Jerome Wasn’t Built In One Day

By Filip Brokeš

Jerome Reuter wakes up and looks at an antique French watch lying on a table beside him. It’s 9:30 in the morning and time to go to the studio. He quickly downs a cup of black coffee and walks to his band’s rehearsal space located just a few blocks down the street from where he lives. Before he reaches the street where the studio is located, he pays a visit to his favourite newspaper vendor to get the latest version of Die Zeit. “Merci beaucoup,” he says as he hands the coins to the vendor.

When he finally reaches the studio, he heartily embraces his fellow band members. It’s been a while since he last saw them. Originating from the genre of neo-folk, the Luxembourgish musical project Rome has evolved over the last decade in a way that defies any characterization. Founded in 2005,  it’s literary approach to musical composition is based on a profound appreciation for European culture and languages⁠—an inclination only natural for someone with a background like Jerome Reuter, Rome’s founder and lead singer.

Growing up in Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg’s second most populous commune in the south-west of the country, Reuter was exposed to the diverse European culture from a very young age.

“I guess it was the cultural variety that influenced me. Growing up so close to the Belgian and French borders was certainly influential,” Reuters said.

Although he currently spends most of his time in Luxembourg, Reuter has also lived in Germany for about ten years, and spent some time in Belgium and Manchester as well. Apart from Luxembourgish, he is fluent in German, French and English.

“I see myself primarily as European. I feel strongly connected to German and Italian culture. I also have a special affection for Ireland and Sweden, where I have many friends,” he said.

Although English is the official language of the band, Rome’s lead singer doesn’t shy away from incorporating other European languages like German, French, Spanish and Italian into his music.

A mere look at some of Rome’s album titles, such as Confessions d’un Voleur d’Ames, Die Æsthetik der Herrschaftsfreiheit, Passage to Rhodesia, or Le Ceneri di Heliodoro, immediately reveal Reuter’s borderless taste in music.

According to the band’s own website, Rome’s music is truly unique, blending traditional songwriting craftsmanship, unusual arrangements and fine poetry into a monstrous and intimate musical output that combines chanson, dark, ambient, apocalyptic folk, pop, acoustic rock, martial industrial, and cold wave.

Reuter himself doesn’t like being associated with any particular musical genre. He likes to maintain his artistic freedom. Instead of fulfilling the expectations of others, he just does whatever he feels like in any given moment, constantly exploring new terrains.

For example, in the 2009 album Flowers from exile, Reuter explored the theme of the Spanish Civil War. Incorporating the traditional Spanish Flamenco rhythm with voices whispering in Spanish in the background, Reuter set himself a task to enliven the painful experiences of those who perished in the war.

With song titles such as “The secret sons of Europe” or “To die among strangers”, Reuter paid homage to those participants of the war whose names have not appeared in history books, highlighting the futility of the conflict in which the left-leaning Republicans fought against the forces loyal to General Franco.

Jerome Reuter first got the idea of exploring this theme over a dinner with his Spanish uncle, a man who was born in Tunisian exile. His mother was Italian who fled from Mussolini to Tunisia, where she fell madly in love with a Spanish soldier, who in turn, found refuge in Tunisia after being threatened with death penalty in Spain for his anti-fascist activities.

It’s the untold stories of marginalized communities in Europe that seem to always catch Reuter’s attention. This was also the case with Rome’s later album Nos Chants Perdus. Researching about Paris in the fifties and sixties, Reuter stumbled upon libertarian organizations of the French underground that were largely influenced by the Spanish fighters. He was moved by these stories, and he would cling to it until he found a way to vocalize these individual experiences in his own unique way.

With his latest album, Le Ceneri di Heliodoro, Reuter shifted his focus from the past to the present. He didn’t do so because of the lack of historical material to draw inspiration from, but rather because the same forces that once nearly led to a destruction of the old continent, seem to be reemerging in contemporary Europe.

“I believe it’s been established that we live in a time of division,” he said.

With song titles such as “A new unfolding”, “Who only Europe know”, or “The West knows best”, Reuter touches themes ranging from the rising populism and the migration crisis, to Europe’s fraying bond with America.

But Reuter is also careful not to appear like he has answers to all the problems of modern Europe.

“I’m no prophet, not some Cassandra or Nostradamus kind of guy. I have no wisdom to offer whatsoever. I just sing about what I see around me. And the view is pretty bleak at the moment for sure.”

As a constant traveler, Reuter has been moved by the changes in the cities and the major intersections within Europe.

