Drummer Russell Gilbrook of British hard rock veterans URIAH HEEP recently spoke with "The Classic Metal Show". The full conversation can be streamed below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On the high praise for the band's recent studio efforts:
Russell: "It's a funny one, actually. The thing about music is it has special places and special meanings for people throughout different times of their lives, so it's very difficult to say what's the best and what isn't the best. It's just nice that, after nearly 50 years, we're producing music that is still of a good quality that means something to people, and our fans are continuing to grow with the band."
On new album "Living The Dream":
Russell: "We're a very powerful band live, and the hardest thing to do in a recording is capture some of the magic elements that you have live. It's very difficult to try and capture some of the magic moments, especially energy and power, on a recording, but we had the fantastic Jay Ruston that came in. He understands power. It's his forte to have a fantastic ear for great separation, so that the instruments can breathe and come out on their own, which adds a lot of energy and power to the tracks. Plus, we've always made a point of playing the backing [tracks] down as a unit, so we go in and we'll put the keyboards, guitar, bass and drums all down in one hit, because it's very special to get those magic moments when you play together as a band. If you do it separately, you might miss out on that. You tend to miss out on that chemistry part, so it's important for us to do that. When stuff comes in, you're never quite sure when you're listening to riffs or songs or bits and pieces how they're actually going to develop, but because we've got so much experience and we play well as a unit together, when we start pulling together, the magic starts to happen."
On juggling writing, recording and touring:
Russell: "It's difficult, because the record companies say one thing, because they're sitting in their offices and they don't understand the full extent, and we're out there trying to service 61 countries that we play in, and the fans are gagging for us to go over there and play for them. Fitting in writing times and recording times is very, very difficult indeed, but we made sure this time that Mick [Box, guitars] and Phil [Lanzon, keyboards] spent a little bit of time on the days off. They deliberately booked themselves and did a lot of groundwork, as did Dave [Rimmer, bass], and when we decided that this album has to be something special, we booked off time to deliberately do proper pre-production so we could really scrutinize and draw out the best of all the ideas that came into the table to try and create a fantastic album."
On the fact that classic rock radio stations will readily play the group's 1972 hit "Easy Livin'" while ignoring their recent output:
Russell: "What annoys me is the power, that they're allowed to do that, because without [groups like] us, they don't have a radio station. The thing that infuriates us is, if we're good enough to be played in 2018, please respect the fact that we're working our backsides off to try and produce amazing [new] music that the fans love and want to hear, and play it. We don't go out there touring and working very hard to come up with fantastic music for people not to play it. There's always going to be a time when people are going to play the old stuff that made the band — and we want people to hear that — but we also want our new stuff to be played, because we're just as proud of the new stuff that we write as the old stuff that's made us who we are. The other bit that I find, personally, really infuriating, is if you've allocated URIAH HEEP three minutes, then 'Easy Livin'' is one song out of a number of three-minute songs, so why the hell, if you've allocated our band that airtime, then just vary it up a bit and play different tracks all the time. Everyone knows how 'Easy Livin'' goes, for goodness sake."
On the band having been told to record shorter songs to accommodate radio programmers:
Russell: "An artist — a band or musician or whatever it is — they create something. They don't chisel it off to suit someone else; they create an art form, an expression, an emotion, a journey for people to hear through music, and if it's two minutes or twenty minutes, it is what it is. Dictating to that is such a crime, and so rude and disrespectful to a band or an artist that is there, literally, creating something that puts you on a journey or is saying a story, and there they are, editing it to suit their little three-minute thing. It's ridiculous."
On how long the band can continue:
Russell: "Tony Iommi's a good mate of mine, and he said — and I agree with him, because I'm exactly the same myself — 'It's down to that spark that's inside you.' Every musician has a certain thing about them. It's almost like every time I play on stage, it's like the first time. I'm so excited. The biggest thing for me in life is getting on that stage and playing my drums. If that spark went, I could understand how people then would think of retiring, because now that would be a chore, because 30 hours on the tour bus or going through the airport another 65 times and all that wasted time of traveling would then eat you inside really badly. It's bad enough as it is, but the gigs and the audiences and the fans are really, really so fantastic, it blocks out all of that rubbish. Mick and myself and the guys in the band, we still are so excited to get on that stage and perform for people. As long as we've got that in us, the only thing that's going to take me out and Mick out is a heart attack, because it's our whole life. When you've been doing it this amount of years, you don't know anything else [and] you still love it as much, you just go out and do it."
On whether URIAH HEEP could theoretically carry on without Box:
Russell: "I would like to think it could continue. You've got DEEP PURPLE, BLACK SABBATH, LED ZEPPELIN, URIAH HEEP — the big four that they put out there in the 1970s, certainly in England. They made such an impact because that music was the first of its kind. SABBATH was the first to do that 'godfather of metal' thing. HEEP got bad press, we know that, but they were certainly one of the most influential bands for future bands because of their progginess in the early days and how they performed, and how they played with the harmonies and the high voice and everything, the same as what ZEPPELIN did and the same as what PURPLE did. Because of the impact of it, it would be a real shame for that just to die and fizzle away simply because Mick is no longer able to do it. It would be fantastic if the rest of us could fly the flag for as long as possible, but obviously, all of that really is determined by the situation itself. We don't know whether it would be detrimental; we don't know whether the fans would seriously alienate, and therefore put a bad taste on URIAH HEEP's name if we try and drag it through. It would be a very sad thing if it came [to] playing to 150 people after that. I think that would then [contradict] what URIAH HEEP's all about, so therefore, it would be better to call it a day, but I certainly wouldn't want to, because I've done a lot in this band in the 11 years I've been with them. I'm very excited about the band; I love the history of the band; I love all the fans all over the world; and music is music, and it should just keep on growing."
URIAH HEEP will release its 25th studio album, "Living The Dream", on September 14 via Frontiers Music Srl.