by Mark Kadzielawa
UFO is a band with considerable history. The band is responsible for many 70s staple tracks, inventive guitar playing, and countless unique live experiences. On the reverse, there were years of heavy partying, continuous drama behind the scenes, break ups, and line up shifts. All of which adds up to one interesting rock ‘n’ roll tale.
UFO continues to fly, and delivers an album of new material every two years. The group found its stability with Vinnie Moore who joined on guitar back in 2004. Moore had some big shoes to fill of course. Playing guitar for UFO is a very prestigious job, and not an easy one. The job was once occupied by Mick Bolton, Michael Schenker, Paul Chapman, Tommy McClendon, and Lawrence Archer. Of all these players, Michael Schenker, is perhaps the most known and inventive. But UFO in its current format continues to soar. The line up of course is Phil Moog on vocals, Andy Parker on drums, Paul Raymond on guitar and keyboards, and Vinnie Moore on guitar. Rob De Luca often fills in as a touring bassist.
UFO’s newest album is called “Seven Deadly.” It’s a solid affair, and a good mix of hard rock and blues. The group is still vital and moving forward.
Drummer, Andy Parker, talks about the new tracks, and UFO’s ability to continue to function as a recording and touring unit.
This by far is the longest running incarnation of UFO. What is in place now in order to achieve such consistency?
Andy Parker: I think , it’s the lack of crazy people (laughter.) We have people in the band now that actually want to go out and play rather than abuse substances and throw tantrums. It’s great, the band is getting along, and let’s face it, we’re here for the music. Sometimes the other things take over, but it’s a very strong band. I’m real happy, and I think everyone else is.
One band member who is still missing in action is Pete Way. Any updates on Pete’s whereabouts, or a possibility of him re-joining the band?
He’s the substance abuse factor. No, but he is surviving as Pete survives. I believe he’s made a solo album, but I don’t think it hit the streets yet. Pete had plenty of opportunities to straighten himself up, and come back. But, he doesn’t seem to be willing to do it. And we’re not really willing, I mean, we love Pete. But he’s not really capable of playing to the level that we want to perform right now. That’s about the best thing I can say. He doesn’t seem to want to make a change, so right now I don’t see him back. I mean the door is always open, if he wants to make some life changes. He doesn’t seem to feel that’s necessary.
Since UFO regrouped with Vinnie Moore on guitar in 2004, there’s been a new album every two years. All of you live apart from each other, so how do you make it happen?
So far so good. Yeah, that’s kind of difficult, and if you noticed I didn’t have much of an input on the last album, pretty much nothing. And that’s because I’ve had a lot of stuff going in my personal life. It is difficult! What seems to happen is guys put their ideas together when we’re off the road, and then we meet and check them around. Phil will sort through them, and make the selections. He picks the ones he feels he can work with, and he’ll go out and do his stuff, and then we come back together and record. The last three albums I’ve recorded in Germany, and Phil’s done his vocals in Germany too. Vinnie tends to do all his work from his home in Delaware. It works for him. In a way it works because it’s a lot less expensive to do it that way, and it gets done very quickly. I miss the process where you feed off each other. I’m usually in the studio on my own just playing to scratch tracks, which is OK because there isn’t any pressure on me, but you miss that connection with the other guys. So it has its ups and downs.
How do you interpret the title of the new album?
Hmm, I’m just thinking about all of those sins that I’ve committed, a quick mental run through them... I mean, what’s in a title? It is what it is, and everyone will make their own choices. For me it is left to the imagination, and... we’re all sinners at heart.
Care to explain the artwork?
Once again, it’s Tristan Greatrex. This wasn’t the original title you see. I’m not sure you heard that story. The original title was supposed to be “The Last of the Bone Riders.” I think there is a track on the album called “The Last of The Stone Riders,” which was changed from the original title. Phil originally came up with that title, and when the record company leaked that info out, we kind of got a lot of negative feedback on it, so at the eleventh hour, he’d decided to change it. The album would’ve had exactly the same material on it. So, the artwork reflected that title.
The opening track, “Fright Night” is a heavy rocker. In a way it fits very well with the songs off “Walk On Water.” How was that song put together?
It’s one of Paul’s (Raymond) songs. Yeah, it feels like that. It was a Paul’s idea for a song and Phil wrote the lyrics for it. Like I’ve said before, the guys were checking each other’s idea, and Phil just knew he could work with this one, so it all worked out. The song has to inspire Phil, and it if does, he will work on it. It is a great song, and it’s in our live set. There are four songs in the set from the new album.
“Wonderland” follows in a similar pattern, but what is the world is Phil singing about? I mean what is it about wanting his monkey back?
(Laughter) That’s a million dollar question, isn’t it? You’re asking the wrong person, but he did tell me that he saw a story somewhere about this bar where they had a monkey, a pet monkey. And the monkey turned violent, and tore somebody’s hair off or something like that. So, somebody had to come for the monkey I guess, and take the monkey away. I think that’s the story behind it.
