Mick Box Interview for
www.rockline.it September 2007
|1. Hi Mick, I am Jacopo from
rockline.it. Thanks for allowing us to
interview you. I have to say that I admire you for your perseverance
with Uriah Heep, whose you have been member for almost 40 years! How
have you done?
Well basically the band was always my baby so it was something that I put my heart and soul into for many years. Whenever there was a point when maybe it could have broken up and I was being advised to pursue a solo career I felt that by keeping the band going it would keep the musical legacy of the work that David Byron and Gary Thain two of my dearest friends who passed away, ALIVE! Also I received an awful lot of mail telling me that people had used UH music as a landscape for their lives and it helped them through bad times etc because our music was so positive and I also received letters from young fans saying they had just found out about Heep and did not want it to dissolve. So really there are three reasons to keep going right there.
2. You have been the only constant member of Uriah Heep from 1969,
that's the year of foundation. So you might describe to us the several
evolution's phases of the band, of course in a general way!
I think without getting too deeply into this I feel that the quality of musicianship with all of the musicians and singers that have been in the band have been of the highest quality. This has seen us through all of the line up changes along with never moving too far away from what UH established in 1970 musically in the first place. We established trademarks that were 5 lead vocalists ( therefore we used voices almost as instruments), the Hammond Organ my Wah Wah Guitar all applied to good melodic rock songs with intelligent lyrics. This was always the template for UH no matter who came and who went.
3. What does the sostitution of David Byron with John Lawton at the
voice in 1976 mean for Uriah Heep's style?
David was always going to be hard to replace. He had a great distinctive emotive voice and charisma that could fill the biggest stadium in the world.
However when John came into Uriah Heep he brought a very different style of voice that was very powerful. It was never going to be easy but we did achieve some good success with John as our singer. Notably in Germany.
4. It was from 1986 that the line-up had been always the same. Why did
your drummer, Lee Kerslake, have to leave the band this year?
Lee had some health issues that he needed to sort out. With the schedule that UH keep he was never able to get the help he needed.
So we decided together this would be the best thing for him because as we all know without your health you have nothing. Now he has time to deal with it and get his health back on track.
5. With whom, of several musicians you have played with, did you find
more affinities, or with whom could you express your music best?
I worked very well with Lee Kerlsake, David Byron, Gary Thain, and Phil Lanzon. ( this is mostly in the capacity of song writing )
6. Do or did you have solo or side projects? Could you talk about them?
There is never enough time for side/solo projects as UH is a pretty full on situation. I still spend an awful amount of time in the office setting up tours etc when we are off the road and then writing songs is quite time consuming and then I have my family to consider. When I am not working with or for the band I am with my family having as much quality time as I can with them.
7. You first work "Very 'eavy... Very 'umble" wasn't considered at first
as later, when it had been very considered. Why in your opinion?
I do not fully understand the question so I will answers this the best I can….!
I think there was a backlash from the music press in the UK. Basically the music scene in the UK was changing from hard rock to folk rock with people like Bob Dylan picking up the electric guitar. We came at the end of that in a blaze of publicity and the press went oh no not another one. Still it worked very well for us because although the press were hostile it made us very much a peoples band. Later on the album got the respect it deserved.
8. Perhaps "Salisbury" is recognized as the most important album of your
career. The title-track is really wonderful to me! How did you compose
it? I'm talking about the title-track most: I know you used an
orchestra, maybe some of the first in rock music. Then, why did you
chose a tank for the cover art?
Funny enough I still get many people telling me that Salisbury is their favourite album. The music was written in a pub in Chiswick London where we used to rehearse. We wanted to write a song that was not restricted to a 3 minute song. We wanted to just let the music take us through all of the various moods. We had an experience whilst playing a show in Salisbury that is a town in England. It just happens to be an army town so by using the name of the town due to the incident as the title the tank was an obvious choice. Also these were hippy anti war times and on the inside cover you see something as powerful as a tank crushing a flower.
9. What kind of subjects do you like exploring in your lyrics? I noticed
that there's variety, from fantastic themes, to women and so on. And who
wrote them most?
Lyrics come in many forms. We had a great deal of success with fantasy lyrics and this really captured everyone’s imagination and we were at the forefront of that. Also lyrics come from experiences in life and of course we travel a lot and see all sorts of cultures and amazing things that eventually come through your music and lyrics. Ken Hensley wrote an awful lot of the older material lyrics and Trevor Bolder, Phil Lanzon and Myself write them today.
10. Do you want to talk about your new album which, as your web-site
announces, is now ready for releasing? Almost ten years of waiting from
"Sonic Origami", why?
The CD is Recorded, Mixed and Mastered. We are waiting for the Record Company for a release date.
The reason it took so long was purely a business one. We were unhappy with the Record Companies promotion of SO so it took a couple of years to fully get out of the contract because there was no way on Gods earth we were giving them another one to waste. Then the internet came along and
the record Industry went into free fall. They tried to attack the internet but found out it was the wrong way to go and then they had to embrace it. This took a very long time for this to happen and along the way lots of Record Companies either folded or amalgamated. There was no place for UH in all of this reinvention until the dust had settled.
11. How much did you contribute to the composition of the new tracks?
And in the past, from the first times to the last works, how was the
I co wrote 8 of the tracks with Phil Lanzon. The earlier stuff I always collaborated with either David, Lee or Gary!
12. Usually, in November in London, at the end of your world tour, you
take part to "The Magician's Birthday Party", so called from your 1972
album. Could you talk about it? How did this idea come in your mind?
It was something put together by Bob Caruthers who owned the Classic Rock label that we had live DVD’s with.
It was something for the fans and it run it’s course I feel but who knows there may be more.
13. I know you give a particular attention to your live gig, always a
lot and distributed all over Europe and not only. This year you will be
in Italy on 31st July, as could be seen in your site. What do you play
usually in your concerts? Where do you like playing, in open or closed
spaces? Do you prefer festivals or own gigs? The best audience to you?
We treat all audiences the same. They get 100% from the band wherever it is, in a Hall, Sports Hall, Football Pitch, Club, Festival, Bull Ring, Town Square, Church or Opera House’s. In the show in Italy we had enormous problems with getting the show up and running and the right equipment to play on. In the end everyone loved it but it was a situation where we played all the favourite classic songs interspersed with some songs from later albums.
14. Then Mick, a question for your colleagues guitarists who may read
this interview. Usual things: your influences, your preferred styles,
the guitarists you enjoy most, so you could tell what you listen most
frequently! Do you think that you have influenced the way of playing in
rock? Well, you are considered some of the first who played the
I am often told that I inspired people to pick up the guitar and that is the best compliment of all. My favourite guitarist of all time is Jeff Beck.
I love Rock, Jazz, Folk and a little blues. I am afraid I am too happy to be a blues playerJ
15. So best regards! And thanks for the time you spent for these
questions. I wish you a good future with Uriah Heep, and i hope I can go
to see you one day! See you soon, and good stay in Italy when it will come!
Jacopo Dall'Aglio (rockline.it)