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Paul Roland

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Paul Roland
Roland in 1995
Roland in 1995
Background information
Born (1959-09-06) 6 September 1959 (age 64)
Kent, England
GenresPsychedelic pop, gothic rock
Occupation(s)Singer-songwriter, author, music journalist
Instrument(s)Vocals, guitar, keyboards
Years active1979–present

Paul Roland (born 6 September 1959) is an English singer-songwriter, author and music journalist. Roland typically writes his songs in the form of stories, often addressing historical figures, characters from literature and film, or his own creations. He has explored genres including gothic rock, psychedelic pop, folk and baroque.

Described by Music Week as a "psychedelic cult celebrity", Roland has enjoyed an underground career as opposed to mainstream success, gathering a stronger fanbase in mainland Europe than in his native UK. He has been credited with spearheading steampunk music.

Aside from his recording career, Roland has written for various music magazines, and has authored numerous books on subjects including popular music, crime, World War II, and the supernatural.

Early life


Roland was born on 6 September 1959 in Kent, England.[1][2] He is an only child. His father was a writer of short stories and TV comedy scripts and his mother an actress.[3] Roland's earliest influences include the authors H. G. Wells, Edgar Allan Poe, H. P. Lovecraft and M. R. James. He also developed a love of classic horror films.[4] Roland was "pretty much fixated" with rock musician Marc Bolan from the age of 14, and later became an adherent of composer Michael Nyman, whose work introduced him to classical musicians such as Henry Purcell and George Frideric Handel.[5]

Music career


Roland's work is generally rooted in psychedelic pop and gothic rock, with influences from folk, jazz, blues, baroque, and 1950s rock and roll.[2][6] His style has been described as "idiosyncratic".[2] Roland's songs typically present as stories, addressing historical figures, and characters from film and literature. He has also written about non-specific characters including supernatural visitors, pirates, and villainous judges.[2][4][7][8] As well as being a singer, Roland plays guitar and keyboards.[5][9]

Roland issued his first single, "Oscar Automobile", in 1979.[10] In 1980 he released his debut album, The Werewolf of London (originally credited to the Midnight Rags), inspired by horror stories and Edwardian era concerns.[4][7] Ian Canty of Louder Than War observed "a nice Garage Psych sound", adding that "at times this album could almost be superior New Wave pop like XTC or Magazine but it's always pulling in weirder directions".[7] Roland was managed by David Enthoven (manager of Roxy Music) and June Bolan (widow of Marc Bolan) during the early 1980s, but was unable to secure a satisfactory record contract. In 1982 he took a hiatus from recording and focused on music journalism.[5][11]

1985's Burnt Orchids was characterised by Music Week as a "pleasing early [Pink] Floydish collection";[12] Roland considers it his first "authentic" or "real" album.[5] The record has been noted as a "blueprint" for 1987's Danse Macabre,[7] an album that has garnered critical acclaim.[13] Appraising Danse Macabre, Prog's Kris Needs referred to "horror-psych masterworks" including "Witchfinder General", "Requiem", "Twilight of the Gods" and the "hallucinogenic waft" of the title track, as well as an "uncanny" cover version of Pink Floyd's "Matilda Mother".[4] "The Great Edwardian Air Raid" has been identified as the song that connected Roland to steampunk.[7] A Cabinet of Curiosities (1987) and Happy Families (1988), influenced by EC Comics and H. G. Wells's writings on the Edwardian era, were more sparse, stripped-down baroque albums. The former includes a cover of The Adverts' "Gary Gilmore's Eyes".[14]

Music & Media observed Victorian era themes throughout the "fascinating" Masque (1990),[15] and suggested that "pop music in the Middle Ages" would have resembled 1991's Roaring Boys.[16] Roland continued to write and record until 1997, when he halted his music career for seven years. This was due to the collapse of several record labels to which he was signed. During this hiatus he concentrated on his writing career and raising his children.[2][11] Roland said of this period, "I didn't play the guitar at all and I didn't listen to my own music. I had to pretend it had never happened and that that part of me was dead. It is possible to pretend that you are someone else – I was 'dad' to my two little boys and I wrote nearly 20 books... but it was not 'me'. I was denying a part of myself and that isn't healthy."[5]

