PHIL LANZON – A Heep Of Solo Music
September 24, 2019, 10 months ago
Phil Lanzon is one busy chap. In addition to serving as the keyboardist for prog metallists Uriah Heep since 1986, he is also a solo artist, having issued If You Think I’m Crazy! in 2017, and 48 Seconds in 2019. Additionally, he is a published author (Curse of the Mudchalk Devil also arrived in 2019) and has played with a variety of other artists over the years. Phil spoke with BraveWords correspondent Greg Prato about his current - and future - projects, shortly after the August 9th release of 48 Seconds (via his own label, PLD/Phil Lanzon Ditties).
BraveWords: How differently do you approach a solo album as opposed to a Uriah Heep album?
Phil Lanzon: “First off, the blueprint of Uriah Heep is a well-known sound - production, choice of melodies, songs, lyrics, and everything. So, when we do write for Uriah Heep, we have that in mind when we do it. That’s fair enough - I think all bands that are established, have that criteria. So, when you step out of that, like I do quite often, because I have quite a lot of material on the back burner not always suitable for Uriah Heep, that gives me the opportunity to delve into other areas and experiment where I want. Especially, with my love of film music, I like to include orchestra and choir, and have dynamic, dramatic musical passages, which is my thing - that’s the other side of me. And because I have a backlog of material, I can select whatever I’ve written here at home, and present it to my producer, Simon, and my arranger, Richard. And we can start talking about what we like and what we don’t like, and go down that road.”
BraveWords: How was it working with an orchestra and choir?
Phil Lanzon: “I love it. It’s one of my great desires - to work in that world, if I can further that into movie scoring, I would love to do that. Because that is probably my main thing in life - is to do that. That’s my main love. I like all genres of music though - it’s not just that. I draw from pop, rock, metal, classical, and I like to do a mixture of whatever it is I think is going to work - melodically and making sense as a theme. I like to delve in those areas.”
BraveWords: There is an interesting story behind the album’s title.
Phil Lanzon: “The story about 48 Seconds is based on the San Francisco earthquakes of 1906. It does go back a little while to when I was a kid and I picked up a book from the library. Not that I was looking for a disaster story, but the title caught my eye. And the story stuck with me throughout my early years, really. And I then thought, ‘Well, what can I do? This is a terrible, sad story, this event.’ It’s not alone - there are plenty of other disasters in the world, but for some reason, that one had resonance to me. Later on in life, I started creating a song around it, but the song didn’t work out, and it wasn’t suitable to the criteria I was working with - or the band that I was with. So I left it on the shelf, and left it for a while to gather dust. Many years went by, until I picked it up again in the ‘80s, and I rewrote it with a different style altogether, and again, I thought, ‘It’s still not right. This hasn’t resonated yet.’ So last year, it did. I picked up an old song I had from way back - the emotion of which seemed to fit the emotions of the story. So, I started working on putting them together. I changed the old lyrics, got rid of them, and just rewrote this whole lyric - including two characters, so that the listener could relate to the story as it goes along. And I came up with this amazing arrangement, which ended up being almost ten minutes, I believe. All who have heard it have been blown away by it - including myself.”
BraveWords: Is “Rock N’ Roll Children” the hardest rocking track on the album?
Phil Lanzon: “The hardest rocking track is probably ‘You Can Make A Living.’ ‘Rock N’ Roll Children’ has been picked up by a lot of people - it had a chart entry in the Dutch charts for four weeks. Different people like different songs. I just did a big interview with Planet Rock in London, and they want to use the instrumental opening track for one of their shows. It’s such a varied genre album. That’s the kind of thing I like.”
BraveWords: Artist Michael Chevel did the album’s artwork.
Phil Lanzon: “My first album, If You Think I’m Crazy!, I was searching the internet, looking for an album cover that struck me. It took me months and months of searching, and couldn’t really find anything that suited...until I came across this particular picture of John Lennon and this strange-looking lady with a zebra costume on. I got in touch with the artist by simply sending off an email - not expecting an answer. And within 24 hours, I got a phone call directly from Michael. And he said, ‘I’m a big Uriah Heep fan! What do you want to do with the picture?’ I said, ‘I just wanted to buy the picture.’ I didn’t want to mess about with it. He said, ‘No, you should use it - you should put your face on it.’ I said, ‘No, that’s crazy.’ He said, ‘Send me some pictures, and I’ll hook up something for you.’ I sent him some mug shots, and he created what you see now on that first album. And Michael’s a great artist - he really is. I like everything he’s done. He’s a little bit surreal, but that’s my taste, as well. And he did 48 Seconds as well, with a little bit of my help with guidance on that one. And he came up with such a great cover.”
BraveWords: You have a book out, as well.
Phil Lanzon: “I do - Curse of the Mudchalk Devil. That was out in April. It’s basically about a young girl who discovers that she can see - as well as hear - music, which is not to be confused with the mental state synaesthesia, which is totally different. That is actually seeing sounds in different colors. It’s nothing like that. This is musical realism - she actually does see music as a 3D item. And she uses that in the journey - which I won’t tell you, because it’s in the book, and I don’t want to spoil it - but it’s aimed at 9-14 year olds, but it’s an adult read, as well.”
BraveWords: How was Uriah Heep’s recent US tour with Judas Priest?
Phil Lanzon: “Fantastic. Great match. Just the two bands, 100 years of classic British rock - you can’t go wrong, really. And the crowds loved it - every town, every gig we did. Amazing.”
BraveWords: Will you play shows in support of 48 Seconds?
Phil Lanzon: “No. It’s a studio project. It’s too big a project to take on and do shows. There would be too much involved with the rehearsals, musicians, orchestra, and choir. It would be a heck of a job to put on. I think it’s a bit easier being a five-piece!”
BraveWords: Future plans?
Phil Lanzon: “Yeah, of course. The sequel to the book is on its way now. I’ve got some plans for a third solo album, as well as new material for Uriah Heep. Uriah Heep’s project for the next two years are pretty hectic. It’s non-stop, really. The machine doesn’t slow down very much, I’m afraid.”