Part I: Music
Heathen Harvest: The change from ‘Berlin’ to ‘Nera’ was very strong. You introduced many new elements and, especially a lot more melody. You have kept this up and sublimed it in ‘Confessions…’. Do you think you have become more and more comfortable with Rome?
Yes. I have just finished the third part of this trilogy that started with Nera and which has helped me define what ROME is and where I want to take it. I believe I have found what I wanted it to be. So now I can start working on it properly...
HH: Do you think Rome has any musical limits that you impose?
As long as it happens with that specific tone that ROME has developed, I believe anything is allowed.
HH: The contrast of martial and repetitive percussion many times contrast with the delicate guitar lines. Yet they are normally also repetitive. You normally construct the song with layers, sometimes introducing them all at the time, sometimes modifying them, adding or subtracting. How do you decide the sort of structure you want to give to the song?
Each song is different really. Some songs like "Reversion" or "Wir Götter der Stadt" have a complex structure based on numerous guitar riffs, others are basically just loops - guitar loops or purely industrial loops. The basic structures of all songs are in my head long before ever starting to write down or record a note. I do most of the work in my head. In silence. After Berlin I stopped doing demos for good. It obviously happens that -in the studio- things start to sound different from what you had in mind. That’s where instinct comes in and takes over.
HH: You also use samplers and/or pieces of marches or classical music that becomes deconstructed. How do you choose these pieces? Regarding these styles, sometimes it feels as if you make a ‘post-industrial’ version of marches, valses or hymns. Would you agree?
I agree, yes. As far as the choice of samples is concerned; it’s quite simple: You hear something. It inspires you. You use it. Done. And within that framework contrasts are essential.
HH: Most songs, through the mentioned repetition, have a leit motiv. How do you start constructing a song? Most also have a melody, yet some are purely percussion, samplers or noises, where the main melody falls on the voice line. Do you mainly work the melodies through the voice?
It really depends on the song. Sometimes a loop is essential to the feel of the song and therefore everything else is worked around it. Other times the spine of the song is a guitar riff. The voice often functions as the main axis which makes these worlds combine. I believe it is definitory of ROME that there is so much weight on the words. It feels right that way.
HH: Do you know what you want the song to sound like since the beginning of its creation?
HH: Rome is only you. Do you normally play every instrument and introduce all elements yourself?
In the studio I team up with Patrick Damiani, a sound engineer who is also responsible for parts of the sound design of ROME. He has become more and more involved lately. I consider him to be part of ROME now.
I bring all the ideas such as lyrics, concepts, themes, titles, samples, loops, riffs, the exact order of it all, etc We then just record it together. It would take me ages alone. And I would never get it as great sounding as he does. He is a professional. Patrick helps a lot with the arrangements too.
HH: How do you decide when to stop adding layers?
How do you know you have stopped making love?
HH: You have mentioned that you want Rome to represent your own personal world. Nonetheless, you had been in music before in other styles. And you sent your Rome promo to Cold Meat Industry. What made you choose to make Rome in the style that you have made it?
I had been playing in all sorts of bands for ten years previous to starting ROME. The last band I was in was coming to an unexpected, yet natural close in late 2005. I then decided I should take a side step out of all that rock business and concentrate on the things I was really interested in: Art, photography, history and obscure music. ROME includes everything I had been up to before, but distilled down to the most essential and combined with what I am truly passionate about. I did not have a plan then. I just recorded a couple of songs to be able to tell myself that I had at least tried. I was happy with the results but I did not send it out for another couple of months because I really was not sure whether I wanted to take this to another level of commitment. CMI was one of the many labels I finally sent it too, but they were the only ones to be honestly interested in supporting it and taking the financial risk these days.
HH: Although it is mainly dark, it combines elements of martial, dark pop, folk… Do you think the need to be defined by a certain style marks limitations to an artists’ creation?
People need their drawers and ghettos. There is no way around it. It is up to the artist whether or not he artistically wants to be kept there. Having said that, I must add that it is of course hard to get out of there if an audience has categorised you and your work. It is one of the things you can never fully control. One song can have you sentenced for life. I guess your only chance is to keep working and show that you are capable of producing anything you want and do more than what people expect or allow you to come up with.
HH: It seems in ‘Confessions’ you have become more intense. There are darker songs and wilder songs. Would you say it is like the extreme side of ‘Nera’?
It is a rather more pure side of Nera. I guess I just improved my skills in some respect. But on the other hand they are two separate albums with a different feel and theme.
HH: What is influencing Rome lately? Will we see another change in the next record?
I just finished the recordings of the last part of what I would call the “early-year-trilogy”, haha. This third album “Masse Mensch Material” will be released in early 2008 and holds some musical surprises.
HH: Are you planning on any musical collaboration? Do you think collaborations are beneficial?
Collaborations are planned and I hope they are going to be beneficial. We have started working on the first one recently…
Part II: Samples
HH: Why the use of so many ‘Gladiator’ samples, especially in ‘Berlin’? Did you consciously use them as a reference to Rome?
