by Steve Patrick
Staff Writer –
Andy Parker of UFO is No Bone Rider
Eddie Trunk can end his hunger strike. British rock legends UFO have just released their most recent album Seven Deadly. On the record, UFO demonstrates that they still possess the heaviness and quality songwriting that has cemented their reputation as the musician’s rock band.
The well-oiled rock machine that is UFO has had drummer Andy Parker manning the engine room for over forty years now. Mr. Parker took some time to speak with Hardrock Haven about the new album, the band’s relationship with estranged bassist Pete Way, and playing drums in a swimming pool.
HRH: Well, let’s just jump right into it. How did the band want to follow-up 2009’s The Visitor?
Andy Parker: That’s kind of a tough one, Steve. It’s pretty much as always, you know. We weren’t absolutely sure we’d get another album because SPV had gone through some changes, but once they decided they were going to keep going and that they wanted us to do another album, then it’s just basically pitching the ideas and getting on with it.
HRH: Can you describe how the UFO of today typically writes a new album?
AP: Well, normally it would be Vinnie Moore (guitar) and myself…and Pete (Way) when he was in the band, obviously we don’t have a full time bass player right now, so the writing process is pretty much left down to the rest of us. This time around I didn’t really do much. I had kind of a busy year. My kid was getting married and stuff, so…yeah, we were on the road a lot, so it was kind of just when it came time to do the album the guys pitched in their ideas.
Traditionally what happens is we pitch in the ideas and Phil (Mogg, vocals) listens to them, decides which ones he can kind of feed off of, and we come down to a short list. Then we go into the studio and record those as backing tracks and he works on his vocals from there. I mean, quite often he’ll give us kind of a lyric idea or a hookline or a melody…some kind of phrasing ideas, but we don’t normally hear the finished product until it is actually finished.
I did the drums…the drums and bass were done in Germany at Area 51 with Tommy Newton (producer). Phil worked there too…Phil did his vocals. He tends to work out of his home studio in Delaware. He feels more comfortable there…he’s got all his stuff there. Paul (Raymond, keyboards/guitar) kind of worked between London at a studio he likes in London and Area 51. It’s not that far for him…from London to Hanover so it’s a pretty close commute. I think the only reason he doesn’t do everything in Hanover is he likes to use a grand piano and a B3, so Tommy doesn’t have those there…so Paul found a studio in London that did.
HRH: Who performed the bass parts on Seven Deadly?
AP: By this time, if you remember last time around it was a German bass player, Peter Pichl, that we used. This time around, it’s another German bass player named Lars Lehmann and he was a buddy of Vinnie’s. Vinnie had used him in some solo stuff and suggested that he was a great bass player, which he is…and a great guy. He was available and he was in Hanover, so that made things easier because at least he was around when I put the drum tracks down which was nice. We got to do the bass and drums together.
HRH: That kind of leads into the next question, how is Pete doing?
AP: Eh, well I mean I haven’t seen him probably in little over a year. Last time I saw him he was pretty much the same, as usual. That’s a tough one. I mean, you know, the story with Pete is he’s basically on hiatus from the band because of his lifestyle choices. It was really starting to affect his performance and the band in general, although it really fell on Phil’s shoulders to make the decision…that he kinda needed to sit out and pull himself together.
Poor old Pete. He started off with a good attitude, but he kind of fell by the wayside, so I don’t see him returning any time soon. I mean, obviously we’re all hoping that he will be back and that he will sort himself out, but the last time I saw him he was still pretty much in the state that he had been for a while. Now, funny enough, he’s actually been doing some stuff with Michael (Schenker) which I can understand, from a fan’s point of view, is pretty confusing, you know? Why is he out there with Michael and not with us?
It’s just a matter of degrees with Pete. I think the deal was with Michael is that Michael had him along, but he also had another bass player along to cover the playing duties…which works fine for Michael, but we won’t do that. If he’s going to be in the band then he has to step and play too, so…like I said, we love him to death. We really hope that he’s going to be back, but at this point in time I don’t see it happening in the near future.
HRH: So, I was curious, early on there was a press release stating that the album would be titled Last of the Bone Riders…what prompted the change from that original title?
