“32.32” is the remarkable debut album by London-based composer, cellist, keyboard player and vocalist Jimmy Rosso. He partially implemented his vision and his versatile approach to music as a member of eccentric punk-jazz-rock-classical collective DOLLYman, but his chameleon style and his poetic and somewhat didactic vein urgently needed to gush o their own after he perfected his electronic freak, which originated from a model for the kids he was teaching music to in East London. Jimmy Rosso’s “32.32” comes out on the appreciated Scottish label Bearsuit Records. Let’s get to know him better…
Chain D.L.K.: Hi Jimmy. How are you?
Jimmy Rosso: Hi Vito. To be honest I am exhausted. Life has been hectic lately! Hope you are well! I’m very happy to talk about the album though so thanks for the opportunity.
Chain D.L.K.: Compliments on your debut release “32.32”. First of all, how did you get in touch with Bearsuit?
Jimmy Rosso: Thanks. I am really happy to have the album out on Bearsuit. I heard some music on myspace by one of their artists and really liked it so added them as a friend. I’d put up a couple of rough tracks on my page not really thinking it would lead to anything. I was really chuffed when Bearsuit then got in touch and asked to put one on a compilation album (the fall will probably kill you) That then led to me making the album.
Chain D.L.K.: What about its genesis?
Jimmy Rosso: I began making tracks for the album after my honeymoon in Cambodia in 2009. The first track I made was “Susan”, which was about a huge spider that lived above our bed in Cambodia. To make us less scared of the spider we gave it a name: Susan. Susan was quite a monster though and we woke one night to find her eating her lover – it was a terrifying sight. I felt I had to write a track about it! Around the same time I made the track “End” for a film music project at the school I taught at, for a clip depicting the end of the world. The two tracks seemed to go together well and that inspired me to write more in a similar dark vein-somewhere between spiders and the apocalypse!
Chain D.L.K.: According to your own words, you’re indebted to the production skills of Owain Rich, an artist I am not familiar with, to be honest. Could you tell us something about him and your collaboration?
Jimmy Rosso: Owain is one of my oldest friends. We were at school together and made some music together back then but never really got anywhere before we moved to opposite ends of the country for University. Happily, when I was writing the album he moved around the corner from me in Hackney, and I asked him if he’d be up for getting involved. He is a producer for the BBC and a highly skilled guy with incredible patience. Once the tracks were done we spent hours together listening back and mastering them. It was a real pleasure to do so in such a laid back way but both of us are very busy in our work hence it took us 3 years to complete.
Chain D.L.K.: You started your album with a barrage of electronic snare before a sort of voice-over repeats the title “We Desperately Need Friends”… any reference to social networks and social urgencies?
Jimmy Rosso: That quote was actually from a radio show about sweets and how nostalgic people are about them that ‘they become our friends’. Once I combined the sample with the disturbing drum sounds, it started to take on a new meaning. I think it triggered ideas of a “desperate need for friends” and comforts in a world that for many is increasingly isolating and lonely. Several of the tracks stem from this idea: people seeking comfort and escape from a dark paranoid place. I think social network sites function in this way for many.
Chain D.L.K.: “Anything Goes” seems to be a sort of glazed depiction of our times. Is it so or not?
Jimmy Rosso: Again, “Anything Goes” stems from a very similar idea. The spoken word is also from a radio show, this time an american woman who talks of witnessing a mugging and notes that the station in which it happens is dirty and so this somehow leads to the violent act as it gives the impression “anything goes”. I found it bizarre, the idea that a dirty train station should be to blame for this violent act, but felt it summed up a view that the world is on the way to ruin, which I think some in society believe. A number of the tracks are seen from the perspective of vulnerable members of society and I think that for many there is a fear of society fueled by the media who love to exaggerate negative stories and perpetuate the idea that we should be afraid to leave our homes.
Chain D.L.K.: You’re actually a member of DOLLYman. Any intersections with your personal musical research?
Jimmy Rosso: DOLLYman is a 5 piece band in which we all compose. Each of us have our own solo projects as well and often these do influence the band and vice versa. We often play a version of the track “Undone” live and it works in a whole different way – much more wild and free but without the electronic elements. One day I’d love to organize a live version of the album and I think the DOLLYs would be the first people I’d think of getting involved as they’re brilliant musicians and we always have great fun as a band.
