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URIAH-HEEP-MICK-BOX-INTERVIEW-2015

HARD ROCK INTERVIEWS 2015 - MICK BOX - URIAH HEEP GUITARIST

Back in the day (and here we are talking the very birth of Rock as we know it) URIAH HEEP was one of the 'big four' along with Purple, Sabbath and Zeppelin. Though histories, legacies and recollections may have changed over the years the legacy of 'Heep is still strong, and for a band 'of a certain age' their most recent output is still stunningly consistent. Band founder Mick Box has been there all the way, and in my five years of interviewing everyone new and old on the scene you couldn't find a better bloke to chat with...


Mark: Hi Mick, How are you? Thanks for taking the time to talk to us today.



Mick: I'm good thanks and no problem mate.



Mark: It's a real pleasure for me, I guess my days with Uriah Heep take me back to raiding my mates brothers record collection - Lizzy, Purple, Free, Sabbath.... and of course, Uriah Heep, absolutely fantastic! 



Mark: You first played Australia I think forty one years ago? 



Mick: Yes, i think it was something like that wasn’t it? I can remember we were billed as the Rock and Roll Tour, no it was the British Invasion it was called, and I think the line-up was Black Sabbath and Status Quo and us, we didn’t play on the same day, one day we were doing Uriah Heep and Monday/Tuesday we would be doing Black Sabbath and Wednesday would be Status Quo, a week in the City and we got to play 3 Shows, it was fantastic. 



Mark: And here we are forty one years later, and you are coming over to see us again, I think you are in Australia from the 19-26 March and over to see us in the West on the 24th and I think you also have a New Zealand date as well which is great for the guys over the ditch! 



Mick: Yes we haven’t done that since the 80's I don’t think. 



Mark: So what is it that keeps you on the road? What’s the best and worst things about touring? 



Mick: I think it’s because we all still have the same passion for what we do, it’s not what you do, you just gotta get out there and do it haven’t you? 


Mark: That is exactly right, and the best thing for me is your last albums have been absolutely wonderful, you and Phil are writing some fantastic material, it’s hard to believe you’ve been writing that way since the 80's now! It’s a formidable song-writing partnership. 



Mick: Yeah, Phil and I write constantly, not together but virtually and I think this time we had half a song and 2 sheets of lyrics and then we play the ideas to the band members and then they go away and figure out to write the song, we come back in and work out the rest with the band and then all congregate at the same time, then we have the backing track and then we write the tune melodies and lyrics, then get another idea the following day, that’s how we did it, we did 11 tracks in 10 days. 



Mark: well it's definitely working for you.



Mick: We wrote them very quickly and I think it’s good because it’s spontaneously and you haven’t got time to deliver it, you make the decisions on the spot and if it feels good, sometimes that’s the best way to do it. 



Mark: It's the best way, and especially when you listen to tracks like 'The Speed of Sound' and I love your guitar on 'The Law' it’s a wonderful track, probably one of my favourites.



Mick: Yes we will be playing that live! 



Mark: Oh that's fantastic! There are some great slow numbers too; 'Is Anyone Gonna Help Me' is a fantastic song. So you're playing 'The Law' live is there anything else from the latest album? 



Mick: I think 'The speed of Sound' 'One Minute' of course, 'Can’t take that away' 'The Law' and probably 'Outsider' 

Mark: That’s great; I always like it when a band backs themselves rather than just rely on the back-catalogue, which must be a safe option; but with so many great new songs it’s great to see they have found a place in the set.



Mark: You have had many line-up changes over the years and you’re the sole survivor of the original incarnation of the band’ I always remember one of my favourite albums growing up and I would love to know what you think, was 'Abominog' from 1982, it was said in the press that you considered changing the name of the band or forming another band at that stage as things had changed so much? 



Mick: I was always given that option but the fans put me right (Mick chuckles ) but I had pressure from the record company and I said no I’m staying with this, I’m a born fighter anyway and it’s something I wasn’t going to give up easily. 'Abominog' was a great album for us it went top 40 in America and gave us the resurgence there that was lovely, we did one video for the song 'That’s the way that it is' was played in heavy rotation on MTV at the time so it was an exciting time for us. 



Mark: I guess some albums don’t age sonically as well as they could, but that’s still a gem if you pick that one up and listen to it like a lot of the albums of that period it gives so much. I was looking through my record collection the other day and I pretty much have everything you've done which it very rare for me, normally there's big gaps in the discographies when bands go off the boil, but not for you guys you mentioned before it’s the love of what you do that keeps you on the road but what inspires you to sit down and create new music, is that joy of creating a new song something that will never go away? 