“New world is calling for new unfolding, new man crawling out into light,” Reuter sings in one of his songs. It’s a clear warning to those generations of Europeans who grew up without images of a major conflict in living memory.

“I see it as a threat. In a way it’s a form of revenge on the legacy we’ve refused to inherit,” he said.

In a way, focusing on the current situation in Europe is a logical continuation of Reuter’s previous work.

“I believe mankind is always poised on the brink, and can fall into chaos at any time. This strange omnivore we name democracy has a way of masking its fragility,” Reuter said.

Having drawn enough inspiration from Southern Europe, the constant traveler Jerome Reuter now moved on to Ireland, the other edge of the continent, where he is currently working on a session with local folk musicians. Only one thing is certain regarding Rome’s next album⁠—it’s not going to be anything like the previous one. 

 

 

Jerome war net an engem Dag gebaut

De Jerome Reuter erwächt a kuckt op eng franséisch Antiquitéitsauer déi op sengem Nuetsdësch steet. Et ass 09:30, Zäit an de Studio ze goen. Huerteg drénkt hien eng Taass schwäerze Kaffi an trëppelt dann a Richtung Proufsall, e puer Haiser vu senger Wunneng ewech. Virdru bleift hien nach bei sengem übleche Kiosk stoen a keeft sech déi leschten Ausgab vun DIE ZEIT. Mat engem « Merci beaucoup » bedankt en sech a leet dem Verkeefer d’Mënz an de Grapp.

Am Studio ukomm begréisst de Reuter seng Bandkollegen häerzlechst. Se hunn sech scho säit längerer Zäit net méi gesinn. De lëtzebuergesche Museksprojet Rome, deen sech selwer als neo-Folk bezeechent, huet iwwert déi lescht zéng Joer en zimlech ongewéinleche Wee ageschloen. Déi 2005 gegrënnte Band zeechent sech nämlech duerch eng ganz literaresch Approche u Musek aus, mat engem ganz besonneschem Interessi vir europäesch Kulturen a Sproochen. Eng Virgoensweis déi ganz der Liewensgeschicht vum Jerome Reuter, Sänger a Grënner vun der Band, entspriecht.

De Reuter ass nämlech zu Esch-Uelzecht opgewuess wou hie scho vu klengem un mat deene verschiddensten europäesche Kulturen a Kontakt koum.

“Ech mengen déi kulturell Diversitéit vun Esch huet mech immens gepräägt, virun allem well ech esou no un der Belscher an un der Franséischer Grenz opgewuess sinn,” erkläert hien.

No zéng Joer an Däitschland an enger Zäit an der Belsch ewéi och zu Manchester, huet sech de Jerome Reuter elo nees zu Lëtzebuerg néiergelooss. Ofgesi vum Lëtzebuergesche schwätzt hien och fléissend Däitsch, Franséisch an Englesch.

Deemno gesäit sech de Sänger virun allem als Europäer. Sou bemierkt hien: “Ech ville mech ganz staark mat der dätscher a mat der italienescher Kultur verbonnen mee gläichzäiteg hunn ech och en zolitten Drot zu Irland a Schweden wou meng Frënn liewen.”

Obwuel déi offiziell Sproch vun der Band Englesch ass, zeckt de Jerome Reuter net, och aner europäesch Sproochen ewéi Däitsch, Franséisch, Spuenesch oder Italienesch an seng Texter afléissen ze loossen.

Mat Nimm ewéi Confessions d’un Voleur d’Ames, Die Æsthetik der Herrschaftsfreiheit, Passage to Rhodesia oder Le Ceneri di Heliodoro, zeien d’Lidder vu Rome vum Reuter senger grenzloser Approche u Musek.

Op hirer Internetsäit beschreift d’Band hier Musek als en Zesummekomme vun traditionellem Songwriting, ongewinnten Arrangementer a subtiller Poesie. Dorausser entstéing eng Mëschung vu Chanson, dark, ambient, apokalypteschem Folk, Pop, akusteschem Rock, martial industrial a Cold Wave.

Fest steet, datt sech de Jerome Reuter net esou einfach a spezifesch Musekskategorien araume léisst. Dofir ass him seng kënschtleresch Fräiheet ze wichteg. Statt Erwaardunge vun aneren ze erfëllen, geet hie léiwer senger perséinlecher Loscht no an erfuerscht dobäi ëmmer nees nei Weeër.

