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February 2014

Veteran rock drummer loves being settled in as Granbury resident

An interesting interview with Andy at his home in Texas

When Andy Parker was a 13-year-old schoolboy in England, he was faced with what turned out to be a life-changing decision. His parents told him they would give him enough money to go on a trip to France offered through school – or he could buy a drum kit.

He chose the drums – and hasn’t regretted it for a minute.

Four years later – in 1969 – Parker became a founding member of the classic hard rock band UFO – a group known worldwide for its critically acclaimed live performances. The year 2014 will mark the 45th anniversary of the band’s formation, when Parker was only 17.

Parker has experienced that “trip to France” reward multiple times touring as drummer for UFO, which Allmusic.com described as “rockers who helped spawn British metal.”

Now, at age 61, Parker stated that drum practice is a little boring. But in his early years, the self-taught musician let it fly with enthusiasm. Eardrums and the drum set itself were equally at risk.

“I was a heavy player. I was known for that,” Parker said, revealing the abuse he dished out to that first drum kit. “Within the first 15 minutes, I broke the bass drum. Dad fixed it, but said, ‘You must be hitting it too hard.’”

The rock musician has been recognized since moving to Granbury almost 10 years ago – although not necessarily for being Andy Parker of UFO.

“A kid came to the house. His mom told him I was the drummer from AC/DC,” Parker said, adding that another youngster once asked if he was the drummer for U2.

Though Granbury is far removed from the fast lane, Parker and his wife, Jo, genuinely seem to be enjoying their lifestyle – and the people – here.

“They say ‘Good day,’ and they really mean it,” he said. “I just fit right in here. I bought a pickup truck.”

They lived in England for a few years, but settled in Granbury in November 2005. In addition to their home near downtown Granbury, they own four rental properties.

“I love it here,” he said. “I wish I’d come here sooner.”

EARLY YEARS

Parker was born on March 21, 1952, 25 miles north of London in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, England.

“I took piano lessons as a child,” he said. “I didn’t get any formal (drum) lessons. My mom liked to sing. I was in the church choir. When dad died, he was taking organ lessons. There were always instruments around the house – clarinet, accordion. My sister still plays the piano. Mostly, my family were builders.”

Parker said his major influences included drummers Keith Moon of The Who, Ginger Baker of Cream, Jimi Hendrix’s drummer Mitch Mitchell and the legend among legends – John Bonham of Led Zeppelin. Parker said that the first time he heard Bonham’s “massive drum sound” on the song “Good Times Bad Times” he thought, “He’s talking my language.”

Parker, with singer Phil Mogg, guitarist Mick Bolton and bass player Pete Way, formed UFO in August of 1969. After Bolton left the band in 1972, they “borrowed” a young German virtuoso named Michael Schenker from the Scorpions’ early lineup to take his place. Schenker built a reputation for amazing guitar licks as well as unstable behavior. He left UFO in 1978 to rejoin the Scorpions, but went back to UFO several other times over the years.

“When Michael left, I think that really hurt the band,” Parker said. “He was so amazing.”

The most recent version of UFO includes Mogg and Parker along with lead guitarist Vinnie Moore and Paul Raymond, who plays keyboards and guitar. Currently, the band doesn’t really have a full-time bass player, Parker noted.

In addition to drumming, Parker sings backup vocals for UFO. In fact, he said he’s had thoughts of doing a solo project when the time is right.

“I’m singing more now than I ever have. I’ve done some other projects with other people,” Parker said.

Parker’s sense of humor surfaced when asked if he’s good at singing high-decibel rock tunes as well as choir songs from his childhood days.

“No one’s told me to shut up,” he joked.

When presented – in jest – with the possibility the other band members were too polite to say that, Parker quickly quipped, “Trust me, they’re not polite.”

WILD AND CRAZY

The band had its share of wild and crazy times over the years.

“In 1983 it really got crazy,” Parker said of the band.

On his official website (http://www.ufo-music.info/andy/bio.htm), Parker described leaving UFO in April of that year and returning to his “adopted home,” Los Angeles.

“The band had pretty much spiraled into oblivion by this point, and after a final British Tour we all went our separate ways,” Parker wrote.

Parker recently recalled the turmoil from that era again – this time while at his kitchen table, with Jo by his side.

“That long on the road, it really wears you down,” Parker explained. “That kind of went with the territory back then. It was kind of obligatory to be crazy. People talk about how crazy we were. There was a lot of substance abuse. There is so much boredom on the road – so many hours hanging around. You’re away from your family, away from home.”

“I think Andy was always very responsible, though,” Jo Parker added.

“It can change you like that,” he said. “You kind of enjoy it while you can. I enjoy it now because there’s not nearly as much pressure. I like smaller venues. I like to have fun. We don’t take ourselves too seriously.”

The lifestyle changed over the years.

“Now, one of the biggest things is sleep,” Parker said. “I used to stay up all night, and that’s true that most of the guys are that way.”

Parker had three lengthy stretches apart from UFO – 1984-87, 1990-92 and 1996-2004.

While taking those breaks and working as a carpenter and builder, Parker said that when he would hear a UFO song on the radio he’d ask himself, “Is that really me?”

LIVE AND KICKING

Parker said his favorite UFO album is “Strangers in the Night,” a 1979 live concert recording that featured some of the band’s best performances from its first 10 years.

“I think it just really summed up the band,” Parker said. “We’ve always been a live act.”

A poll found online at ultimate-guitar.com ranks “Strangers” No. 3 on the all-time greatest live rock albums – behind only Thin Lizzy’s “Live & Dangerous” and Deep Purple’s “Made in Japan.” Classic Rock Magazine online ranked that UFO effort No. 6 all-time among live rock albums. A review on AllMusic.com favorably compares “Strangers” to some of the best elements of Led Zeppelin, noting “concise riffs, mammoth drumming.”

Parker recalled, “Fleetwood Mac kicked us off their tour because we were doing too well. We were like a hard act to follow.”

Parker toured with UFO in Brazil, Japan, Korea, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, the Czech Republic, France, Spain, Italy, Holland, Belgium, and of course his native United Kingdom.

UFO has a healthy inventory of 21 studio albums, and also has released an amazing total of 15 live records. The band’s latest effort, “Seven Deadly,” was released in 2012.

Parker reported band members may get together this year to work on their 22nd studio recording. They have tour dates in Europe starting in March.

UNTIL THEN

Until the work on the new album starts and the tour gets rolling, Parker is awfully handy around the house and thoroughly enjoys using his carpentry and building skills.

“It’s what I do when I’m not on the road,” Parker said. “I’d always been a good carpenter. I worked for a couple of different companies. Then I set out on my own until the 1994 recession hit. Then I was offered a job with my family in England.”

That former job with his family in England proved stressful. He found himself working about 80 hours a week and facing tight deadlines. It was enough to send him back into the crazy world of rock ’n’ roll.

Parker is using his skills in their ongoing home remodeling project that’s currently manifesting itself on the outside of their residence.

“This house is a fun, challenging project for us,” Jo Parker said. “Andy was a licensed general contractor in California. What we planned to do was come back (to the U.S.) and buy and flip houses. The the recession came and that would have been difficult, so Andy got back in the band.”

Parker has specific plans for one room in the house.

“My goal is to have a home music room,” Parker said – although he admitted his drums are in storage during the home remodeling.

m.wilson@hcnews.com | 817-573-7066, ext. 254

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