Detritus Mini-Issue #471.5 - September 19, 2008
Mini-Issue #471.5 - September 19, 2008
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*** CAST OF CHARACTERS ***
Patrick Brower, Editor
Sean P. Gahgan, Editor
Tim Wadzinski, Owner
Steve Shumake, Co-owner
*** LET IT BE KNOWN ***
-Just slidin' in a little Uriah Heep interview for you. Don't mind me.
:) - Tim
*** SPECIAL REPORT ***
by Neal Woodall (MysticX9@...)
-Interview w/ Mick Box (Uriah Heep)
September 5, 2008
In the here today, gone tomorrow musical world we live in bands would
be doing well to last five years. Well check this out: Uriah Heep have
been around in various incarnations for almost 40 years, with the
current lineup dating back to 1986 (minus new drummer Russell
Gilbrook). Original member Mick Box has seen it all over the years,
experiencing the elation of hit albums and massive tours, as well as
suffering through the loss of two key band members, David Byron and
Gary Thain. Ten years have passed since their last album SONIC
ORIGAMI, but the band are back now with a powerful new release called
WAKE THE SLEEPER and preparing to embark on an extensive world tour. I
had the great pleasure to speak with Mick recently about the latest
album from that enduring entity known as Uriah Heep...
DETRITUS: Congratulations on WAKE THE SLEEPER...
MICK BOX: Thanks very much!
D: It's been a long time coming but worth the wait I think!
MB: Well it was one of those things that was out of our hands really,
in terms of how long it took to make. (laughs) It was just simply that
our last album SONIC ORIGAMI was loved by the record company, fans,
and just generally everybody, and we put an 18 month tour plan
together to promote it and we planned 53 countries so it was quite and
extensive touring program -- and the record company didn't support it
like they said they were going to so we were kind of disillusioned. We
came back at the end of that 18 months and said you're not going to
mess up our lives anymore, we're not going to give you the next album.
So it took a couple of years to get the contract, and when that
happened the whole Internet explosion thing happened, and initially
the record companies, if you remember, they kind of attacked the
Internet didn't they? Took Napster to court and people like that and
then realized they couldn't possibly police it 'cause there's a
million of them, so they had to embrace the Internet. And in doing so
the record industry was never the same, because to be honest, record
companies disappeared off the face of the earth. It got smaller or
they amalgamated, lots of firings but not many hirings you know, so it
was a very fragile state for us to be in, so we just did what we do
best. We got out and toured the world -- like I say 53 countries. We
released a DVD that we hadn't had in the marketplace for awhile, we
put an acoustic show together and went out and played that, and got
guests like Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull to play with us so that was
really good fun. And we did the MAGICIAN'S BIRTHDAY thing in London
every year where the fans came in and they saw sort of reincarnations
of the band with various members of the band playing with us again so
it was kind of a lot of fun. Then we got to a point where Sanctuary
Records -- who own our back catalog -- decided they wanted to try a
front line label with a band like us, so we were the first ones to do
this in this experiment, and we went off to Chapel Studios in
Lincolnshire. WAKE THE SLEEPER came back, we were excited, they were
excited, they were pleased to have it, and then they got taken over by
Universal! (laughs) That just shows you the fragile state of the
business, and once again, of course, we had another year's wait to see
if Universal were going to work it or not, but you know, thank
goodness they saw the value in the album, because they are not a rock
label per se, so we were biting our nails but eventually they heard it
and said we were going to work there so we said "Thank God for that!"
And here we are my friend, that's what's taken so long! (laughs)
Actually the recording of it and the writing of it took very little
time, it's like all these things, we're in the music business and
music comes really really sweet and fast and the business is like a
chore every time...
D: Some of the songs must have been hanging around for awhile...