“Mojo Town” has a very Texas feel.
It’s interesting that you’re naming all of these songs because all of them are in the set. That’s a very bluesy tracks, it’s one of Vinnie’s. I’ve noticed that the last couple of album’s Vinnie’s gone real bluesy on us, and it’s great by me. It’s my comfort zone. That’s where I’ve started, that’s where UFO started actually. The blues of the late 60s, that’s what we began with. So, I’m real happy with that, and it’s just where Vinnie was at when he was writing music for this album. That’s the whole thing about UFO. UFO never sets out to come out with a concept album, or to appeal to a certain demographic. It’s just where the guys are into at the time. Here’s what I’m doing, here’s what I’m feeling, put it in the part, mix it up, see what comes out. And I think, that’s a very honest way of doing music. Rather than say, “oh, we want to sound like we did back in 1975, that was a big album we had, we should try to re-create that.” And if you do, you either fall flat on your face, or it’s not from the heart. And this band has always been from the heart.
“Year of The Gun” is another track with that boogie feel.
That goes way back to our roots. On our very first album, there was a song, “Boogie For George.” So there is a homage there somewhere that goes back all to way to the beginning.
“Burn Your House Down” is a great ballad. It certainly lives up to UFO’s great tradition of such songs.
It’s a great song, isn’t it? I got to say, Phil is just keep getting better to me. I mean, his voice is just great. And it’s interesting, you can go back and listen to stuff from the 70s, and voices really do change, as you would expect. But it’s actually like a good wine, it’s just getting better with age.
When we spoke about the last album, “The Visitor,” you’ve mentioned how the band was getting that bluesy feel back again. It seems like that feel continues with the new album.
Well, it has, but not in any calculated way. It’s just something that just happened. You can say, we’ve come the full circle. I mean, in Paul’s background, blues was always there. He was in Chickenshack, and that was completely the blues thing, you know. So, it’s just something that happened. We’ve ended up going back there. And like I’ve mentioned before, I’m very comfortable there. I’m thinking about turning my second kick drum into refrigerator (laughter,) I don’t get the use for it anymore. I mean the set that we’re doing now, it doesn’t really lend itself to do. Obviously the old stuff I use it for, but as for the new songs, it becomes redundant. I can keep me drinks there on stage.
Each time there is a new UFO release, people tend to compare it to your 70’s records. Are such comparisons fair anymore?
I don’t think so. I mean, obviously Vinnie received a lot of hate when he joined the band. Everyone wanted Michael Schenker, and Michael is brilliant, and that was a great era, but that was 30 years ago. Others wanted Paul Chapman. But, the band moved on, the band matured, and the band is still putting out viable material. I’m not knocking the fans down. We’ve got fans that had been with us for a long time, but you know, you can’t please everybody. I think the best way to go is just play from the heart, and that to me is why I love this band so much. It’s always been from the heart for me.
Speaking of Michael Schenker, it appears that he really got his act together in the last few years, and great things are happening for him again. Are you still in any contact?
The last time I saw him was little over a year ago, when we were in Brighton, England. He was rehearsing there with Pete Way, and Herman Rarebell on drums. He was really good. He looked real fit, he was really together, and I’ve heard he’s been doing really well. I’m hoping to cross path with him, and maybe catch a show or so.
Also, there was another guitar player named Mick Bolton, who appeared on the first three UFO albums. Whatever happened to Mick Bolton?
He lives in a small village in England, actually where I was living up until 2005. I would see him fairly regularly. He’s a stay at home dad, he doesn’t play anymore. He’s kind of been like that since the 70s. Unfortunately, he’s just drifted out of music, and never came back.
Whenever UFO tours the States, it appears that majority of the dates are in the Illinois and California. Are those two states the biggest markets for the band?
Well, Chicago is always our biggest market. It’s our best town, “Strangers In The Night” was recorded here. We really have a good vibe and a good bond with Chicago. California’s always been good for us. Obviously, the markets are shrinking. It’s not because we’re getting older, but because of the economy. I mean back in the 70s, you could find a show every night of the week, and people had the money to go, and that doesn’t hold true anymore. But, there are still some stronghold places for us. Chicago’s always been our favorite, and we owe Chicago a lot. We love coming here, it’s a great rock town.
UFO is about good music, and good time. Care to remember any crazy anecdotes from the past?
Well, the real crazy ones I can’t tell you (laughter.) When I look back at the 40 years, there is a lot that happened. And some things are better left forgotten. And it’s coming back to Pete, you just can’t keep doing that stuff. We were young in the 70s, and you can’t keep that lifestyle now. It was a lot of fun, and I think a lot of us are lucky to still be here because a lot of guys aren’t. Guys like Bon Scott, who was great. He was just having a night out, and it didn’t turn out right. I mean, yeah, we had a lot of fun, but it’s a serious business. We shouldn’t really glamorize this lifestyle because it’s dangerous, very dangerous.