Coronavirus lockdown has done little to curb the creativity of singer, songwriter and Homoculture cover star Roy Inc. In fact Rupert Mellor finds the music, art and fashion multitasker in his most prolific groove yet.
The opening lines could hardly have been more timely. ‘Get me out of my cage, give me just some more space,’ sings musician, model, art muse and Homoculture volume one cover star Roy Brown, aka, in his musical alias, Roy Inc. Just released, Chaos is the title track of an ambitious album of fashion-linked collaborations by Prêt-à-Porter Music, and its artfully unvarnished black and white video cuts between claustrophobic shots of Roy corralled in his London flat and images of the eerily deserted streets outside as the UK capital grapples with coronavirus lockdown.
And yet Roy recorded the vocals more than three years ago. ‘I got a message on Instagram back in 2016 from a guy called Alessandro Massarini’, he recalls, ‘telling me he’d seen my videos from my first album We Were Here, I’m Just Like You, and some of my fashion work, and would I be interested in singing on a track of his?’
‘I was looking, not just for models, but for real characters from the fashion world,’ says Massarini, a prolific, Milan-based photographer and creative director who dreamed up the Prêt-à-Porter Music concept as an Italian answer to Buddha Bar or Café del Mar brands. ‘Roy’s looks are unique and there’s something so London about him, which I love, the city is like a second home to me. Plus of course he has that beautiful voice.’
After three months of phone conversations, Roy boarded a plane to Milan and stepped into an immersive experience of Massarini’s renowned work ethic. ‘Having never heard any of his music, I had 24 hours to get ready to record my vocals for Chaos and Fashion, the other track I sing on the album. But first there was an insane photo shoot to do in his apartment, which was full of make-up artists, stylists and deliveries from all the top fashion brands half an hour after I arrived…’
Chaos, the first in a series of albums from Prêt-à-Porter Music, comes accompanied by several high-concept, lavishly produced videos featuring guest artists including Sicilian fashion icon Greta La Medica, violinist to the stars Jennifer Lynn and two members of Dead or Alive, on Sin City, a track co-written with Peter Burns before his cruelly premature death. Embracing electro, funk and rock, the album breaks out of the fabulous-darling background/catwalk music mould of Buddha Bar and co. with a refreshingly storytelling-driven collection of distinct audio-visual stories.
Chaos was to be the next track to get the high-end promo treatment – until an unforeseen Shrek-headed virus made other plans. Famous for never taking no for an answer, Massarini rallied, and after a few weeks of phone calls to Roy and other LGBT+ creative contacts around London, a brand new video concept was born that embraced the restrictions and isolation of ‘the new normal’.
While several of Massarini’s friends shot locations they could access on foot, and the director himself captured enigmatic prop shots (including a sinister hint at bioterrorism, and a bloodied knife clattering into a sink) in his Milan apartment, Roy spent two and half weeks planning camera angles and rehearsing moves to his iPhone in his flat. ‘I’m not the kind to take a ton of selfies’, he says, ‘so it was quite a weird experience, performing to a phone I’d duct-taped to my bedroom ceiling, or at the end of my bathtub, and trying to direct myself at the same time. At one point Alessandro, who’s an absolute perfectionist, insisted on giving me very detailed instructions on how to do smoky-eye make-up. When he asked me why I kept laughing, I told him, “Darling you’re teaching an old dog old tricks”.’
And while the pandemic continues to hobble corporations and creative industries, Roy’s output has never been so prolific. Chaos is just one of a bunch of current Roy Inc projects, and a symptom of his growing passion for the challenges and diversity of collaboration. Following dancefloor-igniting hook-ups with BFFs Horse Meat Disco that included the career high of writing a vocal for Kathy Sledge, his second full album Rümspringa, due next year, sees him sharing headline credits with producer/instrumentalist Darren Morris, and promises multiple collaborations including with trailblazing queer British rapper QBoy. And also just released is an uplifting soulful house love-in comprising Roy, producer Dominic Dawson and bassist of British acid-jazz legends Incognito Francis Hylton, whose defiantly upbeat message makes a striking contrast to the rock-edged dance-angst of Chaos.
‘There’s a place where we can all live together, souls and minds feeling free,’ sings featured vocalist Amma Adjei, over irresistibly sunny, silky disco beats.
We’re packing our bags.
Find Prêt-à-Porter Music’s Chaos at Amazon Music and the video on YouTube.