Rome Burns and we are happily watching and listening, because this UK-based Goth formation won’t leave you bored for a second! We’ve already talked with the front man Simon about the 7 Sins and now we want to know more about his band. As the guys just prepare for the next full-length album, it’s a good time to find out who’s who in their Gothic Rome and what’s on their burner!
So, introduce yourselves, what is Rome Burns? Who are the people behind the band, where are you from, what do you do, etc.
Daevid: We are all from various parts of the UK, Simon is the lyricist, front man, vocalist and chief beard wearer, Nevla and Daevid compose and produce music and play guitar live.
So whilst Rome is burning, which one of you is Nero?
Simon: I guess that we are all Nero! The band started when we were in a collective depression: we’d left university, we had to find jobs, various girlfriends had left us, the future appeared to be forty or fifty years of lonely misery working in an office and then an un-mourned death! We just wanted to have some fun whilst everything went to Hell around us. As the English phrase goes: We wanted to be Nero; ‘Fiddling as Rome Burns’!
Who came up with the band name?
Daevid: I blame Simon… I blame him for a lot of things!
What kind of music background does everyone of you come from?
Nevla: I came from a metal background, but in the late 90’s and early 00’s I had started to get into Goth music. After joining Rome Burns, I think my main influence on the band was bringing a more heavy guitar and my own melodic riffs.
Daevid: My primary influences are Post-Punk bands of the 80s and Alt bands of the 90s. Of late, though, I have been influenced more by the Surf and Rockabilly due to my involvement playing guitar for a Leeds based act called Quasimodo.
Simon: My taste in music has been described as eclectic, or unusual, or just terrible! I love Goth music and used to run a Goth club in Cambridge and still try to go to as many gigs and festivals as I can. However, there’s also a lot of Folk-Punk, Neo-Folk and old comedy bands in my music collection. Lyrics tend to be the common factor in everything I listen to. I can excuse the weirdest and harshest noises as long as a band says something interesting.
How often do you guys meet, rehearse, create together?
Nevla: We used to get together once a week and rehearse for 2 or 3 hours. But, then the other guys moved to different parts of the country and so we only get together every few months now. We are still managing to be creative, though, writing music and sharing it across the internet to each other.
Daevid: The times have changed since we met frequently. We still get to meet up several times of the year. Most of it is done online, through the sharing of files, exchanges over social media and telephone calls. It is not quite the same, however it does work. Most of our new album material is based on these exchanges.
How big of a part does Rome Burns play in your day-to-day lives?
Nevla: At the moment it’s a big part of my life! I look after the server with the master copies of the demos that we will be turning into a new album in a few months’ time, and so I spend a lot of my free time adjusting the new songs, getting drum tracks and keyboard sounds ready, etc.
Daevid: Quite a bit of late! If i am not writing and rewriting compositions, then I am creating or tweaking graphics for use online, or I am creating and posting to newer media outlets (Instagram, Bandcamp etc). Just recently I organised and created our Kickstarter campaign, which was an interesting learning experience and in many ways felt like business, quite daunting but also fun at the same time!
Simon: As you might have gathered, Daevid and Nev tend to keep me away from computers! It’s probably best. One day the world will end and it will probably be due to me plugging something in the wrong way or deleting the universe rather than the one file that I wanted to remove! Art, however, is my life. If I’m not writing then I’m drawing. I love creating things. Destroying things is fun (give me a chainsaw and a dead tree, or a hammer and an old computer hard drive and watch me smile!) but creating things is even better! To know that a song didn’t exist last year and now lives on CDs and in the hearts and heads of so many people is the greatest feeling in the world!
What is your history, how did you form the band? How did you decide which way to go, also style-wise?
Daevid: Simon is also to blame for this… a chance encounter led to my joining the band in the very early days as I apparently knew which way up to play guitar! We were and still are in many ways a band of people who dress predominantly in black performing to an audience predominantly dressed in black. As our sound developed we took influences from the changes in Gothic musical trends over time but never totally adopting them. We have been, and still are, at our core a guitar based Post-Punk band, still with an angry cockroach of a mechanised drummer (Gregor Samsa), yet now more focused in terms of our sound.
Nevla: I originally saw Rome Burns play in a local nightclub, and a few years later they were auditioning for a new guitarist and I got the job. Style-wise it’s a real melting pot. I like a mix of heavy guitars and strange electronic sounds, and David is really great at picked guitar and bass riffs. Between us we do the bulk of the music writing, and Simon puts his lyrics over the top and helps us to make the music fit. It really does seem to grow organically.
Not to label you in any way, but to those who haven’t heard you yet, how would you describe your musical style, sound and aesthetics?
