© Kevin Julie


I recently got the opportunity to speak with Heep's singer - Canadian born Bernie Shaw, and legendary guitarist / founder -

Mick Box about the band's new album "Sonic Origami", and the current World Tour - which is going to HIT North America in September! I got to say, that having duffed attempts on the phone to get this thing done due to 'mechanical' problems at my end I was amazed that Mick and Bernie made a few attempts to get me in to their busy schedule while recently in New York for a 1 week promo campaign! Truly fine gentlemen, and , well -- what other band would go the extra mile to ensure such an interview is not scrapped? (Even the screaming baby didn't deter them!). What impressed me most about these guys is their enthusiasm about everything they do! The band seems determined to make a major run to recapture a big fan base in North America -- a fan base that dwindled over 20 years of scarce tours, and releases here. The band is set to regain the respect they rightly deserve here, and judging by their comments and positive attitude it all seems a very possible concept! Best of luck to them, Lord knows they deserve it!!





Q: What sort of stuff have you guys been doing during the week for promotion -- doing any radio or TV shots?

Bernie: No TV, we did some radio stuff, some live stuff here, a lot of phoners -- everywhere from to Vancouver to where were werem we were talking to somebody today back in England!

Q: Congratulations on the new album! I think it's great! I had the CD on at work the other day, and when "Across The Miles" came on a buddy asked "what is that? I love the guy's voice on that - it's great! He didn't click in that it was a Survivor song.

Bernie: Well, it wasn't really a Survivor song as much as it was written by the guys that did all the writing for them.

Q: I have the 45 somewhere, i think it's a promo only or something.

Bernie: I don't think it did what they expected it to do.

Q: Well, it's a great version!

Bernie: It's a good song, it's a beautiful song. I think every girl that I've played it to so far said (high voice) "that's my favorite song!", ha ha.....

Q: I love all the ballads on the album. My favorite's probably "Shelter From The Rain".

Bernie: Shelter's a good one. I think mine is probably "Heartless Land".

Q: When you guys come over here how is the live set going to change?

Bernie: We put the live set together for Europe we had 8 tracks from Sonic, 3 of Sea Of Light, and then the classics. So we'll change it a little bit for over here. For instance we always play "Lady in Black" over there, for Germany and Scandinavia because it was a very big hit, but not necessarily over here. We have to chop and change - we might put say "The Wizard" or "July Morning" in instead. We'll chop and change it a little bit, but it will 2 - thirds new stuff, and 1 third of the old classics that we always have to play.

Q: What are some of the highlights you can tell me from the tour so far?

Bernie: I think the Highlight of the Year was about 3 weeks ago - we were invited at the last minute to play in Kiev. We were in the Ukraine in April and we did a couple of good shows there, and we were invited to play in the maine square in Kiev and we had a Hundred and Forty Thousand people!! It was only us and 3 pretty unknown Russian and Ukrainian bands. So considering the next day (the Sunday) Metallica, Smokie, and Zurko were in the big stadium and they got 1500 people for Smokie and 7000 for Metallica. Having 140 thousand people -- that was just rockin'!

Q: Does the size make it any more intimidating?

Bernie: I think it's a little more louder when everybody starts singing! Ha ha ha.

Q: Was that a broadcast or anything?

Bernie: They broadcasted half of it on the TV, and I think they were recording some of it - 2 or 3 songs.

We don't usually like to have people recording songs because you end up coming there a year later and find that there's a counterfeit / black market thing happening.

Q: I want to talk more about Sonic Origami. I want to know more about the effects on your vocals on "I Hear Voices" - that sound you get.

Bernie: On the very opening? It was actually the way that they mixed it. They mixed it through an 'SM 57' going through a little combo Marshall amp - which gave it that very nasally - 1930s crackley radio -- which is actually quite in vogue now, especially with like Cher's new album, and they've really treated her voice to computer. It's the same sort of idea.

Q: How has the album been responded to from your end - In Europe?

Bernie: It's been accepted very well by the fans, but they had Sea Of Light a good few years ago, 4 years ago now, and that was a bit more 'balls to the wall' 'back to basics' Uriah Heep. It had some really good rock songs on it, and a couple of really nice ballads, but Sonic has gone like 'the next extension'. It wasn't copied - it was more of a "let's get a little more radio play, push the envelope a little bit more.......". Pip Williams is a good 'name' producer, which I think was the best choice to have. He brought the best out of us. And I think Mick and Phil as a songwriting team have come up with some really strong tracks, and Trevor's written the best tracks he ever has!

Q: I think Trevor's writing on the last couple of albums is amazing!