He returned to music with 2004's Pavane.[11] Nevermore (2008) saw Roland recount the case of Jack the Ripper, revive stories by Edgar Allan Poe, and address characters such as Leatherface (from the 1974 film The Texas Chain Saw Massacre) and Captain Nemo (from the novels of Jules Verne); it was positively received by Metal.de.[2] A 2010 remastered version of 1989's Duel – a record that Roland had originally "hated"[5] – garnered favourable reviews from Marco Rossi of Record Collector,[6] and Ox-Fanzine's Joachim Hiller, who recalled the album as a "masterpiece".[17] Grimm (2011), based on tales by the Brothers Grimm, saw Roland play all the instruments by himself; it was described by Andrew Young of Ptolemaic Terrascope as "one of the strongest albums in Paul Roland's quite extensive catalogue".[8]

In December 2016, Roland released White Zombie. Initially intended as an unofficial soundtrack to the 1932 film starring Bela Lugosi, it turned into a collection of songs with incidental music.[18] Recorded mainly in Italy, the album was well-received by Italian magazine Blow Up, who named it "record of the month".[19] It was produced by Max Marchini (who also played bass), and includes guest appearances by several Italian artists. "Mambo Jo" also featured as the title track of a simultaneously released EP.[18][19] In 2017, Roland's 30-minute Grimm Fantasy suite was arranged for orchestral performance by composer David Roche.[9]

Roland has amassed an extremely large discography.[20] Kris Needs referred to a "vast catalogue" representing a "creative maze which continues to expand".[4] Roland often signed to labels that soon went out of business, rendering his musical output only partially available; several of his works have been revised and republished during the 21st century.[21] Cherry Red Records assumed responsibility for his catalogue in the mid 2010s.[22]

Reception and legacy


Roland is recognised as an "underground" artist within the psychedelic sphere;[23][24] Music Week dubbed him a "psychedelic cult celebrity".[25] In 2010, Marco Rossi of Record Collector described Roland as "a cherished figure on the gothic rock and psychpop periphery for 30 years", while praising his "impeccable narratives".[6] Rossi's colleague Ian Abrahams proclaimed Roland a "psych-pop genius", his work "full of gruesome atmosphere" and featuring a "mastery of character".[14] Roland has gathered a stronger fanbase in mainland Europe than in his native UK,[20][22] which Abrahams called "a peculiar situation when you hear his quintessentially eccentric Englishness".[22] Louder Than War's Ian Canty hailed him as a "master story-teller" with a "unique gift for songwriting", asserting that "Roland belongs alongside great British musical eccentrics like Ivor Cutler, Robyn Hitchcock, Momus and Billy Childish". Canty compared his singing voice to that of the Only Ones' Peter Perrett.[7]

Roland was described by Hitchcock as "the male Kate Bush",[4] while musician Frank Zappa said, "[Roland] write[s] nice melodies and has a very particular personality, but is far too intellectual for me!"[8] He has been labelled in the media as "the Lord Byron of rock"[4] and "the Edgar Allan Poe of psych".[26] Roland has been credited with inventing steampunk music;[7] Cory Gross of SteamPunk Magazine wrote that bands like Abney Park and Vernian Process manifested the genre while "following in the footsteps" of Roland and others.[27] Vernian Process founder Joshua Pfeiffer asserted, "If anyone deserves credit for spearheading steampunk music, it is [Roland]. He was one of the inspirations I had in starting my project. He was writing songs about the first attempt at manned flight, and an Edwardian airship raid in the mid-80s long before almost anyone else."[28] Roland was also influential on rock band Temples.[29]