Daevid: I am not sure we have a uniform aesthetic, aside from dressing predominantly in black. Musically we are about big jangly and heavy guitars, strident beats and cerebral lyrics.
Simon: I like to think that we are educational as well as entertaining. We play serious songs with a smile on our face and frivolous songs as if they were important. I quite like the term ‘Brit Goth’ which describes bands from the UK with a certain fun and crowd-pleasing style, but still using the minor chord structures and darker imagery of the original Goth bands.
How do you evaluate the Gothic scene today? In the UK and in general?
Daevid: The UK Goth scene seems to be suffering in many ways from an aging population with few newcomers to the scene. I think the same but to a lesser extent can be felt in Europe. I had my first experience this year of WGT in Leipzig and I was impressed by the size and scope of the festival. It looked vibrant from the outside, however there was that familiar talk underlying about aging populations and the like. Perhaps it is just a blip. We have had many of those before.
How seriously do you take yourselves and this act?
Daevid: Serious about our music and the creative process, serious at making sure we are putting on a good performance for our fans. Not so serious in being divas or egomaniacs as the scene is too small for that rubbish… We are doing this primarily for fun and to connect with people that show an interest in what we do.
Nevla: I think we’re serious about what we do, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. When we were younger we probably did, but now we’re older and some of us have children and careers, we just don’t feel the need to throw egos around. We are primarily doing this to have fun and make music, at least I am!
What are your current works and near future plans?
Simon: Well, the big story is that we’re back in the studio in September and with your help ( via Kickstarter ) we’ll have a new album out before the end of the year. If you don’t know what we sound like go to the bandcamp site and have a listen. Then go to kickstarter and invest a little money and you can say that you have helped bring some more weird and wonderful music into the world!
You’ve recently played in Vienna… How was it? How was the audience’s response?
Nevla: Vienna was a wonderful experience. We all got to hang out there for a weekend, played a fantastic gig, met some brilliant people and drank far too much beer! The Goth scene in Vienna was very welcoming and friendly, and I was really sad when the band got to play there a second time and I was unable to go due to a family bereavement. I hope we get to play in mainland Europe again some day.
Simon: Yes, Vienna was fantastic. We played with some wonderful people (Brigitte Handley and Jo Quail) for some great friends and fans and got a chance to explore a beautiful city (I particularly loved all the crypts). As Nev says, once we’ve recorded the new album, we really need to look at doing a few more gigs outside the UK.
In the long run, what do you want Rome Burns to become and be known/remembered for?
Daevid: I would love to be one of those bands that has had an influence on other bands, or inspired other people to play. This was how I ended up performing in a band, so it would be nice to think we had an influence in the creation of new endeavors and new musical journeys.
What makes your band unique and memorable?
Simon: I’m not sure. I’m glad we are memorable. I love it when a stranger comes up to me and says ‘are you that bloke from that band… I saw you play a few years ago… you were great!’. We don’t quite sound like anyone else. It might be because we are all so very different in our music tastes. There’s a certain delight in how we ruin each other’s plans. For instance: Nev will come up with a fantastic hard rock riff on the guitar, which Daevid will ruin by combining it with a rhythmic surf-punk melody, or Daevid will come up with a moody rumbling guitar line, which I will ruin by putting some folk lyrics over the top. Some of the songs we have created have been as much of a surprise to us as to our audience!
Are you actually looking for a label? And if so, what kind of deal would you ideally like to strike?
Simon: I don’t know anymore. When we started, we really wanted a label, but nowadays so many bands just bypass the traditional system and use kickstarter, patreon, and various webtools to reach their audience without having to give any money or time to soul-less businessmen. However, I also want our art and music to reach as many people as possible and if there was a chance to work with a good music label, I suspect we’d leap at the opportunity.
How many full-length albums have you released so far and where can we find them? And generally, through which channels can we get any of your songs?
Simon: This year’s new album will be our fourth. They’re probably not easy to get hold of. We tend to sell them at our gigs or Resurrection Records website will have a couple or download some of the tracks from bandcamp. We’re also perfectly happy to post some to folks who can’t easily get to see us and who contact us via facebook or Instagram or the band’s website.
Who’s in charge of your cover artwork and what’s the idea behind them?
Simon: We tend to have a different approach every time we do an album. The last album involved artwork from Vincent Chong. I met Vincent when he designed the cover for a horror-comedy novel I wrote called ‘Assumptions and Carnations’. Since then Vincent has won a number of awards for his art and I doubt we could afford him for the new album. We’ve got several ideas for the design of the new album and are talking with several artists. I guess, we’ll have to make a decision soon, if the new albums going to come out this year!
In the music scene today, whom would you like to play or work with?
