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Mick Box Interview;

Uriah Heep Sets Up Three Night Residency

At The Kent Stage

Classic rockers Uriah Heep played to a sold-out crowd last year at The Kent Stage.  This year, the band will be out supporting Judas Priest on their spring tour. 


However, Uriah Heep is playing a few headlining gigs between the Priest shows and they decided to set up a three-night residency at The Kent Stage from May 9th - May 11th.


Founding member Mick Box recently called from his home office in London to discuss his career and his upcoming appearance in Kent.  

Greg Drugan:  Have you ever toured with Judas Priest before, because that is a great double bill?


Mick Box:  Yeah we did, back in the ages!  Then earlier this year we played with them in Germany and that went very well.  They were looking for a British band to be a special guest on this tour and we fit the bill.


GD:  Yes, you do!  You are doing a few headlining shows between some Priest gigs.  We are excited that you will be in Kent for three shows, why did you choose Kent to set up a small residency?


MB:  We are!  Thank goodness for that so we can spread our wings.  We can't wait for that, mate!  We had a great time the last time and to be doing three shows will be magic! 


GD:  I know that there will be people from the surrounding states driving in to see you shows here.


MB:  Wow, that's fantastic.  Can't wait!


GD:  So you recently re-released Demons and Wizards on 180 gram vinyl.  Why do you think there has been a resurgence of vinyl records in the past couple of years?


MB:  I think it's been pretty boutique all along the way.  It's just grown and grown.  I can't really give you an answer besides it's a great medium to listen to music on.  Although some people are just finding out! (laughs) I think everyone is fed up with everything being squashed down on MP3's. 

GD:  I grew up in the '70s and '80s and to hold a vinyl record and to look at the artwork and to read the liner notes, kids today don't really know what its like to play a vinyl record so I'm glad it's making a comeback.

MB:  Yeah, I'm very glad too.  It's gone into an eclectic thing with all the different colors and things, which is cool.


GD:  Are there any plans to re-issue The Magician’s Birthday or other albums?


MB:  That's not our decision, that' s BMG who own's them.  I can't see that there's one that they won't do.  It's coming up on our 50th Anniversary in 2020, and they are looking at doing an amazing box set with lots of extra stuff so it may be in there.

GD:  That's fantastic, we got a little exclusive there!

MB:  Cool, mate!


GD:  You released Living The Dream last year.  What inspires you to still create new music?  

MB:  I've always had a passion for playing guitar and being in a band.  I think that passion is what drives you and gives you energy to continue on.  We play concerts in sixty-one countries and play 150 shows a year.  We get to do something we love and it's the best job in the world.


GD:  Looking back on your career, who inspired you to pick up a guitar and do you play any other instruments?


MB:  That's very simple.  I went for guitar lessons and the guitar teacher was the second guitarist for Django Reinhardt.  It was very jazz based.  I went there every week for about six months, then I got fed up waiting because he would give me something to do on a Saturday that should last all week.  I would learn it in two hours.  I had to move on fast because I couldn't wait around all week, so I became self-taught.   I was more jazz-based with Django and of course Les Paul and Mary Ford.   

That was kind of my entry, but then I moved on to the Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran school of music.  Then that kinda died down The Beatles and The Stones.  Then the rebellion come with bands like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple.  Where they had their own skyline of amplifiers and long hair, and bell-bottoms.  The great thing is a lot of great music came out of that time and it stood the test of time.  People love it in the live arena's and their own homes, which is wonderful.


GD:  Who was the first artist you saw in concert and how did that impact you?


MB:  It was a band called Johnny Kidd and the Pirates.  They had a song called "Shaking All Over" and it had a great intro riff.  The second thing I went to was Them, with Van Morrison singing.  They had a similar song, with a great riff and those two things drew me in.  I didn't want to do anything else but play guitar.


GD:  You had a lot of success in the '70s both recording and touring, do you have any memories of playing in the Cleveland and Akron area back then?


MB:  I do actually, because it was one of our breaking points.  We played there with Alvin Lee and Ten Years After. We supported them there in Cleveland.  Alvin had just come from England because he was treated like a pop-star because he was a good looking guy.  He just wanted to play guitar and make music, he wasn't into the pop stuff.  But his face kept appearing in magazines.  He rebelled against it.  We played our show in Cleveland and it went down amazingly well, they didn't want us to leave the stage.  Alvin came out and played with Ten Years after and all of the paparazzi came out and started taking his picture.  He got fed up and told the guys to take their pictures and, well the polite way to say it is to "have sex and travel." (laughs)  Alvin told us great job afterwards.  He was a great guitarist and great guy.

GD:  After several lineup changes, what made you want to carry on with Uriah Heep?

MB:  Well, it's my band in the first place.  It's kinda my baby.  We had a couple of people pass away, one was David Byron who died of alcoholism and Gary Thain died of drugs.  The reason to keep the band going because David was such a stand-out vocalist, he had great charisma and was a great front-man.  Gary Thain had some of the best bass-lines that you ever hear on record.  To keep Uriah Heep going, kept their legacy alive.  


GD:  After going through several lineup changes, how did you find Phil and Bernie?


MB:  I found Phil who was in the band called The Sweet.  They were doing a tour in Australia and I tracked him down in Tasmania.  I said I'm not poaching but I saw you play in a band called Grand Prix and I think you'd be perfect for Uriah Heep.  But if you are set to be in Sweet, I fully understand.  But if you are just doing this tour, I think I've got something to offer you.  It ended up me giving him a set list over the phone and he went out and got all of the cassettes and when he got back, it was like he'd been in the band forever! (laughs)

I found Bernie Shaw who was at the Marquee Club and he was playing the last show with a band that had Clive Burr, the original drummer for Iron Maiden in it.  I was looking for a singer who had a range and Bernie had the range that I was looking for.  He had the range and he had his own unique sound.  I always sing the high harmony and I felt like our voices meshed very, very well.  I met him afterwards, then I went to his flat and had a few brandies too many.  He came down for the audition and he was the perfect fit.  He was the first singer since David that the fans warmed up to.  That made it all feel good.

GD:  Like I said, you will be at The Kent Stage for three shows in May, what can fans expect from the show and will you be playing different sets each night?

MB:  Were gonna mix it up over the three nights for sure!  We will play seven tracks from Living The Dream.  Then we'll play loads of old tracks, classic tracks and we'll mix it up too. It will be a great run from our first album to our last.

GD:  It sounds exciting!  I know the last time you were here, you sold it out so we're hoping to pack it all three nights for you.

MB:  We hope so, my friend.  It's a lovely venue and we really enjoy playing there.

GD:  Mick, thank you so much for your time and I'm looking forward to seeing you soon!

MB:  Thank you so much and thank you for your support.  Much appreciated!  Cheers, mate! 

Be sure to catch Uriah Heep during their three night residency at The Kent Stage from May 9th through May 11th.  Tickets start at $44 and you can get your tickets by clicking here

Photo credit:  Richard Stow

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