Martin Rossiter returns to the live arena as a solo artist with a handful of gigs in September. The former front-man with indie pop sensation Gene has had a self-enforced absence from the music industry. Now the singer/songwriter, based in Brighton, has an album’s worth of new songs ready to perform live before being putting to tape.
This solo material shows off his impassioned and unique voice teamed with achingly tender songs. Martin is one of the most eloquent lyricists of his generation and his new work will continue to both break and mend hearts. His live performances in the past have garnered him a reputation as a consummate showman and the forthcoming live dates will marry this with his new, style of intimate, delicate songs.
Part of the Welsh diaspora, Martin was raised on the melodies of Charles Wesley and the gritty glamour of Shirley Bassey. From 1991 to 2004, he was the singer of Gene – a group who drew not only from classic British indie-pop, but also from the soulful rock of The Small Faces, the working-class punk of the Jam and the driving stomp of Motown.
Based in Brighton and having been away from the music business for the past 6 years, Martin is brim full of new songs just aching to be put to tape, and is spending the next 6 month writing and recording 10 pieces comprising vocals and piano with producer Russ Keffert.
Gene formed in the summer of 1993, quickly melding a waspish chemistry from the base components of Steve Mason (guitar), Martin Rossiter (vocals), Kevin Miles (bass) and Matt James (drums). Writing songs together and honing their live profile, their influences were culled from bands such as The Jam, The Clash and the Small Faces.
As Gene’s emergence coincided with the rise of the burgeoning Britpop movement, they are often misleadingly described as a ‘Britpop’ band. However, eschewing the self-consciously fey approach of Suede, the uncouth voyeurism of Pulp or the ‘new lad’ abrasiveness of Oasis, Martin’s songs were dominated instead by a wholly unromantic cast of characters inhabiting a down-at-heel, broken world with little hope of redemption.
The late 90s were illuminated with his heartfelt, powerful songs such as ‘Be My Light, Be My Guide’, ‘Sleep Well Tonight’, ‘Olympian’ and ‘We Could Be Kings’. Gene disbanded in 2004, having accumulated 10 Top 40 singles, 3 Top 10 albums, over a million record sales and a devoted international fan base.
Their debut release, the double a-side “For The Dead”/”Child’s Body”, released on the fledgling Costermonger label in May 1994, set out a distinct musical agenda.
August brought a second single, this time promoted as a “triple a-side”, featuring “Be My Light, Be My Guide”, “This Is Not My Crime” and “I Can’t Help Myself”. Gaining pole position in the UK independent poll, and reaching number 54 in the UK charts proper, the band set out on their first headlining UK tour.
Following further positive press, the band signed a major label recording contract with Polydor Records. A third single, “Sleep Well Tonight", followed an appearance at the Reading Festival, and the band also played mainland Europe for the first time with Elastica and Oasis. The release of “Haunted By You” in February 1995 prefigured a debut album proper, produced by Phil Vinall.
With less direct, even nebulous material sandwiching the energy of the singles, there was much for critics to reflect on. Eschewing the self-consciously fey approach of Suede, the uncouth voyeurism of Pulp or the “new lad” abrasiveness of Oasis, Rossiter’s songs were dominated instead by a wholly unromantic cast of characters inhabiting a down-at-heel, broken world with little hope of redemption.
The 1996 release To See The Lights compiled b-sides and live recordings, acting as a stop-gap for the accomplished Drawn To The Deep End, released in early 1997, with the band displaying a greater musical diversity to back-up Rossiter’s lyrical dramas. Revelations was another occasionally inspired collection, although critics bemoaned the fact that Gene still seemed unable to successfully translate their excellent live sound onto record. The band was released from its Polydor contract at the end of the year. The following summer they recorded a live album at Hollywood’s legendary Troubadour club called Rising For Sunset. Their last studio album, Libertine, was released in October 2001 and after many more tours the band split in 2004.