Interview: Nathan Roche is back

nathan roche

Australian writer, musician and occasional contributor to, Nathan Roche has just written a new book. We spoke to him about it: 

Hello Nathan. We used to see your beautiful face around Sydney all the time but you’ve disappeared. Where the fuck have you been?
I have terrible news, the face isn’t what it used to be! It’s become aged and rugged like a forgotten Hollywood starlet turned harlot on the boulevard of washed-up gold star dreams. Just kidding, I’ve had a drastic facial reconstruction and all that is left is a slimy pencil-thin French mustache and silly beret that is permanently fixed like a wig. Just kidding again, I am still the same arsehole, village idiot I have been for twenty-six years. Location wise I’ve been in Paris since we last checked in way back in 2014. It seems this could very well be the only website/media outlet/promotional career booster that has asked since two years ago, and your concerns and interest warms the deepest depths of my black heart. It goes to show faking your death doesn’t actually change anything or increase book or record sales.

Paris? Ooh la la. How is that great city treating you?
Like a wayward stranger with a steel pan on a shoebox and a heart of fool’s gold. I’ve been very lucky as usual, had a place to live out in Pont de Sévres with an arts association called La Générale en Manufacture, more or less an abandoned ceramic arts factory filled with creative lunatics and refugees. Including a sixty-five year old American writer who has lived in Paris illegally for four years and rides the vélo taxi around with the Albanian immigrants. We went to Le Havre together once using car share and drank three bottles of wine on the pebble-stone beach before ten in the morning. Sadly, we all had to leave the building after those unfortunate/horrific Paris Attacks in November last year, because France is/was under a state of emergency they were able to kick us out overriding the usual laws. I am currently living in the garden shed of my fresh new band Le Villejuif Underground’s humble abode in the quietly diverse suburban district of Villejuif. There is a VERY large Carrefour supermarket nearby, in the winter when you wear big jackets you can hide fresh apples in your pockets and walk out without anyone noticing. The Fougasse aux anchois et olives from the boulangerie opposite the metro station is also another highlight worth mentioning.

What do you miss about Australia while you are away? Anything?
I miss Coopers Pale Ale more than anything. How is that for product placement? Of course all of my friends, family, the natural landscapes and riding a bicycle to classic Sydney beaches. Oh, and the music. Don’t get me started on that. Can’t top Australian music! No matter where you go. Unless you go back in a time machine to specific decades, time periods over the course of twenty-four hours. Imagine that? Soft Machine one moment, Richard Hell the next and then drop in for a mid-nineties Fall set to see how Mark E. Smith’s speed addiction is going. Anyway, I don’t miss the fact that every bar, restaurant, building or house gets renovated every six months in Sydney or Australia. Makes you feel a little less sentimental to your every changing “homeland”, especially when every fucking bar in the country just serves overpriced American burgers, hot-dogs, nachos and craft beers and all I can overhear over the loud music is people talking about how kooky bloody David Lynch is over the football score. What’s the culture to miss? I don’t even know? It changes every week. I’d like to come back here one day and see emu burgers and kangaroo fillets with dinky-di potato fries and everyone talking about Nicolas Roeg films. But, I do miss the people and the mentality of Australians – at least from my beloved friendships circles. Taking the piss and figuring out what to do with it, it’s an endless game.

