How many times have you found yourself on a peaceful midweek wander when suddenly the fear sets in? Existential doubt is a bitch right? The black cloud follows. It's dark, ominous, it’s sinister, foreboding. A realisation that you made a fool of yourself this weekend past. A nostalgic sense of doom, a hyper realised version of your previous self…
This is all too familiar for Rohan, who laughs as he talks about the inspiration behind his vocals on a recent release. Since 2011 Rohan has been releasing music under the guise of Bell Towers. He has found friends in Public Possession, a record label based in Munich, some 16,000 kilometres away from his Australian roots back in Melbourne. His sixth release on the label, titled “I’m Coming Up”, landed at the tail end of last month. He talks about the origins of his relationship with Marvin and Valentino.
“ I met Valentino when he was on his around the world trip in Australia. Bad jokes and trust have helped to form the relationship, I don’t know where that trust comes from, maybe it's just something which has developed over time.”
This degree of friendship and personal trust is something which has been replicated in his musical output on the label. Not one to be pigeon holed or meet the stereotypical expectations of genre, Bell Towers releases have been diverse and varied: from synthetic ten minute soundscapes to more recent high energy driven house, his sound is unpredictable and charismatic.
Much of this character comes from early influences found outwith dance music and club culture. Rohan describes early visits to record shops in Melbourne and his interest in hip hop music.
“I started going to the city when I was fourteen, fifteen years old from the suburbs. I’d make weekly trips to go to this record store, Missing Link it was called. They had an experimental hip hop section and I found myself gravitating towards that. Then I found this other store, Synesthesia, that was more edgy. That was like up a staircase and down an alley kind of thing. It closed down a long time ago, the guy that used to run it, he lives in London now, his name is Mark Harwood, I think he has a show on NTS now.”
It can often be interesting to observe the relationship which exists between musicians and club culture. It can be a scene which embodies all sorts, from introverts to extroverts, party goers to those who prefer a quiet life: stereotypes and connotations travel with artists, however, often they are far from the reality.
“I don’t really like going out that much to be honest, I don’t really have a dance music background. Clubs are boring. The thought of going to a dance club and seeing a techno dj play a techno set or a house dj playing a house set is incredibly painful for me and then to hear people say that ‘this music sounds good on drugs’ is a farce for me. If i’m on drugs then I like the music to be even more interesting and more exciting.”
There is an element of admirable contradiction to Rohan’s outlook on where his music fits alongside such an ideology. He describes it as follows:
“ I make music to play in clubs but also to be as interesting as possible. It’s like a double edged sword because if I try too hard to make something interesting then it’s obviously not going to fit well into the club. I need to strike a balance between these two ideas which is something which I think I haven’t really hit yet.”
His outlook on clubbing has been influenced to a degree by the environment which exists around him. Having been based in London for the past few years, whilst travelling around Europe, Rohan has observed the cultural and societal choices of a wide range of cities. He explains why he sees the need for clubs in a place like London but reflects on the pressures which have led them to exist as they do in the present.
“ I think the clubs close too early and there are too many drugs. It’s quite grim here, people work really hard and they get really wasted on the weekend as an escape because that’s sort of all there is. I think the UK in particular seems to struggle with a work life balance: the lifestyle here seems to be sinking pints of beer. London is culturally rich but it’s just not very healthy. I’ve had a cool time and a lot of good things have happened out of me being here but it’s been more of a rewarding time than an enjoyable time.”
There is a humble honesty to the way in which Rohan speaks, it’s far easier to glorify something that should not be glorified, whilst sweeping the truth under the rug, than to discuss it from a realistic perspective. It would appear that there is as much self discovery to the day to day existence of Bell Towers as there is to the evolution of his music itself. Dance music is said to reflect the need for escapism, Rohan is more aware of what that means to him as an individual than most, a hyper realised sense of self if you will...
Photo credit: dandra