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Interviews   

Uriah Heep will never stop travelling


… first of all because they get most of their inspiration from the places they get to see on tour, not contenting themselves with wandering around in the hotel room or the concert hall. But most of all, because Uriah Heep doesn’t plan on retiring from doing music anytime soon, as long as there’s someone to listen to them. At least, for now: the band does not plan anything in the long term, same as for their guitarist Mick Box.

We had a chat with him for the release of their latest album Into The Wild, the title symbolising what it means for the band to release new songs to the world. Uriah Heep has been moving forward for the past 40 years without pressuring themselves in any particular way, specifically concerning the renewal of their musical style, which is useless according to Mick Box: don’t end up being second best by trying to adapt to what is being done at any given moment! By the end of this interview, the guitarist will also tell us about his will to play more often in France

Interview.

« If you start trying to become new and do all the other things that are going on around you, then you can only be second best, because someone else was already doing it first. »

Radio Metal : The band has recently signed with Frontiers Records, what’s the reason for this choice and what are you expecting from this collaboration?

Mick Box (guitars) : I think it was a good move, we’re really pleased to be with Frontiers because they seem to understand our genre or music, and you know their roster is very rock oriented so it’s a good home to be. Plus they have a presence in the American market which is something we’re building at the moment, so it works well in all levels, really.

Was it your only option?

No, we had lots of other options, but we chose Frontiers.

So is Frontiers Records the only label which signs with old hard rock bands?

No, I wouldn’t say they’re the only label; there are lots and lots of other labels that cakes for that type of band. But I think that Frontiers have a roster that is pretty much akin to us, you know, there’s White Snake, there’s Uriah Heep, there’s Deaf Leppard, there’s, you know… any number of rock act, which is great!

In a recent interview, as an answer to the question « How is it possible to still succeed in writing songs after forty years? », Bernie Shaw said that it is impossible for an artist to stop writing. Nevertheless after a career of forty years, aren’t there some automatic reflexes of composition which are a bit dangerous for your music renewal?

No there isn’t any danger involved at all, we never look at things like that you know, everything which happens with Uriah Heep is a very natural process, and writing songs over 40 years had always been a pleasure. It’s something that we do naturally, something that we, as writers, do every day and we’re traveling in 53 countries in the world so you know there’s inspiration all around us, you just have to have your antenna open, your radar open, to realize what inspirations are around you, and then it becomes really simple.

Okay, but don’t you think the fact that it’s very natural is a danger?

We established a template for what Uriah Heep is all about back in the seventies and we’ve kept to that and that’s what we do best. If you start trying to become new and do all the other things that are going on around you, then you can only be second best, because someone else was already doing it first. We stay with what we know best and it’s worked very well for us over 40 years.

More and more legendary bands are stopping their career or at least they are announcing it. According to what you are saying, I guess it’s not ready to happen for you?

We can’t see any end to it, never had those discussions or those thoughts coming to our minds, we’re always looking to the next new thing, otherwise, we wouldn’t have recorded our latest album, Into the Wild. I think to be honest, retirement, for us, is when there’s no audience. But we’re lucky we’ve got an audience in 53 countries so there’s never a question for us stopping doing what we’re doing, because we love what we’re doing. We’re in an enviable position, we’ve got the best job in the world and there’s no reason to stop.

« I think that today, a lot of what is in the market today is manufactured, which is think is dreadful. ».

The new album sounds like a classic from Uriah Heep and more generally from hard rock music. What was your state of mind when you were writing this album?

Once again, it was very natural to us, it’s a succession to our last album Wake the Sleeper, and the two tracks, the original tracks we put on the Celebration album, “Corridors of Madness” and “Only Human”. It’s kind of a natural progression from that, and I guess this is probably more of a rocky album, at least, the first two third of it, before we get into the epic songs and stuff like that, the ballads. So we really had a rock hat on this one.

How do you deal with the influence of nowadays music, if it exists?

I like some of it and some of it I don’t like, you know. I like the music that’s played by musicians and not by machines and things like that, I think that today, a lot of what is in the market today is manufactured, which is think is dreadful. It has no heart and soul, to me if you’ve got no heart and soul you have no music.

Has the title of the album « Into The Wild » got anything to do with Sean Penn’s movie?