I have to admit that Gladiator, at the time, was one of my favorite movies because of its tone, sound and score. If you decide to name your project ROME, obviously, that s the first direction you go look for samples...it just fits right in there. Nowadays I try to use more subtle stuff. Something less obvious.
HH: Can you tell us where you normally find the samples?
For example, when you are watching a movie or listening to something do you hear a sampler you know you want to use or do you look for the samplers after defining what the lyrics will be about?
I am constantly listening to the world around me to find sounds I can use. Movies are one part of that. To me samples are essential when creating multi-layered songs. I collect them and use them when the time is right.
HH: You use the samples as part of the lyrics and actually add them to your lyrics when you have published them. Would Rome make sense without samplers?
Yes, but a bit less though.
HH: How do you decide where to place the samples?
HH: Has a sample ever influenced the theme of a song or the lyrics around it?
HH: Do you think that the fact you choose not to include samples in songs has a special meaning?
Up to you to find out.
Part III: Lyrics
HH: It seems that you make a contrast between lyrics that seem to describe images many times in a very surrealist way and the purely emotional ones, full of ideas and concepts. I’ll ask some specific questions:
The phrase ‘BROWN CLOCKS HANGING FROM AN AUTUMN SKY’ has a strong Salvador Dali feeling to it. Were you in anyway inspired by him?
No, sorry. I like Dali, but he has never been inspiring to me.
HH: You make many references to failure and guilt. Do you think the feeling of failure can be a definition for someone who searches more than others? You mention orchards many times. Are they a reference to any place in particular or simply used as an image?
ROME set out to create a world of its own. With its own set of values, its own code and language. The Orchards of Rome are one of many "Leitmotives" in that world whose protagonists are indeed defined by failure and guilt. I dislike dissecting my work further because I prefer leaving that to others.
HH: With “DO WE REJECT - DO WE EMBRACE - DO WE DETEST / THE DECEITFUL NATURE OF BATTLELESS VICTORIES? / IN THIS BLANK AGE OF PROTEST / OF FORM ENFOLDING STRENGTH / ARE WE GUARDS, HENCHMEN, DEFENDERS? “ you seem to talk about the indulgence of mediocrity in the current world. Do you think direct confrontations bring out better things in people? (by confrontations meaning any type of directness in any type of confrontation, not necessarily in war situation)
Directness in a confrontation can certainly tell a lot about yourself. I believe it is necessary in almost any situation. You can’t be everybody’s darling. Confrontation is inevitable and should therefore be faced accordingly.
HH: Do you think everybody is hypocritical at times?
Sure, but at times it is also hard to judge. Fast judgments often lead to labeling something as hypocritical. Contrasts and contradictions often offer a much clearer perception of truth. If shallowness pairs up with stupidity, hypocrisy waits around the corner.
HH: Personally, I think current war situations always bring out the worst in people: The excuse to kill those you envy, the cowardly of killing from afar, the crude actions of the herd instinct. Yet I am speaking mainly of current war situations. Do you think wars before the 20th century were different, when they were fighting for 30, 60 or 100 years, and you needed to be at an arm reach of someone, and look him in the eye, to kill him?
Of course war was different then. Everything was. You can't compare high tech weaponry with minimal personnel to the bloodfeasts of ancient times. Everyday life was completely different then and a war was something out of the ordinary and it quickly took on a religious air.
HH: Do you think industrialization and the search for ever-more ‘progress’ has made individuals be farther away from those around them?
We are always as far removed from the ones next to us as we chose to be. I consider myself a loner. I cherish solitude. I even need loneliness because it keeps me sharp. It is a choice I made. I like the technical improvements of the last twenty years because it makes it easier for me to be by myself.
HH: Do you think the fact that people have the feeling that there is nothing that can be done to stop the injustice of a world moved by money makes them passive? Do you think people should be passive?
Each and every one of us has a choice to make. Nobody is forced to do nothing. But it is the easiest thing to do. Being passive to me is just the same as being dead. But I don t get up in the morning thinking I'm gonna change the world. I don’t much want to either.
HH: In your lyrics, you talk many times of subordination of man, sometimes in a positive way. Yet you also seem mention the uselessness of orders and them being followed without thought. Do you think this is a contradiction?
No, not at all. When you re climbing up a ladder you need somebody's weight at the foot of it - to keep you from falling. Today's misconception is that the one at the bottom feels ashamed that he is not at the top. It is ridiculous. It is one and the same thing. It is the task to be done that matters, not who does what. The fascinating thing about subordination is its consequence: the functioning of a group.
HH: ‘DAS UNBEDINGTE’ also seems to be full of contradictions. It is as if consciously there is shame yet unconsciously there is a certain admiration or envy. What were your intentions through these lyrics?
Shame has been perverted and corrupted. It is full of beauty.
HH: It also seems you speak highly about brotherhood or comradeship, yet love is always tainted. Do you think love between men is easier than love between men & women?
Yes, love between men is definitely easier, because we don't even have to call it love in order to feel happy and good about ourselves.
