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Renaissance Rock Orchestra – Interview


Interview with Gregg Fox, Composer, Writer, Founder and Keyboardist of Renaissance Rock Orchestra and Pete Devine of Pete’s Rock News and Views (http://petesrocknewsandviews.com)

PD:  How would you describe yourself or your band as an artist?

GF: The Renaissance Rock Orchestra (RRO) is a union of well-known, seasoned rock musicians that is creating quite a “buzz” around the world. We’re from Las Vegas and our music was originally born of inspiration from Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Our fusion of hard rock and a powerful symphonic sound, RRO’s creative vision transcends most typical current rock offerings.

Our music and live performances feature some of the finest musicians in rock history. With rock artists from legendary bands like AC/DC, Guns N Roses, Foreigner, Black Sabbath, YES, Heart & Whitesnake an RRO concert is always an epic. Our music is a mix of traditional symphonic and metal. I like to say RRO is like TSO but take out the Christmas and add rock stars! LOL!

On our second release, “In Times Of Olde”, we had performances by 27 different rock artists! The record included performances by two Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame Inductees drummer Alan White from Yes  and guitarist Howard Leese from Heart.

As the composer I like to combine elements of classic rock, progressive metal and symphonic influences and blend them into a new sound that combines symphonic metal, prog and melodic rock.

My original inspiration was definitely going and seeing Trans Siberian Orchestra!.  The first release of RRO was very TSO-ish with a neo-classical metal sound and numerous instrumental only pieces!

I think that I started writing quite a bit of the music for RRO back in Venice Beach before I moved to Las Vegas in 2009  but I didn’t really know that it would become the Renaissance Rock Orchestra until closer to 2011 or later.

My vision for Renaissance Rock Orchestra is bigger than most would even ever dare to dream. That being said, yes, it’s all happening! It continues to grow in every sense. Musically and as an overall business entity. It will all come to fruition when RRO again takes the stage, whether in Vegas or on multiple stages in festivals around the world.3

 

PD: Can you tell us briefly about your background – i.e. where you’re from, how you came to make music, etc.

GF: My love for symphonic metal comes naturally from my roots of music…and my love for rock! When I was in 4rth grade we got to choose whether we wanted to be in band or orchestra. I was just fascinated with the soothing and beautiful sounds of all string instruments that use bows to create the string vibration. My father was kinda bummed because he was a trumpet player and wanted me to join band instead of orchestra! Sorry dad!

I was attracted to the sound of groups of strings together. There’s just something about the sound of a symphony with all the different instruments joining together to create a melody and the violas creating the harmony and the cellos creating the root and adding to the rhythmic complexity of a piece of music. I love orchestras particularly.

SO…I started playing violin and played all through school and into college. I was in numerous state competitions with our orchestra and string quartets etc. This of course extended my knowledge and love of all things classical music! I’ve always loved strings in all rock songs whether it’s The Beatles or Led Zeppelin, and all things in between. I still remember the first time I heard Joe Walsh on “The James Gang Rides Again” on “Ashes, The Rain and I”. SO moving…so emotional!  I actually wrote my first orchestral arrangement for one of my very first original compositions in High School and my music teachers were pretty blown away!

When I first moved to Las Vegas in 2009 my friend and bassist Mikey Bones ( RIP) went out to see several Trans Siberian Orchestra concerts because he knew several of the musicians in TSO. When I heard the music and saw the response of the audience and saw the popularity of the symphonic metal genre I got very excited and thought to myself….I could do that! I loved the fact that there were so many kids in the audience and that it was their first rock show. They were SO into it!

Our first record “The White Gate Trilogy” which literally has a 3 song instrumental “trilogy” that introduced RRO to the world. The very first RRO piece I wrote is called J.S. Rock in which I took a one and a half minute Back composition and developed the themes and variations of the piece into a 4 minute epic symphonic rock extravaganza! Check it out on Spotify!

 

PD: Who and what inspires you to make music, both in terms of musical and other influences? What do you like to write about in your songs?

