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15 Questions to Rent Romus

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
I’m doing well.  I have many projects in the fire, new CDs, and performance productions on my mind at the moment.
I am in the San Francisco Bay Area of California.

What’s on your schedule right now?

That’s a loaded question. Let’s see, as for performance (which I probably don’t do enough of) I have an appearance at interdisciplinary artist Jon Brumit’s FestEVIL happening in Oakland CA at 21 Grand Gallery on 6/6/06. A festival of noise related performance art and sonic exploration event. I’ll be part of the indoor event on some sort of electronic set-up. June 18th I’ll be taking my group The Lords of Outland over to Sacramento to perform music from my new CD Culture of Pain out now on my label Edgetone Records. I’m also working on a tour with pianist Thollem Mcdonas and Jon Brumit to the east coast/mid west in October 2006. As for other aspects of my schedule I am always at least 6-8 months ahead. I am working on the sponsorship part of the Edgetone Music Summit, the largest new music event in Northern California.  This event is in its fifth year so my trusted compatriots and I are working round the clock for this one. It will take place July27-30 at the Luggage Store Gallery in SF and 21 Grand Gallery in Oakland, CA. Speaking of the Luggage Store I also curate the regular Thursday night series along with fellow improviser/electronic artist Matt Davignon.  e host a wide range of artists from the local as well as national/international. Edgetone Records also has twelve new releases coming out this year, so my plate is full.

What or who was your biggest influence as an artist? Do you see yourself as part of a certain tradition or as part of a movement?
Hmm, well in my youth I was very influenced by saxophonists Arthur Blythe and Stan Getz. I came in some ways I guess from a “jazz” tradition, but I don’t really relate to that directly anymore. The improvisation and experimental worlds are much more interesting to me for many reasons including the aspect of spontaneous sonic creation without the hang-ups of a specific genre. I guess in some ways I left the jazz world in my conscious life because it is rife with rules and social regulation which I don’t subscribe to. I’d have to say on an improvisation setting I was first influenced by Ernesto Diaz-Infante.  More by the aspect of his creation of sound then a direct sonic influence via my instruments of choice per se, but none the less a very strong influence to where I am today. I also consider my self very influenced by harsh noise first due to my wife CJ Borosque’s work. I fell in love with the brash catharsis that is harsh noise. I have great reverence for the harsh noise community here. I try to support them when ever I can in my production life.

What’s your view on the music scene at present? Is there a crisis?

No there is no crisis. The scene is rich and vibrant with a huge amount of creative sonic artists. Almost any week there are five to ten shows to choose from (see In addition to the local scene many creative people come through the San Francisco Bay Area from other parts of the country and world. The scene here is one of if not the largest in the country. I am sure I have only experienced a fraction to date. The only thing that may be lacking is proper funds for performance. Most of the shows are door gigs. I feel there needs to be a better funded infrastructure that goes beyond just supporting a few artists. I’m working with some folks to change that as I write this. 

What does the term “new” mean to you in connection with music?
To me “new” music is the creation of sound that tries not to fall back on specific idioms as a safe net. 

How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?
They are inseparable. Improvising sound on the spot is a composition.

How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
See #6

What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What’s your approach to performing on stage?
To me that’s a spiritual question. In the words of Bruce Lee, “emotional content” is the key to a good live performance. Without that, it’s not a performance. When I play I’m not really “thinking” about what I am doing as much as I am feeling what I am doing. I guess I am listening to the vibrations of what others are doing, perceiving the sounds on stage, in the audience, outside the venue, and letting my fingers and breath do the “thinking” for me.

A lot of people feel that some of the radical experiments of modern compositions can no longer be qualified as “music”. Would you draw a border – and if so, where?
No rules, no borders. Yes, I know there are always rules each individual follows whether they are conscious or subliminal. But, experimentation IS what it IS. Individuals who are listeners or musicians take away what they will. In the big picture does it really matter, I think not. To some setting a fire on stage or destroying an instrument would be considered radical. To me it’s just another method. I don’t see the radical, it’s just a buzz word created by the system.

Are “serious” and “popular” really two different types of music or just empty words without a meaning?
Well, “popular” music in my opinion simply means what the “music industry” says is popular so I guess one could call that an empty meaning. The music buying masses simply wait for the promotion to hit the mainstream media to tell that them what is “popular”. Main stream media looks to non-music advertising companies, corporate think tanks, business graduates, and managers. The chain of “popular” is a web of deceit. “Serious”? I hate the term used by folks to define certain music as much as the term “popular”. It’s like extreme liberal and conservative politics; they meet in the middle, they are the same thing, and ultimately mean nothing.

Do you feel an artist has a certain duty towards anyone but himself? Or to put it differently: Should art have a political/social or any other aspect apart from a personal sensation?
If an artist wants to perform for people they clearly have a responsibility to play with passion for them. Art and Music does have a political/social aspect if it’s true to the artist. Creation with passion in my opinion is freedom of expression in its truest form of the meaning. There are places in the world where creative expression is not allowed. Some of the first people to be marginalized or even murdered by an oppressive government are artists, thinkers, the educated, etc. So any artist who thinks that they are not doing art in any political or social way are deluding themselves with the exception of painters who paint fruit bowls or musicians who play in cover song bands.

True or false: People need to be educated about music, before they can really appreciate it.
FALSE. People need to have a NEED to listen to music, which is innate. Education has nothing to do with it except when one is talking about corporate indoctrination which leads to social peer pressure, and has a lot to do with why there is such a thing as “popular” music in the first place. Maybe all music education needs to go away in place of music experience. Can you imagine at schools where the teacher just says “here’s the instruments; computers, etc. just play them. If you want to learn where the notes are I’ll show you, but play any way you want.”

Imagine a situation in which there’d be no such thing as copyright and everybody were free to use musical material as a basis for their own compositions – would that be an improvement to the current situation?
Only if I can imagine a world where every artist is given a place to live, enough food to eat, places to perform and record for free, and a living wage. Then sure, get rid of copyright. I know the concept also allows companies to own the creation of artists, but there’s always a balance. Besides, artists should not sign away their rights for the promise of a “deal” in the first place. 

You are given the position of artistic director of a festival. What would be on your program?
I am. for the 2006 line-up. At some point I’d love to be able to afford to have Diamanda Galas or John Zorn participate.

Many artists dream of a “magnum opus”. Do you have a vision of what yours would sound like?
As an artist/musician I’ll leave that up to others. As a presenter/producer I hope to leave this world with the knowledge that I was able to help others become more independent and empowered to control their own artistic lives in all ways. I would hope that my work of building a stronger sense of reciprocal altruism, inclusiveness, and support towards each other will continue.


Culture of Pain (Edgetone)
Reverberations from Spring Past (Pax Recordings)
The Foolkiller (Edgetone)
Avatar in the field (Edgetone)
Blood Motions (Edgetone)
PKD Vortex Project (Edgetone)
Adapt...or Die! with John Tchicai (Jazzheads)
You'll Never Be The Same (Jazzheads)

Rent Romus on Edgetone Records

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