Reni (musician)

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Reni
Birth name Alan John Wren
Also known as Reni
Born (1964-04-10) 10 April 1964 (age 50)
Manchester, Lancashire, England, UK
Genres Alternative rock
Occupations Musician, songwriter
Instruments Vocals, drums, bass guitar, guitar, piano
Years active 1984–present
Labels Silvertone, Geffen
Associated acts The Stone Roses, the Rub

Alan "Reni" John Wren (born 10 April 1964 in Manchester, Lancashire,[1][2]) is an English rock drummer and member of The Stone Roses.

His laid-back style of complex, off-beat rhythms was influential in bringing about the blend of indie and dance music which formed much of the Manchester (or Madchester) sound of the day. He is considered by many industry insiders to be the best drummer of his generation.[3][4]

During The Stone Roses he could be easily identified by the now iconic bucket hat.

Early career[edit]

Reni taught himself drums in his youth as, due to his family situation, he was nearly always around musical instruments in a pub environment. A naturally gifted musician, he was equally adept at playing guitar, bass, and piano. John Robb, in his 1997 book, The Stone Roses and the Resurrection of British Pop, notes that Reni could "play guitar almost as well as he plays drums,"[5] and Mani, speaking on a BBC Radio One documentary, mentioned that Reni could play better bass than he could, quoting that he could "piss all over me on bass."[6] However, it was his drumming abilities which made him stand out. Whilst growing up in the Manchester suburb of Gorton, "the local kids thought Reni was a freak because he was such an amazing drummer, a total natural. Reni didn't care. He was already jamming along to anything and anybody."[7]

Already in two bands before he joined The Stone Roses, it was perhaps friend Simon Wright's successful audition for AC/DC in 1984 which prompted him towards more serious ambitions.

The Stone Roses[edit]

Reni joined The Stone Roses in May 1984 after reading an advertisement the band had placed in Manchester's A1 Music store, now Soundcontrol music venue on New Wakefield Street. He ripped it off the wall in order to make sure only he would get an audition which occurred in what was at the time Decibel Studios to the north of the city centre. This was a rehearsal studio and required the band to carry Reni's drum kit up three flights of stairs, before running through early songs "Nowhere Fast", "All Stitched Up" and "Mission Impossible". Andy Couzens, then the band's second guitarist, recalls these first few minutes with their new-found 20 year old drummer, noting, "We never discussed it, we knew he was in! He was fucking amazing! What a drummer.".

The band's first live show with Reni occurred at an anti-heroin gig in London, which was being hosted by Pete Townshend. Having seen the band's performance he commented that Reni was the most naturally gifted drummer he had seen since Keith Moon.[8] This unexpected encounter concluded with The Who star asking the band whether he could use their drummer, which led to performances of Pictures of Lily, amongst others, with the 20 year old.[8] Couzens noted in a later interview, “I stood on the side of the stage going 'Oh fuck he’s going to join The Who now. First gig and we’ve lost him.' That was pretty surreal. I believe the previous gig Townshend had done was some massive stadium on The Who farewell tour... and then he’d come back to do this charity gig.”[9] Despite Couzen's fears, Reni turned down Townshend's offer and remained with the band.

Reni's initial playing style was characterised by the energy from evident influences such as Keith Moon; Andy Couzens once mentioned he was "like ten Keith Moons in one." Manchester music scene regulars, such as Martin Hannett, noted it was clear most people were attending the band's early gigs to see Reni play. However, as the band's music progressed his playing style became renowned for the use of a 3-piece kit, and the additional complement of his backing vocals on the majority of songs. His use of a smaller kit did not limit the range of sounds he could produce – his distinctive use of the high-hat, snare, and solitary tom-tom created a unique, highly complex sound witnessed on many of the band's most famous songs. By the time of the Second Coming rehearsals in the early 1990s, Reni adapted his style further to the band's musical shift. Guitarist John Squire led new songs towards a Led Zeppelin inspired sound, prompting Reni to take a more primal approach, with additional tom-toms, for a more complex style.

