Interview by Miriam C.
When UK’s progressive occult rock band Purson out of the blue announced their disbandment, all the fans and the specialized media were negatively shocked about this unexpected news. Considering the positive feedback received on their last and second full-length “Desire’s Magic Theatre” (read it here) (which it was released via Spinefarm Records in 2016), it was undoubtedly a piece of unforeseen news. Luckily all the clouds have a silver lining, and now after a period of silence, former Purson‘s main singer-songwriter Rosalie Cunningham is back with her self-titled début album via Esoteric Antenna/Cherry Red Records. I’m quite sure that the interview will please both old fans and curious connoisseur of the genre, so let’s dig into and read it together!
First of all, Rosalie, welcome to Femme Metal Webzine, how are you and how this period is treating you?
Very well. I feel really good, actually because the album is about to come out and it has been a long time in the making and I had my doubts on how might be received because people only expect more Purson, I suppose, it’s the only frame of reference that they have with my music and it’s slightly different. So, I’ve been quite nervous for the release, I just curious about how it will be received. By now, I’ve already released two tracks from the album (one today and the other one last Friday) and they have been welcomed really well and that it makes me feel much more confident about the people’s reaction.
That’s good because I’m already familiar with one of those tracks so it’s “Dethroning of the Party Queen” and it’s really an amazing song. On top of all, I was seriously fascinated by its lyrics and I know that for an artist might a bit difficult to express its related meaning, however, generally speaking, what we can expect the same lyrical style throughout your debut album?
Hem, I suppose so. It’s very difficult to define for me what that it is and it’s kinda the way it comes out. I don’t have intentionally a style but, I suppose, I do because these people I do [laughs].
As previously mentioned, I’m really honored to host you here today because I was really looking forward to since Purson‘s times, so it is a really long time. Then, would you like to share with us more about the creative process of your self-titled debut?
The creative process was more drown out than I would usually approach an album because of Purson‘s break-up I didn’t have much of a plan settled in stone so it’s not like I was writing for a band to play on tour or for me to record in a studio on a particular day, particular hour or a particular label. Anything like that, so it’s kinda an open-ended, sort of, arrangement, I guess. There was no pressure on me, or anything like that, to achieve anything. I was writing the songs kinda just for my own enjoyment, really. I guess it’s kinda more than sing a song really than the bands’ days before. The creative process, hem, I kinda spent a long time demoing things, so I tried a lot of ideas and a lot of experimentation. So, I had that luxury and I didn’t have that pressure from a management and a label to get something out as soon as possible. So, I reached a point that I was really happy with the songs before I went into the studio. So, that’s what different at that time.
Consequently, you mentioned the words ‘open arrangement’ and how Esoteric Antenna and Cherry Red Records came into the picture inside this ‘open arrangement’ considering the fact that, in the beginning, even the fans were involved…
Yes, at first, I wanted to do it completely DIY, just independently with the involvement of the fans through the album pre-order which, therefore, would have covered the general expenses and that was the initial idea but PledgeMusic went bankrupt and they took everybody’s money, therefore, I didn’t receive any of that money, unfortunately. Naturally, the whole thing was upsetting for me and I’m sure, it was for a lot of artists and fans alike. Of course, after this issue, I had to push back the release of the album a few months that was supposed with the PledgeMusic campaign to be released in March and now, is coming out in July. It was simply pushed back a few months but other than that, I’m kinda glad that it did happen because I ended up finding a label that I’m really happy with it. Cherry Red Records is really brilliant and the deal I have with them is extremely fair, I mean.. I can get out of it whenever I like. One of the many reasons why that I wanted to leave Purson because I was unhappy in the legal arrangements, so with my management and the record label. So, I don’t have any that now, I’m completely free, I own my own rights and I’m self-managing with my partner. In the end, I’m happy to be with this label, because they are letting me do things that way.
That’s great, you know because at a certain point it comes first the liberty of an artist than the legal constraints. In light of this, it can generate a stressful situation where you start to not enjoy anymore your artistic journey.
Well, that’s kinda what was happening towards the end of Purson. There were so many people involved in the business side of things that had nothing to do with the work, the art, and all the playing. All these people that didn’t any idea of what I was trying to do but kinda a financial stake on it and I really didn’t like that, I just felt out of control. I didn’t know what was going on with my own career.
Subsequently, Purson split up and I’ve learned and I’ve read you went on a self-imposed hibernation. How this event influenced the overall outcome of the new album?
