Robin Trower interviewed on live DVD, 2005 (2)
Tell me about the end part of being with Procol Harum. You – there's a track you recorded and I've forgotten the name of it but --
Song For A Dreamer, you're talking about, right? Right, yeah.
Well – well, it was in San Francisco, doing Fillmore and the Winterland over a two-week period, I think it was. So we were staying out somewhere, Sausalito, I think it was. And that's when Hendrix died. So it was around that period anyway. I think maybe he died just before we – we went over to do those shows. But it was in that sort of – certainly in that few weeks there. And Keith Reid, the lyricist of Procol Harum, said he wanted to do a tribute on the next album. And he had come up with this lyric which was kind of sort of Hendrixy, you know, and about him. And so I – I — I put it to music. But to do that, I – I wanted to capture what – what his – kind of the spirit of what he was doing, you know. So I went round a friend of ours in San Francisco's house and listened to all the Hendrix albums.
Cause at the time you'd only had one Hendrix album.
– Yeah, that's right. I had the first album which I liked a lot, but then hadn't sort of travelled with him as he'd gone more pop. And so anyway, I – I listened through to those a couple, three times, and I think that's when I started to really – it really started to seep into my own creativity, if you know what I mean. The stuff I started to write from there on was very influenced by just getting round to doing that one song as a tribute to him because I wanted to make that song sound as much like him as possible, you know. So – so I think more than anything, perhaps his – his – the spirit of his – of his writing, is what—what crept into my thing.
You say – and also you said there's a lot of songs that you wouldn't have written or they wouldn't have sounded like they did if you hadn't have heard of Donny Hathaway and he was a powerful influence on you.
Yeah, I mean it was that – it's hard to put – put into words. But Donny Hathaway brought kind of a depth to stuff which hadn't been quite achieved before. And I think that's – it was the – it was the deepness, you know. I mean, he called it soul power or whatever you like, but he had a – you know there was kind of like a classical – because he was formally trained, Donny Hathaway, a formally trained musician, that I think he brought like a, you know, it's coming together of formal music and free soulful music that he achieved in a lot of his things.
When and why did you leave Procol Harum?
Well, after that album, Song For – the album that Song For A Dreamer was on, which was Broken Barricades, I was writing more and more because that seemed to open the floodgates, you know. And I was writing more and more stuff for the guitar. So – and there wasn't room for it in Procol Harum. And that's – that's basically it. I – I needed to do these songs.
So you decided to take the leap and – and – and you formed before prior to RTB, Robin Trower Band, you formed a band called Jude.
Quite an interesting line-up.
Well, the first thing I was looking for was what I would call the soulful singer. Frankie Miller and I got together and we co-wrote some things and we – we – we toured a little bit with Jude but it didn't really work. But through Frankie, he brought in as bass and – and background vocals James Dewar. So I came across Jimmy through that, you know, which obviously was perhaps the luckiest day of my life, you know, finding him.
And – and as you say, he came from Stone The Crows, who are quite a legendary band.
Yeah, that's right.
Jimmy McCulloch came out of that. Maggie Bell?
Maggie Bell, yeah.
Good line-up. It was quite a supergroup.
Yeah. And—and you connected with Jimmy Dewar.
Yeah, I mean, when – when Jude didn't really work, I – I decided that it'd be great to have just a three-piece. Then I would be able to have a lot more control and put a lot more guitar ideas into it because you're not always having to tuck under a – a lead singer as such, you know, an out-front singer. So it – it allowed me to shift into where it was much more all about the guitar and the guitar ideas. So – and you know that came together very quickly because Jimmy brought in Reg Isadore on drums who he – he found through Zoot Money, I think it was. So and – and it just worked right – right away. It was one of those things, you know.
When you're recording the albums, do you think of them in terms of playing them live?
Yeah. Yeah, I mean, that's the – the – kind of the whole idea was, I mean, as I mentioned to you earlier, my three – three favourite albums all were live albums, you know. So that's kind of – that's all I'm always trying to create is – is – is that vibe that you can get in front of an audience, you know. And you can't do it in a studio in actual fact but that's what you're shooting for is like – you're always looking for it to be a bit of a happening, so all the songs, well, I mean, pretty much nearly everything for the first couple of albums, were written to be played live.
And you had an --
As a matter of fact, with Bridge of Sighs, it was all played live, most of it.
Bridge of Sighs came – just briefly on that. It was a landmark album. It was immensely and probably still is a successful album.
Firstly, why do you think?
Well, it's definitely because the material is so strong. I mean, it's – it – it's – the material is very, very strong and the vocals are fantastic on it, I mean, James Dewar's vocals, beautiful. And I think the combination of that beautiful voice and sort of the raw guitar combined, I think, is what made it successful.
So next thing that comes of a landmark event, Reg Isadore left --
– and you found Bill Lordan who I feel added a lot to your sound.
And again, is it just talking that sort of connection that you had with Funky Paul and [unintelligible] before? Bill Lordan played with Hendrix at one time, I believe.—
– and Willie Weeks.
I believe he – his story is that he auditioned, him and Willie Weeks auditioned with Hendrix when Hendrix was going into that Band of Gypsies kind of period. So he was also – Hendrix, I think ,was also playing with Buddy Miles at the time.
What was the next sort of --
– Well, the live album came out then, because I think I'm right in saying the live album came out then. Yeah, cause we did – we did – we did the tour of Europe and one of them was a Swedish show which was recorded – it went out live on Swedish radio and it was recorded as well. And they – they sent us, you know, a rough mix of it and it sounded, so good that we thought it's potentially a live album. So what we did, we – we got the tapes off them, I think it was on eight-track, and replaced the vocals cause you couldn't hear the singing cause the guitar player'd been too loud and had to replace the vocals.
But, you know, it's – it was just a magical night. It was one of those nights that you weren't really aware of being recorded because it was just, you know, I'm not sure anybody even mentioned it. It was Swedish radio. We're gonna put it out live and – and it was a great night. You know, it was a happening. And I think it was the first night of the tour as well so there was really a lot of energy in it. So we were very lucky we got – captured that on tape, you know.
And so that was the next album. That was a piece of cake to put together. And then we did Long Misty Days and that was done at Air London in Regent Street and we were lucky enough to get Geoff Emerick to engineer it.
And when did you take – you – you – you took Jimmy off bass or Jimmy came off bass and you got a bass player in. When did that happen?
That was for the album In City Dreams. I decided we needed to move forward a bit more rhythmically and the songs we were coming up with – I'm pretty sure for In City Dreams, Jimmy and I wrote – co-wrote all the songs on that – on that album. And I just wanted to go more down the R&B thing. And we were lucky enough again. We got a great bass player who was – worked with Bill in Sly and The Family Stone. He came over and Rusty Allen and – and also we got in an R&B producer, Don Davis, who was, you know, a pretty big time R&B producer in the – in the States. So he did the – Johnnie Taylor and people like that.
(thanks, Jill, for the typing)
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