Uriah Heep interview (10/2020)
|Conducted by:||RaduP (phone)|
I shouldn't have to tell you just how important Uriah Heep were (and to some degree still are) to metal, especially in its infancy stages in the early 70s. They also have a lot of personal importance to me, being one of the first bands I ever saw live back in 2006 when I wasn't even 10 years old yet and I only have very vague memories of it. But my dad was a pretty big fan, as he was of a lot of 70s stuff, and he's partly the reason why I'm into this music in the first place. I haven't told him yet that I interviewed Mick Box, but I can't wait to see the look on his face when I show his this interview. As for Uriah Heep, since they can't tour right now, they decided to go over their entire catalog, reunite with some old pals, including the sadly late Lee Kerslake, to compile their career into the massive upcoming Fifty Years In Rock boxset.
[Ed: The first brief exchanges between Radu and Mick Box simply establish that Mick Box is Mick Box of Uriah Heep and then focus on adjusting volume levels. It isn't particularly interesting, so I didn't bother to transcribe it, but just know, dear reader, that eventually Radu and Mick did settle on an agreeable arrangement so that they could both hear each other. And that, kids, is the story of how I was able to transcribe this interview. Or at least the first five minutes of it, but we'll get there.]
The Fifty Years In Rock boxset (in store here)
Radu: So you will be releasing a 25-disc compilation for Uriah Heep's 50th anniversary. What can you tell us about that?
Mick Box: Yeah, it's all the music we've ever recorded over a 50-year period, which is absolutely amazing. To reach our 50th anniversary is quite an achievement, which we're very proud of, and BMG, the record company, have put together this box set to celebrate that fact. It's a wonderful, wonderful item and actually it should be called This Is My Life (laughs). That's exactly what it is. It's 50 years of Uriah Heep music, from day one up to our last studio album, Living The Dream, but of course it's still only a snapshot of what we're prepared to do, because we are looking beyond the 50 years. It's just a milestone - we are going to record a new album next year - but it's a wonderful thing to have.
Radu: Mhm. Yeah, it would probably have been even better if the live situation was a bit better right now.
MB: We're all hoping that that improves somewhere down the line, but we're not quite sure how that will ever improve at the moment (laughs ruefully).
Radu: Mhm. Yeah, maybe one or two years down the line, let's hope you will still be able to tour once that happens.
MB: We hope so.
Radu: Otherwise, you maybe would have toured for the 50th anniversary of Very 'Eavy… Very 'Umble?
MB: (laughs) We could keep doing 50th anniversaries, couldn't we, as each year passes?
Radu: Considering how many records you released then in such a short period, you would have to do about three or four albums.
MB: Sorry, what was that?
Radu: Considering how short the period between albums was back in the day, when you will be able to go back on tour, it would probably be four albums down the line.
MB: Yes, indeed. Now, I think we'll be back on tour a bit earlier than that. I mean, I'm not quite sure how it's all going to pan out, but, you know, there's so many - the world without music is a very sad place indeed [Ed: Even the world WITH music is a very sad place] and I think people are beginning to realize that. And also, with the restrictions that COVID-19 has given us, sometimes it's music that gets you through these dark periods, you know? So I'm hoping that they'll resolve it quicker, or sooner, rather than later, in other words.
Radu: Yeah, let's only hope. So I wanted to ask you about the name of the band, which comes from a Charles Dickens character from a novel.
MB: Yeah, basically, we went into the studio as a band called Spice, which was a four-piece, and then while we were in the studio recording the first album we augmented it with a keyboard player, and so with the musical template changing we decided that maybe it might be a good idea to launch the band under a different name, because Spice was always known as a four-piece and now we're a five-piece. So our manager at the time went to see a movie called David Copperfield, which was a Charles Dickens novel that was put to film, and in the film he saw this character, Uriah Heep, and he came back and he said, "Look, I've got this great name for a band. What do you think?" We didn't particularly like it initially, but then we grew to like it, because to have the name of the band from such a literary giant as Charles Dickens - you know, all of his characters was quite something - and it was also Charles Dickens's 100th birthday in 1970, so it kind of all fit very, very well. And the other thing is that in print you had, like, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, they're all "B," "D," the early part of the alphabet, but with Uriah Heep, it was at the end of the alphabet, so it made us stand out as well. So there were a number of items that made us choose it, really.
