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Direct Link To This Post Topic: Uriah Heep, January 2006
    Posted: January 14 2006 at 06:15

Uriah Heep members Mick Box, Bernie Shaw and Phil Lanzon interviewed January 2006
by Bob McBeath (Easy Livin)

Mick Box (Founding member, guitars and vocals)

You’ve never released a solo album, and rarely guest on other people’s albums. Have you ever considered making a solo album? Do you have many songs not used by Heep? Have you guested uncredited on albums (if so, which)?

That is because my time is always taken up with Heep. The only chance I had was at the time David did his solo album and he wanted me to play on his and write it so I did. I have done the occasional thing. Bernie and I were guests on a CD and Video (Lady in Black) with a band called IRIS from Romania. Also I did a couple of solos on a band from Sweden called SPEARFISH for teenage cancer. Other than that managing the band is exhausting as I do 9 hour day’s minimum in the office when we are off the road. We have just employed a manager Simon Porter (Status Quo) and hopefully eventually the load will lift but then I have to get down to a lot more writing. You can never do enough writingJ

The current Uriah Heep line up appears to be the "happiest" ever. What does being in the band mean to you now? Are you all "friends" outwith the band?

Yes we are. We have our moments but they are short lived and forgotten. I guess it all settled down once I was managing the band and the dynamics changed because everybody knew I was doing my best for all concerned at all times and I had as much to gain as everybody else.

The slide/steel guitar parts on track such as "The spell" and also on the "Acoustically driven" album were performed by other people. Why was this?

Because somebody had to hold down all the acoustic parts throughout the song otherwise rhythmically it would fall to pieces. It is always good procedure to get the foundation right first and then add the colour. Plus although I can play a little steel guitar there are plenty of others that can do it better.

The "Acoustically driven" gig appeared to be very emotional for you. Was it one of the highlights of your career with the band? Could you envisage doing it again, perhaps as a tour?

It was a great experience. We have toured Germany in Churches doing the Acoustic thing and it was really successful. We hope to do a lot more of it. The funny thing is I had some throat sweets backstage called Vocal zones and I gave one to each of the backing vocalists as we were waiting backstage and 2 of them spat it out laughing in disgust and the other gave me hers back and I put it in my mouth with the other one. Little did I know how strong they were and as we walked on my sinus were in overdrive and tears were welling up in my eyes. Boy they were strong and there were times I really wanted to stop the show and have a good blow into a handkerchief. But saying that it was still an emotional night.

You were pretty much forced to take on the business side of running the band. Is this something you enjoy doing? Do you have a "business mind"?

I have a very organised mind and handling the business side is something that I do quite naturally. It is great being at the helm fighting on everyone’s behalf but it does take me away from playing which is a real shame. I have also had to learn to type and learn the computer etc and really I am a Guitarist not a Typist!

Do the band have any control over your back catalogue now? Do you personally or as a band get any benefit from the various re-releases and re-masters?

Just recently we have re visited the back catalogue with Sanctuary and improved our situation. It is not the best but certainly an improvement. So we will now hopefully see a few royalties from here on in. Up to that point it was a joke.

Did you have any influence over the contents of the recently released box set ("Chapter and Verse")? Do you feel it is a good representation of the band’s career?

Yes that was part of the deal. I helped them put the whole thing together from the first note and the first word to the last note and the last picture. It was a labour of love. I really enjoyed it and I supplied a lot of pictures from my private collection. It really was a roller coaster ride through my musical life.

Would Uriah Heep still exist now if not for the internet?

Yes it would as we have over the years built up a very strong touring base all over the world. However the internet has made everything so much more accessible.

What makes of guitar do you favour? Do you have a "special" guitar?

ELECTRIC: GIBSON LES PAUL BLACK CUSTOM

ACOUSTIC: FURCH

Would you envisage the band creating another "Salisbury" like epic piece again, or even another concept album?

It is possible but you would have to have a Record Company that supports you in this as it takes you into another dimension of finance.

How long to did it take you come up with your solos on "Salisbury"? Were they improvised, or entirely pre-composed? Does that track represent the "essence" of Mick Box’s guitar playing?

Totally improvised. 3 solo’s in one take after a trip to the pub

There appears to be some confusion about whether or not the band played with the orchestra when the "Salisbury" track was recorded. Could you clear up whether or not the orchestra parts were recorded separately and added later?

