Formed in 1969 as a psychedelic acid blues band, UFO took their direction and name from the famed underground freak-out club in Soho, London. The core of Phil Mogg (v), Pete Way (b) and Andy Parker (d) carried on for five years knocking around their version of extreme British blues rock until fate landed German wonder guitarist Michael Schenker at their door. Four albums later they hit pay dirt when Ron Nevison produced Lights Out (1977), then Obsession (1978) and the brilliant live phenomenon Strangers in the Night (1979). Schenker left to ride his bike across the US and the band carried on with Welsh guitarist Paul “Tonka” Chapman until singer Phil Mogg collapsed on stage in Athens, Greece (1983) causing a riot and the deconstruction of the band. Several reunions followed with a revolving door of musicians. Schenker came and went; tours were postponed and cancelled as the group finally fell into a heap of debt and mounting legal troubles. Finally in 2004 the band managed a successful string of dates with Delaware-native (and Mike Varney stallion) Vinnie Moore on guitar.
The stability brought hope to fans and after a string of successful tours, got the band back on their feet. The weakest link was now Pete Way, who after years of drug and alcohol abuse, was banned from the US and eventually kicked out of the band. Sad but true. With the dead weight cut away, UFO is now starting to function as a real band again. They have just released the astounding The Visitor and have a summer full of European festivals on the books. The record is a proud return to the UFO legacy with well crafted songs, strong musicianship and Mogg’s signature vocals complete with Louis L’Amour storytelling. We recently sat down with Paul Raymond, guitarist and keyboardist for the band since 1976 to talk about UFO’s rise out of the ashes and his contribution to The Visitor a solid return to classic UFO.
Paul Raymond: Hello, is this a hairdressing salon?
The Cutting Edge: Ha, ha. Paul, you’re a funny man. No, Todd at The Cutting Edge online rock-zine. But I know about your years working as a hair stylist.
PR: (Laughing) It was only a couple months.
TCE: I love the new UFO disc. It has a real blues sound and retro feel to. Some mid-tempo, laidback numbers but my general take is the blues are back in the UFO camp.
PR: Well, I come from a blues background. Phil (Mogg) admires from afar. In the old days UFO played a lot of the blues. They did “Built for Comfort” on the first Schenker album. I remember that.
TCE: You started out as a jazz musician then moved to the blues during the British blues boom in the late ‘60s.
PR: Yes that’s right. I was in two of the most famous English blues bands, Chicken Shack and Savoy Brown. I met UFO when Savoy Brown was coming to the end of its tenure. We had been touring and touring, got rid of the singer, then Kim and I were doing the singing and it wasn’t very good. The whole thing was coming unraveled. We just happened to do a show in Saginaw, Michigan with Nazareth headlining, Savoy Brown were in the middle and UFO opening. I watched UFO and their bass player was like a whirling dervish. I was like, ‘Who is this guy?’ It was the most incredible act I’d seen. Michael Schenker’s guitar playing really impressed me. I’d been with Kim so long this was something fresh.
Pete (Way) and I got talking after the show. He came back to the hotel room where we had a few drinks and he says to me, ‘We’re thinking of getting rid of this guy Danny Peyronel. We watched you tonight and noticed you play guitar as well as keyboards. Would you be interested in the gig?’ I did a bit of research, saw they were with Chrysalis Records. I called him when I got back to London and told him I’d like to do an audition. It was only a formality so I went down and played for the guys.
TCE: You couldn’t have timed it better with Lights Out.
PR: Yeah, it was a nice career move. Later, I moved to MSG with Michael and Cozy Powell. That was a nice career move too, or it seemed at the time. In 1980 Chrysalis thought they were going to be a really big band. It never really achieved the potential we all thought it could.
TCE: Was there a real focus on this record?
PR: Well, it wasn’t rushed. We took our time. Phil had a lot to choose from as we each submitted a number of songs. I was surprised he liked so many of mine. I think I have credit for three songs this time around. There’s ‘On the Waterfront’, ‘Forsaken’ and ‘Villains & Thieves’.
TCE: It’s a nice mixture of styles and composition. I’m personally fond of ‘Villains & Thieves’. It has a great chorus and a really good swagger to it. Even your keyboards sound real honky-tonk like an old time saloon.
