In another RUSHONROCK exclusive the seasoned veteran recalls the day he nearly called it quits and explains why Saturday’s set isn’t what his band really wanted.
Look out for more High Voltage exclusives all week on your new-look RUSHONROCK!
rushonrock: On the new Uriah Heep compilation On The Rebound you’ve purposefully moved away from laying down the tracks in chronological order – what’s the thinking behind that?
Mick Box: I came up with the idea when we were looking at the tracks and in this day and age it just seemed like the obvious way to go. Most people have an iPod these days and they listen to tracks on shuffle – you’re always hearing songs out of context and out of order but that’s often pretty refreshing. This is a CD for the iPod generation and there’s nothing wrong with mixing and matching in my mind.
rushonrock: So are you a fan of the mp3 music player?
MB: Well first and foremost anyone who buys music these days has one. Or so it seems. I listen to mine every day. But the sad thing about it from a musician’s point of view is that you go into a studio and record an album and then it all gets squashed down into a music file.
rushonrock: If albums don’t sound like they used to – or should do – is live music where it’s at in 2010?
MB: The live scene is very, very important for bands like Uriah Heep. If you’re looking at the iPod generation again then most people download individual songs and don’t hear everything that’s on offer. A live show is the chance to play everything good that you’ve ever done and persuade people to invest in more of your music.
rushonrock: After the success of 2008’s Wake The Sleeper are you tempted to release another original record sometime soon?
MB: In actual fact we’re looking at doing a new album early next year. We put out the Celebration album last year and On The Rebound this year so there’ll be a natural slot for a new studio album in 2011. The Celebration album was criticised in some quarters but it was never an attempt to better the original songs. It was an exercise in demonstrating to everyone that we’ve got the same passion that we always had. We want to show people there’s a future for this band whether it’s in terms of writing new songs or giving the back catalogue the treatment it deserves.
rushonrock: In all your time keeping the Uriah Heep name alive have you ever considered packing it in for good?
MB: It’s certainly been a rollercoaster or, at some points, more like a big dipper. As far as packing it in altogether it only crossed my mind once for two days. That was just after I folded up the Conquest line-up in the early 80s. It just didn’t have the right feel to it – I just don’t think the influences which came from the other musicians at the time hit the mark. I had two days when the band had split that I thought that was that for Uriah Heep. I just sat in my flat and drank a bottle of vodka and then my agent called to say there was plenty of interest from promoters wanting to book the Mick Box Band.
rushonrock: So what changed?
MB: At the same time a lot of people were already contacting me by letter pleading with me not to let the Uriah Heep name die – whether it was die-hard fans or young kids who’d just started listening to us. So when I came out of my drunken stupor I thought ‘yep, I can keep this going’. In the end the spirit of Gary [Thain] and Dave [Byron] kept the band alive – the first call I made was to Lee [Kerslake] who’d joined Ozzy Osbourne’s band. He said Sharon [Osbourne] had sacked him and was looking to hire an all-US band. He asked me what I was doing and I told him I was looking to put Heep back together again – he said Bob [Daisley] had been sacked too and they both came over. It all came together very quickly and the band was back! We did the Abominog album which lifted the band back up there and then we did some shows with Def Leppard who, at that point, were the biggest thing since sliced bread.
rushonrock: After 40 years with the band do you ever think retirement is looming?
MB: I think in this business you only think about retiring when you haven’t got an audience. We’re still running around and playing all over the world It’s the best job in the world and we’re all the best of mates. We love what we do so there’s absolutely no reason whatsoever to even think about retiring.
rushonrock: Will the High Voltage Festival be a highlight of 2010 for Uriah Heep?
MB: We’re all looking forward to it. It’s on home turf, there’s a great line-up and it’s the middle of summer. We did get pushed into agreeing to perform the entire Demons And Wizards album though which, looking back, might not have been the best idea. In all honesty we’d rather do the usual rock show we reserve for all of the big festivals. There’s a lot of low points on that record, as well as highlights! But doing entire albums seems to be a popular trend right now. There’s no doubt we’d rather go out there and represent the band as it is now but we weren’t given much choice.