The brass orchestra was added on after.

What is the current status of the next album? Do you have songs ready to record? Do you have a record label lined up?

Yes we have a lot of songs Phil and I have been writing a lot and Trevor has been writing at his home studio. As writers though you just write. Once the deal is done we will then look at what UH requires and focus on that sifting through all material.

Would you consider releasing an album using the Marillion model where the fans fund the project, and in return get an expanded or special version of the release?

That has been suggested but we are exploring the standard route at the moment.

You did not appear to be unduly affected by the ego issues or falling outs which blighted other band members in the 70’s, did you have any "Spinal tap" moments yourself? Are you as "Easy livin’ " as you appear to be?

I have had plenty – falling off stage and breaking my arm – falling off stage at a festival in Finland as we left the stage and aero glided down 6 feet on to the bottom step of a wrought iron staircase and had a hairline fracture of my spine – putting my leg up on the monitors and someone down the front grabbing my trousers and the stitching ripped all the way up revealing I indeed was not wearing any underwear. Thank god for the guitar. Ego issues I tried to stay away from. I always thought it was best to leave that on stage. Other than that I am pretty "Easy Livin’ !

How does touring affect your family life? What country do you now call home?

England is now my home. I have lived in the USA and Australia. I was doing this before I had family so they are used to it. It is at times very hard but when I am home it is quality time. It is very important to have a foundation and I am very lucky there. My wife is very understanding and my son misses me when I am away but loves it when daddy comes home. I have another son in the USA who is a drummer in a band called Wordslikeknives. He is very grounded and a chip off the old block.

Do you have any contact these days with Paul Newton? Have you ever considered inviting him to a "Magician’s Birthday Party"? Do you keep in touch with John Lawton?

Paul Newton I have not seen for quite a few years. He came to one our UK gigs. It was great to see him.

John Lawton I have not seen since his last appearance at the Magicians Birthday bash but we have emailed a few times. I recently gave him some advice on going to Russia where I believe he has had a bit of interest with gigs.

Uriah Heep have made comparatively few longer tracks (Salisbury, July Morning, Paradise/the spell, Golden Palace etc.) These are generally felt to be among the band’s best tracks? Why have the band not recorded more such tracks?

I think there is possibly a place for only one of these on an album and then it is effective.

You were largely absent from the High and Mighty album, why was this?

I was there for all of it but there was a lot of vying for position in the studio and I decided like Lee to take a passive role.

There were a lot of politics involved.

What part did you play in the sacking of David and Gary? Were you consulted? Did they have to go?

It was a decision by all the other 4 members and the management. Yes I was there and it was hard. Vary hard indeed!

What was your relationship with Ken Hensley at the time of his leaving the band? How much contact do you have now?

Ken was in the band but never what you would call a mate. He always had his own agenda and it did not always agree with mine. Lee, Gary, Trevor, David to some extent we always went to the bar or hung out together and enjoyed each others company but Ken created his own mix of friends and employees.

What did you make of Dave Ling’s biography of the band? Is it a fair reflection? Are there more stories yet to be told, perhaps in a Mick Box autobiography?

There are many to be told but Dave did a sterling job!

Did you read Jeff Perkins book on David Byron? If so, did you feel it reflected the David you knew?

In parts it did but there was stuff that just David and I shared and one day I will write about it.

How did you and David Byron come together to form Spice?

We were both in a band called Stalkers before Spice. Stalkers were a semi professional band and Spice was a professional band whereby we gave up our day jobs and went for it. I personally made the decision that I was going to be a musician for life. Thankfully it worked.

Bernie Shaw (Lead vocals)

You had to have a major operation to your vocal chords. Were you worried at the time that you may have to give up singing all together? Is everything now fully sorted?
Yes I was very worried at the time as no one could find out for sure why I couldn't sing using my full range. I was told by one Dr. that sometimes the body just "gives up" due to over use. such is the case with many "west end" singers that have such a work load everyday, night after night. It wasn't until Mr. Harris did a laryingoscopy while i was singing did the problem reveal itself. A pollup actually on the surrounding muscle tissue that was resting on one of my vocal chords disrupting the mucosal wave at the higher register. a very rare case, but all fixed during a small operation . all is well now.

