“Accepted aesthetic notions of ugly and beautiful”
Sheffield-based experimental quartet Roman Nose released their self-titled debut LP at the end of last year.
Roman Nose was your solo project first, so why did turn into a band?
Jon Marshall: I asked people to play with me in Roman Nose to make it more multidimensional, to introduce elements that were out of my control so I had to respond in the moment, because I can’t play drums, woodwind or double bass very well at all, because I’m a fan of these particular musicians, and because, while I enjoy other people giving solo performances, I can personally find it quite alienating to perform solo at gigs.
Roman Nose is sometimes a trio, and sometimes a quartet. Why is that?
Roman Nose went from a solo project to a trio and it is now a quartet. Hopefully Otto will be playing double bass with us from now on.
How did Charlie Collins get involved in this band?
I knew Charlie really well from over a decade of going to free improv gigs in Sheffield (a scene of which he is a key part). He’d played on an album by a previous band, The Hunter Gracchus, which gave me the confidence to ask him to play with me in this (then) new project.
Do you see Roman Nose as a drone band?
No. We do use sustained tone clusters and subtle harmonic variation at times but these can be interrupted by a sudden change in dynamic, perspective or approach.
Could you tell me, in your own words: what am I listening to when I listen to the Roman Nose debut LP?
The Roman Nose LP was (re)formed through an amalgam of improvisation and composition: simple arrangements improvised against and then erased, improvisations cut and re-ordered or remarried, the former triggering the latter and vice versa (digitally and psychomotively). These, and other, generative strategies hopefully create a living, breathing mass of ‘shifting form’, the record being described in one review as being “at its best when air, water and percussion are smushed into a slow, relentless and thrillingly degenerate metamorphosis” (The Ardent Wake).
The materials were recorded in two sessions on drums, double bass, various free reed instruments (e.g. harmonium and sheng), flute and vocals, and then mixed in about five sessions over a two year period.
The LP is co-released by Humane Pyramid Records. Is this your label?
My label is called Singing Knives Records, Humane Pyramid is the label of Lisa Lavery. We are very grateful to her for helping to get the LP out.
Were there certain goals you wanted? A certain sound you want to get? Certain ideas you want to work out?
I wanted to begin to explore intersections between improvisation and composition, and to confuse any distinction between these concepts (as plenty of other people have before). I also wanted to explore the liminality between accepted aesthetic notions of ugly and beautiful. Although, considering how many people have described the album simply as ugly, I’m unsure I’ve done so very successfully!
What do you and the other members of Roman Nose have in common? And what are the differences between the band members?
I guess I’m different to the other three members in that they can play particular instruments extremely competently. I’d love to have that long standing and developing relationship with an instrument, and be able to concentrate on just playing. Instead I’ve got to eternally scrat around with tangled leads and different strategies and set ups, hoping this won’t prevent me from getting lost in music.
Why did you choose Bridget Hayden for the art work?
I’m just a big fan of her as an artist (music and visual art). The artwork we used just seemed to fit the music Roman Nose were making, organic, abstract but processual, psychodynamic.
- Joeri Bruyninckx
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