Over the decades music lovers around the world have had the luxury of hearing many legendary bands rise to glory in the music industry exported from Britain. It really is surreal when you actually sit back and look at how many musicians came from the United Kingdom. Uriah Heep is one of those legendary bands and they are still making musical masterpieces to this day.
‘Wake the Sleeper’ is the title of their latest album and it is by far in my opinion one of their greatest records to date. This fine group of musicians has inspired and influenced so many of today’s bands and musicians in so many different ways. Uriah Heep consists of Trevor Bolder (bass & vocals), Phil Lanzon (keyboards & vocals), Bernie Shaw (lead vocals), Russell Gilbrook (drums & vocals) and Mick Box (guitars & vocals). Starting his musical career in the late 1960s and forming Uriah Heep with vocalist David Byron; Mick Box has remained a strong driving force of the passion within the band. With 20 studio albums under their belts, Uriah Heep has returned with immense strength and an album that is going to awaken the sleeping metal head within you once again.
I called Mick to ask him all about the new record as well as what we as fans can expect over the next year from the band.
TFL: Mick! It’s Tracy with Backstage Live Magazine.
MB: Hello my love, how you doing love?
TFL: I’m good thank you! Thank you so much for taking to speak to me I appreciate it.
MB: Well likewise love! Thank you very much for calling. (chuckling) It’s brilliant!
TFL: You guys have always been one of my all time favorite bands, you started before I was born but I’ve always admired your music.
MB: (laughing) Ah well at least we got to you eventually! (laughing) that’s brilliant, that’s absolutely brilliant!
TFL: Blue Oyster Cult was one of the first rock concerts I ever saw.
MB: Cool! Love those guys.
TFL: I didn’t dive into the whole Motley Crue, Poison thing; I was really into the classic rock/metal like Sabbath, Priest, and Maiden you know.
MB: Fantastic love!
TFL: ‘Wake the Sleeper’ I’ve had the chance to listen to it – it’s absolutely fabulous!
MB: Oh brilliant!
TFL: It’s by far, I think, the best album you have ever made.
MB: Oh wonderful, that’s great news! Thank you very much Tracy that’s lovely.
TFL: ‘Tears of the World’ has got really catchy hooks, I found ‘What Kind of God’ takes you in and it just grabs you from the minute it starts.
MB: It’s quite atmospheric at the beginning of it isn’t it yeah.
TFL: Can you tell me where the inspiration for that song came from?
MB: Yes indeed yeah, it was from the book ‘Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee’ and both Phil and myself have read the book and I read it ages ago and he just recently read it. We decided it would be a good kind of subject matter to hit really basically because the whole story of the American Indian living on the land are very spiritual and then some guy comes along on a horse with a rifle & shoots and takes away your land and tells you what religion to worship and all sort of stuff is kind of …well if you were an Indian you would be thinking ‘well what kind of God do you worship’ you know. It’s kind of that kind of thing where they were spiritually in touch with something and then it was all taken away from them and it’s just kind of reflection on that.
TFL: Now this is your first album in 10 years.
MB: It is indeed! (chuckling)
TFL: Why such a long break?
MB: Well I tell you what love; it was just one of those things where it was out of our control. We had an album called ‘Sonic Origami’ that we released – the record company loved it, the media loved it and the fans loved it. So we put an 18 month tour plan together; we went out and did the tour and the record really didn’t support it in any of the territories or in any way they said they were going to – so that was rather disappointing. We came back and basically said look you have messed up our lives for 18 months here and we’re very frustrated by it and we’re not going to give you another album. That took a little while to get out of the contract with all the legalities at the same time we got a (chuckling) free pass to move on; the whole world went crazy you know. The internet explosion happened and if you remember rightly the record industry first of all attacked the internet and took Napster to court over free downloads and then they realized they could not police it at all & there was a million ‘Napsters’. So in the end the record industry has had to re-invent themselves and embrace the internet & in doing so it was never the same again. There was lots of firings and very little hiring’s going on – so with all that turmoil we couldn’t find a home to actually get to any recordings with new material so we did what we do best; we went out and toured the world & played 53 countries, we released a load of DVDs into the market place, we did a load of acoustic shows that we had never done before with people like Ian Anderson, Jethro Tull come and guest with us. Once a year we do this thing called ‘The Magician’s Birthday’ in London and invite old members of the band to come up on stage with us again so the fans can see all the different line ups and stuff – so that was really cool. Then we got to a point where Sanctuary Records, who owned all of our back catalogue in the UK, said ‘look we’re interested in doing a new studio album – do a frontline label. We said well that sounds really cool – you understand what we are all about; you’ve got a back catalogue we’ll go and make an album. So we went off and made the album, which sounded great to us, and then Universal took them over! (Chuckling) then we had another year while the dust settled with the Universal take over to find out if they were actually going to release the album or not because they inherited it. It was one of those things where we were nail biting all of the time, I don’t think the fans believed that we even had an album in the can at one point you know because it was going on for sometime the saga. Eventually they heard the album and they are not necessarily a rock label per say but they loved it and were going to release it. That was the first sign we got that we felt we really had something that a label could pick it up and go with it & here we are talking to you my love. That’s basically it (laughing)
TFL: Well I got a press release about the new album and I think it was about a 30 second turn around for a YES YES YES reply for an interview with you – I had the instant ‘I got to have them” reaction.
