This interview appeared in the July-August 1994 issue (#6) of Big Bang magazine, the French Progressive Music Magazine. It is reprinted here with the permission of Big Bang's Aymeric Leroy. Access Big Bang's web site at: http://www.alpes-net.fr/~bigbang/bigbang.html.
It was surprise for everyone to see you and Keith Relf, two former members of the Yardbirds, a bluesy/heavy rock band, move to a completely different style, first with Together, a folk duo, then Renaissance...During our last years in the Yardbirds, Keith and myself had something of a spiritual awakening... We became interested in the paranormal, psychic phenomena, UFO's, Buddhism and the like. Also more mellow music, Simon and Garfunkel, Grieg, John Cage, Jim Webb, Joni Mitchell, etc... It seemed to be a polarity to the heavy blues we'd played for several years, and it was refreshing. We had written quite a few songs before the group split up, all of them quite folky. The original idea of Together was to record these songs with Paul Samwell-Smith, but then it became necessary to create a band to make a more interesting sound.
So it was the birth of Renaissance?Yes... Louis Cennamo was introduced to us by Peter Gage, who knew a lot of musicians. John Hawken came through Chris Dreja who was trying to form a country and western band. Jane was around, and wanted to sing. She also had the right image...
Was there a strong leadership from you and Keith?Well, we formed the band, but everybody had a pretty free rein.
How was Betty Thatcher eventually involved as lyricist?Betty was originally a friend of Jane's. Jane used to live in Cornwall, actually. She told me about Betty, who used to write poetry, and I tended to be lazy with lyrics... I would send her the music on tape. Mick Dunford carried on in the same way.
Why did that first Renaissance break up so quickly?As far as I was concerned, I got in quite a state, when we started to tour again... Basically, I'd had enough with the Yardbirds, and then it was happening again. I left first, then Keith and Louis. John Hawken did a few gigs with Jane before she left. John carried on with people that he knew - Dunford, Crowe, Korner... then he left. John Tout joined, then Annie Haslam. Dunford then seemed to take over the band. I carried on as writer for a while before I totally lost contact with them. They signed with John Sheary Agency and really did seem to work a lot.
Apart from the Shoot! album in 1972 what did you do between 1970 and 1975?Not much... The Shoot! project was the only thing I did after Renaissance. It was just an idea to do some of my own songs, singing them myself. Some of them were quite good, but it wasn't exactly a great hit!...
Eventually, the original Renaissance line-up was back together as Illusion, in the mid-70's...Yes, around 1975, all the members of the original band met, as we were all pleased still to be receiving royalties, after six years... None of us were doing much, so we thought about reforming. Obviously, we couldn't use the old name, so we took on the name of our second album. After Keith tragically died early in 1976, I felt we should go on and played some demos we had made to Island records who signed us up. We did two albums before the record company dropped us... The punk era was upon us! We did try to get another deal, but without success. The Enchanted Caress CD is a collection of demos we used to try and get a deal.
Then there was another gap of several years, until you and Louis Cennamo formed Stairway, with the occasional involvement of Jane Relf as well...I'd just finished with the Box Of Frogs project, and met up again with Louis. As it happened, we were both interested in healing, and were aware of the "healing music" released by Colin Wilcox of New World Cassettes. We were introduced to Colin, and decided to record some music together. We recorded Aquamarine (1987), Moonstone(1988), Chakra Dance (1989) and Medicine Dance (1992). Jane sang on the first two. We enjoyed recording these albums, and there was no pressure involved, tours etc. We just did a few live performances, mainly at St. James Church in Picadilly, a video of which is available.
What are you doing these days?I am carrying on with the more mellow music... I'm putting out a new solo album, Out Of The Dark And I've also been playing in a blues band for the past six years. I'm enjoying singing!