“It’s the power of music, my friend, isn’t it?” said Uriah Heep co-founder, guitarist Mick Box. “I mean, here we are 48 years later still talking about a new album, Living the Dream, and still going out on tour for months on end. It’s an amazing thing.
“Because we are really passionate about what we do, that fuels us with the energy to do it. We do nearly 150 shows a year and just love getting out there and playing. It’s what we do.”
Box is the only current Uriah Heep member who was on the British band’s debut album, …Very ‘eavy …Very ‘umble, in 1970. Players may have come and gone, but he has remained the one constant, a driving force behind keeping the group viable.
“We’ve never left the road, we never broke up; it’s always been a continuous thing,” he said. “There may have been different lineups and stuff but I’ve been there all the way through. … We’re one of these bands that when we say we’re going to do a world tour, we do a world tour: we play in 61 countries. We may be in another part of the world for six months so you might not hear about us until we come back and ruffle the feathers in other countries (laughs).”
The Heep, as they’re known, came to be during the tumultuous period of FM album-oriented radio, concept records and psychedelia, when the careers of many of today’s legendary groups now considered “classic rock” were launched. So with more than five decades behind them, is their music still garnering new fans?
“Absolutely yes! We get a lot of young kids down in front shouting out songs that are three times their age. The good thing about that is that it proves the point that a good song will stand the test of time, and we’ve been lucky to have a lot of those along the way, and people still like to hear them in the live arena. That keeps the momentum going.
“There are certain songs that we have to play in a set, but then we intersperse those with the new album and even older tracks. So if you look at the set list, it’s our journey from the first album to Living the Dream, and everything in between.”
Their most recent release is their 26th; Box gave some insight into the process and how staying true to past practices has its benefits.
“We recorded it in January in a studio called Chapel Studios, up in Lincolnshire, which is in the English countryside. It was ideal for recording because there were no diversions at all; even the pub up the road was closed (laughs). So it was heads down and we recorded the whole album in 19 days, and the reason that it went so quickly is because we recorded it as a band in the studio, all together. We didn’t have to wait two weeks to get a drum sound, we just went straight in, signed up and played as a band. And I think that’s when you get the best results, to be honest: Everybody being on the one pulse. We didn’t even use click tracks half the time because we felt if something sped up because it was excitable, then that’s the way that we want to do it. It felt very natural and very easy and the results came very quickly.
“Think back to the old days; Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep. None of us used a click track because it wasn’t invented, and yet what great music came out of that. That’s because the bands were in the studio, playing together, and you got that great vibe. That’s the beauty of a band playing in the studio together: There’s nowhere to hide, because if you do make a mistake there’s a good chance it’s going to go onto the drum track or wherever.”
With the new album came two singles that the band has released, with corresponding videos. Box says the singles that the band has chosen have multiple purposes.
” ‘Grazed by Heaven,’ which is the lead track from the album … I think it was a statement that we wanted to show that we still have passion in what we do, and I think it works perfectly because it comes straight in your face: a drum fill in and we’re off to the races (laughs). It’s a good track and it’s written by our bass player Davey Rimmer, who wrote it with Jeff Scott Soto from Sons of Apollo. … When we took it into our rehearsal room, it was obvious that it was going to be a track that we were going to use. ‘Take Away My Soul’ is a song that is very much in the Heep mode, it’s got all the block harmonies that we’re known for and the Hammond organ parts and a really long guitar solo at the end. It kind of encompasses everything that the Heep is all about.”
Today’s music climate is distinctly different from that of years past. Bands and solo acts rely more on technology and many producers and labels seem to stick to a formula or a trend that is popular at the time, resulting in an almost cookie cutter-type sound. Box sees that as an issue, going forward.
“I think that the individuality has gone out of the business, which is a bit of a shame,” he said. “Because when you think back to the ’70s, certainly in England … I mean, I didn’t play a lot with Ritchie Blackmore, Ritchie didn’t play with Tony Iommi, and on and on. All musicians – bass, keyboard players, guitarists and drummers — had their own thing and it was the sum of those parts that gave each band its flavor. You don’t quite see that now because there’s … not enough individuality.
“I could be a bit more articulate by saying, guitarists today, they go into a guitar school … and come out two years later playing fantastic guitar, but they sound like everyone else. In that two-year period, there was no attention paid to individuality.”