If you talk to many loyal fans of vintage '70s heavy rock, and I mean the ones who 'really' know & appreciate the bands who had a great influence on the scene, you'll often hear the name Leaf Hound come up in the conversation. Their early '70s classic Growers of Mushroom is one of the unsung gems of that era, and still held in high regard today as a classic of British proto metal/hard rock. Vocalist Peter French, who not only fronted Leaf Hound, but also Atomic Rooster & Cactus, put the band back together with new members a few years ago and released Unleashed, a very strong reunion record, and now we have a new live CD/DVD set called Live in Japan 2012 that shows that the group still can deliver the goods. Sea of Tranquility Publisher Pete Pardo shared an email interview with the veteran vocalist to get some insight into the reformation of Leaf Hound, the comeback album, the live album, and the bands place in heavy rock history.
SoT: First of all, though it's a few years late, welcome back! As someone who loved the Growers of Mushroom album, Unleashed was a welcome return back in 2007. Can you talk about what led to the reformation of Leaf Hound after so many years?
Peter French: The brief version is, Record collector magazine got in touch with me about the undiscovered Album Leaf Hound Growers of Mushroom that they had just discovered years later, and thought it was a classic and couldn't believe how it had become one of rocks best kept secrets, and consequently asked me to do an interview for a seven page article for their magazine about the band.
Some time later I was invited to meet some young fans of the band at a club in London called Heavy Load, I attended out of curiosity and had the pleasure to have met Jimmy Rowland who enquired about whether I thought about putting a newer version of Leaf Hound together, I decided to give it a try and auditioned Luke Rayner on Guitar, and Jimmy on drums and Ed Pearson on bass, they were cooking and I thought hell why not, we later recorded the Leaf Hound Unleashed album, and the new band had made its mark.
SoT: The music on the reunion album Unleashed is very much in the spirit of the original band, yet with a modern touch. How hard, or easy, was it to write and record songs that captured that early '70s heavy rock feel with a completely new band?
Peter French: I was worried that after reading the wonderful acclaim that the Growers of Mushroom Album had previously received that it was going to be a big leap to be able to follow with Unleashed but to my delight it received great reviews from the rock magazines upon its release.
Luke Rayner and myself wrote most of the material and also produced the Album.
SoT: Speaking of the band, what were all the current members of the band doing prior to Leaf Hound being put back together?
Peter French: Well first I was advised to put name musicians in the band if I wanted it to work; but I decided after auditioning and hearing how keen and good the new unknown guys were especially Luke, I immediately knew that it was not necessary, they had the talent and it was good to give them a crack at proving it.
SoT: What are the other original members of Leaf Hound up to theses days?
Peter French: Well my cousin Mick Halls, guitarist, who originally started the original band with me still plays blues and now lives in the States. The drummer Keith Young
unfortunately passed away some years ago, Derek Brooks, rhythm guitar, I have no idea what happened to him, and Stewart Brooks went to live in the States.
SoT: You have a new live album/DVD coming out, Live in Japan 2012. Can you talk about what it was like flying out to Japan for this series of gigs, how the audiences were, and the process of putting together a set list that represented Leaf Hound both old & new?
Peter French: I was delighted to receive an e-mail from Tokyo requesting Leaf Hound to appear in Japan, and of course accepted, I then discussed with the band about the sort of set we should do.
Peter Herbert at this time had recently joined the band to replace Ed Pearson on bass.
It turned out to be a fabulous experience for the band to play in Japan, and the audience were absolutely terrific.
SoT: As far as live performances go, how do you rate the live release, and is it a good representation of where Leaf Hound is today?
Peter French: It is quite ambiguous for an artist to rate himself, but I will rate the band. I humbly thought that we did a great collective performance, no frills or of over the top production, just telling it like it is warts and all.
SoT: Does the band play many live gigs these days, and if so, were do you play most of your shows? Any chance of heading over to North America?
Peter French: My band hasn't really played that many gigs, but have enjoyed our exclusivity, almost all the gigs we have played have been gigs requested by the promoters themselves which has been really quite charming.
I had the pleasure to have lived for a few years in America and quite honestly loved recording and touring and playing to the audiences there, I would truly love to be able to think that Leaf Hound might possibly get to do some dates in the States in the near future.
SoT: Though not a household name, Leaf Hound often comes up in a discussion of influential 70s heavy rock bands among people who really studied and appreciated that scene. Where do you see the band in the history of hard rock?
Peter French: I am delighted to find that other artists actually do consider the band as having such an influence, and to find that it has made an impression, its very appreciated. However, it's for others to decide to place where they will Leaf Hound in the history of hard rock.
SoT: As good as Unleashed was as a reunion album, for fans it leaves us wanting and ready for more new music. Do you have any plans to record a new album of new material anytime in the near future?
Peter French: I am pleased to hear that you liked the Unleashed Album, and at present we haven't decided to write and record a new Album as yet.
SoT: It was nice to include a Cactus & Atomic Rooster song on the new live release. Was that your decision to include those, and how does the band enjoy playing those songs?
Peter French: It was a decision that I made, and it was a tribute to both of the previous bands that I had recorded and toured with.
SoT: Lastly, your voice has held up incredibly well over the years. What's the secret to keeping your vocals in such great shape?
Peter French: Well I thank you for the compliment, truthfully I don't really know, I just hope it manages to hold itself together for a while longer!
Leaf Hound Website
Leaf Hound Facebook Page
(Click here to read our review of Live in Japan 2012)