Royston Langdon, former lead singer of Spacehog has released his solo LP “Everthing’s Dandy,” under the moniker LEEDS (a nod to his UK hometown). The album was recorded in New York and produced by Bryce Goggin (Antony and the Johnsons, the Apples in Stereo), with musicians who have worked with Yoko Ono, Prince, Jeff Buckley and Joan As Police Woman. It also features co-writes with Langdon’s brother and bandmate Antony (“What Became of the People”) and Rich Robinson of the Black Crowes and the Magpie Salute (“Your Day Will Come”). Have a listen to “Someone,” from the release, embedded below.
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Sean Ritchie: Let’s start this off with your hometown of Leeds in the United Kingdom. Talk a bit about what makes the city special to you. Where would you send a first-time visitor to the area?
Royston Langdon: Firstly, the thing I love about where I’m from is not so much the city of Leeds, but I love the countryside and surrounding areas. It’s particularly beautiful. There’s the famous Orchard Dales which heads out towards the [Oxenholme] Lake District. It’s one of the most beautiful places on earth, to be honest. I’ve traveled pretty extensively and I have not come across anywhere quite so topographically majestic. Yorkshire is all I love.
I would suggest places like Bolton Abbey. A lot of the abbeys were destroyed during the [English] Reformation – King Henry VIII wanted to take the UK away from the Church of Rome. Because of that, he destroyed a lot of the monasteries. But, there’s a bunch in Yorkshire and they’re all just scattered all over the place. I find that part very beautiful.
SR: That’s very interesting. I’ve never been there myself, but it sounds like a place to really see.
RL: Yeah, it really is. It can be a bit bleak in the winter time. The weather isn’t going to be really tropical, ever, because there’s so much rain. But, it’s absolutely beautiful when it does.
SR: Now, when I was reading up on you presently, I saw that you now live in New York City, and that you’ve never lived somewhere longer, about 24 years. What drew yourself to NYC? Why’d you choose to live there for so long?
RL: I didn’t really. It just kind of happened. I came in 1994 to visit my brother who was living here. There were a few years in Los Angeles in between. But, as the story goes, he wanted me to stay and start a band. We did that. From there my roots found a footing, and look, I’ve loved NYC from the moment I landed. My brother came to pick me up, and I remember riding in with him in a yellow cab looking at the skyline. When someone enters into Manhattan it’s thrilling every time. I was a 21-year-old kid; I couldn’t help but be thrilled with it all. I came to life here. I think I’m not alone in that; it’s not a unique story. I think that’s why so many people come here.
SR: I find that really relatable, because I live in northern New Jersey, which is about 45 minutes from NYC on a good day, and it was always that place that drew me in. It is a magical place.
RL: Yes, and I think it always will be. I think we’ll always want to physically come together in that way, and NYC is NYC.
SR: To bring it back a bit, how did you get introduced to music? Was it something that was in your family? Was it through friends? How did you eventually become inspired to create your own and pursue it as a career?
RL: I had a teacher, when I was about six, that discovered that I could sing. She took me to this place in Leeds called Leeds Parish Church. There was a choir school there – boys and men’s choir. I had an audition at seven. It was a great musical education. It was a flawed institution for sure, like a lot of these places, but in terms of music, nobody does that propaganda better than the Church of England, frankly. It’s quite overwhelming for a seven-year-old kid, really. My parents were not religious, but it was the music that took me there. I think it certainly had a profound effect on me and it was a great education – piano lessons, music theory and all that.
SR: Fascinating. To fast forward a bit, you just released your first solo LP, “Everything’s Dandy,” under your new moniker, Leeds. Talk about your inspiration behind creating this solo LP and where you’d like to take that moniker.
RL: I’ve been making music, outside of Spacehog, always really. I’ve been making music and writing songs since I was 12. I’ve always been doing that. In about 2001, Spacehog started to separate in some ways. I found myself doing that more and more. Then lots of things happened. I got married, had a child and went through a divorce. There was a lot of pain and suffering. There was a lot of self-sabotage and all of that.
Then, fortunately, by some miracle, I came around and something awoke that was driving me forward. I didn’t wholly understand it, and I didn’t have to. It kind of brought me to another area of working in the music industry, working with other artists. In that time, to keep my own creative wellbeing and general spiritual connectiveness as a person, I kept making my own. So, about Christmas time a year ago, rather than focus on the loneliness and isolation, I thought I’d put that into some work.
