Box News #263 – February 8, 2018

Mick talks about recording the new album titled ‘Living the Dream’ at the Chapel Studios Lincolnshire, meeting Jay Ruston our producer, The Uriah Heep Youth Club, the first track being recorded, the gremlin on the Acoustic guitar track, and Mick and Phil writing theme melodies. Mick also discusses, the blender in the kitchen, the pool competitions, the Carparelli Pledge Guitar and Russell at the Physio. Mick talks about Spurs football, the malfunction Boss tuner, filming, Bernie’s massage, Grammy Award Winning Producer Andy Sneap’s visit, Sheila my wife and her foot operation, Mike McHale’s kindness, my son Romeo’s 17th Birthday, the fantastic show at the Giants of Rock Minehead show, and what a brilliant reception we received.

Thursday 4TH January, Davey came over to my house in London and we loaded up my car to drive the 3 ½ – 4 hours to Chapel Studios in Lincolnshire. With all of my Guitars, Davey’s’ Bass Guitars, 3 Amplifiers, 2 suitcases, bags of pedals, we were full to the brim. Russ was picking up our Producer Jay Ruston from LGW Airport who flew in from Los Angeles, Phil travelled by train and Bernie joined us the following day as he had just arrived back from Canada full of Jet lag.

The first night was getting to know Jay while Brian and Scampi set up the equipment along with the resident studio engineers Sam and Pete. We ordered in a curry for dinner that night, as our catering did not start until the following day. After eating that we played a few games of pool and at one point it looked like the ‘Uriah Heep Youth Club’ was in full flight, and then we all retired for the night.

Friday: On Day 1 we have breakfast at 10am before going into the studio at 11am. This was a day for getting sounds. Always the drums are the first and this usually takes the longest to get just right, then we all get our headphone balances while jamming, so that we are set to start the recording process and get in the trenches and perform.

We break for a quick lunch at 1pm and then we do not stop until 6.30pm for dinner each day. After dinner we start again until approximately 11pm.

On Saturday we started recording the first track of the album. We do this by all playing live without a click track to make it sound as organic as possible, and the results are brilliant. After the backing track is finished, we tend to do all of the overdubs and solos on that track, so that it is ready for lead vocals.

Sunday, we started off with the lead vocals on yesterday’s track and it sounded great. Our producer Jay got the best vocal sound and performance out of Bernie I have heard in a long while, and the song even in that rough mix stage sounded fantastic. It was early days, but Jay is definitely the right choice of Producer as he has a brilliant studio demeanour, and a really chilled way of doing things that brings out best of everybody, and along with that all of the sounds are terrific, and I was super happy with my guitar sound.

After Bernie’s excellent vocal we started on another backing track. This was another rocker and once we had nailed the arrangement, and we were cool with our headphone balance, we recorded the song until we were happy with it. We never do more than 5 or 6 takes as we want it to all sound fresh.

All the time Jay is encouraging us and pointing out how we can improve our individual parts to get the best out of the song. In the end, we finish up with a rockin’ performance and the backing track is complete. After this I usually sit in the control room with Jay and play my overdub guitar parts and solos. Then it is all ready for Bernie to put his vocal on. Russell had a trapped nerve in his left shoulder, so he went to a physio nearby and had some treatment while I did the overdubs.

Monday, we tried to record another track which had Acoustic guitar on it. Well we recorded this in an unusual way. The song was written on Acoustic guitar, but we recorded most of the other parts first, and all that was left to do was for me to put on my Acoustic. Well we did this with me sitting in the main studio and playing the piece twice for a double track effect, but when Jay went to piece it all together he found that there was a click on the Acoustic take, that we could not readily identify, and the end result was that we would have to do it all over again. Rather than mess about with the Acoustic anymore we abandoned it for another day and moved on to a vocal on the previous track we had recorded. Well once again Bernie excelled himself and it was a rockin’ performance from him and the vocal sound Jay got was just brilliant, so we were all super delighted. Thus far the performances from everyone have been top notch and it is all beginning to sound quite special.

Tuesday was back to another backing track and once again a rockin’ one. When we heard it played back we made some improvements to the arrangement and then the song really began to take off. Once the backing track was complete, Phil and I set about writing a theme part and a solo and we came up with some terrific ideas. There are some big Heepy type harmonies in there also, so it was ready to lay down a lead vocal. Bernie did this, and the end result was brilliant. This one will be a great live track for sure.

