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Interview: UFO

| October 1, 2013

UFO band2012bw

Lights Out Chicago

UFO is a prolific English rock band that achieved massive fame during the New Wave of British Heavy Metal in the late ’70s. In their four decades as recording artists, they’ve experienced times of great success, and times of incredible stress, including substance abuse, inter-band conflicts, and declining record sales. Yet the music always prevailed; UFO always managed to pull through. What didn’t kill them made them stronger. The band still releases records, tours worldwide, and have an enduring relationship with Chicago audiences. UFO Drummer Andy Parker shared the details with IE’s Mark Kadzielawa.

Illinois Entertainer: This interview was kind of tough to coordinate because both of us are working. When I’m not writing, I teach a class. What do you do when you’re not drumming for UFO?

Andy Parker: I’m working on my house. I have a house here in Texas that’s over 100 years old. It’s in the historic district in a small town, and it’s in desperate need of renovation. So, when I’m not drumming, that’s what I do. It’s been an ongoing project for the last 8 years. I’m about 75 percent done. I travel a lot, and I have a bunch of rentals here too. So when I’m home I take care of all of that. Right now I’m actually changing the siding on the outside of the house, and it is a nasty job because it’s over 100 degrees here, but I got to do it when I can.

IE: There is a live anthology (Hot N Live: Chrysalis Live Anthology 1974 – 1983) about to be released. How much input and control do you have over such releases?
AP: I didn’t know it was coming out. You’re one up on me here. What is it? Tell me about it.

IE: It’s a double live record with one live disc from 1974, and another from 1983, so it’s a combination of the (Michael) Schenker and (Paul) Chapman eras.
AP: So this must be Chrysalis/EMI release. To be honest with you, I didn’t know about this, but I will find out. But to answer your question from my point of view, none. I didn’t even know it was coming out, but they tend to do that, and it’s possible that they might have told (vocalist) Phil (Mogg) about it. But at this stage they don’t really talk to the bands at all, they just figure what will make a good package and put it together. To be honest, I’m still kind of glad that they do because whatever they do will always create more interest in the band. I know SPV just released one, but it covers the last few albums we did with them. Obviously if it’s Paul Chapman/Michael Schenker material then it’s Chrysalis, that material is owned by EMI. EMI even runs a Facebook page about UFO, but it has nothing really to do with us. At least they still do have some interest in us. When I see you in St. Charles I’ll have some more info for you.

IE: Since (guitarist) Vinnie Moore joined UFO in 2003 there’s been a stability in the band. You’re releasing an album every two years, and are very visible on the road. How did the dynamics change within the band since he’s joined?
AP: I wasn’t in the band when he joined; I didn’t come back until 2005. The last thing I did with UFO was the Walk On Water album which was in 1994, and that was a great experience. I loved the album, but I didn’t feel the band was stable enough for me to risk touring with them. I had other things going in my life. The thing about Vinnie is that he’s a great guitar player, but he’s a great stand-up guy, he’s got kids. And if he says he’s gonna go something, he goes ahead and does it. You can rely on him. If you go on tour with him, you pretty much know you’re gonna finish the tour. And so many other people rely on you to pull through. It’s not just the audience, but there’s crew, the managers, the agents. With Vinnie, it’s never been a problem, he does his thing, and he’s a great player.

IE: UFO enjoys a very special relationship with Chicago audiences. What memories do you have from you very first appearance in the Windy City?
AP: I think the first time we played in Chicago was at the Aragon Ballroom. We were opening the show, and it was T. Rex and Kiss. T. Rex in the middle and Kiss headlined. That’s a crazy bill, but it was a great show. Kiss were really nice, even though they scared the crap out of me. Gene Simmons is like 9 feet tall, and I didn’t really know much about Kiss until that time. They were very nice guys, and very welcoming. There was a real nice feel backstage, and it was a great gig. It was first of many great shows in Chicago.

IE: How many more times did you play Chicago before you realized something very special was going on between the band and the audience?
AP: That’s a hard one, because we used to work so much back then. Obviously we kept coming back to Chicago. There was a promoter named (the late) Bruce Kapp, and he promoted us greatly in Chicago. We ended up playing a lot at the [International] Amphitheater, which I know is now gone, but in our heyday we would be doing like 3 nights there, which was pretty remarkable. Chicago just took to us. We just spent a lot of time at O’Hare Airport. If we were not playing in Chicago, we were always at the airport. We still have a lot of fans in Chicago, it’s still one of our stronger fan bases. Chicago’s always been generous, and Chicago fans still are very generous to us. (Editor’s note: Bruce Kapp sadly passed away in 2008.)

IE: There really was no better way to validate that relationship than to record a live album in Chicago. Strangers In The Night is still regarded as one of the best live recordings of its era. What do you recall from those nights?
AP: It was just a remarkable event! We were really playing at our peak. The band had been touring continually at that point, and we were pretty much at the top of our game. It was incredible. It is still my favorite UFO album because it really captures UFO as they are. We make great studio albums, but if you really want to see this band for what they are, come and see us live because that’s what it’s all about.

IE: When was the last time you’ve listened to that album?
AP: It was a long time since I’ve listened to it all the way through, but I always listen to a track here and there. Especially if Phil is planning to dig something out and change the set, and there’s something on there he wants to do. I always tend to listen more to the live version than the studio. One thing I always notice when I listen to it, it’s that a lot of songs are played a lot faster than they are on the records. I guess it’s that youthful energy, the tempo is a lot quicker, but it was long time ago. It still sounds great.

IE: Many fans, myself included, miss (bassist) Pete Way in the band. His charisma was simply one of a kind. Pete left UFO back in 2008 due to illness and substance abuse. Now there are reports circulating that he’s sorted himself out. Is there a chance to see Pete again in UFO?
AP: It’s a difficult thing. Pete has been doing things. He’s actually done a solo album recently. But what we need from Pete, and what he feels he can do, are two different things. When we parted company in 2008, he was sick, he had liver problems, and had serious substance abuse problems. I for one would like nothing better than to see Pete clean up his act and come back. And if he did, and he proved it to Phil that he’s really serious about it, there will be a place for him in the band. And I miss him, how could you not miss him? He’s like a brother to me. And I do hear good things about Pete, but there is always two sides to every coin. The band is so good right now, and it’s nice to know that we’re gonna go out and play, and there’s not gonna be any problems.

– Mark Kadzielawa

UFO appears at the Arcada Theater in St. Charles on October 19th

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