GF: My music comes from inside myself and from life experiences but is always influenced by my musical heroes like Yes, Genesis, Kansas etc. … it’s a keyboard player thing! Ha!

Being classically trained a lot of my music has strong classical influences also. I just try to be myself and to create something new. I don’t concern myself with what anybody else is doing. Because of that it often very melodic and sometimes even “too pretty” for most rockers!

I try to write music with uplifting and inspirational messages. I think in this modern world people need hope and to connect with real human feelings that can help them feel connected to other people and to give their life meaning.

 

PD: What are your aspirations as an artist?

GF: As an artist I aspire to create something new musically. Something that is “unto itself” unique and moving. My greatest desire is to move the listener emotionally.

I would like RRO to be a “renaissance” of rock for the many artists who record and perform with us and to make our concerts and records epic enough to be remembered in history as a last hurrah for many of these rock stars!

 

PD: What is the proudest moment in your music career so far?

GF: Wow! Great question! There have been so many amazing moments and I feel so honored to have so many of these legendary and brilliant musicians want to play my music! Sometimes I almost have to pinch myself!

Of course playing keys for Lou Gramm from Foreigner on all those epic songs I grew up with at the first post-Covid show I did with Aisia ( featuring John Payne) at the Alice Cooper “Cooperfest” event in Phoenix May of 2021 ranks WAY up there!

I usually don’t tell people this but when I first moved to Las Vegas in 2009 I played “The Climb” for Miley Cyrus at the ACMA Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena and that was broadcast to 36 million people LIVE on CBS…so that was pretty memorable!

Performing on Access Hollywood LIVE with Louis Prima Jr and The Witnesses was very exciting! I’ve also played Jazzfest in New Orleans several times which is one of the biggest music festivals in the US and that was a bucket list achievement too!

Personally for me, and for RRO, having Rock and Roll Hall OF Fame  inductee and drummer Alan White from my favorite band Yes certainly was a highlight. That’s for sure! I’d have to include having guitarists Bumblefoot ( GNR) and George Lynch ( Dokken, Lynch Mob) record out of this world, compared to none, guitar solos on the last record “In Times Of Olde” also.

Other memorable moments would have to be the combination of drummer Simon Wright ( ACDC), vocalist Tony Harnell ( TNT, Skid Row) and guitarist Joel Hoekstra ( Whitesnake, TSO, Cher) ALL on one song ( The Maker Of Dreams) from “In Times Of Olde” ( be sure to listen to it on Spotify or whatever your streaming preference is)!

Oh, and then there’s the time when partying with Heart drummer Ben Smith after their show at House Of Blues decided he wanted to be on the record so we immediately drove to The Tone Factory with studio owner and engineer Vinnie Castaldo and he laid the drum track for “My Lonely Heart” right on the spot! It was SO awesome! Like right out of a movie! We had dancing girls and the whole thing! LOL. It doesn’t get much better than that! I think videos of that moment are hangin around on YouTube somewhere too… pretty damn fun stuff!

 

PD: Promoting one’s music is such a challenge these days, especially with so many new artists emerging from bedrooms in the day of the home studio. How is that going?

GF: It is definitely a challenge to gain traction in todays world with the millions of other options vying for the attention of a new listener. Thankfully the uniqueness of RRO music and the amazing talent of the well known musicians who perform with us ( and who have in many cases changed rock history with their talents) does separate us from most and that helps.

In a world where social media is the main distribution channel for new music and the main participants and influencers in social media are the young does make THAT route tough though!

Our business model of “go big or go home” will be what makes the world at large aware of us ultimately I think.

 

PD: And how do you book and promote your live shows and tours? Any performances coming up?

GF: We have some of the top agents and management people in the industry handling that side of things. It IS always challenging to get venues to understand a new original project that is at this point “unbranded”. They struggle to know how to market the project correctly…and ALL they want is “known” bands and tribute shows right now. I wish people still searched for new and refreshing music like they did years ago. There’s too many other ways to be entertained and distracted in the modern world.

