Uriah Heep keyboard player and songwriter Phil Lanzon’s debut solo album is out – and it is highly recommended. Not much in the hard rock style of the classic band he’s in, but a vast array of pop, prog, folk, and rock – which all goes together for a great listen, with different players, singers, choirs, strings…
In this interview with Phil, he answers the questions about this exciting new album and it’s release. A busy fella, currently working on a new Heep album, and preparing for an upcoming tour of the US in the new year! Looking forward to seeing Phil & Heep, as well as getting my hands on the vinyl version of this release – which you can order and support the project at —
*Also visit Phil’s website for music, art and videos
You’ve been a member of Uriah Heep and a large writing force in the band for 30 years. How did the solo album idea come about?
As with most writers you tend to write all the time, and I had accumulated a lot of material that was not Heep related. There came a time when my backlog of songs was overloading and some had to give birth or my studio would explode!!
So, I utilised the period when Mick and Bernie were off doing rock meets
classic and began the recording process.
First off – the album art is quite stunning! How did this come about with artist Michael Cheval?
Easy this year I was looking for an album cover and trawled through a thousand or so artworks from all different styles.
I then came across a couple of pictures I liked by Michael Cheval. I don’t know anyone from the art world as such so I sent a message to him with my phone contact not expecting to get an answer. That evening the phone rang and it was Michael.
By huge coincidence it turned out he is a huge Heep fan and wanted me to use the picture I had selected for my solo album. His original featured a certain famous Beatle but he insisted he put my mug shot in his place. I eventually agreed.
Were these songs All written specifically for this album, or were there any holdovers that perhaps – didn’t suit past Heep projects?
Some where, some weren’t.
You sang lead on 2 tracks on the album. why only 2?
I don’t consider myself a singer. In fact I don’t really like my voice but I thought I’d better chip in so to speak.
What can you tell me about some of the players, singers, choir, etc.. that you’ve used on this project? Laurence Cottle – the same guy that was on a Black Sabbath album, I presume!? Andy Martin and John Mitchell obviously play a big role on this album.
Yes, Laurence did do a Sabbath album. Andy Makin and John Mitchell brought a wonderful flavour to the songs and to be fair I relied solely on my producer Simon and arranger Richard to help with bringing the players and singers together. I simply wanted to write the songs and give them the chance to interpret them. Craig is now with Steven Wilson
How different was the writing process, where as with with a Heep album you usually write with Mick [or collaborate in some way]?
Very different. When you write Heep style there is a very narrow margin that we have to keep within because it’s Uriah Heep.
You’ve done this project without any ‘guest’ appearances from your Heep bandmates. any reason you chose not to use any name guests?
I had originally wanted Russ and Dave to get involved but after many conversations with Simon I decided to let him take the lead and organise the entire shebang from his point of view. This is not to say I wouldn’t use them on another future project as they are a great rhythm section.
A lot of your songs are story based. where do you draw ideas from, with reference to specific tracks?
There is only one answer – life. It’s all there to be lifted out and written on the page. I write short stories and I’ve written a novel so it’s in the blood – can’t help it.
Can you give me any antidotes into a few of my personal favorites – I Knew I Was Dreaming, I Saw 2 Englands, Lovers Highway, Donna & Joe?
I like them all! Donna & Joe is about two 19th century smugglers. They were once lovers, went their separate ways but ended up in the same profession. The story tells how they were clearly blaming each other over some territorial dispute and end up threatening each other. The ending is left up to the listener.
Step Overture is a very heavy, progressive instrumental track, kinda reminds me of old Genesis [Watcher of the Skies]. What inspired that song, and were/ are you into more progressive styled bands [Genesis, ELP, Yes]?
I grew up on that stuff yeah. Love the way it mixes into the pure rock
The Bells is probably the closest thing to the Heep sound and feel on this album. I can quite imagine it in the Heep set. what can you tell about how this track came about – in to a great heavy track[?]
It was just that – a heavy riff track I had for a long time but never actually played it to the guys. It’s about a guy who turns rain into gold – you can imagine the trouble that caused.
Aside from social media, is there any other promotional plans – possibly any live performances?
No live stuff. Too much else going on. I think I’ll carry on recording my songs over time. Maybe an e.p. next year.
You obviously like working with strings, choirs, orchestra… very different approaches to Uriah Heep’s work. Is there anything you’d like to do on your own in the future, perhaps outside of the traditional rock realm?
I’d like to get into some hard core comedy rock a la Zappa etc. Have a good old play on lyrics and stuff!
Can you give me a List of some of your current & past favorite recordings [not yours] to listen to?
Early Steven Wilson currently. From the past everything from Mozart to
Beatles to genesis and a million others. There is so much music out there it’s quite frightening, but hell – let’s have more…….
Interview KJJ, Nov 2017