MB: Funny enough, Phil [Lanzon, keyboards] and I write very well
together and we wrote most of the album. As writers you sit down and
write every day, whether it's a piece of music or a lyric or
something, I record it on my little Sony Walkman, then go back and
look at them later on and see if the ideas are worth developing. So we
had a long, long, long, long list of cassettes and things to go
through and alter and all that, and we started doing that, especially
with the stuff we'd both written, and the only sort of one that really
survived was "Ghost Of The Ocean," and we didn't have a lyric for that
we just had a bit of the music together. Then we started going through
other things, I was bringing out the riffs and he was bringing out
some ideas and chord sequences and in the end we just said look, why
don't we scrap this and go with the momentum, you know? So basically,
at least the first five numbers were written two weeks before we hit
rehearsals -- it was just as quick as that, we just started putting
our heads down and going for it and that's how it was written. We just
wanted to capture the excitement of it all rather than... It's not to
say that those ideas are not going to surface at some stage, but we
thought at that time it was the right way to approach it. And getting
Mike Paxman involved, he was a great inspiration in recording the
album, he was wonderful as producer because he came in and heard us in
the rehearsal studio and he said, "This is what we have to capture on
CD, this is it." [His idea was] we have to play as a band because we
work so brilliantly on one pulse it's unbelievable, so that was the
template for it really. We found the Chapel Studios up in Lincolnshire
in the English countryside, went up there and it's an old converted
church, we brought all the gear in, mic'd it all up and recorded it as
a band rather than doing it piecemeal, and I think that paid dividends
for us because we really do speak best as a band anyway. Mike Paxman,
it's a really funny thing to say, but he was the first guy ever I've
known as a producer to use his ears to produce, 'cause most guys sit
in front of a screen and put all the bass guitar, guitar and keyboards
all on the bass drum you know, and in the search for that perfection
you lose all the magic you had in the first place. Mike Paxman's rule
of thumb was if it sounds this good now, we're gonna love it in six
months time, a year's time, 10 years time, so it was really cool. We
went in, recorded each day, we had one song we would pick, we'd work
it up to a point where we were all happy with our parts, press the
record button and in one, two, three takes we had it. So it was a
great way of doing it.
D: The title track starts things off and it's explosive, almost an
MB: Well it was a song actually! (laughs) Phil and I were writing the
song, I had the riff and the verse and everything else going and had
it all sort of moving along nicely and Phil got involved and we
started writing it as a song. The whole essence of the song is because
we had been on a 10-year hiatus between studio albums we would call it
"Awaken The Sleeping Giant" which we reduced down to "Wake The
Sleeper" and that's where the title came from. So we were working on
that basis and we just heard -- you know I came up with the riff and
Russell did the whole bass drum thing -- and it all started picking up
a lot of energy and stuff, and we were going to put it on as the last
track of the album and Mike Paxman suggested why don't we open with it
because it shows everybody within 30 seconds you still got the power,
the passion and the energy you always had.
D: It most certainly does!
MB: Yeah, I think it was a good call on his part. So we knocked out
the verses because we thought, you know, musically it was standing up,
it was sounding good on its own, it's powerful enough so we just left
it like it is, and it is very effective, I have to say.
D: The album is so consistently good I'm having a hard time choosing a
favorite but I especially like "Overload" and "Tears Of The World..."
MB: Well that's great, "Tears Of The World" is a typical Heep sort of
song isn't it? All the harmony work that we're known for which is our
trademark, it's got the wah wah guitar solo and loads of organ so it's
kind of got it all there! (laughs)
D: Where do you think your best performance is on WAKE THE SLEEPER?
MB: My best performance? Oh my God, I usually let other people decide.
I've had a lot of people say they absolutely love the solo in "Tears
Of The World."
D: Yeah, I think so...
MB: Also they love the solo in "Shadow," a lot of people saying to me
that they are wicked solos (laughs), which is nice.
D: You always have interesting lyrical content. Does Bernie [Shaw,
vocals] write most of the lyrics?
MB: No, Bernie doesn't write any at all funnily enough, it's one of
those things where he just doesn't get involved with the writing, he
just doesn't have that "string to his bow" unfortunately. I've tried
to encourage him but he just doesn't bring it to the table! (laughs)
So I mean lyrically it's just me and Phil, we find subjects that
either matter to us, interest us or whatever and we go with it. We're
pretty much on the same page me and Phil, we think a lot the same in
D: What inspires you musically and lyrically?
MB: Well usually the music comes first then we look at where we're
going to take it lyrically. "Overload" is just a comment on the
computer age, you know, people just make up their own persona when
they are on the computer, they lose themselves in games, many, many
hours are spent on the computer, and like all things computers have...
(pauses) There's a great side to it and a really bad side to it, you
see all the kids today spending so much time with computers, they
should be out playing football and things like that, so it was just a
comment on that and of course will it eventually all blow up and do we
go back to pigeons and pens again? (laughs) You know, where will we go
when it all explodes, or implodes? "Tears Of The World" is a
reflection on the state of the world where regardless of what all
these big businesses say and how green they try to give a front to be,
you know, they're still not caring too much for the world and the
world is crying because of it. Things like "What Kind Of God" for
instance was actually from a book "Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee" and
it's about the American Indians who were living off the land in a very
peaceful way and spiritual way and then in come the soldiers with
their guns, shooting them and telling them what religion to worship
and all that stuff and if you were an Indian you'd be saying "What
kind of God do you worship?" (laughs) So there's many, many subjects
there are quite interesting, another one was "Ghost Of The Ocean"
which is about female pirates which no one has ever written about...