Well in fact, Phil Lanzon, with whom I write most of my songs with, went to see the movie and read the book, and he was inspired by it, so we started to write the songs and although it was the inspiration for the lyrics of the title track “Into the Wild”, we then took it off onto a branch to somewhere else. So lyrically that was where we started, but we actually took the lyrics somewhere else totally, totally different. But yes there was an influence there, definitely.

Do you feel concerned by the subject of this movie? Is the idea of leaving everything behind you ever crossed your mind?

Not particularly, no, I’m still living in the moment. I don’t look at these things quite at the moment yet.

« We always take time to discover the places, it’s very important, otherwise you don’t get inspired. If you just go to a vast hotel, to the bar, to the club, to the concert hall, you don’t gain anything out of that that, so we always make a time to go sightseeing wherever we can. »

« Into The Wild » suggests the discovery of unexplored territories. For a band like you, with a forty-year-old career and shows performed all over the world, what is this unknown?

The unknown is to have people react to your music and to what you do and luckily they react very favorably to us, so that’s the most important thing. One of the other reasons we used the title of Into the Wild as the title of the album, is that basically what we do, once we’ve recorded all the songs with our producer, and once they’re finished and we’ve got them exactly how we want them to sound, then we release them to everyone else, we release them into the wild, for everyone to make up their opinion, and that’s kind of why we used that title.

Tours able you to travel all over the world. Nevertheless the tour pace doesn’t not really let you visiting those places. Isn’t it a bit frustrating having been in all these different places without really having been able to take some time to really discover them?

Oh no, we always take time to discover the places, it’s very important, otherwise you don’t get inspired. If you just go to a vast hotel, to the bar, to the club, to the concert hall, you don’t gain anything out of that that, so we always make a time to go sightseeing wherever we can. We’re lucky enough to go around the world quit few times, so if we miss it one time we’ll catch it the second time.

« Well every time we come to France we get a tremendous reaction, and it’s really heartwarming, because the French really love their rock music as much as we love playing it, we just haven’t had the promoters that would invite us over to France as often as we would like. »

You announced that you were intending to release a series of official bootlegs. You insist on the fact that they have not been modified so that the listener can almost have the impression of being in the room. Do you think that nowadays live videos miss authenticity or do not have this immersion side?

No, the bootlegs were an idea of ours to… there are so many bootlegs out there, so we thought we’d get an official bootleg series going, where people, say in America and the other side of the Atlantic can experience what we do in Budapest, or Japan, or Sweden, of wherever we like. They are as the night was, with warts and all. We got Ioannis who does all the cover artwork, and he creates the fantastic artwork to go with these things, and they become a nice collector’s item, rather than a shabby presentation that people usually have when they acquire bootlegs. So it’s a real collector’s thing, and for us it’s quite important to do that, and control that so that there’s a degree of quality in there.

In a recent interview Bernie Shaw said that in order to remember the names of little known towns, such as Eastern Europe towns, he was writing phonetically their names down on a paper for the shows. Has he ever made a mistake saying the name of another town?

Yeah I’m afraid he has (laughs). I can’t remember where it was but I think it was somewhere in Scandinavia where he got the names mixed up, and there was an embarrassed silence for a minute, but soon overcome with a bit of humor.

Uriah Heep is not very successful in France, according to you, what is the reason for that?

Well every time we come to France we get a tremendous reaction, and it’s really heartwarming, because the French really love their rock music as much as we love playing it, we just haven’t had the promoters that would invite us over to France as often as we would like. You know, we can’t just turn up with a van full of equipment and start playing, we have to be invited by promoters, and so it’s really up to them asking us. If they do ask us, we’re very happy to be there.

Do you have one last thing to say?

We can’t wait to come in and play in France once again, and like I said the last time, I think we played in Paris with Blue Oyster Cult and it was a fantastic show, the response was wonderful. We want to come out, and we’re really excited about coming out and playing our new album to everybody. But of course we’ll play all the classic hits as well, all the “Easy Lives”, the “Lady in Black”, the “Gypsy” and stuff, so it makes for a great rock show, so we hope to see you all soon.

Interview conducted on May, 9th by phone.
Transcription : Stan
Uriah Heep’s website : www.uriah-heep.com



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