Mick Box – URIAH HEEP (interview)

Uriah Heep Australian Tour 2015 – Mick Box “the Outsider.

By MARK SNEDDEN

Uriah Heep are one of the pioneers of metal, alongside Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and The Scorpions. They have released twenty four albums over a career spanning forty five years, and through various line-ups, have always released quality albums. Uriah Heep has always had success in Australia, both in sales and live shows and they are returning to Australia in March, after five years. So I recently caught up with Mick Box, the founding guitarist and music mastermind of the band and the man who has navigated the Heep throughout its history, staying true to the band’s name and legacy, whilst keeping the band fresh and relevant.

Initially we talked about the new album, Outsider, and how the writing for this album come together. Mick was very positive about the album and explained that it came together very quickly. “Myself and Phil the keyboardist co-wrote all of the songs. We brought some songs in to the studio for the band and from here we would dig through ideas and start arranging things. When we felt something that felt right we went off and wrote the song in its entirety. So it is a blank canvas of an idea or ideas, and then we work them through the band and go from there. It was really fast this time around, eleven tracks completed in ten days. All of the tracks really felt good straight away so there was no stress or frustration with this album.”

The album has a great sound and musically is as tight as Uriah Heep has ever been, and it introduced new bass player Dave Rimmer, who replaced Trevor Bolder who lost his battle with cancer just a few years ago. So I was interested to know if he contributed a lot to the sound and writing of the album. “Dave had a difficult job following Trevor. Dave has done a marvellous job and he locked in with Russel and made a tight rhythm section. It was natural having him on the album as he help out when Trevor became ill with live shows. Dave has handled the situation very well and he plays fantastically and brings a new feel but is faithful to our sound.”

Focusing now on Trevor and his passing Mick detailed how pivotal he was to the band, both as a musician and song writer. It must have been a tough doing the first album with this line-up, without Trevor Bolder, so I asked Mick how this effected the creation and recording of Outsider? “It was difficult it impacted on us immensely as you could imagine. He gave us another dimension and was a part of the band that gave balance. He was there in spirit though, I am sure of that, and there are references to him in the making of the album. What we did decide to do was not to try and do a progressive rock album; we wanted it to be straight out rock album and to just focus on our chemistry.”

Mick and I started talking about the Celebration album, a collection of Uriah Heep classics rerecorded by the current line-up, minus Dave Rimmer, released in 2009. “The Celebration album highlights how some of the songs have changed over the years. It was a good calling card and it was a way to move into the band and get a feel for us if you haven’t been a Heep fan. It worked very well, we record live all of the time in the studio and this comes through in the tracks on this album and it gives it real groove. This is really true with Celebration. However, this gets tricky, you need to be focussed and on top of the game as you don’t want to blow takes. This gives albums an edge and an organic feel. So Celebration did very well for us and gave us a bit of a rebirth worldwide really.”

Now to your current live show, where has the tour for Outsider been so far?We started the actual tour about November last year. We have done a European tour up until Christmas. The main body was in Germany and we moved out in to other countries from there. We started up again in Russia this year and then Tel Aviv and Israel. We then did a rock cruise with a heap of big rock acts. Next we do an American tour East to West and then we come to Australia and New Zealand. From this point we will hopefully keep touring till the end of the year.”

So what should Australian audiences expect from your shows in March? “We will play some tracks off Outsider and we are proud of our history and so will make sure that people hear the songs that they want to hear. We will also put in some tracks that we haven’t played for some time to keep the set interesting and different. So a bit of everything really.”

I saw Uriah Heep play the Enmore Theatre in Sydney on the last tour in 2010 and the band was on fire and so we started talking about this gig. They had the audience eating out of their hands, playing a blistering set, including tracks from their back catalogue up until their latest album at the time, Wake the Sleeper. So I probed Mick on how Uriah Heep keep things so fresh on stage after all of these years? “I remember that show very well in Sydney, we were very jet lagged. But we knew we had a job to do and we got in to it and once on stage the adrenaline kicked in. I think the honest answer about staying fresh though, is we have the honesty and the passion for what we do. We are most happy when we are on stage and people do feel this. We are not a bunch of musicians who don’t interact and we genuinely love what we do and as long as this continues, we will continue, and I guess keep that freshness.”

Are there any countries left for Uriah Heep to visit or is there anywhere that you really want to play? “Yes of course! We haven’t played in China, and I would love to go there if we have an audience. Also Egypt but I don’t know if there are fans there either. We have been fortunate to have played across nearly the whole world but there are definite places we haven’t played as yet.”

To finish off our conversation I asked Mick if there was anything he would like to say to his Australian fans ahead of the tour in March? “We are super excited to be coming out to Australia again. It has been a long time since we were there and we want to play the best rock show we can ever play. So to anyone who wants to know what the Heep are about, come and check us out!”

Mick was extremely enthusiastic and came across as a musician who is not only focussed, but enjoying what he is doing in Uriah Heep. He is, in my opinion, the most underrated guitarist out of the metal pioneers of the seventies and is an individual who transcends ego. Considering how amazing Uriah Heep were on their last Australian tour this is a show not to be missed. Tickets are available through Metropolis Touring and Ticketek, with a VIP Meet and Greet package. Check out the Metropolis Touring website below for more details –

http://www.metropolistouring.com

 UHEAAAAAAP

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