ANDY PARKER Interview from Hollands 'Lords Of Metal Magazine
archiveer onder : Hardrock / AOR
Ondanks het feit dat UFO dit jaar al zo’n veertig jaar actief is, is er in LoM, buiten de reguliere CD-reviews, eigenlijk nooit geen aandacht besteed aan deze dinosaurussen van de hardrock. Dat moest nu eindelijk maar eens een keer gaan veranderen en de nieuwe plaat ‘The Visitor’ was een prima aanleiding om het lange stilzwijgen eens te doorbreken. Drummer Andy Parker was de zeer aangename gesprekspartner van dienst…
The band UFO is in existence already for about forty years. What is it that drives you and keeps you motivated to continue this lifestyle of recording albums and doing tours over and over again?
It’s the simple fact that we still enjoy it so much. When you love to do something, you will find the natural energy to go on and on. Furthermore the band still consists of a great bunch of guys and we’re still capable of creating some very good music.
The band has seen many line-up changes during all those years and especially the position of the guitar player has been a problem now and again. With Vinnie (Moore) in the band this situation seems to have changed for the better. Why do things work out so well with Vinnie?
First of all because he’s just an incredible guitar player and secondly he’s also a great guy which makes it easy to get along with him. Besides that he’s very dependable and he will never let the band down. There were times where we weren’t quite as stable, I won’t mention any names here…haha, and as they say the chain is as strong as its weakest link. To be successful in a band situation commitment is very important and with Vinnie in the band the days of cancelling shows because our guitar player didn’t show up are over.
How did you recruit Vinnie in the first place, since he’s coming from the other side of the ocean?
I myself was actually not in the band at that time, but what I heard is that the band opened for him during some show or festival in the States. He made a great impression on the guys and when the band was in need of a new guitar player he immediately came to mind. We asked him if he was interested and he joined the band shortly thereafter.
Your previous album ‘The Monkey Puzzle’ was released about three years ago, in 2006. What did you think yourself of that album?
For me personally it felt like a triumph, because I had rejoined the band just before that album was recorded and released. I absolutely had not planned to get back in the band but I was very happy that they called me to rejoin. I hadn’t played in a long time and wasn’t particularly pleased with my playing at that time. Recording ‘The Monkey Puzzle’ was therefore a challenge, but we succeeded in delivering a solid album with some great songs on it. The new one is definitely a lot better, since we’ve been playing together for a longer period of time.
Shortly after the release of that album, in February 2007, you broke your ankle and you place during the gigs was taken by Simon Wright. What happened and why did the band choose for Simon to take your place?
I just slipped over a wet floor and as a result broke my ankle. It happened right before the tour and in the beginning I still had hope that I could make it, but it proved to be too risky in the end. Simon was available, since Dio was in hibernation because of the Heaven And Hell tour and he knew the material so he was the obvious choice to replace me.
The problem with UFO is that new albums will always be compared with classics like ‘Obsession’, ‘Lights Out’ and one of the best live-albums ever recorded ‘Strangers In The Night’ and will never get a fair chance. Do you also see it like this and how do you cope with it?
We don’t think about it. We just go in, do the best we can and hope that it will appeal to the people. Our music comes from the heart and is not formulated to be commercial. Nowadays it’s difficult to get airplay as a rock band and we feel privileged that despite of this we’re still able to do what we do.
When did you actually start with the preparations for ‘The Visitor’ and how did the songwriting process look like?
We finished touring at the end of August last year and after that we took about three weeks off before we started compiling new material. Vinnie, Paul, Phil and myself started sending e-mails with MP3-files to exchange ideas and via that way slowly but surely the ideas started to transform into real songs. During the rehearsal sessions, which took place in Hannover in February we chose the best songs to fit on our new album.
I heard that you wrote about 35 songs for this new album, while only ten of them are to be found on my promo-copy. What are you going to do with the rest of the material written?
Well, we didn’t really have over thirty finished songs, but it were more parts of songs that we had. From all the ideas that we had we chose the ten tracks that fitted best together for ‘The Visitor’ and the rest will maybe be used on later albums or on Vinnie’s solo album. We’ll see…
Pete Way was not involved during the recording of this album due to his liver disease. How is he now and who took care of the bass parts on the album?
The bass parts were played by Peter Pichl, the bass player of Nektar and a friend of our manager Peter Knorn. He really did a good job and it was great working with him. Of course we have experience with using other bass player, because of the fact that Pete is still not allowed to enter the US. In March the condition of Pete was quite okay, but I recently got an e-mail indicating that he’s not so well right now. I hope that this is just a temporary setback and that he will recover soon.
Will Pete be joining you for the live shows to promote the album or are you going to use a session player for that? If so, who will join you on stage?
For the first twenty dates or so Barry Sparks, who has played with us before already, will step in to take Pete’s spot. Depending on the condition of Pete, we will make a decision whether Barry needs to continue the tour or that Pete can reclaim his place as bass player of UFO.
