Childe Roland

Childe Roland

Real Name:Oliver St. John

2014 lineup: Oliver St John, all instruments, vocals and percussion; Heather Carmen, vocals and percussion.

Musical influences: alternative, psychedelic, new wave, jazz, post-rock, flamenco, gypsy, classical romantic and Indian classical music.

Discover an Evil Fetish was Childe Roland’s debut 1988 album and was originally released as an audiotape by Indie label Trash City. Several of the 13 tracks on the album featured the current Hawkwind drummer, Richard Chadwick.

Over the next year, the band was an acoustic duo until the band’s vocalist, songwriter and guitarist Oliver St. John teamed up with upright bass player and cellist Frances Dorling. After recording a live session for BBC Radio Bristol with the band, Chadwick left to pursue his commitment with Hawkwind. Various line-ups were tried, during which time a further album, Diamond Highway was engineered and recorded by producer Chris Pink. In 1989, gypsy violinist Victoria joined the band. A completely new and very eclectic sound and direction then emerged.

The classic Childe Roland lineup reached its apotheosis with the 1990 album, Psychedelic Meadows, recorded live in one afternoon in an impromptu studio rigged up by Tony Stephenson and producer Nick Batt. The trio were joined on this album by vocalist Jane Allison, who augmented performances with her choreographed dance sketches. Nick Batt, who was at the time a studio engineer for Moles in Bath, shortly afterwards achieved a completely unexpected hit record with his DNA remix of Tom’s Diner by artist Suzanne Vega.

There was no inclination to market and sell the band or the music as a brand or product. The band regarded what they did as musical surrealism – more a way of life and a state of consciousness than a job of work to be done or a project to be completed. Creative freedom, imagination and experimentation were the glue that fused the band together as well as the fuel that fired it. From its beginning as an Indie acoustic duo the music was developed until it defied genre classification. The lyrics evoked punk excesses, squats in London and reflections on a bohemian life style while at the same time conjuring nostalgic dream-pictures of straw boaters and picnics in the park – all in the same song. Psychedelic overtones, acid rock, mystical song-poems, modal melodies and altered chords vied with swing, gypsy jazz, flamenco, urban folk, Sibelius and Lawrence of Arabia.

By 1991, the events of life saw to it that the band effectively drifted apart. The band’s founder Oliver St. John immersed himself in teaching, writing, studying and occult philosophy. During that time he collaborated on a series of music recordings with Indi artist and entrepreneur Andi Brooks, under the guise of X-Machina. In 2001–2002 St. John studied harmony and composition at Bristol University, after making a foray into producing electronic scores (Virtual Music Orchestra) and an electronic album called “Scorpiotronic” (French Poets). He composed “The Star of Revealing”, a setting of lyrics drawn from the ancient Egyptian funeral stele of the priest Ankh af-na Khonsu, which was performed by Niall Hoskyn (baritone) and John Pickard (piano), and recorded live at the Victoria Rooms, Bristol, 12th January 2002.

Bassist Frances Dorling, in the meantime, formed the Bristol based band Tango Siempre in 1998, and then moved to Holland in 2003, after a brief but exciting excursion playing in a duo with Argentinian bandoneon player Damien Torres. It was while continuing her music studies at the Rotterdam Conservatoire that Dorling began playing and performing with the Cuarteto Rotterdam, a band dedicated to the performance of authentic Tango music.

The unconventional, surrealist approach towards performance, songwriting and composition has continued through to the present day. In 2007 the Childe Roland band was reformed. Working sometimes solo and sometimes accompanied by session players Catherine Hurley (flute) and Beth Porter (cello), Oliver St. John spent three years touring the Westcountry of England, along the way performing at dozens of venues in Bristol and Bath. In 2008 he recorded Underground, which was released by Indie label Rainfall Records. A triumphal return was then made to the Bell Inn, Bath, for the Fringe Festival, in which the band played two spellbinding sets, the first with a rock lineup of guitar, bass and drums, and the second with acoustic guitar, flute and cello. In 2010 the South London born St. John relocated from Bath to St. Ives in Cornwall. A new Childe Roland CD album is to be released in 2014, Dawn Till Dust, featuring the vocals of contemporary dancer Heather Carmen. , Facebook , Soundcloud , Reverb , Bandcamp
Members:Jane Allison, Oliver St. John


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