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Paul Raymond

Interviewed by Jason Hillenburg

Interview with Paul Raymond from 2013

MSJ:

Let me say it's a honor to conduct this interview with you. I think your new album, Terms and Conditions Apply, shows you working at or near the peak of your songwriting powers. Could you tell us a little bit about your songwriting process? Are you always writing or do you set aside particular blocks of time for it?

I'm not really that organized. I'll pick up the guitar and, if an idea springs forth, I record it very roughly on a small cassette machine intended for dictation. I have a nice digital one, but it's so complicated the idea has gone by the time I figure out how to get it working! After a while, I start re-recording the ideas properly with drums to see which of them have legs.
MSJ: I was particularly impressed with your cover of "Reach Out (I'll Be There)." You did a stunning job of revamping it as a rock song. What inspired this cover?
Really, it was the "chug chugga chug chugga chug" thing that's going on there. Reminded me of "Lights Out!" I knew it needed a lot of guitar riffs to heavy it up. I am a rhythm guitarist and riffs are my thing. The intro I nicked from Peter Green - well, the idea anyway. See Fleetwood Mac’s Then Play On album.
MSJ: For me, the album's two strongest originals are "End of Life as We Know It" and "Deeper Shade of Blue.” Can you tell us about the inspiration behind both tracks?
"End of Life as We Know It" was a bit of a nightmare. Andy Simmons sent me the track. I knew it was a winner, but I couldn't think of anything to sing to it. Sir Elton says if he doesn't get inspired in the first fifteen minutes, he gives up. I worked for over two months on this sucker. The lyric is roughly about a close friend who is having problems with depression.

"Deeper Shade of Blue" was a "Cherry" type riff idea I had. I was going to give this to Phil for a future UFO album, but it just kept getting bigger and developing. Eventually, I played the idea to Andy and he said, "Can I hear it again? And again and again!" This went on for about an hour. Then he said, "We can't give this one away. It's got to be on our record!" Lyrically, it's a lot to do with an old friend of mine, Paul Varley, who was drummer of The Arrows pop group. We had the best times together in the early 80s. He passed away sadly a couple of years ago.

MSJ: There's a certain amount of looking back on this album. I felt the title of "Born and Raised on Rock & Roll" echoes the old Savoy Brown tune "Rock & Roll on the Radio (Let It Rock).” You covered the James Ray R&B classic "If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody.” Can you tell us a little about your musical roots and these two tracks?
Well, that makes a change from Ian Hunter! Actually, this song started out life as "She's Got Everything,”  a pure old rock 'n' roll, Elvis/Buddy Holly spoof - the kind of thing Jeremy Spencer would do with the old Fleetwood Mac. Phil Mogg actually gave me the idea to record the James Ray song. He wanted to do that one or "Go Now" — both waltzes. After all the Freddie and the Dreamer jokes had died down, I started putting heavy riffs into it and, hey presto, there it was! Great solo by Andy Simmons on this cut.
MSJ: With UFO still touring and recording at an age when others have slowed or else faded into obscurity, is there a greater urgency to write and record?
I think I'm getting better at it as I get older. The touring aspect is very grueling these days. I don't travel so well anymore. It would be nice to give up the road and just record. I have a teenage daughter who sings real well. I'd like to do something with her. But, on the other hand, when you get out there on tour and meet the fans, it's very gratifying. So I just keep doing it!
MSJ: You debuted these songs live for the first time recently. How did it go?
I think it went quite well. The band was real tight. Reuben Archer had problems with his voice. Too many rehearsals with Mickey Mouse PA systems, I guess, plus he had a chest infection. We played four from the new album and the rest was made up of songs from all the way back. Raw Material, Man on A Mission, and Virtual Insanity. Even a Savoy Brown, and a couple of obscure UFO songs which appeared to delight the audience.
MSJ: The album features some important guest stars, namely former UFO guitarist Michael Schenker on the aforementioned cover. How did that come about and what does Schenker bring to a song like that?
Michael agreed to play on a song for this album as a kind of returned favor, as he had asked me to appear as a guest on his 30th anniversary gig in London. Plus, I recorded keyboards on a couple of songs on one of his albums. Something less complicated might have been more polite, I suppose, but I wanted to see what Michael could do with it. I tagged that jam session on the end to give him an opportunity to really get his teeth into it and get into the flow. I like it. Seems to be the "Marmite song" of the album. People either love it or. . .
MSJ: I was fascinated by the inclusion of three songs later rewritten and re-recorded for the two most recent UFO studio albums. What prompted the inclusion?
I only offered them as bonus tracks because the music had already been heard elsewhere. Andy and me worked so hard on these, I thought, "Oh, what the hell, it might be interesting for people to see how a song can evolve when it's submitted to a band and becomes shaped by other people's influences!" I noticed Dave Grohl includes stuff on Foo Fighters albums as "Dave's Demos.”
MSJ: What's next for you? More solo albums? Can we expect more live shows featuring this material?
Yeah, I guess. Got two gigs in the pipeline now actually!
MSJ: To touch on the past again, Stan Webb is touring with a new version of Chicken Shack, Kim Simmonds is recording a new Savoy Brown album, and UFO is still touring and recording new material. How does it feel that these bands are still playing songs nightly that you wrote as a young man?
My God! Are those guys still out there? Both of them gave me a hard time when I joined UFO in 1976. They accused me of "selling out" and deserting the blues! I think, overall, I made a pretty good decision. I love the blues as a genre, it never seems to date. Kind of like a woman in a short skirt, always interesting!
MSJ: What's next for UFO? More touring? Talk of a new album?
There will probably be one, but no detailed talk of that yet. We're off to Brazil in May and we've got some big festivals this summer, including Download in June.
MSJ: Any final words for your fans about this new album?
A lot of people are saying this is my best effort to date. You be the judge. Give it a listen!
 
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