American-bred rocker, raconteur and radio host is tuned in – and in more ways
BY DAVE STEINFELD
Though he has been based for years in New York City,
singer-songwriter Edward Rogers was actually born in Birmingham, England. He
and his family moved to America (by boat) when he was 11, around the time of
the British Invasion. Throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s, Rogers immersed himself in
the music scenes on both sides of the Atlantic. Later, when punk started to
emerge in lower Manhattan, he began playing drums with the hope of breaking
into that scene. But it didn’t happen – at least not right away.
In the mid-‘80s, a freak accident changed everything.
Rogers was on the subway one morning, going to work, when he began feeling
faint. He was walking one from one subway car to the next when he fell between
the two — and eventually woke up in a hospital. “I wasn’t supposed to live for
the first four days,” he says. “[But] I guess God wasn’t ready for me at that
point.” Rogers lost his right arm and
part of his right leg – but he gained the drive to step out from behind the
drum kit, take singing lessons and become a proper recording artist.
Rogers’ debut, Sunday
Fables, which appeared in 2004, was a collection of songs that sometimes
echoed The Zombies – whose Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent actually appeared on
the album! He wouldn’t release his sophomore solo effort, You Haven’t Been Where I’ve Been, until 2008. Since then, however,
Rogers has seemingly been moving at the speed of light. He issued the wonderful
Sparkle Lane in 2010 and followed
that up with Porcelain at the end of
last year (reviewed
here at BLURT). These last three albums have all been released on Zip
Records (although in the UK and Europe, Porcelain is available on Bucketfull Of Brains).
Just as he did on Sparkle
Lane, Rogers opens his latest album with a rollicking ode to his youth. The
song “The Biba Crowd,” is a reference to a store that was fashionable in London
in the early ‘70s – a period that was the main reference point for Porcelain in general. Elsewhere on the
disc, he turns in a plaintive love song akin to early Elton John (“Nothing Too
Clever”) while rocking out on the title track and “Separate Walls.”
Even though Porcelain was released
just last fall, Rogers is already at work on other projects; it’s as if he’s
making up for lost time and can’t sit still. He is currently developing a new
live music series at ZirZamin, a popular venue in lower Manhattan, and he
co-hosts a weekly online radio show called Atlantic
Tunnel. In addition, Rogers is already contemplating his next album. “I’ve
written and demoed 30 new songs,” he states. “I’m looking for the next
live in NYC at the Bowery Electric, 2/3/12, by Anthony Pepitone)
BLURT: Four years
passed between the release of your debut album, Sunday Fables, and its follow-up, You Haven’t Been Where I’ve Been. But since then, you’ve been
on a roll. What do you attribute that to?
ROGERS: Each record has been a challenge to me – striving
to make a stronger musical statement. I approach each body of work [by
asking myself], ‘What did I learn from the last record that I can do
better?,’ and ‘Am I improving my singing and songwriting?’ It
really starts and ends with my pushing to improve myself.
Tell me a bit about
the making of your latest album, Porcelain. How was it similar to making Sparkle
Lane and how was it different??
The idea [this time] was to get away from being
a ‘60s power pop singer and go to the mid-Seventies – [to] make music with
balls, but melody too. I love the sounds of old T. Rex, Mott the Hoople,
Bowie, Eno, Kevin Ayers and hundreds more from that era. But [I wanted to]
put my own spin on it. Porcelain is
a modern sounding record but visits some of our old heroes’ influences.
What inspired the
Going to the New York Founding Hospital and seeing
all these young children who were given back to the state because the parents
couldn’t afford to pay their medical bills. Talk about disadvantages of life!
These young children… are already two major steps behind and yet they are still
simple, loving little human beings. It is an extremely sad experience to
visit that [hospital]. “Porcelain” was my way of trying to bring
some attention to the world of disadvantaged children who are right
in front of our noses.
What exactly is the
What, you don’t know?!? Biba was a brilliant glam
clothing department store in London in the early Seventies. The
top floor was a wonderful art deco restaurant with live music. The New York
Dolls and Cockney Rebel played their early shows there.
The song is written about Mott
the Hoople’s reunion shows a couple of years ago. [I was] thinking ‘Where did
all the wonderful dreamers who frequented the shop go? Were they at the [Mott]
show?’ They were definitely at the
after-show parties every night!
Who are some of the
bands, songwriters and singers that you love or that influenced you when you
were growing up??
Ray Davies, Scott Walker, Vanda and Young, Donovan
[and] The Small Faces, along with the normal mecca of performers [and]
songwriters who everybody knows.
Tell me a bit about
your radio show, Atlantic Tunnel.
Tunnel [airs] every Sunday between 12:00 and 2:00 pm EST at
EastVillageRadio.com. The show features Gaz Thomas’ and [my]
vast collection of new and obscure English rock and roll. We play everything from Billy Fury to Martin
Newell. It’s a total labor of love for us: two olde mates get together
every Sunday and spin the music that shaped our lives. Tune in and have a
video for “The Biba Crowd,” w/footage from Jean Luc-Godard’s 1964 film Band of Outsiders)