FAREWELL RODION LADISLAU ROSCA.

Farewell Rodion Ladislau Rosca.

Nowadays, the word innovator is used far too often, but the music that Rodion Ladislau Rosca the founder of Romanian experimental rock group Rodion G.A. recorded  was innovative, influential and way ahead of its time. Sadly, living and making music behind the Iron Curtain meant music fans in the West never heard their music. That only came later.

Belatedly, Rodion G.A. released their debut album The Lost Tapes on the ‘27th’ May 2013. Four months later Rodion Ladislau Rosca got in touch with me after reading my review of the album. We continued to exchange emails and became friends. Sometimes he would send me an unreleased track that Rodion G.A. had recorded between 1975 and 1984. One day, Rodion mentioned he had a master tape of unreleased tracks in his cottage. This turned out to be a hugely important find. 

Eventually, many of these tracks featured on Behind The Curtain: The Lost Album. This was Rodion G.A.’s sophomore album which I compiled and project managed. The album was released by BBE Music on the ‘20th’ October 2014. It was one of the most exciting projects I’ve been involved with.

Sadly, yesterday I heard that Rodion Ladislau Rosca had passed away on the ‘27th’ of March 2021, aged just sixty-eight. However, the maverick musician left behind a rich musical legacy, and right up until his death was regarded as one of the leading lights of the Romanian music scene. Here is his story.

Rodion Ladislau Rosca was born in Cluj, in North West Romania, on the ‘4th’ April 1953. He was half-Romanian and half-Hungarian. His mother was Hungarian and brought Rodion up.  

Growing up, he was an inquisitive and restless child. When I interviewed him he remembers that at meal times, when he was eating, he would shake his legs and bang around with his hands. Spoons and plates becomes drumsticks and drums. For Rodion’s mother, this was a worrying time. So he was sent to a psychologist and this resulted in him discovering music.

The psychologist suggested that Rodion attended a musical school and this transformed him behaviour. Before he started to play guitar he was different from other children. Some people though he was unbalanced. This was far from the case. 

Instead, Rodion needed something to pour his energy into. This was music. It gave something to focus all his energy on.

By the time he was in the sixth grade, one of his classmates had a band. They met and played in a basement. Their instruments were pretty basic and included a toy drum, a guitar and a tape recorder. Despite this, Rodion was fascinated by this rudimentary setup and wanted something similar.

Back home, Rodion told his mother what about his friend’s setup and that wanted the same setup. He embarked upon a charm offensive and eventually, it worked. 

His mother bought him a guitar and he borrowed his friend’s tape recorder and locked himself in his room with the instruments. Soon, Rodion started writing his own songs. He was only fifteen, but he knew what he wanted to do with his life. This was possible because Rodion grew up in Romania during the open period between 1965 and 1972. 

Growing up, there was a sense of hope for a new generation of young Romanians. This came about when Nicolae Ceaușescu came to power, after the death of Gheorghiu-Dej, on the ‘19th’ of March 1965. 

In the beginning, Ceaușescu was a popular leader and he challenged the authority of the U.S.S.R. and ensured that Romania had an independent foreign policy. Under his leadership, Romania withdrew from the Warsaw Pact. The other thing Ceaușescu did was ensure that there was a free press. 

For the young Rodion Ladislau Rosca, Romania between 1965 and 1972 was a good place to grow-up. Little did he and many Romanians realise that this was one of the golden ages of Romania.

During this time, Rodion was exposed to an eclectic selection of musical influences. Each night, he listened to the music that filled the airwaves. Rodion was like a sponge, absorbing an eclectic selection of music. This included everything from rock, pop, psychedelia and jazz . While the music he heard on the radio was primarily English and American. Some of these artists headed to Romania during the open period.

This came about after Ceaușescu was invited to the U.S.A. Although he was regarded as a maverick politician, he was seen as a friend of America. 

With Ceaușescu’s easing of the censorship laws, now some of the biggest names in music headed to Romania. It was an exciting time for anyone who loved music.

Among the luminaries of music to tour Romania were Blood, Sweat and Tears, plus jazz legends Lionel Hampton and Louis Armstrong. They were greeted by appreciative audiences, who until then, had only heard these artist on the radio. This included Rodion, who was about immerse himself into the city of Cluj’s music scene.

Cluj sits on the border with Hungary. Between 1965 and 1972, it had a healthy musical scene. Rodion remembers Cluj “as having a thriving and vibrant musical scene. And  he was about to dive headlong into it.

