Through bad luck Renaissance only played Friars once (although Keith
Relf's version did play twice in 1969), but that came about in part
through a concerted local campaign by three diehards including
photographer Geoff Tyrrell. Their persistence paid off as Friars put
Renaissance on and hundreds were turned away on the night. The hugely
talented Annie Haslam, also an amazing painter still fronts Renaissance
today. We caught up with her at her home in Pennsylvania where we
discuss the new Renaissance DVD, her artwork and the pitfalls of sharing
a tour bus with men....and I'll also forgive Annie for laughing at my
appalling attempts to pronounce Scheherazade, but that's another
Thank you Annie for talking to the Friars Aylesbury website!
taken a while to get together!
has, but well worth the wait and to be fair that's down to issues at
this end, but we're there now! How's life in America?
in Pennsylvania, north east of Philadelphia. It's a fantastic country
and still the place to be. It's the land of opportunity no matter what
anyone says. I love it here and I was the only one in the band who said
they'd never move here and I'm the only one that did! I'm just down the
road from where Oscar Hammerstein lived, it's an interesting area. It
looks English especially when it rains! (laughs)
Annie at Friars 10th January 1976 (Geoff
must remind you of home! When we last spoke in late summer, I know I
caught you as were literally moving to higher ground with Hurricane
was awful actually. I live at the bottom of a hill next to two flood
plains. When the weather's bad, I certainly get it. I put sandbags round
my house and stayed with a neighbor. I was concerned what I might find
the following morning but it was OK. But after that, we had what came
behind it (the hurricane). Awful torrential rain for days and days. That
really worried me especially where my house is situated. We had been
rehearsing in New Jersey (for Renaissance) and Michael Dunford had come
over from England and was staying with me. After the seven days
rehearsal, we got back here to unbelievable thunder and lightning, like
something out of a movie. The following morning when I looked out, my
back garden was a lake. There was
in the basement but it's not a completed basement with furniture like
many others have so I escaped quite lightly. I have
to get the water out and thankfully I didn't lose power. And then at the
end of October we had the snow storm! There was a 36 hour power loss
where I am which
was interesting....and cold. I think I had it pretty good as some people
in Connecticut especially lost power for weeks.
It's hard to fathom that, I know we've had severe localised flooding in
the UK over the last few years and snow....but I can't get my head round
Looking at where you are at now in your career, you are just about the
bring out the DVD and double CD of the US gigs this year which I know
you have been very hands on with the creativity of it and the mixing and
the like. I know that Scheherazade and Other Stories is seen as the
classic Renaissance album but why did you decide to play this and Turn
of The Cards, its predecessor, in its entirety?
were the most popular albums,
America. It was always our biggest market.
agree and besides there's more to Renaissance than Northern Lights
(which many people of course recognise you for), which incidentally is
played regularly still on UK radio. I'm sure you're not too unhappy
keeps the name alive doesn't it? In the last couple of years, we have
done three tours here in the US and also Korea and Japan and we get
asked a lot why we aren't playing England.
And why aren't you?
would play anywhere we could but it's the economy and it's (a reliance)
on promoters taking a chance on a band who hasn't been around for 30
years. We were hoping to do some UK gigs this year but we couldn't
co-ordinate it, but next year, I hope so.
With the geographical issues of the band and the planning......
know how to plan it now as we know what's involved. Michael Dunford
comes over here but the rest of the band come from New Jersey and there
are also visa issues getting into the States as you can only get a visa
for one month now. Last year, a working visa lasted a year. It's not
cheap to go on the road but we are experts now of what is needed and we
have a new manager which has helped greatly. We have an agent in New
York and are talking to people in the UK, but who'd be an agent with
trying to route gigs so they are financially viable? It's
the 1970s we used to fly everywhere which is why we have no money now!
We flew everywhere....ridiculous! And sometimes we flew our equipment
had done this kind of touring before so there were no rules written
down, so we and many other bands in the 60's and 70's learned the hard
way, I guess we were pioneers!
Well, that beats being on a tour bus!
nearly did that, can you imagine it, oh my God! Can you imagine sitting
sideways for hundreds of miles? Michael
and I tried one out, NOT for us.
