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Non-Prog Interviews

Ken Hensley

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Ken Hensley from 2007
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

You've had quite the music career thus far. I'm sure most people know of you from Uriah Heep, but for those uninitiated out there, can you catch the readers up on your history?
Well, it's a long story by now of course! I left school at 18, abandoned a potential soccer career and went in search of fame and fortune.After many years of playing pubs and clubs for next to nothing, I began to make good progress and Uriah Heep was formed in 1970. For the next 10 ½ years I realised all of my dreams, sold millions of records and travelled the world playing rock & roll. Nowadays my writing comes first and I have just released a new CD called Blood On The Highway which people seem to like so now I am working hard again! Most of the details can be found at my web site www.ken-hensley.com.
MSJ: What do solo works allow you to do that you can't do within the confines of the band?
I think "freedom" is the best word to describe the difference. In a band environment you have the many advantages of collaboration but there are also the pitfalls of ego to deal with so I prefer to write the music and then find the right musicians to translate it into a record.  

MSJ: How do you see the music business and music in general having changed over the years since you started?
The main difference I see is that it's not really about music anymore, it's only about money and that's a real shame. But nothing could ever be like the 70's so I have those great memories to live with! The internet is making an ever-increasing difference to the way people do the music business so we all have to be prepared to roll with the changes. "Adapt or die" is the phrase of the times.
MSJ: I know artists are not crazy about having their music pigeon-holed, but how would you describe your sound?
Classic pop-rock!
MSJ: Who do you see as musical influences?
I am influenced mainly by the great writers, the ones who use the language in new and interesting ways. Early influences were Dylan, Lennon/McCartney, Leonard Cohen and poets like E.E Cummings. On a non-musical level I really enjoy reading John Grisham.
MSJ: Are there some interesting tidbits (especially special moments and such) that you can share from your long career - anything that really stands out in your mind?
Well, there are many and most of them are published but I think the most amazing thing is the journey itself. Perhaps the single most satisfying destination was receiving my first gold record but to go from poverty to riches by following your hobby is pretty incredible. I dreamed about the limos, the jets and the ladies but to have that dream come true is special and dangerous at the same time!
MSJ: What's ahead for you?
At the moment I am busy promoting Blood On The Highway in all its forms. The CD is out almost everywhere now and my auto-biography (under the same name) has just been published. In late October, Membran (my record company) is releasing a really cool Blood On The Highway boxed set.

I go out on tour in late October. Next year I have two writing projects which will keep me busy in the music room and in the studio so I have a lot to think about!
MSJ: Are there musicians you'd like to play with in the future?
None in particular but I am grateful to know so many great players and to know that we can always collaborate when the opportunity arises.
MSJ: Do you think that downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians? It's been said by the major labels that it's essentially the heart of all the problems they are having in terms of lower sales - would you agree?
Career? What is a career? A lifetime of making (and selling) music or making one or two CDs and then getting (or whilst having) a real job? The hardest thing for me was figuring out how to make a living making music and that remains the toughest challenge for an artist, assuming he or she wants to be a professional musician. The internet in general, and downloading specifically, has created a world full of people trying to sell their music and this, naturally, has increased the level of competition and resulted in significantly lower unit sales per artist. To be honest there's just too much rubbish available and, although it's given the consumer much more choice, it also makes it harder to attract their attention.But it will sort itself out.

It doesn't matter one bit what the labels say, the internet has changed everything and on-line commerce will only keep growing! They wasted so much time trying to stop it that they are now playing catch up and not doing too good of a job of it. Most major labels are just too "fat" and the pain will only be worse for them if they continue to try and control the future…..they need to participate in it!


MSJ: In a related question how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?
Personally, I don't care about it because there's nothing I can do (and apparently nothing the promoters are willing to do) to stop it. The march of technology cannot be stopped so it's best to embrace it. In a ideal world, I suppose all music should be free but those of us who spend our lives creating it still have to put food on the table!
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought, or what have you been listening to lately?
I honestly don't remember the last CD I bought! I do get lots of them free from friends at labels and I would buy a CD of Sarah Brightman snoring but I mostly listen to Spanish top 40 radio because it's a great way to learn what not to do musically and it's so boring that it helps me to sleep a good siesta!
MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
I went to a Rod Stewart concert in Barcelona last year but he was having problems with his voice so I mainly hung out with some friends of mine that were in his crew! I am a terrible audience!
MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
There were millions of them as we fought to deal with fame and success but hiring 5 limos to go 150 yards from our hotel in Norfolk, Virginia to the gig is one of the stand-outs!
MSJ: Finally, are there any closing thoughts you'd like to get out there?
Well, thank you for the interview. I would like to say that, in spite of all the hatred and violence that goes on in the world, it's still a beautiful place so if you can find a way to love those around you and care for those who are less fortunate than yourself then there's still a chance that we can win! And I have to say that God is still in control and it's best to be on His side right now!
 
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