'White Zombie - The Movie'!!!!!!!

After 3 or 4 years of false starts, I now have a completed version of the seminal cult classic Bela Lugosi movie 'White Zombie' (1932) with my music (from the album 'White Zombie' and the 'Voodoo Chants' CD) synched to specific scenes that originally had nothing for minutes on end (no music and no dialogue). The original music is retained for those scenes where there was original music and in some scenes my music plays quietly under the original dialogue making the whole film more atmospheric and dramatic. But what to do with it? Release it as a DVD? Enter it into horror/fantasy film festivals?
Give it away with a limited edition vinyl version of the album 'White Zombie'? Or issue it as a limited edition collectors item to members of the PRAS?

 

[This clip is NOT from the film but a promo using clips from the film]

Music Blog #3 7 sep 2020

The Secret of Sequencing

It’s not until I come to the end of an album that I realise what an enormous amount of ‘work’ and time went into it. And even then, it’s not really finished until the tracks have been correctly sequenced (ie put in the most effective order). Put a good track in the ‘wrong’ place and you can ruin it, or seriously lessen its impact. Try listening to a favourite album in an entirely random order and I guarantee it just won’t work it’s magic like it used to. The trick is knowing what is the ‘right’ place and I’ve discovered that is mainly a heightened sense of what ‘feels’ and ‘sounds’ inevitable.


Lair of the white wormI learnt much of what (little) I know of recording during the making of my first album, ‘The Werewolf Of London’ way back in 1979 (!) and it still guides me today. One of the ‘golden rules’ I picked up was that the first three tracks ‘sell’ the album and it still does, even in the age of streaming and ipods.
In the late 70s and early 80s an artist would take 3 songs to a record company or music publisher knowing they had only 3 shots at grabbing the A&R man’s attention (and it was always men back then) and less than a minute of each track before they fast forwarded your cassette to the next track, so better to start the song with a chorus or a really unusual intro.

If you were an indie artist, as I was, then it was just as important to make those first three tracks the strongest as you had the same 15 mins to convince Geoff Travis of Rough Trade or the buyer at Bonaparte in Croydon or whichever distributor/retailer you went to that he (and again it was always men who had the say) ought to buy 100 of your LP than the next guy in the queue.

I have a pretty good idea of what track will open and which one will close an album when I start recording but the fine tuning that is so critical to an album’s success only comes when all the remixing has been done. It’s largely a matter of trial and error – which is the main reason I change the track running order a couple of times before mastering and why all the studio engineers and label owners that I’ve worked with have grey hair, or none at all.

Generally you’ll find (should you care to do so) that every album will start with a strong statement, musically speaking and end with a climactic track (not necessarily an epic but something that brings down the curtain in style and says ‘now follow that!’) ‘Nevermore’ didn’t because I simply didn’t have that kind of track to close it with and it doesn’t end as it should. Had I had my time again I might have closed it with the three Captain Nemo songs, but then I wouldn’t have those to make the strong opening). Intimate acoustic albums don’t have to follow this ‘rule’ but even they will tend to start with 2 or three of the strongest cuts – as we used to say – and close with something that leaves you thinking, or crying or both.

Which is a long, roundabout way of saying that I think ‘Lair of the White Worm’ has come together rather neatly and I couldn’t be more pleased with it. And now on to the next one…..

 

26 Aug 2020

GOOD NEWS!

Finally, after much re-writing, re-recording, re-mixing, re-sequencing, tweaking and general fiddling about, the NEW ALBUM, 'Lair of the White Worm' has been mastered, the cover designed and the whole project ready to be passed to the duplicating house for pressing and printing.

Release date should be early November and it will be available on coloured vinyl and CD from Dark Companion [a limited number of copies will be available nearer the release date from the PRAS]

 

 

Track listing is as follows -
1) Year of the Harlot, Year of the Whore
2) Interlude #1 [composed and performed by Nico Steckelberg]
3) Solemn Angel (The Tenderest Strain)
4) Master Boil And Mistress Sore
5) Prophetess, Sybil and Seer
6) Leda & The Swan
7) Interlude #2 [composed and performed by Nico Steckelberg]
8) Moonchild
9) Interlude #3 [composed and performed by Nico Steckelberg]
10) In Memory of a Time Traveller
11) Bewitched
12) Sister, Why Sit By The Window & Weep?
13) Madman's Lullaby
14) Into The Lair of the White Worm (baroque acoustic version)
15) Interlude #4 [composed and performed by Nico Steckelberg]
16) Into The Lair of the White Worm (reprise)

Paul Roland: Vocals, acoustic guitars, harpsichord, percussion Mick Crossley; Lead and rhythm guitars Joshua Roland: Bass Violet the Cannibal: Drums Joran Elane: Lead and backing vocals Anna Barbazza: Backing vocals Nico Steckelberg: Composer and performer on 4 interludes Woodwind and String arrangements by Paul Roland performed by the Wyndham Hill Ensemble.