Looking back through your history, your Renaissance evolved out of the
'old' Renaissance and the music evolved too. I have been re-appraising
some of the Renaissance albums from that time and some of the stuff is
absolutely brilliant - 1973's Ashes Are Burning album, which precedes
the two classics on the DVD is such a great record. When you listen to
that, you think how on earth did that not become a huge album?
I think some bad
decisions were made along the way that affected us.
I do believe in karma
everything happening for a reason.
If everything had been different, I wouldn't be painting which is really
the number one love of my life now.
You're right though,
nothing out there quite like our music.
If you go
http://renaissancetouring.com/music/ and scroll down, you'll see the
new songs from The Mystic
and the Muse. The track
is based on two of my paintings and when we did it as an encore on the
last tour it got a standing ovation wherever we played.
terms of the 'modern' Renaissance, the original five of us had planned
to get back together, as much as I was not looking forward to it to be
honest but I agreed to do it. Three of them backed out six weeks before
the tour in 2009. We didn't think our manager would want to take it
further which just two originals, myself and Michael Dunford, on board.
He said he would take the chance.
So we brought in
two guys from my band, Rave Tesar on keyboards, David J. Keyes on
bass,Tom Brislin on keyboards and Frank Pagano on drums. Tom left last
year to pursue a solo career and Jason Hart slotted in really well. We
have a full compliment now and we're all very happy with each other.
know that there may have been just you and Michael as originals in the
band, but you have one big advantage in that you have the face and the
voice of the band still...
we've got the songwriter and we've got the singer.
That makes it authentic for me anyway.
would have been different if it had been say me and Jon Camp, it just
would not have worked.
So, you are saying it wouldn't have been as creative?
have killed each other (!)
Ah...you don't get on?
I'm not going to delve any further, that's none of my business!
they pulled out of the reformation, I was relieved in a way. Relieved
and worried at the same time but it's all worked out for the best.
got you to Friars Aylesbury in 1976 and you may not have been aware that
this was very much in part to a concerted get Renaissance to Friars
campaign spearheaded by three local diehards including Geoff Tyrell who
took the photographs of you at Friars which I know you have seen. They
were putting posters in shop windows and car stickers and all sorts.....
astonished - Ed)
Yes and when you came in January 1976 it was a complete sellout and
hundreds turned away on the night!
What?!!!! How many did it hold?
was 1250! We were unlucky after that as we nearly had you back in
October 1976 but for illness and it nearly happened again in September
1977 but sadly that remained your only Friars appearance. It went down
in folklore not only for the great gig but the campaign that ran with
it....it was a much bigger gig than you remember!
Not long after that in 1977 you brought out your first solo album, Annie
in Wonderland. What was the thinking of you bringing out a solo album at
that time whilst the group was going?
Tout was sick and couldn't work for a couple of months and if I remember
correctly I may have instigated this....not him being sick (laughs)....I
think I might have contacted our manager and said as we can't work can I
do a solo album with Roy Wood producing (who I was living with at the
think it's a great album, some really good stuff on it.
Thanks.. Annie in
Wonderland was re-released last year with a new version of Flowers in
the Rain (Roy's big hit for the Move) as a bonus track. Roy and I got
back together to record it, it was fun working with him again.
Then in 1978 there was a biggie as the A Song For All Seasons album took
off over here and obviously Northern Lights was a huge hit which must
have made things interesting as you must have been playing bigger venues
and of course a lot of press attention....
was a really exciting time. I remember we were in America finishing a
tour and at a sound check our tour manager said Northern Lights was
being played on Radio One and it looks like you will be doing Top of The
Pops when you get back. And I remember us all cheering! Dave Lee Travis
is the one who started playing it and that's how it became a hit.
being me and remembering odd and random things....Northern Lights always
reminds me of being in Devon on holiday as that was on the radio a lot
and also it's worrying I actually remember this next bit as you probably
won't....but on London's Capital Radio, you were a guest on Sunday
afternoon's Maggie Norden show and perhaps uncharitably as I'm not sure
she gave you any notice, played Northern Lights and turned it down and
cajoled you to sing it live.
did I do?
You sang it!
don't remember that!
Renaissance came to end around 1987 didn't it?
