By Todd Houston
Exclusive to TRRT
Rockford Rocked Interview: The Chicago area has always been a hot spot for UFO to play over the years. Different incarnations of the band have come through Rockford more than once and shared billing with locals Cheap Trick many times. You guys released the album A Conspiracy of Stars recently and are starting another U.S. tour March 2 in Akron, Ohio. What keeps UFO rolling and what do you attribute the bands longevity to?
Paul Raymond: Recently, there seems to be a wave of nostalgia rising, perhaps as a consequence of a few bands of our era ceasing to exist in the last few years, such as Thin Lizzy, Dio, and now Motorhead. Particularly in the UK, we sold out the majority of venues on our tour there last year. I think a lot of people are thinking along the lines of “is this the last chance I have to see this band?” and to hear the original band play the music live. Remarkably, all members of UFO past and present are still alive and I hope it remains that way!
RRI: You’ve also been busy with the Paul Raymond Project. What can you tell us about that?
PR: There has been a Paul Raymond Project in existence since the late ’80s in various incarnations. Initially in Japan and for a while in the UK it only existed as a studio project, but back in 2013 I put a band together for the album launch of Terms & Conditions Apply and subsequently with a line-up change we did a mini tour in early 2015 and a couple of shows in September to promote the Rewind 50 album which celebrated the anniversary of my 50 years as a professional musician. I’d love to do more, but the band are scattered to the four corners of the UK so it’s really difficult to arrange rehearsal time in between my UFO commitments. It’s an ongoing project and there will be more albums and perhaps more live shows in the future.
RRI: You play the guitar upside down ala Albert King. Was it difficult playing like that early on?
PR: It has had its problems technically, but generally I think I get a brighter sound by strumming upwards. Michael Schenker once paid me a huge compliment back in 1998 by saying, “I have played in a two guitar band with many different people, but I think your sound complements me the best.”
RRI: In recent years I’ve seen the epic UFO song Try me (Lights Out) included in some of the live shows. What inspired you to write the classic opening piano intro?
PR: Try Me started out life as just a guitar solo (which you hear in the middle of the song) Phil said, “We can make a song out of this, have you any ideas for a vocal melody for the verse?” He already had the very strong chorus (the Try Me bit) so I came up with the vocal melody and we wrote the lyrics together in a rehearsal room in London while the other guys went to the pub. The only missing element was the introduction – so I drew on my classical training and with the essence of the song in mind – created the intro you are referring to. Ron Nevison seemed very pleased with it.
RRI: According to former UFO bass player Paul Gray and Cheap Trick’s Bun E. Carlos, UFO had a reputation as a hard rocking band that liked their drink and loved to have fun on the road. Would this be a fair assessment of the early days?
PR: Yes , I could write a novel about it, but then again, most of it would be unprintable!
RRI: Speaking of Cheap Trick do you have any memories of playing Rockford’s Coronado with Rick Derringer or Alpine Valley (East Troy) Wisconsin with Cheap Trick?
PR: None at all! (Laughs)
RRI: Favorite song to play live?
PR: I’m a Loser – it’s so beautifully constructed. A simple verse, a nice middle section, great chorus and an incredible solo section.
RRI: Who would win in an arm wrestling contest, former UFO bass player Pete Way or UFO singer Phil Mogg?
PR: Funny you should mention that! Phil always prided himself on his arm wrestling prowess – until around 10 years ago when we had a guitar tech named Oskar who reluctantly took Phil on. On numerous occasions, spurred on by Pete Way, shouting from the background “Come on Champ, you can do it” and with money on the table, he beat him every time, much to Phil’s distress. Surprisingly, there hasn’t been much talk of arm wrestling in recent years!