Radu: But was it just his name, or is it anything special about the character?
(Radu makes a disparaging remark to his telephone and sighs; Mick Box has gotten fed up with this crazy world and has realized that there is more to life than being interviewed by crumbling webzines)
[Ed: Just kidding. Radu's phone is evil and doesn't like Uriah Heep, so it decided to shut off partway through the interview. After some coaxing and redialing, our intrepid interviewer was able to reestablish the connection and carry on with the interrogation.]
Radu: Hello, can you hear me?
MB: Yeah, what happened there? (laughs)
Radu: Well, I don't know really what happened, but my phone just turned off, so I had to -
MB: Oh, yeah, I'm on a landline, so I can't see what happened there, but never mind, we're back again!
Radu: Yeah, we're back. So I was asking about the Uriah Heep name - was it anything special about the character, or was it just one name that just struck you?
MB: No, just the actual name itself, I think, which we kind of liked. The character itself is an old Dickensian accountant, so it's nothing to do with that, really; just purely the name.
Radu: Yeah, because I haven't read the book or watched the movie or anything, so I wouldn't know anyway (laughs).
MB: Yeah, he's not a very nice character, evidently, in the book (laughs).
Radu: Yeah, but you're not a very nice band, either. [Ed: Damn, Radu will roast anyone, even the oldest and most important person he has ever interviewed.]
MB: But, you know, it was just purely the name that we chose it for.
Very 'Eavy... Very 'Umble
Radu: Okay. So you also celebrated this year the 50th anniversary of Very 'Eavy… Very 'Umble…
MB: Yep. Fantastic.
Radu: And it just happened that one day, suddenly the "Gypsy" song came into my mind and I wanted to look when exactly was the album released and it turned out it was just that day that the anniversary was, so it was like…
MB: Yeah, it was actually in 1970 that the album was released - I think it was the early part of 1970.
Radu: Mhm, but it happened to be that exact day when that song just suddenly came to my mind after not thinking about it for a while.
MB: Oh, really? That's amazing.
Radu: Yeah, it was, it was, it was. So obviously I had to publish something about it being the 50th anniversary and how revolutionary it must have been for the time, so I wanted to ask you a few questions about it, but I saw that you did a bunch of interviews lately and it pretty much covered everything that I wanted to ask about it anyway, but there was -
MB: Okay, ask me anything you like.
[Ed: Okay, Mick, where do we go when we die?]
Radu: But there was one thing that you didn't know back then, so maybe you'll remember now. It's about "Bird Of Prey", which appears on the American version but not the English one, and it appears on Salisbury. Do you know exactly when that was recorded and how that happened?
MB: Well, the funny thing about that was it was nothing to do with the band; it was just purely a record company shift.
MB: Similarly, the cover of Very 'Eavy… Very 'Umble and the cover of Salisbury in America were two totally different covers because the Americans didn't particularly like those two covers and thought one was scary and one was too "war" - you know, with the tank on it, Salisbury was a bit too war-heavy, if you like. They did their own covers, so they also did the same thing with the music; somebody realized that maybe that song would be better over there than there. I don't know; I can't speak for those people, because they just do the most amazing things that I can never comprehend (laughs). [Ed: To be fair, the cover of Very 'Eavy… Very 'Umble is quite scary, and we Americans are not fond of being reminded of all the wars we've lost.]
Radu: Well, it seems like record company interference was really a huge thing back in the day.
MB: Well, they like to have their say, and I think that's where they get their buzz from it, you know? But it's not always in agreement with the artist.
Radu: They are interested in what sells.
Radu: They are interested in what sells.
Radu: And you're interested in making good music, but if it sells, that's even better.
MB: Yeah, they field it in the marketplace that they know that they might - we'll put that track there, this track there, we'll do this cover there, this cover here, you know… In all honesty, it doesn't really impact either way. The impact they think it's gonna make never really materializes.
Radu: Yeah, you don't always know beforehand how the impact of each thing will be, but they just did what they thought will be best.
MB: Yeah, I mean most of these things are decided when we're out on the road anyway, so we're out touring some part of the world and then we come back and find these things out ourselves (laughs). It's never like we're consulted about them at all.
Radu: So you weren't even consulted about it?
MB: No, no, no, no.
Radu: Okay. And what do you think about record label interference over the course of time? How did it change once Napster hit, and lately in the past few decades? How is it compared to then?