Why was ‘The Visitor’ chosen for the album title? Is there a special meaning behind this?
I don’t think so, we’re always very nebulous with album titles. This gives people the opportunity to come up with there own ideas, we just guide them a little. The cover artwork is an 18th century etching by William Hogarth and it’s about a rich young musician who spends all his money on booze, gambling and women…sounds a little bit like a rock star of today…haha. Anyway, he ends up in an asylum and that’s depicted in the artwork, so he can be seen as a visitor of the asylum. In those days people could pay a penny to look through holes in the wall to the people in asylums and there’s a picture of that in the digipack version of ‘The Visitor’.
The songs on the album are typical mid-tempo UFO-songs with as always great vocals and guitar solos. Still a lot of people will say that you’ve been doing that for so many albums already and are not capable anymore of any surprises. Can you understand these statement and more importantly, do you care?
Not particularly, because you just can please everybody. As a band we haven’t stayed in the same formula, because the last two albums clearly show more blues influences than our seventies or eighties albums. I myself really like that side of the musical spectrum, but there will be people who like our rockier side more. As a band we don’t really care, as long as our fans just take notice and we receive some good feedback.
What are for you the best moments on the album and why?
I really like the whole album, but if I have to mention a couple of songs it would be ‘Living Proof’, which was written by Vinnie and the one that was partly written by me, the album closer ‘Stranger In Town’. For ‘Living Proof’, we were not sure at the beginning if it was a good song for us since it’s kind of funky and we’re not really a funk band. So we pushed it out to the last until we decided to record it, but we’re very happy how it came out. I think Phil’s voice is particularly strong on this track.
What are your expectations of the new album? When will the album be a success for you?
When we payback the money I guess…No seriously, for me it is already a success to have another UFO release. There are not too many bands in the position nowadays to be able to release albums on a regular basis and to have a strong record label like SPV behind you. We are doing tons of interviews at the moment so they’re really creating a lot of exposure for us. Furthermore they release the album in three formats (CD, digipack and vinyl), and we’re very happy with this.
Why do you think that there’s still a place for a bunch of old-timer like UFO? What’s the unique selling point of the band which makes sure that you still have a spot in today’s rock scene?
As long as there are people out there that want to hear us, we do have a spot in the music scene. We found a record company which believes that we’re still interesting enough to release records and there are still lots of people showing up at our gigs and I think that all the reason you need to still have a spot in the scene.
As always the band will do a big tour to promote the new album. Do you already have the concrete plans laid out or is the touring plan still in development?
We start the end of this month and will tour until August. After that we will have a short break and in September and October we will be playing in the US. From November until Christmas we will come back to Europe again before heading out to Japan and the US once more in early 2010. So the next nine months or so are already mapped out for us.
Fans will always expect to hear the UFO classics songs like ‘Doctor Doctor’, ‘Love To Love’, ‘Rock Bottom’, ‘Lights Out’ and many more. Which songs will you be adding from your latest releases and doesn’t it bore you to be playing those oldies for the millionth time?
No, never! I can’t tell you yet what we will be playing from our new album(s), because we haven’t really decided yet, but of course people will always ask to play the old classics and as long as people enjoy them, we will keep on playing them.
I’ve witnessed your show in Tilburg in 2006 and was quite surprised that after all those years Phil’s voice is still as strong as ever, where other singers of his generation have lost much of the power already. How is it possible that Phil’s voice is still holding out, despite of the fact that it’s commonly known that he’s not living the healthiest lifestyle?
Haha…that’s a very diplomatic way of putting it! It’s like Phil has a deal with the devil, because his voice never lets him down and to be honest, I think that he’s getting better still. Although he’s doesn’t exactly live a real healthy lifestyle, he works hard to keep his voice in shape by working out. He’s still very energetic, a real ball of fire. I wouldn’t worry too much about his singing capabilities.
You’ve been in the music business already for quite a number of years. What have been the positive as well as the negative changes that you’ve seen in the business?
The negative change is really that it’s almost impossible nowadays to get any airplay as a rock band. I live in Texas and when they play classic rock it’s always the same old stuff from the seventies and eighties. Don’t get me wrong, I also think those were great periods for classic rock music, but if they don’t play any new stuff, how on earth is it going to become classic rock some day? The positive change in the business is really ability to record your stuff digital nowadays. It’s quicker, cheaper and better.
We’ve been talking quite extensively about the past, present and short-term future, but is there anything that you still want to accomplish within your musical career?
Yeah, I would still love to go to places where we have never played before like New Zealand or Australia. It would really be nice to take the band there and play the places that we’ve never played before.
Okay Andy, thanks for you time and willingness to answer my questions. As always, the famous last words are yours?
I would like to thank you for your time and hope to see you when we play in Uden somewhere in the beginning of June (the 7th to be exact – Sjak). If you happen to be there, make sure to say hi! By the way, you have a great family name for a rock journalist..haha!
UFO - The Visitor REVIEW
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