Mick Box

Deep Heep
Mick Box

It’s hard to believe, but there is only one member still with us from the classic early-’70s Uriah Heep lineup that gave us classic albums like Demons and Wizards, The Magician’s Birthday, and Uriah Heep Live. Yet, the U.K. band manages to retain its unmistakable (at one time, trailblazing) merger of prog and metal, as heard throughout its 25th studio album, Chaos & Colour. That last man standing is Mick Box.

How did you approach Chaos & Colour from a guitar perspective?
When it’s time to write an album, I have a whole well of ideas – riffs, chords, melodies, lyrics. Then I usually get together with our keyboard player, and he has a similar thing, so we marry them and start writing songs. From a guitar perspective, [producer] Jay Ruston got a fantastic sound, I was so happy with it. It’s a guitar-driven album except for a few songs that we transposed to piano.

Which tracks are you most proud of, guitar-wise?
Generally, they’re all good as far as I can see – it’s up to the listener to decide. The rhythms sound great, the wah-wah solos sound great, the tones are good. The whole album has got a flow to it. “Hail the Sunrise” has a good solo.

What is your current guitar roster?
Studio and live, it’s the same, to be honest – Carparelli guitars and some of my Gibson Les Paul Black Beauties, along with a lovely sunburst one. I started using Carparelli because the Gibsons were getting totally trashed by airline people. I thought, “They’re too fragile, they’re too lovely. I’ll leave them at home.” I got in touch with Mike Carparelli, who was making guitars in Toronto. I picked up one, and I’ve been playing it ever since. It’s fantastic.

How about amplifer-wise?
Amp-wise, it’s Engl; I have a Fireball. Once I started using it, I threw away all my pedals except a Crybaby wah and a Carl Martin chorus. The rest of it is all fingers. I like to keep it really simple – I like to play guitar, I don’t like to tap-dance.

What was your setup in the early ’70s?
Pretty much the same, only Marshall. A Black Beauty, a Marshall 100-watt. I used to have a 1959 SLP – a beautiful amp, and it sounded really good, but it didn’t have a lot of power out on the road. I used a 4×12 and I don’t like the top cabinets because they give you too much treble, plus, if it goes into the microphone it gives the sound man a lot of trouble. Plus, I like to feel the low-end from a cabinet. Keep it simple – again, back then it was just a wah and, usually, a chorus.

Do you recall what year the Black Beauty was?
I got it in the late ’60s, at was Eddie Moors Music, in Bournemouth, in the south of England. It was the only shop where you could get a Black Beauty. And it came direct from Kalamazoo in those days. I had to trade my Telecaster and get some hire-purchase payments. I fell in love with it more so from Les Paul and Mary Ford; I loved their music. I came from a jazz background – with Les Paul, Mary Ford, Barney Kessel, Tal Farlow, and Django Reinhardt. That was my introduction to music, because the first few lessons I had, [the teacher] was very jazzy.

Is it true that Randy Rhoads was a fan of the Demons and Wizards album?
Absolutely. So many people were. I talked to Randy loads of times because our drummer, Lee Kerslake, went off with Bob Daisley and formed Blizzard of Ozz. I used to keep in touch with Lee and go see them rehearse. Randy was a really cool guy, and yeah, he told me that.

Which Uriah Heep album would you consider the most definitive, guitar-wise?
I think they’ve all got their moments, of course. Demons and Wizards took us on to the world stage – the searing rhythm on “Easy Livin’” seemed to catch on and inspire a lot of guitarists. When we reintroduced the band with , which went Top 40 in America, I played all over that one. Normally, I just try to enhance the song. But on that one, the producer was pushing me to do a lot more.

This article originally appeared in VG’s February 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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