I wanted to reflect all that in an album. So, I set to work on that. The writing process took quite a long time. It was not something I was able to do all the time, so I did it when I could. I was very gentle with myself and it was very personal. I didn’t tell anyone, but the people I was working with, about it. I didn’t want to be enveloped by the industry and the machine that goes around that. I didn’t want any of that.
I wanted to align this record around who I am and my nature. I wanted to reflect on how that fits into my environment. Also, it’s a reflection of the people around me who I love and the people who I lost. It’s not a unique story, as we all grow up and experience suffering. That’s a great touchstone to spiritual growth. I don’t know how I got here, but when I look back it’s miraculous. From that sense, it’s truly awesome.
SR: I had a chance to listen to most of it. I really enjoyed it. It’s great to have listened to it and tie it into your perspectives or reasons for creating it. To bring it more into travel, when you do have some downtime, and are looking to get away, are you looking more for a city? To be by the beach? Or, off in the countryside and have some seclusion?
RL: Contrary to what people may think, I’m not flying around all over the place traveling the world on a whim. Music has definitely been my vehicle for that, but I think that [travel], touring, is very different than going on holiday. A lot of my family is still in Yorkshire, so that’s a place for me that I love to go to. I do think it’s just nature, really, that I like to be around. Not necessarily by the sea, or in the countryside, it’s all over the place.
For me, it’s curiosity, and there’s lots of places I still want to go to. I feel like the world’s my oyster really. I don’t really have a specific place that I want to be, that can be anywhere I am if I’m in good shape. I can be happy anywhere I am. If I’m not, and I want to be somewhere else, I’m usually trying to avoid something.
I like Jamaica; I like the Caribbean a lot. I’ve spent quite a bit of time there. I’ve spent time in New Zealand, years ago now, but I did enjoy that. That place felt relatively undiscovered still. I liked that. I’ve spent time on Marlon Brando’s island in the South Pacific, a place called Tetiaroa. It’s a tiny, tiny atoll in the South Pacific. It’s about 100-to-200-miles north of Tahiti – beautiful. There’s no electricity, basically living on a deserted island. I found that thrilling.
SR: That sounds brilliant. One of the things that stood out to me was that you said music was sort of your conduit to traveling, your vehicle. One of our biggest objectives is to bring people together while traveling, and I think music is one of the best ways to do that. People from all over the world travel to concerts and festivals, many not speaking the same language as each other. Talk about being able to share your music through so many diverse groups of people. How important is it to see that form of uniting people in the world?
RL: In one way or another it has been. It’s really a universal language. I’ve been fortunate enough to speak that language and have it spoken in communion. That’s the thing. Back in the day we went down to South America a bit with Spacehog, and we went down with the Sex Pistols. That was incredible. It’s a different culture all together, and yet, when the lights go down and the band comes on, everybody is singing from the same hymn sheet. That’s something I think we need more than ever in the divisive world that we find ourselves in today. It’s as old as the world. People have always been banging on drums and singing to the children. That’s what calms the imperious urge within mankind.
SR: Absolutely! You’ve touched on all these places that you’ve been and seen, but how about some places that you haven’t been to, and want to see? What stands out to you?
RL: I’ve been to Japan and a little out [in the Far] East, but I’ve not spent much time in that neck of the woods. I’d love to go see the temples, and those kinds of things. My sun and I were talking about taking a trip to Australia and into the Outback – Ayers Rock (Uluru) and all that. I’d like to check out some of the Indian Islands. Beyond that, I’ve been really fortunate. I’m sure there are other places, but I haven’t really thought about it, to be honest. I’m very curious, so there’s definitely more to be discovered. I’d love to go to Eastern Europe and into Russia and Siberia too. There’s a lot of space out there.
SR: We covered a whole bunch of topics, and I know that your album is out, but is there anything you want to cover that we didn’t touch on?
RL: I’m here in New York right now. I’ll be in Los Angeles in a little bit. I’m trying to shine as much light on this record – press and radio stuff. I’ll go to England to do the same, maybe also on a little holiday with my son over there. That will be the plans through June.