It may be of little concern to the bureaucrats who drew up the Trade Descriptions Act, but it’s an undeniable fact that there isn’t much punk in steampunk. At least not of the three-chord thrash variety spat out by the snotty, glue sniffing, safety pin and spiky hair, pogo-till-you-puke brigade who stormed the barricades back in ’76, or ‘Rock’s Year Zero’ as the NME would have it. Back then it was ‘Anarchy In The UK’ and the wholesale slaughter of the dinosaurs of corporate rock. Now it’s more like anachronistic fashion accessories in the UK and US as the likes of Abney Park, Sunday Driver and Vernian Process describe a dystopian fantasy world through rose-tinted goggles with a sentimentality that would make the late Bill Grundy doubt he could goad them in to saying something risqué about Queen Victoria.
In 1985, just prior to the release of the ‘VU’ album (a collection of previously unreleased tracks recorded in 1969 and intended for their fourth album), I had the privilege of interviewing Nico, Sterling Morrison and Maureen Tucker for a national Sunday newspaper. At the end of each interview I mentioned that I was preparing a new album (to follow ‘Burnt Orchids’) and asked if they would consider playing on it, if I could get the multi-track tapes shipped to the States. They agreed and Sterling seemed particularly keen as he was eager to get back into music after taking time out to study for a university degree. I remember that he was very complimentary about my songwriting after he heard the tapes (backing tracks with guide vocals, not demos) and in a couple of telephone conversations he mentioned that he found the structure of the songs unusual and that interested him. But the tape formats were not compatible with the equipment in the studio he was using at the time and I let the project lapse, assuming that we would sort it out at a later date. I even had a letter from his attorney asking me to give him extra time, but I had an offer from UK psych label Bam Caruso and needed to deliver an album by a certain date, so I shelved the songs I had written for the VU and moved on. Then, sometime later, Sterling died and so did Nico.
It was not until last year, 27 years(!) after writing those songs that I thought of digging them out, dusting them off and recording them as I had been itching to get back to playing with a rock band after a year spent creating a solo acoustic project (‘Grimm’). The resulting album, ‘Bates Motel’ (which also includes songs written for a John’s Children reunion album at the invitation of frontman Andy Ellison), is released next month on the German label Sireena Records.
Paul Roland braves the curse of the critics to trace the history of HAMMER – the house of horror
During the early 1980s I was writing for a number of film and music magazines and, being a huge horror movie buff, I naturally took the opportunity to suggest a Hammer feature at one of Kerrang’s weekly editorial meetings. It is basically an introductory overview of the studio’s horror output and for reasons of space omits reference to a couple of my favourite Hammer filmsm ‘The Witches’ and ‘Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter’, but for those who are not hardcore Hammer fans it may be of interest for the brief quotes from Christopher Lee and the various Hammer ‘House’ directors. (My interview with Peter Cushing can be found elsewhere on this site).
Paul Roland (still) braves the curse of the critics to trace the history of Hammer, the House of Horror
The following year, Hammer released no less than three films, two of which have since become classics of the genre, while the third, ‘The Two Faces of Dr Jekyll’, remains an interesting curio. Jekyll featured Paul Massie in the title role, portraying Dr J as a bearded, insensitive scientist, and his primitive half as a handsome, clean-shaven sadist. A unique interpretation and one which easily stole the acting honours from Christopher Lee, who had been relegated to a minor supporting role.
From: Dark History of the Occult (2011) by Paul Roland
In a dark and forbidding corner of one of London’s more obscure occult bookshops stands a rack of extraordinary prints depicting hideous bug-eyed creatures that would give even the keenest naturalist nightmares. Should a customer take an interest in the display, the balding, bespectacled owner will emerge from behind the counter to explain the significance of these loathsome beings. Such creatures, he will tell them, are not figments of the artist’s fevered imagination but elemental spirits he encountered on the astral plane.
The fact that these eldritch horrors bear a striking resemblance to the winged and multi-tentacled entities described by the American pulp horror writer Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890–1937) is due, we are to understand, to the fact that Lovecraft had encountered these very same creatures during his uncommonly vivid dreams. Lovecraft dismissed them as mere ‘Night-Gaunts’, but then he felt compelled to do so, because he had a genuine fear of being overpowered and driven insane by the power of his own imagination. He did not want to die in a lunatic asylum as his father had done. Consequently, in letters to friends and admirers, the Providence-born writer readily admitted that his ‘black pantheon’ of nameless horrors was ‘one hundred per cent fiction’.
