An interview with Jerome Reuter of ROME is not easy. The first album is from 2006 and sixteen have followed (plus live session and EP) with the last one just released, at the end of November.
But Jerome remains shy on social media, composes songs also with hermetic phrases and, in the past, interviews have been few and frequently concise. It doesn’t help to start the interview if the band, which comes from Luxembourg, is having fun with a soundcheck of well-defined and loud guitars and drums.
The opportunity to meet him is precious, especially if at the ZIGGY CLUB, a location which represents one of the most incandescent sparks of night-time and underground Turin, wellcoming with those who have ears ready to listen alternative sounds for good independent music.
Ettore Castellani: This is the 17th album, Jerome. “Hegenomikon, a journey to the end of light”. You come from the deep heart of Europe with a name recalling both an historical capital city and also your personal name. Which are the ingredients to bring out so many albums.
Jerome Reuter: I don’t do anything else. Just a song per month [laughs] … and, you know, there are 12 months in a year. So, it’s quite simple, really.
Q: The source and ingredients for such creative energy. Where do you find it?
A: Most in books and what I see around me. There is never any lack of ideas. The world is an inspiring place.
Q: Books, such as Celine?
A: Yes. I mean, in Luxembourg we have three, four official languages, so we have lot of literature open to us. It can be French, or German, in my case mostly, and there are then obviously a lot of possible sources. Recently I used some Yeats and some of the Irish poets. I have spent some time in Ireland recently, but I lived also in Germany for a long time, so I’m very familiar with that language as well. It has always felt like it was easy enough to know a few things to start digging, you know? When you read one thing, it leads to the next and it never stops. You read one author and then you wanna find out what he really did there, where he took it from and then you find something else, because of that. So the big work never really stops.
Q: And looking backward, you have done so many steps, also your music has changed even if the intrinsics, maybe, are the same. But which are your developments, as an artist?
A: I don’t see any [laughs]. To me the core is still very much the same. And just as I get older, maybe some stuff gets better, I dont know. Also, I work with different people, so new musical sound imprints are there, certainly. Like for this new album we used analog synths, mainly because my friend Tom Gatti, with whom I work on music, is a big fan of analog synths and now recently we just both started digging into that more severely. But it’s always from the same kind of perspective, I’m grabbing stuff from the same room, but I don’t really go out of the house.
Q: I understand, but, let me say, that even the musical genre is defined sometimes newfolk, sometime darkwave, other times post industrial or chanson-noir. Different choices…
A: It’s always the same thing, really. I mean you have different shades, but it’s the same black [laughs]. The more you learn about music history, the more you see that what I do is second half of XX century. And everything that happens there is the same. It comes from blues and rock. And in my case it is also tinged with the various chanson and singer-songwriter traditions of Europe.
Darkwave or post industrial? I never really understood where one begins and the other ends. It’s not like metal music, you know that there will be distorted guitars and thundering drums and it will be generally loud. But with other, more obscure sub-genres it is a bit trickier to find features that are true for all the various underground bands… And, really, who cares?
Q: Hegenomikon, a journey to the end of light. To me it remembers Celine, but also maybe Gibbon, Fall and decline of [western empire]. Which is the way you decided this title?
A: I never know how to answer these questions. I hate going into explaining the obvious and demystifying. I mean, the title is the title and there are many reasons for me picking it. And either it is obvious to someone why or it isnt and if it isnt, then that person will feel the need to explore it on his own. And that is extremely valuable and I do not want to deprive anyone of that. It is not me trying to be coy or ambiguous. I just really think that what I have to say is in the music. Some things might need clarification, but this is not one of them, haha. Anyway, for me it’s quite difficult to talk about it, because I always start with a basic theme that is more of a feeling, an attitude and then I try to find anything that supports that feeling. So there’s like a vision or a colour and then you grab everything that comes your way and put it together and see if it will stick. These themes here, of high mountains, heights in general, birds of prey, the vertical… the aristocratic. Empire. And it’s damn cold. So that’s why the ice is on the cover [of the new album]. And of course you can go into songs like “Icarus Rex” and the image that are there. But what is the point. There is nothing I can say that will make the song better than it is.
Q: Let me say the “end of light” is the end of the horizon or a new way of life or what else?
A: Exactly, it’s ambigous that way, I guess.
Q: What do you think now of your recent songs? Which is the best flag-song to represent Rome message?
A: I’m not a postman. [laughs]. I am not a messenger. What I do, reflects what I see around me: so if there’s chaos around, I seek order in the music. So this record has a lot of themes about order and empires and structure, while everything all round us is … just chaos. It’s not a reflection, it’s not a mirror, it’s more like my own kind of movie in my own head. I also sing about what I need. I do the music that I myself crave to hear
Q: There are three songs with a redline connecting the dots, “Who only Europe know”, “The West know best” and “Born in EU”.
A: Those songs were made three years ago.
Q: Those seemed a recall for Europe and its values, but also a clash between Europe and USA. Is it correct this interpretation or not?
A: Yes. [Silence]. I grew up in the 80s, under American rule so to speak. And I think that these songs are about emancipation, growing-up, to some degree. But now it is completely different, because of Russia invading us. The role the US plays suddenly has changed and for all the bad they have done, this is not the time to quarrel amongst ourselves. We would be worse off under Russian rule. It is that simple.
Q: In creative process what comes first: music, text or feeling?
A: There’s no rule, sometimes I find lyrics first, or at least parts of them; sometimes music, sometimes both, but usually I start with the words.
Q: In this last work you started to use electronics. What do you think about this new interaction.
A: Well, I don’t think about it. A painter doesnt think when he paints. He is just painting. Whatever reflection about it is done – it is done by the viewer. But certainly this change in sound happened because you always kinda have to look for new sounds, it’s like when you are that painter and you only used red and, at some point, you have to use some blue, a new colour, a new toy. I am just one guy and I have one song to sing, so I try to rewrite it, in a different way every time.
Q: In your songs the subjects are usually plurals “they”, “we”. It’s difficult to find you expressing yourself as me, myself or I. On the other hand Rome comes from Jerome. Do you think there are songs where your personal life or your biography is more important?
A: Generally I work with things that don’t relate to my own life, strictly speaking, but it’s my personal point of view, of course. Some songs are actually just love songs even if the core seems war, conflict and philosophy. However they are also personal. Surely Ash is a very straightforward love song and a lot of heartbreak. There are some songs like that, that carry within them a very personal hurt. And of course, as an artist, I enjoy making my own little drama appear super important. Like D’annunzio, I guess: just one guy, but one big-ass opera.
Q: Your tour is going to develop around Europe. What are your next projects?
A: We are getting to the end of this tour, unfortunately. We had lots of shows in Germany, the Poland, Hungary and now Italy and Switzerland and Luxembourg coming up. And after that we’ll have only two shows in Ukraine in February and that’s it for now. At some point 2023 there will be the new album. It’s almost done. And this will not come as a surprise: it is about Ukraine.
Q: Thank you, Jerome, for this interview.
A: Thank you! And sorry about the noise.
Relics Magazine Live gallery: Rome (Jerome Reuter) @Ziggy Club, Torino (relics-controsuoni.com)
Interview in italian: https://www.relics-controsuoni.com/2022/12/intervista-jerome-reuter-rome.html
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