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Leaf Hound - A Retrospective

Discussion in 'Metal Interviews' started by Russell, Jul 8, 2006.

  1. Russell

    Russell __

    Jul 15, 2001
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    The starry attic
    [IMGLEFT][/IMGLEFT]By Stephanie Lynne Thorburn

    Leaf Hound’s cult release Growers Of Mushroom has certainly presented the music world with a human enigma. Originally released by Decca in 1971, the album was effectively lost in the vaults of time and then resurrected by popular demand as a ‘people’s champion’, defining the parameters of progressive stoner genre rock n’ roll. Leaf Hound oozes the Zeppelin sound, but as critics would have it, in a more invariably explosive groove. As an album the nearest musical relatives of the Growers record are often cited as Deep Purple’s In Rock and Free’s Fire and Water; a testament to the stature of this project. The material is crafted with artistic wit and rhetoric, with the titles of the songs being taken from a collection of horror stories by Herbert Van Thal.

    Despite the title track’s psychedelic/ acid rock connotations, appearances can be deceptive – the band provide one hell of a ride through driving hard rock, complemented by blues-rock grooves from the late 1960’s R & B scene. The distinctive sound and roots of the ‘Hound are grounded firmly in the heavy riffs of early proto- metal though, sharing some musical lineage with archetypal forefathers, from Sabbath to Sir Lord Baltimore. In 1994, Growers was dusted and re-released by Repertoire Records, following an overwhelming surge of interest on the collectors’ market, resulting in the album having been sought out for upwards of £1000 ($1800 U.S.) on eBay. The underground revolution has also brought about a new incarnation of the band, reformed with original member Pete French now accompanied by Luke Rayner, Ed Pearson and Jimmy Rowland. Stephanie Lynne Thorburn recently caught up with vocalist Peter French to talk about the Growers album, Cactus, Atomic Rooster, interstitial years and solo projects.

    The Leaf Hound sound is reminiscent of both its era and your own roots in bands like Brunning Sunflower Blues Band and Black Cat Bones with cousin, guitarist Mick Halls. I know you were searching for a more ‘progressive’ direction. What did the band represent to Mick and yourself at the time.. what aspirations/ influences did you have?

    I suppose I can safely say Mick and I got together after Black Cat Bones, which was a blues band. We basically wanted to do something a bit more convincing with the blues and there is always that wonderful unknown when you start writing your own material and not copying anybody, and that gets you known, it’s the most wonderful accolade because that is something you have achieved. To go out as yourself, to do some writing and get commended for me is what every creative musician is out there to do. You’ve taken the time to sit down, think of the lyric and musical composition and if someone likes what you wrote it’s like a teacher at school who appreciates what you’ve done! So I love the creativity and have always written the lyrics with Cactus, on my solo album and with Leaf Hound; I love that feeling and feel I have something to say- when you get it to gel it’s unique. Optimistically and professionally speaking you try to learn things over the years and gain a better evaluation and deliver as a part of getting better at your art I suppose. I hope we satisfy the people who like the type of songs we write and if they are fulfilled then we have succeeded artistically.


    Growers Of Mushroom was your second album after Bullen Street Blues (1968) and was a musically and lyrically enigmatic, rich piece of work. How did you organise the writing with Mick Halls?

    Obviously it’s nice that you particularly liked the words. Once again we set out to do the best we could with limited time. Good songs can be written on acoustic guitar with a guy just singing a lyric and if it makes sense you can take that where you want and add bass, drums, production. It’s nice if you can incorporate a lyric, which in a way actually means something or makes someone think about it.

    The album was ‘progressive’ containing aspects of fantasy, exploring a range of genres and was also poetic, reminiscent of lyricist Pete Brown.

