Volume 91, Issue 8

Wednesday, September 10, 1997

froshted flakes


Gene drops' em to their knees

By Jonathan Hale
Gazette Staff

When Gene formed in 1994 and released its first single, "For The Dead," most British music fans fell to their knees in awe of this great, passionate band. Most, but not all. Unfortunately, other music fans immediately found a strong similarity between Gene and a certain other band that still stands as one of the most important bands ever formed: The Smiths.

Gene ain't so mean. Gazette legend Jonathan Hale had the opportunity to chat with Martin Rossiter this summer and got to the bottom of things.

Despite the strength in song writing, Gene has shown with its debut Olympian and B-sides collection To See the Lights, many people still deny this band the chance to be heard. During a visit to Toronto over the summer, singer/lyricist Martin Rossiter was questioned about how Gene's career has often been compared to The Smiths.

"Was it?" he asked. "Why?"

Silence. Due to the awkward situation, I laugh, and soon he joins me.

"See, you're believing the press now," he said.

Okay, maybe I have read too many articles that made direct connections between the two acts. But, despite what I think, does he take this view as a compliment?

"Well, I just don't think it's true, so I find it very difficult to see a lie as a compliment," he states flatly. "It annoys us, but we ignore it. I mean, it's quite obvious that we have our own voice, our own agenda and our own sound."

Now many people will look at this and laugh, or shake their head in disgust. But the connection died in late February of this year, when Drawn to the Deep End was released. With this album, Gene displayed openness, passion and a style that no longer seems to fit into The Smiths' movement of the last decade. Gene has emerged with a beautiful collection of songs that reflect a maturity, grace and improved talent that is hard to find in a sophomore album by most other bands. Rossiter tried to explain all aspects which enabled the band to release this more complex arrangement of material.

"The basics were that obviously we had a different producer, we're a little bit older and had better equipment," he began. "In a way, because Olympian did okay, we could afford that luxury and it gave us the time to be more adventurous. That little bit of time is essential to show off to each other, to say, 'Well I can do this.' "

Drawn to the Deep End's charm is enhanced by Rossiter's intelligent and honest ability to write songs that reflect feelings or memories of his past. The most noticeable tone on the album is that of loneliness, a feeling that has been with Rossiter since he was a child.

"There is a lot more autobiography on this record," explained Rossiter. "I don't think that makes it any more or any less valid as a record, it's simply a matter of fact that there are a lot of things that I revealed. I still keep a good 10 per cent of my life back, so I still have a little bit of privacy, thank God."

Despite earlier comments, there are similarities between The Smiths and Gene – in the "feel" of their albums. The humour and emotions of both artists have left a great impact on their fans (albeit Gene's to a lesser extent) and Rossiter finds this connection with his fans a very powerful and important part of being in a band.

"At times I feel extremely humbled at meeting people and getting letters from people and the sense of eloquence and genuine compassion," he said with enthusiasm.

But with so many other bands singing about love lost or the financially-strapped, why has Gene instead chosen to sing about anorexia or the bitter feeling of being totally alone?

"It's something I like to do because these things mean something, you know, this is life," Rossiter explained. "I still, thank God, think I have a little bit of a heart left. I mean, the music industry, yes, is trying quickly to drag it out of me. I'm holding on. I've got a couple of ventricles still going."

To Contact The Entertainment Department: gazent@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1997