Among Cluj’s lead bands were progressive rock groups like Cromatic and the Experimental Quartet. Soon, Rodion had immersed himself in the local music scene and had established a reputation as a prolific and voracious collector of vinyl. His collecting habit was funded by his sound equipment hire business. He became the go-to-guy for anyone looking to hire PA systems for a concert or wedding. This allowed Rodion to indulge his passion for record collecting.

Soon, his reputation grew, and Rodion became known as “the King of Records.” He would go to any length to add to his beloved vinyl collection. Rodion made cross border trips to Hungary where he stocked up on hard to find albums. His friend in Norway would also send him the latest releases and before long, he had a record collection that was unrivalled.

Rodion’s collection included the classic rock of Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and The Who. Rodion didn’t restrict himself to classic rock. He was also interested in the more progressive, electronic bands of the era, including groups from Eastern and Western Europe. This included Jethro Tull, Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Yes. Other favourites included West Germany’s Kraftwerk, East Germany’s Karat, Romania’s Sfinx, Czechoslovakia’s Matador and Hungary’s Skorpio. These eclectic influences would influence Rodion’s musical career.

From the late sixties, it became apparent that he was going to make a career out of music. To do this, he had to forge his own unique sound. Rock music dominated Romanian music during this period. However, the music Rodion would create between 1969 and 1972, was very different from rock music. 

Using reel-to-reel tape recorders and built around just vocals, guitars and drums. Starting in 1969, Rodion began recording music that was understated, sparse and simple. Sometimes, the music could be describes as improvisational, experimental and haunting. Three years later, Rodion had made tentative steps into the world of music. However, another three years would pass, before Rodion would form Rodion G.A. 

During the three years between Rodion finishing his first recordings, in 1972, and forming Rodion G.A.in 1975,  the political landscape in Romania changed drastically. For aspiring musicians, this wasn’t good news. Musicians became part of the government propaganda machine. This came about after Ceaușescu visited China and North Korea. 

On his return from these visits Ceaușescu was ”inspired” to change direction politically. He came back from his visits an admirer the political and economic ideology of China and North Korea. Worryingly, he admired the cult-like figure of Kim Il Sung. Ceaușescu wanted to implement the North Korean policy of Juche Idea. The effect this had on Romania was like turning the clock back to pre-1965.

Suddenly, the role of the Communist Party grew with Romania. This would continue. Censorship returned. Books were banned and burnt. A list of banned authors was circulated. All of a sudden, writers had a reason to be scared. So did musicians. Under the new regime, musicians would become part of the government propaganda machine. Not Rodion Ladislau Rosca who was twenty-two and a fearless aspiring musician.

In 1975, Rodion was working at the Heavy Machinery Manufacturing Plant. This was where he met Gicu Farcas and Adrian Caparu who were work colleagues. At breaks and in evenings, they listened Rodion’s tapes and suggested forming a band. 

Originally, Rodion wanted to call the band Fort. It was, he felt, a reflection of his “vision.” However, another band were already called Fort. They started looking for a new name and eventually the three friends forming Rodion G.A. 

It was Rodion who lent his name to the new band, while Gicu and Adrian provided the G.A. in Rodion G.A. Rodion also contributed a myriad of studio equipment. 

By 1975, Rodion had amassed an eclectic selection of equipment and established a reputation as a DIY tech wizard. He created his own unique way of creating music on reel-to-reel tape recorders, using the various tape machines to multitrack. His nascent studio included several Tesia tape recorders, drum machines, phasers, flangers and fuzz pedals. Rodion’s arsenal of secret musical weapons included a toy Casio VL Tone, an East German Vermone drum machine and a Soviet made Faemi organ. Like the music Rodion G.A. were making, the equipment they were using was leftfield and eclectic. 

Although Rodion G.A. were producing music during music this period, they weren’t releasing music. After all, this was the communist era and the state dominated countries like Romania and there was only one Romanian record label. This was the state-owned Electrecord label. Musicians weren’t going to get rich. Despite this, Rodion G.A. released two tracks. 

These two tracks were recorded during Rodion G.A’s first recording session. They can be found on the Formatti Rock Volume 5 compilation. Then at a second session, five other tracks were recorded. Sadly, they were never released. However, the recording engineer allowed Rodion to record the five tracks onto his own tape machine from the studio’s main mixing desk. This allowed Rodion G.A. to use these tracks to build new tracks. Some of these new tracks were played on Romanian radio stations and reached the top of the Romanian charts. That people thought, was the extent of music Rodion G.A. recorded.

