“The tricky business of history”. An interview with Jerome Reuter from ROME

by Gabriel Szünder

Jerome Reuter is an important figure of today’s musical avant-garde, although probably not the loudest one.

In August ROME will be playing in Romania again, as a guest of the Dark Bombastic Evening 3 festival. This was a good opportunity for us to have a little talk with Jerome about history, philosophy and the imponderable aspects surrounding ROME’s music[i].

Given your interest in history, what do you think about Nietzsche’s words We wish to use history only insofar as it serves living. But there is a degree of doing history and a valuing of it through which life atrophies and degenerates?

“Yeah, well, I am no Nietzsche-scholar, but, as usual, the man is right. History is a tricky business, and one must be careful not to overrate or underappreciate it. I have to say, that currently I am more interested in introspective kind of things. I recently finished three albums, the Die Ästhetik Der Herrschaftsfreiheit – trilogy, and to me they end my relationship with history in some way. While doing the research for Flowers from Exile and Nos Chants Perdus, I came across some half-forgotten notions of European history that I wanted to explore rather deeply and systematically – which is why it had to be more than one album. It was to get rid of those demons, so to speak. I still have one historical theme I want to do something about in the near future, but after that, I guess I’m through with that.”

In an interview that was published on our site Cartea de Nisip you said you have an interest in Romania, you read about the country etc. How did this interest start?

“I have always been interested in European history in general, so there was no way around Romania, really. I think you have a fascinating culture. Very interesting, indeed! And I’m not talking about Dracula or Ceauşescu. I am no expert at all, I have to admit, but I like to know a bit about the countries I get to visit.”

Why did you think that Romanian language would go well with the song A Culture Of Fragments from the album Flowers From Exile? And who is reading the Romanian text?

“That’s a friend of mine, Doru, reading that text. I don’t know why exactly. I do these things on instinct. I actually finished the writing for Flowers in a Romanian hotel, and being surrounded by that language all those days, I just felt like it would fit. Flowers was a very weird and long journey for me. There’s no historical relevance in it being Romanian, it’s more of a personal thing. I just think you have a very interesting language. I always think I understand what you guys are saying – but I really have no clue whatsoever [laughs]. But it still seems familiar. I don’t know, maybe I had some distant ancestor who was Romanian or something [laughs].”

After having played here, was “the Romanian experience” everything you expected?

“Well, yes, I guess we had a real Romanian experience indeed. We got to eat traditional food, see some interesting cultural sights and most of all get to know the people. It was all very good, actually. We were lucky to have friends who showed us around. We didn’t just sit at the airport. It was nice and I am looking forward to seeing some other spots this summer.”

In an interview published on Heathen Harvest you made some interesting philosophical remarks. At one point you said: “The fascinating thing about subordination is its consequence: the functioning of a group”. Does that mean that you don’t really believe in egalitarianism?

“Well, a band is not necessarily a democracy, you know. And I don’t really know what I was talking about back then. To be honest, commenting on something I said years ago seems like beating a dead horse. That must have been a while ago. I am a different person now. And I am unaware of the context of that statement. I do believe we all have equal rights and should defend our individual freedom, that’s for sure.”

You also talked about the importance of not being passive but not wanting to change the world either. Is this some kind of Heideggerian Gelassenheit on your part?

“These days it’s not necessarily about not wanting to change the world but feeling like not being able to change the world. It’s a tricky matter. I do care about what is going on around me, but I don’t want to waste all of the day to try and change it. I have read too much to have that hope [laughs]. But in the end, one must also face the fact, that Man will always want to change the world around him, and that is what keeps him going. The band CRO-MAGS once shouted “world peace can’t be done” – I still agree with that, but that doesn’t mean I like it. Actually, I really don’t like it, but what can I say. But I still believe it’s important to choose your side, to decide whether you want to be part of the problem or the solution – as pathetic as that sounds. Call it karma or Zen or alcohol, whatever works for you and doesn’t harm your neighbor seems helpful to me.”

Neo-folk sounds to me sometimes like a new version of eighties dark wave music. Could you give me a better description / definition, please? For example, could you explain what this kind of music means to you.

“I don’t really care for neo-folk or whatever you want to call it. Some of what I do goes in that direction surely, but I don’t see myself following a scene. Anyway, no one can give you a definition of that genre. That’s about the only thing I like about it: nobody knows how to define it, and people are quarreling about that…it’s ridiculous. I have always tried to incorporate different kinds of music I like into my own and thus blend them into something unique. I don’t know if I have been successful with that, but that’s certainly what I am aiming at. I don’t care for scenes and genres.”

On the other hand, I have the impression that some neo-folk, avant-garde black metal, post-industrial and perhaps some post-rock bands creating a new kind of musical sensibility, that is the only really new thing that happened in music in the last 10-20 years. Any thoughts on that?

“No words or thoughts on that. I think that’s for other people to decide and judge. It’s too early now anyway to give big statements like that. Who knows where we all will be in five years time. Maybe nobody will care about it anymore. You never know. And I think that people, especially artists, always believe that what they are doing is terribly important and new. It doesn’t interest me. I am only interested in individual people, individual artists who do their work well and create something truly unique. There are still some of those around us and they are usually the more timid ones. The ones who got nothing to say usually say it very loudly.”

After your first three albums, that were part of a trilogy, you moved towards a more acoustic sound. Why?

“These things just happen. Things develop into something else, things change. You change, your band changes, the people you work with influence the sound. You listen to different music yourself, read books and watch films that change the way you see the world… All of those factors are influential to what you do as an artist, so I can’t give you an exact answer to your question. I just felt that a more acoustic sound was suitable for what I was trying to get across. I only try to be in service of the song or the work in general. And I don’t like repeating myself too much, you know. That’s why I like to change the sound now and again, and change my surroundings and the people I work with. One has to keep fresh.”

Would you agree that the music on your last album is akin to a Boatman’s CallNo More Shall We Part era Nick Cave?

“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe there are parallels because those were some of Cave’s more quiet records. But comparisons are tedious. I wouldn’t dare to compare myself to him, to be honest. The new records I have recorded are a little angrier again, but that doesn’t make me Grinderman or something. I was heavily influenced by Nick Cave’s work about ten years ago when I was playing in this Indie-rock band. We had some songs that sounded a lot like some of his stuff, actually. But that’s how you grow, you know. Tom Waits once said, that you go through all these different phases of being this other person, until after a while you are left with what is truly yours. It takes time to find yourself, to see your strengths and stop copying other people. But copying is necessary and unavoidable when you start out. And it’s no big deal as long as you are honest with yourself. We all have our childhood heroes and there is nothing wrong with that.”

Do you enjoy sharing the stage with metal bands, like you will be doing at the Dark Bombastic Evening 3 festival?

“To be totally honest, I have to say that I don’t really care about that either. I have always felt that ROME plays music that is for some reason or other apart from everybody else’s. We play a lot with bands like O.R.E. and Spiritual Front, but we all know that what all these individual bands do is very different from each other. You can’t compare them. The only similarity we have is that we have a very similar audience. Our audience is made of music lovers and I see that there are many people who are into black metal or neighboring genres who like what I do, too. So if we now share the stage with metal bands, that’s fine by me. I still like metal …I was in a metal band myself when I was about 12 and I just recently saw SLAYER live again, so I am ok with that [laughs]. I just hope people won’t storm away when we play, cause we are far from being a loud band these days.”

[i] Interview done for the now defunct webzine http://www.carteadenisip.ro