Simon: Now that David Bowie and Leonard Cohen are dead I’m not sure who is left of my heroes. However, I’m so happy about all the bands we have been involved with over the past years. Our last few albums were produced by Mike (singer and occasional bassist) from the band Manuskript. Manuskript are fairly big on the UK scene but appear to be a well-kept secret outside the UK, which is a pity, because they are such a great band (but don’t tell Mike that or he’ll charge us extra for the new album!) I’m also absolutely over-the-moon that I got to sing on the last couple of Sol Invictus recordings and that Tony Wakeford (Sol Invictus) got to play on my Hi-Reciprocity CD. His mix of serious Folk music played with dark humour and cynicism is an inspiration (or a bad influence?) to me. And I’m hoping that the new album, which we’ll be recording in September, will have a duet with Alix from a band called Last July, as Alix and I have known each other for decades and there is a rumour that she knows Rome Burns lyrics better than I do!
Do you have any live gigs planned?
Simon: We’re trying to concentrate on recording the new album so haven’t got any firm dates I can give you, but there’s a few UK gigs lined up for the end of the year and we’re happy to play anywhere that can afford the petrol money.
Who and what are your artistic influences?
Daevid: I’m pretty sure mine change with the season or it is like an assortment where you take a piece and put it all together. So for a while I was inspired by Placebo, the Pixies with a good bit of Sonic Youth thrown in for good measure. Lately, it has been Rage Against the Machine, Black Sabbath, Chelsea Wolfe. I tend to gravitate to the grittier, dirgier sounds.
Nevla: My influences vary so much. One moment I’ll be listening to Psy-Trance and think of a great keyboard riff, or I’ll hear a Rammstein song and steal an idea from there. I can find inspiration anywhere, but it’s hard to capture it sometimes as I’m so busy with my family and my day job.
Who writes your lyrics and what are they about? What inspires you to create?
Simon: I write nearly all the lyrics but have been known to steal the odd phrase or idea from other band members. I’d like to think that everything inspires me. I try to keep my ears and eyes and mind open to anything weird and wonderful around me. By nature, I’m a middle-class rebel: not angry or tough enough to be a punk, I tend to rebel against boredom and predictability rather than the bigger political ideas. So if I get bored listening to bands playing songs about how awful Christianity is, I’ll write a song against Buddhism instead. If people tell me that Neil Armstrong was the first man on the moon, I’ll write a song about Baron Munchausen and Cyrano De Bergerac getting there first. I’ve written love songs about radar equipment and anti-government conspiracy tales about how a helicopter crash is linked to the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson.
Any song(s) that are more special and personal to you? If so, please explain…
Daevid: I would like to think all of the songs we have a hand in have a personal quality, you spend a lot of time nurturing them and performing them live. That said, two of the main ones for me are “Allegiance Lies” from “The Static Murmur”, mainly because it is a song where I get to play the most harmonics. I was inspired by listening to a lot of Ladytron hence the modulated synth to compliment the spiky slightly fuzz driven guitar sounds. Simon’s lyrics and vocal delivery are just the magical icing on the cake! Then there is “Splitting Adam” from the same album… There is a computer plugin that you just about hear during the song which I just had to have in there called ‘Delay Lama’. It is a little monk in digitised form! This and the fact that I get to experiment a lot more with where to play on the guitar. I still regard this and “Allegiance Lies” as my most favourite compositions.
Nevla: There are 2 songs that are very close to my heart. The first is “Seeking Mr Hyde”, and I remember programming the drums on a tiny Yamaha drum machine in 2002 with my then-girlfriend. She dumped me shortly afterwards and it hit me really hard. As I was writing that song at the time, it really influenced the mournful and angry guitar parts, and I think I may have influenced the lyrics a little. It was a dark time, but that song really let me sort my feelings out. The second song is “Coordinates of Control”, purely for the music. It’s the only other song I remember writing in a really short space of time, and the chugging riff and dark solo picking still puts a shiver up my spine to this day. It’s also the alarm and ringtone on my mobile phone – I never get tired of hearing it!
Simon: Every song has a story behind it. I think one of my favourites at the moment is “Stone Garden” because it’s a poignant tale of wandering around a graveyard in the rain looking for a friend’s gravestone and musically it’s the nearest to Neo-Folk that I’ve ever managed to get Rome Burns to play.
And who composes the music? Is it a band effort or one rules them all?
Daevid: Most of the initial sparks fly from myself, however Nevla has become much more active in the writing of this album and the “Static Murmur” (our previous album).
Nevla: It used to be mostly Daevid who wrote the bulk of the music, but now I’ve built up such a collection of software and electronic instruments that it’s become a joint effort between Daevid and I.
