INTERVIEW AND LIVE PHOTOS BY MARKO SYRJALA
Pete Way is one of the original bad boys of rock ‘n roll, but he’s also a highly respected musician and songwriter. Way is best known as the founding member and bass player of the British hard rock legends U.F.O. He played with the band for over 30 years. After Way first split with U.F.O. (1982), he formed Fastway with former Motörhead guitarist “Fast” Eddie Clarke. Way left the band for legal reasons and briefly joined Ozzy Osbourne’s touring band. Later in the same year, Way formed his own band Waysted, which enjoyed mainstream success in the mid-’80s. Way’s long on/off relationship with U.F.O. came to its end in 2008 because of his serious health issues. Except for collaboration with his former U.F.O. colleague Michael Schenker, with whom he released the album TEMPLE OF ROCK in 2011, Way hasn’t been seen much in public for a long time. In 2017, Way released an autobiography: “A Fast Ride Out of Here: Confessions of Rock’s Most Dangerous Man,” and one year later, he announced the formation of the Pete Way Band. It took another year and several line-up changes, but the band finally started touring in early June of 2019. At the Sweden Rock Festival, I had the chance to sit down with the man himself and discuss what happened in the past years and the Pete Way Band’s future.
BACK IN ACTION
The last time I spoke with you was in 2007 in Copenhagen.
All right, yeah.
And there are so many things that have happened since then. Yeah. Let’s start from the time when you were forced to quit with UFO in 2008. The next thing I know, you started working with Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock project.
Yeah. What it really was that, I put my effort into it, but I didn’t write the songs. I may be inspired some, but I think it was really a band thing, and I didn’t write it, but I was part of what created it because Michael is my friend.
So, you played on the album, but you never toured with the band. What happened then?
I think I was trying to do my studio again. And that Michael was going in a different direction. I wasn’t ready to tour, actually, and then there was Waysted, and I started doing a solo album, which I haven’t finished yet. It is almost finished, but I got ill. I got cancer. And I’ve had three heart attacks, not big heart attacks because I’m still alive, but I’ve had to be very careful. But now I put this together, this band. It’s a great rock band. That’s what it’s all about.
However, you were finished with UFO in 2008, but besides the Temple of Rock thing in 2011, you were disappeared from the public for a long time, almost ten years. You mentioned already briefly your health problems, but what happened during that period in your life?
I was a heroin addict, so I spent as much money as I possibly could injecting myself until the point reached where I couldn’t get in anymore – to my veins – so I was a physical wreck. And then my wife died of an overdose, so I moved back to England and started working, really just writing. And then also, because I was close to Michael and Herman Rarebell, they asked me to be involved in Temple of Rock together. So, I did. And it was good for me to do something other than think about drugs. So that’s really where I was because– but then, at the same time, if you suddenly find yourself with cancer, and you have to have radiotherapy, things like that. Fortunately, it was an easy one, if cancer is easy. But it was a– what do they call that? Prostate cancer. So, it was something that every man could get easily. But then I started to get heart problems, so I gradually got ill. But now, quite fit and ready to work. The only thing I do now is bass, and I play it on stage, but I’ve got problems with my hands. I’ve got to have an operation, and my eyes have got cataracts, and they’re doing that, so it makes life a lot easier when you’ve got your eyes back. I mean, of course, I can see most things, but if you want to see something in detail, it’s not much fun, it makes you tired. And my hands were getting cramped, so that’s why I’ve been singing. But then, when I wrote the songs, I sang them to write them. I mean, I don’t know which way it comes. You write them and sing them, one way or the other.
Can you play bass at all at this moment?
Well, I find that– oh yeah, yeah. I do rehearsals, and we decided to do that. I found that I needed to concentrate a lot on my vocal. And it isn’t easy because if I’m playing bass, I want to be 100%. If I’m singing, I have no choice. I have to be 100% too. So, I’ve got a good bass player. He’s my friend Jim Poole from Waysted. And I’ve got Tim Rollins, who’s fantastic. And actually, Clive Edwards is my boss in a way because I said to Clive, “Clive, I need help.” He goes: “Look. Let’s put it together like that. Let’s try out the people.” As it would happen, I ended up playing with my friends, which is probably what I should have done in the first place, but you try things out. But suddenly you realize your friends wanted to do it. I didn’t want to ask them because I thought they were doing other things. And they go, “Oh, no, we’d probably play for you and the other things we’re doing.”
However, the band sounds great! And the line-up is almost the same as the HIGH STAKES AND DANGEROUS MAN (UFO) line-up, which is cool. One man is missing! “Laughs”
Yeah, yeah, it is. It’s great. I mean, the line-up is fantastic. Lawrence is a Great Guitar player, and Tim is pretty much unknown, but he’s very, very good, and he plays very, very good slide guitar as well as he’s very, very good at lead anyway. So, we got everything. I get a bit jealous sometimes because I want to be playing bass and think, well, I could give up singing for one or two songs, but I wrote these songs, and certain words only could come from me.
Actually, I never thought of you as a singer. I mean, you have sung leads before, but you’re an iconic bass player, and that’s how I always remember you as a musician.
I didn’t want to be a singer. But then, some so many singers try and be almost cabaret, I think is the word. And I don’t want to be a cabaret. I want it to be like hard rock. Gritty. But, of course, you won’t do the light and shade. The ballads and so on, but at the same time, I love it when you actually go, “That’s rock.” That’s what I started playing for.
WAYSTED, AND PAUL CHAPMAN
If I’m right, you also had plans to work again with your former UFO and Waysted colleague Paul Chapman. Is that cooperation still going to happen someday?