PR: Well, thank you. ‘Villains and Thieves’ is one of the originals I came up with just for the album. Phil used my title and wrote his own lyrics to it. I like the vibe and feel to the song it’s classic UFO isn’t it? ‘On the Waterfront” is another kind of bluesy thing. Whenever I play that song I think of Eric Clapton. Somewhere in my subconscious I must have stolen it from him. Phil did his own thing to that too. The other one ‘Forsaken’ is very Rolling Stones to me - from the intro to the rollicking boogie. I like that one quite a lot. It’s very much me you see, my personality.
TCE: Are you finally getting credit for you contributions?
PR: Ha, ha. Yes, I laid that demon to rest a long time ago. Most of the fans know now that Pete Way had to pay back all the money owed to me over the years for songwriting. Considering it was over twenty years, it was quite a lot. So, we’re all straight on that. In regards to the other songs Vinnie wrote most the other stuff. There is one by Andy called ‘Stranger in Town’ which has got some good old steamed Hammond on it.
TCE: Yeah, it sounds kind of Deep Purple-ish or Uriah Heep.
PR: On, no… not you too! Phil said, ‘I though I’d up and joined Deep Purple on that one.’ To me it sounds more like Keith Emerson. Ya know everyone goes for John Lord. I never really like his sound because he never used a Leslie cabinet he ran it straight through a Marshall. That’s why I never liked his sound. The Leslie creates the sound. The studio right up the road from where I live has a B3 and it’s a real bitch. I did all my stuff there because the set up was perfect.
TCE: ‘Forsaken’ is very Country Western to me. Is that a lap steel I hear?
PR: It just seemed like the right thing for mood of that song. Actually it’s not a lap steel it’s the keyboards.
TCE: Really, could have fooled me.
PR: I quite like country music. The Stones get into that here and there. The working title for the song was ‘Keef’ because it reminds me of Keith Richards, you know. The original song that I wrote was called ‘More Than My Fair Share’ as a tribute, if you will, for Keith Richards. Thankfully, Phil put his own spin on it and made it work for UFO. When I played it for him, I asked him, ‘Are you sure you want to use this one it’s not really UFO material.’ And he says, ‘Yeah, yeah, I like it.’
TCE: Was this an easy record for the band to do?
PR: Well, compared to what? Monkey Puzzle was a more difficult record to do and compared to that, yes this was easier. We didn’t have Pete this time. We used a German bass player who was really quite good. The rehearsals went much quicker…
Poor old Pete, bless his life. This whole thing has left him kind of bitter. The thing is Todd; he was given an ultimatum to sober up, keep up, go to rehab or we’re going to have to get somebody else. Well…he didn’t do that. That was kind of the end of the line for him really. It’s very sad. He was a founding member. It was him and Mick (Bolton), then Phil, then Andy.
Without casting too many disparaging words on Pete, it wasn’t easy going on without him. He adds a lot to the UFO sound and his bass parts are very important. There were some songs that Phil and Pete had worked on. Like I said before, we had a lot of material that wasn’t used. There was a cover of a song Phil did with Jeff Kolman called “Dancing with St. Peter” that we added as a bonus track. And there were songs that Phil wrote with a guy called Nick Crutchley which never saw the light of day. I personally submitted twelve ideas. Andy submitted eight, and Vinnie- probably even more than that. So Phil had a lot to choose from.
TCE: How does Phil pick the songs?
PR: I don’t know what goes through his mind when he hears these things. He went for ‘On the Waterfront’. Again, I thought it was too Eric Clapton-ish or Traffic, Steve Winwood - too groovy for UFO. I’m a big fan of Winwood so I’m flattered we got to use it.
TCE: Phil always seems to sing about the Wild West, being an outlaw, living by the gun. Where do you think that comes from?
PR: I noticed Simi-valley made it into one song. Actually it’s my favorite song on the album, ‘Stop Breaking Down’. In younger days, I think that could have been a hit record. As far as the outlaw thing goes…we knew we needed another cranking rock song. That’s where “Hell Driver” came in. Vinnie pulled that one out of the hat at the last minute. He’s a good lad; he came up with something when he went back to Delaware. He sent that through to the studio while we were still there. Andy cut the drum tracks for it straight away. It’s a little bit Van Halen to me, but I like it. I didn’t put any keyboard on that or it would have gotten terribly schmaltzy… Journey or something like that.
