‘Appy Days: The Mick Box Column (No. 3)
This week, the famed Uriah Heep guitarist talks about playing in Russia, being interviewed about Rush, what he’s currently reading, and his thoughts on new albums from Kiss, The Black Crowes and Lynyrd Skynrd. Plus Mick’s early Christmas pressie… Click here to read Mick’s previous columns.
The start of this week began with a bunch of phone interviews from Greece, Norway, Italy and Germany. I also did a live drive-time radio interview with Paul Franks on BBC West Midlands, which was great. I had to go to our manager Martin Darvill’s office, to sign 2,000 Limited Edition Celebration seven-inch vinyls, which took the best part of four hours, before we left for Moscow the following day.
The show in Moscow was a private one, and the goalposts were changed quite a few times, as happens in these territories. First it was an acoustic show, and then they asked for an electric set. We found this out only a couple of days before leaving. The trouble with these late changes is that we had agreed our hired technical specifications for the acoustic show, and the electric specifications are vastly different regarding backline, PA, monitor and lights. So our crew were flat out trying to make sure we had the equipment needed to do the show. Nothing like keeping us on our toes!
Getting to the airport had its problems too, as all of the approach roads to London Heathrow Airport were blocked with heavy traffic. We had to do the old ‘drive up the hard shoulder’ trick to get there in time. Add to this the fact that Christos (guitar tech and stage manager) had a puncture on the way to collect our guitars and production cases etc. from storage. So we were a little late on the agreed time of two hours to check in. Still we all made it, checked in, and just got on the plane in time. The flight was half empty, the food was not fit for my dog (incidentally I have a Hungarian Vizsla puppy called Elvis) and most of us had some much-needed catch-up sleep.
When we arrived, a third of our equipment had not got on to the flight, and was still in London! Now we’d been charged excess baggage to get the equipment on the flight, and then it does not arrive? How maddening is that! They promised it will arrive at 2am on another flight. Our hotel was two hours from Moscow Domodedovo Airport, and this did not thrill our crew. So we made arrangements to pick it up later that morning. We also found out at the last minute that, apart from us playing, the bill also featured a couple of Russian bands, comedians, plus No Doubt with Gwen Stefani. Luckily, they had three stages so there were no change over problems.
The show was great and most of the invited audience looked like they had just fallen off the front page of Vogue magazine. After a bite to eat, it was back to the hotel for bed at 2am and up at 5.30am. The flight back home was pretty much the same as coming out, with much-needed catch-up sleep, and food which was not worth waking up for. They still managed to lose Christos’ tool box – thankfully it got delivered the next day. The promoter Anar did an excellent job, and was with us every step of the way once we were in Russia.
Played the new Kiss CD Sonic Boom and it is a good typical Kiss album. It is nice to hear them with fresh new material; Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons are singing well. The Black Crowes’ Before The Frost… Until The Freeze CD is great, and there are a couple of really nice guitar solos on there. Love the actual CD looking like it is vinyl, and it is all played pretty much live. If you like The Black Crowes you will love this. Also enjoyed the new Lynyrd Skynyrd CD God & Guns. The chorus on the first track, Still Unbroken, could even have been an early Whitesnake song. Johnny Van Zant is singing up a storm – his voice is upfront and personal.
A couple of things that I always take with me on tour are a good book, my iPod, Sudoku – and I always pack my sense of humour. On the book front, I have just finished a real page turner called Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. It is an extraordinary true story about an armed robber and heroin addict (Gregory David Roberts), who escaped from an Australian prison and lived in India, immersed in the Bombay underworld. It was difficult to put down and a great read.
I was recently interviewed about the Canadian band Rush for the film Rush: The Documentary. The reason I was asked was quite simply, Rush supported Uriah Heep coast to coast throughout the USA, when we were huge over there, and this eventually broke them. It was an on-camera chat about my memories of Rush touring with us. The very first concert Rush played with Neil Peart as their drummer, in 1974, was supporting Heep. Of course they went on to great things and I really enjoy listening to them, and for a three piece they are incredibly powerful.
Just received a phone call from my wife Sheila, and she has bought me an early Xmas present of two tickets to see Jeff Beck & Eric Clapton in February 2010 at the O2 Arena in London. What a night that is going to be.
That’s it for now, see you next week!
– Mick Box