D: No, I don't think I've ever heard a song about that! (laughs)
MB: Yeah, there were actually female pirates, there are books about it
you know and we looked at it, researched it and said "Yeah, this is
cool!" (laughs) Another thing for us to go on about so lots of variety
there. "Book Of Lies" was written about a guy, he's broken up with a
relationship and six months down the road he goes to a bookstore, buys
a book and is sitting there reading it, and he suddenly identifies a
lot of himself in that book, and then he looks at the author and it
was actually his girlfriend who had written it, she's writing all this
stuff about him which he calls the book of lies. (laughs) So there's
many, many ways of doing lyrics now, there's enough out there if
you've got the imagination.
D: I see you have a new member -- how did you hook up with Russell
MB: Yeah well, the unfortunate thing with Lee [Kerslake, former
drummer] was we got to the end of a touring year -- a very long
touring year -- where we did a lot of acoustic shows and in the end
Lee had a lot of health issues he had to deal with. It's not always
just the one thing but health issues was the major thing and I sat
down with him and said "Look mate, we're the best of mates and I
really thought I was going to see out my life with you on the drums in
the band, but I really think you need to take care of your health and
try and get on top of things, because if you haven't got your health,
you haven't got anything," and he kind of agreed with that and said
"Yeah, well, I've really had my fill of it already and it's time," so
I kind of sensed it and he kind of sensed it and in fact it was a
weight off his shoulders. But we're still the best of mates and I
speak with him every week, we have a good laugh and stuff...
D: He's doing well now?
MB: Yeah, he's in a really good space, I'm really pleased for him. If
we'd have carried on on the Uriah Heep rock n' roll carousel who knows
what would have happened, so at least we didn't take it that far. So
we found Russell. Russell was actually teaching down at Brighton
College, teaching drums, he also does lots of drum clinics and he did
a drum clinic a few years ago up in the north of England where Trevor
Bolder our bass player lives, and Trevor went along and thought he was
phenomenal and they just exchanged numbers. And when Lee went I
advertised -- more word-of-mouth than anything -- and I had about 240
drummers apply. We whittled that down to a couple of dozen and put
these rehearsal dates in to go on and audition everybody and it just
so happens at the time I sat them all up Russell rang Trevor to give
him his new mobile number because he'd lost his mobile, and he said
"What are you doing?" and Trevor said "Oh, we're auditioning
drummers," so he said "Oh, can I come along?" and Trevor said "Yeah,
if you're really interested," and he rang me up, we set him up and I
told him "I can only put you last one of the few days if you want to
come along, set your kit up and go for it then that's fine, we're
rehearsing three songs" -- I think it was "Between Two Worlds," "July
Morning" and "Easy Livin'" -- and come along." So he came along, and
by the time he came along we were just desperate 'cause all these guys
said they could play and sing...
D: ...and it wasn't working out?
MB: Just couldn't get it, and we didn't want a clone of Lee, you know,
there's no use just learning all Lee's licks because that's not going
to get us anywhere, because you've got to bring something to the table
and be inventive yourself. And Russell came along and not only did he
nail the three songs vocally and drumming wise, he also had three or
four others, he was shouting songs out to us, try this and try that,
and it was so outstanding we actually did a show that night, he was
that professional. After all that time all the crews were getting
bored senseless too, once we finished three songs with Russell they
stood up and applauded, so we kind of thought we had our man right
D: Yeah, you certainly found the right guy!
MB: Yeah, he has an energy and passion about what he does and he's
come on board under the Uriah Heep banner and he's embraced it fully
and he loves it, absolutely loves it because he thinks he's in seventh
heaven now he's doing a job in a band that he loves and playing great
melodic rock songs so he's well happy.
D: You're about to embark on a pretty massive tour. When are you going
to make it to the States?
MB: Well we're actually starting in October. We'll do an old jam
around with Thin Lizzy supporting, then we take off to other parts of
Europe, Czech Republic, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium and
stuff, and we finish in December. Then hopefully -- we're now looking
at after discussions this week -- coming to America in mid-January,
either mid-January or mid-February, and they are investigating a House
Of Blues run, and if we could get something at that level that would
be fantastic, and then they're looking at trying to get a strong
package a bit later in the year to come back through so we're
certainly looking at the American market because the album so far,
especially in the U.S., they're seeing a very, very positive reaction
all 'round, so there's every reason to be there.