Without further recordings and more publicity and exposure, they weren’t going to achieve a higher profile. Despite this, Rodion G.A. didn’t give up. Instead, they embarked upon a series of extensive tours during the eighties.

During Rodion G.A’s tours, the band played through a custom-made P.A. Amps and speaker cabinets proudly bore the Rodion G.A. logo. This resulted in Rodion G.A. having a totally unique sound, one that bore no similarities to other Romanian groups. Best described as dense, raw, complicated and complex, veering into the realms of classical and prog rock, Rodion G.A’s music was unique and inimitable. They became a firm favourite at festivals throughout Romania, which since 1972, had become a much harsher regime, where bands had to be on their guard. 

Rodion G.A. toured Romania, playing everywhere from festivals to restaurants. Bands had to be on their guard. They never knew when the state censors would arrive at concerts. Luckily, Rodion G.A. became expert at avoiding the state censors, who were known to chastise a group for singing: “yeah, yeah, yeah.” It seemed that for a Romanian band, like Rodion G.A, trying to make a commercial breakthrough during the communist era was almost impossible. After all, they couldn’t release albums, and touring was the only way to lift their profile. However, by the early eighties, other opportunities were coming Rodion’s way.

Away from touring, Rodion contributed the soundtrack to the movie Delta Space Mission during the mid-eighties. Unfortunately, the music Rodion had provided was turned down, and Adrian Enescu was given the job. 

Then Rodion contributed the soundtracks to plays, ballet and gymnastics exhibitions. Despite being well received, none of these projects provided a lasting legacy for Rodion G.A. By now, the end was almost nigh for one of Romanian music’s great innovators. 

What proved to be Rodion G.A’s final concert took place at Mangalia Festival in 1987. It was around this time that Rodion’s mother Rozalia died. This resulted in Rodion walking away from music for twenty-five years. 

During the next twenty-five years, Rodion Ladislau Rosca became a mythical figure. Rumours surrounded his whereabouts. He was an elusive figure. He was distraught after the death of his beloved mother.  Rodion felt: “he had been robbed of his closest friend, and the one person he could always rely upon, and trust.” Even now, his mother’s death is a void that has not been filled. Grieving and with the band he founded having split-up, Rodion withdrew from public life.

The rumours surrounding Rodion’s whereabouts refused to go away. Little did anyone know that Rodion was traveling back and forwards to London where he was making a living as a labourer. His colleagues never knew of Rodion’s past. He was just “Rodion, the guy who loved music.”

Throughout those traumatic times, Rodion still loved music. It was the one constant in his life. He listened to music constantly, and was fascinated in sound. 

After moving back home to Cluj, it made sense for Rodion to start up a small business, doing what he knew and loved. Soon, Rodion was making a living repairing musical equipment and repairing speakers. So much so, that in Cluj, he’s known as “the speaker man.” Defiantly, Rodion would say no speaker will defeat “the speaker man.” It was whilst repairing speakers and musical equipment, Rodion was tempted back into making music.

One day, Rodion saw a Casio keyboard for sale. Every day, for a while Rodion walked past the shop selling the Casio keyboard. Then one day, Rodion took the plunge. He walked into the shop and bought the keyboard. Before long, Rodion had written and recorded a few tracks. Rodion was back. Little did he know, many people had been looking for him,

Whist Rodion had been away from music, many people become interested in the whereabouts of Rodion. Journalists, bloggers and filmmakers were all keen to track down Rodion. One of he first to do so was Luca Sorin.

A blogger and filmmaker, Luca Sorin became interested in the mythology that surrounds Rodion. After months of researching Luca discovered a handful of tracks by Rodion and footage of their 1980 New Year’s Eve concert. He posted this online. This came to the attention of Future Nuggets. They are a collective of musicians and producers who are determined to preserve Romania’s musical heritage. A year later, Rodion G.A. made their comeback.

It was in 2012, that Rodion G.A. made their long awaited and much anticipated comeback. After twenty-five years away from music, Rodion G.A. were back. Rodion was the only original member. They received a rapturous applause, and Rodion the comeback King, was back where he belonged, making music. A year later, the comeback was complete. 

