This year’s Seven Deadly (released February 28) is one helluva good album from UFO. And drummer Andy Parker knows it: “I’m real happy with the mix as such because I haven’t been totally happy with the last couple (albums), drum-wise. Which is a bit selfish of me but you obviously got to start with your own stuff and I felt that the last couple, the drums were a bit buried — but I really like the mix. We discussed this long and hard before I left the studio this time and I think he (Tommy Newton) actually came up with something that I like a bit better. It’s more representative of me or how I would like to sound. “
The sound of Seven Deadly has real bite to it, thanks to Vinnie Moore’s guitar playing. Some might say a solid blues feel in the groove. “There’s some good stuff on there,” says Parker. “It still has that blues kind of tone that we’re going through right now, which the band has kind of been in since I came back in ’05. I noticed that it had gone more from rock into the blues thing.”
“And, to me,” continues the drummer, “this whole blues thing, where it was at when I came back, it’s kind of where it was at when I started with the band. That’s where we came out of, so, to me, it was a natural progression to go back to your roots. I don’t know if it’s going to stay like that. As far as I’m concerned, it may not be to everyone’s liking but it’s real. And it’s from the heart. I think that matters more.”
There are songs on Seven Deadly that might be the heaviest stuff UFO has done in some time. “Especially “Wonderland,”" says Parker, “it reminds me so much of classic Deep Purple. When I was putting the drum tracks down, it still has that blues kind of feel to it, but I remember thinking this seems a little heavier to me.”
And did the drummer know that the band had something special while in the studio for Seven Deadly? “It usually takes me awhile,” explains Parker. “I have this thing sometimes. If I really like an album straight out of the box, I get bored with it real quick. And some of our albums I have to listen to them. At first I think, ‘Man, I don’t like it that much.’ It’s a disappointment. It’s like Christmas, I open up this gift and it’s ‘Oh I didn’t really want this.’ But then after awhile you go, ‘Hang on. I see.’ You’re kind of in the dark with (vocalist) Phil (Mogg) because he does keep things a bit quiet until he’s ready. You go, ‘Man, I wasn’t expecting that!’ And sometimes I find those are the ones I end up liking the most. They tend to creep up on you, you know.”
Vocalist Phil Mogg also comes through very well on the new album. “Yeah, I thought so too,” says Parker. “It’s kind of strange for us because, as I said, we tend to never hear what he’s got. I mean, I go and do my drum tracks without much of an idea of what’s going over them. It’s always been like that — for as long as I can remember, every album I’ve ever done with the band. It’s like that, you know. He kind of keeps his cards close to his chest. And when we’re throwing around ideas, we’ll hear some of his melody lines and stuff. It’s very little so I’m really excited to get the finished thing to hear what he’s come up with.”
The one glaring absence on Seven Deadly is that of bassist Pete Way, a real iconic force in UFO from the beginning. A lot of fans miss Way’s presence and it seems that the bassist is busy doing other things — like being available for studio work with Michael Schenker on his latest Temple of Rock. , However, how much Pete Way actually played on Michael Schenker’s new album, Parker thinks you can take that with a pinch of salt: “Yes, he might be credited on there. Just how much Pete played on the album, I wouldn’t know. I haven’t heard it. But I know for a fact that when he was doing the shows with Michael last year, they had another person playing a lot of the time for him. I love him (Pete Way) dearly but he does have problems. And I mean quite serious health problems which aren’t being addressed because of his lifestyle.”
Speaking of original members, it’s got to be special to look up and see Phil singing and thinking ‘I’ve been with this guy since High School.’ “It is pretty amazing,” says Parker. “Paul (Raymond) is there too (keyboards and guitars). Paul did a lot of the big stuff with us in the ’70s. What people seem to find the most amazing is that we still have the energy. Everyone will say ‘You’re not a youngster anymore. How do you find the energy?’ Well, it’s not that difficult. When you get out there and you got a bunch of people out there who are really rooting for you. it’s like you feed off of them, you know. And you’re doing something you love. I’m exhausted at the end of the night and I”m probably more tired than I’m used to be back then — because we’d go out partying all night after playing. Where’s now we go to bed. When you do something you love and people are behind you it’s really not that hard to find the energy. And I watch those guys working — I’ve got the best seat in the house — and you just think, ‘Man, look at those guys. They’re like teenagers out there, strutting around.’ It’s quite remarkable.”
