The ties that bind
While he’s no closer to cracking the big-money circuit, Andrew Roachford refuses to be bitter. Philip Dorward spoke to him.
It's been a strange 24 hours. The second one-day rail strike has consigned Andrew Roachford to East
London trafﬁc jams, the antihistamines have packed up and his sinuses have surrendered to the smog.
He‘s more than just a tad irked. It‘s also one day after I third album by Roachford is Permanent Shade ()f
Blue, a hopeful but not hopeless exploration of
; vulnerability at the hands ofothers. An aspect ofthe
Justice Jonathan Parker threw George Michael’s case against Sony out ofthe High Court. Michael claims he‘ll never record another album for Sony, the same label to which Andrew Roachford has a similar seven-album deal. For the time being, the two are bizarre blood brothers, caught up in a world which views musical talent by the size of its proﬁt margin.
‘1 was like George in my early 20$.' Roachford reminisces. ‘l’d never done anything like that before, and l entrusted myselfto my managers and lawyer at the time. Looking back on it. it is a good ﬁrst contract signing but i think the whole music business is basically a rip-off; the way the contracts are worded shows no commitment to you other than as a ﬁnancial asset. When you're dealing with huge corporations, it’s about making money; the little people who are hands-on and love the music are too few. At the end ofthe day, the name Sony speaks for itself. The music industry revolves around money and any musician who thinks differently is fooling themselves. The music suffers because those who are hired to work for record companies, the lawyers and accountants, know nothing about music. How they make a signed artist perform is more to do with career money decisions, nothing to do with heart and feeling.‘
It should come as no surprise to learn the title of the
album is that. as a band. Roachford and his colleagues feel they‘ve spent the last six years trying to get out ofa commercial world from which there is
‘ no escape. It all started with ‘Cuddly Toy'. ‘Family
Man' and ‘Kathleen‘, the slick R & 8 tracks that made him an instant bang with the hit-listers at Radio 1. At one point. you couldn‘t turn without being informed that Roachford were the new promise of the British record industry. It wasn‘t long before they became victims of their own excess, discovering that
l beneath pop‘s cheap veneer is a talent-debilitating
‘The fact that all ofa sudden “Cuddly Toy" was massive put us on another scale,‘ explains Andrew. ‘It wasn‘t like a big plan. it just happened. and then I found people saying that l had to write another and cash in on it. Luckily. we could escape to our own
, little world, but it‘s hard not to ﬁnd yourself in
magazines and people all of a sudden calling you pop stars. The dangerous point is when it gets taken up by people en masse and people treat your work as ephemeral. Our goal has always been to get as many fans as possible who are into the music. not the fact
that they saw you on TV as a celebrity. because that
3 world is so ﬁckle.‘
The second album was (let Ready, a deliberate
; attempt to move leftﬁeld and rattle a few executive
cages. Needless to say. it met with muted response both critically and commercially. Andrew admits it
was probably too adventurous for its time. and that Permanent Shade ()flilue is an attempt to balance the commerciality of Roachford with the satisfaction of Get Ready. The gigs are back to MiG-capacity venues. yet Andrew mulls over the prospect of success in America. He believes there is a gap in the market for them, although as a black, British R & B musician it‘s a bit more difﬁcult to get quality airtime
than past members of Cream and Genesis. Yet, like the Murphy‘s, Roachford refuses to be bitter.
‘To say that l'm bitter is to say that I take it seriously, and I don't think I do. I think our saving
grace has been that we refuse to take it seriously.
i Now, ljust observe it and try to work within it. What we try to do is be honest because I love music. I know that sounds comy in this day and age but. as a
i musician. that's what l do. i write songs and 1 want
1 people to check them out.‘
' Roachford play [a Belle Ange/e. Edinburgh on Man
4 and King Ta! '3‘. Glasgow on Tue 5.
um. Gee, Swell
When Swell wrote, rehearsed and recorded their third and most recent album, ‘41’, they did so in a 6000- square-ioot ioit at 41 Turk Street In San Francisco’s seedy Tenderloin district, an environment that made them ieei as though they were in a .. high iortress, looking down on the rest closer. oi the world while protected irom it. Which is an interesting thing to keep In mind when you listen to their records, which zoom irom the detached to the Intimate as though they can’t help but peer that little bit
Their sparse, languid and moody songs need a bit oi perseverance, and have been compared more than once with those oi American Music Club’s Mark Eltzel. But the number oi comparisons has reached such epic
T in the Park, July 30th and 31st at Strathclyde Park
proportions that the band chose to print them all in their bulletin/ianzlne ‘Swollen’: everything irom The Chills and Buiialo Tom to Emerson, Lake & Palmer (l), Big Country U) and, hardest oi all to veriiy, ‘all the bands in
Swell think at their music as being composed oi colours, and decide on the running orders oi the tracks in those terms. The second album, ‘. . . Weil?’ was ‘mostly red and black’ singer David Freel said recently, and noted with surprise that ‘41’ seemed to have some yellow sneaking into it, a colour they nonnaily eschew wherever possible.
Coniused? The word is that they’ve moved out at Turk Street to a new location and, inevitably, a different mood. I can already hear the sound at new colours being squeezed on to an old and chipped palette. (Alastair Mabbott)
Swell play The Venue, Edinburgh on Wed 6.
' w 3
The List l»—l4 July 1994 39