Since the release of his first (shared) single Oscar Automobile in 1979 Roland has been spinning his tales against a backdrop of gothic rock, psychedelic pop, folk and, occasionally, baroque strings. His character creations include a Regency magistrate, various 19th Century murderers, a retired executioner, an opium addict, and an entire court of medieval grotesques.
“Paul Roland has remained a cherished figure on the gothic rock and psychedelic pop periphery for 30 years…a treasury of detail and eloquence…Roland's impeccable narratives (and) formal, baroque instrumentation…creates the antiquated yet timeless ambience his songs deserve" (Marco Rossi, Record Collector, May 2010).
Joshua Pfeiffer (of Vernian Process) is quoted as saying "As for Paul Roland, if anyone deserves credit for spearheading steampunk music, it is him. 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…."
“Paul Roland writes nice melodies and has a very particular personality but he is too intellectual for me!" (Frank Zappa, 1988).
Background and personal life
Paul Roland was born in England in 1959. Roland's father was a writer of short stories and TV comedy scripts and his mother an actress.
In 2006 Roland left England to live in Germany. He returned to the UK in 2010 and now lives in Cambridgeshire with his wife and two sons.
Roland's first album The Werewolf of London (1980), with historical and supernatural themes was picked up by Armageddon Records in the UK. It was there that Roland met Robyn Hitchcock who later appeared on tracks for Roland's second album. After an abortive flirtation with the music business, when he was managed by David Enthoven (manager of Roxy Music) and June Bolan (widow of Marc Bolan), Roland returned to Armageddon Records for the mini-album Burnt Orchids. Its title track was the first to feature Roland backed by a small string and woodwind ensemble, a trademark of many of his albums of the 80s and 90s.
The success of the album led to Roland's first tours in Europe, label deals in France (New Rose Records), Germany (Pastell), Greece (DiDi Music), Italy (Diva Records), the USA (Revolver) and Japan (Century Records) and offers to work with film composer Michael Nyman and members of the Velvet Underground. Other cult figures such as Robyn Hitchcock, Nick Saloman (a.k.a. The Bevis Frond), Nick Nicely, and Andy Ellison (of John's Children) made guest appearances on Roland's subsequent albums, several of which are now listed as highly collectable including the psychedelic classic Danse Macabre, the acoustic based mini-albums A Cabinet of Curiosities and Happy Families with stories of eccentric characters, the rockier Duel with its medieval-tinged three-song suite The King Must Die and the folk rock outing Masque, Roaring Boys, a mini-album of cover versions entitled Strychnine, Sarabande and Gargoyles which completed the first chapter of the Roland discography in 1997.
Roland took a seven-year break from music in 1997 to raise his two young sons, and write a series of books on mysticism and true crime.
Return to music
In 2002 Roland returned with an appearance at the Herbstnächte-Festival in Berlin in September of that year. After that a series of re-issues appeared, beginning with Duel which was released by Haunted Forest Records in Greece (2002).
In 2004 Roland returned with his first new album in seven years, the largely acoustic Pavane, which was released on Roland's own (revamped) label Gaslight Records. The album provided a further glimpse into his mind including a brief baroque instrumental piece that he had discussed recording with film composer Michael Nyman many years earlier. This album was re-issued by Black Widow Records in Italy in 2006.
In 2007 Roland released Re-Animator, his first rock album for many years. It featured musicians who have recorded with Caravan, Jimi Hendrix, Steve Hillage and many great musicians of the 1960s Canterbury music scene. This album was released by Black Widow Records in Italy and re-issued as an expanded edition by Syborgmusic in Germany.
In 2008 Roland’s album Nevermore was released on Syborgmusic in Germany. This album has a selection of songs in a variety of styles from seafaring folk to psychedelic pop and more whimsical fantasy this time inspired by Poe and Jules Verne. The album contained the three song cinematic soundtrack suite "The Last Voyage of the Nautilus".
The album Grimm (2011) is a true solo album. Roland played every instrument on the album and engineered the recording in his own studio. All of the songs are based on the dark fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm, so there is a touch of the macabre and the doomed romantic about the lyrics although the musical setting is baroque acoustic psychedelic pop.
In 2015 the album Bitter and Twisted was released by the independent record label Sireena Records in Germany.
In February 2016 Cherry Red Records in the UK released a compilation album (as a double CD) called In The Opium Den - The Early Recordings 1980-87. Compiled and curated by the artist, In The Opium Den is a comprehensive anthology of Roland’s early works, including his first three albums plus A and B sides, EP tracks and unreleased tracks from the period, spanning his output up until 1987.
In September 2016 Roland's new album White Zombie will be released by the Italian label Dark Companion.
Discography (a selection)
The complete Paul Roland discography (1979–2015) is extensive and comprises 106 releases and appearances on 52 Various Artists compilations.
