TO look at him you wouldn’t think David J Roch had much in common with Rod Stewart.
But both men are musicians and both have the business of death in their backgrounds, the latter as a gravedigger, the former working for a Dronfield funeral directors.
Fortunately the career of Mr Roch (pronounced Roash) is taking on more of a credible angle than the vintage blond one of late and this week saw him finally release his debut album Skin + Bones.
It’s been a long time coming, but you sense these songs have been given essential time to ferment.
“The album was finished around March last year but trying to find the right label to put it out took a little bit of time,” says the Sheffield-based singer-songwriter.
“I also changed management and a few other members of my team, so there was a period of time adjusting to that. However, the wait has been worth it, I feel. It allowed us to take our time with the mastering and the artwork which, even if I do say so, really has made all the difference.”
On top of that Roch also managed to recruit Jim Sclavunos, from Grinderman and Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds, to produce songs that tick boxes marked dramatic, brooding, haunting. The association came when he and his wife – David’s press agent – caught a show in London and the musicians got talking.
“I really can’t thank Jim enough for both his insight and his patience. He was amazing to work with, especially in helping to develop my sound to allow the songs to both breathe and also sound a lot bigger then I ever imagined.”
Certainly the music Roch has been peddling live up and down the country for so long under his name, or formerly as Little Lost David, has grown, but the human touch remains.
“I was still using the name Little Lost David when I went in to start recording, although the way in which they are played and recorded has certainly changed.
“I was never convinced by the name, it just kind of stuck. Since the change I am a lot happier.
“I am not sure whether it has changed people’s perception or not. Certainly the change was to allow me to come forward and not hide any more. It also allows people to connect with my lyrics a lot easier, using my own name instead of that of a ‘character’ singing them.”
What does shine through Skin + Bones, not just in its title, is its author’s sense of mortality, although he denies songs were directly inspired by his experience working with a firm of funeral directors.
“The title certainly is a reference to mortality and the fact that it is something we all have to face through our fragility.
“Interestingly, with the album having taken three years to come out, the songs were written before I started working for Dunham’s. I have always been quite ready to accept my own mortality, but I am sure that working for Dunham’s has made me even more aware of it.
“But at the end of the day I treat it as a job; you try not to think about it too much as you need to be professional for the families involved.
“Most of my songs to date have been written purely about my own experiences with relationships, depression and my own mortality, so I think I already have to try and keep the macabre in check.”
All in all, however, David’s debut is not an all-out depression-fest. It offers light beside some pretty dark stuff, but there’s a thoroughbred rawness and honesty that binds and provides continuity.
“The hope and warmth from the music was something I was very aware of wanting the album to achieve,” concludes Roch.
“I know it certainly isn’t a ‘happy’ album or even that easy a listen at times, but ultimately I wanted the music to cover both light and shade.
“And with the album having taken this length of time to complete and release I have half of the next album written already.”
David J Roch performs at Sheffield venue SOYO on Monday.