Today it's my pleasure to be interviewing a true Rock and Roll Legend of the 70s UK Hard Rock Scene. - Pete French – Lead vocalist of Leaf Hound. - The band who helped defined the 70s UK Hard Rock/Stoner Rock scene.
Leaf Hound released a brilliant début album in 1971 – Growers Of Mushroom – before sadly disbanding soon after. Growers Of Mushroom is a classic album in every sense of the word. It helped defined the UK Hard Rock scene in the 70s and is now considered a pioneering album of the Stoner Rock movement.
Original Vinyl LP's of this album are extremely rare indeed and can exchange for $1500.
Peter decided to reform the band with an entirely new line-up in 2004 and they released a critically acclaimed album - Unleashed - in 2007. Leaf Hound also made a high profile appearance at Holland’s Roadburn Festival, supplemented by numerous club gigs with acts such as Nazareth, Mountain, Orange Goblin and Witchcraft.
I became a fan of this band in the mid 90s when I bought Growers Of Mushroom on a bootleg CD at a CD Fair in my hometown of Newcastle Upon Tyne. I became a fan of Leaf Hound instantly and have followed Peter's career ever much since.
Pete has also sang vocals for other legendary bands such as Atomic Rooster and Cactus for brief moments of time.
But I will always admire his work with Leaf Hound the most. They are about to have their brilliant new live album – Live In Japan 2012 – released on Vinyl and CD/DVD through the best hard rock label on the scene – Ripple Music.
It's a record I raved on about recently. Well I am happy to say that Pete has agreed to talk to us here at Sludgelord.
Q1 – Hi Pete. Thanks for doing this. I am huge fan of your music especially Leaf Hound. How are things with you today.
Thanks for being a fan Steve, its feels good to be appreciated, incidentally the Growers of Mushroom Album in mint condition fetches around £4,000 now, not $1,500, I wish now that I had bought some copies my own Album when I had the chance I would have made a few Quid.
Well it’s a New Year and I am delighted to say that my band Leaf Hound have a “Leaf Hound Live in Japan Album” / DVD, / CD. being released on Ripple Music, so I look forward to see what reaction it gets.
Q2 – Can you give our readers a brief history of how you became involved with music and the formation of Leaf Hound.
That’s a long story, I guess the first band I ever sang with was an amateur band called The Max Brown group, many other band formations came and went, but the first Recorded Album I ever sang and wrote some lyrics for was The Brunning Sunflower Blues Bands “Bullen Street Blues”.
Shortly afterwards I was to join Black Cat Bones, with my cousin Mick Halls on guitar, together we wrote a whole new set of songs and basically changed Black cat Bones into a Classic Rock band and called it Leaf Hound and recorded the revered Leaf Hound Growers Of Mushroom Album, then we were told that it was not going to be released so we broke up the band and I went off and joined Cozy Powell in a band called Big Bertha.
This was short lived as Cozy and I didn’t quite know why good band that it was but it was not happening, so I went back down to London, Cozy came down and stayed a short while and we were both delighted to find that we both got offered gigs at the same time with a couple of major acts, Cozy with the Jeff Beck Group, and me with Atomic Rooster.
I recorded the “In Hearing Of Album” with Atomic Rooster and successfully toured Europe and the States and Canada with them. It was while I was touring the States that Carmine Appice and Tim Bogert told me that they wanted me to front their American band called Cactus, I liked their Rock attitude and I really liked their new guitarist Werner Fritchings so I decided to leave Atomic Rooster to join Cactus, I then wrote and record with them the “Ot, `N` Sweaty” Album.
And I once again with Cactus I had the pleasure to tour the States and Canada again.
Sad to say Carmine foolishly broke up Cactus just when we were making the headlines right across the States in order to go and join Jeff Beck.
So I returned back to London and after some time was asked if I would like to join a German Band called Randy Pie, I went and recorded with them in Los Angeles, the Album “Fast Forward” I then did several tours across Germany with them, it was at this time that Polydor offered me a chance to do my solo Album titled Peter French ‘Ducks in Flight” this was recorded in London and co written with my cousin Mick Halls, featuring Kenney Jones, Brian Robertson, Micky Moody, Dave Marquee, and Joe Brown.
I later also recorded on a controversial Rock Opera on Harvest records in Germany, After some time I left Germany to return back to London where I eventually was influenced to put Leaf Hound back on the map, and it was quite some time before I put the new Leaf Hound together and to record the Leaf Hound “Unleashed” Album.
Now of course we have the “Leaf Hound Live in Japan Album” about to be released and I sincerely hope it will be well received.
Q3 – Leaf Hound are considered one of the pioneers of the 70s Hard Rock scene and especially your legendary début album – Growers Of Mushroom. Did you realise you had something special when you were recording that album.
At the time I thought the band was red hot, we just gave it our best and thought well it sounded rude and raw.
Q4 – Why did Leaf Hound split up soon after. As I read you were performing some brilliant gigs before and during the albums release.
Leaf Hound did a short but excellent tour of Germany to promote the Album, but we were then told that Decca had no intention of releasing the Album so completely and utterly pissed off my cousin and I broke the band up, incredibly about just over a year later after the band was dissolved we had discovered that Decca had then decided to release it. It was a complete bloody joke.
