Interview with Allan Cosgrove musical director Monday 19th December 2016
Q1. It’s coming up to 20 years now since ROFM first rehearsed in that little village hall. Was there any thought then, even if it was only a dream, that the band would still be together this far on, play to so many people and get Mick Fleetwood’s personal seal of approval?
A1. We were just a bunch of friends/musicians all from Liverpool who enjoyed the music of Fleetwood Mac. We hoped that maybe we would play to one or two FM fans one day, but no one ever imagined that it would have taken us all on this incredible journey together over so many years.
Q2. How did that official approval come about?
A2. We were playing in Salisbury one night and unknown to us Mick Fleetwood’s mother had been in the audience and came to see us after the show to say how much she had enjoyed it and that she would be telling her son about us.
Q3. The ‘Hits to Blues World Tour’ started in October 2016 and comes to Edinburgh near the close of the tour in early March 2017. That’s a long time on the road together. How difficult is it for everyone to be on tour for so long at once and avoid the obvious tensions that that itself can create? Similar tensions at times created enormous strains on FM themselves.
A3. We have all been friends for a long time, before ROFM even started, and enjoy working and playing with one another. We also know when to give one another a bit of space if needed, and still doing our own projects outside of ROFM helps too.
Q4. Mick Fleetwood has played with the band and earlier this year I saw you play at The Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh with Tony Vito. Is there any sense of the surreal there when something like that happens?
A4. Of course, we are just a bunch of friends from Liverpool and suddenly your musical heroes are there on stage playing with you. It’s something that you never imagined could be happening.
Q5. When you are playing on stage with your musical heroes does that create any nervous tension or maybe just make everyone take their game up to the next level? is it a bit like getting a master class on the music and songs?
A5. For the first few days there is a bit of “let’s watch how the master does it”, but that soon disappears and everyone is just one of the band. Mick and Tony have been a pleasure to work with and have no pretentious trappings of stardom.
Q6. ROFM as a band play a lot of music from Rumours onwards, but the band play from all periods of FM’s nearly 5 decade history How difficult is it to create a sound on stage that is authentic to the many periods and styles of FM’s music?
A6. FM have a long and varied musical history, and every member brought something different to the group. It’s more of a balance of not focusing too much on any one period or style of the music.
Q7. As musical director do you have to sometimes change things slightly to make the show more of one style to suit the show format better and give the audience a seamless musical show?
A7. It depends on the period of music and the song. On the earlier blues numbers there is always room to improvise, but on a song like maybe “Little Lies” which can mean so much to someone in the audience, we keep straight to the recorded studio version.
Q8. Like all tribute bands covering any band with a long and extensive musical catalogue, there are songs that you simply have to put into the show as the audience feel cheated if they don’t hear that song; what are the top two or three that have to be there no matter what?
A8. Again, it depends on the period and style of music. From the early Peter Green days “Albatross” has to be there and from the Stevie Nicks period “Dreams” to name a few.
Q9. ROFM have played over 600 major shows to over 700,000 people now in many countries. Does the show’s song content change slightly in different countries to reflect the changing popularity of some songs with an audience?
A9. The format of the show always has to be flexible enough to adapt to whatever is needed. Now with so much information online, you can research and see what songs were the most popular at the time in any country and change the set list to reflect that.
Q10. If the band got to play on stage some FM favourites that they loved but were maybe more personal, or a bit obscure and that could just not be fitted into the show for time, what ones would maybe top the list?
A10. For myself, it would pretty much be anything from the early Peter Green blues days where you can just sit down with the band, jam away and improvise as you go along to some great blues tunes.
Q11. As musical director, which sound of FM are you trying to re-create the most – the very polished and well produced studio sounds of the albums, the sounds of the band live, or something in between?
A11. We’ve really covered this one. It depends what the period, style, or song is. The earlier or more blues based songs give us a lot of flexibility in how we can play them, but on many of the classic studio album songs, that sound is exactly how the public want to hear them, and that is what we give them. Some of these songs mean so much personally to people, and we respect those memories and feelings in how we play them on stage.
Q12. I saw ROFM at QH in Edinburgh for the first time at the start of this year and the first thing that struck me before the band even came on was the sheer amount of instruments and stage equipment. How much attention to detail goes into making sure that the right guitar for example is used on the right song for that right sound?
A12. To be authentic to the music, you have to be authentic to what instruments that music was played on, and getting that right is not just attention to instrumental detail, but simply making sure that you get that sound as authentic as possible.
A13. As noted above, ROFM do not tour lightly. How big a back up crew is needed to keep the band on the road when touring?
Q13. ROFM is a big set up to tour with. As well as eight people on stage at any time, it takes a back up crew of ten people to keep us on the road. We can easily be (depending on complexity of setting up at a venue) starting at 10 am for an evening show.
A14. ROFM is made up of very talented musicians that work on other projects away from the band too. With the success of the band, does everyone now plan their personal schedules around ROFM’s touring schedule?
Q14. ROFM tour regularly and extensively, so everyone has to make sure their schedules fit around that. It is also though just a pleasure when we all get back together to start working together on a new tour. Something that we all look forward to.
A15. ROFM have to play in a specific style. Once you all move onto your own projects after a tour, does is take a while to get out of that style, or has the influence of FM simply inspired everyone over the years and become part of them now?
Q15. Everyone in the band is an experienced and versatile professional musician. You just get into the habit of adapting your personal style to whatever is required at the time.
Q16. At the show I saw earlier this year, the band were obviously playing and recreating the sounds of FM, but there was never any pretence that you were the original band. ROFM still somehow retained its own identity of musicians who loved the music and wanted to create that sound as close as possible, but never crossing that line of saying to an audience “we are FM on stage”. Do you feel it important that a good tribute band always tries to retain their own identity too when playing and does not cross that line?
A16. Definitely, you can never forget that you are not the original band, and if we should ever start to forget that then that introductory video with Mick Fleetwood would remind us instantly that we are ROFM and not FM. We know that at the end of a show the applause is for the music of FM. We know we are not FM and the audience know that too, but hopefully some of the applause though is maybe for how we have performed on the night.
Interview by Tom King
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