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21st SEPTEMBER 2010
IT'S JUST UFO: AN INTERVIEW WITH ANDY PARKER
You may think you readily recognize the all-time great hard rock and heavy metal bands of the last 40 years, but your story wouldn't be complete without mention of UFO. Throughout the ups and downs of the industry, the trend shifts, and numerous lineup changes, UFO has always written great songs and delivered the goods live. Many will point to albums like 1975's Force It, 1976's No Heavy Petting, 1977's Lights Out, and 1978's Obsession as the definitive period of the band, but that would be selling far too short a run of terrific long players released since that time, whether it is 1982's Mechanix, 1995's Walk on Water, or 2002's Sharks, the last with an in-and-out and now presumably out for good Michael Schenker. What is most heartening is that guitar wizard Vinnie Moore's entrance into the band for 2004's You Are Here began another run of damn fine, blues-based rock albums that also included 2006's The Monkey Puzzle and 2009's The Visitor. It is a period that rejuvenated UFO as a band that has never sounded more confident nor more cohesive as unit, one that also includes drummer Andy Parker, vocalist Phil Mogg, guitarist/keyboardist Paul Raymond, and – though not currently active with the band for health reasons – bassist Pete Way. The release of The Best of a Decade (SPV) captures the best songs from the Moore-era thus far. Parker phoned to talk about the new compilation, as well as a few other insightful tidbits.
MAA: I didn't realize you lived in Texas.
Andy Parker: Yeah, I've been here for about five years now. I'm about an hour and a half southwest of Dallas. I'd been in California from '75 to '94, a long time there and raised my kids there. Then I went back to England in '94 and was working for my family. Then I got sick of that [laughs] and wanted to come back to the States, but didn't really know where I wanted to go and then I ended up here. I fit right in here. In California it was like nobody that lived there was actually from there. In L.A. even the weather is shallow. The difference in Texas is that people are very much what you see is what you get. It's kind of radical right down to the weather, but I find it rather refreshing. I'm at home here. I've got my pickup truck and have acquired a taste for bourbon [laughs].
Andy Parker: It was really good! I have to say that we did notice the economy. Our fans are just brilliant and they always turn out and they always support us, but we did notice it, especially Pittsburgh and around there. Walking around down the street and going to get lunch or whatever you just saw the difference. I was at a drug store buying something and there was some poor woman in front of me that just wanted to buy something and she had no money. She looked so scrubby and the manager of the store was really trying to help her. She was trying to return something to buy something else and he was like "Ma'am this has already been opened and we can't take it." It was just so sad. You see people hurting and I'm not used to that in this country. I love this country; I've spent a lot of my life here and it's sad to see it hurting. You're not used to it. There were times in England where it was just like Poverty Rock [laughs] and coming here it was like the land of plenty. Even in Texas it's finally starting to catch up here. We kind of rode it out for a while and didn't notice it, but things are getting a little bit dire here, but hopefully it'll turn around soon. But with the gigs on that tour it was mainly that maybe we didn't sell quite as much merchandise because people didn't have the extra money to spend, but that's just gravy anyway. I'm very appreciative.
MAA: Are you doing another U.S. tour any time soon?
Andy Parker: As far as I know we've got this one coming up in Chicago on September 19th [The show, Loopfest, was cancelled – SA], providing that Paul and Phil get their work visas. Then we're not out again until we head to Europe; we're doing Scandinavian and Lithuania and some places. Maybe in December we may have some big shows in England, like these pre-Christmas Hard Rock Hell gigs. Then I'm really hoping we'll be out to the States in the early part of next year. Hopefully, we'll have another album out too; we've been working on material.
MAA: Strangers in the Night ['79 double live album] was recorded primarily in Chicago, wasn't it?
Andy Parker: Yeah, it was. There may have been a couple of other tracks from some of the others, but the majority of that album was Chicago at The Ampitheatre. I don't think it's even there anymore; it's gone apparently. That area became like no man's land. That was fun times.
MAA: It is considered one of the greatest live rock albums of all time; a definitive statement.
Andy Parker: It's a definitive UFO album I think. Even though we've got like 20 studio albums or so, Strangers in the Night to me really defined the band. I think to really appreciate UFO you have to see them live; I always felt that. That's why I really like Strangers… and it still holds up! People still remember and praise that album. It's kind of a blur for me [laughs].
MAA: Regarding The Best of a Decade, the first question would be "Why another compilation album now?" Was it just time to showcase the Vinnie Moore era of the band? What was the thinking here?
