Ken Levy: So this is your first visit back to New York in about 6 years?
Michael Dunford: That's right! I must admit, it's certainly nice to be back. It's quite nostalgic walking around and seeing all the places we used to stay at ...
You could easily have a New York Renaissance tour ... Radio City, Carnegie Hall, The Bottom Line, Nassau Coluseum ... the venues! The hotels!
That's right! I think we probably stayed in half the hotels in New York.
So what prompted the trip over?
We have a couple of new albums coming out [with music] that was recorded by King Biscuit Flower Hour in 1977. We did a series of three concerts in the UK, finishing up at the Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. That particular show was recorded by King Biscuit (the radio syndicator) on multi-track. Now King Biscuit is a record label with major distribution around the world. I came across to actually mix the album. As it turns out, the show was a very long one, so they decided to have two albums; one released in early February and the next one in April.
What do you remember most about those shows?
It was quite unusual and dreadfully expensive, now that I think about it! We went on the road to three cities: Birmingham, Manchester and London, but with an entire orchestra! I can't remember how many players there were, but there were a hell of a lot. Harry Rabinowitz was the conductor, quite a character and very well known in the UK ...we had a ball. It was a good show. One of the things that was a little bit different - we got Lou Clarke who did a lot of work for ELO and also our Song For All Seasons album to orchestrate "Prologue." This was like a Renaissance overture! Not having heard it since the actual night, it was pretty impressive, I must say. It obviously was a long time ago, but I remember the fun and the wonderful orchestra.
How was the Royal Albert Hall as a venue?
It's a special place, although at the time it was not acoustically the best. Fortunately that doesn't come across on the tape!
What material can we look forward to on these upcoming albums?
We were promoting Novella at the time and have three tracks from there. We also have the favourites; "Mother Russia," "Running Hard," "Carpet of the Sun," "Song of Scheherazade" and finish off with "Ashes are Burning." At that time I think it was only the third time we'd ever done "Scheherazade" on stage.
How do these versions compare to the Live at Carnegie Hall concert?
I think they're a bit different. All our music's arranged within that certain framework, but there's a certain flexibility within that. Because of the way it was recorded, there are some different orchestral pieces that you can hear on Royal Albert which you can't on Carnegie Hall.
What other things are you working on?
I'm doing a couple of acoustic albums with Stephanie which will incorporate a bit of violin, cello and piano, and acoustic guitars; doing some of the original material plus some new songs as well. I'm also looking to do an orchestral album of not only the popular songs we did, but some of the other ones as well.
Are there any plans for you and Stephanie to go on the road?
Not at the moment, but who knows?
What about working with Annie?
I think there's a good possibility we'll do some work together. We've discussed it a number of times and talked about material. I think in the next six months or so we will definitely get together and start writing.
Was Annie involved in the mixing of the new live album?
She wasn't there for the actual mix because she was rehearsing and doing shows, but she is involved.
When you write now are you drawing from a similar source of inspiration as you were with Renaissance - or are you looking at it from a different perspective?
I think it's a bit of both really. Remembering the roots of where I came from musically ... Renaissance was a combination of lots of influence from the people who were in it, their input and various musical styles, but with the basic format of classical, folk, rock with other elements of jazz, etc. So yes, I look within that, with more an immediate '90s feel. You can't be retrospective because those days are gone. At the same time, you can have that sort of feel. The new songs I have hopefully reflect that.
What kind of lineup will there be with the new acoustic projects?
Basically Stephanie and myself. It won't include any musicians from The Other Woman. I'd like to work with a small ensemble: a string quartet -- a few woodwinds, percussion -- [doing] commercial, contemporary type songs, but also retaining that classical feel that we had before.
What's new with "Scheherazade?"
That's been ongoing for some time. With musicals ... a large project such as this, it does have its ups and downs! Now we're on course with the right creative team. We hope to be onto a workshop by next summer and then with a view to full scale production either in London's West End or on Broadway.
How much of the Renaissance "Scheherazade" suite will be included?
It will definitely include a couple of things, as well a lot of new music, new songs, because writing for theatre is completely different from writing for anything else. I'm very excited about it now, especially that the chemistry between the writers is right. I have a great playwright doing the book and lyrics, as well as an extraordinary co-composer who is the musical director of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Along with the development director, we seem to really have it right!
Which would you prefer? A Broadway or West End opening?
Both! Obviously the West End because it's where I'm from ... New York, because a good part of our success with Renaissance has been here. "Scheherazade" premiered at Carnegie Hall for the first time.
Thanks Mike and best of luck with the projects!