Paul Roessler’s Bright World: Music aficionados with a deep knowledge of the first wave of L.A. punk know very well who Paul Roessler is. The man was a Screamer, for god’s sake – the electropunk band active from 1975-1981 that is famous for recording almost nothing but retaining cult status regardless. The Screamers’ reluctance to cement a legacy ended up having the opposite effect; for punk fans, their music is the white whale. The stuff of legend that has to be hunted down.

But that was then and this is now. Forty-one years have passed since the Screamers ceased to exist, and Roessler has had a hell of a time. His recent The Drug Years quadruple-double album details much of it, but not all. Roessler’s life in those four decades has been varied and occasionally adventurous, and it has seen him wear many hats. He’s a grandfather, and a father, a musician and a producer. His new album is The Turning of the Bright World, an epic exploration of his current mindset that, perhaps predictably, takes many twists and turns.

“I want to tell everybody what every song is exactly about, but I have this thing in the back of my mind that I’m not quick to do that,” he says. “I will say that, every time I go into the studio I can write music. Music just comes out of me. But to take the music and then have it turned into a finished song is a very slow process. Usually what happens is, I sit with the music for hours, trying to figure out what the music is trying to tell me. The music will dictate consonants and vowels, and then slowly these meanings will swim up. I won’t know what a song is about sometimes until quite a ways into the process. But I did notice that themes of death came up a lot, about being ready to die – that keeps reappearing, which is kinda cliche and trite, but it must have been on my mind.”

Those themes of mortality make themselves clear on the first single from the album, “Maker” (“are you ready to meet your maker?” Roessler sings, somewhat surprisingly upbeat about the notion). Elsewhere, “Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time” is a commentary on the human effects on the environment. Others are more personal.

“There’s a song called ‘They’,” Roessler says. “My grandchild came out as nonbinary and that’s a very interesting thing. I had to go through a lot of understanding of that idea, getting to grips with it. There are [also] a couple of songs about relationships. I’ve written so many ‘falling in love’ albums and ‘tortured relationship’ albums. I’m in a very nice, sweet relationship now that is really very happy, so I didn’t have that to draw on, but I had a couple of little leftovers. There are a few songs that are hard for me to put into words what they are, as it should be, I think.”

Roessler recorded the album at his own Kitten Robot studios, and released it on the Kitten Robot label that he runs with like-minded soul Josie Cotton. The label is in and of itself an exploration of contemporary and classic punk rock, in all of its many forms. Crowjane is a signee, as is Roessler’s sister and former Black Flag member Kira. They’ve got Hayley & the Crushers, and the Velvet Starlings. And of course, Cotton and Roessler.

“A lot of this stuff is done in the middle of the night, when everybody leaves or is on holiday, or when I have a cancellation,” Roessler says. “Most of the songs, other than ‘A Quiet Night on the Mooncam,’ they came out originally from me in the dark of night when it’s deeply silent and peaceful. Nobody is texting me or asking me to do things. I’m just a composer. When I have a day off, I go in the studio. When I should be resting and charging my batteries, and enjoying life, I go in the studio and start tinkering around and playing. That’s where this album came from.”

Roessler got to know Cotton when she was working with another punk producer and musician, Geza X, at the City Lab and Satellite Park studios.

The Drug Years was called that because I was on drugs, working as a handyman, and it was a very schizophrenic, odd time,” Roessler says. “I met Josie in those years, and they would hire me to do some keyboard stuff for them. I was friends with Geza since the punk days. But I was on my own crazy journey. I was working with Josie as a producer starting around 2000 and we’re really close. I still work with her three times a week.”

Despite the fact that the focus is on his new music, as it should be, we have to ask Roessler about the Screamers. As it happens, he’s happy to talk about it.

“If you ever stood before the Screamers, at a show, and saw it, you walked out of there saying it was one of the greatest shows you’ve ever seen,” he says. “That band was already fully formed when I joined. I was the third keyboard player. So I can rave about the Screamers and hopefully not sound like an egomaniac. But I used to sit on stage just watching. Tomata [du Plenty, frontman] was one of the greats – just an electric frontperson. Because there were no guitars and bass, and instrumentation was so unorthodox, you really felt like you were in the presence of something that was completely original and different.”

The few bootlegs that are out there point to that very thing, for those of us unable to have seen them back in the day, and an official release – Screamers Demo Hollywood 1977 – only arrived last year. Yet still, their legend has been passed down.

“I guess there’s this cult thing,” Roessler says. “It’s a cool thing to discover something that you think nobody else knows about. Then you’re in the cool club. But it’s interesting – the Screamers tried to erase their legacy. I read later that Tomata said that was one of the most unhappy times of his life. Tommy Gear felt I think a lot of bitterness about that period. I think it’s a true anarchist statement. The fact that people will use Screamers music and the Screamers don’t do anything to prevent it or to capitalize on it – they just closed the door, let it be a moment in time, and gave it away. It’s a powerful artistic statement in and of itself.”

It is what it is. Roessler, meanwhile, will continue releasing new music and working with great artists such as Cotton, the Inger Lorre (Nymphs), and Gitane Damone (Christian Death).

His maker can just hold on a bit.

Paul Roessler’s Bright World: Paul Roessler’s The Turning of the Bright World album is out now via Kitten Robot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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