Bernie: Yeah, it's gone from strength to strength hasn't it!?

Q: He writes such unique stuff! I kind of break it up to where Mick and Phil write sort of more to the old style, and Trevor writes more ...

Bernie: A little bit more from the heart. He has his own distinct style. But I think just with his subject matter for lyrics he's gotten more broad and more wide, and more of a perspective, and it's good. We actually wrote a few choice words and few choice lyrics when we were together and in the studio, and we were working with melody lines, and they came like 80 per cent finished and he said : "Well I want to work with you on how you want to approach these songs.", where with Mick and Phil they're usually 100 per cent done, and a very good idea of how they want it done, and then just my interpretation.

Q: Now you don't actually get into the writing credits, but......

Bernie: I'm more like..I put my 2 cents in when it comes to the arrangements.

Q: How do you approach a song that's not your words?

Bernie: Very Carefully! Ha ha ha....Because you know when you write a song it's very close to your heart, and people don't like too many changes if possible. You know we're a five piece band, we're a very democratic band, and even Pip being like the sixth member definitely on this, if there was a comment to make it better - than "OK - let's try it!" We won't know until we try it and we go in and give it the best shot; sometimes it works, sometimes we kept it the way it was.

Q: Is there any leftover takes from the album?

Bernie: There's a few. We actually took it to the limit sound - quality wise, there's like 75 minutes. But things like "Everything In Life" was a leftover track from Sea Of Light; we wanted to put it on there and we didn't quite have the time and we were "Oh well, it's a good song -- we'll keep it in the bag!" Mick and Phil are always writing together; they've always got licks and chops going down, and "I'll record this on a 4 - track and save it for later...." They are true songwriters so the juices are always flowing.

Q: Are there any finished tracks?

Bernie: Not since Sonic began - just bits and pieces. We see a pretty long life for this CD. This album will take Uriah Heep onto the American stage into the new Millennium -- that's our main priority right now!

Q: How has the response been amongst the American people you've spoken to so far, such as reviewers...?

Bernie: So far it's been brilliant! Really really good! And Working with Spitfire Records - we're in a really good camp now. Mick and I feel the same - we haven't felt this comfortable with a record company in a LONG time. These guys are about as passionate about the music as we are! And that's always been the downfall -- that you're working with people that are looking at you as a straight commodity, and it's very very rare that you get a record that'll work as hard as the band do. But these guys are all hot; they're all music fans. They sign music that they want and they like! And it they're just behind it 110 per cent. Even Chip, Chip's done a really good job of farming out all the interviews and that, made sure that everybody's been solicited with the new CD and they got it. And the radio play is starting to pick up. Mick and I were out walking the street down Broadway yesterday at like 1 o'clock in the morning and there was a Virgin mega store so we walked in and there was 3 copies of Sonic there, which was really nice to see. So they're doing a very good job, and it's only the beginning. Once we're actually out here and touring, and people see the band, and hear the songs live - because they're more powerful live than they are on record.

Q: Yeah, that's some of the comments I've heard back...

Bernie: They've really transpired from studio to live version really well.

Q: You've been in the band now for over 12 years. You guys spend so much time together, what is it that prevents you from, uh...

Bernie: Going crazy?

Q: Killing each other!?

Bernie: I think because we're very similar people. We've got a very strong family commraderie. We've all got our eyes set in the same direction, and it's just a chemistry. we've got 5 guys moving in the same direction. And we are all passionate about what we do, and passionate about Uriah Heep, and we're just following the path. You've got to have something like that or there's no way a band could do 200 shows a year and live in each other's pockets like we do -- you'd just go crazy.

Q: How about the fans looking at Sonic Origami, have you had any comments as far as "a little more of the heavier stuff", or "a bit too much light stuff" -- anything like that?

Bernie: Well, we got one comment on the album and that was from a girl in Austria, and as soon as she saw the band live she said "I take it all back!" ha ha ha. Some people were expecting another Sea Of Light. That was definitely on the heavier side; we went back to the basics of the core progressions of what the guys were using in the old days like the construction of harmonies - because it was a very distinct style, and people were thinking Sonic Origami would've been Sea Of Light # 2, and we didn't -- we just went a completely different direction than that -- a more broad, more across the board, still good rock, but not quite as heavy. We picked up a little more acoustic stuff, but still really melodic, and a great way of doing harmonies that we hadn't done before. Pip had said "I want to try this, and try this...". We still got 5 voices, it's just where they're placed and how the actual harmonies are constructed. And he's a good singer, a good player, he'd been like producing Status Quo for the last 10 albums, he'd done stuff with the Moody Blues, so he's got a good pedigree, so when he had an idea - we listened. And he's definitely in the fold now! I think we'll be using him for a while.

