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Fresh from her UK tour for her new and third album 'Unholy Majesty' Rose Kemp is preparing for her busiest month of the year, or her "Rock-tober" as she puts it.
It has been a non-stop year for Rose and, by the time it has ended, she will not only have written, recorded and released her third album, but she will have finished touring it as well.
"It was a very quick process putting together 'Unholy Majesty'. we recorded it in a few weeks then mastered it pretty much straight away. 'A Handful of Hurricanes'(Kemp's previous album-Ed) took a long time to put together. It took almost a year to record then almost another year to come out. This one we began in February, it came out in September and we'll stop touring it in January," she says.
Aside from promoting the new album Rose is also trying some new challenges over the next few months. The first is a project with her mum, singer Maddy Prior. Together they are rearranging 'Nature's Hymn', a song from the new album, for the Proms. "My mum is very supportive and liked the album a lot. She wanted to do the song 'Nature's Hymn' for the Proms, and arrange it for cello, accordion, five vocals and guitar. So we are just going to rearrange it and then do it on telly."
Rose has got a wonderful way of taking such things in her stride. This may have something to do with her upbringing. She grew up in the small city of Carlisle with parents Rick Kemp and Prior. Both are still working musicians but are best known for their time in folk band Steeleye Span. It was Rose's mother who first encouraged her to write and perform music. She got Rose involved with her folk band when she was 15 and from there Rose released a folk-y debut album, 'Glance', in 2003.
With 'Unholy Majesty' Rose has found her own voice and instead of folk influences has taken inspiration from heavy rock bands like Led Zeppelin, Tool, PJ Harvey and Rage Against The Machine. "I think influences are 'of the air'", she says. "I'm influenced by all these things that I want to be and also a lot of things I don't - such as the MTV screen in the corner of the pub and the things we are surrounded with everyday."
"Everything is conscious that I do, and I want every album to be different from the one before. The worst thing for me would be if this album was seen to be the same as the last, or just a follow up. That would be when I'd lost it."
For the past two years Rose has been touring almost constantly. She has spent a lot of time in Europe and like many bands, has noticed a distinct difference between playing music in Europe and playing in Britain. For her most recent UK tour she played exclusively new material and was not entirely sure how well received it was. "Half of the people at gigs seem to really like what I'm doing now and have come especially to see the new material. Some people who were fans of the last album like it but I think some people find it a bit too raucous - it hasn't been a clear cut thing in the UK really."
In Europe, however, fans have flocked to see Rose perform the new album. On some dates she has played with the backing of a three piece band and on others she has been solo. She has always enjoyed doing both: "I'm going to do a gig in Berlin next week solo. I'm doing a couple of dates supporting Lambchop solo, then I'll be playing a gig with the band in Germany called Rock Palace. It's a kind of German version of 'Later...' and T in the Park, if that's possible."
"There's another tour in January and a week of that will be on my own and then I'm going to be supporting New Model Army at the Sage in Gateshead before playing the London Astoria with the band the next day. I try and keep up both solo and band performances really because I think if you are a solo artist that can't play a big gig on your own there's something wrong. I like to be a bit flexible."
With the new album Rose has proved she is very flexible indeed. Her influences have widened and she has also experimented with her vocals. "I'm always trying to improve and see what I can do because really I am at the beginning of my career still. I want to see what my voice is capable of. I've still got along way to go really."
"With 'A Handful of Hurricanes' it was the emotions I didn't hold back on, but with this album it was the vocal skill and also the power. It felt completely natural to do it that way. It's kind of considered in this country that music is better if you hold back but I don’t share that ethos and I never have."
Rose isn't afraid of disagreeing with the music industry. One of her biggest bugbears is the difficulties facing new bands that are trying to tour and earn a living from their music. She partly blames the touring climate in the UK and partly the trend of downloading music for free. This has been a constant battle for the industry in the last few years. While at first the internet was seen to help bands promote their own music, it is now seen by many to be a drain on any profit a band can make from its music.
"You'd think it would be getting easier to not have a record company, but in fact it's getting harder and harder. I loved the scene as it was a few years back. There was a lot of people with a lot of talent just getting out there and making music. Most bands now can only make money touring because the records aren't selling. They just sell t-shirts - that's how they make their living."
‘A Handful of Hurricanes' was massively supported by the thriving DIY scene at the time and Rose feels it is now dying. Independent promoters are disappearing and now to get a gig bands often have to have a label behind them. This is also having an impact on independent venues and many are going out of business to be replaced by chain pubs and bars.
"It's such a shame but no-one can really support new bands now. There are still a couple of really good DIY promoters up North, and a few in the south but a lot of them have just given up putting on gigs," she says. "Chain venues are really strange - what a wierd thing to have corporate rock and roll - I mean what is that?"
"People aren't spending money on music anymore, just downloading it then forgetting to buy the album. People don't seem to think it's worth spending money on music and then they are surprised when their favourite bands disappear."
In Europe Rose says there is a different atmosphere around buying and playing music. "The audiences in Europe as are just really up for it," she says. "I'm doing music that is pretty left field - it's not a massive money making market, but they come out and see it and jump up and down."
The atmosphere in Britain has not put Rose off making music here and she is continuing to trying her hand at composing as well as working on material for a fourth album. After seeing one of her shows a choreographer asked her to write a score for a project in Glasgow. It's the first time Rose has been involved in a project like this and is looking forward to finding out exactly what it entails. "It's a bit last minute but I'm doing a workshop for it this week. I think it's going to be a lot of work though."
Despite all the hard work she is still finding time to write new material and is planning to record her next album early next year. "We're well on our way with the next album and I'll be sorting out dates for recording pretty soon."
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One Little Indian
In a second interview with Pennyblackmusic, Bristol-based singer-songwriter Rose Kemp Rose Kemp speaks to Sarah Johnson about her just released third album, 'Unholy Majesty', which has come out on One Little Indian, and the procs and cons of being a professional musician in internet culture
Unholy Majesty - CD
Intense, but innovative third album from Cumbria-born singer-songwriter Rose Kemp, whose eclectic range of influences on it expand from Regina Spektor to Vashti Bunyan, Led Zeppelin to Tool and PJ Harvey to Rage Against The Machine, and which proves to be her most exprimental album to date
Violence - CDS
Stunning nerve-wrought One Little Indian debut single from Cumbrian songstress, Rose Kemp
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