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UFO moves on — Moore or less — with new guitarist

Founding member Andy Parker hopes fans and critics alike will finally embrace guitarist Vinnie Moore with the band’s album ‘Seven Deadly.’

By Patrick Prince

Andy Parker has been the drummer for UFO most of his life. Along with vocalist Phil Mogg and bassist Pete Way (on hiatus), Parker is an original member of the British hard-rock band that started back in 1969 and has experienced all the ups and downs, surprises and disappointments that come with being a veteran musician in a well-loved band.

Unlike other British hard-rock bands, such as Led Zeppelin and Queen, UFO never got the recognition it deserved in the United States; it became known more for virtuoso guitarist Michael Schenker than its music. That’s unfortunate, because UFO’s music is, perhaps, the finest of any hard-rock band of its generation.

Today, UFO carries on with Parker, Mogg, keyboardist Paul Raymond and the band’s newest addition, American guitarist Vinnie Moore. And UFO still delivers powerful, quality hard rock.

UFO guitarist Vinnie Moore

If UFO drummer Andy Parker had one wish, it’s that listeners would be able to accept that Michael Schenker has moved on and give the band’s new guitarist, Vinnie Moore, a fair shake for all he brings to the table. Publicity photo.

As the newest member, Moore does a remarkable job defining a new era in UFO’s history. While some listeners still long for the band’s Schenker years (1973-1978, and a brief reunion from 2000-2002), Moore’s work is more than worthy. He has been with the band for four albums, and his guitar work on the band’s latest album, “Seven Deadly,” is perhaps his best with the band.

Unfortunately, some critics keep comparing UFO today to its heyday in the 1970s. It is true that some of the newer UFO albums don’t live up to the band’s classic releases. But, by the same token, it’s unreasonable to compare an album in 2012 to one released by the same band 40 years ago. The comparisons and negative press were top of Parker’s mind at the time of Goldmine’s interview.

Andy Parker: A lot of these guys seem to think we should sound exactly like we did in the ’70s, and to me, that’s just not viable. As musicians, you’ve got to move on. One thing I’ve always said about UFO — and one thing I’ll always say about UFO — we never set out to create an album to hit a certain demographic, on “Who are we gonna appeal to?” Basically, what we play is what comes from the heart. It’s what the guys have at the time. It’s where their heads are at. It’s what works for the whole band. Everyone pitches in. And that’s where it comes from, so it’s pretty pointless when someone says we should go back and listen to our past catalog and see what we should be doing — ’cause that was then, this is now, to me. You’ve got to move with the times. If your head is back in the ’70s, I find that a little bit sad way to think.

Goldmine: And once you try to sound like that, it sounds forced. It comes off as fake.
AP:  Exactly. That’s my point entirely. Back in the ’80s — right before I left the band — Chrysalis (Records) was all over us to come up with a single, what they thought at the time would be a viable single. It was just so hard. It was so unnatural then to come up with a song that we thought would get on the “Top of the Pops,” you know. It just doesn’t work like that. And we tried it; it didn’t work. It just seemed like that’s not us. I think the integrity of the band is such that, you know, we’ll always play what we’re feeling.

GM: This record, “Seven Deadly,” cements Vinnie Moore’s role as a UFO guitarist.
AP: Vinnie’s a lot of the reason I’m actually back in this band and staying with the band now. You know, I’ve done my time with Michael (Schenker) and just all that kind of chaotic ... not knowing from one day to the next what’s going to happen. It just wasn’t for me. And that’s why I kind of passed being back in the band several times until I finally came back in 2005 for one show — and once I sat there and played with Vinnie ... He’s such a great guy; he’s such a great guitar player. No ego to speak of. I mean, we’ve all got egos, but none of this kind of prima donna stuff. He really brings something to the band.

UFO Seven Deadly Sins

And Vinnie’s had some knocks over the years, even since I’ve been back, with this Moore vs. Schenker business. Once again, it’s like, “People, get over this. That was then, this is now.” Give the guy a chance, for crying out loud. Stop comparing him — “This is like Schenker,” or “This is like (Paul) Chapman” (guitarist 1978–1983). No, it’s not. It’s like Vinnie. I mean, it might remind you of them, but it’s not like he went back and said, “Oh, I better sound like Paul Chapman on this one.” Sometimes I wonder about people who review. They seem to be very detached from what actually goes on inside a band.

UFO Band Publicity Image September 2011

Established in 1969, UFO today is a four-piece band featuring guitarist Vinnie Moore, drummer Andy Parker, vocalist Phil Mogg and keyboardist Paul Raymond. The group recently released the album ‘Seven Deadly,’ which Mogg originally wanted to title ‘Last Of The Bone Riders.’ The band finally talked him out of it.

