Hello Adam – first things first – Adam Cresswell vs. Rodney Cromwell – how did you end up choosing your stage name? We understand you were previously in the band Arthur and Martha, together with Alice Hubley. How did you arrive at those stage names for that project as well?
Hi Jammerzine! With Arthur and Martha we wanted something that sounded like a classic duo name, like Gilbert & George or Ralf & Florian. We came up with the name pretty quickly and it just stuck
Rodney Cromwell was a name I used in 2002 when I was in the band Saloon. It was for a solo track released on a ‘Lord of The Rings’ tribute compilation. Matt from Saloon came up with ‘Rodney Cromwell’ – I think the joke was it sounded like someone getting my real name wrong. When it came to the ‘Age of Anxiety’ album, I decided to use the name Rodney Cromwell again just because I didn’t want another entry on my Discogs record. In hindsight it was a bit stupid of me; a quick Google search would have shown that there is a famous country artist called Rodney Crowell, which now leads to no end of confusion. I’m from Catford in South London so I don’t really know much about country-and-western, or rockabilly, or rock and roll, I’m sure Rodney Crowell is very good at what he does though. He’s certainly way more popular than me!
When did Rodney Cromwell first appear? What made you decide to engage in a solo project after always collaborating with artists in other joint project previous to this?I didn’t make a conscious decision to do a solo record; it just panned out that way. After the Arthur and Martha album came out, Alice (aka Martha) and I moved onto doing other stuff, Alice went on to form the band Cosines and I just took some much needed time away from the music scene, mainly to get my head back on the ground.
In my spare time though, I would keep tinkering away at a few songs. Before I knew it I had the best part of an album. For about six months we thought it might become the second Arthur and Martha album, Alice came over to the studio and added some vocals and synths. But the songs many of which were about depression, panic attacks and neurosis were a bit too specific to my own experiences and we agreed it was really an Adam solo record, so that’s when I decided to revive the Rodney Cromwell name.
We like Kraftwerk and OMD and hear a big influence from them in your music. Even some Visage. What can you tell us about your musical influences?
Yeah I mean you have to be a Satanist or something not to love Kraftwerk, and I have a lot of time for OMD (albeit I’m not massively keen on what I call their ‘Wogan’ period where they went a bit MOR, the new stuff is great though, I like ‘English Electric’ a lot.). It has been awesome having been played several times by Rusty Egan from Visage too – it all seems a bit surreal to be honest.
With this album the driving influences weren’t musical but thematic – specifically the themes of mental illness and my own internal struggle with anxiety. As the lyrics deal with a lot of dark stuff, I wanted the music to be a ‘safe space’ – a return to the sound of the classic pre-computer led synthpop that I loved as kid. Those sounds being the chugging synth sequencing and phased synth strings of ‘I feel love’, the minor key piano lines of Pet Shop Boys, the chorus heavy lead bass of New Order. Some people think it is overly retro, but others see it as a pure form of futurism. For me the influences don’t matter, it is just about creating a world to escape into.
I can’t help but notice what seems to be a parallel between OMD’s ‘Enola Gay’ and your track ‘Barry Was an Arms Dealer’ – is this about the arms race perhaps? or what is this song about?
Wow, it’s great that it reminds you of such a seminal synthpop tune. It certainly wasn’t intentional.
To me ‘Barry was an arms dealer’ is song that reflects my own inner existential guilt about the decisions we make while enjoying the trappings of our capitalist post-industrial neo-liberalist extractivist society. All our choices from internet shopping with tax dodging corporations, to buying a cheap t-shirt made in a sweatshop by an underpaid child, to driving down the end of the road to buy a pint of milk, all of these decisions have consequences. What are the right choices and who are we to judge what is right or wrong? So although the narrator of the song may be deriding his friend Barry as ‘an arms dealer’ who is he to be judging? We should all think more about our actions – although the decisions we take may not have the direct consequential impacts of the weapons industry, what are the things that we are doing that impact negatively on our world?
If that’s too profound equally it could just be a silly song about a man called Barry. It’s up to you really
I realize you shared the stage with some pretty big names at Britain’s recent Indietracks Festival, including Laetitia Sadier from Stereolab. What is it like performing live now as Rodney Cromwell? You’re not all alone on stage are you?
Oh yeah it was great to play at a Festival with the likes of Laetitia Sadier, Euros Childs, the Go Team! and loads of other great bands that I have loved for years. Saloon supported Stereolab many-many moons ago, which was a great thing to have on our CV as we were such massive fans.