MB: Oh brilliant! (chuckling)
TFL: What I have always enjoyed about Uriah Heep is you have always been story tellers.
MB: Yeah well we do like a good lyric, sorts of a band that can have that throw away hook line and no substance to any verses – we do take it very seriously and we try and get a good lyric as much as we can.
TFL: Unfortunately there are a lot of artists out there where it’s really just no-mind music you know, it probably took them a whopping 3 or 4 minutes to come up their song.
MB: Yeah yeah, we can’t write like that because it’s not in our nature to do that – there are things to be said and it’s nice to do that through lyrics.
TFL: Are there any new bands out there that have caught your attention Mick?
MB: Um, well Slipknot’s latest album is fantastic you know! There are a lot of bands around but I do tend to find, and I don’t know if it because of my background or if it’s because I’m from the 70’s my love is in the classic rock genre – all these guys play brilliantly but I can never find a song in there. Because I write songs I find that a bit frustrating cause there is some brilliant players out there – but I still yurn for the song. There is nothing better than a good melody and a strong lyric.
TFL: Or a song that a music fan can relate to.
MB: Absolutely yes. Also the great thing about lyrics you can think of one thing in your imagination and it can be different in mine you know. That is something that is very strong in my mind all of the time when we are writing.
TFL: Do you think people will misconstrue ‘What Kind of God’ and think it’s about the whole Iraq deal going on?
MB: It’s funny, you write a song in your house or your studio and sometimes it just takes on a bigger picture. Yes people have made that comparison about that song. It’s funny you write something and it can be applied quite a few times (laughing)
TFL: What is next for Uriah Heep? Are you heading out on tour to promote the album?
MB: Absolutely! We’re playing 53 countries so we have got a lot of world to go and see. We’re looking to come to America and Canada in January/February. We’re trying to piece that together now.
TFL: Please please please be sure to come to Calgary Mick – I must see you perform live again.
MB: My Lord my darling if we don’t come to Canada, with Bernie being a Canadian love (laughing) he would kill us! The last time I was in Calgary was with Def Leppard at the rodeo there…
TFL; The Calgary Stampede
MB: YEAH! The Calgary Stampede – yeah that was fantastic fun! (laughing) we had a great day all together.
TFL: You didn’t get sick of pancakes? Laughing – EVERYDAY for 10 days there is pancakes!
MB: (laughing) I’m not a pancake lover so I’m fine! I can pass it up easily you know (still laughing)
TFL: Well I certainly hope to see you Mick – I’d love to take you for lunch if you can. I know a fabulous restaurant here where I know the Head Chef –its Italian food & the BEST you will ever eat!
MB: Italian food is my favorite – I’d love that Tracy that would be wonderful! Watch the website for dates to come up and we can organize that very quickly.
TFL: Well it could be cold so bring your woolies!
MB: Ah mate you know we did 5 months in Russia right through to Siberia so we know what cold is now (laughing)
TFL: So when Mick Box is not guitarist and vocals for Uriah Heep – what are you doing Mick? What do you do in your off time?
MB: Well lots actually. To be honest it’s just been recently I relinquished the Manager’s hat because I have been doing all of the management for the past 20 years and the tour managing so I’ve really had a hands on the whole deal. I’ve been able to be more creative, write more songs and I’ve got a 7 year old boy who just keeps me busy as hell. I love it – I just take off the Rock & Roll hat and put on the Dad hat and I’m just happy as a man can be. It just brings a complete joy to my life. It’s a busy life but it’s a happy one.
The joy and happiness in his life is certainly reflected in his passion for music & creativity as a song writer. Such a pleasure to speak with and would certainly take the opportunity again and again to spend time with such a brilliant man.
Mick said it – watch their website at “http://www.uriahheep.com” for new tour dates to be posted and you MUST go and see this fabulous group of musicians perform live – you have not lived life to the fullest until you have.
Backstage Live Magazine welcomes Uriah Heep into our Rock & Roll family with wide open arms!