Roland's work has been generally well-received by critics throughout his career.[2] Jim DeRogatis credited Roland for "masterful Syd Barrett-style pop tunes orchestrated in the manner of S.F. Sorrow by the Pretty Things", and placed Danse Macabre (1987) at number two in his "Two Dozen Great Psychedelic Rock Records from the First Revival".[23] Ian Canty wrote that the album is "perhaps [Roland's] masterpiece – eleven sepia-tinted excellently constructed novellas wrapped in pristine Psych Pop, totally out of step with the modern world of music at the time and benefiting hugely from the fact".[7] Ox-Fanzine's Joachim Hiller also had praise for Danse Macabre, hailing it as a "classic album" that "delighted quite a few people at the time".[20] Several of Roland's works have been listed as collectibles.[30]

Writing career


Roland has worked as a music journalist,[2][21] writing for publications including Sounds,[7] Kerrang![31] and Hi-Fi News & Record Review.[32] He has authored five books on musician Marc Bolan, and was a key contributor to the BBC documentary film Marc Bolan: The Final Word (2007).[33] Aside from popular music, Roland's many books cover subjects including crime, World War II, and the supernatural.[34]

Personal life


Roland lived in Margate, Kent during the 1980s and 1990s.[35] In 2006, he left England to live in Germany.[36] He later returned to the UK and lives in Cambridgeshire with his wife and two sons.[37]

Roland is a rugby fan.[5]

Selected discography


The following is a sampling of Roland's extensive discography:[19][38]


  • The Werewolf of London (1980, as Midnight Rags)
  • Burnt Orchids (1985)
  • Danse Macabre (1987)
  • A Cabinet of Curiosities (1987)
  • Happy Families (1988)
  • Duel (1989)
  • Masque (1990)
  • Roaring Boys (1991)
  • Strychnine (1992)
  • Sarabande (1994)
  • Gargoyles (1997)
  • Pavane (2004)
  • Re-Animator (2007)
  • Nevermore (2008)
  • Grimm (2011)
  • Bates Motel (2013)
  • White Zombie (2016)
  • Grimmer Than Grimm (2018)
  • 1313 Mocking Bird Lane (2019)
  • Lair Of The White Worm (2020)
  • Weird Tales Of An Antiquary (2023)


  • House of Dark Shadows (1986)
  • Confessions of an Opium Eater (1987)
  • Waxworks (1995)
  • Gaslight Tales (2003)
  • Demos (2009)
  • In Memorium 1980–2010 (2010)
  • In The Opium Den - The Early Recordings 1980-87 (2016)


