Aardschok Magazine October 2002

AARDSCHOK

URIAH HEEP – INTO THE FUTURE

 

Uriah Heep fans have had no reason to complain the past couple of years. Quite regularly compilations, live CD’s and DVD’s were released. Almost all of it was worth listening to, like the recently released documentation ‘The Magician’s Birthday Party’, both on CD and DVD. One question has become pressing: when will a new studio album finally be released? After all, it’s been four years since ‘Sonic Origami’, an excellent album by the way, saw the light.

 

NEW CD

The always likable guitarist Mick Box starts laughing when I ask him this question. 

‘I can imagine why you’re asking this question. We’ve been working on a new album but the lack of time is the main problem. A while ago we stopped doing sapping tours and mainly perform in weekends. This works out fine but it takes a lot more travelling and organising. Apart from being the guitarist, I’m also the tour manager so a lot of the work leans on my shoulders. Both the first and the last days of a working week I prepare business matters or round them up. This way only one day a week is left to work on a new studio album. It’s a shame but on the other hand I consider myself to be lucky that we, as a band with such a past, still have lots to do. It means there’s still room for Uriah Heep and we should be grateful for that.’

Mick Box reports that he wants to round up writing and recording the new album at the end of the year. He hopes to present a new album at the start of 2003. According to him we needn’t worry about a drastic change of the musical formula.

 ‘It’ll be a logical succession to ‘Sonic Origami’ , i.e. rock songs with good melodies – I love that – garnished by the typical Uriah Heep topping and with lyrics that say something. That’s very important too.’

ANNUAL PHENOMENON

The band performed with special guests several times over the last couple of years. Mick Box emphasises that the new CD will be a band thing though.

Especially because of the special shows with all kinds of friends and former colleagues, I want us to do this CD by ourselves. We have to remind the world that we can work under our own steam. It sure is important that this album is on the way because I wouldn’t want the band to be one with just a past. Things have to keep moving and we have to focus on the future. I can also see we get rewarded for this approach. Next to our old loyal fans, we always win a young audience with our new albums. We’d like to keep it that way.’

One of the occasions at which several guests paid their respects to Heep, was The Magician’s Birthday Party, held in London last year. Apart from former members Ken Hensley and John Lawton, our own Thijs van Leer turned up as well.

‘It was great to be on stage again with Ken and John. We had our differences in the past, but those are all behind us. We feel we shouldn’t invest energy in negative matters from the past, but see what interesting things can be done both now and in the future.’

The band was so happy about the event held last year, that it has become an annual event. Which guests can we expect this year?

‘I have several people in mind. They’re all busy colleagues, so many names won’t be known until the last minute. We’re already talking to Manfred Mann who made a guest appearance on ‘Look at Yourself’ in the seventies (on the song ‘July Morning’ –RH). We also hope for Joe Elliot, Nigel Kennedy and Brian May. What about Ritchie Blackmore? That wouldn’t be a bad idea either but isn’t he stuck in the Middle Ages? Something that has led to beautiful music, don’t get me wrong. I’ll definitely consider that. If not this year, then next year.’

INTERESTS

It’s remarkable that a classic rock band keeps all in their own hands, as if they’re a genuine punk band out of 1977. The band mainly does the management themselves, manages a website and sells CD’s, DVD’s and other merchandise.

‘Over the past thirty years I’ve found out that outsiders don’t always represent the interests of the band in the best possible way’ responds the musician, ‘and I still put it mildly this way. About fifteen years ago I started to get more control on management. It’s a lot of work but I enjoy it. No-one works harder for a band than a person who’s part of the band! The rise of the Internet has sped up matters. Communication with the audience couldn’t be better, in the past this could only be done by way of interviews, concerts or letters. It also makes us less dependent of record companies and the media. When you’re not the week’s sweetheart you can have a rough time. People then just don’t see you. By setting up our own channels of communication, the flow is consistent, even without the power of a major record label or the cover of trendy music magazines.

AGENDA

Mick Box states, full of pride, that his agenda is full the next couple of months. The band performs everywhere, America, Asia and Europe. This five-piece band hit the stage with an always changing set list covering 30 years of music. It’s remarkable that they have begun playing ‘Return to fantasy’ again which was recorded in 1975, after having been absent for several decades.

‘True’  nods the guitarist ‘without a special reason though. Once in a while I give Bernie (Shaw, the singer –RH) a couple of old songs we haven’t done before. See which ones you can work with I tell him. Pushing something through one’s throat doesn’t work. Recently he came up with ‘Return to Fantasy’  and expressed he wanted to open the show with this one. Bernie has developed into the ideal singer of Uriah Heep. He masters songs from all eras of the band, particularly the ones that were from before him being part of the band. He keeps amazing me in that perspective.

CRITICAL

Mick Box mentions that aside from a new album there’ll also soon be a biography on the band by Dave Ling, music journalist. ‘It’ll be a huge book we all co-operated on. All viewpoints will be there. Also those of former band members.’

Their catalogue will also be dusted by the company Sanctuary, reports Mick Box.

‘The latter is not needed in my eyes’  splutters the musician who hadn’t even heard of the recently released 7-CD box “Can’t Keep A Good Band Down’. ‘Everything looked right the first time so why wrap it up like new again? For that kind of people it’s just making money. Uriah Heep is treated as a gravy train. It’s music that carries my soul and that tends to be forgotten. Those who want to buy it all, decide so for themselves. What is sold through our website has our seal of approval and believe me, we’re mighty critical!’

Robert Haagsma          (translation Monique Spruit)

www.uriah-heep.co

 

 

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