Gary James' Interview With Ken Hensley and Mick Box of
Uriah Heep is perhaps one of the finest and most famous rock groups to come out of England. While in past years they sang of "Demons and Wizards," today they sing about "Fallen Angels." We talked with "Heep" members Ken Hensley and Mick Box about their most ambitious comeback tour to date.
Q - You're on a new tour with a new album, but you've toured before and had many top selling albums. Just how new, exciting, and different is this tour for Uriah Heep?
Box - It's a challenge to get back up there and maybe go further than you were before.
Hensley - It's nice to have a new challenge.
Q - A few years back, hard rock, heavy metal music was the rage. Groups like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, enjoyed a high degree of popularity. Today (November, 1978) Disco seemingly reigns king. Where have all the hard rock fans gone to?
Hensley - There's been a generation change, judging by what we've seen on this tour. It's a predominantly younger audience that's turning out. Most haven't heard hard rock but like it when they hear it.
Q - About a year ago there was a major scandal in England which the Musician's Union was unable to do anything about. It seems that "super groups" were asking for and getting money from acts that wanted to open their shows. Did you have to pay Jethro Tull in order to open for them?
Hensley - No. We got this tour because we're on the same record label as Jethro Tull (Chrysalis Records).
Q - What kind of chance does a Uriah Heep fan have of ever meeting you guys? I'm not talking here about "groupies" but the person who spends money for your albums and concert tickets.
Hensley - We visit record stores, do in-store promotion and rap to the kids for one or two hours. Sometimes they even advertise it on the radio. We don't regard ourselves as Superstars. I believe that if you try to keep away from the people they'll try even harder to get to you.
Q - Having been a headlining act and now opening for Jethro Tull, do you find yourself getting pushed around more? As the show openers, can you use only certain lights and a certain part of the stage?
Hensley - There are one or two lighting restrictions. We're treated pretty well. The dressing room is pretty cheap.
Box - To a degree there are a lot more restrictions. You can't have the whole stage and sometimes feel like you're playing on a postage stamp.
Q -. How many years did Uriah Heep have to struggle before getting that first break?
Hensley - Heep came together in 1969. I'd been in the business six years before that. Each of the members of the group have their respective years beyond Heep, I'd say I struggled six years before Heep and two years when I joined Heep. We had a very enthusiastic reponse to the group early on.
Q - Ever hold down any other job besides musician?
Box - Yes. I've had hundreds of little jobs. I drove an ice cream van. I was in export (shipping).
Hensley - I worked as a postal delivery person, did construction jobs. You see when the gigs were going good, you'd only work at that. You'd drop the little jobs.
Q - Had you not been successful with Uriah Heep, would you have been contented to play in a bar band on weekends?
Box - You take what comes. It's predetermined anyway.
Hensley - Success these days comes down to good fortune. You can succeed but you have to persevere.
Q - Has money changed the way you look at the world around you?
Hensley - It's made me much more aware of materialistic people. Money does give you the material things of life but you must consider them as rewards for your efforts. You can't let it get out of proportion.
Box - You can't let it get out of hand.
Q - Why'd David Byron leave?
Hensley - David Byron had an ego problem as well as a drinking problem. He was the best singer in 1973, but towards the end he only cared about the champagne and the limos. He turned into a monster.
Box - These days we travel by bus, the roadies and the band. It's brought us together. We're like a family.
Q - What happened to Gary Thain?
Hensley - He was a very weak person. He lived for music and didn't care about anything else. He couldn't take the road. We had to replace him because we were actually carrying him from gig to gig. That's too much of a burden to place on five guys. Seven months later he died of an overdose. I don't know which drugs. It was inevitable really.
Q - Ever heard of a group that looked and sounded like Uriah Heep?
Box - None that I know of.
Hensley - No. We've never been asked that question before. There were a bunch of drunks jamming last night that looked like a couple of the members in our group. (Laughter)
Q - How big of a part has ATI (American Talent International), your booking agency, had in making this group a hit?
Hensley - A big part. Wally Meyrowitz and the agency have been with us since the beginning.
Q - For all the young musicians coming out tonight, looking at you on stage and saying, "I can do that", what's your reply?
Hensley - Pick up a guitar and try it! There's immense satisfaction in it, but you have to have a real will to do it.