  1. ^ Births, Marriages & Deaths Index of England & Wales, 1916–2005.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Paul Roland - Nevermore Review". Metal.de (in German). 31 October 2008. Retrieved 10 September 2022.
  3. ^ "Biography". PaulRoland.de. Archived from the original on 1 June 2014. Retrieved 11 September 2022.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Needs, Kris (26 February 2016). "Paul Roland: In the Opium Den (The Early Recordings 1980–1987)". Prog. Retrieved 10 September 2022.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "Interview: Paul Roland". Nobody's Land. Archived from the original on 13 March 2016. Retrieved 11 September 2022.
  6. ^ a b c Rossi, Marco (11 April 2010). "Duel – Paul Roland". Record Collector. Retrieved 13 September 2022.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i Canty, Ian (7 February 2016). "Paul Roland: In the Opium Den (The Early Recordings 1980–1987)". Louder Than War. Retrieved 10 September 2022.
  8. ^ a b c Young, Andrew (January 2019). "Paul Roland with Mick Crossley – Grimmer than Grimm". Ptolemaic Terrascope. Retrieved 10 September 2022.
  9. ^ a b Roche, David (27 November 2017). "David Roche and Paul Roland". Wales Arts Review. Retrieved 10 September 2022.
  10. ^ Evdokimov, Aleksey (2 November 2019). "Paul Roland interview". It's Psychedelic Baby! Magazine. Retrieved 13 September 2022.
  11. ^ a b c Malkin, Grey (February 2019). "The Return of the King". Shindig!. No. 88. pp. 50–55.
  12. ^ "LP Reviews (Paul Roland: Burnt Orchids)". Music Week. 28 September 1985. p. 19.
  13. ^ See reception and legacy.
  14. ^ a b Abrahams, Ian (21 August 2009). "A Cabinet of Curiosities/Happy Families – Paul Roland". Record Collector. Retrieved 13 September 2022.
  15. ^ "New Releases (Paul Roland: Masque)". Music & Media. 16 February 1991. p. 11.
  16. ^ "New Releases (Paul Roland: Roaring Boys)". Music & Media. 1 February 1992. p. 12.
  17. ^ Hiller, Joachim (February–March 2010). "Paul Roland: Duel". Ox-Fanzine. No. 88.
  18. ^ a b Baroni, Andrea. "Paul Roland: White Zombie". Storia Della Musica (in Italian). Retrieved 15 July 2020.
  19. ^ a b c Curti, Roberto (December 2016). "Il disco del mese" (PDF). Blow Up (in Italian). p. 91.
  20. ^ a b c Hiller, Joachim (December 2008 – January 2009). "Paul Roland: Nevermore". Ox-Fanzine. No. 81. p. 87.
  21. ^ a b Hiller, Joachim (August–September 2012). "Paul Roland: Roaring Boys/Sarabande". Ox-Fanzine. No. 103. p. 94.
  22. ^ a b c Abrahams, Ian (20 April 2016). "In the Opium Den (The Early Recordings 1980–1987) – Paul Roland". Record Collector. Retrieved 13 September 2022.
  23. ^ a b DeRogatis, Jim (2003). Turn On Your Mind: Four Decades of Great Psychedelic Rock. Hal Leonard. pp. 351, 355. ISBN 978-0634055485.
  24. ^ Thompson, Dave (2018). The Incomplete Angler - Ten Years of Fruits de Mer. Lulu. p. 100. ISBN 978-1387537549.
  25. ^ "Tracking...". Music Week. 10 August 1985. p. 12.
  26. ^ Barton, Mark (19 September 2012). "Tales from the Attic V - 'Revolutions of a 45 Kind'..." God Is in the TV. Retrieved 15 December 2022.
  27. ^ Gross, Cory (2007). "A History of Misapplied Technology". SteamPunk Magazine. No. 2. pp. 55–61.
  28. ^ Underwood, Mecha (12 April 2012). "In Memoriam: Joshua Pfeiffer interviews Paul Roland, Part I". Steampunk Bible. Archived from the original on 6 June 2012. Retrieved 11 September 2022.
  29. ^ Lester, Paul (23 May 2017). "The Outer Limits: How prog are Temples?". Prog. Retrieved 14 September 2022.
  30. ^ Shirley, Ian (2012). Record Collector: Rare Record Price Guide (2014). Diamond Publishing. p. 1046. ISBN 978-0956063946.
  31. ^ "Kerrang!: Contributors". Kerrang!. No. 84. 27 December 1983 – 9 January 1984. p. 47.
  32. ^ Roland, Paul (March 1992). "Back Door". Hi-Fi News & Record Review. p. 114.
  33. ^ Sexton, Paul (30 June 2017). "'Metal Guru' Biography Reassesses Life & Work of Marc Bolan". uDiscover Music. Retrieved 10 September 2022.
  34. ^ "Books by Paul Roland". Goodreads. Retrieved 10 September 2022.
  35. ^ Frame, Pete (1999). Rockin' Around Britain: Rock'n'roll Landmarks of the UK and Ireland. Omnibus Press. pp. 61, 63. ISBN 978-0711969735.
  36. ^ "Paul Roland im Interview". Nonpop (in German). 31 January 2008. Retrieved 11 September 2022.
  37. ^ Serdons, Marino. "Interview with Paul Roland". Keys and Chords. Retrieved 10 September 2022.
  38. ^ "Discography". Paul Roland. 10 September 2012. Retrieved 12 September 2022.