"I miss the lack of attention to the craft of song writing and composition in the music scene. I see this in so many different styles – often exceptional virtuosic musicians with nothing to say in their compositions. In the past their seemed to be a need to be individual, to have an identifiable personal sound."
Richard Rozze: The Lion Has A Message
British born Richard Rozze is an electric and acoustic guitarist, vocalist, composer and arranger. His musical influences are classic British rock, blues, jazz, Celtic and bluegrass music. He cites his first guitar teacher, Jeff Alexander, who he met at eleven years old, as his major influence. Jeff encouraged him to explore guitarists such as Gary Moore, Paul Kossoff, Eric Johnson, Peter Green, Pierre Bensusan. Later at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, Richard studied a Masters in Jazz. Musicians such as Miles Davis, Pat Metheny, John Abercrombie, Wes Montgomery and Jim Hall lead him to a deeper passion for improvisation. Since then, Richard has explored bluegrass and Celtic styles with the acoustic group ‘Open Water’. In this group, Richard also showcases his song writing skills, takes lead and harmony vocal duties, plays the Dobro, tenor banjo and mandolin. (Richard Rozze / Photo by Peter Cook)
Richard’s debut album ‘Learning to Fly’ was released in 2014 and showcases jazz inspired compositions. His arrangement of Jimmy Webb’s Wichita Lineman was featured on BBC Radio 3’s Jazz Line – Up Show. With Rozze’s new album “Lion” (2023) he works with elite musicians to present his blues and rock side. His trio includes bassist Jonathan Noyce, who was Jethro Tull’s bassist for 12 years and a frequent collaborater with Blues Rock legend Gary Moore, and drummer Simon Lea, whose lengthy resume includes Dionne Warwick, Ronnie Wood and Boy George. ‘’With this trio, I feel I have found my voice as a composer and electric guitarist. It is the result of all my influences, and I hope it brings a fresh approach to the guitar trio format.’’
How has the music influenced your views of the world? What characterize your music philosophy?
My musical journey, up to now, has taken me through different genres and musical situations. Many musicians battle with being an artist versus playing music to earn a living. I have never felt comfortable in the latter situation, and find myself needing to create situations where I can play music that resonates, firstly, with me…this may be my own compositions, or music that allows personal expression such as blues and jazz. It is my hope that these musical situations will resonate with others too.
With the album ‘Lion’ it became clear that I was writing music that had a message and it was helping me understand the human condition. I hope the album has a message that resonates with humanity in its entirety. My views of the world have actually influenced my music. I believe we are all here on this earth plane to evolve beyond the trappings of ‘everyday life’ – some people call this the ‘Matrix.’ This is the message of the album ’Lion’ - too few human beings are recognizing that they have a true potential. We are being trapped in a world which stops us from finding this true potential. These trappings (devices) include the worries of paying bills, unsatisfying jobs, wars, mainstream doom and gloom media and by figure - heads that are promoting a trans – human agenda through technology.
The album has a message that we can rise beyond this – I did not have any preconceived idea of what ‘Lion’ would be about when I started writing, but the music came out uplifting and hopeful, the lyrics direct and powerful enough to resonate with all. The music was conceived in 2020.
"You can teach technique, you can master the instrument but you cannot teach soul or feel. Musicians need to reach a high enough level in their technique where they can execute the ideas that they can hear and strive to play." (Photo: Richard Rozze)
Why do you think that UK music scene continues to generate such a devoted following, since 1960s?
I have become to question the purpose of music – I feel the best music has the ability to keep us present; for example, we do not listen to music purely for the ending of the piece but we listen to music as a journey – the audience is therefore not separate from the performer/creator/performance. Music therefore reflects life. I feel this is why many people enjoy attending concerts. The 1960s was a great period for live music – there seemed to be creative music happening everywhere! Those that would have experienced that scene are still (thankfully) coming to concerts and are discerning, so we see that generation still supporting of music venues.
What moment changed your music life the most? What´s been the highlights in your life and career so far?
My life was changed when I was about 9 years old. My headmistress of my Primary School went out of her way to find me and suggest I learned the guitar – she thought I would be good at it. This had to me the moment that changed my life. It is only now that I realise that this was not just a lucky guess on her part but something that ‘had to be done.’ You could use the word fate perhaps, I prefer to see it as a path. Meeting my first guitar teacher, Jeff Alexander at eleven years old was a turning point. Jeff encouraged me to explore a vast array of styles – and championed guitarists such as Gary Moore, Paul Kossoff, Eric Johnson, Peter Green, Pierre Bensusan, Julian Bream.
Later I was accepted to the prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, where I studied a Masters in Jazz. I was influenced by many amazing tutors - notably guitarist John Parricelli and drummer Trevor Tomkins. I really got into musicians such as Miles Davis, John Abercrombie, Wes Montgomery and Jim Hall which lead me to a deeper passion for improvisation.
Being a father obviously changed my life and it helped me to become a more focused musician. Having less time to waste, I quickly realised what I wanted from this musical journey – to be an artist rather than trying to play anything and everything! Since the birth of my son, who is now 8, I am proud to have recorded 3 original albums – two with an acoustic group ‘Open Water’ (of which I am a founder member) and my current album ‘Lion.’
What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?
There are so many external pressures on us today…children in particular are getting bombarded with it. I hope that if enough honest, quality music cuts through the noise music will remind people that we are all capable of creating… be it music, art, cooking, furnishing a room… We are all here to create.