Watch this space and my facebook page www.facebook.com/paul.roland.37017794 for further updates and more!

 

 

COMPETITION is over!

WIN!WIN!WIN!
'THE LOCKDOWN SESSION' CD [15 tracks recorded by Paul, Mick Crossley of Flyte Reaction and Violet the Cannibal PLUS a taster track from the forthcoming M. R. James album - 'Room 13' home demo]
We have 3 copies of this limited edition PRAS members-only CD to give away. Only 100 copies of this CD are being made, so it's going to be a much sought after future collector's item!
Just answer this simple question using the CONTACT icon or click and don't forget to include your address so we can post your CD if you are one of the three lucky winners.

Buster Keaton

"Captain Nemo" from "THE LOCKDOWN SESSIONS"

Music Blog #2 17 Aug 2020

How To Fix iffy Performances!

I’ve just finished listening to the completed ‘Lockdown Session’, a 15 song live-in-the-studio semi-acoustic set I recorded a few weeks ago with Mick Crossley of Flyte Reaction and drummer/percussionist Violet the Cannibal. I’m pretty pleased with it and more so now that I have had such positive feedback from Mick, Violet, Matty the studio engineer and the legendary Jon Storey, former publisher of ‘Bucketful of Brains’. I say this because I very nearly junked it all and put the whole thing down to experience.

Sometimes spontaneity and the live vibe can make for a very exhilarating performance (our unrehearsed set at the Danish metal magic festival a couple of years ago was one such occasion), but occasionally you can trip yourself up and fall flat on your face if you don’t make adequate preparations or take the occasion seriously. I have always been of the opinion that people who come to see me deserve the best performance I can give and also my undivided attention, which is why I always speak to the audience, introduce the songs properly, tell a few atrocious jokes and look at their faces so that they feel (I hope) that I am playing for them. I don’t have any respect for bands who ignore the audience, or simply play one song after another without talking to the people who took the trouble to come and see them (sometimes having travelled a long way).



For that reason, I always rehearse every day for between 2 and 3 weeks before any live appearance and I memorise the lyrics while travelling as if I was taking an exam. I don’t always pass that exam because sometimes my mind can go blank or I get distracted, but thankfully that’s rare and at least I don’t then say to myself ‘If only I had rehearsed more’.
OK, so what has all this to do with the ‘Lockdown Session’? Simply this – we went into the studio because there was the opportunity to make a video and maybe use the audio for a PRAS members only CD if the video part didn’t work out. As we were being filmed we didn’t wear headphones so it really was a raw live performance and there was no click track (metronome) to keep us strictly to tempo (which I don’t always use when recording if I want to keep that spontaneous live vibe on record). So some of the performances were a bit ropey, as we say, (ragged) and I junked about 15 songs for that reason. Of the remainder about 6 were really good (for which I credit Mick entirely) and the balance (9 songs) were good in part, but had things I wasn’t very happy about.

And this is the reason for this blog – how to salvage something that is good on the whole, but needs fixing without the stitches being seen, so to speak.
I don’t think it will spoil your listening pleasure to know these little tricks, so I freely confess –
I added a light hi-hat tap to create a constant pulse even when the other instruments might have been wavering off the beat a little. The ear is fooled’ into following the hi-hat and makes allowances for the rest.

I also added non percussive sustained sounds (violin, cello, sax, flute, organ) which again diverts the ear from hearing any variations from the beat and I also added sweet, languid lines of melodic counterpoint to tempt the ear to focus on something other than the song.
I can still hear some dodgy moments, but as a souvenir of how Mick, Violet and I sound as a semi-acoustic trio its rather nice. I hope you agree.

 
 

Music Blog # 1 22 June 2020

Paul RolandWhen I decided to make my first single in July 1979 it was the most exciting thing I could imagine doing. I’d been waiting impatiently for five years since writing my first song to get into a studio, but it took the encouragement of recording a double sided single with a friend (John Willans, aka Danielz of Bolan tribute band T.Rextasy) to convince me to take a chance. It was the thrill of anticipation; trying to imagine what the song that I had written on an acoustic guitar and demoed on a portable cassette recorder would sound like when played by a band in a real studio.
[I’d recorded a batch of solo acoustic demos a year or so before, but that didn’t tell me what a real production would sound like]

Unfortunately, the buzz I felt when recording the vocals (“We sound like Blondie” I rashly thought!) was not captured in the finished article (the first and only Weird Strings single). It wasn’t just the awful homemade ‘sleeve’ or the thick vinyl which didn’t feel like a 7”single should, but the weedy, scrappy performance (due in no small part to John having to deputise on drums when the drummer fell asleep on his kit! (The latter had consumed a whole bottle of gin on the journey and was incapable of sitting upright, never mind playing).