MB: How did what change, sorry? [Ed: The connection was a bit rough, so I think Mick was having trouble hearing on occasion; some parts took me a bit of doing to transcribe, too.]
Radu: The record label interference in the music-making and process, the cover arts and packaging and so on?
MB: Back in the days, on the vinyl, you mean? We had quite a lot of say in our cover artwork, because that was very important to us. That was very important indeed, as much as the music was, and so when we decided on a cover we thought that was it. Sometimes other territories change the cover because they don't feel it's quite appropriate for them, but we were hands-on on most things, but sometimes they just changed it when we were on the other side of the world, as I say, playing concerts.
Radu: And is it the same today?
MB: No, no, not at all, no. We have a very much hands-on situation where we cover everything.
MB: Because it's not quite the same dictatorship as it was back then. You know, record labels had a big say in everything you did because they had a big investment with you, but the good thing about them was it was a very creative time and they used to sign you for six-, seven-album deals, and you grew with the label and the label grew with you, and the good thing about that was it was a very creative time, so that much was very, very good.
Radu: Because a lot of the revenue -
MB: Nowadays it's not quite the same. Nowadays it's very hard to get a lot of decisions through, because everything's still on a financial level, whereas back then it wasn't.
Radu: Yeah. Back then, a lot of the revenue came from record sales, and now it's just live shows.
MB: It is. But back then, they would invest in your ideas, even though you ended up paying for it without your knowledge! (laughs)
Radu: Eventually, yeah.
MB: But that didn't stop the creativity happening, and I think that's why so much great music came out in the '70s, purely for that reason. We were allowed to - for instance, I'll give you an example: in Salisbury, we have a 27-piece brass and woodwind section on the title track. We suggested it one day, and within a week we had John Fiddy, the arranger, in the studio laying down the tracks with the orchestra, and there was no question about anything; it was just, you know, that's what we wanted to do creatively and that's the way it was dealt with, whereas today if we had the same ideas you'd have to sit down with an accountant, manager, and see if it was all financially viable with the record company and everything. It would be all based on money, whereas back then it would just be done. Different times indeed.
Radu: Yeah, back then, when you were recording your first album, it was really heavy for the times, and this is why you are being interviewed by a metal magazine right now -
MB: Ha, right. But you know what, our first album is kind of - we got a toe in a bit of everything. We've got a toe in the metal side with "Gypsy", we got a toe in the acoustic side with "Come Away Melinda", the folky side, if you like, we've got the bluesy side with "Lucy Blues", we've got the jazz side with "Wake Up (Set Your Sights)", and "Real Turned On" is a bit more rocky, so it's kind of a bit of everything, really. That's what Uriah Heep's always done through its career. We've actually touched on bits of everything.
Radu: Yeah, and a lot of the songs came from when you were still Spice.
MB: Yes, they did. They bleed over from Spice indeed, yeah.
Radu: But anyway, I remember it as a sort of metal precursor because "Gypsy" is basically the one song everybody knows from it and the one that you always play live.
MB: Yeah, "Gypsy" was the standout track, and of course it is very, very heavy. It's a very basic, earthy riff, but it just resonates with so many people.
[Ed: Heavier than your favorite tech death band, buddy]
Radu: Back at the time, what were some of the bands that you were really interested in and that you think have shaped that sound? I know that you have mentioned Vanilla Fudge, which is a bit interesting since it's mostly a keyboard band and you're a guitarist.
MB: Yeah, when we went to include the keyboard player into our music when we were recording the first album, we had to find what instrument would actually fit every nuance of our music and the Hammond organ fit that very, very well, because it can be very gentle, very romantic, could be very aggressive, could be very powerful, could be very rocky, could be very metal-y, could be everything, so it fitted every nuance of our music and I was a big fan of Mark Stein of Vanilla Fudge, who was really at the cutting edge of Hammond-playing at that time, certainly in the rock field, and it was very heavy, so that's why I engineered the fact that we needed a Hammond organ player to come in and give the color to our music that I was hearing in my head.
Radu: So this, you would say, would have been your main influence -
MB: Well, that was the main influence in getting that particular keyboard, yeah. Other than that, we didn't really have any other influences, 'cause we were too immersed in trying to create our own music, if you like.
Radu: Yeah, Vanilla Fudge seems to be one of those bands that are very influential - to you, or to Jon Lord from Deep Purple - but a lot of people who are in turn influenced by you and Deep Purple are not really that aware of them.