Q5 – You were around the time that Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin were starting to make gigantic waves within the Hard Rock Scene. Did you ever tour with those great bands or met then in person. What was the overall vibe in the Rock Scene with those great bands around.
I went to see Zeppelin at the Marquee club they were called the New Yardbirds and were absolutely amazing, sad to say I never had the pleasure to have toured with Zep or Black Sabbath,
However later I did get to tour with Yes, Alice Cooper, The Faces, Spirit, etc.
Q6 – Growers Of Mushroom is now considered a classic album in the UK Hard Rock/Stoner Rock scene. What was the original reception like for the album. As it has been elevated to classic status over the 40 years since it has been released.
The original reception never happened, as the Album didn’t come out when the band was active, unhelpfully it was almost like a well-kept secret classic.
Q7 – Are you proud to be associated with a classic album such as that. As it has influenced a whole generation of bands and musicians.
Its really great to feel that your work has been appreciated by the public, and even more so by other newer younger musicians.
Q8 – Which bands and musicians influenced you as a musician when you were growing up. Any specific albums or records that made a lasting impression.
Boy when I was growing up I was a total Elvis freak, later to change when Cream, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, & Jeff Beck Group came on the scene and later Zeppelin of course.
The first Cream Album I thought was particularly great, and Hendrix.
Q9 – You were briefly vocalist of Atomic Rooster and Cactus. Which both ended pretty quickly. Are you happy to have had the experience to be part of those two legendary bands.
I enjoyed every minute touring with both bands; the sad truth is Cactus in my opinion would have been an enormously successful band, we had everything going for us but certain peoples ego`s ruined it from ever happening.
Q10 – Would you change anything from your time with those two bands. Or do you not look back on this.
You can never live in the past, I have good memories and experiences and yes a few regrets regarding the way that Cactus ended.
Q11 – What were you happiest and fondest memories performing with all of the bands you have been involved with.
Atomic Rooster gigging at the Whisky in L.A. Cactus playing at the Mar Y Sol festival and the Mount Pocono festival N.Y. and Leaf Hound playing in Tokyo Japan.
Q12 – You decided to reform Leaf Hound back in 2004. How did that come about. Was that an easy decision to make. As you guys have had a major rebirth. 2007 critically acclaimed new album – Unleashed. Plus playing some impressive festivals such as Roadburn.
I was made aware that amazingly there was a buzz going about that the Growers of Mushroom Album had just been rediscovered, and that the new kids on the block playing rock loved what they heard, this made me think about putting a new Leaf Hound together, originally I had John Iden on Bass, Ray Majors on Guitar, and Dominique on drums, we kicked it around for a while but it wasn’t really working, it was some time later that I met my present drummer Jimmy Rowland at a club in Bond street who twisted my arm into auditioning some new members of the band to see if it could work, it really did especially with Luke Rayner on guitar, so I reformed Leaf Hound and we recorded the Unleashed Album.
Q13 – How did the Roadburn Crowd treat you guys. Must of been nerve-wracking playing to people who probably weren't even born when you first played with Leaf Hound.
Walter who is one of the nicest guys who runs the Roadburn festival asked us to play the Roadburn, we packed the place out and although we did have some sound problems we loved playing it and the crowd were great.
It’s a strange world out there; originally we had a deal with Captain Trip Records in Japan to release “Leaf Hound Live in Japan” a very special 500 limited editions of the complete set consisting of Green translucent Vinyl & DVD & CD together with a hand printed poster.
To my surprise Norm from Kansas City radio in the States bought a copy loved it and I ended up delightfully doing a live on air forty-minute interview with him about the band and myself, I then heard from Ripple Music who to my total delight said that they were great fans of Leaf Hound and asked if I would like to place the Live in Japan Album / DVD / CD with them which I of course was only too delighted to accept.
Q15 – Did you have much input into the design of the limited edition vinyl that they are releasing.
Ripple music are a great bunch of people who let you have a lot of freedom regarding the Albums layout.
It had to be different from the artwork on the Japan edition, so I used photo`s that we were given when we played in Tokyo and Ripple and I collectively managed put the album design concept together, I must say I was really pleased with their end result.
Q16 – Will you be releasing a new album with Leaf Hound or any solo material in the next 12 months or so.
I would like to think so, but at present I am looking forward to see how well received the new live album becomes, I have quite a few rough ideas for a few new songs but haven’t as yet started doing any new recordings.
Q17 – How do you feel when bands or musicians list you as an important influence on their musical careers.
Well it has to be taken as a great compliment.
Q18 – So what does 2014 have in store for Pete French and Leaf Hound in general.
I wish I had a crystal ball, for the future is always so unpredictable, hopefully of course I would like to think that it gets better and better.
A recent nice surprise was that the Leaf Hound track “Freelance Fiend” has just been featured by Casio on their latest European cinema advertisement soundtrack for their G-Shock watch campaign.
Q19 – Well Pete, thanks for doing this. It's been a real honour interviewing you. All the best for 2014. Do you have anything else to say to your fans as you have a lot amongst the Stoner Rock community.
Yes, have a great 2014 and keep rockin, hopefully you’ll enjoy the live Album, and thanks for the interview Steve, my kindest regards…Pete.
Thanks to Mona Miluski at Platinum PR for arranging this interview. And to Pete French for taking the time out to talk to me here at Sludgelord. Really apprecaite it.