And yet many practitioners of the forbidden arts argue that artists and writers possess an acute psychic sensitivity as a consequence of exploring the furthest regions of their imagination, which stimulates the areas of the brain associated with extrasensory perception—a latent faculty the mass of humanity might have lost during the course of our evolution. Read the rest of this entry
Paul will be playing at the Gagarin 205 Live Music Space in Athens tonight, 15 December 2012.
Last Tuesday, 11 December, he appeared on the Greek TV show “Radio Arvyla”, a satirical news show, on the Thessaloniki-based TV channel ANT1. Paul played an acoustic medley of “Re-Animator” and “Gabrielle” (the latter being a popular song in Greece) for which he was joined by his 14-year-old son Joshua on bass guitar.
On Wednesday, 12 December, he appeared at the “Ζωντανή Μαύρη Τρύπα” (the Black Hole Live) club in the historic Ladadakia quarter of Thessaloniki supported by Giannis Kyratsos. Videos of the performance can be found on Paul’s facebook page and on the Paul Roland Music Television and the kazandbtv YouTube channels.
Following a press conference in the chic Floral bar yesterday evening, Paul with be playing the Gagarin 205 club tonight supported by Jenny Benwell (violin) and Joshua Roland (bass). Guests are Mani Deum, Athens.
Great news! Paul tells us he has now completed the new album and is delighted with it (as he hopes you will be too, when you hear it). The artwork is currently being finalized and we’re waiting to hear which label(s) will be releasing it and when.
Looks likely there will be an Italian, German and possibly even a US release on CD and LP for the vinyl junkies amongst you – who still hang on to their turntables.
We’ll keep you posted.
We had such a positive reaction to Paul’s interview with blues legend John Lee Hooker that we persuaded him to brave the cobwebs and the creepy crawlies in the crypt of Roland Towers in search of more archive interviews. We’re delighted to say that he emerged some hours later with four more transcripts, The Velvet Underground, actor Peter Cushing, Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull and this one – a conversation with Mark E. Smith of The Fall.
Mark E. Smith has a reputation for being a rather prickly character, but I found him very pleasant and easy to talk to. The interview was conducted for the now long defunct ‘Stereo’ magazine sometime in 1983, if memory serves me correctly, and by necessity focused on his Hi Fi and record collection, but is interesting nevertheless.
“Beware of strangers bearing gifts”, it is said. And when someone lent our hero a cash & carry card, he ended up with a queer old set up, a Sovereign S45 music centre.
“It’s got a really cheap fuzzy sound,” confessed Mark, “but I was poor at the time and someone lent me their Arbour credit card. I bought the cheapest thing they had. It’s like a radiogram without a radio. A one-piece system. I bought it about a year ago and it cost around 125 pounds at the discount price and is made in the UK. But I couldn’t say how many watts it is. It can be loud though. I like a lot of volume.” Read the rest of this entry
One of the highlights of my music journalist career was the night I interviewed blues legend John Lee Hooker. Unfortunately, JLH was then in declining health and unable to travel so the interview had to take place over the phone, but it was a thrill to say the least to hook up with an originator of the music I love. (If only I had kept a copy of my interviews with Lemmy, Sting, Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, Tony Iommi, Peter Cushing, Michael Nyman and the Velvet Underground! Ah well, maybe one day I’ll pluck up courage to descend into the vaults where my ancestors are interred and rummage through the archives. Until then here is the transcript of my conversation with ‘The Hook’.)
At the grand old age of 74, legendary bluesman John Lee Hooker could claim to be the last living link with the oral tradition of the blues. Ironically, he is now enjoying greater success than at any other time in his career thanks to the extensive use of his music and image in television advertising and his adoption by the MTV generation as the godfather of the blues. I called him at his home in Chicago. Read the rest of this entry
FOR those of you who managed to secure a copy of the recent ‘Masque’ reissue, we thought you might like to read this interview from the time of the album’s original release which we have just unearthed in the musty library at Roland Towers.
Paul Roland ‘Masque’ Interview 1990
In autumn 1990, just prior to the release of the album ‘Masque’, journalist and friend Mike Taylor interviewed Paul for an Italian music magazine.
There is a stuffed dodo on the large circular lawn whose eyes seem to follow me as I walk up the driveway towards the house. The gardener too, surveys me with a glazed expression. His rigid pose, suggesting the work of an expert taxidermist!
I know that if I venture down the long echoing hallway I’ll find further horrors. Perhaps even the owner of the house himself engaged in some curious research on a carnivorous orchid. This, my friend, isRolandTowers, the stately home of that charming English eccentric Paul Roland whose new album, ‘Masque’ has prompted my visit.
Meeting the reclusive Englishman is an unnerving experience for he is quiet, polite and the perfect host, not at all what one might imagine the teller of such weird and wonderful tales to be. Read the rest of this entry