MB: Oh, right, yeah. Well, the thing about Vanilla Fudge was that they had the most success doing big arrangements on cover songs, not really original songs, so the one thing I felt they were missing was the originality of it all, but what they did to those arrangements was just unbelievable. Yeah, they were well ahead of their time on that regard.
Radu: What would you say were some of the bands from that period, the late '60s or early '70s, that didn't really survive or they failed financially but you would really like us to be interested in them now?
MB: Oh, bands like Spooky Tooth - they had two lead singers, Gary Wright and I can't remember the other guy's name [Ed: Mike Harrison], but they were kind of like the Righteous Brothers only in a rock band, if you like, one high vocal, one low vocal. They were very good at the time. There was a band called The Alan Bown Set, who were amazing, but their sax player went on to play with Supertramp, so he had got his success there. There were many bands like that floating around at the time that were doing the circuit. The Move, for instance, were a sort of pop-orientated band, but with attitude. They were fantastic. But then a band like The Who took over where they left off, if you like, and took it one step further. There were a lot of bands around at that time that were very, very good but just didn't make it for whatever reasons.
Radu: Thankfully, you did. You made it.
MB: Yeah, we're very happy about that. I mean, look at a band like Free, who had great success and then it kind of dissolved with Paul Kossoff, the guitarist, dying, and that went onto Bad Company and those sort of areas with Paul Rodgers, but Free as a band itself was such a powerful four-piece it was just unbelievable, with great songs, Andy Fraser, who was the bass player, was just amazing, Paul Rodgers's vocals, Paul Kossoff's soulful guitar was just unbelievable, vibrato, and then Simon Kirke's keeping time rigidly, like a metronome… It was amazing. So all those bands that I mentioned all had… they were a great part of the growth of things that grew out of the late '60s into the '70s.
Radu: Yeah. Oftentimes, Uriah Heep is mentioned in the same conversation with Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and Deep Purple as this group of "Big Five" hard rock/heavy metal originators. [Ed: THAT'S ONLY FOUR] What would you say is your favorite song from each one of the other ones?
MB: Oh, my word. Well, it won't be that difficult. Let's take Deep Purple: probably "Child In Time".
Radu: Amazing track.
MB: Fantastic, fantastic song.
[Ed: Truest words ever published on this website]
MB: But also I like equally "Speed King", so if it's metal, you can put "Speed King" (laughs).
[Ed: Mick Box with the hard facts over here]
Radu: Of course.
MB: Black Sabbath, of course, "War Pigs". Unbelievable.
[Ed: Once again, he's so right, but I'm not linking "War Pigs." If you haven't memorized every second of that song by now, why are you on Metal Storm?]
MB: Who else have we mentioned?
Radu: Led Zeppelin.
MB: Led Zeppelin, um… I'd have to go for "Whole Lotta Love". It's just a dynamic short song that says everything in the few minutes that it's there. It's similar to our "Easy Livin'", if you like; it says everything in a very short period of time, but it's so powerful.
[Ed: Am I allowed to say that "Stairway" is my favorite Zeppelin song? Because if not, then I'm changing my answer to something cool and unexpected like "Friends" or "Trampled Under Foot."]
Radu: Mhm. Okay. And now that we were speaking about your discography and about Very 'Eavy… Very 'Umble, let's take a bit of a look at what I think are some of the watershed albums in Uriah Heep's discography and you tell me a bit about the background that was on the recording process -
Radu: So let's take Firefly, which was the first album with a new lead singer.
MB: Yes. Well, that was a good, exciting, and strange time, because we had fired David Byron, who was very instrumental in the success of Uriah Heep both as a singer and his charisma as a frontman, but, you know, he was battling with some drink details, which kind of ruined everything, so we got in a guy called John Lawton. Now, we got John Lawton in purely because of his voice; he didn't fit the charisma and the dress style and the other elements that David had, 'cause David was the full package, but we decided to just go with the vocals, go to the music - always music first, and everything else can follow. And that's what we did: we got John in and he came in with a very, very powerful vocal, and we had great success with John, from Firefly to Innocent Victim to Fallen Angel. We had great European success, especially in Germany; it was amazing. We did loads of American tours with him and it was a very good time - it was kind of a rebirth, if you like, but in a different way.
Radu: Okay. Moving on, the next album would be Abominog.
