INTERVIEW BY MARKO SYRJÄLÄ
UFO is a legendary English band originally formed in 1969. They’ve often been mentioned as one of the most important and influential hard rock bands of all time. Their classic lineup: vocalist Phil Mogg, bassist Pete Way, drummer Andy Parker, keyboardist/guitarist Paul Raymond, and Michael Schenker released many classics like LIGHTS OUT, OBSESSION, and a live album STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT in the ’70s. The band enjoyed worldwide success with songs “Doctor Doctor,” “Love To Love,” and “Only You Can Rock Me,” and even the departure with Schenker in 1978 couldn’t stop their triumphal. New guitarist Paul Chapman stepped in, and then the renewed band released another string of albums. NO PLACE TO RUN, THE WILD WILLING AND THE INNOCENT and MECHANIX were strong albums. Still, as time went by, the band started slowly to fall apart and finally decided to call it quits in the late ’80s, with Mogg being the only remaining member from the original lineup. The whole classic lineup returned together in the early ’90s, and as a result, WALK ON WATER was released in 1995. Unfortunately, that reunion didn’t last long when Parker first left the group, and so did Schenker just two albums later. The band went on hiatus again. In 2004, the band would return with a brand new and lineup including Mogg, Way, Raymond, and newcomers drummer Jason Bonham and guitarist Vinnie Moore. The new lineup released the albums YOU ARE HERE and a live album SHOWTIME before Bonham quit and joined another legendary band – Foreigner. Parker returned to the fold on 2006’s MONKEY PUZZLE, and he has stayed in the band since then. Another line-up change happened in the spring of 2009 when Way was forced to leave the band for serious health reasons. The band’s latest album, VISITOR, was released in the summer of 2009, and since then, they have been on tour around the world. The Visitor world tour finally reached Finland in November 2010. Originally there were two shows booked, one in Helsinki and another in Tampere, but unfortunately, the band was forced to pull out of the Helsinki show when Mogg suddenly fell ill with a bad cold. I had a chance to catch Andy and Vinnie after the Tampere show, and here’s some of the latest info from the men themselves.
THE VIRUS AND THE TOUR
It’s been a while since UFO has been in Finland. I think that the last time was in 1996 when WALK ON WATER was released?
ANDY: True, I mean I haven’t been here. I don’t think I’ve been in Scandinavia since like the ’70s, you know. So because I kind of quit in ’83 from the band, I came back in ’94 and did WALK ON WATER, but Simon (Wright) did the tour then, I think, so they were here in ’97 maybe, but Simon was playing. So this is nice for me. I haven’t been here in a long time, but you know, yeah, I’ve done two albums now. It’s almost like I’m back for good.
Recently you’ve had some health problems within your band, and you had to cancel your show in Helsinki. How is the situation now, and will the tour carry on as planned?
ANDY: Oh, I think it looks really promising now. I think Phil bounced back. He was terrible for a few days. We don’t know if it was a virus or whether his voice was just strained, but either way, today, I think he did a great job and seemed a lot better, and so we’re hopeful that it’s going to remain that way and we’ll be able to finish the tour.
So he’s got some kind of virus that went through the whole band?
ANDY: Yes. It came from Texas. A Texas virus.
VINNIE: It did not. It came from fricken — it came from Brazil.
ANDY: Brazil. Thanks to Vinnie. Vinnie was the carrier who brought it from Brazil, then took it to Delaware and infected that area. Then he brought it to Germany and infected all of us.
VINNIE: I went to Brazil a few weeks ago, so I imported the virus to America, and then I exported it to Europe.
ANDY: Yeah, so we won’t charge you, though.
So the virus is just getting stronger and stronger all the time?