Do you ever feel you're in danger of impersonating previous Uriah Heep singers? Are you conscious of avoiding doing so?
From the first day with Heep, i approached the songs with my own vocal style
and interpretaion. I don't think Mick would have approached my to be in the band if i was only going to copy what had been there before me. That's not a move forward. of coarse i listen closely to the original vocal line for guidence, but that's where it ends. I'm not in the band to be a carbon copy of those singers before me.

Which are the best Uriah Heep era songs to sing? Which suit your voice and style best (other than the current line up of course!)?
That's a hard one to answer, but probably the Byron era, though John Lawton's voice gave the band such a "Bluesy" feel in some songs.

Uriah Heep have always enjoyed strong vocal harmonies. Who are the best current band members to sing with? Do all five band members have good signing voices?
All five of us have pretty strong voices and could probably front their own bands vocally, though Mick's ultra strong "falsetto" might be a bit much as a lead vocal.......hummmmmmmm maybe not as the the Darkness are using that same approach??

You appear to be in control of the mix when performing live, regularly sending signals to the desk. Are you as influential in the studio? Does the production side of making an album attract you?
I know what I want and I know how to get it very fast on stage. using a Shure Bros in-ear monitor system it takes a bit of time to alter the mix as the band plays a little louder or harder as the night goes on, but my involvement in the studio is more on the arrangement side and harmony construction.

Have you ever played or considered playing an instrument?

I do play a little acoustic guitar at home now as i used to play in a band in Canada. i had a Gibson SG (1967) and a Marshell `100wt and 4x 12 cab. on a recent trip to Brno in the Czech Rep. Mick and i went on a tour of the FURCH guitar factory. we both ended up buying a couple of beautiful acoustic guitars there. I just cant put mine down. it's a cedar top, D-23 Dreadnaught and sounds just amazing... but it's just for me at home
.
What other styles of music do you enjoy?

You are asking a Gemini to tell you what he likes??? we like EVERYTHING , but on different days of the week. I listen to the Helicasters, Steve Lukathur's fusion group (or Steve and Larry Carlton), eminem, Pink Floyd, Nickleback, Dixi Chicks to Jango Rheinheart.....
pretty eclectic tastes I guess.

You were very much thrown in at deep end in Moscow. What are your recollections of the experience?
Total Awe, the city is just amazing. Everything is HUGE! and the people who had nothing would give you there last piece of bread if you were their guests. the audience was amazing every night. to much to say in this small space. but it will be with me for the rest of my life for sure.

What would you list among your hobbies and interests?
Riding and working on my Harley, the love of cooking, good wine, tennis, skiing, my family (that's a hobby in itself)

Uriah Heep appear to now being re-evaluated by the media, and finally finding their rightful place in rock music history. Do you feel you are finally winning the battle?
that battle never ends, but the fans make it worth while

Is song writing harder now? Who are the main composers in the band?
Mick and Phil work very well together, and Trev is a songwriter in his own right

What will be the style of next album?
Classic HEEP of course!!

Phil Lanzon (Keyboards and vocals)

On the Live in Moscow version of "Gypsy" you added a very adventurous solo section. Were you deliberately making a statement both personally and on behalf of the new line up? Was it something you composed after joining the band, or did you have it up your sleeve already?
I'd been with the band 18 months and this solo developed over that time. It was neither a statement nor something I had up my sleeve (which was just as well because I was wearing short sleeves at the time). No. A solo was needed for Gypsy, so a solo was written. As for the Russian folkie bit in the middle, that was because somebody on the night backstage suggested I play something Ruskie, and the only tune I knew was the one you hear on the Moscow c.d. Sadly (after the show) I was informed that this perhaps wasn’t in the best taste as it was the old slave song. But hey! That's all I knew at the time...

Who is Matthew Lanzon who wrote the "Heartless land" verse lyrics? How did he come about writing it and having it adopted by the band?
Matthew is my eldest son, he's 35, has two kids, Zachary 7, and Freya,3. About ten years ago he wrote a load of lyrics and sent them to me. One of which was the lyrics for Heartless Land. I liked them a lot but couldn't find an appropriate song to slot them into. Time went by and me and Mick were in the middle of a writing session for Sonic. We had the bare bones of an acoustic song and I flitted through our own lyric sheets while Mick was playing and in amongst them was heartless land. I'd forgotten about them but when I recognised Matt's handwriting I started to fit the words in with a ruff melody I had. We used his lyrics for the verse and finished it off with our own lyrics for the chorus. It was very instant and the meaning in the words was very well matched to the melody and everyone liked it -- so there it is.