GM: I confess that when I saw Vinnie with the band for the first time, I was analyzing everything he did, every solo he did in every classic UFO song. But then I corrected my thinking: “This is not Schenker, nor is he trying to be Schenker.”
AP: It often gets in the way of you listening to it. You get too analytical, and you actually shoot yourself in the foot kind of thing.

GM: And Vinnie does a wonderful job putting his own spin on the Schenker leads.
AP: I mean, if you are familiar with Vinnie’s solo stuff, and when you put him in with us, he’s not exactly a completely different player — but he is different, the direction from his solo stuff. And I really like his solo stuff. “The Call” is one of my favorite albums of his, which is his last album — it’s just so different. It’s like he just put a different hat on when he steps into the UFO ring. He works for us. He really does. And like I said, he’s a great guy. He’s really easy to get along with when you’re shoved in a bus together for weeks on end. He’s just great. I love him.

GM: Does it annoy you when people only think of UFO as the band that launched Michael Schenker’s career?
AP: Let’s face it. That was our heyday — the ’70s with Michael. We got signed to Chrysalis. And those albums ... I’ll always be proud of that. But there was a UFO before Michael, and there’ll be a UFO a long time after Michael. I mean, OK. He’s come back in. I did a couple short tours but decided back then that the tension and the uncertainty just wasn’t for me. So, I left. But I’m quite happy that they love Michael. There’s some great stuff there. “Strangers in the Night” (1979) still gets voted regularly as one of the best live albums ever, and I go with that. It’s still my favorite UFO album, because I think it really summed up the band. I think no matter what we do in the studio, to really appreciate this band, you have to see them live. Because it’s all about having fun and communicating with the audience and stuff. I think that’s a huge part of this band. It’s always been a live band. So, yeah, I’ve got nothing against people who think those days are great, but I think they should at least give Vinnie a chance. Times have moved on. We’ve moved on. I mean, we’re not teenagers anymore. Far from it. So you’ve got to expect some kind of change. It would be crazy for Phil to be out there in spandex pants and dyed red hair, trying to behave like he was a 25-year-old. It just isn’t there anymore. And I think that’s kind of sad sometimes, when you see bands do that.

GM: It was the same for Paul Chapman when he first came into the band after Schenker’s departure. He was compared to Schenker. And I thought Paul Chapman was an outstanding and underrated guitarist.
AP: Definitely. And once again. A great guy and a very solid guy. The thing is about Paul and Vinnie, what you see is what you get. Michael goes a lot deeper than that. And I have huge respect for Michael, and I love him dearly, but he just kind of got into this mindset where whatever works for Michael is fine, and f**k everybody else kind of thing. And you have to understand that when you are in a band, there are a lot of other people relying on you. It’s not just the audience. People’s livelihoods are at stake. Michael got to the point where if it didn’t work for Michael, that was it, you know — never thought about anybody else, and I just don’t agree with that. Especially now, when you think about how the economy is and people have to struggle to find money to come to a concert. I think they deserve to see a concert if they spend the money and come. And that kind of throwing a wobbler and running off and disappearing, for me that’s not viable.

GM: Back in the ’60s or ’70s, it might have been OK to wait hours for the band to get it together and come onstage, but now you want the band to be punctual.
AP: Absolutely. And If you’ve gone there and wait in line, you come to see the band play the concert from start to finish, not throw your guitar down halfway through the first song, and walk off and not come back. To me, that’s just kid’s stuff. Come on, man, you know. And like I said, I have a huge amount of respect for Michael and I understand right now he’s doing great. He’s clean and sober, and he’s really forging ahead again and let’s hope that holds. But obviously, he’s got a lot of past history. I wish him well. Like I say, he’s a great guy but ...
Same thing with Pete Way (the band’s original bassist). I miss the hell out of Pete, you know. He’s a great friend, and we go back a long way. But when your lifestyle gets in the way of your performance, something has to be said. We’re just not those young kids anymore who can get away with that. People expect more from us, put it that way.

GM: There’s more professionalism expected nowadays.
AP: I think there has to be when you get to our stage of the game. My daughter was here over Christmas, and she was playing something she took on her cell phone. It was some young girl on guitar, and she was wasted. She fell down a few times, fell off the stage. It was kind of comical, but she’s got her whole life ahead of her to make up for that. No one’s expecting that much. She’s pretty much unknown. But when it comes down to us, we’ve been around a long time. People have certain expectations, And like I said, half the people have to find money to go to concerts these days. So they deserve something decent.

GM: Speaking of Pete Way, I’ve heard that he’s been through a rough spell the last few years.
AP: He really has. And the way that medicine works in England, it being socialized medicine, it’s free, but you have to meet them half way — and he won’t get the medication he needs to solve his problem. Until he does — and, of course, he won’t — it’s basically going untreated. He’s still pursuing the lifestyle he had back in the ’70s. And I’m afraid for us, it just doesn’t work. You got to realize we haven’t really replaced him. We used different people. A guy called Lars Lehman played bass on this album; Vinnie knew him from solo projects. And we’re using Rob De Luca again when we go out on the road this year. Basically, the chair is there for Pete, if he can ever come back. But from what I’m seeing, it’s not right now, anyway.