Paul RolandThe second attempt, my first solo single, ‘Public Enemy’, recorded a few months later, was only a modest improvement, but when it came to record my first album, ‘The Werewolf of London’, that autumn, the studio provided some serious musicians and we were in business.
Despite the patchy nature of that album, I finally experienced the thrill of recording; hearing a track come together from the raw acoustic sketch and recreating some very specific sounds that I heard in my head which I wanted to replicate on the record. Much of that thrill was due to the contribution made by the ‘real’ musicians on that and later records, their ideas for parts and sounds which I could not have imagined. And as each instrument was added to the backing track (drums, bass, rhythm guitar and guide vocal) a sound picture emerged and was coloured in. It was sonic alchemy and it is just as thrilling 41 years later as I now create the next album, ‘Morbid Beauty’, in collaboration with Mick Crossley, Violet the Cannibal and David Roche.

Writing songs has never lost its magic, as I never know what is likely to come out (it’s amazing how far you can go with a few chords, though I needed to learn a whole bunch of more ‘unusual’ sounding chords to write the M R James album a few years ago). For this new album I used the ‘intro’ and ‘fills’ from a drum machine to give me short and very different rhythm patterns to stimulate the core song and Violet noticed the difference in the new songs when I played them to her, so it had worked. I also decided that for this album I wouldn’t simply give the band the finished songs and ask them to play them a certain way while also adding their own ideas, but would instead provide only the core song and ask them to treat it any way they saw fit. I also invited them to develop the songs to extend them beyond the standard 3 minutes that I favoured and thought ideal for indie ‘pop’/’rock’. As a consequence, we would be equal partners in writing the songs and the album would be released under a group name and not be another Paul Roland album.

That kept me excited and added a healthy degree of the unexpected. And yesterday (21 June, 2020) I recorded the lead vocals for the first 5 songs and experienced the very same buzz I had felt back in 1979. This time it was because I added impromptu harmonies, so even I didn’t know what was going to come out until I did it. I’ve been doing that on the last few albums that I’ve recorded and it means that not only is my music developing, but its still fresh and exciting to make. And hopefully that means it will be fresh and exciting to listen to. I hope you agree.
‘Morbid Beauty’ should be released in Spring 2021.

 
 
Plague Doctor by DS Blake ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…’ (‘A Tale of Two Cities’)
Dickens was a pretty shrewd judge of people, to say the least, and a man of prodigious imagination. But even he could not have foreseen the ‘challenging’ times we now find ourselves living through. What has all that to do with the launch of my new music site, I hear you ask? Quite a bit, I reply.
The current pandemic has brought out the best and the worst in people; personally I think the best are predominant, and many are proving to be surprisingly resourceful and to have put their enforced confinement to good use and made the best of a bad situation.
Here at Roland Towers we pulled up the drawbridge and drained the moat, the ultimate in self-isolation. But we too have not been idle, oh no.
With concerts postponed (including a major festival in Italy this summer as well as the premiere of my Grimm Fantasy for Orchestra), recording sessions cancelled (to complete the next band album ‘Morbid Beauty’) and releases put back to the autumn of 2020 (namely ‘Lair of the White Worm’ and the M.R. James project to spring 2021), I thought it would be senseless to write more songs only to have albums backing up like so many automobiles on an assembly line.
So, instead I channelled my creative energies into writing fiction and I’m very pleased I did so. I’m now a third of the way through my second novel – an Edwardian horror-mystery and have begun a second collection of short stories. The latter are my first attempts at Science Fiction, a genre I hadn’t explored before, so writing it was an entirely new and thrilling experience.
Which brings us rather circuitously back to this new site.  
Alberto Crossio had been encouraging me for some time to update a site he created many, many years ago and with the demise of the German website I was keen to have an active new site that could also serve as a platform for a regularly updated blog on the subject of writing and recording. We were both keen that this new site should also function as an on-line source for ALL my lyrics and chords.
After weeks of typing up every single lyric, compiling and checking every album track listing and writing comments on all the songs, we were confident we had assembled the makings of a really interesting and useful online ‘library’. But how to make it look attractive, appealing and user-friendly? Fortunately, we had the very man for the task. Mikael Runnstrom who also created my author site (www.paulroland.net) contributed all his expertise to design a sister site in the same stylish manner.

So, here, for the first time, you will find the LYRICS to EVERY song I have released (including those I’m not so proud of!) and in time ALL the CHORDS will be added. You will also find my personal COMMENTS to EVERY song plus INTERVIEWS, RECENT REVIEWS, VIDEOS and a COMPLETE DISCOGRAPHY with every track listed and full credits.
This site will also give me the opportunity to publish a short BLOG every couple of weeks under the heading ‘NEWS’.
We hope you like what you find here and will come back for updates every 2 weeks or so.
P + M + A 

 

 

Paul Roland - 1313 Mocking bird Lane (RELEASED 2019)

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