– “Where? What Ya Got? What’s In Your Toolbox?”
By Martin Popoff
That’s UFO’s Phil Mogg piping in as Andy Parker answers our question about aging, with, “I think we’re fine. There’s a few prescription meds going around, you know, when you get our age.”
“Are you recording this symphony of bottles going on in the background?” adds Phil. “Has someone offered you a drink yet?”
Your next song title, Phil, but I digress. Trading quips on the bus with the remaining two original members of UFO back all the way to 1969 is fine way to begin a trip to Toronto’s best loved bar, The Rockpile, which the British rock legends had picked to play their first Toronto show in 26 years. The following night, it was across town to The Rockpile East, where UFO rocked a crowd approximately double the size, until it’s lights out, no place left to run except off to the next town.
“You know, if I’d have to say anything, I’d say there’s almost more energy than there has been,” continues drummer Parker, now living in Texas. “But Rob’s (de Luca—bassist) been with us for a while now, so I guess, you know, we’ve got a fair grasp of the set, so we can change things around a little bit. You know Martin, things don’t change that much.”
As for the set list, says Andy, “That’s a good one. You hearing this, Phil? (laughs). We just did run up a couple. We haven’t put them in yet, but it depends when you saw us last. Were we doing ‘Venus’ then? ‘Venus’ is in the set from Walk On Water, and we just put ‘Baby Blue’ back in the set from You Are Here. Depending on how he feels on the night, there’s three or four songs from... there’s ‘Burn Your House Down’, there’s ‘Fight Night’ and ‘Wonderland’. But yeah, but he shoved in ‘Mojo Town’ the other day, and there’s also ‘Hell Driver’ that comes up once in a while. And then of course all the old favourites that you can’t get away without playing.”
“I believe it’s like, start kicking around ideas right about now,” says Andy, asked about work on a follow up to last year’s Seven Deadly, fully the fourth of the Vinnie Moore era. “I did get an e-mail from the manager, and somehow he feels it’s necessary to go into 2016. And I don’t see much past the end of the month, you know what I mean? Talk to me after that. But no, I think we’re probably looking at an album by maybe by next year, getting it out towards the end of the year. I love where we’re going. But it’s always been the same, Martin. We don’t think what direction. It’s just what comes out at the time. That’s the one thing I love about this band: it’s never conceived as like, oh, we need to hit this demographic or we need to appeal to this market. It’s just what we want to do at the time. It’s from here, the heart; it’s not manufactured.”
“They just get out there and do it every night,” says bassist Rob de Luca, concerning his legendary band mates, de Luca touring with the band now since ’08, in place of PETE WAY who just can’t bust through the border in order to be playing the Americas. “What I love about them, is it’s no pretenses, no posturing, no wannabe rock star attitude, just plain blue collar working class rock ‘n’ roll—which is great.”
Rob’s in a curious spot and he knows it. Talented for miles as a songwriter all the way back through OF EARTH and into his SPREAD EAGLE days, he’s just diggin’ the ride. If it ends, so be it, but if it escalates toward a writing position, all the better.
“The one thing about UFO, my situation with UFO, is that this is the only band... I’ve played in a bunch of bands, you know, and I love playing rock ‘n’ roll, and I’m also a huge rock ‘n’ roll fan. Huge rock ‘n roll fan. And UFO’s the one band that I went to see as a kid, that I’ve played with live. I saw them in the Chapman era, in Upper Darby Pennsylvania at the Tower Theater, and I was one of those kids standing on my chair with my fist in the air. So it means a lot to play with a band you really love since you were young. This band, I’ve loved my whole life. And it’s very deep in my soul. So it’s amazing to be out here with these guys.”
“I think they’re telling the truth,” reflects Rob, asked further about the troubled Pete Way’s status in the band. “I think they miss the old Pete, and I’m a good person to ask about that, because I can understand. Everyone out here wants to see Pete. And I’m still finding my place within all this. People are treating me very nice and I’m doing my best, but I think they’re telling the honest truth. If Pete got his shit together, then I would not be the bass player. And that’s really I think what most people would like to see. I don’t know if that could ever happen, and they don’t know that could ever happen. So it’s kind of up to Pete. But Pete... I don’t know if he wants that. I read one interview, he said, ‘I’m over it.’ I don’t know if that’s true, or if he meant that in the moment—I’ve never met Pete; I’ve never been in the same room as him. I saw him once live when I was a kid. But I think it’s the truth. If he got his shit together, then they wouldn’t want anyone else. I don’t think they would’ve ever wanted him gone. I understand how people want to see the original members playing in the band. I get that, because as a fan I’d like to see that in my favourite bands too. It brings you back to a special place of memory, excitement, youth. Pete is definitely a legend who’s incredibly important to UFO. The guys talk about him fondly. However, I hear that the band wants everyone to be at the top of their game. So when Pete is back in a healthy place, that door is open for him. Will that ever happen, I have no idea. If it does, I’ll be happy that I played in one of the great, true rock ‘n’ roll bands.
“They haven’t changed at all,” says Rob in closing. “That’s probably what’s best about this band. Their focus is on making great albums and putting on consistent, powerful shows. All the trends, distractions, social medias, etc. will rise and fall. A band is left with their catalogue and live reputation. UFO’s rep is intact and strong.”