1980 we had been to tour in Israel and when we came back due to internal
problems we decided to change around the band.. Gavin Harrison joined
the band who is now in Porcupine Tree. He did a couple of tours with us.
Unfortunately and you can't completely blame Jon Camp, but he wanted to
make the band more commercial and we followed his lead. We were unique,
there was nothing like us and we blew it.
Hence it really stopping after 1983's Time Line album.
was awful. Anybody could sing that stuff. I didn't like it. There's a
couple of nice songs, but it just isn't me and I don't know why we did
it. I wasn't as strong a person as I am now.
I speak my mind now and stand in my truth, back then I followed
everybody's else's lead.
you're saying that Camera Camera and Time Line, the later albums are the
Azure d'Or (1979) was the beginning of it. That was the beginning of the
know how much you love the Song For A Seasons album and with Northern
Lights being such a hit, there were forces trying to push you more in
that direction rather than being what Renaissance was all about.
we were recording Northern Lights, I had learned a lot from Roy Wood
from the Annie in Wonderland album about singing and stuff that was
alien to me that I didn't really want to do. But the way Roy did it was
great, the triple tracking of my voice for example was different and had
Roy's mark on it. So when we recorded Northern Lights I suggested that
triple tracking of my voice
in the verses as well as the chorus's and
it gave it an edge. When it became a hit the record company was trying
to get us
to write in a more commercial vein and that's when we
started to lose our way....listening to other people.
that was the beginning of the end of Renaissance as a band but you have
a huge body of work in your solo career. It was quite a while ago that I
discovered you had performed with Steve Howe, one of my all time
favourite songs, Turn of The Century, for a Yes tribute. That's simply a
beautiful piece of music and your version is amazing.
is a fabulous song, gorgeous music and
I got to perform
with one of the most talented guitarists on the planet! What an
experience it was too.
But in terms of your solo career, is there one of your albums that
sticks out as a favourite?
like asking me what my favourite Renaissance song is. There's so many
and I'm fortunate to be able to say that.
True. The reason I asked though is that some people can turn round and
say that x or y is their favourite.
Except Camera Camera and Time Line, I love them all. Azure d'Or is OK. I
really like A Song For All Seasons apart from the couple of songs Jon
did on there which were
lovely songs, but
he was not a lead singer and it didn't make sense.
But A Song For All Seasons....Day of The Dreamer from that album is
phenomenal. The Novella album....I love all of them. Same with my solo
albums. But I love The Dawn of Ananda and It Snows In Heaven too, my
Christmas album. Also The Angels Cry was an amazing experience singing
with Justin Hayward....I had to stand on a box when I sang along with
him (laughs). Also working with Roy Wood on
Wonderland was really so special, getting to sing beautiful standards
and also with orchestra and choir.....living with Roy was one of the
best periods of my life.! I learned a lot from him.
He's an institution in the UK!
legend in his own dinner hour!! He can't go anywhere without people
coming up to him.
He is a genius, even singing a hit in his sleep! I remember him
waking me while he was singing in his sleep, but couldn't get to a tape
recorder without waking him.. from then on we slept a tape machine by
You did an acoustic version of Renaissance after the Time Line album
till about 1987 and then really launched your solo career?
Michael, Jon Camp
and myself did a few acoustic tours until Jon left in 1985, MD and
myself carried on with some American musicians until 1987 when we called
it a day. That was quite sad.
my solo career started pretty soon after, and in 1989 I secured a record
deal with EPIC Records.
had a great band who were great players, we toured the US, Japan and
You mentioned earlier your paintings. They are astonishing. I know you
get as much out of this as you do singing. Is this something you've had
a passion for all your life?