Q: So you have plans to work with him again?

Bernie: Oh yes - definitely! I mean not too many bands can write 13 - 14 songs, go into a studio one day, and walk out with mixed masters in 8 weeks! I know some bands that take that long just to tune their guitars!

Q: Do you still keep contact with Canadian music?

Bernie: Unfortunately not. We're just so busy. The only time I get to sink my teeth into that is when I get back at Christmas and head down to the clubs and see what the bands are doing. They haven't seemed to move on much.

Q: What's up with that Kevin Williams project you did?

Bernie: Kevin's been so busy because once he had Rock Ridge re-built, because he had it on top of a mountain with his house, and then he moved into the city on the top of an office building. He took over an entire top floor of The Chandler Building in Victoria, and he built Rock-Ridge Studio, and it's a beautiful recording studio, but it's been taking all his time. And to pay the bills he's been doing radio adverts. So i asked him last Christmas because he was hoping to get it out on the market 2 years ago, and he said "I've literally not had the time!" But we sat back with a couple of beers and he played a couple of tracks, and I went - "Geez, you got some good songs here Kevin! Do something with it!" And he wants to re-do some drums because it was all done on a drum machine, so I said "Use Don Don Restall" - he's the guy that was in 'In Transit'. So he's been in contact with Dale Collins, and Don, and hopefully I'll have something to listen to when I get back this year, because I'm really proud of what i did. I think I took them from just playing the weekends and not really having too much energy to concentrate on the music to like "let's do it! let's work 6 days a week for 2 months and get the music right." And even though In Transit only did 2 shows, they as musicians felt like they really accomplished something, because they had felt like it was really out of their grasp. And now they can put it down in 12 original songs that are really well written. I think In Transit should be completed!

[Discussion on The Guess Who reunion....]

Q: What are you listening to these days -- newer stuff, or older classic stuff??

Bernie: A little bit of both. I got the new Ritchie Sambora album. I think Don is one of the best producers out. I think he (Ritchie) is a great songwriter, a beautiful singer - he's got a great voice! I can't wait for the new Foreigner album! They've been out on tour with Journey, and Journey's got the new album out now and Steve Galahary has got a good pair of pipes on him. So, I like that. I still like the melodic rock side, but in the same sentence I got to say that things like Mary Chapin Carpenter and Beth Neilsen Chapman write songs that just make you want to weep -- they are so beautiful. And I still like a bit of Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt; I like a little bit of everything. Sammy Hagar when I wanna get rockin', and Collective Soul when i wanna get a little funky, and Enigma when I wanna chill out.

Q: Familiar with April Wine?

Bernie: Oh Yeah!! Myles Goodwyn! They were doing some shows with Nazareth earlier in the year. I didn't realize that they were still going, or had 'reformed'. (Sings line to "Rock n Roll is a Vicious Game"). Great band!!


Q: What countries has Sonic Origami been released in so far? Like, is it going to Australia?

Mick: I think it's everywhere now! Rodrigo told me it's in Brazil on Roadrunner, and I think it's in Australia now on Festival, although we may move to another label on there, there's some negotiations going down there.

Q: I wanted to ask you a few things about the new album. One thing is your guitar playing because that's really stood out 'cause you do a lot of different things on this album -- like "Shelter From The Rain", the acoustic stuff, and of course "Between Two Worlds" - which the solo I think is one of my favorite solos you've ever done! So I was wondering what you do to keep in shape guitar-wise?

Mick: Not a lot! ha ha... I've never been a person to sit down and play the scales and do 8 hours a day, and all that stuff. I'm quite lucky 'cause I'm a natural player, and i seem to play things from the heart and not from the head - if you like. My approach to any solo in the world is to look at the fret board and say "there's a solo in there somewhere; I'll just dig in and find it!" I don't sit there and plan it out or work that chord with that scowl. That kind of leaves me cold, I'd rather just bash out a load of notes and find out what fits -- if ya know what I mean!? So I don't do it from a "schooled" stand-point.

Q: Depending on how this tour goes, is that going to determine if you're going to come back?

Mick: We're looking at coming back in March.

Q: As a headliner or with somebody?

Mick: We're not sure quite how we'll play that one. If there's a decent tour that we feel fits in with our type of music, and we're comfortable with it then we'll come out and do that, if not - we'll come out and do our own thing again.

Q: What's the possibility of doing a live album this tour? A lot of people have been asking because when Spellbinder came out it was mostly old songs, and now you've got 2 good albums out since then.

