On the Radar – No 235: Glasgow trio Roman Nose take no prisoners with their relentless electro and high-energy shows. Jamie Brotherston met them backstage at T in the Park to find out more about the masked marauders
[Roman Nose – portraits by David P Scott]
During the Plains Indian Wars of the 1860s, there was a Cheyenne warrior thought to be invincible in battle. He was a feared sight on the American frontier, perpetrating countless attacks upon Euro-American settlers, and became a mythical figure. His Indian name, Hook Nose, was converted by the whites to another title. It became one that struck despair into the hearts of his enemies: Roman Nose.
T in the Park is a long way from the Great Plains, but there is still a reason to remain vigilant for the name of that renowned Native American fighter. Glasgow electro trio, Roman Nose, who are making waves with their relentless blend of hard electronica and signature masks, performed a blistering set at the BBC Introducing Stage, and arrive for their interview like a salvo of Tomahawks.
Sitting down with Roman Nose, it’s easy to imagine what being held hostage feels like. The band – drummer Young Chetin and producers GP and Bulletbeard – resemble a cross between a terrorist cell and a Lucha Libre triple threat tag team; appearing from the twilight for a rare unmasking.
The truth is that the masks hide three engaging and varied personalities. Bulletbeard, with muscles bulging under heavily tattooed arms, and limping with a smashed shin after a bike accident, describes a typically manic day in the life of a Roman Nose cult member.
“It was pretty good. There were a couple of stressful little moments, which is normal before we play any show but we got over it. We got ready, got on there and took care of business,” he laughs.
With Young Chetin towering above, arms folded, Bulletbeard confronts the legend of Roman Nose, seeing similarities between the band and their namesake.
“I think it’s quite appropriate. We try and be quite aggressive with our music and our performance.
“I’d love to tell you who Roman Nose are named after, but we can’t let that go. We will at some point, but it’s not appropriate. If you look at the ethnicity of the band, we’ve got a Jew, a Muslim and a Protestant – we’re trying to harness the power of the Roman Empire,” he says, laughing again.
When pressed, Young Chetin closes the door.
“I would just not touch it, just leave it at that,” he cheerfully growls in riposte.
Describing themselves as being a ‘black electro’ group, it’s nevertheless difficult to pin down exactly what elements make up Roman Nose. GP, tall, thin and exuding a quiet authority, sheds more light upon their own self-classification.
“We’re currently a kind of dirge-electro, I think. Bleak electro is something that comes across, some of our older stuff was a bit more like that. We’re delving into something different now.”
Bulletbeard adds that image has a lot to do with musical labels.
“I think that distinction comes from what people think we look like, the faces we paint for ourselves isn’t the standard thing. We definitely portray ourselves as being occult, through the imagery we use – we’re quite goth and we’re influenced by witch house and things like that.”
GP reveals that their musical pasts have been plundered in creating their current incarnation, describing himself as a goth in earlier days, with Young Chetin mentioning a punk past. Roman Nose is still a relatively fresh project for the three-piece, and GP describes how it took on a life of its own.
“For the band itself it’s only been about a year and a half. We were offered a support slot with The Glitch Mob at The Arches – Chet and I have done stuff together before and we met [Bulletbeard] through a mutual acquaintance, so we just took the opportunity. We spent a few weeks bashing stuff together before The Arches, and here we are.
“Chet and I are multi-instrumentalists, and we got [Bulletbeard], who is a graffiti artist, on board and incorporated music and visual art together to encompass it all.”
Masks aside, the group are easily identifiable on stage with their deck, synth and drum set up, and they reiterate the need to evolve as a musical outfit.
“For an electro band, you need to keep revitalising yourself, you need to keep things original. Three guys behind the tables doing their thing is OK for the first few gigs, but you really have to f***ing flick a switch and make something new happen,” says Bulletbeard.
“After our last show at the SAMAS [Scottish Alternative Music Awards], we thought ‘f*** it, let’s do something different’, so we brought in the live drums. It’s good for the symmetry of the band with Chet in the middle and us on either side.”
Young Chetin, who remains standing like a bouncer on a club door (which was, fittingly, once his profession), says his piece on how Roman Nose has grown.
“For me it’s definitely about trying to combine what you get playing like a DJ and what you get from being a live drummer. We’ve played in bands and DJ’d before, so it’s about getting the buzz from both of them.
“You’re sitting there for the first x amount of gigs just choking to actually play something, so we’ve indulged in that and there’s going to be a lot more instruments – it’s going to keep things banging.”
Distinctiveness is a big part of the Roman Nose package, from the masks made by an art school friend of Bulletbeard, to the triangular insignia with a piercing eye at its centre emblazoned on their backs.
“Just as important as the music is the visual aspect of the band,” says Bulletbeard. “Personally, I like to pride myself in dealing with that stuff. In terms of the back patches, because we are an electro band, it was originally about making a kind of gang. It sounds pretty shitty.”
This comment sparks a heated furore between the three. It’s as though the captors are arguing about what to do with their prisoner. This though, is just good-natured banter, and relative calm ensues.
“I guess the idea was to try and separate ourselves from other acts out there. I understand [the] comparison that’s drawn between us and electro bands who try to mask their identity, like The Bloody Beetroots. The first thing I thought about was how we would look on stage, alongside [how] the stage was set up and the visuals, one facet was what we wore.
“It’s inspired by Hell’s Angels culture, motorcycle gang culture – I took that inspiration and applied it to the band.”
Young Chetin and GP talk about a limited scene catered to their grungy underground electro in Glasgow, a scene that Roman Nose have begun to infect nonetheless, with a swathe of shows.
“For what we do, there’s really not a lot of places we can play. It’s not a great live scene for an electro band. We want to go to Poland and Eastern Europe. I’d love that, thousands of big giant Polish body-builders loving our tunes, hyper aggressive,” says Chet.
“We’re kind of on the fringes of electro, we put ourselves on the fringes and it’s hard to accommodate that. It’s not about not wanting to fit in, it’s about the expression. If it only takes us to the fringes then we end up on the fringes,” adds GP.
Momentum is firmly behind them with a hectic summer festival and gig schedule underway, a new EP and remixes set for a September release, and aspirations of reaching foreign shores looking wholly realistic.
Next year looks set to be a big one for the masked mix-masters, and as they disappear with darkness falling around T in the Park, one thing is clear: Roman Nose are becoming more and more pandemic by the day. Beware the masks, and prepare yourself.
Roman Nose play the following live dates:
20 Jul: King Tut’s, Glasgow
26 Jul: Wickerman Festival, Dumfries & Galloway