“I was always in it for the ride, as long as I was playing my music. Things came and went, and that’s fine by me, you know? The important thing is I’m still playing.”
Uriah Heep formed in London in 1969 and, remarkably, have been a constant force in hard rock and heavy metal as part of the original ‘Big Four’ ever since. SHANE PINNEGAR got guitarist/founder, Mick Box, on the line to talk about their Australian tour, which touches down at the Astor Theatre on Tuesday, March 24.
Forty five years on the road would be enough to crush lesser men, but Uriah Heep guitarist, Mick Box, is resolutely jovial about prospect of touring past retirement age (he’s 67 now.)
“Actually, we’re all pretty fit,” he says, with one of the many chuckles and laughs which punctuate our allotted time. “I think the basic end of it is, we’ve still got the passion and energy for what we do. I think that’s the driving force at all times, we just passionately love what we do and because of that, you don’t really feel the other stuff.”
Box has no time for musicians who whinge about the repetitiveness of endless hotel rooms and the many hours spent travelling and waiting around for show time.
“Tell them people to try and get a job fixing a roof in the middle of winter in England!” he laughs. “How can you complain? It’s absolute rubbish. You know, yes, it can be tedious but there’s worse jobs in the world. You’re doing something you love, number one, you’re travelling around the world doing it, number two, so come on. What they have to put up with is very, very little compared to what a lot of other people have to do.
“‘Get real’ is my reply to that. I don’t like people that do that. It’s the same thing with people that won’t give autographs or spend time with fans, you know – come on, get a grip!”
It’s Box’s down to earth East London nature which has seen him weather the storms of popularity that have smiled or frowned upon Uriah Heep over almost five decades. The band’s last four albums, starting with 2008’s Wake The Sleeper, have all been well received by critics and fans alike.
“Well yeah, I’m from the East End of London, mate,” he says with another laugh. “I’ve always been quite grounded. I mean, even in the heyday, I was always in it for the ride, as long as I was playing my music. Things came and went, and that’s fine by me, you know? The important thing is I’m still playing.
“All the songs are written by Phil Lanzon, our keyboard player, and myself and we’re a good writing team, you know, we’re very in tune with each other, musically, lyrically, humour and everything. Yeah, I think we’ve got a really creative thing going and long may it last.”
Despite having 24 studio albums under his belt, Box says their live setlist pretty much writes itself.
“Well, you know,” he laughs, “unlike a lot of bands, we’re very proud of our history, so for us it’s really quite simple. There’s a nucleus of songs that we know that people love to hear and have stood the test of time, that people still love hearing in the live arena. There’s always the July Morning, Gypsy, Easy Living, Lady In Black, Free Me, you know, all those songs. We’ll always play them and that will be the nucleus of the set because they’re the ones that worked, that had the success around the world.
“Then when we’ve got a new album out, like Outsider (2014), we’ll play about four or five tracks off that and then also we’ll go back and look at some of our older material, that maybe we haven’t played before, or maybe we haven’t played in a long, long while and we bring that into the fold and then the set kind of takes on a journey of the music of Uriah Heep, really, from day one.”
Having made a living from the band for 45 years and counting, Box isn’t too concerned with what critics have to say about them.
“We used to go do shows and get fantastic reactions, but the press could be quite brutal with us, you know? In the end, it’s the fans that count. The fans see through all the BS, if you like,” he laughs again. “But in the end it worked in our favour, to be honest, because we became the people’s band.”