- Oscar Automobile (shared double A-side 7" single – 1979)
- The Werewolf of London (as Midnight Rags LP – 1980)
- Blades of Battenburg (12" – 1983)
- Burnt Orchids (LP – 1985)
- Death or Glory (12" – 1986)
- House of Dark Shadows (compilation LP – 1986)
- Gabrielle (12" – 1987)
- Danse Macabre (CD/LP – 1987)
- A Cabinet of Curiosities (CD/LP – 1987)
- Alice's House (12" – 1987)
- Confessions of an Opium Eater ('Best Of' LP – 1987)
- Happy Families (CD/LP – 1988)
- Duel (CD/LP – 1989)
- Acoustic Radio Sessions 1986–88 (LP – 1989)
- Live in Italy (CD/LP – 1990)
- Masque (CD/LP – 1990)
- Roaring Boys (CD/LP – 1991)
- Strychnine (CD – 1992)
- Sarabande (CD – 1994)
- Live in Germany (CD – 1995)
- Waxworks ('Best Of' 2CD – 1995)
- Gargoyles (CD – 1997)
- Duel (reissued CD – 2002)
- Gaslight Tales (Best of CD – 2003)
- Pavane (CD/LP – 2004)
- Strychnine…And Other Potent Poisons (reissue CD/LP – 2005)
- Re-Animator (CD/LP – 2007)
- Danse Macabre & Burnt Orchids (reissue CD – 2008)
- Nevermore (CD – 2008)
- A Cabinet of Curiosities & Happy Families (reissue CD – 2009)
- Demos (CD – 2009)
- Duel – 20th Anniversary Reissue (CD – 2010)
- In Memorium 1980–2010 (2CD released to mark Roland's 30-year recording career – 2010)
- Grimm (CD – 2011)
- Masque (reissue CD – 2011)
- Roaring Boys & Sarabande (reissue CD – 2012)
- Bates Motel (CD – 2013)
- The Werewolf of London (reissue CD – 2013)
- Hexen (CD – 2013 / LP – 2014)
- Professor Moriarty's Jukebox (CD – 2014)
- Bitter and Twisted (CD – 2015)
- House Of Dark Shadows (reissue CD – 2016)
- In The Opium Den - The Early Recordings 1980-87 (compilation 2CD - 2016)
- White Zombie (new album - to be released in Sept. 2016)
Roland is the author of more than 40 books on the subject of mysticism, crime and the occult. His books, which have been translated into more than 15 languages including Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Greek and Hebrew, cover spiritual and occult traditions, which culminated in his creation of The Kabbalah Cards (AGMuller/Urania) in collaboration with artist Sylvia Gainsford. The cards are a radical reinterpretation of the Jewish mystical teachings with a serious psychological orientation which distinguished them from the Kabbalah themed tarot packs which preceded them.
Several of Roland's books include forewords by authorities and experts in their respective fields including Colin Wilson, Warren Kenton, Senior FBI profiler Roy Hazelwood and Professor Nickolas Goodrick-Clarke
- The Curious Case of Richard Fielding and Other Short Stories (1987)
- Revelations: The Wisdom of the Ages (1995)
- Prophecies and Predictions (1996)
- Complete Guide to Dreams (1997)
- Angels – A Piaktus Guide (1999)
- Kabbalah – A Piaktus Guide (1999)
- Teach Yourself... Rock & Pop (1999)
- Jazz Singers (1999)
- New Age Living (2000)
- Investigating the Unexplained (2000)
- How to Meditate (2000)
- Chrysalis CD Guide to Rock & Pop (2001)
- Meditation (2002)
- Meditation Solutions (2002)
- How Psychic Are You? (2002)
- Kabbalah Cards (2003)
- Explore Your Past Lives (2004)
- Contact Your Guardian Angel (2005)
- The Complete Kabbalah Course (2005)
- Crime Scenes – Revealing the Science behind the Evidence (2006)
- I Remember Dying – Remarkable True Stories of People Who Return from Heaven (2006)
- The Crimes of Jack the Ripper (2007)
- The Complete Book of Ghosts (2007)
- Guitar Chords – All the Chords You’ll Need… And More (2007)
- The Nazis and the Occult (2007)
- The Complete Book of Ghosts (2007)
- In the Minds of Murderers (2007)
- Reincarnation – Remarkable Stories of People Who Recall Past Lives (2008)
- Hauntings: True Stories of Unquiet Spirits (2008)
- Illustrated History of the Nazis – The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (2009)
- The Magician of Grimm (2009)
- The Nuremberg Trials (2010)
- Dark History of the Occult (2011)
- Cosmic Dancer - The Life and Music of Marc Bolan (biography 2012)
- The Nazi Files (2014)
- Nazi Women (2014)
- Ghosts and the Spirit World (2014)
- Steampunk - Back to the Future with the New Victorians (2014)
- The Curious Case of H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
- Joshua Pfeiffer (of Vernian Process) on the Steampunk Bible website Steampunk Bible
- Paul Roland. "autobiography on Paul Roland Homepage".
- "Interview with the online magazine" (in German). nonpop.de.
- See interview with Nico Steckelberg on Der Hörspiegel from Autumn 2002.
- Wolfgang Koch. "Syborgmusic".