Well, he came over, but I was actually moving at the time, and it wasn’t right. It was a bit like we were doing something for no real reason. Paul wants to do it. I was happy to do it, but I still haven’t—It’s been six years or more when I finished the album off with Mike Clink. You know, Slash is playing on that, and many others as well, and that is what people want to hear, and not SAVE YOUR PRAYERS. So, I couldn’t readjust my focus to try and redo it. So, yeah, that’s why we’re on the road. In fact, the album’s not out, but we’ve re-released AMPHETAMINE, which was important because we wanted something out, but that album never really had much exposure, and everybody I worked with said, “Why don’t we do these songs?” I said, “Well, we can if you like.” At the same time, I don’t like to let people see us play without doing some UFO. I think it’s not fair. So, I do my best, but I do it differently. I would say heroes are more grunge — things like that. I’m not into cabaret or sugar-coated things, as I call it.
But going back to the original Paul question, didn’t he move back to Europe?
Oh, he’s still staying in Florida?
Yeah. His wife died, actually. And he had a stroke, so don’t ask me, I don’t know. It was deep destiny that I got together with these friends of mine, and Clive said to me– Clive’s my boss. He’s like, “Pete; this is what we’re going to do.” He knows if I want to have a drink, it’s like, “No, you can’t. You can have a drink after the show. You’ve been there before where anything goes.” But it’s now severe. The other thing is we don’t get any younger.
A FAST RIDE OUT OF HERE
In 2017, the long-awaited A FAST RIDE OUT OF HERE: CONFESSIONS OF ROCK’S MOST DANGEROUS MAN book was finally. It’s a biography of your life, full of amazing stories, including some really tough ones. It’s almost hard to believe that all those things have happened.
It is true. It’s genuine, and I don’t make up stories. Actually, in my book, I leave half of it out because I don’t want to embarrass certain people and because they don’t need to be exposed to the dark side of the things that I’ve been up to. When I played with Ozzy, didn’t I? He’s my friend. I don’t get a chance to see him because when he’s in England, I don’t know he’s going to be in England. But we always keep in touch. But I’m looking forward to playing with Geezer Butler. We’re doing a double headline tour. No, it’s a couple of shows, actually, with the two of us, which works out ideal. So, it’s a good contrast. Because mine is very gritty, Geezer’s got a very good band, and so have I. So, it’ll be a good night for everybody. And we both support the same football team, actually, Aston Villa. So, oh yeah, nothing means more than Aston Villa to me. Well, maybe the fans and rock and roll.
You are a typical English guy. Football means everything to you! “We in Finland, we don’t care for football that much, “Laughs.”
Finland? Are you from Finland?
Oh, good heavens. Because we played in Finland two shows actually, I like Finland. It’s a bit cold for me, but I know the guys in Hanoi Rocks, even. But I think they don’t necessarily live in Finland all the time because they’re working. Andy McCoy’s a bit of a character, as they say. Michael Monroe, I think, is a very nice guy.
Did you know the guys when they were living in London?
I’ve met them. Because I knew Razzle, the drummer, the English drummer. And so, Michael knew me from knowing Razzle. And then, of course, Razzle died. But we talk about him. Well, whenever I see Michael, he says, “Oh.” We talk about Razzle briefly. But you always meet people that you’d like to spend more time with. And you only get to speak to them for ten minutes, and then you’re somewhere else, you know? I don’t know much about Finnish bands because I’ve not spent much time in Finland. I did live in Copenhagen, so obviously, I knew a lot of Danish bands. I knew King Diamond quite well. He used to come to my house and eat and do things like worshiping the devil. Not really. He loves the occult, but he doesn’t practice the dark side. “Laughs”
And I knew Mikkey Dee, yeah. What a drummer. The thing with Mikkey is that he’s such a good drummer. And I think he’s playing with the Scorpions now. But he deserves to be playing with– I’m sure he was happy with Motorhead, but that’s the type of band he can add so much. So, whereas with Lemmy, he kept it quite limited to that style. Everything was “Ace of Spades” or “Bomber,” or things like that. Yeah, I tried to get Mikkey to play for Waysted, but at the time, he was with the King, or Kim, Kim Petersen. And he didn’t want to leave the band, but he did want to work with Waysted. But at the time, I think he was involved with King Diamond, and then we’ve got another drummer anyway. So, it was like,… you don’t just keep changing drummers. So, then Mikkey played with Lemmy, which they both were very happy, so. So, they’re a great band, but I think that being, what’s the word, I wouldn’t criticize Motorhead, but it wasn’t 100% what I like in music. But I always loved Lemmy’s attitude.
ONE U.F.O. QUESTION
Tonight, I expected to see you on stage with your former band, UFO, because you were playing right after each other. But it didn’t happen. Was it ever even an option?
I don’t really want to play with UFO. They do what they do, and that and they’re going through a crisis in a way because they’ve got– Paul Raymond, sadly, died, and I kind of lost contact. Yes, they’re my old friends, but I think they are on later, and we came down early. I believe this is one of the things, you know, we only really got this concert recently. It wasn’t like it had been planned, whereas other bands had been booked for a long time. So, they slipped us into the show. But I hope everybody liked it because I enjoyed it. The audience seemed to like it unless they were doing an impersonation of people enjoying it. I was knocked out, really, by the response. And I didn’t want to overdo the UFO side of it. That’s because I wanted to keep my own definitions of what the band is.
The last question, what do you think about UFO’s decision to retire after this tour? I mean, you started this all together, over fifty years ago?
Well, I won’t be because I’ve had so long, seven years of not touring. “Laughs”