Fort Romeau’s Album ‘Beings of Light’ is a Statement of Hope
Fort Romeau’s Album ‘Beings of Light’ is a Statement of HopeFebruary 11, 2022
Fort Romeau is known for making dance music that is artful, striking, and fully formed. Since the release of his debut record Kingdoms on 100% Silk in 2012, Fort Romeau (born Michael Greene) has shared his blissed-out house and techno interpretations across six different continents and performed in some of the world’s most revered clubs.
In addition to running his celebrated Cin Cin label, the Green’s sounds have appeared on revered imprints like Live At Robert Johnson, Permanent Vacation, Phantasy Sound, Running Back, and Ghostly International. The latter has now revealed Fort Romeau’s “most ambitious and complete record to date,” Beings of Light.
We caught up with Greene to learn more about his earliest memories of digging for records, the artwork that anchored the concept behind his new album, the places some of his tracks pay homage to, and more.
Thanks for joining us, Michael! Where are you calling in from?
Glasgow, Scotland. I moved here before the pandemic, and have been here ever since. Usually, I like to move around every couple of years and find a new spot, but I have to see how it goes this year. Hopefully, we’re moving in the right direction.
Let’s get into you. Where are you from originally? What was your musical background before you started producing and DJing?
I’m from a place called Chester in the UK, which is near Liverpool. [But ] I grew up closer to Oxford, which is in the south of England. My dad is a huge music fan and a big record collector. Music was an integral part of my day-to-day life, so I was exposed to a lot of music from the get-go. We would often get dragged around to car boot sales looking for records on the weekends. So finding music was a significant proportion of what I was doing when I was young.
I made my own music by playing guitar first, when I was probably about 12, listening to typical grunge stuff like Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins. Radiohead was a huge influence, and the album Kid A really switched my brain into a totally different gear. From then on, I started listening to artists with a more experimental edge, like Autechre, which led to the house and techno stuff.
And then when I was at University, I started taking production more seriously. Many of my friends I met at uni were into electronic music and t put on parties in Brighton. One of the first people I’ve ever met is Sam Barker, who now puts out records on Ostgut Ton.
When I left uni, I started playing in the pop band La Roux. I was the keyboard player for that band from 2008 till 2012. The band was hugely successful, and we were constantly touring, but once we took a break, I had the time to put out my first record, Kingdoms, as Fort Romeau on 100% Silk.
Tell me about your new album on Ghostly, Beings of Light? How long has it been in the works?
I was in the process of starting another LP around the end of 2019. But it wasn’t until the pandemic that I really sat down and said, ‘Right, let’s get it done.’ So most of the record was made between March and September of 2020. Still, with COVID, there were so many delays already at that point, with the vinyl manufacturer and with the way the district distributors were working — you’re at the mercy of the supply chain. So from my perspective, it’s been basically finished for a year.
On the plus side, I’m not completely sick of it, so that’s definitely a good sign. Because normally, I would be pulling my hair out. I mean, I did have a few wobbles — I remixed and mastered the record twice. Because I had so much time, I could be nitpicking all these little things. After that, I decided to mix and master it again. So in a way, I think that the final product has benefited from a little bit of a gestation period.
What can you tell us about the title? What inspired it?
Loosely speaking, it’s a statement of hope. A lot of the things I was thinking about when I was making the record focused on how we escape into dream worlds to imagine how we can improve the real world that we live in. With Beings of Light, I focused on the idea that we are our only hope. We can be agents of change, and we can be positive forces in our own lives and in the lives of our local communities, you know? We can strive to be beings of light. And I think that that’s the overarching kind of message that I wanted to somehow infuse into the music.
Steven Arnold’s 1984 photograph Power of Grace graces your album’s cover. What was it about this photograph that spoke to you so vividly?
I’ve known Steven’s photographs for a long time. I found his work because he worked for Salvador Dalí in the latest stages of Dalí’s career. When I was making this record, kind of coincidentally, I watched a Stephen Arnold documentary, which was, you know, infusing with what I was working on musically at the time. And then with the imagery… There is always an image that I latch onto as an anchor point for my music with any type of record I’m making. And that’s always been a key concept for me, that I like to translate a certain kind of visual aesthetic language into a musical one, and it helps give me parameters and guides me in a way that I find very useful.
Are there any tracks that appear on the album dedicated to or inspired by particular places or people?
There are two tracks in particular. With “Spotlights,” something about the little vocal samples in the song made me think of New York — not as it exists in reality, but more or less like, what New York tends to represent a lot of people. So it’s more supposed to be like an ode to this kind of pre-Giuliani idea of New York, where everything’s free, open, a bit grimier and stuff.
With “Ramona,” it’s a much more of a direct ode to Robert Johnson club in Offenbach, Germany. I remember when I made the percussive loop, which acts as the track’s backbone, and it sounded so much like something that I would want to hear in that specific space on that kind of hi-fi club sound system. So that’s a much more down-to-earth correlation.
How did your approach to this album compare to previous LPs like Kingdoms and Insides? In the press release, you adopted a “back-to-basics mentality” —could you expand on that a bit?
With Beings of Light, one of the key things I really wanted to do was to strip back the amount of stuff that’s going on, trying to get it so that you’ve got a few core ingredients in each track, but that each component is saying something that’s worth listening to. Whatever’s there has got to have a real purpose and can’t just be taking up space. Sometimes it can be easy to throw a load of layers onto something or cram it full of different stuff. But usually, the less is more approach is usually the right one.
You’ve been releasing with Ghostly International since 2014. What is it about Ghostly that made it the right record label to release your album?
Ghostly is an interesting label for electronic music because of its diverse output. Typically, electronic labels kind of tend to represent a single sound. Or, you know, a genre, whereas with Ghostly, it could be ambient, it could be techno, it could be anything. So there are no limits to what a Ghostly record could be. And I was drawn to that idea that your sound isn’t going to be defined by the fibers of the label.
Following the album’s release, what are your hopes and goals for 2022?
I’d love to get back to playing a lot — playing a lot more and traveling. One of the great things about doing this as a job is traveling worldwide and getting to meet people, and getting to see new places. I think it gives you a more holistic view of the world. Obviously, other sides to it can be problematic with climate change and with emissions and stuff. Still, I think travel is an essential way for us to really understand each other properly. To be able to empathize and relate with other people, you know? You have to know them. You have to see them. You have to see these places, and you have to go to places that you’ve heard about or read about in the news to really get a sense of the place. It’s the biggest privilege of DJing as a job. I just hope that I can get back to doing that, really. That’s kind of what kind of keeps it going for me.
Fort Romeau’s album ‘Being’s Of Light’ is out now via Ghostly International. Listen below and check it out on Beatport.
Cameron Holbrook is Beatportal’s North American editor. Find him on Twitter.