Mick: You know what? You can go through life blinkered or with your antenna out and we travel in 58 countries and there's inspiration all around whether you soak it up subconsciously or consciously or whatever, it's all there to be had, the world is forever changing – there are always things to comment on lyrically, it's those things that you observe then take on a universal outlook with everyone then use those lyrics in a song. 

Mark: (apologies if it makes you feel old, but…) Few people have been around in the Rock scene for such a long time, decades and decades of change and fashions here one minute gone the nest – you’ve seen rock musicians come and go, but you have stayed the course, there must be a wonderful biography there waiting to be written have you ever considered putting pen to paper?



Mick: Well funny you should ask, I’m about a tenth of the way through but I get bored about writing about myself (Mick & Mark starts to laugh) and there’s a lot of stuff I can’t write about still, mainly all the good stuff! All the crazy stuff! But it wouldn’t be fair on our families. Yeah I’m sure something will appear at some stage, I must put my head down and get it finished. One thing I’ve been 'toying' with after reading so many biographies, they all say the same thing - got into drugs, messed up my life, lost a million pounds and found god, they all take on the same template one after another and you think 'oh my god give me a break' most people who write about themselves, it’s all about self-pity and no attention to the people they have crushed on the way and ruined their lives. 


Mark: I've just finished reading Mick Fleetwood's book and he has all that but he didn’t find god at the end of it. 



Mick: (laughing) if I’m going to write a book I’m going to write about the fun side of it because that’s my sort of personality rather than dwell on that stuff, everyone knew it went on anyway.


Mark: Any unfulfilled ambitions musically? As you're a man that has been incredibly faithful to his band over the years, have you ever been tempted to do something outside the band apart from the albums you did with David? 



Mick: Surprisingly I just haven't had the time, if I thought about it, there are people I would like to work with, but it’s the energy you have to put into it, but the amount of time I spend on the road and in the studio with Uriah Heep is a lot, when I get home I have a fourteen year old boy and a wife! If I was to say 'I'm going to do an album with so and so,' I would get lynched (a raucous laugh by Mick). When I’m off the road they want me home to fulfil my husband and father role, and  with that you have to take off your rock and roll hat and have to put on two new hats, the only time I would ever have to do that it is if this (Uriah Heep) wound down, then I would do it. I've been asked to play solos and I’ve done it a few times, I’ve just played on the latest 'Doors' tribute album funny enough, Mark Stein who is one of my favourite keyboard players who played with 'Vanilla Fudge' who inspired Pete to get a Hammond Organ which was lovely and recently of course, with the passing of Trevor Bolder, our bass player, his son Ashley Bolder is trying to get an album together of stuff that his father had recorded, so I’ve put some solos down and guitar work on that this week before we head off on tour, and it was a tough thing to do. 

Mark: Taking it right back to the beginning, what was it that made you pick up that guitar in the first place?



Mick: I'm not 100% sure (laughs out loud) I guess I was into jazz guitarists like Brian Kensal, Les Paul, Mark Ford and around that time I saw Buddy Holly with that sunburst strat and thought 'how cool is that?' and it's kind of that time I started to get interested. I saved up my money and I went down the shop to buy one but I didn’t have enough money to buy one and ended up buying a Ukulele which I played that for a little bit and got bored as it wasn’t taking me anywhere, then eventually my mother bought me an old guitar for 12 pounds old English money, which is tuppence nowadays, and I started playing on that and struggled because the action was high on it and no one knew about changing strings, you only changed strings when they were broken, no one knew about actions or intonation! So I used to play till my fingers bled and my mother could see how dedicated I was so then I moved on to a Hofner P3 guitar which she got for me on hire-purchase because she could see how serious I was about it, I had a few lessons every Saturday and by Saturday afternoon I could play it back to him and I would have to wait another week for a lesson, so I ditched the lessons and started to listen by ear and found I had a natural flair for it and it took off from there. 



Mark: We have a minute or two left Mick, I have one more question for you and we ask everyone this, what is the meaning of life? A nice easy one. 



Mick: Love! Without it you have nothing and family which is the foundation of your life, the only other word you could put into that equation is music! Let’s make it a new word for the English dictionary 'Lovfammusic' (Mick laughs out loud)



Mark: It's been a pleasure talking to you Mick and can’t wait to see you in March! I’ll try to see if we can get that new word in the dictionary!



Mick: And you mate, and thanks for the support much appreciated!

 

 

Mick spoke to Mark Rockpit, January 2015

 

 

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