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Progressive Rock Interviews


Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Thijs Van Leer of Focus from 2014

What led to the original break up of Focus and the later reformation?

The break up of the original Focus was due to disagreement about the new written material. The later reformation was initiated by the wish of not letting die the old catalogue and inspiring new material!
MSJ: What differences have you seen since the band reformed in terms of functioning as a band?
A new continent was discovered: South America welcomed Focus with grandeur!
MSJ: What about the differences in the musical environment?
Nowadays there seems to be more interest by totally different festivals to book us: we play on hard rock, metal, progressive rock and jazz festivals.
MSJ: What inspired the name way back when?
Focus is the Latin word for focal point. I wanted to write a kind of music that could serve as a catalyst in solving one's personal problems, more than entertainment only.
MSJ: With all your experience are there any particular sessions, gigs or events that really stand out as particularly memorable?
Focus at the Rainbow; Central Park, New York; Winterland, San Francisco; Canecao Rio de         Janeiro; Oval Cricket Ground, London.
MSJ: If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?
Painter or sculptor.
MSJ: Who would you see as your musical influences?
Bach, Bartòk, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock!
MSJ: What's ahead for you?
Keep on touring, recording and making new fans with Focus. Keep on touring and recording with solo projects.

I know artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?

Continental European instrumental rock with a strong R&B base.
MSJ: Are there musicians with whom you would like to play with in the future?
Carlos Santana, Steve Winwood, John Cale.
MSJ: Do you think that illegal downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?
A help.
MSJ: In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?
No good.
MSJ: If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?
Prince, he's the best.
MSJ: If you were to put together your ultimate band (a band you'd like to hear or catch live), who would be in it and why?
Weather Report with Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter, Jaco Pastorius.
MSJ: If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view who would be playing?
Jimi Hendrix, Weather Report, Miles Davis and Focus.
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
Hermeto Pascoal. I listened to Kool and the Gang, Janis Joplin, Stevie Wonder in order to study all those oldies for a super-session in Normandy during the celebration of D-Day, where I'll play with guitar-virtuoso Thomas Blug.
MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?
Not many: I've been composing mainly for Focus 11.
MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
Barbra Streisand, just great!
MSJ: Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure”?
MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
Falling in the orchestra area, while rehearsing Mozart with a symphony, me playing the solo flute: the only thing left on stage was my Mozart-wig!
MSJ: If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?
Søren Kierkegaard, Jean-Paul Sartre and Bela Bartòk.
MSJ: What would be on the menu?
Oysters and Lobster.
MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
Yes! Wishing you as much happiness as what I am experiencing lately!
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 4 at
More Interviews
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Progressive Rock

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