You seldom include extended keyboard solos on Uriah Heep tracks. Why is this? Would you like to see some of he band’s tracks developed into more complex, progressive pieces?
I quite like the idea of a keyboard solo but Not the long rambling things of old. No. I would like to do a track with everyone playing that is perhaps ninety per cent instrumental--you know the sort of thing that grooves along with strong melodies in the solo sections, not too self indulgent. THEN a severe smattering of shockingly tight vocal harmonies for a few seconds that blasts the eyes and ears of the listener into a blaze of euphoria, then back into the groove =---then OUT!

I get the impression you are a lover of classical music. What classical education and training have you had? Who are your favourite composers/classical pieces?
I am a lover of classical music but not only classical. I like just about everything with the exception of all forms of rap. I've given it a chance boys, but I'm afraid If it's not about murder or rape, then it's about love and understanding spat out with the same tone of hate and aggression---this is in no way connected to music, I'm sorry rap lovers.

Who’s keyboard playing do you admire most – Wakeman, Emerson, Banks, or someone else?Emerson was (and probably still is) the best all rounder. Then there's Brian Auger, ace Hammond player. Dave Greenslade, and, a chap called Barry Shaw from Derbyshire who occasionally plays in a pub up there. I don't think I've ever heard such playing and songwriting -- ever. Perhaps I never will....

Many thanks to Mick Bernie, and Phil for taking time out from the band's current world tour to do the interview.

Official website : http://www.uriah-heep.com

Mick, Bernie and Trevor (Boulder) on stage, Glasgow, November 2005.



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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 14 2006 at 09:45

Great interview Bob! Really pleased to read this one as Heep are a fave band of mine, and it must have been a thrill for you to interview them! Particularly interesting was that this interview focuses on less covered aspects of the band's career; also interesting to read that there still seems to be an element of tension between Heep (Mick Box, at least) and Ken Hensley.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 14 2006 at 15:25
Sweet interview.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 14 2006 at 16:40

John Lawton I have not seen since his last appearance at the Magicians Birthday bash but we have emailed a few times. I recently gave him some advice on going to Russia where I believe he has had a bit of interest with gigs.

Thanks, Mick. We'll be waiting for John's gigs in Russia.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 14 2006 at 18:00

Fine interviews Bob, good to hear from Mick that every proghead needs an understanding wife  !

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 15 2006 at 02:02
Originally posted by salmacis

Great interview Bob! Really pleased to read this one as Heep are a fave band of mine, and it must have been a thrill for you to interview them! Particularly interesting was that this interview focuses on less covered aspects of the band's career; also interesting to read that there still seems to be an element of tension between Heep (Mick Box, at least) and Ken Hensley.



Excellent interview Bob ... Salmacis, I was lucky enough in the past to interview both Ken and Mick via email (this was about six years ago when Sonic Origami came out and Ken was working on a Christian rock project called Visible Faith)

Regarding the friction I don't think it really exists too much any more ... they both said that the band was driven apart by egos ... and the general impression was that David Byron and Ken Hensley (who candidly admitted as much) possessed the biggest egos back then, and that Mick was something of an all-round nice guy who was caught in the middle and trying to keep things together ...

In the 80s when Mick reformed Heep for Abimonog, Ken wasn't best pleased about it, but that seemed to be water under the bridge by the late 90s when I interviewed them ... I met Mick very briefly in 2001 and he was extremely down to earth ...


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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 15 2006 at 04:36
 It's amazing to see how far Uriah Heep have come....what I mean is how much they've changed. Great interview Bob!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 15 2006 at 07:06
Yet another great interview  (although  Django Reinhardt's name is a bit messed up  )
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 15 2006 at 15:30

 

 Well done Bob,another coup for Prog Archives!

 

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 17 2006 at 03:19
Great job, Bob!

I think we can safely say Phil Lanzon's place in the band is safe... no prospect of a return of Mr Hensley, then.

Never realised the falsetto vocals were Box, either...