MB: Abominog again was another marker or rebirth, if you like, because I'd dissolved the Conquest lineup because it just wasn't working on the levels that I needed it to work on, so I then formed a band again with Lee Kerslake and Bob Daisley, who'd just left Ozzy Osbourne, and I got in Pete Goalby on vocals, who had previously been with a band called Trapeze with Glenn Hughes and all those guys, Mel Galley, and then I got John Sinclair in, who actually was a keyboard player with Heavy Metal Kids, who we worked with many times and I remembered him. So I put us all into a rehearsal room and we just stayed there for two weeks and virtually wrote that album. It was an exciting time, and everyone was into it; we were all very focused, and once we recorded the album with producer Ashley Howe, who was very in tune with the '80s production style that was going on at the time, because people like Mutt Lange were taking 18 months to make an album and stuff like that… We didn't take that long, but we realized that there's a certain production, or a way people needed to listen to music, before it could hit radio. Now, Peter Goalby had a good radio voice and we used those sort of production ideas to get onto radio and it worked very well for us; we hit Top 40 in America. It was a very exciting time for us, yeah, very good.
Radu: Yeah, I can clearly tell that it's -
MB: It's a very metal-y album as well, to be honest, with "Too Scared To Run" and songs like that, which were really - there's a little bit of pop on there that we didn't… We were forced to do a couple of songs on that album by the record company, and they said, "If you don't do it, we'll pull out the funds". One of those was a song called "On The Rebound" on that album, but the rest of it is just pure band: "Sell Your Soul", "Too Scared To Run", and stuff were all fantastic metal-y rock songs.
Radu: Yeah, you can clearly tell that it's an '80s album.
MB: Yeah, definitely.
Radu: Moving on, the next one would be Sea Of Light.
MB: Sea Of Light - we hadn't recorded for a while, because we'd left our record company and at the same time that we left the record company the industry fell to bits and the internet came into play. If you remember [Ed: I laugh, because Radu is four years old and he does not remember], the record companies were taking Napster to court and getting nowhere because they found out that there were so many people doing free downloads that it just wasn't police-able, but by then the record industry had either fallen to pieces or - companies had amalgamated or even disappeared totally. [Ed: The file-sharing imbroglio wasn't sparked until a few years subsequent, but we'll get into this below.] So we just went out and did what we did best: we played in, I don't know, 50, 60 countries, so we just went out and toured, released lots of live DVDs until we could find a home, and then we found a home with CBH Records, SPV in Germany, and we recorded Sea Of Light. It was kind of a realignment with the fans; the fans went, "This is great, this is a great new Heep album". They loved the production, they loved the songs, and we also, because it was an anniversary album - I think it was our 25th - we got Roger Dean in to do a cover for us. Of course, Roger Dean did Demons & Wizards and The Magician's Birthday, so it was a realignment with the fans, that album.
Radu: Okay. And then finally, Wake The Sleeper.
MB: Sorry, Wake The Sleeper was all that above, sorry - when the industry went into freefall, which I just said. Sorry, it was on Wake The Sleeper that that happened. We recorded Sea Of Light and then we had that hiatus where we went out on the road because the record companies weren't there to sign us, so we came back - Universal it was, actually, that signed us - and we recorded Wake The Sleeper after a long, long time of recording inactivity, and it was just amazing. We thought we'd start the album with the actual title track, "Wake The Sleeper", which is a heavy slice of metal riff, if you like, to actually say to everyone, "We're waking up the sleeping giant here" (laughs), and we're back in the recording tracks and we're off and running again, and from that moment on we haven't stopped. It was an album that resonated with a lot of the fans and I think people were very happy to see us back recording again.
Radu: Yeah. Let's hope that the current situation with the pandemic will not affect the recording industry as much as Napster did.
MB: Yeah, well, what's happening, really - the unfortunate thing about musicians particularly is that we have an income stream taken away from us where we don't really get royalties anymore, because there's so many free download places like Spotify and the rest of them that don't pay you anything at all. If they do, it's very small, certainly not enough to live on -
Radu: And now you don't even make the revenue from live shows.
MB: So really the revenue is made out on the road, and the downside of that is everybody is out on the road. We're lucky enough that we play in 62 countries and we have a great reputation as being a good live band, so it doesn't affect us so much, but then the COVID came and took that away from us, so it's a very unsettling time period that we're in at the moment. We can only hope that that will unravel itself somewhere down the line.