Did Sydney seem particularly shit to you upon your recent return? It’s been a while since you were last here, during which time the state government has been doing its best to suck the life out of the place…
Government stuff has never REALLY affected me, or politics. I don’t really care about that or take much notice – we should all just govern ourselves. The things that piss me off is people drinking five beers and wanting to punch each others heads in, it’s a competitive, sporting nation and mentality. Oh and classic pubs been dug out and turned into diners what a real shame, or those Opal Cards. Just relax! Use a ticket, buy it from the driver, say hello to him! There’s too much of an obsession with a “more confident and renovated life” ALSO having to have an ID to walk around and buy a packet of cigarettes, I don’t know. What else? I don’t have a problem with Malcolm Turnbull he can do whatever he wants as long as I can still swim near his house in Point Piper and jump off his wooden jetty into the harbour at night. Fine by me. Lock out laws, well it’s really embarrassing isn’t it? I was at a pub in Melbourne the other night drinking till sunrise and everyone there was in a positive state, no aggression. It’s not the laws that are the problem, it’s just some of the people. Just learn to drink and act like a proper human being, it’s not difficult right? Anyway, this might be getting a little preachy, like when hippies write 1000+ page “paranoid” manifestos justifying the legalisation of marijuana, peace and equality. Life: just smoke it, chill out and get on with it and don’t listen to me or anyone else. Have some independence and stop looking for direction.

nathan roche novelAnyhoo, tell us about your new book…
Oh, yeah that’s right! I forgot why we were here. New book. “Lavage de Cerveau” it’s the hotly anticipated sequel to “The Noumea Neurosis” which is what we talked about last time. So, the doctor/motivational speaker Jack Gibson gets invited by The French Embassy to go to Paris to devise a new plan and procedure for Parisians in the cold winter. Things start to spiral out of control in a Charles Manson-like way and his methods get interpreted as brainwashing across the plains of America. I guess I’ll leave it at that. As usual, it makes little sense, is full of mistakes and sends up everything where it has the chance without the balls to back it up. I’ll get an editor one day.

You’ve got a launch coming up on the 21st March. Where’s it gonna be and what’s gonna happen? Can we get your autograph?
It’s at Radio Free Alice in Darlinghurst. A place I’ve never had the chance to go to until next week for the launch itself. Angie who is currently running RUIN PRESS in Sydney is helping me organise it bless her. You know, the launch was going to be at Sedition, the Barbershop in Kings Cross where I usually hold or held events once upon a time, but I didn’t have enough money to print the books two weeks ago and I didn’t ask Mick the owner before I told people about the event. You can get an autograph sure, but it will be awkward and the lady I spoke to at Commonwealth Bank the other day in Adelaide said my signature is different every time so it might be hard to authenticate it if you want to sell it on eBay when I am dead. Not that I think I am so sure it will be worth anything.

If people can’t make it to your launch, where can they get a copy of your book?
I suppose just email the publishers at (which is my email, or secondary email and gets on average one email every four months) although, you’ll only have until the 22nd of March to get in contact before I leave and the launch is on the 21st. Otherwise, if anyone is passing by my garden shed in Villejuif you could probably buy a few copies that didn’t end up selling in Australia. But I doubt anyone could ever be bothered doing that. So, the long and short of it is: Nowhere.

What’s Nathan Roche the musician doing these days? Does he still exist?
Regrettably he exists but only in ghostly parts and faded patches. I don’t know why or what parts exactly but it’s the same old racket with different strings. Le Villejuif Underground is my new band in Paris, and we’ve got an album coming out on SDZ Records. Rice Is Nice is going to do the digital dirty work here in Australia and New Zealand (do they have the internet in New Zealand?) We are going to tour China in April/May after a series of absurd back and forth emails I have been having with a Chinese man named Atom.

Tell us the best thing that happened to you in 2015…
Well, I came to the conclusion that I think my future belongs in the wonderful city of Lisbon. What else? Ah, found a lovely new girlfriend on the Canal St Martin at four in the morning last June. We spend most of our nights talking to homeless people in the small garden next to Saint-Ambroise.

And what you hope will happen to you by the end of 2016…
That I will be living on the Nile River in a mud hut with a book deal with Penguin or Random House finally finding the time to write my 1000+ page time-traveling/poker player epic, “Pocket Aces In Time” which has been in the pipeline for many years but cannot be tackled without an advance and confirmation that the effort will be worth it and published by someone else other than me or an equally independent or broke publishing house. Urm, other than that I hope: TO REMAIN ALIVE AND HEALTHY WITH A STRONG LUST FOR LIFE!

bobby townsend


Interview by Bobby Townsend