On Europe Day, in Dimitrovgrad on Peace Fest, performed an international star John Lawton famous for his work with groups like Uriah Heep, Lucifer’s Friend, On the Rocks, Les Humphries Singers… After great show, we met with mister Lawton in his hotel and done interview for Balkanrock readers.
BR: What can you tell us about your On the Rock’s band album “Mamonama”?
John: The CD is recorded and remastered, everything is done. The deals are there, we just have to finalize the cover and the booklet. It should be, maybe, ready and out within next six weeks. It’s three Brazilian musicians: Brazilian bass player, drummer, keyboard player, myself and Jan Dumee who used to be guitar player in Dutch band Focus. All original songs, it’s not heavy metal, it’s kind of rock with blues, jazz and there’s a little influence from Lucifer’s Friend. It sounds good, and I’m very happy with it.
BR: In 1975. you were representing Germany in Eurovision song contest with Les Humphries Singers. What’s the difference between that competition and now-a-days one?
John: Nothing’s changed…It’s still politics. The Scandinavian countries all vote for each other. It doesn’t matter whether the song is better. Sweden votes for Norway, Norway votes for Denmark…And the Balkan countries always vote for themselves as well. It was just as same in 1975. The Dutch people don’t like Germans and they don’t vote for them. It’s all politics, it has nothing to do with songs, except maybe for Abba who were the only one who really made progress, but everybody else…No, you don’t hear nothing special from them anymore.
BR: What’s your favorite era in your career?
John: I would think probably Lucifer’s friend period from 1973. to 1975. It’s probably my favorite, some of the best work that I’ve done was in that period. Than during Uriah Heep was ok, but I don’t consider it my best work. I did a solo album “Still Paying My Dues to the Blues” which I consider another piece of good work, it was well produced and the songs were good. I enjoyed making it. I did enjoy working with Uriah Heep, don’t get me wrong, but every musician has his favorite part of life, and Lucifer’s Friend is the period of time when we were very productive as a band.
BR: What were the reasons for your departure from Uriah Heep?
John: Oh, many reasons. Many, many reasons. Conflicts, problems inside the band, especially with Ken and myself. We had a lot of problems, but not just that, also the music. They were trying to write songs like “Free Me” and I thought that, that kind of song was not what Uriah Heep was all about. Uriah was about songs like “The Wizard” and all good classic songs. We had a hit “Free Me” which brought a lot of many to Ken and he wanted to write another one like that and it is very difficult to do something like that. So, we agreed that we should apart.
BR: In what relation are you now with Uriah Heep members?
John: We get along great. Mick Box and I e-mail every couple of weeks. With rest of the guys in Uriah Heep, we’ve always been good friends, even when we split. When Bernie Shaw had throat problems in ’95. Mick Box asked me to tour with them and I said: “Yeah, ok”. Ken and I also get along well now, we solved our problems and that’s why we do concerts together. I think there are still problems with Ken and the rest of Uriah members, things that can be resolved. I don’t think that either side is going to try to resolve them.
BR: What were your expectations before coming to Dimitrovgrad, and what are your impressions now after concert?
John: I had no expectations. I’ve never been to Serbia before. When we arrived, we went straight to the stadium than to the hotel to get some sleep, so I didn’t get the chance to see any of it. But, now, just driving down the main street when all the lights are on it looks great. I think that people here are really friendly like in all the Eastern European countries. Bulgaria’s people are very friendly, I think that Serbian people are also very friendly…so I’m gonna wear good memories from here. The crowd was great tonight, they knew all the songs. I was very surprised that some young people in the front knew all the words and I think that’s great. I enjoyed it.
BR: What are your future plans?
John: I’m going back to London tomorrow morning…very early from Sofia. I’m going to Spain at the end of may for four weeks, then I do Sweden rock with Ken Hensley (laughs) and I go to Germany. At the end of July I’m going to Moscow to record with Russian band together with Glenn Hughes, Graham Bonet and Ian Paice…they all done pieces on this album and they want me to sing two songs. So I will sing two songs and have concert in Moscow.
BR: Will you be touring with “On the Rocks” once the album is out?
John: Hopefully, yeah. It just depends how people hear music. People expect something rock from me and they are going to be surprised. It’s not pop songs, but the songs are really good, players are excellent and Jan Dumee is fantastic guitar player. So, hopefully when it’s released we’ll go out and do some gigs, and maybe we’ll come to Serbia.
BR: Do you know anything about rock scene in Serbia?
John: No I don’t. Not because I don’t want to, but because I don’t understand the language.