Andy Parker: I have to be totally honest with you and say that as far as I'm aware it was SPV's idea to do this. We didn't go into anything saying "Oh, it's time for a Best Of" or anything. I think with SPV if you look at what's been going on with them recently, they've had a lot of problems. I mean it's also been over a year since we put an album out too. SPV went into receivership or thereabouts and they seem to be coming through strong again. I think it's probably that they felt it was time and that they had enough material. Basically Vinnie was in the band a few years before I came back into the band in 2005. So they've got quite a collection of material with the [live] Showtime stuff, The Monkey Puzzle, You are Here, and The Visitor. It's worthy material and Vinnie is a great guitar player who deserves to be showcased. And then they had Jason [Bonham] on You Are Here and Jason is one hell of a player! So I think all of the material is very worthwhile. And maybe it'll give SPV a shot in the arm and it certainly doesn't do us any harm to get the name out there and keep it sort of in the news while we're working on another studio album. I'm quite happy they're doing it and there's a few tracks that I was on too from The Monkey Puzzle and The Visitor, which I'm obviously really happy with.
MAA: It does represent well the current era of the band. When you listen to it front to back it is surprisingly cohesive and really highlights the best of those albums.
Andy Parker: Yeah, SPV does a good job. The last album The Visitor they put out in two different CD formats and vinyl for Christ's sake! Who would have thought I'd ever be on another vinyl album? When I came back to the band in 2005 it kind of caught me out of the blue. I was incredibly happy to be back, but then to get the chance to make not one, but two albums and then have one on vinyl was just like "man!" For us old guys you can actually read what's on the album [laughs]! Some of the CDs you need a magnifying glass [laughs]!
MAA: Vinyl has made a pretty big comeback from seemingly out of nowhere.
Andy Parker: Yeah, isn't that incredible? We've got this young kid that comes by the house once in a while and I give him some money for work he does; I had him out in the garden today spreading mulch around. But him and his friends are into like LED ZEPPELIN and AC/DC and they like vinyl! It's very refreshing to see. We've always seen the younger kids at our gigs that came with their parents, but I'm starting now to see a whole other generation of kids that have discovered UFO. They hit the ZEPPELIN and the AC/DC stuff and then they start delving a little bit deeper and discover UFO. Seeing these kids at the shows is really, really exciting.
MAA: There are some songs on this album that I kind of rediscovered or ended up enjoying more now than when they were first released, such as "Black and Blue" [from The Monkey Puzzle].
Andy Parker: It's a great song, isn't it? There is some great stuff on this release.
MAA: In general, the last decade of UFO, especially the Vinnie Moore albums, has showed a great blues emphasis in the band's sound. The blues basis has always been there to some extent, just like many classic British rock acts, but it has really come to the forefront in a way and you've perfected it in the manner in which you write songs.
Andy Parker: Isn't it? Especially the last two albums I'm on. I couldn't help but notice just how bluesy it was. The strange thing to me is if you listen to Vinnie as a solo artist you don't hear it so much. You talk to him and he'll tell you he's been influenced by all these guys like the Kings; B.B., Freddie, and Albert and all that stuff is there, but the solo stuff is far more technical and far more shredding. But you put him in with Phil and Paul and it's just amazing where he goes with it. And on a lot of the stuff he comes up with the ideas. On "Saving Me" with that slide guitar and stuff it's just incredible. For me it's just so comfortable because it's kind of where I started with the band. I came out of that mid to late 60's blues boom; that's kind of where I met the guys. Phil turned me on to a lot of stuff that I hadn't listened to. He was really into HOWLIN' WOLF and some great blues stuff. As Phil's voice has matured it really lends itself to it.
MAA: Oh man, the guy has got soul!
Andy Parker: He does! He's got more soul now than he had back then. You listen to that guy and he's the only original guy that has been in it the whole time and I listen to him now and he still comes up with great lyrics and his voice when you compare it to the earlier stuff it's just great!
MAA: He is the master with not only the sound of his voice, but phrasing and nuance and the way he'll emphasize certain words in such a unique way.
Andy Parker: Absolutely! One of the things that I've always liked about him and this and in general is that we never were trend followers. We never said "Oh, this is what's happening now and we need to sound like this and be doing this" It's always just been "Well, here's what I've got and here's what I've got" and it's just been whatever we've been feeling at the time. Then we just see what comes out and that still goes on now. You don't put your ear to the ground and write in that direction; this is just UFO.
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