Rodney Cromwell / Rodney's English Disco + Interview
They're few and far between, but there are still a handful of synthpop artists out there holding on to the organic roots of the genre. What do I mean? Synthpop is doing just fine, you might be thinking to yourself, and you wouldn't be wrong. Synth based music is seeing a resurgence in popularity and there is a lot of talent out there. I'm talking more about the seeds that have been planted to create the music I'm covering in this article. They're almost like the magic seeds that Jack bought. Rodney Cromwell is the rarified artist who knows where the genre has been, where it is now, and how to shape where it's going in the future. And like Jack's beanstalk, Rodney's English Disco is bigger than the sum of its parts.
Putting on a Rodney Cromwell record is always a treat because he's not just out there throwing notes together. On the contrary, each note is seemingly crafted to be exactly where it is at the exact time it exists, creating harmony with its brothers and sisters. On one hand you feel as if you've been transported back to the exciting, experimental days of electronic music. This is where Cromwell dodges the mire most of his contemporaries get stuck in. There's an accessibility...a robotic warmth, if you will...that pulls the listener in, as opposed to revelling in austerity.
Rodney's English Disco is better synthpop than I ever thought I'd be enjoying in 2018 after seeing the 2000's almost crush the genre. Thankfully we have mad-genius artists out there like Rodney Cromwell who sifted through the ashes and came through the other side, and better for it. This outing treats you to four new songs and four equally compelling remixes, all worthy of your time and support. Keep scrolling down to check out my interview with Rodney Cromwell!
Welcome back to Echosynthetic! Thanks for talking to us. How are things in Happy Robots Records world today?
Thanks for having me back. Today I’m having a bit of a post tour lull and spending an unhealthy amount of time obsessing over the Happy Robots Instagram page instead, but other than that all is good.
Speaking of records, you've got a new one set to release! What can you tell us about ‘Rodney’s English Disco’?
It’s four new tracks from me alongside four awesome remixes from my friends Pattern Language, Rémi Parson, Vieon and Alice Hubble. I’m really pleased with how it turned out – it’s another record that blends melody, dark humour and despair. I was listening to a lot of The Cure and Black Marble alongside more electronic stuff when I made it. Sonically it’s a bit neater and tidier than my last album- it has been properly produced and it’s a much warmer sound. And I suppose this record is me expressing existential rage about the direction that my country is going in. The title reflects a feeling amongst a lot of people that the ‘party is over’ thanks to nationalism and the rise of the ‘Little England’ mentality. So
This is getting a vinyl release isn't it?
Yeah that’s right. Although I released Hologram Teen and Tiny Magnetic Pets on vinyl, this is actually the first vinyl release I’ve been on since ‘Autovia’ by Arthur & Martha back in 2009. I love vinyl ,even during the dark days of the noughties I never stopped buying it. But when it came to releasing the Rodney Cromwell album in 2015 I had so little confidence in what I was doing that I decided to go for the cheaper CD option. With this release I was finally confident I might sell enough to make it worthwhile. So this release is on gorgeous red vinyl. And hopefully I won’t have boxes of them unsold for the next 10 years.
What can fans expect from Rodney Cromwell live dates?
A few songs from the new EP, a few songs from ‘Age of Anxiety’ a bit of chat between songs, some lo-fi video visuals. Despite using a computer for the drums and some of the synth sequencing, there is a lot of live instrumentation in my set up – live synths, bass, guitar, melodica and of course 100% non auto-tuned vocals. It never sounds exactly the same twice – it will often sound way different to the recorded version. We also play really loud – I usually wear earplugs which really annoys the rest of the band.
Your music has been lauded by a who's who list of outlets, from the Huffington Post to NME. How do you keep things like that in perspective?
Of course it’s amazing to have had some great features and reviews, and it means a lot when people like the records (and even more when they buy them) but it’s very easy to keep it in perspective. For every 30 emails I send out I’m probably lucky if I get one reply. Making new contacts is difficult. And I must have a list as long as my arm of gigs and festivals that I have applied to that I have never heard back from. I’ve had some good press but it has all been blood, sweat, tears and long hours rather than luck.
What got you started in music in the first place? What was the catalyst?
I think just being the unpopular guy at school, the outsider with only a small number of friends and a penchant for reading Dostoevsky and watching Truffaut films pushed me towards music and alternative culture. While everyone else was into metal or Level 42, I was listening to Joy Division, Iggy Pop, Berlin Bowie, and post-punk stuff like Magazine, Blondie, Elvis Costello. The catalyst for my first proper band Saloon was to do something that was a reaction to Oasis, Britpop and slick major-label indie-rock. We were deliberately art-school, pretentious but still tongue-in-cheek. We were also very European in outlook, with songs in French and Spanish. I think being reactionary in music and culture is one of the few places where it can be a healthy thing.
Deserted Island...you can only have one movie, one book, and one album to keep you occupied. What are they?
I’d probably pick them on length so I guess The Godfather, War and Peace and The Beatles’ ‘White Album’.