Just a year after their comeback concert, Rodion G.A, were preparing to release a compilation of their music. The Lost Tapes was released by Strut Records to critical acclaim on the ‘27th’ May 2013. At last, the wider world were introduced to the enigmatic genius that is Rodion Ladislau Rosca.

I was one of the people who reviewed The Lost Tapes and was won over by their groundbreaking music. Little did I realise when I published my review that a few months later I would hear from the man behind the music.

At 7:45pm on the ‘21st’ of September 2013 I received an email from the groundbreaking Rodion who had come across my review of The Lost Tapes and decided to get in touch to tell me what had happened to him.

Sadly, Rodion was seriously ill and was struggling to make ends meet. Life hadn’t been easy for him since 2004. When he was unable to pay his bills he had to leave his flat in the city of Cluj. 

Nine years later, he was Now he was living in what he described as “poor material conditions” and didn’t have money to play for the medicine he needed for liver cancer due to hepatitis C and B. It was a heartbreaking and tragic story.

This was the start of an exchange of emails between Rodion and I. Mostly, we discussed music and sometimes he sent me an unreleased track that Rodion G.A. had recorded between 1975 and 1984. Over the next few weeks Rodion sent other tracks which I told him were good enough to release. That’s when Rodion mentioned there he had more tracks on a master tape.

This was an exciting development as The Lost Tapes had been released to widespread critical acclaim and there was a resurgence in interest in Rodion G.A’.s music. It was the perfect time to release another album and any money he made would make his life a bit more comfortable and pay his medical bills. 

When Rodion got back in touch he didn’t just have a few tracks, he had two master tapes full of music. I explained to Rodion that I knew plenty of people within the music industry who owned, ran or worked with record companies and would be interested in releasing a new  Rodion G.A album. Rodion decided in late-March 2014 to send me the master-tapes so I could find a label who would release the music.

The next couple of weeks, were nerve racking. I was waiting for the Rodion G.A. master tapes winding their way from Romania. They took their time and as time went by, Rodion and I were becoming nervous. Had the master tapes gone missing? Then one day, a battered envelop dropped through the letter box. Inside, were what I’d been waiting for, the Rodion G.A. master tapes. Now was time for me to listen to them.

For the next few hours I put up the do not disturb sign. I was a man with a mission. That mission was listening to the master tapes. They contained a musical feast of innovative music. Listening to the music, it was hard to believe it was recorded between 1975 and 1983. Here was music that was way ahead of its time. If it had been released back then, Rodion G.A. would’ve been huge. They still could be.

Straight away, I started getting in touch with people I knew at record companies and casually mentioned I had someone I wanted them to listen to. They heard pitches  every day. However,  when I said Rodion G.A. that was a different. The opportunity to sign Rodion G.A. didn’t come along every day. They were hooked. I sent across some of the music on the master tapes. 

It didn’t take long for an offer to come in. BBE Music were interested in signing Rodion G.A. A contract was drawn up, and the two parties signed the contract in May 2014. 

Delta Space Mission.

Meanwhile, Strut Records had released Rodion G.A’s soundtrack Delta Space Mission to celebrate Record Store Day 2014. Fans worldwide were determined to get a copy of this previously unreleased musical hidden gem of a soundtrack. The lucky ones weren’t disappointed and enjoyed what was a tantalising taste of a mercurial musical genius. This was just a musical amuse bouche. The main course was still to come.

Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album.

Now the hard work began and I was to curate and protect manage the release of what became what became Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album. It was to be released on CD, LP, CD and LP plus two digital versions. Luckily, I had a great team with Harvey Summers restoring mastering the majority of the tracks and Shawn Joseph doing the rest. Meanwhile, graphic designer Jake Holloway designed the sleeve and I had written the liner notes. Everything was going to plan and BBE Music were preparing for the release when there was bad news.

In July 2014, Rodion got in touch to say that his health was worsening. By then, he had with hepatitis B and C, and also hepatic cirrhosis and he hadn’t long to live. It was devastating news and we decided to bring forward the release date.

Despite his worsening health, Rodion continued to plan for the future. In the last few months Rodion G.A. had played a series of concerts and workshops. Berlin, Bucharest and Moscow were just three of the cities to be won over by the musical innovator and maverick. However, with his health failing it looked as if he wouldn’t be able to play many more concerts.

While everyone working on the album was trying to help Rodion, Romania it seemed some people were trying to take advantage of Rodion. This included a parasitical promoter who had crawled out from underneath a stone. He was a Christian I’d willingly and happily fed to the lions. None of the team wanted anyone taking advantage of Rodion. We were all protective of him and t busy preparing for the release of Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album in October 2014.

