Following well-received opening slots for BLANCMANGE and A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS in 2022, Rodney Cromwell heads out on the road this June.
The nom de plume of indietronica veteran Adam Cresswell whose previous projects have included SALOON and ARTHUR & MARTHA, his most recent album ‘Memory Box’ provided a hazy soundtrack to a post-truth world with the icy motorik romance of ‘The Winter Palace’ and the NEW ORDER aping ‘Opus 3’ among its highlights.
Support for this first-ever Rodney Cromwell headlining tour comes from Happy Robots label mate Roman Angelos; the sonic nostalgia vehicle of Brooklyn-based producer Rich Bennett, his latest release ‘Supermarkets, Underwater’ collects various ambient remixes of tracks from his long playing muzak and exotica homage ‘Music For Underwater Supermarkets’. Keeping it in the Happy Robots family, German-based combo MOOD TAEG will present a DJ set at the London Servants Jazz Quarters date.
Getting into character in preparation for their upcoming English tour, Rodney Cromwell and Roman Angelos chatted to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about their musical common ground, instrumentation preferences, the perils of social media and much more…
Roman: I first became aware of Adam from his work with ARTHUR & MARTHA. I think I came across their profile on MySpace and I really dug what they were doing; I also loved the name of the record ‘Music For Hairproducts’! Honestly, seeing someone name-check an Eno album in a tongue-in-cheek manner inspired me to go forward with naming my record ‘Music For Underwater Supermarkets’.
Adam and I then formally met over email at the end of 2017 through our mutual friend Morgane Lhote of STEREOLAB and HOLOGRAM TEEN when he asked if I would produce his track ‘Comrades’. After that we were off to the races!
Rodney: After Morgane introduced us, I then realised Rich was one of the many former members of the rather wonderful US dreampop band MAHOGANY, so I would have seen his name as one of the crossed-out former members on their Wikipedia or Discogs pages. I think Rich’s first commission for Happy Robots was mixing Alice’s ARTHUR & MARTHA remix for the ‘Adjustments’ album, but I could be wrong, my memory is not great (and I have a song about that too).
Your styles of music are quite different so which artists would you say are your common musical ground, if any?
Roman: On the face of it yes, there is a noticeable difference, but I think there are some very strong things at our cores which unite us. It’s funny, Adam and I were *just* talking about what this common thread is the other day! I think that artists like KRAFTWERK and STEREOLAB come through in both of our work, and there is also the obsession and use of vintage synths. I also share a lot of Adam’s reference points as a listener, but they’re not things I put into the Roman Angelos music.
Rodney: I think a deep appreciation of STEREOLAB and KRAFTWERK absolutely. But the other answer would be THE BEATLES. We talked about THE BEATLES endlessly while we were making ‘Memory Box’. It’s going to be hellish when we are on tour, because our synth player Martin is also a BEATLES bore, so I expect us to be talking about the Fabs all the way up the M1, much to the dismay of Richard our guitar player who prefers WU TANG CLAN!
What are your favourite instruments or devices to use when writing? Have you recommended equipment or software to each other?
Roman: I may have suggested a software synth to Adam at some point and he may have laughed at me – ha! For my writing I have a decent library of sounds and a nice set-up to play all my MIDI parts into a computer. I usually try and get a bunch of ideas and parts out as fast as possible, and then I edit later to get the arrangement together. I also find that whenever I’m embarking on a significantly new project, I need a new instrument, whether it be a new guitar, bass, synth (it doesn’t need to be expensive) just something new to clear my head and allow me to explore.
Rodney: I’m still using just the same five synths that I talked about when I played Vintage Synth Trumps with ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK in 2016; the Moog Rogue, Moog Opus 3, ARP Quartet, Korg MS-10 and MicroKorg. Software wise, I’m probably not the right person to recommend anything, I have finally upgraded my 2011 version of GarageBand to LogicX. Let’s just say I’m starting a long journey and I’m currently on the arse-end of the learning curve.
Roman: One million times yes – you just tell me the tune Adam!
Rodney: Errr you’ll have to speak to my people about that. But seriously, until now you’ve never asked and so I’ve never offered. The less remixing I can do the better, I’m not the fastest worker, as I think we’ve established by now.