AP: *laughs* Well, oh boy…this all started early last year and Phil had come up with concept, he’d come up with this title. It was either going to be Bone Riders or Last of the Bone Riders, as you quite rightly pointed out. So, he didn’t get very good feedback from us about it. To be terribly blunt with it, people were saying it sounded like some sort of gay porno movie, right? *laughs* So, he started taking an opinion poll about it and he was kind of getting mixed reviews from it. His whole concept was more of a biker kind of thing. So, anyway, I can’t remember exactly where it was, but we were in a bar of a hotel somewhere, just relaxing and this whole thing came up because we were going over songs, you know, just coming up with a short list of songs for the album and this question of the title came up again. So, he asks the bartender. He goes, “Alright, I’ll ask the bartender. They’re always good to get feedback off of.” So he asks this bartender, “Look, if I said to you a title Last of the Bone Riders, what would you think?” The guy looks right at Phil and says, “Sounds like a gay porno to me.” *laughs* So Phil said, “Right, I’m not going to use that title and I’ll come up with something else.” Fair enough.
Well maybe it was a few weeks later we were playing in St. Charles, Illinois. We had a gig there and we were staying just about two blocks from the gig in a nice hotel. It was a beautiful evening. Well as we’re walking down to the show and as we’re walking down there there’s this group of people coming the other way and this guy had a t-shirt that showed a skeleton riding a motorcycle on it and it said “Bone Riders” on it! So Phil’s going, “Yes! See, I told you it’s a bike thing! It’s a bike thing!” and he traded the guy his shirt right there for a UFO shirt and he’s bouncing around ecstatic, so then Bone Riders came back in on the list.
But, I think what happened was that eventually SPV announced ahead of time that the album was going to be called Last of the Bone Riders and it got some pretty negative feedback on the website. So, once again he changed it, but then he came up with Seven Deadly which was out of left field for us obviously because we were all expecting it to be the Bone Riders, but I think it worked out for the better. *laughs*
HRH: Here’s a song-specific question for you. In the song “Wonderland” off of Seven Deadly, what is “the monkey” that Phil keeps referring to?
AP: I think “the monkey” is whatever you want it to be. I mean, we’ve all got our own theories about it. I think it would spoil it for me to come up with mine. I have to be totally honest with you, I don’t know what Phil was actually referring to with “the monkey.” He’s got a thing about monkeys. I mean, it’s come up with The Monkey Puzzle, “Hard Being Me” has got a monkey in it, and there’s even a song on You Are Here that mentions monkeys. So, I guess he just likes monkeys, but I guess it’s whatever you want. I always see it as a “monkey on your back” kind of thing, but it can be whatever you want.
HRH: Seven Deadly is a really hard-hitting album right from the start…
AP: Yeah! More cowbell! *laughs* I’m a lot happier with the drum sound on this album than I have been maybe with the last couple. That’s fairly well known amongst the band. I mean, I wasn’t real happy with the drum sound on the last couple of albums. You know, not for any particular reason, it just sounded to me to be a bit lackluster.
Now the interesting thing is, although I did this with Tommy and it’s still Area 51, it’s actually a new studio. He moved right before we did this album. He moved to a new building and I actually recorded the drums in a swimming pool, believe it or not, obviously minus the water. It’s just a building that he found that had an indoor swimming pool which just turned out to be a great room for drums, so they put a floor in the bottom of it and the drums actually sat down in the pool.
It just gave them a really good sound. I think he’s really on a winner with this. It’s the best drum sound I’ve heard him come up with in a long time. So yeah, I think it’s a lot heavier. I think the material on the album is a bit heavier. It’s still got that blues feel that was in the band when I came back in 2005 and did Monkey Puzzle, they moved into that bluesy vein, which is fine by me because that’s kind of where the band started. It’s kind of like full circle and it’s very comfortable for me. This one’s got a little bit more edge to it I think which’ll please a lot of the fans.
HRH: Well Andy, I want to thank you so much for sharing your time with us today. It’s been a pleasure talking with you.
AP: Thank you so much and if we ever come your way come out and see us. Come say hi and we’ll grab a beer.