhat regularly – though not last year, as I wasn’t in touch with anyone, really). I know there’s going to be some shows where we’ll all meet again and that’s always a pleasure. I’m looking forward to that. You know, when you are in this dungeon called the music business there’s two kinds of people; there’s those who look at you and think of you as either shit or competition (or both) and there’s those who help you out, share their knowledge and stick to you along the way. Thomas and Simone are like that. I profited from that because I am the younger one. And I am still amazed at the degree of comradeship I found. I love those lads... and their work!” 

Are you happy with your collaboration with Trisol? I noticed that Alex has started re-editing your previous albums. The same thing was done by Cold Meat Industry as well. Why would should a fan purchase these re-releases if, let’s assume, they already own the initial ones? 

“I talked to Trisol about making sure that none of the older fans should feel pushed to buy something they already own! That’s why you can order the shirts which are usually only available in a set with a CD separately this time. I also didn’t want to change the artwork to make people buy it, but in the case of the Berlin-EP we had to, because the original files are long lost. And I added booklets. But the lyrics have all been posted online years ago… so I don’t think there’s any reason to complain. We did this edition so that everybody can buy the cd he wants to have without paying 150 bucks on e-bay. So if you have the first edition, don’t feel obligated! But if you want to show your support, of course, buy the thing, we need bread too and we put a lot of work, money and love into this throughout hungry years and still do.” 

Dear Jerome, thank you for your availability and your patience. I wish you a beautiful year, filled with whatever it is that you wish! See you soon. A final salute to the old but also to the new friends of ROME…. 

“Thank you! And thank you very much for the interview! I’ll see you all (and you personally!) on tour in 2011. Glad to be back!”   

I tried to get as much as possible from my friend Jerome, but I seem to have obtained only what he wanted to transmit, haha. But he will have a lot to say this year, especially as we will meet him again, in Alba Iulia, at Dark Bombastic Evening 3, on the 20th of August. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qtvYWSaiYg   

January, 2011