Last October (October 2012) we had a great fun day out in Chiswick, at the Oxjam event. We spent the whole day doing a musical pub crawl, experiencing west London’s musical talent. We went to the Oxjam with the intention of supporting a young band that we are following. They were playing at the George IV; a local pub on the high street. While we were waiting for this band to play their set, we listened to a couple of other bands in the line up. One of those bands blew our socks off with their performance, and so started our love affair with Red Rose Empire.
So, who are Red Rose Empire?
They are a cool 3 piece acoustic band from West London with an amazing, diverse past… Paul Claxton is the singer, song-writer and acoustic guitarist; Richard Keating is the bass player, and Paul Rowland is the drummer. On facebook they say of themselves: “If John Lennon and Morrissey had a love child…this is what it would sound like!!!”
So, let me introduce you to the band…
When we watched them perform at the George in October, we were mesmerized by their combination of energy, professionalism and talent. As much as I hate to refer back to X-Factor, I have to admit that these guys have it! We literally couldn’t take our eyes off them as they performed. We approached Paul after the gig to say how much we had enjoyed their performance. Without any hesitation, he gave us a copy of their demo CD, ‘London…You Belong to Me’
There are eight songs on this CD (including a few covers.) I have added in a few YouTube videos, as well as sound cloud recordings of the songs, so you can get the full Red Rose Empire experience:
1. Summer’s Dead:
2. End of the world:
3. All about Eve:
4. London… you belong to me:
5. You and I
6. From Russia with Love:
8. Last to know:
After listening to the songs, we knew that we had to meet up with the guys and find out more about them. I was lucky to meet up with Paul Claxton (the founder of the band) a few months back; it was a generous interview with entertaining stories, laughs and a history which was both intriguing and interesting.
Paul’s love affair with music and gigging started really early on; he had played his first gig by the age of thirteen. At nineteen, he was playing as a solo artist in folk clubs in North Wales and Manchester. In the mid nineties he formed a Britpop band called Pineapple, and they supported Welsh rock band Super Furry Animals, alternative rock band Mansun, and alternative dance band Jesus Jones.
Pineapple were doing really well, and were just about to go on a countrywide tour when the drummer quit the band. That’s when Paul decided to go solo.
From 2000 to 2009, Paul travelled around Europe and America as a solo artist. During the Europe tour he supported the likes of Midge Ure, and while travelling around the US he supported the likes of Pete Wiley and Miles Hunt.
So that’s Paul’s history; I will let the other guys tell you a bit more about themselves.
Rick says, “After a misspent youth, during which time I was frequently in and out of musical institutions, I took the worrying step of going to university, and then getting a “proper” job. However, my bass guitar habits soon began to surface again and finally, not content with getting the occasional musical fix in the bedroom, my demons drove me out of doors where I encountered Paul and Paul, and formed an “actual” band. Now, what with the “proper” job, the “actual” band and the constant battle to control my guitar-buying addiction (My name is Rick, and I am a guitaraholic), my days are pretty full.”
Paul says, “I have had a varied musical path. First, I took up the French Horn in school, and subsequently the Tenor Horn, because I wanted to play in the brass band. Later, I took up the drums and classical percussion. At musical school (Abraham Darby of Ironbridge) I played in wind bands, brass bands and small quartets and quintets. The school would compete several times a year up and down the country in competitions such as the National Concert Band Festival, and various Music-For-Youth categories. Their success in these led to higher profile events, such as the BBC Schools Proms held at the Royal Albert Hall and the Royal Festival Hall in 2000, 2001 and 2003, and even in the World Music Contest in Kerkrade, Holland.”
“I worked my way up though the classical grading system on the drum kit, and taught younger children privately. However, I really only started to play recognisable drumming, when my sheet music was taken away, and I started playing in the school big band and in a small function jazz quintet. After finishing school, I moved to London and found a band to play with, where I enjoyed playing rock music for the first time.”
So, then how did they all find their way into Red Rose Empire?
Paul Claxton moved back to London in 2009 and “decided to give it another go” with band life. He met Paul Rowland while flat hunting in West London, and they started talking about their first love; music. One thing led to another. ..
“We rehearsed in Shepherd’s Bush,” says Paul C, “And, I thought, Brilliant! Now we have to find a Bass Player.” However, finding a Bass Player was not that easy. So, from February to August they auditioned Bass Players from all over London. They were just about to give up when they met Rick.
Paul C tells the story; “We were auditioning Bass Players in Shepherds Bush and on our way out, we bumped into Rick; who had his Warrick Bass and looked really good. I asked him if he was a Bass Player and said to him, ‘Why don’t you come and join us?’” The rest as they say is history.
Red Rose Empire started out life as Empire State London, but they were not really happy with this. “We met as we are now in August 2009,” relates Paul C, “The first gig we ever played was at the Roehouse in Old Street, and we literally could not get a name at all that we liked; at every rehearsal we’d all bring these names and then google them to find out if there was a band by that name already. I was lucky enough to work in a bookshop, and I spent days just going around opening books and coming up with names. One day I found a book called, ‘That Rose Red Empire’ by Ian Sinclair; which is all about Hackney. So I said to the guys ‘What about Rose Red Empire?’ It was either Rick or Paul who said, ‘Why don’t we change it around?’ So, we researched it and as nobody had it, that’s how we became Red Rose Empire.”
Musically, Paul C says that of the band members he is “the musical meat and two veg person. I’m a musical layman; I just know how I want things to sound. Both young Paul and Rick are very musically minded; they know the structure, they know the technical terms to use.”
Paul Claxton is the main song writer, although with some of the songs the band works together lyrically and musically. He told me that his style of song writing is to come up with a number of individual lyrics and ideas, and then piece them together, rather than sitting in a room and composing a song randomly in a few minutes.
One song-writing story he told me, was about when he was in New York, “I was in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and there was an exhibition called ‘before photoshop’, full of 19th century photo’s; it was way cool; and in there was this photo of a woman on her deathbed, looking into the night through her bedroom window, and her lover’s face was in the full moon. The photo was called “She never told her love” I just started to write a load of words, then went back the hotel and wrote the music.”
“The first time we recorded was in Petworth Sounds in Camden; that was February 2010. We recorded ‘No Apologies’, ‘London Lost’ and ‘Words’ Then in the August we did, ‘You and I’, ‘Why don’t you’, ‘It all goes’ and ‘Say Something’, then I think we did, ‘Know Better’ in October.
Last year (2012) we did three songs; ‘End of the World’, ‘All about Eve’ and ‘Summer’s Dead’. We’ve just recorded in Limehouse; at the Soup Studios, which are just amazing studios! It is a hub of creativity. It is so cool!”
The new demo CD is called ‘She never told…’ and features three new songs, and one live cover;
1. She never told…
3. Der Hammer…
4. For the turnstiles (live)
So, what does 2013 hold for Red Rose Empire?
The guys want to keep performing and gigging as much as possible. They also want to spread the word about their new demo to as many people as they can. When I asked Paul C about his dreams for the band, he told me, “Basically, to be doing it as a fulltime job.”
Since Paul, Paul and Rick started Red Rose Empire in mid 2009, the guys have been working their butts off writing material, performing and loving what they do. For the three it is music that makes their world go round. They have been working towards a time where all three can do what they love and make a living from it. From everything I’ve seen and heard of Red Rose Empire; these guys are well on the way to fulfilling their musical dreams. Rock on!
Check them out at: www.myspace.com/redroseempire
Red Rose Empire recently performed at our Dream On Day, subscribe to the Dream On blog to find out more about the day, or follow us on Facebook.