    The people who influenced me tremendously in the music world and lyrically were firstly Jack Bruce’s album Rope Ladder To The Moon - I think Jack Bruce is a phenomenal musician. I’ve often been asked what new material I listen to in forming my influences and to be honest I go back to the early seventies, because there was such a depth and all manner of musical variation and chemistry. If you look at Hendrix, The Who, Cream, early Zeppelin there was so much happening, we haven’t had that eclipse again yet. We have loads of bands at the moment but not at that same magnitude of writing. A lot of it is still untouched; a lot of the progressive changes and attitude is still so valid, so when I get influences I still think about something Hendrix, Cream or The Faces wrote. The writing of Pete Brown’s lyrics was incredible and I loved it.

    At the end of the day on the Growers album Mick Halls and me sat down and I wrote the melody in my head, I can write a melody in my head and can sing a tune without having an instrument played. Clever people like Mick and Luke (Rayner) can interpret that and improve it, taking it further and it’s a collective song- that’s just the way it works and it does work!

    Was there a particular reason for your practically unprecedented eleven hour recording session?

    It’s so hard to remember accurately.. we’d been playing together for a while, we had written a lot of ideas and presented them to the band, they picked it up quickly and the last composition ‘With A Minute To Go’ was literally called that because we had a minute left of studio time! That title over the years has changed and ‘With A Minute To Go’ was originally called ‘Sawdust Caesar’. The album was a wonderful experience, but it didn’t work to some degree within the band. It was an anchor of some resentment that A/ we had a rhythm guitar player that we felt wasn’t necessary because my cousin Mick was a very able guitar player and B/ in the end we replaced the bass player with Ron Thomas of Heavy Metal Kids. We played live as a four- piece band.


    I know Leaf Hound’s tour of Norway and Germany did not coincide with the release of the album in ’71, but you were well received nevertheless, taking on UFO who were the headliners..

    It’s funny because I have to read this to remember because I have heard all kinds of Chinese whispers like that I auditioned for Deep Purple etc. I heard that they were considering me, but whether that was true or not? Things do get accidentally contorted over time, but we did a German tour and quite a few other concerts. At that time it was simply a privilege to see Mick Halls performing and when the light goes up on stage it’s a great test - there is no better task to give anyone and what a great learning curve, it’s a bitch, but it works. It’s like Luke Rayner who has come on the past year and a half from bands where his talent was absolutely wasted.. This young man got a review from Classic Rock that said, “At last here’s a guitarist with something to say rather than just a boring guitar solo”, which read my thoughts! I’m chuffed that he’s come of age.

    I’d like to ask about the period of time after Leaf Hound, when you went on the road with Atomic Rooster and did some dates in Canada and the States, supporting Cactus. In ’71 and ’72 you recorded archetypal albums with both with Rooster and Cactus..

    The thing with Leaf Hound was before I went onto Big Bertha and met Cozy Powell. I went up north to audition and got on great with Cozy, a fantastic character. He was up north and we worked with a band called Big Bertha and unfortunately Cozy and myself, after spending time trying to get it together, decided it wasn’t really working. Cozy came down to London and stayed for two or three months, he went to work with Jeff Beck and at the same time, I got an audition to try out for Atomic Rooster.

    Rooster was a unique experience and gave me good exposure, I went to America and did the tour and recorded on their third album. The band originally comprised, John DuCann, Paul Hammond, Vincent Crane. Shortly after I arrived we went into the studio to record and I then discovered that it was like World War III going on between Vincent Crane and John DuCann. The next thing I knew I was standing there with Vincent Crane and no drummer and no bass player! We got a new drummer, bassist and went on the road. I recorded the vocals of In Hearing Of (1971) and we did pretty well considering. We went across to America, did a German tour and a few dates in Canada. It was whilst I was on that tour actually, there was a band called Cactus, previously called Vanilla Fudge and I’d always heard about these guys. When Atomic Rooster played with them, I have never heard a rhythm section that was so formidable; they were the crème de la crème, apart from Bonham and John Paul Jones in Zeppelin. I was absolutely knocked out when they asked me to join them and do a US tour.