Well, I get a little back with what I’ve previously said on the second question, to be honest. It wasn’t so much a hibernation, it’s not like I didn’t say to anybody, ‘I wasn’t playing live and it was a big part of it’. First of all, I didn’t have a band anymore and I didn’t have gigs any more playing my own material. Secondly, I wasn’t writing the material for a live band to play and I wasn’t thinking “What will go down with my old crowd”, so it’s less kind of goofy and less crowd-pleasing in that way. I’ve just focused more on the songwriting aspect and the productions technique since I had a lot of time, I suppose. That’s why that period of hibernation was good for the songwriting and also, it made more hungry to jump back into my career because I really really missed that. While I was away, I’m so longing to get out there and tour again. Just to continue where I left and do this on a full-time base.
To some extent, we’ve already mentioned Purson and its consequent split up and additionally, we have talked about the side effects of the musical business. How being free from the shackles of a band helped you to blossom your real, musical identity? What did you find so difficult back then? On the grounds of what you told me there were too much management and business involved, how this proved to be an obstacle for you?
I don’t think that affected my musical identity at all, to be honest. The band has not much of an influence on the music I have recorded neither did the record label, really. They wanted me to go in the same direction but I did what I wanted to do, regardless, I’ve kinda always had. It wasn’t like they have interfered with my artistic direction or anything like that though the way that does feel different is I’m completely in control with everything. It makes things harder in a way due to the fact that there is a lot to do. For example, I and my partner manage me and we are constantly, on a daily basis, answering emails and dealing with everything ourselves whereas before somebody else was doing that. There were several people helping with that kind of things. Certainly, it’s more work but I feel completely in control and I feel like we can take in any direction we want to take in rather than “Oh, you are playing this gigs and we are doing this, this and you doing this next”. We decide what we do next and also, I find myself in a much stronger position, financially speaking. Not that there any money for me right now, but when it comes to the point I’ll earn some money, most of the money will be ours, apart a little bit I have to pay for the gigs. I can, actually, make a living out of this, independently, without relying on all these people that are taking 20% here and there and leaving me with nothing. It shouldn’t be about money, really, but that it is a good bonus about doing things independently because I never had that before. I didn’t get any money for doing that before.
It sounds really painful to say this. I noticed that back in the day with Purson, you toured a lot and you did receive important promo feedback and listening to what you antecedently stated, I’m negatively surprised…
[laughs] Yeah, when I tell people this that how they react. What we put into it timewise and like, heart and souls for years and we got nothing. [laughs]
Whoa, I’m seriously abashed by it. I’m so sorry.
[laughs] It’s really a common story. That’s the thing if you seriously start to give away this and giving that right away, your income is just less and less and it comes to the point that you don’t have anything. And even there is no point in considering it lucrative. I had to do other jobs to make money, luckily, quite soon with this, because I’m retaining the control of this now and definitely I know what is coming in and what is coming out and I can sense there can be money out of this. Therefore, I’ll be able to live with this which should have been 10 years ago.
Musically speaking, do you think in a way that your self-titled debut continues the path that you have paved with Purson or it stays in another level so to be regarded as something new?
I think it’s just a continuation, I have heard people saying otherwise but it’s their perception. For me, if I’d have continued with Purson, probably that it would be slightly different but it’s the album I would have written. Like I said with the band, nobody tried to get in my way in the creative direction or the vision. I can only speculate that would like kind of similar.
I want to address you my congratulations for the cover album because I was literally impressed by it. I think it does represents you in a really colorful way, in which way can represent your artistic persona? And, who is the author of this magnificent chêf d’œvre?
The painting is by a friend of mine called Tom di Capite, he lives around the corner here in Southend and we have been friends for years, he’s a very talented painter and I asked him to paint a picture of me for a gig poster. And when he painted that, I just thought “It was spectacular it was too good to use it only for a poster” so I just said this is the album cover. I ended up using it for that so I’ll definitely work with him again. Maybe an album cover or just a work in general because I’m really really happy with the outcome. As for what it represents, there are some lyrical references spread all over the album so, for the example, the crown and instead if we talk about the symbolism of the fire in my hands, I suppose, is the creative energy that I’m holding. After than that, it’s just a psychedelic landscape. All in all, it is quite representative of the music.
Before concluding our interview, what 2019 has in store for you? Do you have any plans to visit your European fans soon?
We’re trying to get some dates later this year but I think it’s too late because you need a few months, especially on the grounds that this a new project, I need to make sure that enough people know about it. So I kinda need a few months to build up some hype in foreign countries. However, we have stuff booked in October, for example, Pula in b and subsequently we are trying to book some Italian dates around that.
I’m hoping that you are coming even in The Netherlands…
I really hope so and I’ve recently booked with a touring agent which is based in the Netherlands and I hope he can get us some stuff this year. Hopefully, we’ll get loads of touring next year, so next year we’ll touring all over Europe and even some festivals. However, at the stage of this year, it might result difficult to fill up our diary with foreign gigs because it takes a bit longer to promote.
So, Rosalie, this was my last question. I thank you so much for being available with me. Please be free to say hi to your bands and our readers.
Thank you so really really much.