Adam Cresswell is the man behind musical alter-ego Rodney Cromwell, as well as being the mainstay of the Happy Robots record label. A few years ago he dropped what he thought would be his swansong, but instead the record found him attracting new fans, new inspiration and a new lease of musical life. On the verge of releasing a new EP and going on a nationwide tour, we decided to find our more about Rodney; and Adam!
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s the story behind Rodney Cromwell and how would you describe your sound?
My real name is Adam. I’ve been in bands since I was 17 and started out singing Wild Thing and Joy Division covers at school. I’ve been in a couple of bands before including Saloon and Arthur & Martha with varying degrees of success. Saloon are generally remembered for our association with the John Peel show but my proudest moment was hearing one of our tracks pumped over a PA in a Spanish Costcutter.
Rodney Cromwell really happened by accident. I had effectively retired from music when I decided to draw a line under my career by sticking out the solo album that I had knocking about on my hard drive. But people liked it and three years later I’m still talking about it. My current press release describes my sound as ‘pound-shop synthpop’ which is a bit harsh but probably accurate.
What motivates you and inspires your music, aesthetic and vibe?
I make music out of compulsion rather than anything – I still sing songs about break-ups but these days they are more likely to be about geopolitical breakups than about a spat with the girlfriend. I try to create another world people can slip into while listening to my music – aesthetically it’s a dark world, sometimes bleak, sometimes amusing and probably run by despotic robots.
It’s been a while since 2015’s Age of Anxiety album – what have you been up to since then? I believe you’ve a new release coming out very soon?
I put out Age of Anxiety and at first everyone ignored it, but then a few months passed by and people started to get into it, at that point I decided to just promote the heck out of it, without the pressure of doing another one. So I did a load of interviews and played some gigs with a goal of getting to the point where I could play overseas again. I achieved that with a trip to Spain for a festival and radio session, and after that I was ready to make a new record. The new record Rodney’s English Disco is a 4 track EP with 4 remixes on it. I’m really happy with it,
To me, there’s a very English feel to take on electronica, wryly finding art in the everyday oddness of life. Do ideas for songs come to you or do you seek them out more actively?
Yes I hope that comes across in the title. I stopped pretending I was anything other than a white bloke from a middle class British family at about the point when I stopped singing Wild Thing and Joy Division covers, so yeah that Englishness has always been in what I do. In Arthur & Martha we were dressed like Peter and Jane from the Ladybird books and in Rodney Cromwell I’m singing about blokes called Barry. I’ve never gone out of my way to be deliberately odd. I try and find a balance of trying to find a sound that is familiar enough but still slightly quirky, while writing lyrics that are relatable but don’t fall into cliché. Some acts have such trite lyrics I just want to smash up my radio and go live in the shed.
As well as being a musician, you also run your own label called Happy Robots Records. What is it like having your feet on both sides of the fence so to speak?
I don’t want to sound like a martyr but it’s a lot of hard work running the label, being a musician, holding down a job and still seeing my wife and kids. But I love great music, and if I can help a few other artists get heard then I feel I’m doing something worthwhile. I probably could have played some more gigs, or done a few more remixes, if I wasn’t doing the label, but I’m not enough of a narcissist to really care. I like spending all my time and money on other people with very little reward or recognition. Ha.
What’s up next for Rodney Cromwell? Any upcoming gigs, new releases on the horizon, other projects?
My track Comrades just dropped and it’s a teaser for the new EP. As I say it’s four new tracks plus remixes from Vieon, Alice Hubble, Pattern Language and Rémi Parson. It’s available to pre-order from the website now www.happyrobots.co.uk I’m also off on a little UK tour called Ohm from Ohm in March and May with The Frixion, Nature of Wires and the ubiquitous Vieon which is going to be awesome.
There are a load of releases pencilled in for Happy Robots which will keep me busy – the new Sinosa single is doing really well and then hopefully more from our other artists if I don’t manage to scare them all off beforehand!
Obviously, it would be great to play some more gigs – I’ve been a bit lapse in trying to get myself any – but if anyone wants me, you know where I am.
Comrades is out now, check the Happy Robots website for more details, whilst Rodney Cromwell will be playing Birmingham, Leeds and Salford next weekend on the first leg of the Ohm From Ohm tour. Further dates follow in May.