"When embarking on the music journey patience is key. I believe that the art that we make will resonate when the time is ready - don’t try and force it. I have spent countless hours hustling for gigs with music that wasn’t focused. In my mind I wasn’t clear what I wanted to do as a performer - so how was the audience supposed to ‘get it!’" (Photo: Richard Rozze)
What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?
I miss the lack of attention to the craft of song writing and composition in the music scene. I see this in so many different styles – often exceptional virtuosic musicians with nothing to say in their compositions. In the past their seemed to be a need to be individual, to have an identifiable personal sound. In the rock scene The Kinks, Zeppelin, Free, Hendrix, Yes, Steve Hillage, Peter Green, Beatles… they were all completely unique. I feel these bands were championed for each being different and having something unique to offer. It doesn’t feel that way to me anymore. We have been saturated with mediocre and those bands that are striving for excellence are often not given a voice.
There is no easy circuit for upcoming bands like there once was - for example the university circuit has gone. Grass roots ‘pub’ venues are not suitable for original music. Home - grown clubs exist but often want you to guarantee that you will bring a crowd, theatres are (still) only really interested in tribute acts. The bigger venues are there for established artists, but the circuit to build a fan base is a sparse one and unless people purchase CDs at concerts it is difficult for artists make any money. I suppose the nail in the coffin here is the online streaming platforms where artists no longer make any money from album sales -it has merely become a calling card for most. Talking to people who were in their youth during the 1960s and 1970’s, there was a circuit for emerging groups…pubs did not have live music but there were many more music venues around which were attended by the younger generation. For many youngsters, it was almost a way of life. This was years before the trappings of the TV and now social media!
I hope one day artists, venues and festivals are better supported by Arts council’s and other such services. I feel strongly that arts funding organisations have not yet grasped how significantly the scene has changed – artists aren’t selling albums, so are having to charge large amounts to perform. One well established prog rock festival here in Kent looks like it will not be able to continue as it is becoming too expensive to pay bands’ fees. Non -established artists now are having to do it all, create the art, perform the art, record the art whilst becoming business people. Artists have to become tech savvy… negotiating the turbulent waters of the internet, self - promoting to extremes, booking concerts, filling in page after page of forms for arts funding. Most artists just aren’t geared for the business side of music and my fear is that real honest talent will be lost.
I miss the excitement and suspense of having to wait to buy an album to actually own the music. It is too easy now to go online and instantly hear anything!
"There are so many external pressures on us today… children in particular are getting bombarded with it. I hope that if enough honest, quality music cuts through the noise music will remind people that we are all capable of creating… be it music, art, cooking, furnishing a room… We are all here to create." (Photo: Richard Rozze is an electric and acoustic guitarist, vocalist, composer and arranger)
Are there any memories from gigs, jams, tours and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
I feel I have given my best performances when I have been focused and connected to something that is beyond the nuts and bolts of the mechanics of performing.
There have been two performances where I remember feeling truly present – both were completely different. I was playing with a folk - rock band at the popular Broadstairs Folk Festival in Kent to a large sold out marquee. I now realise that I was not really in charge of what I was playing during one particular guitar solo…and it just flowed. I do not remember the performance well, although it was recorded on camera. What I can see and hear was that the guitar tone was really pure and even, and I had prepared a lot for this particular concert. There must have been an energy on stage that provided such a relaxed atmosphere that I was able to play with pure feeling. This same experience happened also on an open sided lorry in a busy (very cold) high street gig in the town of Canterbury – two completely different circumstances!
This is something that I am always striving for in my performances; being completely present and in the moment so I am not affected by anything externally (room, acoustics, bad monitor mixes etc…) or internally (the voice in the head).
What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?
I remember supporting the great Stan Webb in a small venue in Kent, and I was shocked to find that he was pretty dark about how his career had turned out. He saw his musical journey as a brick wall that was crumbling. This was such a shame to hear but I realise now that nothing is stable apart from who you truly are as a person.
When embarking on the music journey patience is key. I believe that the art that we make will resonate when the time is ready - don’t try and force it. I have spent countless hours hustling for gigs with music that wasn’t focused. In my mind I wasn’t clear what I wanted to do as a performer - so how was the audience supposed to ‘get it!’
What's the balance in music between technique and soul? Why is it important to we preserve and spread the Blues/Rock? (Richard Rozze / Photo by Peter Cook)
Two words, Jeff Beck! He has mastered this to such a high level. He is able to communicate on a level which affects musicians and non – musicians; such a vast audience, through a highly sophisticated technique of manipulating the instrument to somewhere close to the human voice. He transcends the instrument.
You can teach technique, you can master the instrument but you cannot teach soul or feel. Musicians need to reach a high enough level in their technique where they can execute the ideas that they can hear and strive to play. Musicians also need to develop a safe technique which promotes longevity in their career. Soul transcends this. For me, the instrument is there to translate a human feeling… like echoing the human voice, through melodic phrases with space, contrasts in rhythmic ideas and melodic intervals. I have developed my technique somewhat to achieve this, but I’m still working on it. Playing with soul appears when we are truly connected to the message in the music.
I don’t like the word preserve…it sounds as if the genre is dead or dying. However, I do like the word ‘spread.’ Genres will always develop to encompass other styles and influences but it is vital that we champion the figures of the past that were ground breaking in their time. These figures are the ones that are the inspiration for countless generations to come.
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