Who and the What?
The Beginning

The Beginning

If you stumbled across this site, you may be wondering... WHO and WHAT are Renaldo and the Loaf?! Here is a history of Renaldo and the Loaf as told through interviews with the two band members, Brian Poole (Renaldo) and Dave Janssen (Ted the Loaf). Enjoy!

Dave Janssen: Brian and I first met at school in Portsmouth, back in 1970, I think. It was during an art class. I was tracing a picture of Marc Bolan from Tyrannosaurus Rex’s ‘Prophets, Seers and Sages, the angels of the Ages’ album. It turned out we had a mutual interest in Tyrannosaurus Rex’s music. We both had acoustic guitars and we started messing around playing music together.

Brian Poole: The idea of a duo appealed and so from that time onwards we never thought of forming a conventional band or anything like that. Neither of us could play any instruments, but aspired to play so we both bought guitars at the same time and made rubbish noises. We learnt the basic chords at school and from the early 70's recorded our efforts on cassette. (Believe me no one will ever hear those!!!) Truly embarrassing. Very Bolanesque but from day 1 we always 'wrote' our own stuff, mainly because we couldn't play other people's material anyway. Throughout the following years we developed our own 'style', playing acoustic guitars, bongo drums and various percussives. We were also into bands like King Crimson, electric folk (Steeleye Span etc.) and I think even Yes. We collaborated loosely with a flautist and a cello player, didn't really work out though.

Dave: I suppose the thing that really sticks out is that right from the word go we recorded everything – I don’t know, was that obsessive? Whatever, it certainly shaped the way things would go – part of our history is the improvement in recording technology and the things that would enable us to do. Three other things stand out; Firstly we tried to imitate Tyrannosaurus Rex. They were our biggest influence at the time. We wanted to sound like them but not to actually play their songs. It’s said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, we were certainly sincere and we were certainly trying to imitate Tyrannosaurus Rex. Perhaps imitation is another common theme? Secondly, we were awful, at least in the very beginning before we are even competent on guitars. And thirdly, it soon became apparent that I wouldn’t be the singer! I remember we played a very early recording to a school friend who said, “if you close your eyes it sounds like a real group”! That became a tongue in cheek quote on the insert to the 1979 Struve & Sneff cassette.

We got a bit better at playing guitar and actually played a few gigs, still in our Tyrannosaurus Rex phase. Actually we played three gigs, all at our local youth club. I remember we got slightly more experimental with each one, we were discovering other music – the Incredible String Band, Pink Floyd, for example. The more experimental we got the less popular we became! There was a bit more improvisation – we did a piece called ‘Raga’ where we used open tunings on the guitars and improvised this vaguely Indian sounding piece, there were definite sections to it but the actual playing was a fairly free. Around this time, about 1972, we recorded a tape, which we sent to John Peel for his ‘Rockitunity Knocks’ competition. Lovers of trivia may be interested to know that the competition was won by Henry Cow. Unsurprisingly, we didn’t get a mention. By the third gig I had a ring modulator and an electric guitar and we even used a backing tape on one piece called ‘Island’ – King Crimson and Can were influences at the time – we had this backward recording of Brian intoning ‘island’ over and over again. Most people, as you can imagine, didn’t get it!

Probably around that time, for me at least, the peak of musical competence was reached and any desire to progress further down that particular path was lost. I knew lots of people who could play well known pieces very well, impressive enough but so what? Writing our own material was important from the very beginning, our imitation was just rather more subtle, sounding like Tyrannosaurus Rex rather than learning to play their songs, the same thing later when we discovered the Residents really.

Brian: Well we didn't set out to be anonymous at all. Unlike the Residents, our real names have always been known, but I guess the personas we associated with our music were our alter-egos. However, the idea of us having alter-egos started before RatL was born….a story.
Back in 1977, we used to go out to the pub with a bunch of friends who were, like us, into The Diceman by Luke Rheinhardt…we used to decide on our actions and do odd, but harmless, things by throwing a dice…like how we'd dress, where we'd go, what we'd do, etc. There were usually about ten of us and, depending how the dice fell, we could all enter a pub in a line walking backwards waving to everybody, sit with our left ears against the wall saying, 'there are sheep on the moors said Lambert' (Ivor Cutler was our hero), randomly stop still and pose like a male fashion model or have a heated and lengthy argument about a ficticious scientific concept called Wipperwill's Principle…it was even funnier if we managed to involve a member of the public in this. These are just a couple of examples - new ideas and lists were drawn up each week to try out.

Anyway, each person in the group who did this had what we called a 'dice name' and they would always be called that. Usually you were given your name by another member of the group and Dave was called Ted (the Loaf) and I was called Renaldo Malpractice…..later we devised our own extra names Josef Sneff (Dave) and Hooper Struve (me) who became our alter-alter-egos for our first cassette album.

"Poodlehead and Floating Ted" promo for Olleh Olleh Rotcod

Dave: I was Ted the Loaf – at the time I had a large beard, which he reckoned made me look like a teddy bear – hence Ted and the Loaf because I’d just got a BSc in zoology which supposedly meant I had some brains. Brains – using your loaf (loaf of bread – head - cockney rhyming slang) hence the loaf. And Brian became known as Renaldo Malpractice – I never was really sure of the origins of this. But anyway it stuck and it seemed natural to use these alternative names....I think the name [Renaldo and the Loaf] was decided on when we put together the Renaldo and the Loaf play Struve and Sneff tape [in 1979].

Brian: In 1974, we went separate ways, me to London for work experience, Dave was at college. When I came back a year later, we were into different stuff, Henry Cow, obscure European bands, early electronic music and ethnic folk music. We were relaxed about starting again but we dumped the type of music we used to do and began raw experimenting. Techniques of preparing a guitar (Fred Frith), tape manipulation (we both had Akai 4000DS machines by now) and lots of improvisations. One Thursday afternoon one of the improvisations distilled into almost a tune and we were excited by it. In 1977 we both discovered the Residents and were excited again…these guys were the nearest to what we sounded like and they released records too!

Dave: I’m not sure how it happened, but suddenly we found ourselves playing in a very different style, freer, much more improvised and ‘avant garde’ sounding. You know, the kind of thing that everybody does when they are doing a parody of avant garde music, crash, bang, noise elements, and plenty of discords, tune the guitar randomly that sort of thing.
Also we now had two fairly good tape recorders and were able to set up a tape delay system a la Fripp and Eno. That was quite a thrill at the time, being able to imitate their sound – imitation again! We continued to use that system for many years as a means of improvising – if there’s only two of you the delay system immediately swelled the ranks! We could get a fuller sound. We hadn’t discovered overdubbing yet. One way that we did use the system differently, and I’ve not heard it used this way anywhere else, was to build up rhythms using the delay.
Anyway out of all of this experimentation one afternoon we surprised ourselves by producing something that almost had a song structure. We discovered overdubbing at the same time, bouncing tracks between two tape recorders. So this was the start of a new phase, and this phase really led directly to Renaldo and the Loaf proper. We also discovered loop tapes, which opened up lots of new possibilities.

The Beginning
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