‘Most Bands Have Great Ideas And It All Goes Down The F***ing Toilet’
Come inside for the first part of an exclusive interview with UFO frontman Phil Mogg.
British heavy rock legends UFO release their brand new studio album, The Visitor, on June 2 and head out on a British tour shortly afterward. The dates kick off at Brighton Concorde 2 on June 9 and finish on the 24th at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Get your UFO tickets here. In the first part of an exclusive interview with Classic Rock, frontman Phil Mogg talks about buying UFO guitarist Vinnie Moore a jockstrap; about being a fan of Ted Nugent, Pink and Beyoncé (not necessarily in that order); about a mysterious German bass player called Peter Pickle; and about a certain ‘pansy’ with the initials ‘S.B.’…
INTERVIEW: GEOFF BARTON
One of your new songs on The Visitor is called On The Waterfront. Was it inspired by the fact that you now live in the seaside town of Brighton?
No, you should realise where that one comes from. Marlon Brando, isn’t it? You know Brighton is the gay capital of this country? Everything’s quiet. It’s lovely. But you are aware of that fact, aren’t you? Because I thought I saw you the other day, swanning around outside my front door.
On The Visitor, it sounds like you’ve tweaked UFO’s musical style a little. Several of the tracks are southern rock- and country-flavoured.
The idea, the game-plan, was to record songs that we could easily play live. Sometimes songs sound fine in the studio but don’t work out too well on stage. So the main idea was: “Can we play it live?” That was the intention. Whether or not we pulled it off, I don’t know. Most bands have great ideas and it all goes down the fucking toilet. You always have a great plan to start out with. It’s a bit like digging in your back garden and you think: “I’ve got a great idea here.” But suddenly it goes all wrong – do you know what I mean? But I think Vinnie [Moore, guitar] kicks arse on the new album. Have you noticed? He’s gone from shred to bed. He’s moved left-field. I listened to his guitar-playing and I actually went round the corner and bought him a jockstrap. Just because I thought: “Great playing, Vin.” Tommy [Newton, producer/engineer] said: “He’s sounding, like, European. Or English.”
On another of your new songs, Can’t Buy A Thrill, are you drawing from personal experience?
Maybe I do, maybe I don’t. Can’t buy a thrill? Well, you can, can’t you? It depends where you are. Have you ever been subjected to being in jail? Oh, man, it’s like somewhere you don’t wanna go. We recorded the new album in Germany and every night after the studio I had to go back to this white room [Mogg presumably means his hotel room]. The only thing I could watch was MTV, because the rest of it’s German, obviously. So I’ve got Pink, who I really like, and Beyoncé. Her thighs look great. My nights were spent watching cheap movies. Oo-ooh. Can’t buy a thrill. That’s where that came from. Thank you.
Bassist Pete Way is taking a sabbatical from UFO because he (to quote the new album’s press release) ‘is currently suffering from a liver disease’. However, you have got someone else called Pete playing on the record.
Funnily enough, his name is Peter Pickle. I don’t know where you get a German name called Pickle.
How do you spell his surname? Pikkel, perhaps?
I don’t know, it was like… Pickle. We’d say to him: “Peter Piper picked a pickle, do-be-doo-be-doo.” And he’d go: “Ach, you are taking ze piss.” He turned up in the studio with sheet music. I’ve never been in a studio where someone turns up with sheet music. It was all written down on a sheet. And you’d go: “Ooh, that’s interesting.”
Where did you find him?
It came through [UFO manager] Peter Knorn. He said: “Look, this guy plays real good bass, he’s very sensible and he’s got a good-looking wife.” And he did, he had a great sound coming out of a Fender. Like a Fender bass. Precision bass. You know the Fender Precision bass? So he wrapped it up and did his gig. He’s a nice guy.
Without Pete Way’s, shall we say, occasionally disruptive presence, did this allow you to concentrate a bit more on the recording process?
I always think… you’ve got to keep doing something, your writing, working on stuff, whatever. So you don’t want any distractions. And Peter Pickle was perfect for the gig.
You’re singing very well on the new album.
Oh, shut up. How much is this going to cost me?
We can work out a fee later.
Hey, I’m cheap. It depends how expensive you are.
Seriously, it’s a good performance, you should be proud of it.
Oh no, I am. I know it sounds stupid, but I really do like the new album. It rocks. We got the whole shebob together.
Who’s playing bass on your new tour? You had Rob De Luca out with you recently…
We’ve got Barry Sparks [Dokken, Ted Nugent, Yngwie Malmsteen etc] playing bass. He’s real cool. Not Rob De Luca. He’s tied up with that pansy. That guy with the long hair who did that reality TV show with our old drummer, Jason Bonham [SuperGroup]. What’s his name?
Initials ‘S.B.’ – is that who you’re referring to?
Yes. I thought Ted Nugent shone on that TV show. He went: “Don’t come near my guitar.” I thought: “Yeah, right, Ted!” I’m not a great Ted Nugent fan but I thought he was real cool. He was the straightest person in the fucking whole group. I do like Cat… Strack… Cat… hang on a minute [coughs]. Cat. Scratch. Fever. It’s a bit like asking for Solpadeine in the chemist. “Can I have a large pack of Solpadeine, please?” No, I thought Ted was great.
* Tune into www.classicrockmagazine.com for part two of our Phil Mogg interview tomorrow.