Interview With PAUL RAYMOND (UFO)

Mick Burgess and Paul Raymond (UFO) backstage at UFO and ASIA November 2006
Mick Burgess and Paul Raymond (UFO) backstage at UFO and ASIA November 2006

Paul Raymond of legendary UK Rockers UFO recently chatted to Metal Express Radio about their recent album Monkey Puzzle and the return of original drummer Andy Parker.

How did your UK tour in support of your Monkey Puzzle album go?

They’ve been really fantastic. It’s great to have Andy back in the band. It feels better than it has for a long time now and they were really good shows with good attendances. Everybody seems to be loving it and loving it because Andy is back. We’ve got 4 out of 5 from the classic line up so it’s been great. I don’t think it’s going to be any more than that though !!

Has the new material been well received?

We wanted to do more. We were going to do “Heavenly Body” but that didn’t seem to work out live. It was purely a recording track. Everyone seems to love the Rock ‘n’ Roll track, “Hard Being Me” and the ballad song is really autobiographical….”Drink Too Much”, only UFO could do one like that!! We were thinking of adding “Black and Blue” into the set. Overall the new material has gone down really well, we’re very happy with it.

Is it difficult choosing a setlist bearing in mind there’s quite a few songs that the fans almost demand that you play? It must be hard deciding what to drop to make way for new songs?

It is difficult and we hadn’t played in the UK for over 2 years before this tour and if you don’t play “Love to Love” and all of the chestnuts, which we still all love of course, then they’re going to be dissatisfied. We want to include material from the Chapman era too as a lot of people ask for that. We were going to do “Letting Go” but never actually got round to it. We will do something from the Chapman era on the next tour and another from The Monkey Puzzle. Hopefully everyone enjoyed this tour. We have been criticised on the Internet particularly by American fans who keep barking on about the Chapman era. I personally don’t think that the Chapman era was such a good one for the band. I don’t think Paul Chapman was a strong a writer as Michael. Mind you he did write some good stuff too “Back Into My Life” from Mechanix was a good one and had a great video. It was really Poppy and commercial and obviously Chrysalis got a real hard on about it. It was really good.

You seem to be popular on the Festival circuit at the moment. How do you tailor your set for these shows?

That’s a very good question. You have to be a politician to answer that. We tend to stick to the classics for those types of shows.

Since your last UK tour there has been a change to the line up with Jason Bonham leaving and Andy Parker rejoining. What happened with Jason?

I got on very well with Jason and had no problems with him at all. He’s a great drummer and a nice man. I think he had problems with drink and drugs in the past and he found it difficult in this band as there’s still a lot of abuse going on. He had to sort of separate himself from us a lot of the time. I think it was more comfortable for him with Foreigner and I wish him all the best. He’s a really lovely guy.

It’s certainly good to see Andy back on the UFO drum stool, how did you tempt him out of retirement?

He was running the family business and was really fed up with it. It was a real coincidence as Chris Slade was up for the job and my girlfriend just said why didn’t I give Andy a ring. He always says no though but she nagged me all day so I went and called him and he said” Well, actually I would be interested!!” and it took me by surprise and the rest is history.

What sort of business was Andy in?

He was in the Perspex industry and it just grew and grew. He supplied displays to the likes of Tesco and it was a really successful multi-million pound business. He’s also a property developer too.

How did it feel the first time you played again with Andy?

Andy struggled to get his chops back as he hadn’t played for almost 11 years and now he’s just about back to his former standard. The thing is with Andy he is so powerful and plays so loud. He really plays like he means it. Me, Andy and Peter just seem to have this telepathy and we just seem to fit tightly together and anticipate what the other one is going to do. Sometimes we play out of time but in time which is difficult to explain. I guess it’s the camaraderie and knowing each other for so long. It’s different every night but we play so well together. It’s great to have him back.

In the 70s and 80s it seemed like Andy was the butt of Phil and Pete’s jokes. When he left who did they turn their attention to?

Now he’s back he’s holding his own now. He’s a big lad you know. He’s always been tough but he’s tougher now. When Andy left Simon Wright was on the receiving end. I was really good mates with Simon.

Talking of drummers, what was in like playing with Cozy Powell back in your MSG days?

Cozy was one of the great Rock drummers. Have you seen the Rockplatz DVD from 1981? I hadn’t seen that since we did it 25 years ago. I got it from the fans network as it’s not actually available commercially. I was amazed by Cozy, he was just so brutal. He was like Andy but more technical, he was so great. He’s sadly missed.

Moving on to your latest album, The Monkey Puzzle, what do you make of all of the positive reviews? Does it worry you that UFO are now getting heaps of praise?

I think Covenant and Sharks got slated as they were the wind down of the Schenker era but You Are Here was well received critically. I think we needed fresh blood and it was time for a change when Vinnie Moore came in. It’s always nice to get good reviews though.

This album has a definite Bluesy feel to it. Was this a conscious move to head in this direction or is it just how it evolved?

Some of that’s blamed on me as I was in Savoy Brown and Chicken Shack which were two very prominent British Blues bands. Andy insists that the bands roots came from playing the Blues and kind of evolved into the Hard Rock sound that we are more known for. So it’s like we’re going back to some extent. Phil has been drawn back to listening to Muddy Waters and people like that as you can tell from “Some Other Guy” I particularly like that song from the album. It encompasses a lot of my roots.

There’s a nice piece of slide guitar on “Hard Being Me” .

Yes, well thank you. I do try my best!! I’m no Sonny Landreth though!!

Is it important for you as a band to keep moving forward as a band rather than sitting back playing the nostalgia circuit?