Radu: But you've always also had quite a stable lineup since the '80s, compared to the period before it. Why do you think that is?
MB: Well, early on we were looking for the combination of musicians that we felt that the chemistry would be right for us, and early on there were a few changes until we actually got to the Demons & Wizards lineup with Box, Byron, Hensley, Thain, Kerslake, and that was a great chemistry as a band. We really were, in our eyes, unbeatable; we just didn't fear anyone, when we were onstage we owned it, and we had great success. We had jets, whole floors of hotels, bodyguards, and all the madness that that brings. It was a great time; it was a great thing to live through. And then, of course, certain things come into play when excesses come in, and we lost Gary Thain to drugs and we lost David Byron to drink, and so certain changes have happened purely because of things like that. There's also been changes made because it's like a marriage, you know - when you get married, you tend to get married with the right mindset, that it's for life, and then through life you drift apart. Some people get divorced and go on, and it's similar with being in a band; people decide that they no longer want to be nine months on the road, they want to stay at home, or they want to do this, they want to do that, or they want to try something different, and that's why changes happen generally. And of course we've had some more deaths along the way: John Wetton passed away, Trevor Bolder passed away to cancer, and, of course, just recently…
MB: In this last month, Lee Kerslake. So many things come into play with bands; it's just a testament to the fact that we are still here and still vibrant, looking to record a new album in February.
Mick and Lee (R.I.P.)
Radu: You also played guitars on David Byron's two solo albums?
MB: Yeah, David - I think David wanted to lead the pack, if you like, and try his own solo album, but he also, because of our kinship coming up through the semi-pro days - there's a lot of history with me and David - I think he was quite happy to have a couple of us like me and Lee involved, as an almost safety net, you know? (laughs) I said yes, of course, and I was going to do a solo thing, but I thought, "Okay, I'll come and play on David's and write it with him", so that's what I did. I spent my time with him. It was good; it was an interesting project that I thought worked out quite well.
Radu: You were planning on making a solo album for yourself, right?
MB: Occasionally I've had those thoughts, but because of the schedule that Uriah Heep had, I don't really have any time to do that. Now, if I'm gonna do a solo album, I'm gonna do it with a bunch of musicians that I really like. We're gonna go into a rehearsal room and we're gonna work out the songs. We're gonna go into the studio and play as a band in the studio, not send files around the world by e-mail; can't do any of that. It's got to be done the real way, the right way, or not at all, and at the moment I just don't have that time because Uriah Heep takes up every minute of my time, and when I come home I have to take my "rock'n'roll hat" off and put on my "family hat". The family demand it of you, you know, my son and my wife and everything, and I'm quite happy to do that because it gives me great grounding. I just become a family man and drive my son where he needs to go, go out for a movie with my wife and stuff, you know, just generally do a lot of family stuff. They demand it and I'm glad they do, because it gives you some perspective in life. Otherwise you're up there being a rock star 24/7; it can only end in tears (laughs).
Radu: Understood. If you weren't a musician right now, what would you be?
MB: I was initially, I had a choice between being a footballer and being a musician. I played for London Schoolboys and stuff and I was getting noticed very well. We won the regional cup; two goals I scored, it was fantastic. It was just an amazing time and at that time I was just picking up the guitar as well, and I had a great love for it immediately. The train of thought I had was that if I break my leg in football, maybe I'd be out of the game forever, or a long while, whereas if I broke my leg playing the guitar I could sit down on a stool and still perform. It's a very naïve way of looking at it, but it's exactly how I thought about it, so I picked up the guitar and took that route (laughs).
Radu: What if you broke an arm?
MB: I played three months with a broken arm, I played 21 shows with a broken left finger…
Radu: Okay. So you've got it.
MB: I've gone through many, many pain barriers to do it, but I could still perform, so that was the important thing. [Ed: Damn, he answered the shit out of that question.]
Radu: Okay, so now I have to ask, because I'm from Romania, and you did perform with a Romanian band -
Radu: Iris, yeah.
Radu: How did that come to be?