And if right now you had a chance to make a video, what would be it like? And to what song?
Daevid: If I was to have a video made it would be to one of our new yet unreleased songs. Probably and most likely “See No Evil” which is quite a surftastic song about things that go bump in the night and by closing your eyes (hands over optional) and pretending they are not there.
What do your band members like to do outside of the band that contributes to your musicality?
Daevid: My time spent in Quasimodo (which I am still a part of) has helped a lot during Rome Burns hiatus. I have helped on occasion with Simon’s Hi-Reciprocity project and if I get a chance I will one day finish writing and recording my own solo project (everyone has a solo project, don’t they?).
Nevla: I listen to music most of the day when at work (I’m a computer programmer) and take in loads of different ideas from that. I mostly like to listen to old 80’s songs or RetroWave stuff mixed in with lots of metal and the occasional chillout/trance podcast.
Simon: I tend to go to a lot of festivals, read a lot and write a lot and, I’m not sure of it has any particular effect on the music, but I’m also a Napoleonic re-enactor, so I tend to travel around the world shooting at Frenchmen (don’t worry, it’s all in fun and we share beers around the fire when the public go home). Sometimes my various interests collide: I’ve traveled 650 miles across Europe to go to Leipzig, both to experience the wonders of Wave Gothic Treffen and to carry the colours for the Prussian Landwehr against Napoleon’s army.
Simon, could you tell us about Hi-Reciprocity?
Simon: Hi-Reciprocity is an act that I started when Rome Burns split up a couple of years ago (before we reformed!). I thought that without having to compromise with my evil bandmates, Hi-Reciprocity would be free to be whatever I wanted it to be. Of course, the first thing I did was go back to my bandmates and ask if they could write me some music!! So Hi-Reciprocity is similar to Rome Burns but more Neo-Folk and creepy and full of poetry and stories. Live, it also tends to be a bit sillier than Rome Burns. The last few times I’ve played Hi-Reciprocity gigs, I’ve performed a 15th century religious carol as a duet with a toy kangaroo. I recently saw that German band Goethes Erben were described as a ‘Neue Deutsche Todeskunst’ band, which I thought was a great description for my solo stuff. Perhaps Hi-Reciprocity are the first and only Old English Death-Art band (Alte Englische Todeskunst)!?
When can we see it live and what are your live shows like?
Simon: Hi-Reciprocity tends to play best at very specific festivals or gigs. Because it’s just one person playing, I can adapt each performance to suit the location and audience. So, if I play at a festival in Winter, I can write a few pieces about the season and if I play in North London, I can talk about the local history of witchcraft. or if I play in Cornwall, I can sing ‘a cappella’ songs about local legends of being buried alive. Unfortunately, with Rome Burns working hard to write and record the new album, Hi-Reciprocity is going to have to take a short break, but I suspect I’ll be back making some strange noises and telling odd stories next year.
What are your thoughts on the internet’s role in the music industry today?
Daevid: The internet over the past ten years and technology in general has opened us up to greater realms of possibility. I was remarking on this with the rest of the band, how we are now making music via servers, communicating via facebook and raising funding via Kickstarter. It is a great tool for getting yourself out there and collaborating with people. That said, it is no replacement for face to face contact both with band members and with fans!
Are you active on social media, where fans can keep up with your news and plans?
Daevid: We are so far quite active on Instagram and Facebook… We do have a web-site which is currently undergoing reconstruction after a few years of neglect, but will be fully operational soon! In the meantime you can also listen to us on our Bandcamp or via Spotify.
What can we do, as your fans and followers, to help and support you?
Daevid: Listen to our previous material on Bandcamp and if you like what you hear maybe purchase a song or two… or three… and if you are hungry for more, then support us on our Kickstarter. We have an album to launch, t-shirts exclusive to this campaign and badges amongst other curiosities.
What else would you like to share with us? Please tell.. For example, any interesting stories, omens, funny moments.. ?
Simon: We had a stage-diver at our first ever gig. I’m not sure if we’ve had one since. At that gig the drunken fan clambered onto the stage and prepared to launch himself into the audience. It was a classic piece of rock-and-roll idiocy and I felt really bad about having to stop him. He had all the cabling tangled around his ankle and if he had made his leap he would have been followed by all our amps, and then after a short pause, the guitars and guitarists would have followed him off the stage in a dramatic and unexpected fashion. Sometimes, I think I should have let him jump. It would have been a much shorter performance and possibly a shorter musical career if it crippled all my bandmates, but I bet it would have been one hell of a show!!
Thank you for your time, and good luck! I already look forward to your tour ☺
Marina Minkler – journalist
Band photos – SteveK Photos and Adam Charlesworth