Am Album Flowers from Exile, deen 2009 erauskoum, huet sech Rome zum Beispill mam Spuenesche Biergerkrich ausenaner gesat. Duerch d’Zesummesetze vun traditionelle Flamencorhythmen a spueneschem Gepëspers, wollt de Reuter d’Erfarungan vun deenejéinegen déi am Krich gefall sinn erëmginn.

Mat de Lidder ‘The secret sons of Europe’ oder ‘To die among strangers,’ wollt hien d’Krichsaffer wierdegen deenen hier Nimm net an d’Geschichtsbicher agaange sinn a gläichzäiteg d’absurd Brutalitéit vum spuenesche Konflikt tëschent de Republikaner an dem Frankisten ënnersträichen.

D’Inspiratioun dofir krut den Jerome Reuter bei engem Iessen mat sengem spuenesche Monni deen zu Tunis am Exil gebuer ass. D’Mam vun deem Monni war eng Italienerin déi vum Mussolini geflücht ass, an sech zu Tunis an en spueneschen Zaldot verléift huet deen sech och do exiléiert hat well en a Spuenien wéinst anti-faschisteschen Aktivitéiten zum Doud veruerteelt gouf.

Et schéngt also datt virun allem d’Geschichte vun europäesche marginaliséierte Communautéiten dem Reuter als Stoff vir seng Lidder dengen. Dat war jiddefalls och nees beim spéideren Album ‘Nos Chants Perdus’ de Fall. No laange Recherchen iwwer Paräis an de fofzeger a siechzeger Joren, ass de Sänger op d’Geschicht vu franséische Fräiheetsbeweegungen – déi sech ganz staark vun de spuenesche Fräiheetskämpfer inspiréiert hunn – gestouss. Dës Geschichten hunn hien zu déifst getraff net méi lass gelooss bis hien e Wee fonnt huet se musikalesch auszedrécken.

A sengem lëschten Album, « Le Ceneri di Heliodoro », huet sech de Jerome Reuter awer dës Kéier mat zäitgenëssesch Problematiken auserneegesat. Dës Entscheedung koum net aus Mangel un Geschichte mee gouf duerch d’Feststellung erbäigefouert, datt sech d’Handlungen déi Europa fréier mol Zerstéiert hunn, hautzedaags widderhuelen.

« Ech mengen et ass net ze leegnen datt mir an enger kritescher Zäit vun Oneenegkeete liewen » stellt de Kënschtler fest.

Mat Lidder ewéi « A new Unfolding », « Who only Europe know », oder « The West knows best », erfuerscht de Reuter Themen ewéi d’Opkomme vum Populismus, d’Migratiounskris oder déi schlecht Bezéiung tëschent Europa an den USA.

Dobäi ass et dem Sänger wichteg sech net dohin ze stellen ewéi wann hien d’Léisungen op dës Problemer hätt.

« Ech si kee Prophet, kee Cassandra a keen Nostradamus. Ech sinn net hei vir Wäisheeten ze verdeele mee ech erzielen dat wat ech ronderëm mir gesinn an datt ass leider net grad erfreelech. » erkläert en.

Als een deen heefeg reest, villt sech de Jerome Reuter ganz perséinlech vun de Virkommessen an den europäesche Stied a Géigende betraff.

« Eng néi Welt rifft no neien Entfaltungsméiglechkeeten, a bréngt en neie Mënsch erbäi. » sengt de Reuter an engem vu sengen neie Lidder a well domadder eng europäesch Generatioun warnen, déi bis elo nach keng gréisser Konflikter materlieft huet.

« De Problem ass datt mir eis geweigert hunn eis historesch Ierfschaft ze veraarbechten, an dat stellt hautzedaags ëmmer méi eng Dreeung a Konfliktpotential duer » erkläert de Museker.

Dëse Fokus op modern Thematiken stellt also eng logesch Suite am Reuter sengem Gesamtwierk duer.

« D’Mënschheet fënnt ëmmer nees e Wee d’Fragilitéit vun der Demokratie ze verheemlechen a gesäit net datt mir eis stänneg un der Grenz vum Chaos befannen » mengt de Jerome Reuter.

Nodeems sech Rome lang mat der Geschicht vu Süd-Europa ausenaner gesat huet, huet sech de Jerome Reuter elo an Irland néiergelooss wou hie momentan mat lokale Folkmuseker zesummeschafft. Sécher ass, datt den nächsten Album vu Rome, ewéi och all déi virdrunn, sech nees ganz staark vu senge Virgänger ënnerscheede wäert.