It’s undeniable how Europe’s sociopolitical situation in the latest years is not exactly ideal, with people all over the continent grasping for easy solutions provided by populism. Rome‘s latest effort, Le Ceneri Di Heliodoro, emphasizes on this subject and we didn’t miss the chance of talking about it with Jerome Reuter, who certainly didn’t back down.
Hi Jerome, first of all thank you for the time you’re dedicating to us! How are you?
I’m very well, thanks for having me.
Let’s start straightaway with Le Ceneri di Heliodoro, I was not aware of its release until about a month ago – and I think it’s brilliant, considering also the magnitude of its contents. Who is Heliodoro, and why this title?
This image of the Golden Son/Sun is essential to the feel of the album, I find. A quest for the lost or dying, perhaps. I’m really not in the business of dissecting my work, to be honest.
In contrast with your latest productions, this album has a stronger martial folk soul, though blended with a more intimate approach. What made you want to revisit this kind of style?
It was just a natural thing for me. Songs like “The West Knows Best” just came to me, sort of unannounced. So the material itself made it obvious to me that this was the direction to take. There was no plan to go “old-school”, but I certainly didn’t try to not go that way.
I’ve read in a previous interview, which went online in August, that you wrote your “next album” mainly in Italy. Are we talking about this one? Can you give us some some background elements on its conception?
Yes, that’s this one right here. Well, it just so happened that I spent a lot of time in Italy recently. I have always really liked the place and I’ve used any possible excuse to visit your beautiful country. There is to me no richer culture in all of Europe. It’s been tremendously inspiring in general.
The album is divided into two sections, “Apertura” and “Clausura”. It seems to me like there’s a common thread between the songs of each one, as if they’re telling the rise and fall of regimes and the powers that be. Can you explain the reason for this subdivision?
Well, you’ve already nailed it, actually. There is that division, indeed. I have to say though, that I try not to be enslaved too much within those conceptual ideas. I like to tell a story and when I do, I try to tell the whole story, but if one bit bleeds into another, I’m fine with it. I’m also ok with changing the order of songs to keep a good flow going on an album. I still want it to be listenable, you know. I don’t want it to be too heady and heavy with concepts that make the listener feel like they’d have to read a couple of books to understand what’s being said.
The world, Europe in particular, is going through some tough stuff. I tried to build my own interpretation of the lyrics up until now, and I think it’s a spot-on representation of nowadays sociopolitical situation. How did you decide to delve into such a delicate issue?
Well, I wasn’t sure I should. And still, I’m not sure I should have, but it’s just all around. You cannot escape it. Especially for me as a constant traveler. You just see the changes in the cities and on the major crossroads within Europe. Things are changing. Things are in uproar, and I witness this all around. I have the privilege of having friends in many different countries and I roam about quite a bit and so I got a real sense of how people are worried and frightened. Frightened of the right, frightened of the left, frightened of this new age that has swallowed us up. And no one has the answers.
Rome has never been an overtly political act, but the images that this album recreates are very vivid, maybe because I’m a bit biased considering the far from ideal situation here in Italy. Did you perhaps feel the need to make a stand this time?
Well, I’m not trying to be too political, either. But I am living right here, right now. I can’t act as if I don’t see things, like I don’t feel that things are falling apart, that we’re headed towards war. And I don’t feel like I’m making any stand. I’m just painting the picture of contemporary Europe in all its angst. I don’t have the answers either, and I wouldn’t ever suggest like I know what we should do.
There are some elements that sound surely provocative, given the fact that you are a left-leaning person, such as the controversial sample of Enoch Powell’s speech in “Who Only Europe Know”. According to you, what’s the point of provocation today, in a society where so many people tend to jump to conclusions without digging below the surface of facts and news?
I don’t care about provocation. I care about peace. I’m a pacifist. That’s my political agenda, if I’d have to pick one. The danger we live in is partially caused by the fact that we forgot how to resolve problems together. People have built these walls and barriers around their political beliefs and affiliations. There is no dialogue anymore, just a general shutting down and aggressively shouting down of opponents. The grey areas are declared a no-man’s land. Essentially enemy territory. And whoever ventures out there or dares to question the status quo is considered an enemy. It’s thoroughly unhealthy. Like it’s weak to listen to another man’s opinion. It’s only making matters worse and creates new problems instead of calmly discussing how to find some common ground. Ideally, music, and culture in general, can be ways of building bridges instead of burning them down.
Another issue tackled in the album is the lack of identity, with people finding a common ground in fear. People fear many things right now: migrants, the EU, banks, you name it. In lieu of these, what are the serious matters we should be concerned about?
Apart from a general cultural decline, these seem, indeed, to be the matters at hand and they all essentially revolve around identity. I believe both the left and the right are mostly concerned about matters of identity, some way or other. Obsessed, even. Whether it’s about possibly losing your identities, or not being accepted for who you are. In their critique of capitalism, both the right and left might have more in common than they’d want to admit. In any case, any sort of violent overthrow of government won’t be of help here. But anywhere you look, people essentially want to buy into the same joyful adoption of nonsense, politically speaking. Easy answers for all. However, peace is maintained by hard work. Also by language, spirituality and high culture. And in times of turmoil it is those spiritual things that must be protected and reaffirmed. That’s pretty much where I stand on this. And maybe that’s not saying much.
It’s been fourteen years since the formation of Rome, and you’ve gone through different albums, phases and influences. Is there something that you recall with particular affection? An album, a pivotal moment in time?
No. It’s always the next one that’s gonna be pivotal, I hope.
One thing that I noticed in your works is the great taste in choosing the closing songs. “Desinvolture”, “Die Mörder Mühsams”, “The Past Is Another Country” all the way to the mighty “Flight In Formation”, they all have some elements that make them perfect as final pieces. Is there a specific reasoning behind these choices?
Well, thank you. I don’t know how I pick them, really. A lot of this is done on instinct. They pretty much declare themselves. I work on all kinds of stuff all the time and try to keep track of things that would go well as endings to things. And I guess I just have this martial loop fetish I cultivate with gusto [laughs].
A substantial portion of our staff remembers your heartfelt performance at Brutal Assault 2015, I was there too but unfortunately I wasn’t familiar with Rome yet. Can we expect some changes in terms of live approach, with the new material?
Yes, absolutely. It’s gonna be the exact opposite of what we sounded like at Brutal Assault. Well, still some of the same songs, but I don’t play the electric guitar at all this season. Only acoustic and there’s more martial drums, for sure.
And to close this series of questions, here’s one that’s almost unavoidable: is there any touring planned for the new release? Any dates here in Italy maybe?
Yes, we have quite a few dates coming up in Germany, Austria, Poland, etc. And we will certainly visit Italy again soon.