MB: Oh, that was just, they approached me - I think their record company at the time approached me and said, "Would you be interested?" Normally I don't really have any interest in these things, but… I think they sent me over a version of the song, "Lady In Black", I think it was - yeah, "Lady In Black" - and I just put it on and thought, "Oh, what can I do to this?" And then I thought, well, "I don't really think I've got the time", and then, by luck, some time did fall in where we could fly out there and go and record it in their studio where they were recording, which we did, me and Bernie went out there and recorded, and it was great. We filmed a DVD in a crypt in Romania, I think it was (laughs). And we met the guys, and of course the guys are fantastic guys, all lovely guys. So it just happened to fall in place. Sometimes you haven't got the time to go and do these things or dedicate the time to do it, but then this particular thing just - when the request came in, I wasn't sure, but then when the space came in that we could fly in, do it, fly back, and carry on with what we were doing with the band, I said, "Why not?", and then we did.
Radu: That's great. Iris are the type of band that play a lot of covers, but they don't always admit that they are covers.
MB: Oh, right, they do covers, yeah. I haven't really heard their full set; I only know those people and what we worked with them, really, and they do a lot of covers, do they?
MB: Oh, okay. Well, good for them - out in Romania, I think that might be a good way to go, actually, in terms of getting success and what people like to hear. [Ed: The people of Romania just want Dordeduh to come back.]
Radu: And now that I only have time for one more question, when you record an album, you play all the songs from that album live, and then you play yet another album and another album and suddenly you have to pick just the best songs from each album, and eventually you end up where you get a new album and you only play one or two songs from it, so there are a lot of songs in your catalogue that I don't think were ever played live, yet?
MB: Yeah, some of them because they're historical and this lineup may not want to perform them, if you like. They might like them to listen to, but not necessarily to put them in the set. You have to choose, like - whenever we look at any old material, I give, say, three or four songs to the rest of the band and see what their comeback is. Some say, "It doesn't really fit what we're doing now", others will say, "It's really good, but I don't think it's where we are at the moment", and sometimes they come back saying, "Yeah, that sounds really good, we could really do a good job on this". And if they come back and say that, that's every reason to do it. When we choose the set list, I mean, we play concerts in 62 countries around the world; we tend to know what the common denominator songs that people come to our concerts to hear and want to hear, i.e. doing "Lady In Black" for some tours, some tours we don't do it because it's not so popular. "Gypsy", for instance, is worldwide, "Easy Livin'" would be worldwide, so we tend to know that those songs are the songs that we have to play, which we're very proud of doing, we're very happy to do that, and we're really glad that they're in our repertoire. And then we intersperse that with some songs off our new album; like, for instance, on the last set we did with Living The Dream, we played four or five songs off that album. So we don't just do one or two, we do a good representation of the album, along with the classic tracks. And then sometimes I'll dig up an old track that we haven't done before or we may have done years ago and say to the guys, "What do you think about this?", and if they feel it fits in and it's right, then we'll do it. We try to get a good journey in our show from the first album to the latest, Living The Dream, so from Very 'Eavy to Living The Dream, really, and we try and pick out as much as we can that we think people will like. And of course doing a set is not a matter of just choosing songs; you have to have songs with the right key, the right lift, subliminal lifts, mood changes, things like that. It's not just a matter of picking songs out of thin air and plopping them in the set; it doesn't work like that.
Radu: Yeah, but it's good to play some songs that you haven't ever played, to play them. Otherwise, they would get lonely.
MB: Yeah, I mean, though again it's down to whether the band as a whole want to do them. If they do, then it's great; if they don't, I have to let them have their say.
Radu: Okay, any last words to our readers?
MB: Any last words? Ah, yes. Thanks a million for being so faithful to the band over these years. We love playing Romania. We've always had a great time there. We really look forward to coming out and playing there again, and we just hope this COVID-19 goes away so that we can return to some normality and come out and rock with all you guys, 'cause, you know, the Romanian rock fans are very passionate about their music and we're very passionate about playing our music, so it's the perfect marriage, so let's hope it's not long before we come out again and see all you guys. And with luck we'll record a new album and get that out first, too. We may have hit our 50 years, but that's just a marker, because we'll continue to move beyond those 50 years and I hope it will be many more to come!
Radu: Thank you very much.
MB: Thank you, thanks for your time.
Radu: It was a blast talking with you.
MB: Thanks, mate. Bye-bye for now.
Once again thanks to SSUS for transcribing the whole thing and providing his much needed snarky comments!
||Posted on 25.10.2020 by Doesn't matter that much to me if you agree with me, as long as you checked the album out.|
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