D: What's the set list going to look like?
MB: Well, you know, we're not a silly band, we do understand that lots
of people love the old classics and nostalgia is a very powerful drug
and people like to hear the old classics in an arena so we'll always
do the "Easy Livin's" and the "Gypsies" and things like that, the
songs that people come along to hear from our history but we'll
sprinkle a load of the new stuff as well. We'll just try to get a
really good cool balance between the two, but it is important to do
both and we are well aware that the classics are the classics and
that's what people want to hear too.
D: You had albums like ABOMINOG and HEAD FIRST that were a little
unusual for the band. Are you going to play anything off of those?
MB: We have done that but we haven't really sat down and looked at
specifics yet. I think we'll probably stay more with the classic,
classic stuff like the "Easy Livin's," that type of thing and the
"July Mornings" and "Gypsies" rather than going to ABOMINOG, 'cause we
still have quite a bit to do from the new album too. But it will be a
great, great set, we're really looking forward to putting it together.
We go into rehearsals in September and I can't wait!
D: Well tell me about Dot On Shaft guitars. How did you get associated
MB: Well they are unbelievable. I've always been a Gibson man all my
life and I've got Black Beauty Gibson Les Pauls and it has been my
baby for years, and they were getting knocked around on the road a bit
'cause you know, we were playing 53 countries like I was saying and
after boats, trains, planes, buses, whatever you know they were taking
a bit of a banging about. The photographer who took most of the
pictures on the album, he sent me a link for these Dot On Shaft
guitars, he said "These look cool Mick," so I looked at them and I
said "Yes, they do, they look very, very good." So I got my guitar
tech to ring up Mike Carparelli, and he rang him up and said "Look,
Mick is very interested in your guitars" and all that stuff and he
said "I'll send you one and let you try one out." So we said
fantastic, chose a model, he sent one over, my guitar tech one night
did the setup on it and I said "Look, I'll try it for a couple of
numbers then we'll go back to what we know halfway through," just a
couple of songs you know, and I kept it on for a couple of months!
(laughs) I thought "Hang on, this has got something!" So then we
started to talk to them more about it and they decided to do a Mick
Box model so that's what I play now which is fantastic along with
Shadow pickups -- a pickup company in Germany who designed me my own
pickups as well so that's really cool, the Demon and Wizard they are
called just to keep it under the Heep banner (laughs) -- but it plays
beautifully and it's just a wonderful guitar to play you know and I
can rest my Gibsons now and maybe just get them out in the studio.
D: Your sound is pretty straightforward, doesn't sound like a ton of
effects or anything. You've never been into tower rack effects with
harmonizers and all that kind of stuff?
MB: No, no, can't go there, can't go there. If you give me a 1959 SLP
Marshall head 100 watt on a 4X12 cabinet -- straight cabinet not
slanted -- that's all I ever really need in life. And obviously I have
the Cry Baby Wah Wah and the Marshall Guv'nor for a little bit of
edge, and a chorus pedal for I think one number and that's it!
(laughs) Yeah it's fun to keep it really simple because even in the
studio I didn't want to multi-layer a bunch of guitars 'cause I think
you lose the power, you know the more you put on the less you get, and
it gets more confusing for you to follow the part that needs to be
followed. So I kept it really simple, I did one pass on my Gibson
Black Beauty and I have an old Sunburst as well that has a slightly
different sound, more bottom end-y, and I just did one pass on the
Black Beauty and one pass on the tobacco Sunburst and that was it,
leave it. Because it was powerful you know? That's all I wanted.
D: Yeah, great sound on the album...
MB: Well I love it, yeah, even the wah wah. You know the great thing
about Mike Paxman again producing is often when I finish a solo the
click of the wah wah coming off is almost full stop, and most
producers clean that bit up, in search of that little bit of
perfection; well Mike said "Keep it in, it sounds great, it's real!"
And I thought "Yes, you're my man!" (laughs) So he kept all that stuff
in and it was wonderful, even at the end of "What Kind Of God," at the
very, very end where it goes into the last battle scene with the big
drum going, the big timpani, that whirring sound is my wah wah opening
up there. So he kept all that stuff, he kept it real and I think it
really benefited from that, and the fact that we didn't use any synths
or data at all, just went back to basics. It really works on all
levels for us.