Belatedly, one of the most innovative Eastern European bands make their debut. They’re led by a true musical maverick, Rodion Ladislau Rosca He’s more than a musician though. He’s an inventor, philosopher, poet and dreamer. He invented many of the instruments that feature on Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album. Other instruments he rescued and modified. His genius extends to transforming everyday devices into musical instruments. Using these musical instruments he recorded the groundbreaking music on Behind The Curtain. It was intended to be Rodion G.A’s debut album. Sadly, fate intervened and the album lay unreleased until 2014.

During the Communist era, there was only one Romanian record label. This was the state-owned Electrecord label. Releasing an album on the Electrecord label wasn’t exactly going to be a profitable enterprise. Rodion wasn’t going to become a rich man. Then fate robbed Rodion of the opportunity of releasing his debut album. 

The tapes of Rodion G.A’s debut album went missing. Nobody knew where they were. Rumours surrounded their whereabouts. Had they fallen into the hands of the state censor? Other rumours were that the music had been stolen by a jealous rival musician and that he’d burnt the tapes. There was even the rumour that Rodion G.A’s debut album had been smuggled out of Romania. Over the years, rumours grew surrounding the mystery over what many people referred to as The Lost Album. Then last year, the mystery was solved.

Rodion found himself living in a cottage in rural Romania. Apart from the occasional concert, Rodion was no longer involved in music. His musical career was another country. He still had the remnants of his makeshift studio. They were now akin to museum pieces but were a connection to his past. So were the pile of boxes and packing cases. 

One day, Rodion decided to start sorting through their contents. This was no easy task. It took several weeks. Towards the end of this journey through Rodion’s past, Rodion found some old reel-to-reel tapes in amongst some old photos. 

He had no idea what was on them. Fortunately, Rodion still had his beloved reel-to-reel tape recorder. With some TLC, he had the reel-to-reel tape recorder up and running. He started spending time listening to the old tapes. Some were just ideas for tracks, other recordings of rehearsals. Then Rodion hit the jackpot. 

He found the long lost album. The album that had long been lost, was now found. It had never left Rodion’s possession. All the time, it had been amongst the photos that will feature in  the sleeve-notes to Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album. However, that wasn’t the end of Rodion’s discoveries. He should be commended for his foresight in signing such an innovative and groundbreaking musician, and releasing this long lost, groundbreaking album, Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album.

In October 2014, BBE Music released Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album to widespread critical acclaim. Belatedly, Rodion G.A.’s music was starting to find an audience outside of his native Romania. Critics and cultural commentators were won over by this long-lost album. It featured the finest music that Rodion G.A. had recorded during the nine years they were together. Rodion was delighted that the album had been released and was even talking about releasing more music in the future. That would depend upon his health, which at the time was failing.

Rodion G.A.’s many fans hoped that another album would be released. There were rumours of more unreleased music and Rodion recorded some new tracks which I heard. However, two years passed and there was no followup to Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album. Soon, two became three and it seemed unlikely that Rodion G.A. would ever release another album.

Rozalia.

Then in March 2018, Rodion G.A. released their third album Rozalia to plaudits and praise. Sadly, the album which was released by the Inversions label slipped under the radar and is the hidden gem in  Rodion G.A.’s back-catalogue. 

Nine months later, in December 2018 the digital EP Sesiune cu Rodion was released by Rodion G.A. It was a lowkey release that featured genre-melting music. Sadly, it was also the last release from Rodion G.A.

On the ‘27th’ March 2021 the group’s founder and figurehead Rodion Ladislau Rosca passed away aged sixty-eight. However, Rodion G.A’s music will live on and new generations of musical lovers will discover the delights of The Lost Tapes, Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album, Rozalia and the Delta Space Mission EP. They will continue to cherish the music of a mercurial and enigmatic musical genius, Rodion Ladislau Rosca. 

The three albums and the EP are his musical legacy and his parting gift to music lovers the world over. They  feature Rodion G.A. doing what they do best creating innovative, inventive and influential music that was way ahead of its time. That’s no surprise as Rodion Ladislau Rosca was a musical visionary whose pioneering group Rodion G.A. recorded genre-melting music that was progressive, ambitious and groundbreaking that’s starting to receive the recognition it deserves and is starting to find a wider audience.

Farewell Rodion Ladislau Rosca.

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