After releasing their 25th studio album, British rockers Uriah Heep have embarked on a UK tour supported by GUN and Von Hertzen Brothers. Their current lineup consists of Bernie Shaw on lead vocals, Mick Box on lead guitars, Phil Lanzon on keyboards, Dave Rimmer on bass and Russell Gilbrook on drums. These guys haven’t slowed down since 1970, the year in which they debuted with the iconic release ‘Very ‘eavy… Very ‘umble’. It’s safe to say that with that very album they created a new way of making heavy metal which soon inspired many other big names in music. With 40 million records sold worldwide and a successful touring history, it is indeed a pleasure to have had the chance to sit down with drummer Russell to talk about past and present of Uriah Heep and their brand new release Living The Dream.
RAMzine: Hi Russell, can you tell us about this tour and what your expectations are?
Russell: The tour has been fantastic, we’ve done fifteen countries within these eight weeks and every single time we’ve come to a different country the fans have been superb. Obviously with the new album Living The Dream we’ve put different tracks in our set list and we have also included some of the old ones which we haven’t played in a while. A lot of people have come out and we’ve had a lot of sold out shows. All in all our expectations have been fulfilled and it’s been marvelous.
RAMzine: Brilliant! After doing it for such a long time, does touring and making records become a routine for you?
Russell: Yeah, in the end this is your full time job you know. Because we do so much touring sometimes we don’t even realise the passing of time. We might start in January then suddenly you reach summer and then suddenly it’s Christmas again and one year’s gone. It doesn’t become any different from someone else’s job really. It’s a normal thing for us.
RAMzine: What’s the best part of being in such an iconic band?
Russell: Well, first of all you get to tour sixty one countries and you get to meet so many different people who have been touched by our music personally. Plus Uriah Heep has been one of those bands together with Zeppelin, Sabbath, Deep Purple who has started the whole rock thing off so of course it’s an honour for me to be part of it. It’s one of those dream jobs you do, playing to so many people who are all there for the same reason.
RAMzine: Let’s talk about your new album Living The Dream, how would you describe it?
Russell: Good. We had a ten year lay off between Sonic Origami and Wake The Sleeper so that album had to be special because you need to come back with a great impact. Then we had Into The Wild and Outsider which are also good albums but they were a bit rushed for us, we didn’t have enough time to do what’s called pre-production where we can really mess around with bits and pieces of songs and try to get the best out of something. When we came to do Living The Dream unfortunately Trevor Bolder had died and we took Dave Rimmer on board since the Outsider album. At the time there were a lot of changes going on with management and labels so we wanted this album to be really special. Before anything happened, we deliberately allocated a couple of weeks just to do pre-production to make sure everything would have worked. Management and producer were also really happy but you never know until the record comes out.
RAMzine: So in the end how did fans and press receive your new album?
Russell: The fans have loved it and so have all the major press people. The reviews have been superb and we think it’s great so it’s a win-win for us at the moment. Of course it’s always apprehensive to bring out and play new material as you are not sure what’s gonna be the general reaction. It’s very important to us that the fans are already singing along to the new songs during the gigs, you do want people to love what you are doing and that are already familiar with the new stuff. It all helps us to make sure we are writing the right things which can always develop for the better in the future.
RAMzine: Where does the inspiration come from after so many years?
Russell: I think it just comes from every day, every time you go out there performing, visiting new places, talking to people… all of those situations inspire you. The whole point of doing music and being in a band is that everybody is conducting a certain lifestyle and you can get subconsciously inspired by a particular event or by a number of things that have had a certain impact on you. They all store up in your brain until eventually becoming part of a song idea. I guess we’ve got a continuous source of inspiration coming from our lives and luckily for us that worked well in our albums.
RAMzine: Making music in the 70’s and making music today, what’s the main difference?
Russell: The main difference is technology really, back in the 70’s you used to put out the microphones, played your lines and off you go. Through the transition of technology they scrutinised the sounds more, in some ways this is a good thing and in some ways it’s damaging because you can’t beat the rawness of something, that’s the real thing. Also producers have got more heavily involved, they want to get to the choruses quickly, they tell you to cut the song to a three minutes length. So they interfere a lot whereas in the 70’s no one interfered, that was the song you had written and you just got on with it. As I said, technology has been good and bad at the same time.
RAMzine: Talking about the present, is there a new band that you have particular faith in?
Russell: Well the Von Hertzen Brothers are great, really good band. Unfortunately when we are on tour we get so busy doing our own thing that sometimes you don’t realise what’s happening around you and then when people mention certain bands we try to investigate it but when our schedules are so busy it’s very difficult to keep up with it. The only thing I’d say is that nowadays it’s very difficult for new bands to get the breaks that they want. Making an impact in the music business is very hard because everything has changed so much now. I’m pretty sure there’s very good music out there, we just need to filter through, we need to go back to artists that actually write their own songs and mean something with them, they definitely need a chance to open themselves up to the world really.
RAMzine: Tonight you are playing in this incredible venue, Shepherd’s Bush Empire, what do your fans need to expect from your performance?
Russell: A lot of energy, a lot of power and maybe even nostalgia with the old hits. I think they will be very excited with how good we are now as a live band, it really is a powerful show, we are not one of those bands that just wanna get through the night. We are going on tour with Judas Priest for two months in America as special guests and all the songs we put on our set lists we make sure we play very very good live. I think that makes us even better with certain fans. There are some bands that lose their spark when they play live and end up getting a little bit flat, or, some others are just not very good live, it’s the way it is. We are very lucky that the live part of the band has always worked for us because we had to do it for so many years. It’s always a good rocking show.
RAMzine: What’s gonna happen in the new year for Uriah Heep?
Russell: We got a break after our last show in Hull on the 16th then we gotta go out again in different part of Europe to play some shows then we come back and then we are off to Japan. After that we have two months all across America with Judas Priest and then there’s all the festivals. Obviously the new album has just started to circulate more so we are gonna get very busy with that too.