rodney-cromwell

To allow others a chance to put their touch on your work takes a lot of trust. Remixes are pretty common in the electronic community, and it’s a form of creation that makes the genre feel more connected to each other than any other seems to be. This connection and trust is what makes Rodney Cromwell’s (real name: Adam Cresswell) Fax Message Breakup a special experience for the listener.

Fax Message Breakup opens with the single of the same name. The lyrics become almost swallowed in a sea of synth, and it feels like the words swim against a steadily increasing current. From there, you’re greeted with two very distinct approaches to the track. Hologram Teen turns the track into a more uptempo, dance ready track that still has several nods to the murkiness of the original.  And AUW stretches the single over a rack to provide hints of Joy Division B-sides over seven and a half minutes.

Of course, you can’t forget Chris Frain’s remix of “Baby Robot” and the Leaf Library’s “Cassiopeia” remix. The former is a bit hyperactive while coming at you with positive beams and bursts of energy. The latter is striking minimalism that builds into a beautiful horizon with expert timing.

We wanted to know a bit more about Rodney Cromwell’s steady building recent success and the EP itself. Luckily he was kind enough to oblige us, and we had a great talk about these things and a bit more.

2015 seemed to be a huge year for you. How did you balance the praise heading into 2016? Did you use it to influence your work or challenge yourself?

Yes, 2015 was a great year for me. When I released Age of Anxiety, I genuinely never expected much response, but the album seemed to really resonate with a lot of people. The excellent coverage I put down to a lot of hard work and the help of some brilliant people. But what meant the most was when new fans messaged me saying that the album had helped them in dealing with their own personal demons and anxieties.

Certainly I don’t think you should let any critical reception change what you do. In my musical career I’ve made five albums now, and I find it impossible to listen to any of them. I just hear the mistakes! The real challenge is to make a record that I might actually enjoy listening to.

One thing that stands out about your work is the temperance of it all. We get a lot of artists in your realm of work who want to consistently charge out of the gate. Where do you find that balance, and what’s the process like getting there?

Cool. No one has ever commented on its temperance before. With an album like Age of Anxiety‘, that deals with themes such as panic, depression, and angst, I felt the music had to be restrained, comforting, and occasionally familiar. The theory being that anything too musically challenging alongside the lyrical themes might only exacerbate any panic or anxiety on the part of the listener – or worse make it sound like a Goth record.

Certainly it was a conscious decision to open the record with the two most temperate tracks being “Internationale” and “Cassiopeia,” in order to draw the listener into the world of the album in a comforting, rather than bombastic, way. It’s a very cerebral process, although I do think more than I listen, which makes for a juxtaposition between well thought-out songs balanced against the sometimes lo-fi ‘rough round the edges’ finished product.

On Fax Message Breakup, there are moments that seem outwardly sunny and others that definitely dive into the darkness. How does it feel to hear your work interpreted and remixed like that?

When I got the mixes back and put them together I was surprised by just quite how well they all sat alongside one other. The contrast of interpretations that were light and dark, uplifting and downbeat, poppy and quirky really worked. I don’t want to take too much credit for it – that should be given to Hologram Teen, Chris Frain, AUW, and The Leaf Library who did the remixes. All of them really got what Rodney Cromwell is about.

Related to that, is there a process you look for when collaborating with other artists for doing remixes?

Not really. In this politically turbulent 2016, where extreme and outlandish beliefs have become acceptable, my main criteria now is that any artists I work with have to be of broadly the same political persuasion as me. It’s really hard saying nice things about your collaborators when you’ve seen them on Twitter posting stuff you fundamentally disagree with. When that happens, the music becomes of secondary importance.

“Fax Message Breakup” was inspired by a lot of major events in 2016, so how did you start narrowing down all of these major events into a few minutes? It’s a monumental/impressive feat really.

Well it wasn’t really – you can put that link down to some clever and opportunist marketing by my PR people. I wrote “Fax Message Breakup” in 2014. It was the last track written for Age of Anxiety. I was completely stuck for what to sing, until one day I got really screwed up and just threw out a load of bitter lyrics about quitting the music business forever.

When I listened back to it, the lyrics seemed to really work. We are living a confused age right now, filled with resentment, anger, extremism, and a quitting mentality. So although the song was written in 2014, for me it captures the zeitgeist of 2016.

Do you think there’s a particular reason why electronic music has risen so quickly over the past decade? It used to be an underground, overlooked sound, but it kind of dominates now.

Well in the mainstream I suppose it’s a combination of all sort of reasons: the rise of EDM, the cheapness, ease, and accessibility of electronic instruments, but really it’s all due to the fact that electronic music sells. It makes a good soundtrack to expensive adverts for cars and hair-products. The sound follows the money. I am very much in the underground though, and it’s hard to comment on the mainstream because I don’t pay any attention to it (although I am a big fan of Lady Gaga).

How do you stay ahead of the game when it comes to that? Also, what’s the collaboration like between artists within that world? I feel like you always hear about it in other genres, but it seems to be an overlooked facet here.

In terms of staying ahead of the game, well I do listen to a lot of electronica radio shows to hear what’s going on – Rusty Egan, Bluetown Electronica, and Synth City to name a small few – but I don’t let what other people are doing change my sound. I’m stubborn like that. There seems to be lots of collaboration going on within the UK synth scene – people remixing each other, promoting gigs together, and collaborating on projects, often online.

Admittedly it does seem like there are a lot of people falling out, arguing, and threatening each other with lawsuits, but that’s the business called show business for you! I would love to collaborate more; there are several remixes I really should have done (for example I definitely owe The Leaf Library a lot more than just a remix), but finding the time is so difficult. Sadly making music as Rodney Cromwell doesn’t pay the bills, so I do have a day job as well. I am sure this will not come as a shock to anyone reading this.

So what’s next for you? Any plans for closing out 2016, or can we expect more in 2017?

The Fax Message Breakup EP is out on 11 November. Before then I have two more gigs: 4 November at Haunt in Stoke Newington in London where I’m playing with Battery Operated Orchestra and Rémi Parson. Then on 5 November I’m at Epic Studios, Norwich with Marsheaux and Kid Kasio (Editor note: sorry for posting this after the shows, but follow him on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date).

I’m overjoyed that I’m closing the year playing with four exceptional acts – I’m really going to have to up my game. I’ve got a few more promotional things to do before the year is out, but really that will be it with promoting Age of Anxiety. In 2017, I’m going to begin the task of trying to write a new album – whether it will end up being Rodney Cromwell or some other project, who knows at this stage. The world will be holding its breath in anticipation, I am quite sure.

You can, and should, grab Fax Machine Breakup from bandcamp today. Joey Smith