Reni's ability as a drummer was most obvious during The Stone Roses's live performances, where he was able to show the full range of his natural talent. A review of a 1989 Blackpool gig stated he was a, "spectacular, slipshod blur of energy", whilst the NME noted of a Parisian performance, "Drummer Reni is magnificent. In Amsterdam, I’d watched him soundcheck for an hour on his own, slapping 17 shades of shining shite out of his kit for the sheer unbridled joy of playing."[10] In contemporary media from 2004, Rhythm Magazine commented he was, "funkier and more subtle than any drummer in the genre (indie) had ever been", and he was, "economical, soulful and inventive". Indeed, Rhythm Magazine named him as a drummer hero stating, "you know him best by his ability to always play it cooler than cool".[3]

In addition to his drumming many fans also found his backing harmonies to be an integral part of the band's music. Described in John Robb's biography of the Stone Roses as "the voice of an angel", listening to their debut album, and live shows such as Blackpool's Empress Ballroom (1989), Glasgow Green (1990) and Manchester's Heaton Park (2012) overtly display his abilities.[5]

Reni was the first member of the "classic" Stone Roses line-up to leave in March 1995, with much mystery surrounding his exit. The band continued with Robbie Maddix as drummer, but then broke up in 1996.

1995–2011[edit]

Little was heard of Reni in the sixteen years following his departure from The Stone Roses. In 1997, it was reported in the NME that he'd been sent to prison for seven days (of which he served three) for contempt of court.[11] His drumming was credited on the Ian Brown track "Can't See Me", although Brown later admitted that the drum loop was a sample that Roses bassist Mani had uncovered, and not Reni at all.[12] In 1999 he formed the short-lived band the Rub with Casey Longdon (rhythm guitar), Neil Nisbet (bass) and Mick Grant (drums). Reni himself sang and played bass and lead guitar in the band. In 2005, Reni gave his first broadcast interview in 10 years to BBC GMR, along with ex-Roses bassist Mani, on the Manchester Music Show whilst attending a concert by the Coral.[13] It was reported in early 2007 that Fun Lovin Criminals had asked Reni to become their drummer. He did not respond and nothing became of the rumour.[14] In June 2008, in an interview with Teletext's Planet Sound, Mani revealed Reni had formed a new band with an unnamed member of Black Grape, but gave no other details. Nothing emerged from this rumour.

In May 2009, on the 20th anniversary of the Stone Roses' eponymous debut album, Reni and the three other band members sanctioned the release of rare demos and unreleased material. In an exclusive book included with the collector's edition, Reni remained typically elusive. Whilst Ian Brown and Mani included lengthy written accounts of their experiences in the Stone Roses, Reni supplied only a poem and a drawing.

Those who worked with him had high praise for the drummer. Ian Brown: "He’d have been like Gene Krupa or Buddy Rich. He'd fill the Apollo up now if he just set up his drum kit in there and played."[15] Mani: "He was an amazing drummer. He was that good, he could do anything. He’s done gigs with one arm – and he played with one arm it was as good as two! The guy is a total genius, a proper fucking one-off you know?"[16] He also gave a rare suggestion towards Reni's disappearance from drumming from 1995 to 2012: "I think what it is with Reni is the fact he doesn't think of it [drumming for another band] as better than he has done before."[17] John Leckie (their producer) also gave an insight into the Mancunian's unusual drum kit: "Reni just had a collection of drums – you can't say Reni plays a lovely drum kit – every tom, cymbal and drum is from a different kit. That's how he makes it up. He's such a great player. When I listen to him play, I just sort of think, "Fuck! No-one else plays like that!"[18] Andy Couzens, "He’s gone down in history as the hat and the Fool's Gold riff, but most people have not seen Reni drum like he can drum. Later on in the band he toned it down. Those early gigs it was always him people would talk about afterwards, 'Where did you find that fucking drummer?'.[9] John Robb: "The best drummer of his generation. I’ve never seen anyone who could play drums like that – the talk in the early days was often about Reni – “check out the amazing drummer” hipsters would say and he always delivered. If the Roses ever reformed it would be a buzz just to see him play those drums again – dextrous, fluid and exuberant – he could hit hard like a rock drummer but also had a real swing and that infectious energy.”[4]