I think it’s Pete’s material that really connects with people. It’s kind of like a Rolling Stones type of thing. There’s straight Rock ‘n’ Roll songs like “Fighting Man” and “Only You Can Rock Me”. They’re all about Pete Way. He’s the backbone of the band. It is so important however as a band to keep moving forward so we take our influences and the things that give the UFO sound and try to keep progressing as a band. It keeps things interesting for us and the fans.

“Kingston Town” from The Monkey Puzzle is one of the albums highlights and it’s a little different to the usual UFO song?

That’s one of mine!! I was trying to get a sort of “Love To Love” type of thing going but it didn’t quite work out like that. I worked hard on that. There’s some interesting stuff with the timing on there. It’s what UFO are famous for, a bit like “This Kids”. For some reason it was stuck on the end of the album maybe as it’s not instantly accessible.

Tommy Newton produced The Monkey Puzzle but over the years you have been most associated with Ron Nevison. Would you work with Ron again?

He was a bit of a taskmaster but I would definitely work with him again. Listening to Walk on Water again it’s such a polished perfection and I like that. If I play an organ on something I like to hear it in the mix. With Ron, I know that if I’ve spent time with him and he’s given me a hard time about it, I know I’m going to hear it on the record and it’s not going to be buried under a wall of guitars.

Vinnie Moore really shines on the album and puts in some great performances. It seems as though he’s been able to step out of Schenkers shadow in a way that say Tonka Chapman, Laurence Archer and Atomic Tommy couldn’t in terms of acceptance by the fans and the press. Would you agree with this?

He fits in very well as a person too. It’s not easy to work with this band as it’s like being in the army, there’s non stop piss taking. Some people can’t stand it. I don’t think Michael could handle it. He often travelled by himself to avoid it. Vinnie has a great sense of humour and has handled it really well. He has been accepted as he plays the best of the old stuff and does his own stuff. He’s a very accomplished musician.

It’s certainly good to hear some great guitar solos on an album again!!

I call these new bands “Stum Strumety Strum Bands”. You see them at the festivals and they just don’t seem to play solos anymore. I like to hear, rhythm, melody and some good solos and I think the ’70s was the best time for that. In the 80s the lead guitar thing got blown out of proportion. There was too many notes. There is a place for lead guitar in music. Schenker was so good as a lead player. He knew when to play a lot of notes but he knew when to play a lot of long high notes. He had a lot of feel to his playing. Gary Moore is a very good player too. I saw him recently and he didn’t over do it and played such great sustain.

Now that Vinnie has a couple of tours and an album under his belt with you, was the approach to writing material for the Monkey Puzzle different to the writing process for You Are Here?

Not really, I think everybody got a fair shot at writing. I was a bit slow this time. I submitted four things and two of them were used. Pete only submitted three and two of them were used. Vinnie said he had lots of things that he couldn’t understand why Phil didn’t use them. He had a piece that was a take on “Natural Thing”, a similar theme but Phil didn’t want to go with it. It’s funny writing for a singer, it’s what he picks up on, what he wants to sing. Phil has the final say really. Sometimes he takes the whole thing that I’ve written like “Sympathy” from the You Are Here album, he liked that a lot but then I wrote it in his style. If you’re going to write something for a singer you have to do it in his style with his type of lyrics then they can identify it. If you write a song for Rod Stewart you need someone like Spike from the Quireboys to demo it then he’ll go “Oh, that sounds like me!!”

How did you end up choosing Vinnie for the band?

We went through so many guitarists; some were a bit “has been-ish”. One of the guys that was top of the list, who wasn’t a has-been was John Norum from Europe but he said Europe had just reformed and they had a new deal with Sony. I like John, he’s a very good player but I think Vinnie was the right choice for us.

Do you feel that the band now has a greater degree of stability that perhaps you haven’t had in the past?

Definitely, yes. I think he’s here to stay. I’d like to play again with Michael but he’s too volatile. I think he’s lost it. From people who’ve seen him recently they say he’s lost the brain to finger co-ordination. Vinnie is so much more reliable and a lot more stable.

2005 saw the release of your first DVD, Showtime. Why did it take so long to put one out?

It’s really sad when we did it. We really should have done it with Andy. He has total recall and can remember everything from the old days and he could have really put the icing on the cake. I thought the studio stuff on there was really good. Jason came up with the idea to use the string section in the studio.

I imagine you have plenty of footage lying around in the vaults somewhere. Do you have any plans for releasing any archive material on DVD in the future?

There’s not that much really, you’d be surprised. I think you can see some stuff on You Tube but yes, our past is sadly undocumented. I think it’s because we came just before the video era whereas someone like Def Leppard came along just at the right time. I think we missed the boat there.

Over the years the media have tended to focus on Phil, Pete and Michael. Do you think that your role in the band has been overlooked to a certain extent?

I think I’m seen as the journeyman or utility player but I’m quite proud of that really as there has to be someone like that in UFO. I think that’s why I always get close to the drummer. You can pull things together when they’re falling apart.

UFO have had a rather colourful past which would surely rival Mötley Crüe, do you intend writing a book at some point?

I think Andy is going to write one and he’s already started writing one with his wife. He remembers everything from the early days. Andy’s book will tell you everything that happened. It’ll be worth the wait, it’ll be the real thing.

What are your plans for the coming year? Any solo projects?

We’ll be playing in Scandinavia and Russia then America and then to anywhere that wants to see us. I’ve also just released a solo album of Jazz material which I’m really happy with. It’s called Secret Life and you can pick that up from my website. We have a few things coming up so I think we’ll be around for some time yet.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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