    I did a big show with Rooster when we came back from America with The Faces, Who and had the premiere of the new Atomic Rooster album. After that I started putting in some thought and kept on hearing from the boys in America, so I decided to begin work on the new Cactus album (Ot’ N’ Sweaty, 1972). Vincent Crane of course wasn’t happy and said “you can’t do that” so I just said, “watch this space”.. I began recording with Cactus and I was based with them in Electric Ladyland Studios and we did a live-recorded show in Puerto Rico, so at the time I was in cloud cuckoo land! While I was in Electric Ladyland studios with Tim and Carmine, the person I worshiped as my personal guitar hero, Jeff Beck turned up in the studios and was signing a new contract to create Beck, Bogert and Appice. This had happened to me before with Atomic Rooster, and it was hard to believe. The management said I should have the name ‘Cactus’, but the very thing I was chasing had evaded me having just signed with them myself! It was crazy, an Englishman in America auditioning people for my band ‘Cactus’? I auditioned Mitch Mitchell, Randy California, great players and thought, “What am I doing?”.

    So, I returned back to the UK and Robert Stigwood wanted to pick me up offering a deal, but I was stuck in a redundant contract with Cactus and could do nothing for three years. I went crashing back down to Battersea again, and felt like a slave. I went to Battersea labour exchange and this is a true story, I asked if they had any jobs and they asked me what I did- I said I used to be a rock singer and they just laughed and said they had no vacancies! It crippled me at the time and at the end of those three years I got an audition for Randy Pie a German band and we did German tours and went to America to record the Randy Pie Fast Forward album. At this stage, the manager turned around and wanted to sack Randy Pie, wishing to just employ me..

    Now this time, I’m an Englishman in Germany without a band and they wanted me to work on a solo album, (Ducks In Flight, 1978.) I said I would only do it if it could be with guys I wanted and in England, so I used the producer from Cactus and got my cousin to do the writing, Mick Moody was on slide guitar, Brian Robertson on lead guitar and Joe Brown on ukulele. To my astonishment I found myself up against a moronic German accountant mentality and the record company insisted, “We have signed you only as a solo artist”. Kenny Jones and all these incredible artists were available, but they wouldn’t sign them as my band and it was absolutely off the wall. In the meantime I did an anti-war album, but in the end I left Germany completely disheartened. I had trouble finding a house and so on, it was the era of Boy George as opposed to Cream, Hendrix, rock, R & B.. Some years past by and then there was as resurgence of Leaf Hound which came out the blue from under a rock, and to my amazement Andy Davis got in touch and wrote a seven page article in Record Collector, (1993).


    How did you perspective change in respect to the industry and your own work?

    I made more money out of carpentry and decorating than the music industry and I got ripped off big time! So, now I hope I can make a new album comprising new compositions with Leaf Hound this time in 2006 and actually put some money into a band account. At the end of the day, I can only quote my uncle who said, “they may take your money away, but they can’t take your memories of all those albums”. What else would I have done all these years? This is what I really like doing and it’s not hard work, I like music across the range from blues to heavy rock.

    With the recent success you have earned with the return of Leaf Hound, what would you ideally still like to achieve?

    I like working with my new band and have recently turned down an invitation to work with Cactus for Leaf Hound at Sweden Rock, but it was a wonderful complement from Carmine. It just didn’t sit right to work with both bands, my loyalty has to lie with Leaf Hound because we’ve got so many things opening up for my band at the moment.. It’s a strange world and often seems like life is on a big dipper. - Well, I just want to see the new boys in Leaf Hound on the big stage and have the pleasure of being on the big stage myself. I hope these guys in the band have every opportunity to show what they can do!


    Leaf Hound will shortly be headlining at the Metal Brew Festival on 22nd July 2006 in London.

    In the coming months, watch this space for the forthcoming new album from the band, entitled Unleashed. The new material will be the first release from the reformed band and promises to deliver some evocative surprises.

    Official Peter French website
    Official Leafhound website
    Leafhound Myspace
  2. roadburn

    roadburn New Metal Member

    Jul 11, 2006
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