Moore was prolific, appearing on approximately 60 singles over his 20-year career, on labels such as Vinylmania, Azuli, Glasgow Underground and Prescription. He was a songwriter, singer, producer and his own manager. He developed a reputation for being elusive, refusing interviews in his first six years as an artist. At one point his distributor could only reach him by fax. Future Glasgow Underground label founder Kevin McKay was the first to interview Moore, for Muzik magazine in 1997. "He was naturally suspicious of journalists," McKay says. "But because I made music as well he seemed to be less suspicious of me."
McKay insists Moore's desire for privacy was not an act: "He was just a very naturally cautious person. I think he'd been exploited a few times. He'd seen other people have stories about them and been quoted out of context, and he didn't want that."
After a number of informal phone calls, Moore began to open up. "We seemed to just hit it off. He was a delightful character, and I was really interested in him," McKay says. "'Cause the stuff he did was kind of odd."
Many of Moore's early releases were poorly mastered. "He would have these records that would be so loud in the break-downs, and then when the beats kicked in they would sort of suck in and go to just minimal beats," explains McKay. "He was very different from a lot of other people. Plus his song-writing and his musicianship was pretty amazing."
In his interview for Muzik, Moore proclaimed, "The vocal is still one of the most powerful things, something which lasts forever." Despite choosing underground house as his medium, Moore drew inspiration from a wide range of music, from rock to gospel. In an interview for the Slices DVD, Moore cites "Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Led Zeppelin, Chuck Berry, Elvis, The Beatles [and] Hendrix" as song-writing influences.
Moore has often been compared to Prince. He wrote songs to suit his own voice. "He knew how his voice worked," McKay says. "But he could also write really sweet, beautiful songs for women to sing... really evocative, emotional ideas. You can get lost in his lyrics."
On one of his most influential songs, "The Wanderer," Moore sings, "Jezebel came to me... made me leave my wife, my home, my child and family." McKay asked him if the song was autobiographical, but didn't get a straight answer. "I would ask him if it was about him and he would just be non-committal," McKay recalls. "He really liked that kind of mystery. I only later found out that he had a [ex-]wife and children."
Moore controlled his music as closely as his image. When he first signed to McKay's label, Glasgow Underground, he refused to let other artists, even major ones like Masters At Work, remix his records. "He wanted to have complete control over everything," McKay says. Moore felt that his skills were on par with anyone else in the business.
"He was very confident," McKay says. "To some people that can come across as arrogance, but I think he just had a very, very strong opinion about what he liked." Moore and McKay's working relationship evolved over time. At first he only submitted tracks on cassette for fear of bootlegging. "Sometimes he would send me things but he must have done a pass of a track and left out loads," McKay says. "There was one track called 'Clap Your Hands' that came out on Glasgow Underground, and he sent me a pass of it that was literally a beat and then at the very end of the track, five minutes in, there was this hint of a guitar.
"I said, 'Have you got other mixes?' And he's like, 'Yeah, sure there are other mixes.' And I was like, 'Have you got one where you've brought the instruments up to normal levels?'" McKay continues, laughing. "And he was like, 'Yeah, yeah, I'm sure I can send you that.' It turns out that he was just testing me to see whether I could spot things like that before he sent me the good stuff."
On tour, and later at Moore's home in Asbury Park, New Jersey, McKay was able to observe Moore's working methods. "In the studio, he's one of the fastest people I've ever worked with," he says. "He's really great musically. Brilliant keyboard player, brilliant bass player, brilliant guitarist. Like, 'Done, idea, that's it, it's happening, let's go.' Really quick and really creative, so really able to respond to each thing in the track."
In 2001 Moore produced a second album for Glasgow Underground as Phatt Pussycat, collaborating with a vocalist who had worked with Puff Daddy. Soon after, his collaboration with Daft Punk, "One More Time," became a worldwide hit. "He really didn't have to work again," McKay says. "His life went totally crazy because of the amount of attention. He was at the Grammys... and the level of money that he got went from tens of thousands of dollars a year to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year."
Then, accusations that Daft Punk used an Eddie Johns sample in the song dried up Moore's royalties. "He all of a sudden went from being a really wealthy guy to having nothing," says McKay. "We started talking about how we could sort of fix that."
McKay tried shopping a new album by Moore to several labels, but none were interested. "It's kind of funny, I saw a lot of people on Twitter, taking to social networks going on about how amazing Roman was—and he truly was—but five years ago, I could not get him arrested," McKay recalls. "It was unbelievable." McKay came up with a plan to regenerate interest in Romanthony with a series of re-issues of his back-catalog featuring remixes by other producers. Moore was against it at first but eventually relented. "It took two years of re-issuing these and re-introducing his classic songs to get him to a stage where he became an artist again, where people in the modern day world of Beatport and Juno and Traxsource were focused on Romanthony, and then he could write some new songs," says McKay.
Moore admitted in his Slices interview that transitioning to computer-based music was difficult. "A lot of his early records were made with a drum machine, a Korg M1, a bass guitar, a rhythm guitar and him on vocals," McKay explains. "When you're just making records like that and it's really simple and you just pick a sound... play the music, get it to tape, he was amazing. Latterly, he became obsessed with computer music, and I never felt that he was as good at that side as he was just the composition side."
Having had a glimpse of stardom, Moore wasn't afraid to draw inspiration from the pop side of dance music. On the Slices interview, he mentions listening to Justice, Digitalism, Boys Noize and Deadmau5. McKay was surprised to hear Moore admiring compositional elements from a Tiësto CD: "We would have these arguments in the studio where he would be like, 'Oh no, this is really good, this is really good,' and I would be like, 'Yeah, not sure.'
Nevertheless, McKay characterizes himself as an admirer above all else. Asked about his favorite Romanthony tracks, he says, "Every song that he did for the label, I loved. I love his songs. I'm just a total fan. It's really, really fucking sad that he's not going to write any more songs."
Moore had been suffering from a series of health problems in the months before his death. He was staying with a friend in Austin and undergoing dialysis. McKay heard the news while on holiday. His label has been on a hiatus since. McKay has been talking with Moore's publisher about preserving his legacy. While it's too early for a statement, he hopes to continue the reissue series he and Moore began. "He lived quite a rock & roll lifestyle after 'One More Time,'" McKay says. "But he also really loved his kids. We want to keep this project going... so that his music can live on and do something good for his kids."
Moore's words from McKay's 1997 interview seem prophetic: "Most of the time, when artists... finally get broken around the world, they've got some dark thing following them. And just when you think they're having the best time, it comes out and they're on the edge. So I've been trying to keep my music back and keep it underground... until I have an idea of what the responsibility is to be a musician and the one who gives this message out."