Our plan is to start doing some shows in 2022 with some major headliners to gain fans and followers. I know once we’ve proved ourself, and once we have some very powerful concert content we’ll be able to start perfuming at major festivals around the world.

 

PD: What do you think about downloading music online? What about streaming sites like Spotify?

GF: Distribution in todays world is all about streaming! …and downloading to a certain extent too. It is what it is! You have to use the tools that are available to get your music to the listener and this is how it is now. Unfortunately profits for the artists are ridiculously low and that needs to change.

I love sites like Spotify where I have access to very song and every artist in history instantly! It’s an amazing thing that I love to take full advantage of BUT the profits need to be adjusted favorably for the artist. It’s impossible to recoup the costs of even recording the music currently! That of course means that the quality of the music, talent and engineering will continue to degrade and get worse and worse if things don’t change .

You have to be very careful about how to promote on places like Spotify, the algorithms are a bitch! We were gaining a lot of followers and Spotify JUST dumped all our followers due to a marketing company we had invested a lot of money with! Please follow us on Spotify and share with your friends! We need to get our numbers back up again! Ugh!

 

PD: What song do you wish you’d written and why?

GF: Songs? There are SO many brilliant songs I wish I had written! Kashmir? Yes! Stairway To Heaven? Yes!

How about George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah”! This 259 page score was written in only 3 weeks and includes the masterpiece “The Hallelujah Chorus” which is an amazingly inspirational piece to me! If he had worked 10 hours a day he would have had to written 15 notes per second! Wow! Really?

I love songs that move me and that is my ultimate goal as a composer. In that light 2 of the most moving pieces that I wish I had written would have to include not only John Lennon’s “Imagine” but also, and this might surprise some people but Bob Dylans “Like A Rolling Stone” never ceases to move me. But then again so does”Born To Run” by Springsteen.

Two of my personal favorites I wish I had written would include “Time Of The Season” by The Zombies and “Green Eyed Lady” by Sugarloaf.

In the end…I’d have to say I wish I’d written “Close To The Edge” by Yes! ….or maybe “And You And I”. If you don’t get it…go listen to it! Maybe it could be the most moving music you’ve ever heard?

Music is so personal and what makes it “move” YOU is completely different to every human.

 

PD: Is there anything you don’t like about the music industry, which you would change if you could?

GF: A life in the music biz has always been tough. The artist has always been taken advantage of by record labels or nowadays streaming platforms. I wish the “business” world of music was more fair to the creators…the artist who spends a lifetime developing his art and skills as a musician.

 

PD: So what are you working on at the moment?

GF: I’m currently writing and record the 4rth RRO record AND writing and recording a Christmas record also! It’s a lot of work! It’ll be fun to share so much new Renaissance Rock Orchestra music with the world this year, but it is a little overwhelming at times. Particularly with the costs involved to pay such “well known” and amazing artists!

I continue to meet with management people and agents daily as we move forward to some live RRO shows in 2022! It’s not easy when your motto is “go big or go home”! I’m making big plans for big things but it takes a lot of patience when so many crucial elements are outside of your personal control. It’s a bit of a numbers game trying to juggle venues, headliners,investors and promoters!

 

PD: Where can we learn more about you and buy your music/merch online?

GF: You can follow Renaissance Rock Orchestra and hear our music on all streaming platforms and social media sites! We’re building a new merch site currently and will announce it on all our platforms when it’s ready!

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/0wzLVOtnRB5olhpguxyYep
Pandora – https://www.pandora.com/search/renaissance%20rock%20orchestra/all
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/renaissancerockorchestra
YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/c/RenaissanceRockOrchestra
Tik Tok – https://vm.tiktok.com/ZTdDPVgNm/
Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/remaissancerockorchestra
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/renaissancerok

Renaissance Rock Orchestra links:
Band/Artist location – Las Vegas United States
Website – Facebook – You Tube – Soundcloud – Bandcamp – Reverbnation –
Twitter – Instagram – Apple – Spotify – Amazon – Deezer – LinkTree – Last Fm
Check our page for Renaissance Rock Orchestra


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