In a press conference on 18 October 2011, Reni, along with the other members of the Stone Roses, announced the band would be reforming for three 'homecoming' gigs at Heaton Park, Manchester on 29, 30 and 31 June 2012. These dates were part of a Reunion Tour.

2011 Reunion and beyond[edit]

On 23 May 2012 Reni played the drums in public for the first time in 17 years. This was at a secret gig in Warrington, a warm up show before the band's full world tour. His current kit comprises two bass drums (with a distinctive image of a lemon on each bass drum - a reference to the band's eponymous debut album), with a greater number of tom-toms and cymbals than during his original run with the band.

The Stone Roses completed 30 gigs across the world in 2012 and the band continued to tour in 2013. There are rumours of a new studio album in development, and a documentary film (showcasing the band's reformation) directed by Shane Meadows premiered in Manchester's Victoria Warehouse on 30 May 2013. However, Reni was absent due to illness, although band mates Ian Brown, John Squire and Mani were in attendance.

"Reni Hats"[edit]

The bucket hat that Reni wore during his time with The Stone Roses gained the nickname "Reni Hat", a term that is still in use – particularly in the UK.[19][20]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.findmypast.co.uk/search/all/results?recordCount=-1&forenames=alan+john&_includeForenamesVariants=on&surname=wren&_includeSurnameVariants=on&fromYear=1964&toYear=1964&region=5&county=&mothersMaidenName=&_useMothersMaidenNameAsSurname=on&sortOrder=RK%3Atrue&_performExactSearch=on&event=B&recordType=ALL&route=
  2. ^ Larkin, Colin (ed.) (1998) The Virgin Encyclopedia of Indie & New Wave, Virgin Books, ISBN 0-7535-0231-3
  3. ^ a b Rhythm, Issue 99, June 2004, page 13, Future Publishing
  4. ^ a b The Stone Roses 20th Anniversary Collector’s Edition Book, 2009, p3
  5. ^ a b Robb, John. The Stone Roses and the Resurrection of British Pop. ISBN 0-09-187887-X. 
  6. ^ The Story of the Drummer, narrated by Mark Radcliffe, BBC Radio One documentary.
  7. ^ Robb, P. 87
  8. ^ a b "25 things you didn't know about the Stone Roses". NME. UK. 9 July 2009. Retrieved 13 December 2009. 
  9. ^ a b [1], Andy Couzens "War & Peace" interview.
  10. ^ http://www.nme.com/blogs/nme-blogs/the-stone-roses-in-1989-a-classic-nme-interview
  11. ^ Paul Stevens (1997-09-13). "Ian Brown - Jsu Mini-Site". John-squire.com. Retrieved 2011-10-31. 
  12. ^ Can't See Me
  13. ^ "What the world is waiting for? – Reni and Mani interview for the BBC". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-10-31. 
  14. ^ NME. October 14 2011 http://www.nme.com/news/the-stone-roses/59820
  15. ^ The Stone Roses 20th Anniversary Collector’s Edition Book, 2009, p11
  16. ^ The Stone Roses 20th Anniversary Collector’s Edition Book, 2009, p12
  17. ^ The Stone Roses 20th Anniversary Collector’s Edition Book, 2009, p13
  18. ^ The Stone Roses 20th Anniversary Collector’s Edition Book, 2009, p6
  19. ^ Scott Murray (22 October 2002). "Spartak Moscow 1 – 3 Liverpool". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 29 April 2008. 
  20. ^ Barry Glendenning (17 July 2007). "Stage 9 – as it happened". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 29 April 2008. 

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