HH: ‘The Blade Unmasked’ could talk about drugs. What is your opinion on addiction?
Well, in that song I was rather aiming at the passiveness of people and their willingness to let other people control their lives - which can also be interpreted as a form of addiction. I try -and I think I have become more and more freed from its spells lately - to stay away from all sorts of addictions. It is a way of letting yourself be attached to something you don't really need. Keep it pure. Keep it simple. Allow nothing to enter your life you cant free yourself from within the blink of an eye.
HH: It seems as though in ‘Confessions’ you are more direct and angrier. Would agree to this statement?
More direct probably. It is partly pretty straightforward and quite honest.
HH: As an obliged question, I have to ask about the multilingual lyrics & sampler combination. You are from Luxembourg, how is your relation to all the different languages you use?
I have a very close relation to all of them. I have many friends in different countries and I keep in touch with them. I speak those languages regularly and fluently (apart from Italian which I still have to learn). It is important to me to be part of various worlds, which open up to you as soon as you speak the language. I like to travel and stay on the move. I am quite a nomad, I have to say.
HH: Do you think knowing all these 4 languages gives you a unique approach to European culture? Or do you think culture in itself is not too related to simply speaking the language?
Language is the bearer of people's culture. It is extremely important. I believe I have a better approach to the European culture through those languages -being born into a multi-lingual environment-, but I still only speak or understand a third of its many tongues.
HH: With lyrics such as those in ‘Der Wolfsmantel’, would you say you think words can be stronger than actions? How?
Beware of words. They are tricky. I prefer complete silence.
HH: Nonetheless, do you think words can stop an action, once it has started?
Any action with some self-esteem should not let itself be stopped by words, hehe
HH: In ‘The torture of detachment’ it seems as if you criticize the role of victim. However, there are many victims not only in conflicts but in most societies: infanticide in any patriarchal society based on honor roles, abuse and disdain for women, torture and discrimination due to religion, faith or attitude. Do you think people tend to impose because there is a need for a forceful order?
There might be a need for order. Man -if active- longs for control and power. When passive - man longs for security rather than freedom. I have taken a side-step out of that. To me the world is utterly corrupted.
HH: In many images you mention a situation that is not here or there (a threshold, for example). In what way do you think it defines Rome’s lyrics?
Maybe it describes our age more than anything else.
HH: Do you think anything in a human’s life span is forever?
No. And that's the way it should be.
HH: With ‘Novermberblut’ you criticize fanatical religion quite clearly. Are you afraid about the current radicalizing world situation? It seems that the answer to fanatics is further fanatism.
We are living in an age of paranoia again. But it's not like we haven't had that before. It sucks, really. Paranoia keeps us from facing the real problems.
HH: Nonetheless, the handicap of Democracy seems to be in the minorities. If democracy is based on a more or less uniform culture, it works out its preexisting prejudices slowly. But if it needs to sort out many conflicting cultures, it makes individual rights clash with cultural heritage. Do you think there is future for democracy?
Living in a democracy has shown to be quite ok for an artist, I have to say. So if it was up to me,... I hope democracy has a future. But that's for people to decide. Man is quite stupid and there is no perfect system.
Listening to ‘Wilde Lager’s first lines, reminded me of Goya
’s ‘Duelo a garrotazos’. It was a depicting of the foolisheness of people and their extremes.
...and their beauty.
HH: ‘Love and despair locked in an embrace’. Would you say that the main definition fo Rome’s lyrics are a desolate contradiction of possibilities not realized?
Sounds good to me. But that's only one part though.
Part IV: Live Acts
HH: Rome has now been on stage. Has it been what you expected?
Well, I am still working on those performances. It is quite hard to come up with something thrilling, to be honest. Fortunately, I found someone to do videos for the show and I have worked with different live musicians, but it is not easy to find people who have enough spare time to go on the road all the time. I still have to come up with a permanent line-up.
HH: You carry a lot of pre-recorded stuff and present different types of line-ups. Which is the line-up you prefer, if you could choose? Due to the prerecorded material, do you normally encounter technical difficulties or does the sound have the feel you look for?
We have encountered technical problems on various occasions and for a variety of reasons. But in the end it always worked out somehow. Knock on wood. The sound is always different even with the prerecorded stuff. Almost all guitars, vocals and drums are done live (although there is a backup on the tape), so that leaves a lot of room for sound changes.
HH: Do you feel more comfortable on stage or in the studio?
I love working on the music. So prefer being in the studio. But touring is very interesting and if the crowd is good it can be a blast. I believe the most memorable concert was in Madrid, even though I was alone on stage. The crowd was just amazing.
HH: In the scene of dark folk, mostly concerts are with at least two bands. Have you ever played alone (only Rome) on stage? If so, would you like to?
No I haven’t. Maybe it would be nice to do so. But then it would have to be a much longer set. Two hours of ROME...I don’t know.
HH: What would you consider to be the best setting for a Rome concert?
Hard to say. I like intimate locations. Small clubs are great. Or theaters with seats and hard liquor.