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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 18 2006 at 16:47
I have updated the interview with some questions and responses from Phil Lanzon.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 19 2006 at 07:32

I just added your interview in a printed version to my own 'Alucard Archives'. 'Salisbury' was one of my first and favourite records. I didn't listen to Uriah heep for ages until I bought recently a 'Curved Air' DVD (classic rock) with an extra bonus of 'Acoustically driven' the DVD, with concert footage and interviews,looks great, I have to get back in touch with UH's music.

 

 

 

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Explain the meaning of this song and share it"

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 20 2006 at 07:34
Nice updates, from Phil Lanzon

"I quite like the idea of a keyboard solo but Not the long rambling things of old"

Who could he be referring to.... Look out! Ken's at the Moog again... Run, children, Run!

"Emerson was (and probably still is) the best all rounder. Then there's Brian Auger, ace Hammond player. Dave Greenslade...."

A man after my own heart - nice to hear a namecheck for Brian Auger, too.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 20 2006 at 15:56

Originally posted by Jim Garten

Nice updates, from Phil Lanzon

"I quite like the idea of a keyboard solo but Not the long rambling things of old"

Who could he be referring to.... Look out! Ken's at the Moog again... Run, children, Run!

"Emerson was (and probably still is) the best all rounder. Then there's Brian Auger, ace Hammond player. Dave Greenslade...."

A man after my own heart - nice to hear a namecheck for Brian Auger, too.

I always rather enjoyed Ken Hensley's Moog solos myself! I noticed you didn't like his solo on 'Gypsy' on your review of 'Live 73' Jim, but I think it has a certain charm and is very enjoyable and technically sound enough to these ears; indeed, it far exceeds any solo his counterpart Jon Lord ever played on the Moog. Ever hear 'Space Truckin' at California Jam? One of the worst Moog solos ever, imo...

Nice to see Phil give Greenslade a namecheck. Phil Lanzon is an excellent player in his own right, and I see no real reason why Heep would ever need to have Ken Hensley in the line-up again; I doubt very much either party would want Ken to return- both Heep and Ken have their own, separate careers now. I'm more than happy with Phil Lanzon's excellent keyboard work- he's also a fine songwriter particularly when working with Mick Box.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 22 2006 at 11:14
indeed the interview shows the wall between ken and mick. why after all these years ? 
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 22 2006 at 11:27

I don't think Mick's saying there's any wall as such. All he's saying is that although they were in the band together, they were never friends as such.

Bear in mind that Ken joined the band on stage for the first Magician's Birthday Party.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 23 2006 at 03:48
Originally posted by salmacis

I always rather enjoyed Ken Hensley's Moog solos myself! I noticed you didn't like his solo on 'Gypsy' on your review of 'Live 73' Jim, but I think it has a certain charm and is very enjoyable


I remember a quote years ago in a music magazine saying a club was "more crowded than a canteen serving hatch full of music journalists trying to escape a Ken Hensley moog solo" (not the kind of quote you forget in a hurry)

Seriously though, I've always loved his Hammond playing & slide guitar work, I just feel his Moog playing (at the time) showed more enthusiasm than aptitude... still, at least it wasn't him who ruined 'Lucky Man'

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 23 2006 at 15:15

Originally posted by Jim Garten

Originally posted by salmacis

I always rather enjoyed Ken Hensley's Moog solos myself! I noticed you didn't like his solo on 'Gypsy' on your review of 'Live 73' Jim, but I think it has a certain charm and is very enjoyable


I remember a quote years ago in a music magazine saying a club was "more crowded than a canteen serving hatch full of music journalists trying to escape a Ken Hensley moog solo" (not the kind of quote you forget in a hurry)

Seriously though, I've always loved his Hammond playing & slide guitar work, I just feel his Moog playing (at the time) showed more enthusiasm than aptitude... still, at least it wasn't him who ruined 'Lucky Man'

- that's a pretty amusing quote! Another one I've read claimed Ken was using keyboards 'as a musical whoopie cushion...'.

 

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 23 2006 at 16:09
Nice one - Heep were the first band I got really into - I really miss Byron - the guitar solo on Magiacian's Birthday is one of my faves
Originally posted by darkshade:

Calling Mike Portnoy a bad drummer is like calling Stephen Hawking an idiot.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 22 2006 at 23:01
Really cool interview.

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