Chain D.L.K.: Why did you select that graphical quotation of “Woodhouse In Wien” by John Woodhouse & His Magical Accordion on cover artwork? Was it for the strange signs of horns he made with his right hand?
Jimmy Rosso: The image was found by Dave of Bearsuit Records. At first I thought it was completely wrong for the feel of the album but it quickly grew on me in a “so wrong its right” kind of way. As you say there is something very creepy about the weird claw like hand and there is something slightly grotesque about the image which fits the dark and odd sounds in the album.
Chain D.L.K.: One of my favorite tracks (and one moment when you show remarkable compositional skills as well as a good singing technique) is “Held”. It sounds sprinkled with that sanguine and flamboyant emotionalism by bands such Stateless or even Radiohead… would you say the same? What about the source of inspiration for lyrics?
Jimmy Rosso: Thanks. I feel really proud of that track as it’s the most personal on the album. The track is a love song and is about my wife. I’d been reading a Murakami novel and in it there was a great deal of imagery around the idea of splitting people between their ‘ghost’ or ‘shadow’ and their waking self. I thought of my wife dreaming as a ‘ghost’ and thought how alive and beautiful she looked even asleep. In the Murakami novel the central character has to cut off their shadow. Although I don’t really know if I believe in the soul, I loved this poetic idea and so the line “I will marry your shadow” is about both holding my sleeping wife but also the idea of a non-bodily love – a meeting of souls/shadows/ghosts. Musically I think Radiohead are a big influence on me, although I don’t know Stateless so I will check them out.
Chain D.L.K.: That sort of minuet which appears on “Susan” looks like the apparition of a ghost… what about that track?
Jimmy Rosso: As I mentioned earlier “Susan” is about a Cambodian spider eating her lover above my head! The minuet that comes in underneath the driving beats is like a bizarre dance to the death – a tribute to the passive man being eaten alive by his ferocious lover. Musically I really enjoy exploring different and often starkly contrasting sounds and a number of the tracks fuse dark, distorted, cold, electronic sounds with organic real and warm sounds (cellos and pianos) and this is probably the most extreme example.
Chain D.L.K.: The final tracks of the album (“If There Was A Place”, “Ripped”, “End”) seems to amplify a certain sense of obsessive neglect and presage of death… is there any musical and logical concatenation between them?
Jimmy Rosso: All three link to the album’s central theme: seeking comfort in a painful world. “If there was a place” is the most explicit in terms of this. “Ripped” was written after witnessing the cat in the flat above mine killing a pigeon. I was late for work and didn’t know what to do. In the end I pulled down the blind and did nothing! I felt bad about it and it made me think how on a wider scale we are all guilty of this kind of action: we all know that horrible things happen around the world (often in our name) and yet do very little about it. We retreat into our own worlds and create hectic lives to avoid thinking about it. I now have two cats of my own and they regularly attack birds. I have several times tried to save them although most of the time my attempts to save them have been futile! As said earlier “End” was originally written for a film clip about the end of the world. In many ways though it now feels like the depiction of a state of mind we sometimes get in to.
Chain D.L.K.: Very simple repetitive lyrics and a remarkable emotive warmth are featured in the final “Home”… do you remember the moment when you thought about this song?
Jimmy Rosso: “Home” is dedicated to my grandma who spent her last weeks in an old people’s home. She was not unhappy but still kept saying she wanted to go home. The trouble was she was confused and actually the “home” she meant was in the past when she was a child and not a place that existed. I used to work next to an old persons home and I’d often hear people saying the same line “I want to go home” and I knew the home they meant did not exist. The song is a kind of hymn to these confused minds… “we cannot take you home, because your home is no more your home”… Again this also links to the idea of the album – wanting to go back to a comfort zone that doesn’t exist.
Chain D.L.K.: How did you managed to involve Sarah Bonnell Junior Choir?
Jimmy Rosso: This was the junior choir at the school I worked at. I thought the innocence of their young voices would really add to the feel of the track. I explained the idea of the song to the kids and I was very moved by their rendition in response. I think their voices really add hope at the end of the album.
Chain D.L.K.: Did London have an influence on your sound somehow?
Jimmy Rosso: The whole album was written in Hackney and this was a big influence on its dark and menacing sound. I do think of it as a London album. I’ve since moved out closer to the country so I wonder what the next album will be like… a much mellower affair maybe!
visit Jimmy Rosso’s myspace at: www.myspace.com/jimmyrosso