What are your favourite tracks by the other?
Roman: Well, I did produce a number of the Rodney Cromwell tracks, so in an attempt to take myself out of the equation, I’ll say that I really loved ‘Wristwatch Television’ and ‘Technocrats’ upon first listen, even before they were fully mixed or produced. They were a joy to work on from beginning to end, and they’re really fun tunes. And I think that ‘Opus 3’ is a real banger. It’s super fun and it’s something I put one while I run, so there’s that!
Rodney: I really love the three tracks on the ‘Italian Soda’ 7” single and I’ve listened to them an unhealthy number of times. My kids would definitely say the ‘Spacetronic Lunchbox’ album; they were obsessed with that record, I found about 3 copies of the CD squirreled away under my eldest’s bed.
What can audiences expect from your upcoming sets on this tour?
Roman: My performance will be somewhere between the remixed and original versions of the ‘Underwater Supermarkets’ music – it’s a wholly unique arrangement. I’m performing solo so I had to come up with a lot of creative solutions to bring the energy and vibe to the performance, but I think it’s going to work out really well. PLUS, there will be times when I’m playing guitar and keyboard at the same time with two separate hands SOOOO… who doesn’t love to see some acrobatics?
Rodney: I hope the first reaction will be “Wow, they’ve rehearsed”! We should be a lot tighter than when we returned after the pandemic where our first show was a total mess, it doesn’t take an awful lot to read between the lines of that particular review on ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK! But we’ve done a fair-few gigs since then, and by the time we played the BLANCMANGE shows, we really knew the ‘Memory Box’ material well, so fingers crossed you should get out slickest headline set yet. It’s not too much of a spoiler to say that our set is divided into three sections; dystopian nightmares, rainbow-psychedelia and 1983 disco party.
How are you finding adapting to the ever-changing social media environment? Do you get TikTok? It seems to be just full of women tugging at T-shirts to reveal themselves in bikinis or is that just my feed? Have you been able to use it for promoting your music? 😉
Rodney: I think that’s just you. I don’t do TikTok because from what I’ve seen, it’s just more vacuous nonsense. I’d rather be reading a stuffy Victorian novel than scrolling through that. I also don’t trust the CCP with my data; but in fairness I don’t trust Zuck and Musk either. If it wasn’t for promoting my music, I’d love to be one of those weirdos that don’t have any social media presence.
Roman: I’m not particularly good at keeping up and haven’t been since I first picked up the guitar at age 12. For social media I have always liked Instagram and still do; I find it’s a fun way to promote your music while being a little silly. And it feels like everyone on Instagram is hoping to see something nice and uplifting… unlike Facebook where everything you say gets you shouted at. I’m intrigued by TikTok, but it seems to work better for musicians and artists who do things a little more off the cuff. It took me 2½ months to program the 7 or 8 songs I’ll be performing live so I don’t exactly have enough content to post every day.
Is there any new material coming out soon? What are your future plans?
Roman: I’m recording my next record in a few weeks and I’m very excited for it. The amazing Shawn Lee aka YOUNG GUN SILVER FOX will be producing it and I’ve got a bunch of great people playing on it. It’s a similar instrumentation to ‘Underwater Supermarkets’ but with a much darker and minimalist vibe. There’s a pretty heavy Brazilian and polyrhythmic feel, mixed in with some AIR style synth and drum parts. My future plans are to put it out and get myself back to the UK to play some more shows!
Rodney: Various remixes will be dropping over the summer along with my next proper single called ‘Exercise Class’. It’s a light-hearted disco number about a sex pest, so I’m not sure how it will be received. If I don’t get cancelled perhaps, I’ll write another album. If I wasn’t an atheist, it would all be in the lap of the Gods.
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to Adam Cresswell and Rich Bennett
London Servant Jazz Quarters (8th June), Reading Face Bar (9th June), Coventry Just Dropped In (10th June), Todmorden The Golden Lion (11th June) – tickets available in advance direct from https://www.happyrobots.co.uk/tickets
Recorded product is available from the Bot Shop at https://happyrobotsrecords.bandcamp.com/
Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
13th May 2023