Rose Kemp is the daughter of two of Steeleye Span's members so she literally grew up around music. She joined her parents onstage on an early age and has ventured out on a solo career since. Check out "Unholy Majesty" if you haven't already, it's a doomy, gloomy affair but it's worth the ride.
PRT: I had the hardest time describing your music (which is a good thing) so if you were the lovechild of two other bands, which acts would’ve had sex and which position were you conceived in? And you can’t say Steeleye Span!
Rose: I think it would have been some sort of forest floor orgy including Thorr’s Hammer, Earth, Iron Monkey, Dead Raven Choir (and a trillion other people) with commentary from Secret Chiefs 3 and orchestrated by Diamanda Galas…. That is, of course, if had to liken my sounds to a sexual act… which in all honesty, I have never been asked to do before, this is a first!
PRT: With your parents you grew up surrounded by music. Kids normally get into music to rebel against their parents… so I was wondering with what kind of options that left you with?
Rose: Well, due to being raised by musicians, I have always been an old head on young shoulders so in my younger years, the concept of rebelling seemed a tad juvenile and extremely cliché! Both of my parents were a huge inspiration to me both with their shows and their studio work. In our household, music was both a joy and a profession, so my aim was just to try to learn to be a consummate professional and get on with forging my way in matters of sound. Saying that, there were definitely things I took a large side step away from! The English Traditional Folk world, as was, was a very small and at times judgmental scene and there was always a strange underlying current of the people who followed it seemed to want to exercise some kind of unwritten ownership of the children of the 60’s revival due to some sort of one generational blood line. I opted out. My parents are innovators who pioneered a genre, but folk fans nowadays seem to only want me to sing pretty songs in a soft voice suitable for their Volvo stereos and if I don’t do what they unrealistically expect then they all line-up to express their disappointment in me. So I declined my title and abdicated as gracefully as I could and swiftly made my exit to find what I felt I had to offer music history. I am still working on it and I intend to still be working on it the day I die.
PRT: It’s already been a while since “Unholy Majesty” came out… are you already working on a new Rose Kemp album?
Rose: I am very excited, I know who I want to work with and I have been talking with them about how to make the record happen, I know where in the world it will be done we just need to sort out the small details like ‘when exactly it will happen’ and ‘where will we go for chips at 2am’. But the main thing is, I am going to be working with a producer I have had great respect for for many a long year and it shall be the stuff of dreams! I think we could produce something really special.
PRT: In the middle of the album is the song “Flawless”, a piano ballad that kind of stands out in between the noisier songs. Can you tell me a bit more about that one?
Rose: It came to me at a time of great professional collapse during one of many steep learning curves people go through in the music world. It taught me to realise the difference between what people who work with me think that I am, and what I actually am, and realise when people are trying to change me, smooth out the crinkles and make me more acceptable for general consumption. It was a dark time indeed creatively but Flawless was a little piece I sang for comfort when I was experiencing serious self doubt (as is rife in the creative arts). So it was born out of necessity and not from a need to create, I think that’s why it sticks out more than anything. It worked it’s self slowly into song form eventually, so I sang it live and folks seemed to like it so I thought I’d put it on a record for them. Dan didn’t need much persuading to darken up the piano parts in the intro, I love what he did in the end.
PRT: I’ve read that you want to try new things with every single release. Aren’t you worried that you’ll scare off old fans if the changes are too drastical?
Rose: I feel I must congratulate you for beating me at my own game… the word ‘drastical’ is a word I wish I had invented. I make up words as a hobby. I also use the word ‘romantical’, which isn’t officially a real word but I love it so much. I inadvertently made up several words on the last album, like ‘blatantcy’ (which is like blatant latency). Drastical is my new FAVORITE WORD! So, back to the question… I think every good artist changes frequently, but if people are interested in what you do and they think your good then they will follow you and new folks will join them hopefully. It just means that you have to release a lot of albums for people to understand what you do, and I intend to do that. The way I look at it, if you have millions of fans and people who work for you are going to loose their houses if you release a totally stupid album then, yeah it’s worth considering staying consistent but I am not very likely to ever find myself in that position lets be honest. Luckily I don’t attract the type of music fan who needs 12 of the same songs every time. Without creativity, what the fuck is the point? There are plenty of bands out there who play it safe and cater for less adventurous music tastes. I want to do something else.
PRT: And what’s going on with Jeremy Smoking Jacket, your other project?
Rose: We did start the album last year but then myself and Sam both got very busy working on our own albums. Sam is known as S J Esau and recently released his last two albums on Anticon, which was perfect for the music he makes so he continues to tour Europe and do his thing. Jeremy Smoking Jacket will rise again though, some day. All the songs are there. Just need time.
PRT: I’ve seen that you also have a couple of shows coming up with Porcupine Tree in October. How did you end up with them?
Rose: It was completely unexpected really, Stephen Wilson just emailed me out of the blue one day a few months back, saying he really liked my records and asked if me and the band would like to do a bit of touring with them, so obviously we said yes and so we are doing 4 German dates and 1 in Poland in October. I had a brief chat with Stephen on the phone the other day and he seems to be exactly what everyone always says about him, a thoroughly nice chap! We are also going to do some other shows in Europe around that time too. It’s very exciting. We will be debuting some pieces bound for the next album for sure.
PRT: For people who haven’t seen you play live yet, what will they be in for at the Summer Darkness festival?
Rose: Like most heavy bands, we are a lot heavier live! We will be a three piece for Summer Darkness, James on drums, Joe on bass, myself on vocals and guitar duties. There is a lot of energy on our stage, lots of intensity, and just a sprinkling of dressing up! It will be a dark, slow powerful show hopefully with riffs and cackles a-plenty!
PRT: What’s the worst hype you’ve ever participated in?
Rose: My good friend Team Brick has always advised me to answer any questions I am unsure about or do not understand by simply putting, ‘Tori Amos’. So in answer to your question, Tori Amos! (He once also advised me that as I was touring for a total of two weeks, he calculated I would need no more than two shirts and one pair of socks.)
PRT: Any last words for our readers?
Rose: Get some Deathspell Omega round your lugs, it’s reet good eh!