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.
During The Stone Roses, he could be easily identified by the now iconic bucket hat. Following his departure from the band in 1995, he fronted the Rub in 2001, who played several low-key shows but split without releasing any material. He re-emerged on the music scene after the Stone Roses reformed in October 2011.
Reni grew up in Denton, Lancashire (now forms part of Tameside, Greater Manchester) with four siblings and attended Egerton Park Arts College.
He 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, Reni 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," " However, it was his drumming abilities which made him stand out. Whilst growing up, "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."
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.
Reni joined The Stone Roses in May 1984 after seeing an advertisement the band had placed in Manchester's A1 Music shop on New Wakefield Street (now the Soundcontrol music venue). He reportedly 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. 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. 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." 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." 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".
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.
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.
Little was heard of Reni in the sixteen years following his departure from The Stone Roses. 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.
In 1999, he formed the short-lived band The Rub with Casey Longdon (rhythm guitar), Neil Nisbet (bass) and Mick Grant (drums). Reni wrote the songs, sang lead vocals and played bass and lead guitar in the band, with the band's name inspired by a soliloquy from Hamlet. During the Rub's brief history, it enjoyed strong support from many Stone Roses fans, although there was disappointment noted in the press about how the "world class" drummer was no longer playing drums.
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. 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. 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." 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?" He also provided a rare explanation for Reni's disappearance from the music scene: "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."
John Leckie (the band's producer on the eponymous debut album) provided an insight into the Mancunian's unusual drum kit and unique playing style: "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!" 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?'. 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.”
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.
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 of 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. A documentary film (showcasing the band's reformation) directed by Shane Meadows premiered in Manchester's Victoria Warehouse on 30 May 2013.
In May and June 2016, following a brief hiatus, The Stone Roses released the new singles All For One and Beautiful Thing, marking Reni's first new contributions to music since 2001. The band also announced concerts at the City of Manchester Stadium (Etihad Stadium), which was followed by a wider tour of the world. It is also expected the band will release a third album in the near future.
Media outlets such as The Guardian continue to praise the drummer. After the band's first performance at the Etihad Stadium, the broadsheet newspaper ran an article stating: "The Stone Roses must not let Reni leave again". On its music blog, the paper explained: "On the face of it, the drummer is the most obviously replaceable component of a band but while fans are divided over the merits of a live Led Zeppelin without John Bonham, or Black Sabbath minus Bill Ward, the idea of a Reni-free Roses is untenable."
It added: "The man Pete Townshend once hailed as 'the most natural drummer I’ve seen since Keith Moon' has been the individual delight of the last week’s gigs. With an extra bass drum, what look like new teeth and a grin that never leaves his face, Reni has regained his youthful pomp and is playing as well as ever. His backing singing and those trademark funky grooves are powering the band with a gusto that they haven’t had in years."
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.