GM: Well, you know the fans would love it.
AP: Absolutely. And I would love it. I have to say it’s great to step out on a stage with a bass player you know is going to perform and not fall down or puke up or disappear behind his amp five times to have a pee or whatever, which is how Pete was getting toward the end. But I miss that guy. He’s such a larger-than-life catch, and he’s so much a part of UFO. And we all just keep praying that he will be pulling himself together. Everyone’s tried. I’ve tried for three or four years when I first came back. Trying to convince him. It’s only an hour and a half or two hours a night, but it’s not easy.

GM: It’s too bad; life is too short.
AP: Absolutely. I keep dreading I’m going to get a phone call one day that that’s it; he’s not with us anymore. I mean, I’m absolutely amazed that he still is, considering what the guy gets up to. But he’s one of those people.

GM: Another thing different from the ’70s: Now bands work out, they hit the treadmills, they eat healthy.
AP: Absolutely. You could do that to your body back then. You could recover quite quickly. And, hey, we still like to party. We still have a drink and that, but people tend to take more care of themselves as they get older. At least I do. You get your sleep. Eat right — the best you can while on the road — and that really helps.

UFO Chrysalis publicity photo

Andy Parker recalls the pressure that UFO was under to produce a hit single in the 1980s: “It was so unnatural then to come up with a song that we thought would get on the ‘Top Of The Pops,’ you know.”

GM: “Seven Deadly” will be also coming out on vinyl. Vinyl records are getting popular again with the younger generation.
AP: Isn’t that wild?! To think: I thought back in the ’80s that I’d made my last vinyl record. And when I came back with the band, all of a sudden they put “The Visitor” (2009) out on vinyl. And I love it, you know, especially with my eyesight. I can actually read what’s on the cover without my glasses on (laughs). But there’s something very tactile about a 12-inch vinyl album.

GM: Did you ever keep all that stuff?
AP: Oh, I’ve got tons of vinyl; you kidding me?

GM: But did you collect all the UFO stuff, the band memorabilia, over the years?
AP: You know, I have to say, sadly, a lot of it got given away. You think “Oh, I like that, but I’ll get another one.” And you don’t, In fact, interestingly enough, when they remastered a lot of the stuff, I had journalists calling me up because they were doing sleeve notes, and one guy called me up to get some input from “The Wild, the Willing and the Innocent” (1981). And I said “Give me a couple days, and I’ll try to think back.” So I thought, “I’ll go and pull my vinyl album out and look at it and just go over the cover notes and stuff; maybe it will jog my memory.” So I went through the crates of vinyl I’ve got, and I couldn’t find the bloody thing. I must have given it away! (Laughs.) I actually went onto Amazon and found one and bought it — which was great, because it was almost completely untouched. What was sad about it was that it looked like someone had taken a razor blade and slit the cellophane, took the album out, played it once, didn’t like it and put it back in and never played it again (laughs). It was good for me, but it was sad, because obviously someone didn’t think much of it.

GM: Getting back to “Seven Deadly” — it was originally titled “Last of the Bone Riders” at first, right?
AP: (Laughs.) I don’t know how much I should say about this. A while back, Phil came up with this name for the album. And he said “Last of the Bone Riders” or “The Boneriders,” and we were all kind of like, “Hmmm. Sounds like some sort of gay porno movie.” We went back and forth, and early last year we did the East to West Coast tour, and he would from time to time ask people’s opinions about this title. And I remember we were in this hotel somewhere, on our day off having a drink, and the bartender is there and Phil says, “I have a question for you.” He says to this bartender, “If someone said to you, ‘Last of the Bone Riders,’ What would you think?” And the guy looks straight at him and says, “Sounds like a gay porno.” (Laughs.) So Phil says, “That’s it. I’m done with it. I’m not gonna use that.”
But I have to say, I love “Seven Deadly,” and I really love the artwork. That was kind of controversial, too. It reminds me of the Grateful Dead stuff from around the ’60s or ’70s. It’s very different for us.

GM: It’s sort of tongue-in-cheek, too.
AP: Yeah, I think so. Phil is very much like that. That’s why I say people don’t always get him for what he is. He’s got a very wry sense of humor, that boy.

GM: It’s almost like saying Seven Deadly Sins: been there, done that.
AP: Exactly. You get to a time in your life when you do look back over it. I was kind of wondering if he was trying to figure out which one he hadn’t committed yet (laughs).
I’m just happy that besides what anyone says, we’re still out there; we’re still doing it.