D: A new generation of kids are getting turned on to vintage songs and
bands via video games like "Guitar Hero" and "Rock Band." Any thoughts
MB: (laughs) Yeah, yes indeed, come on! When they're ready, we're
ready! I think it's fantastic, I mean come on, "Easy Livin'" in that
environment would be fantastic. "Gypsy" would be a brilliant song for
them, the simplicity of it but the power of it, it would transfer
beautifully to that, so yes, I'd love to be involved with that.
Anything that turns people on to playing guitar, I'm your man. I love
D: Are there any current bands or musicians who are impressing you
these days? Do you keep up with the music scene?
MB: I try to, I still like a band called Tea Party, they were just
tremendous players and I love all their work, you know the latest
Slipknot is great... (pauses) Ah, let me think of all the other people
I've been listening to lately, trying to think of all the newer stuff
really. I kind of listen to it all but sometimes it goes in one ear
and out the other. There's a lot of it that doesn't really have an
identity; also I find that a lot of these bands have -- the
instrumental side is absolutely dynamite -- but you know there's no
real song there for you to remember, and I kind of lose it on that
level because obviously that's the standpoint I come from as a writer.
Um, but yeah, there's quite a lot out there, System Of A Down do some
tremendous stuff, all those sort of bands are wonderful, nowhere near
what we do of course. There's a good little Irish band called The
Answer, they play some good stuff. I mean, they tend to keep getting
into this little blues rut which I wish they wouldn't, because their
rock side is excellent, but this bluesy bit, come on, everyone has
done that and a lot better, but the rock stuff they do is excellent.
So yeah, there's people out there with snippets of stuff that I really
like, yeah. You have to keep in touch with it all but a lot of it, I
do find -- and I'm probably going to sound quite old-fashioned even
saying this -- but I do find that there's a loss of the individual in
a lot of today's music, or the individualism if you like.
D: I agree.
MB: When we came out in the '70s I didn't play guitar like Ritchie
Blackmore, Ritchie didn't play like Tony Iommi, Tony didn't play like
Jimmy Page, all the bass players were different, all the drummers were
different, they all had their own voice, all the singers were
different, and it was the sum of those parts that made the bands what
they were. And to me you lose that, 'cause there's a lot of guitar
players today, a million out there that can play fantastically well
but you can't tell one from the other! You know when they go into the
guitar school they go in the front door and come out the back door all
playing the same style, and there's no individual there. Along the way
they should actually put on maybe a bit of Free and listen to Paul
Kossoff, listen to his guitar playing, he doesn't need to go into all
those areas, but he's making the hairs on your arm stand up and chills
go down your spine, and that's what it is about for me, that feeling
and that connection. It's playing from the heart with a passion rather
than the head and scales and the rest of it, I just think the
individual is lost. Also, while we're barking on about it (laughs),
there's a loss of that as well in the actual entertainment side of our
business isn't there? Like there's no Ziggy Stardust now, there's no T
Rex, Marc Bolan, there's none of those type people coming through...
D: I keep waitin', but I'm not seeing it...
MB: Yeah, and it's a shame really because those sort of people come
through and they're such characters it really does liven up the
business and give it a great balance, you know?
D: Yeah, I find I keep going back to the old stuff...
MB: Most of the time when I'm sitting at home and I'm working on
something late at night it's Neil Young, know what I mean? (laughs)
You can do no better than him.
D: Well, we're not going to have to wait another 10 years for the next
album are we? (laughs)
MB: No, we've started writing it already, that's the good news. I do
think that if we can have the success that we're having with WAKE THE
SLEEPER around the world, and at the time the signs are very, very
good -- and please God the bubble doesn't burst -- but it's all going
very, very well. I mean obviously Universal may be interested in
picking up another album, if they do it's fantastic but if they don't
as we all know now the business is changing fast and furiously and
there will be other avenues to do it so we're actually looking at
writing new songs now so when it does strike we'll be in the starting
grid and we'll have the music ready. Like everything else, it's called
the music business, the music comes sweet and easy but it's a trouble
filled life, isn't it? (laughs) But never mind, we will survive!
D: Well I really appreciate you calling me Mick, thanks for your time!
MB: Oh my pleasure, thanks for all your support and everything, with
you raising our profile it makes it all the more possible for us to
come out there and play.
D: Definitely, I hope to see you live soon!
MB: OK, thanks Neal!
Dot On Shaft Guitars
*** OUT ***