ANDY: No, I think we, I mean, I think I’ve turned the corner. I’m feeling a bit better today. I had a terrible cough, but you know. Fortunately, I can play with a cough. A singer can’t really play without a voice, you know, so that would’ve made it difficult. But Barry now, the bass player, is starting to have problems with his. Paul’s, he’s kind of looks better. So I think we will be okay. Hopefully, I mean, you know, the main one is Phil. If Phil can, you know, hang onto that, what he has left of his voice the rest of the tour, we’ll be good. I hope so. We want to play. You know, that’s why we’re here. I think tonight we passed the test. Phil passed the test because we were really discussing if he wasn’t good tonight, then we were probably going to cancel the tour. Because, you know, you don’t want to damage his voice permanently, and that’s the kind of thing that starts to happen if you keep singing on a rough voice. But you know, just so anyone who’s listening knows, I mean it’s really hard for us to cancel shows, we don’t like doing it, but sometimes it just has to happen. I am really sorry for anyone who missed the show.
VINNIE: Since I’ve been in the band, which is like seven or eight years, this is the very first time we had canceled the show yesterday. It was the first time since then.
ANDY: And I can’t remember, you know, really with me, since the 70 were when we used to work nearly every night, then once in a while he’d get, you know, a bad throat, and that’s the last time I can remember. That is the first show he’s canceled since I came back in 2005 so. So hopefully it’s going to be good, you know.
VINNIE: Yeah, I believe they canceled a few when Michael was still playing with them. (laughing). But fortunately, I wasn’t there. (laughing) I just heard about it. (laughing).
Alright… This tour will come to Scandinavia, and then you have some shows left in the UK in December?
ANDY: Yes, we do. We’ve got five shows there, I think.
Is the VISITOR tour then completed?
ANDY: I believe so. I think that we will probably see the end of the VISITOR because we are, at this point, working on material for a new album. So you know when that will be, I don’t know. Hopefully early part of next year, I think. That’s kind of our like, you know, projected —
VINNIE: Probably in the second quarter of 2011?
ANDY: I think our manager would like it to be the first quarter, you know, because we’re looking to go out in, maybe in America, like from April 30th of next year. So, you know, it would be nice if we had a product for that. But, you know, it’s on its way. It’s in the pipeline, as they say. So yes, I guess this is the end. This is going to be the last year of the VISITOR –tour.
So I think VISITOR got such good reviews from the press, but how did it in sales-wise?
ANDY: Well, it did okay but not nothing like awesome, but that’s across the board in every band unless you’re the Jonas Brothers or something; maybe you do okay. Then, what’s that, Justin Bieber (laughing). But with bands like us, I mean, you know, it’s hard times. I mean, it’s difficult, you know. And yes, it did get great reviews, and I think it was a strong piece of work. You know, I still think this band is capable of turning out really viable albums, you know. They’re not just kind of, you know, oh these old guys are still around. I mean, you know, a lot of thought goes into it, and I still think the band has a lot to offer. I’m really hoping that we can kind of like making that connection to the younger audiences. I see many young kids wearing AC/DC and Led Zeppelin T-shirts even where I live in Texas. You know they weren’t born when those bands were around, so which is a good thing. It’s a very promising thing. So I’m just hoping that we can kind of make that connection, too, and they can discover, you know, what UFO has to offer.
Yeah. So at this point, do you have any kind of idea what the next album is going to sound like?
VINNIE: No. That’s the exciting part about writing and creating music for me is that you never know what’s coming. You know, and that’s the magic of it and not knowing where you are going, just following the muse.
ANDY: Sometimes it’s nothing. (laughing).
VINNIE: Yeah, that happens, too.
ANDY: No, Vinnie’s got lots of ideas. He’s always thinking up new songs. I mean, it’s kind of cool the way it happens now. Obviously, it’s more difficult because we’re spread around now, you know, and Vinnie and I are in the States, Phil and Paul are in England, and whoever we happen to use for bass, he could be from anywhere. So but then technology is a lot better, so you can still kind of do it. And it’s kind of nice, you know. Everyone throws their ideas in, and they get stirred around a bit, and, you know, Phil has a listen and goes, I really like that or yea, or we change this. And you know, so it ends up being a team effort anyway. So that’s kind of nice.