Indietracks as a whole was brilliant; it is a true independent venture run by people who are just hugely enthusiastic about indie music (and steam trains) and it is a festival that hasn’t been ruined by corporate interest. I would recommend it to anyone.
The gig itself was great. Yes thankfully the Rod Cromwell live show is not me on my own. I am joined two of my best mates, Alice who plays moog and sings and my good friend Richard Salt who plays guitar and an array of effects pedals. I am really enjoying playing live at the moment; I think it comes from the confidence of knowing you have a good band behind you, (hopefully) reliable gear and a decent set of songs. The hard part has just been choosing what songs to play. We are already dipping into the ‘back catalog’ which is proving to be a lot of fun.
Are there any other modern-day artists you can recommend for great listening? Feel free to include more established artists, as well as indie faves.
I’ve mentioned my love of Belgian pop superstar Stromae several times now, I still listen to his ‘Racine Carrée’ album constantly; I really wish he’d do a new record, but I think we might have to wait a couple of years.
Over the last few days I’ve been spinning in my headphones a whole mix of stuff like Pye Corner Audio, The Soundcarriers, Auxiliary the Masterfader, Hologram Teen, A Copy For Collapse, Meter Bridge, Marnie, Ummagma, The Leaf Library, Death and Vanilla, Section 25 and a few things that found out about via the New Retro Wave label like TimeCop1983 and the Priest album which I’m really into.
I’m really looking forward to the new albums by U.S. Girls, Chvrches, Mahogany and – it won’t be a surprise to some – the new New Order record.
You’ve achieved some pretty mighty buzz surrounding your debut LP over the past few months, landing coverage in NME and Electronic Sound Magazine, among others, as well as repeat radio play on BBC 1, 6 and Spain’s Radio 3. How have you managed to cast your net so widely?
Well the reaction has been brilliant, but the buzz didn’t come over-night. In fact it all started off pretty terribly. I tried doing the promotion myself but I really wasn’t very good at it. I don’t know whether it’s an ‘indie thing’ but I found it horrible chasing people and trying to convince them to listen to the record – it is just not the way us repressed Brits behave!
Thankfully, I was able to convince this great company called Shameless Promotion PR to work with me. And since then it’s probably no coincidence that things started to come together. The reaction has been great because, for all my false British modesty, it would have been a shame if nobody heard the record. And one of the big things my agent did for me was to force me out of my comfort zone and to start promoting myself via social media, which I still find about as much fun as pulling teeth, but at least I’m doing it now.
If you could collaborate, improvise or play live with any other artist (or band) alive today, who would it be and why?
Well I don’t want to improvise with anyone – that sounds way too close to free-jazz or something.
I’ve been fortunate to have supported some really cool bands in my time, like Stereolab who we mentioned earlier, Of Montreal, Laika, Plastic Operator to name a few. But I’ve never shared a stage with one of the classic synth bands, so that is something it would be amazing to have the opportunity to do. I am rarely jealous, but my friends in Mahogany toured with Crispy Ambulance once, which I’m sure would have been ace. I would love to support someone like Section 25 who are both a classic Factory band but at the same time are still putting out great new records too.
If you could meet any individual artist, alive or dead, and have lunch with him or her, who would it be?
I think lunch with Divine would have been a lot of fun.
Do you have any recommendations for younger artists in the synthpop and electronic realm today? It’s a pretty niche area and I thought you might impart some wisdom here.
Well I have made countless terrible decisions throughout my career, so I don’t think anyone would want advice from me!
Certainly the synthpop scene is way different from the indie scene. I have seen disgruntled people airing their vexations publically on message boards which somewhat surprised me. I suppose on the indie scene, being ignored and passed-over is just part of its DNA, so people are less vocal about it. The synthpop scene though is cattier than finals night on RuPaul’s Drag Race. I think it’s a shame, as I have only met really lovely and very supportive people. I hate seeing people not getting on.
I pretty much love everyone unconditionally though; life’s too short to hold a grudge. Just be nice and enjoy the breaks you get. My Mum, God rest her soul, taught me ‘be nice to the people you meet on the way up because you’ll probably meet them on the way down’. And having been on the way down several times, I know how true that is.
So I suppose my recommendation is just be nice and ‘have a good time, all the time!’ We all get knock- backs, I’ve had plenty, but you can’t make everyone like what you do. Even if you’re Taylor Swift.
Thank you for your time Adam. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Not really just thanks for the support from everyone who has been there (Jammerzine especially) it has all been massively appreciated. Hopefully I’ll see you at a gig or something.
Take the Test Drive and listen to previews of “Age Of Anxiety” here.