And as far as favorite UFO albums, it should be no surprise that the live album Strangers in the Night remains Andy Parker’s go-to disc. “I think Strangers, still,” admits Parker. “I mean, obviously, a favorite studio album, that would be tough for me. Obsession (1978) I think, was a great studio album. That has some real good songs on it. But like I said, my favorite album is Strangers because I think it really just summed up the band. Plus we were at out peak. I hate to say that but that was the last year with Michael. But we were hot then, man. The band was playing real well. We had been on the road forever. And there’s nothing like practice,” he laughs.
“Ron did a great job on that (Strangers in the Night album),” continues Parker. “Ron Nevison. I actually saw him recently. He showed up at one of our gigs a while back. He’s recording ringtones now, believe it or not. Just shows you how much the business has changed. A guy like that, a producer with that kind of history and he’s doing ringtones to make money, so …. it’s kind of sad because anyone and their dog now can make an album — in their bedroom with ProTools. Get it on YouTube and you’re done. It’s a double-edged sword. It’s great that people can do that but sometimes there’s no substitute for practice and working your way up. And I think the saddest thing is that some of these kids can get famous overnight but they’ve got no machinery behind them, nor experience to be in that position. So that’s kind of a little scary.”
And does the band still feel like it should have been more popular in America, starting with back in their heyday? Parker is practically ready for this question: “I think we would have been more popular. I think Michael’s leaving was a very poor timing. I mean we were really riding a wave there and we had some successful albums and the band was really getting a name but there’s no point in looking back. It’s not gonna gain you anything. ‘We could’ve been this. We could’ve been that.’ Which is to say why I’m so happy we are out there still doing it. For what it is. Yeah, we don’t play the huge places anymore but there’s something to be said for playing small intimate clubs. I really enjoy that. And I kind of missed that. And they’re still out there to play. There was a time when those venues almost disappeared off the map. But now there’s a lot more of them. And I really think that’s healthy.”
From February 25-28, UFO will be appearing on the The Monsters of Rock Cruise — something a lot different than arenas and clubs. But playing hard rock on a sea cruise is nothing new for UFO. “We’ve actually done a couple in Europe,” says Parker, “in Sweden and Norway and that kind of thing, yeah. The last one we did was pretty touch and go because Phil had completely lost his voice. And he shouldn’t have really been singing. His voice was shot. And, of course, you’re on the boat so you can’t tell people to go home. We’re out in the frickin’ ocean, you know. You have to go ahead and do it and I’ll tell you, it was the bravest thing I’ve ever seen that boy do. And he really put his heart into it because he had not voice at all but he went out and did the show and, fortunately the booze is cheap on those boats so by the time we went on most people were feeling no pain, so it was good. But they can be a lot of fun because you know the people going on there are looking forward to seeing you.”
On tour this year the band will get a chance to really highlight Seven Deadly live — with music that matches its razor-sharp title. Strangely enough, the album was originally titled Last of the Bone Riders. It was an album title that Phil Mogg came up with but for the longest time the band were on the fence about it. “I can see where (Phil) was coming from. It was more of a biker thing. We played Illinois, and we were staying in a hotel and this guy walked over with a bunch of friends and he had this t-shirt that showed a skeleton on a motorcycle and it said Bone Riders. And Phil was like ‘See. I told you. I told you!’ So he actually traded the guy right there, a UFO shirt for this (Bone Riders) shirt. And he’s back right there with Bone Riders again. Then while we doing the album it was leaked out that it was going to be called Last of the Bone Riders, and man, it got some terrible press. So it got changed again. And so a track that was gonna be “… Bone Rider” is now “The Last Stone Rider” because he had pretty much written the song so he kind of had to change it.”
No matter what the album is called it is damn good addition to the UFO catalog. And as far as future albums, Andy Parker says he hopes there will be a lot more to come.
“I tell my wife I’ll probably drop dead on the drum stool,” he adds.