THE STATE OF UFO BASS PLAYER
So speaking about the bass players, it’s been two long years since you departed with Pete. Is he now entirely out of the picture?
ANDY; No, I don’t think he is completely out of the picture. No, I mean, this is a tough area to get into. I think we spoke about this, you know, before?
Yes, we did, but that more than one year ago… has anything changed since then?
ANDY: Now that Entwhistle is dead, and so is Keith Moon, I don’t know if he and Daltrey can keep going or not. Maybe they could. But he’s still smashing guitars, old Pete. (laughing).
VINNIE: You used that one yesterday.
ANDY: Sorry. No, you had to say that, and the deal is with Pete is I mean he’s, you know, his position is probably there if he can fill in. But he got to the point where he really wasn’t capable of fulfilling his duties, not to the level that we want to be at, you know if you understand me. I mean, this band’s had a lot of damage control over the years, you know, with different things. A lot with Michael and with Phil and with Pete, you know, and different stuff, and I think the decision was made a couple of years back that we really need – this really needs to get sorted out. This needs to be serious, you know, because, you know, it’s tough enough out there, as you said. You know, it’s tough enough now to kind of get out there and to get to play. And Pete does have quite a serious illness. Don’t get me wrong; we love Pete. You know, he such a huge part of this band, and he’s like a brother to me, but there comes a time, you know, when you kind of got to have tough love. It’s kind of like, “Man, you need to get yourself sorted out.”
But still, I keep on repeating myself, but has anything changed between the band and Pete since we last discussed?
ANDY: Well, unfortunately, I mean, in the beginning, he was like really gung ho that he was going to straighten himself out. See, because here’s the way it works. In England, if you go to the doctor and you need medication for something, it’s kind of like somebody who’s waiting for a heart transplant, and if they’re still smoking cigarettes, they’re not going to give them a new heart. Do you know what I’m saying? They’re going to give it to somebody who actually really wants it. So the thing with Pete was, you know, the doctor said to him, you modify your lifestyle, and we will get you the medicine. But he doesn’t seem to be able to really do that. So he’s not getting the help that he needs. And that’s his choice, you know. That’s fine. As I said, I love him dearly, but you know, we had to decide as a band that, you know, you need to, you know, get yourself together or, you know, or until you can come back and really do it right. So, we keep waiting. I don’t know?
Ok, maybe that was the answer to my question “laughs.”
ANDY: Yeah, I’m optimistic. (laughing). Maybe on the 50’th anniversary, we might see him?
Wasn’t it a couple of months ago when he did some kind of appearance with you guys?
VINNIE: No, he actually appeared with Michael (Schenker) and Cole or Raymond, and he sat and played “Doctor Doctor” with Michael. And actually, I have to be honest. There was a rumor actually going around, and I think it’s actually a quite substantial rumor that he is actually rehearsing with Michael and Herman Rarebell (ex-Scorpions) right now. Whether that’s going to come to anything, I don’t know whether it is even coming. But that’s the rumor. But you never know?
If I remember right, back in the days, Michael and Pete used to have a band called the Plot together?
ANDY: The Plot. That’s right. They do have the Plot where he sang, apparently. I haven’t heard it. That must have been interesting, though. (laughing).
It was quite an interesting band for many reasons. You have had Barry Sparks in the band for a long time, every then and now, even when Pete was still in the band. He was replacing Pete in the States when Pete wasn’t allowed entry in the U.S. Is it possible for you to hire a new permanent bass player someday? Like, for example, Barry, and I gotta say that he was amazing today.
VINNIE: He’s always amazing. We’ve had a few friends filling in and helping us out. Barry, Jeff Coleman, and Rob DeLuca, and they all have been really good, really good with us. I don’t know what we are going to do, actually. Do you know?