Wednesday, it was time to record a much longer track, but we stayed faithful to the arrangement from our pre-production and it took shape really quickly. There are a lot more parts on this one, so it took a little more time than usual, but when we heard it back for the first time it sounded great, even without the vocals and overdubs on. We took the rest of the day working on this track with all of the various parts and overdubs, and as each piece of the jigsaw puzzle was added it sounded better and better.

When I was doing a guitar part in the main studio we kept hearing a crackling noise creep in on the part I played, so we changed leads and guitars, and we tried hard to find the stubborn gremlin. When Jay opened the studio door he identified that the noise was in fact Bernie in the kitchen using the blender to make Houmas. You could not make it up could you, and we had to laugh, but once Bernie was told to shut it off, the noise stopped, and we could finish the guitar track off successfully.

Everyone played so well on this track just proving that the band are on top of their game. As with most days we listen back to the days recorded work before relax time takes over and the usual popping of corks and playing competition pool in the what was now definitely referred to as ‘The Uriah Heep Youth Club,’ before all retiring to our beds. Some earlier than others I might add! Jay was proving to be a mean Pool player and was beating everybody.

Thursday, we carried on with the last track with organ solos etc. and I played some nice arpeggio guitar on the Carparelli Pledge guitar, which sounded really cool, and then it was ready for Bernie to do a vocal. The Pledge guitar is lovely, and I even sent Mike Carparelli a text saying that I want one of these guitars as it plays so well.

Today Russell went to the Physio again and he is definitely moving a lot better from his last visit which is great. Bernie started a vocal which sounded marvellous and at the end of the night we listened through to the fruits of our labour, before the drinking and pool competition started. It is good way to wind day after a full-on day.

On Friday Russ had a bit of a cold so we decided to play a ballad rather than a full-on rock track. The arrangement we kept the same as our pre-production, as it sounded really good. We started the recording process and with a few nips and tucks we had it. Bernie was not keen to be singing in the evening, so this time we recorded his vocals before dinner and after that Phil and I added our guitar and organ parts.

Saturday was a day of guitar and keyboards catch up which was good for Phil and me, and the others sat around and relaxed. Instead of putting more Acoustic on that earlier track, we put some 12 string Electric Guitar with it, and mixed together, it sounded great.

Bernie had his family up, so he was well occupied anyway. I did manage to see the Spurs V Everton football match on the television while Phil as overdubbing, and we won 4-1 which was great.

Sunday, we recorded another rock track and once we had the take, I recorded all of the guitar parts only to find that my Boss tuner had malfunctioned and was coming up slightly flat. It was not enough to notice until the organ part came in, and then it became a problem.

This meant that I had to re-record all of my guitar parts again using a T.C. Electronic Poly Tuner which was Brian’s. In all of my years playing I have never had a tuner go flat on me, but there is always a first for everything. I did manage while Phil was doing his keyboard overdubs to see the Liverpool v Manchester City football game with Davey, who was super delighted with the 4-3-win, breaking Man City’s epic run of wins this season.

Monday, it started with me re-doing all of the out of tune guitar parts with Jay. Luckily the tuner was on the blink only on the last couple of numbers, thank god. We then started the process of getting everything in the guitar department in tune. It did sound great in the end, so that is all that counts. Phil added some keyboard parts and then Bernie sang a vocal on Sunday’s rock track. In the evening, we had a film crew turn up to record some of the recording process the following day. They had driven from Ireland, so they were pretty knackered and went to bed quite early.

The next day we did some filming whilst recording a track and they were of course in the studio with us. This was all a bit alien having outsiders in the room with us I have to say, but we soon got used to it a little, even though it is something I personally don’t like, as it does take away your focus. They were with us the whole day and ended up with a lot on film, so that was cool! There were studio shots, relaxing shots, talking about our gear shots, as well as listen to the playback shots, so it was all pretty much full on.

Tuesday morning the film crew drove back to Ireland leaving at 6am to try and beat the bad weather coming in. It ended up being a guitar and keyboard overdub day, and then we moved into some vocal parts and at the end of that the Youth Club was opened, and the drinks flowed.

Wednesday, I did some basic track overdubs and then Bernie did a vocal which turned out great on that particular track. It was a long old day, but the results were amazing, so we were all very happy. Jay has produced for us some superb sounds and he has definitely got some great vocals out of Bernie. Then of course it was wind down time and some had an early night while others had a late one, or should I say an early morning one.

On Thursday we started recording another backing track which after hearing it back in the studio, we made some adjustments, and then we cracked on until we were all happy with it. As it was a busy track and we wanted to make sure a 100% that we were happy with it we decided to sleep on it.

Bernie had a massage booked for 1pm locally, so we did not see him until after that. Russ had one booked for 5pm and while he was there, Phil and I recorded our respective parts on other tracks that needed it.