TCE: How was the record put together? Through email or were you all in the studio at the same time?
PR: I did my parts here in England at a local studio. It’s got the B3 and the Leslie that I absolutely love…and a really nice piano too. It’s very fragmented these days. So we just send the recorded files back and forth. But it works well enough. Vinnie’s got a studio in his basement. It’s cheaper than us all hanging around Area 51, staying in hotels. It gets expensive. We did an initial 10-day rehearsal in Hanover, which was a gas. Then we flew in our bits later. Phil did his stuff with Tommy Newton as he always does.
TCE: This is the third record with Tommy Newton then?
PR: We were actually going to ditch him this time around and go for someone new. We’ve done several projects with him The Monkey Puzzle, You Are Here, the live DVD (Showtime). We were thinking perhaps it might be nice to use somebody else. We were going to use Martin Birch who produced Sabbath’s Mob Rules, Iron Maiden, and Michael Schenker. In the end he couldn’t do it so Tommy got the gig again. I think it’s a much better sounding record than The Monkey Puzzle. I think he over did the drums a bit on that one.
TCE: Have you rehearsed for the upcoming tour yet?
PR: No, I’m off in about 10 days. We’re going to rehearse in Hanover. Our first gigs are in Germany. Then we’re coming back to the UK in late June which I’m really looking forward to. It’s been a while - I think we did the last one with Simon Wright. Andy missed out because of his broken ankle. Then we’re coming to you in the US in October.
TCE: Why did you first leave UFO back in 1980 after No Place to Run?
PR: Peter Minch got hold of me, Michael Schenker’s manager. At that time Michael had Denny Carmassi and Billy Sheehan in the band. Michael was in pretty bad shape. We met in this pub and he kept nodding off really out of it on pills or something. I said to Peter, ‘No I don’t think this is going to happen.’ About six months down the line he was all rehabbed and cleaned up and the opportunity came again this time with Cozy (Powell). He said, ‘Would you be interested now?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, I would.’ Then again UFO seemed to be drifting a bit. It seemed like a good move at the time.
TCE: Was there a falling out?
PR: No, no more than usual. I always thought Paul Chapman was a poor choice as a follow to Michael. But there wasn’t a lot to choose from back then. There weren’t that many great guitar players around. We had a real struggle finding somebody. In the end we settled for Paul. He’d filled in for Michael when we were looking for someone else. Eddie Van Halen told us later he was too shy to come down and audition. He’d read about it in the paper - that there was an audition. He said he didn’t think he’d get the gig. Can you believe that? He was out there in Pasadena and didn’t come down. Might have changed the course of history. In actual fact he might have been completely wrong.
TCE: UFO, to me has always been a very English sounding band.
PR: It would be nice to do another album like Lights Out or Obsession. Both were really well produced with the use of orchestration and so forth. But the material would need to be right. Maybe Schenker’s material lends itself to that type of production. ‘Try Me” that kind of thing.
TCE: What can we expect in the live set this time around?
PR: Phil called about a week ago and asked about putting ‘Try Me’ in the set. He said, ‘Try Me’ or ‘Profession of Violence’ just to add a new slow song. I got the set list the other day and ‘Baby Blue’ was in there. I personally think we should put ‘Profession of Violence’. Vinnie plays a hell of a solo on that one. The fans are always crying out for the Paul Chapman era. We do have ‘Long Gone’ in there. ‘Try Me’ is a difficult song to do live because of the orchestra and the piano at the same time. I tried to explain it to Phil and I think he dozed off when I tried to tell him about the technicalities of it.
TCE: Reflecting back on your time with UFO, what are some of the highlights?
PR: Lights Out was a key stand out. I’d never done anything like that. We had a big budget and all the right players in place. I was so proud of that record. I played it for everybody, even my parents who don’t like rock music. They’re jazz people. I even played it for my wife’s mother, who was an older lady. She said to my wife about my playing, ‘That boy can really play.’ She compared ‘Try Me’ to something like Tony Bennett or something. I was really proud to be involved with it. It crossed a lot of bridges and has proven to be a terrific record. Pity Michael didn’t stay longer.
A special thanks to Paul Raymond for taking the time to chat. As always, he was very candid, and a perfect English gentleman. Raymond has recently released his sixth solo record, Virtual Insanity. For our review, please click here.
Website: UFO, SPV Records, Paul Raymond