I went to college to become a dress designer and I only ever did one
painting in my life (except when I scribbled as a child) and it was a
watercolor and it dried before
put the brush down so I
got impatient and never
did that class again....ever.
where did this talent come from?
was 2002 and I was winding down my solo band as I couldn't get enough
shows and I couldn't get an agent interested. I had a manager for five
minutes who let me down and I decided I had to do something else and
completely out of the blue a voice in my head said it was time to start
painting. Where did that come from? So I went and bought an easel, paint
bought a book on oil paintings, read one page and thought I can't be
bothered with this (!), I don't read instructions, I have to do it wrong
(to learn), I don't know why. A couple of months later, I had to start
somewhere so picked a tiger lily from the garden and brought it in and
mmmmmm where do I start! as I hadn't read the book had I ! (laughs)
Well, the one advantage of that, especially when you are creative is
that whatever you do will be your own style and original.
had no idea what I was supposed to be doing and that
became 'Lily in The Field'.
painted it felt
like someone was holding my hand because something was going on in the
textures I was doing. I knew there was something but I wasn't tuning in.
My next painting, again felt like someone was holding my hand. Then
from then on I
up to six a day. The
flood gates had opened.
would encourage anyone to go to your website and look at your artwork,
it is stunning and colourful which I very much like. I know you do
commissions, have you had any work exhibited?
and I have also painted guitars,
If you look at
the new Renaissance DVD trailer
clip, you will
see the drumhead I painted..
I was part of
an art show at The Morrison Hotel Gallery, Soho, NYC last February and
showed 5 of my painted guitars. I have also shown my work at The
Florence Biennale in Florence, Italy. I
love when people commission me
as I never know what's coming.
They give me a photograph and some information about themselves and then
I tune in and I'm off.
You must wish you had discovered this earlier?
time wasn't right, obviously. I love it with a passion. The artwork and
design on the new live DVD is mine. I love not knowing what's coming
it's always a surprise.
I believe that
my work is channeled,
it's coming from somewhere else,
like turning on a tap.
of my painted guitars are
in the Hard Rock Cafes
in Cleveland and San
Diego and two more were in Biloxi but were lost in Hurricane Katrina.
You are so talented in many ways!
just thank God for giving me another gift and one I love so much. It
just pours out of me like water without effort.
in terms of what you set out to do, which was the dress design, did you
ever go on to do any design in the end?
did but I ended up working for a company called
gave me a trial for two weeks. The owner said he loved my work and went
away for a fortnight and whilst he was away, I think it was his daughter
who asked me to come up with as many designs as I could. I did a whole
book of ideas and they took me to the office and fired me and stole my
ideas. That's the only reason they had me there. Isn't that awful?
heartbroken. I called my parents and they were about to
leave for a holiday in Canada to see my brother Keith and so said come
on your coming with us! That
helped me to heal and also that is where I got up on stage at the
Brunswick Tavern in Toronto and sang Those Were The Days, it was a
And then all those years later I end up writing songs with record
producer Tony Visconti who had been married to Mary Hopkin.
how life turns out. I
also worked for a Savile Row tailor for about nine months until a
recession hit and they had to let me go.
I enjoyed that and
I have never seen suits made like that before
or since. True perfection, impeccable tailoring. Whenever
I see people in suits
always take a good look to see how they are made. Nothing compares to a
Saville Row suit!
of this was around the time The
Beatles did the thing on the roof at
the Apple headquarters - I
didn't see it but I heard as it was just round
the corner from where I was working.
I ended up in another cut throat business...the music business.
Not always the nicest place!
it's not. I was given opportunities to sleep around with certain people
and I said 'no thank you very much'. I could have been a big
My voice was unique and it was noticed but approached by the wrong
It's very upsetting that
kind of thing happens, but it still does I'm sorry to say.
Some of things I have about the music business beggar belief, but you
are a true survivor in this business.
and now I have chosen another creative medium that can also be
competitive. There are some brilliant artists out there for sure. You
don't realise until you start doing it yourself and you look at things
You want to be unique at the end of the day....
Exactly. What's the point of copying someone else?
Which of course is why you didn't read the manual! You just did what you
did. It's been a pure joy to talk to you, a hugely talented artist (in
all its forms). Thank you so much for your time. With best wishes from
everyone at Friars Aylesbury.
The new Renaissance DVD/2 CD set
(Turn of the Cards and Scheherazade and Other Stories) filmed in the
summer of 2011 in the US is available on the band website at:
is in NTSC format which can be viewed in the UK and most other
Official Annie Haslam website
Official Renaissance website
This interview and its content are © 2011 Mike O'Connor/www.aylesburyfriars.co.uk and
may not be used in whole or in part without permission.