Uriah Heep's Bernie Shaw on Into the Wild, Prog, and Chickenfoot

You know, I've always been into Uriah Heep album covers a lot more than Uriah Heep albums. Don't get me wrong -- there are some killer jams in the discography, like "Lady in Black" and "Gypsy," which skirts the line between prog and boogie, kind of an early example of heavy metal.

The British rockers, who many genre fans consider on par with Deep Purple, are still making music. Guitarist Mick Box is the only original member, but this lineup of "the Heep" (that's what the band's cult following calls them) has been together since 1968, minus one drummer swap.

The group has issued a new recording, Into the Wild, and their current tour winds its way to Scottsdale's Canyon Club on Wednesday, August 17. Vocalist Bernie Shaw took some time to discuss the band's career and his love for Chickenfoot.

Up on the Sun: Into the Wild is the best reviewed Uriah Heep record in years. What was the process of recording the record like? Was there a plan to bring things "back to basics," so to speak?

Bernie Shaw: Well, actually the style of recording dates back two years earlier with the Wake the Sleeper CD. It was that partnership with Mike Paxman that sowed the seed for the next two CDs, Celebration and Into The Wild, and the idea of going back to basics and recording all the backing tracks at one meet in one room in as few "takes" as possible. All three CDs were recorded in less than 5 weeks each, including solos and all vocals. To get that "live" feel, you need to all be in one room together and play as a BAND. Not done too often these days, I'm afraid to say, but that's the only way to get that sound. That combined with the fact that we went back to using just a Hammond organ, gave us that typical "Heep" sound.

You joined the band in 1986. What was your favorite Uriah Heep album before you joined the band? Were you a fan before you were involved?

Probably Sweet Freedom from 1973. That was the first LP that I'd heard and the band I was playing with at the time included "Stealin' " in our live set! I was a fan of any melodic rock at the time of which Heep were very much a part of.

The new record sounds like it's straight from the late seventies. Do any current heavy bands catch your attention? Does the current wave of heavy, prog-influenced bands interest you at all?

Well I have to admit, the newest band that I listen to is Chickenfoot. Sammy's the best rock singer out there...always has been in my opinion. Joe on guitar and Chad on the drums! How can you go wrong? And the fact they are all doing it just for the fun of it means a lot to me. I've never been too much into "prog". Just give me a straight rock song that grabs you by the bollocks. That's what I really like: a melodic hook and sung by "singers" not "vocalists".

What can we expect to get at your Canyon Club show? Does the band do selections from the entirety of the Uriah Heep discography?

Well with 41 years of melodic rock to make the live set up with, you can imagine that it's a bit difficult to please all the fans and the band too! So as we're out on a world tour promoting Into the Wild , it's only proper that we play a good section from that CD. But it's always important to remember our history, so the rest of the set is made up of the favourite hits of yesteryear. Songs like, "Stealin'," "July Morning," "The Wizard," "Easy Livin'," "Rainbow Demon," and the like. There's a bit of everything for everybody at the end of the day, and if the crowd aren't on their feet singin' and sweatin' with us by the end of the set, then I'm not doing my job right .

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.