ANDY: No, I don’t. I mean, as we said before until I mean, it’s still open, you know, because I mean, as I said before, Pete was such a huge part of this band, and we really miss him. He is such a larger-than-life presence; you can’t help but miss him. But then again, you know, you owe it to the people who are paying money for the ticket to give them a decent show. So you know, until he can really pull that stuff together, then, you know, I can’t see him coming back. That’s all we can say. Yeah, I’m sure at some point there will be a permanent bass player. You know, whether it will be Pete, I don’t know. Who it will be, I don’t know. Right now, you know, I mean we are putting the best people we can. As you said, Barry is an amazing bass player. He really is. He is a great guy. He loves the band; he knows every song we ever recorded, so he is a great replacement, Rob Deluca. He was another great guy. That is kind of interesting, I think, for people to see the band in different formats, too. And for me, as a drummer, you know, it’s kind of interesting for me to get to play with a couple of different people, too. So it makes life a little more interesting.
VINNIE’S SOLO CAREER
Okay, Vinnie, besides you are now playing UFO, you also have your solo career going on all the time. What is going on with that one at the time?
VINNIE: I had a record come out last year called TO THE CORE, and always working and writing, you know, on new things. I don’t know when I’m going to do another record, but eventually, I’ll get to it when there’s some time. Yeah, I mean, I always need that outlet, that creative outlet. Doing a band thing is one scenario, but also doing the solo stuff and going off and exploring some weird territory with instrumentals is something, too.
ANDY: He also has many commitments where he has to do porno music, you know, soundtracks on porno movies. So that keeps him busy, “laughs.”
VINNIE: Maybe the soundtracks you’d hear is Ah…Ah….(laughing)
ANDY: Big business for Vinnie. For us acting and playing the guitar is kind of difficult.
VINNIE: I don’t get paid for that though, I just get for free porn movies “laughs.”
How do you share your time between UFO and solo career? I mean, don’t you ever have conflicts with your schedule because of those two separate things?
VINNIE: No, no, I’ve actually just kind of juggle it. I work around UFO. When we are on tour, we’re obviously touring; I can’t be writing and recording simultaneously, so I just kind of do it between tours and in between UFO records whenever I have time.
I checked your schedule for this year, first one-month solo tour in Europe and then two months with UFO in different States and then guitar clinics and more solo shows around the globe all the time…
VINNIE: It’s actually been a kind of busy year actually, and I feel like it has been. I was away all February touring. I went to New Zealand for a couple of gigs. Brazil and…
ANDY: Because he’s doing guitar clinics, showing people how to be a rock star “laughs.”
ANDY: So you don’t have any idea of when you are doing clinics, you don’t have to wait a year for students? I’m your first one.
VINNIE: I have to put in on my hat.
ANDY: There are different hats there. There’s a Vinnie Moore hat. Vinnie Moore, the teacher, the rock star hat.
VINNIE: I’ve never worn that.
ANDY: It doesn’t fit?
VINNIE: It doesn’t fit “laughs.”
Okay, another question for Vinnie. I just went through credits for your albums, which have played with many interesting names like Joe Franco, Greg Smith, Tony MacAlpine, and guys like that. It seems that you can have almost anybody you want to play on your albums and…
VINNIE: No, not really. There is a circle of friends. I mean, you meet people in the business.
ANDY: He knows everybody.
VINNIE: I don’t know everybody.
ANDY: Oh, I don’t know. Do you know a lot of people?
VINNIE: I know a lot of people and have played with a lot of people, but –
ANDY: He’s well connected. If I ever need a gig, I’m going to see him. He can hook me up, you know. He’s very, very connected. He has some great musicians on his solo albums. I mean some really good people. Good drummers. Did you hear TO THE CORE Man? It’s my favorite, I think of all these albums.
VINNIE: Thank you very much.
ANDY: It’s my workout. I tell you, I get on my exercise bike to that. It has a good tempo.
Well, guys, our time is up now. See you later and thanks!
ANDY and VINNIE: Thank you.
FOR MORE INFO GO TO WWW.UFO-MUSIC.INFO
LIVE PICTURES FROM UFO TAMPERE SHOW