Mick: There is a possibility, but nothing's planned as yet. There is talk of doing a live thing on the net through the House Of Blues and stuff like that. So there are discussions flying around, but whether they come to fruition, you know how that goes! ha ha...

Q: What are some of your favorite tracks live from the new album? Or do you just like doing new stuff in general?

Mick: I don't know, but "Question" is my all-time favorite song! I just like the way it's come out. It came out exactly how I envisioned the whole thing to come together in the first instance. And I think it's very strong lyrically.

Q: Have you guys heard any responses from Survivor about Across the Miles?

Mick: No, not at all! Haven't heard a word from them. I believe the 2 writers are not getting on very well with each other. ha ha ha...But they're not tripping over themselves to come say "hi" yet, because to be honest they probably haven't even heard it yet, or been serviced with it yet. But perhaps when they do, and we're traveling around the States and go through their hometown - they'll come by and say hi, I would hope.

Q: You've always kept a positive attitude through thick and thin of the band. What inspires you that way?

You've always been pleasant, and you've always had a positive attitude regardless...

Mick: I think that's just upbringing, mate. I'll credit my mother with that. She was very much the same way. There's never problems, only solutions, and it's just the way you look at things in life. You can waist so much negative energy on so many things, it's better just to be positive about things and move forward, and not let those things weigh you down. That's generally my approach to most things. I'm a pretty happy go-lucky guy, I get out there and enjoy life.

Q: Are most of the guys pretty health conscience now?

Mick: You've got to have some sort of discipline to do what we do. We're a little bit jet-lagged from the time changes we go through flying, the boat rides, bus, - you name it! You have to have a degree of discipline to make it all work. So yes we're all very conscience about that. But none of are actually health nuts if you know what I mean!? There's always a balance in life, isn't there!?

Q: Is there any 30th Anniversary plans?

Mick: We have nothing actually planned yet. We're still looking at the Heepvention thing in England. I'm aware of that now, and I've got that in my book, and I'm going to go to my agent when I get back and see where they're planning to have this, so that he can put it in his book, and he can keep it in mine. Other than that, i guess our plan is to make Canada and America work for us, and build the awareness of Uriah Heep, and get a strong foundation here where-by we can come back here and play 6 months of the year and 6 months in Europe.

Q: Do you feel as an older band, that in certain parts of the world - you get a fair shake with the way the industry is?

Mick: I don't know what a fair shake is to be honest. The bottom line is you're accepted or rejected as you are. I don't feel disappointment in any area. And it's an amazing business that we're in -- 30 years in the business, and you still have to go out and prove yourself to people. It's just incredible - and basically I'm talking about industry people. Because one of the ways of building Uriah Heep awareness over in America and Canada is to come out and prove we're still viable, and when people see the band live they're knocked out by it because of the energy that's coming off stage.

Q: What's left for you guys to do album - wise? Musically.

Mick: I think that everything's going to have a natural extension, so from Sonic Origami we may have another load of songs to write, and as each new song comes along - it's another baby for us to travel around the world with, and it's cool. There's lots to achieve. We didn't realize up until now that our biggest audience had been 110 thousand in Berlin, now we've topped that with 140 recently! So you never know what's around the corner. If you'd have asked me that question i wouldn't believe that in December '87 -- we'd be in Russia! You just never know what's going to happen. So there's a lot out there to achieve, there's a lot of success to be made, and there's also your level of what you think success is. In my mind, the mere fact that I'm playing guitar and traveling around the world playing my music with some great musicians and good friends is success to the hilt! ha ha.... And all the accolades that can come in and go, they just come and go, you don't treat them as such. You really do have to have your feet on the ground, and then you can dig in and enjoy what you're doing. I'll tell you what would be great -- to get a Gold or Platinum CD in the American or Canadian market, not more so for me than anyone, but say for Bernie who hasn't got one on the wall at the moment. I've got walls full of stuff, but it would be nice to do that because that means we've achieved something, and it'd be a lovely landmark of achievement in terms of what this band's been going through. We stuck together through thick and thin.

Q: Are you satisfied with the promo down there?

Mick: Very much so. I'm very impressed with Spitfire at the moment. I am deliriously happy in as much as they are as passionate about their music as we are about ours. And vice versa passionate about ours too. They're a label that they're structuring very well. They're not signing everything and anything. They won't sign it unless they really believe in it. And I think what they'll do is they'll create a label where by bands will want to be on it, because of those very reasons. It's not a commodities label! Something with a commercial possibility may come their way, but if they don't believe in it they won't take it. And I think with that standpoint they're going to create a market where people are going to want to be on the label.

[Small talk, Thanks....]

Copyright : Kevin J. Julie , Aug. '99