Richard Stow

Uriah Heep – The Big 5-0

Happy birthday, Uriah Heep.

With their latest record dropping two months ago (to the day), we can confidently say that there will be many more ‘happy birthdays’ to come for the trailblazing band. Guitarist/bandleader/founder Mick Box has no plans on calling it a day, either, as evidenced by the milestones that the band is celebrating in 2023.

Earlier this year, Uriah Heep released Chaos & Colour, its 25th studio album. In addition, the band is enjoying its 50th anniversary. Over those many years, Uriah Heep has developed from progressive rock to its current incarnation as a dynamic, driving hard rock band, showing an ability to successfully evolve over several decades. It is a feat that rivals any band. 

The Chaos & Colour tracklist features alluring and ascending guitar-organ tradeoffs and harmonies courtesy of Mick Box, who we spoke with, and keyboardist Phil Lanzon. (Check out “Age of Changes,” in particular.) Additional highlights include the slick guitar riffs, fantastic solos, and melodic vocals of singer Bernie Shaw on “Save Me Tonight,” as well as the heartfelt epic “One Nation, One Son” and the powerful orchestration of “Golden Light.” The pulsating rhythms throughout the record powered by bassist Dave Rimmer and drummer Russell Gilbrook are heard here. 

Overall, Chaos & Colour is a magnificent effort. ‘Tis a happy birthday, indeed.

Mick Box by Richard Stow

Congratulations on your 25th album and 50th year, which is superb. Do you see it as a milestone? Has it caused you to reflect?

To me, it’s just another album and I’m looking toward the next one, but people bring it up and it does cause you in a way to reflect, but nothing too serious. 

It’s been five years between albums. Did the pandemic have a lot to do with the gap?

Most definitely. We were like everybody else, sitting in our homes watching the world go crazy… and nobody knew if there was going to be an end to it – the terrible times. We did better than a lot of people who couldn’t go to the hospital and see their parents and things like that, but I’m one of these people that when a big hole appears, I get immersed in all sorts of things, so I did a lot of writing lyrics and songwriting in general. 

I did a mix of videos for the fans, lockdown diaries, and many other things. I did cameos and promoted my cancer charity. I just kept busy. Once we were able to, it was album time. Eventually we phoned up a studio and got our producer, Jay Ruston, who did our previous album, Living the Dream. We love working with him so it all came together really at the backend of the COVID thing

What is the writing process between you and your co-writer, keyboardist Phil Lanzon?

Generally, when there’s a call to arms for a new album, it’s usually Phil Lanzon and myself. Usually we get in a room together and write very quickly, but this time we couldn’t do that. We had to do it by FaceTime and Zoom, so it was a more long-winded process. Nevertheless the quality came out at the end. The one thing that came out of COVID, if there’s anything good, was it gave the other guys time to write, too. Dave Rimmer wrote a great song, and our drummer Russell Gilbrook got together with a friend of his and they wrote a few songs together. The [fact] that the other guys could write on the album, it really widened the scope of things, which was really good to make the album a bit more diverse.

How important is the role of your producer, Jay?

The producer most definitely makes a difference. We’re five very strong personalities and if left to our own devices we’d probably still be in the studio. Someone like Jay who comes in, he does it all. This man’s fantastic and he gets respect immediately because he does what he does well. Then he has this unique way of getting great performances from each individual and getting great sounds. We just love working with him and he’s got a great way of mining our music. It’s very true to our heritage, but it sounds very fresh and today. We find that very refreshing and we love it.

What is origin of the album title, Chaos & Colour, and what does it represent?

That was my title. I decided to call the album Chaos & Colour because it was written in the chaotic times and one of my ways of getting through those terrible times was music. 

Chaos & Colour is very much about freedom and unity. There is a very positive, upbeat vibe.

100%. I think that’s the way; you don’t dwell on negative situations because all they do is drag you down under. I’m not that sort of person. I’m always looking up at the positive, and when there’s a problem… I always find a solution. I look for good in evil all the time. It’s been a big part of our journey. I’ve had fans coming up to me on the road saying listen, I’ve had some really difficult times in my life and I want to shake your hand because your music has helped me get through it. There’s no better feeling. 

There are people coming up to us at one of our shows and they were inspired by us to pick up a guitar and now they’ve got their own band and they thank you. Those are the sorts of things that are really special – way better than getting a gold disc or a platinum disc. Those things can just go away, but the comments stay with us forever.

Any plans on touring the US for the album?

We’re always bugging our agent and our manager saying, “Get us back over there!” The last time we were there was with Judas Priest and that was a great tour. It was nearly 100 years of metal and classic rock on stage every night. We’re looking at the opportunities and, as you know well, COVID left a lot of debris in its wake. We’re trying to get to grips with that. Hopefully something will come to fruition.