Around 6pm we had a visit from Grammy winning metal producer Andy Sneap, who had just finished the latest Judas Priest album and by all accounts it sounds brilliant. He came by to say hi which was nice of him as he lived 2 hours away. It was good to see him, and I hadn’t seen Andy for a while and neither had Jay. He wanted me to sign a drum skin for one of his friends and I gave him some guitar picks that he wanted.

After dinner, I recorded another solo and with Andy sitting behind me in the control room and Jay in front of me, just for one second it did cross my mind ‘no pressure then,’ but it all turned out great, and once this was finished we called it a night and retired to the pool table for a few games and a few well-earned drinks. I think everyone took advantage of an early night to be honest.

Friday saw us start on Bass repairs on the backing track of the song we had slept on, as in the clear light of day the drum track sounded great. Then it was time for me to add some of my guitar parts. These all sounded great and I was very pleased with them.

Saturday, it was time for another backing track which took shape reasonable quickly. There was a passage that needed a guitar part, so I sat in the lounge area and quickly wrote one, that fit perfectly. Davey’s wife Corine came up for a visit. Then we put down our final track and then Davey finished his bass overdubs. As Russell’s parts were complete he went home that evening.

Sunday, was another backing track that did not take too long as we were well into our stride by then. Once again, a melody part was required, so Phil and I sat in the studio for 20 minutes and produced a great melodic line that was right in the pocket. Then, Davey tidied up his bass track and he was finished too, so he drove back to London with Corine. Phil and I continued with our respective keys and guitar parts, then Bernie sang some vocals, leaving the smallest vocal piece for the morning.

Come Monday morning I played my last guitar part and Bernie sang his last vocal and we were all done 3-4 days ahead of schedule. I was very happy about this as my wife Sheila had gone to hospital to have a foot operation, and she was coming home that evening, and I would be able to see her. A good friend Mike McHale had taken Sheila into the hospital while I was recording, and he was bringing her home too, which was fantastic of him. We were very grateful to Mike for doing this seeing as I was not there to do it, and it was wonderful to see Sheila and Romeo again, and of course my dog Iggy went mental when I opened the front door. Even our cat Biscuit was in need of a cuddle.

5 days later we were headlining the Giants of Rock festival in Minehead. This was on my son Romeo’s 17th Birthday, so in the morning I had my guitar on when he came down for breakfast and Sheila and I sang Happy Birthday to him. We then gave him a cake and his presents. After this I had to leave, as we had planned to meet up at Kings X station and we then drove the 4 ½ hours to Butlin’s Holiday camp, where the festival was held.

We arrived in time for a sound-check, and we even had time for some dinner, as we were on stage for 9.30pm. Our contract was for only one hour, so it was heads down and see you at the finish line. Well the venue was packed to the rafters, with another 200 people plus outside that could not come in for insurance reasons. We had a fantastic time and the response was terrific, and it was good to let loose on a live show after the constraints of the studio. The audience were singing so loudly on some of the songs it was just amazing. It sure was good to play England again after a reception like that.

The next morning, after breakfast we jumped back in the van and drove back to London. It was good to be home and relax which was the lull before the storm really, as we were leaving for Ottawa Canada for long 6-week long North American tour in a few days.

‘Appy days!




5 Responses to “Box News #263 – February 8, 2018”

  1. Egil Heepaholic Says:

    Thanks for sharing with us Mick. Looking forward to pre-order this new album. Enjoy your tour in Canada and USA.

  2. Glen Doucet Says:

    Can’t wait to get the new album Mick, I pre-ordered as soon as pledgemusic started the process.
    We also had bought our tickets for the Ottawa show on Feb 8th, we were to fly from Fredericton, NB(our home) to Ottawa yesterday but due to an unfortunate incident where we had water in our basement we had to cancel our plans, friends of ours are still going to the show. But it really sucks as my wife and I were so excited to see you and the band again, as we haven’t seen the band since June, 2011 in New Hampshire. I hope your North American tour is great for the band, you are making a lot of fans happy…..

  3. David Learmonth Says:

    All sounds hard work – but worth while!
    Good to read how you all get along so well together – unlike some bands who apparently can’t stand the sight of one another

  4. Mark Novicki Says:

    A great read as always! Can’t wait for the new album to drop. Mine is already ordered through Pledge Music. See you guys in 2 weeks in Connecticut and Peekskill NY! Safe travels!

  5. Isabella Seefriedt Says:

    Thank you for another good read. Really looking forward to the new album and ordered it already through Pledge Music. Have a great tour and safe travels. Love and hugs Isabella

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