Nucleus magazine (Argentina) 2005
1. Thank you for doing the interview, Paul. In the first place, for those that don't know you yet, could you please tell us who is Paul Roland?
I have been called ‘England’s psych pop guru’ by some and ‘the male Kate Bush’ by my one time label mate Robyn Hitchcock. The truth is somewhere between the two. My music is certainly quintessentially English and rooted in the psychedelic Sixties and early Seventies although I use a lot of classical instruments to conjure up the Victorian and Edwardian country house garden party atmosphere that goes well with my lyrics which are usually supernatural or historical in theme. Imagine early Marc Bolan with some Syd Barrett and Colin Blunstone plus the Left Banke and you have me.
2. Do you remember how you first got into music?
I was 14 and had just emerged from a dark movie theatre where I had seen ‘Stardust’ starring David Essex as a schoolboy who gives up everything on the eve of taking his exams to become a rock star. That set my head and insides on fire and I had adored the 50s rock and roll soundtrack of the prequel ‘That’ll Be The Day’. I still love those 50s rock records – they said everything in under 3 minutes, they had energy because they were recorded live in the studio and they had a nostalgic atmosphere which I wanted to travel back in time to re-live even though I hadn’t been born then. Brilliant.
3. Let’s take the compulsory question first: which bass players have had the greatest influence to your playing?
Paul: I think you mean guitarist – I don’t play bass! To be honest, guitarists haven’t really influenced me as I’m not a musician. I’m a songwriter and producer. I am not a technically proficient guitarist – I’ve never played a solo in my life! I just play enough acoustic guitar to write songs and play on the records, although I must say I’m pretty proud of the fact that I record the backing tracks to my albums on the first or second take without a click track (metronome).
4. Then, where do you find your inspiration?
My main source of inspiration is me. I find musical inspiration in a sound on somebody else’s record or in an idea behind a song, but the lyrics usually don’t come until I have read a few short stories or novels. I need evocative words to stir up images inside my head and then I’m off on a voyage round my own inner worlds.
5. You speak to us some your discs. Is there any kind of “concept” behind them?
No, usually each song has a separate theme, although in 1988 I wrote an album of songs based on the lives of real English eccentrics (‘Happy Families’) and in 1989 I wrote a 4 song suite about a crumbling medieval kingdom which appeared on the ‘Duel’ album. Now I have just finished a new rock album called ‘Re-Animator’ with 4 songs inspired by the stories of horror writer H P Lovecraft and one by Edgar Allen Poe.
6. How do you go about writing songs? What are your lyrics about?
I tend to write a batch of music first and then write all the words just before and during the recording. With this last rock album I hadn’t a clue what any of the songs were going to be about when we were recording them which is unusual for me as I usually only leave 3 or 4 songs without words when we start recording. But working this way means that I can let a track grow in different directions as the musicians come to add their contribution and so by the end I can fit the theme and words to the atmosphere much better.
As for lyrics, they tend to be historical or supernatural as I am not interested in mundane, every day modern images. I want my songs to create movies in the listener’s head.
7. What would it be the motivation of doing progressive rock today?
I would call myself ‘progressive’ – I’m more retrogressive – I want to recreate the 19th century in 21st century music. That’s why I have to be careful what instruments I use as I don’t want to use a sound that will startle the listener out of the world I am trying to create so I rarely use saxophones, for example, or synthesizers as they are associated with the modern world. I am trying to create a soundtrack to an imaginary film and evoking specific images with the appropriate sounds.
8. Do you think your music has influenced someone?
No. I receive a lot of enthusiastic letters from loyal fans who like my music but no one has yet recorded a cover version of one of my songs. That is rather sad, especially for a songwriter. I would love to hear my own music coming back to me through some other artist’s eyes, so to speak. That would be the ultimate complement.
9. Do you feel that your sound is improving every day? What do you think people can expect in the future from Paul Roland?
It is certainly maturing since I took seven years rest away from music. I have been able to hear what were my strengths and my weaknesses. And my band are so much better too. I have been recording this new album with members of Caravan so that too has given me more confidence. And I have deliberately gone after sounds I hadn’t used before but had wanted to use for years such as mellotron and psychedelic vocal effects.
10. What is your opinion of the music scene right now? What are your views about independent scene and the music industry in general?
We’re living in a golden age of songwriting at the moment – if you ignore the commercial, manufactured rubbish that is always in the charts. But the music business is more difficult to make an impression on than ever before because there are just too many artists out there all trying to have their CDs in the stores and anybody who can programme a computer can now make music although they don’t have any musical ear or musical sensibility. They simply imitate other soulless computer made records. And then there is rap and Hip Hop which for me is anti-music. Its basically a monotone with a cut-and-paste rhythm machine and the words are a rant with every line rhyming with the line before. Its so boring. And its also so in-your-face. Its all on one level with no subtly, atmosphere or imagination. It’s the musical equivalent of a TV advertisement slogan over and over and over again. I hate it.
11. How do you see the future of music?
Well, hopefully Hip Hop and Rap and their many, many monotonous spin-offs will die out, but I can’t see that happening for at least another decade. But as long as there are kids who have real soul and get electrified by the sound of a cranked up electric guitar I guess there will interesting music still being played by real people. My seven year old is into Deep Purple and Rammstein so there is hope still!
12. Which musical style, direction, composer, band is important for you at present? What are your favorite bands?
Marc Bolan has and always will be my number one, then Michael Nyman, Led Zeppelin, early Rod Stewart, Suede, Muse and lately I have been renewing my old acquaintance with Hawkwind.
13. What do you find most interesting, outside of music?
Movies and novels and of course my children. Plus anything to do with the occult. I have written 20 books on the subject and created my own Kabbalah Cards which are a more psychological form of tarot cards so it is a serious interest of mine. Mysticism, movies and music – the 3 Ms.
14. What music should we expect to hear on your next album? Will it stylistically be in the vein of "Pavane", at least on the whole, or something completely different?
No, ‘Re-Animator’ the new album, which I hope will be released in January, is a harder rock album with psych overtones. It is a much more muscular album, very confident driving rock with the occasional touch of spacey mellotron, violin, cello, flute and Pink Floyd organ. Quite stylistically different to anything I have done before.
15. Thank you for this interview Paul. I'll leave you with the final words.
Thank you for your interest in my music and for giving me this opportunity to connect with people in Argentina and elsewhere through your site. If anyone would like more information or to contact me they can visit www.paulroland.de and www.cdbaby.com.cd/proland1. Happy listening!