This interview appeared recently on the Uriah Heep facebook group page https://www.facebook.com/groups/1799464413661777 . The site is administered by Heep fan Rikki Fox who set up this Q & A with John and has allowed me to re-post the entire exchange here.
Rikki Fox: From the age of 5 until now, a lofty nearly 63, music has been my passion in life At the age of 14 I got into Uriah Heep 49 (FORTY NINE!!) years later they remain, through all the eras, line up changes and sad losses, my all time favorite group
A couple of years back I started my own little site “Friends Who Like Uriah Heep” (Yes, I know it’s a naff name) but it’s great laid back fun and has grown way beyond my expectations
I’m honored and humbled to have John Sloman as a FB buddy and suggested a Q & A exclusive for my site To my utter surprise he agreed
What follows are answers that pull no punches given in John’s usual lucid articulate forthright and intelligent manner.
Enjoy, and please check out John’s stunning new release “Two Rivers”
(Understand if the question is too sensitive) Did Ken and you try and work things out or was there too much friction at the time? (Johnny Har)
JS: There was never any friction between Ken and me. We never had a cross word. It was strictly one way traffic. I knew he loathed my singing. And the fact he’d been overruled by the other guys pissed him off. But the real friction was between Ken and the other guys. I just happened to walk in on a climate of distrust which had existed since when I was still in school. I didn’t engage with Ken, because I knew he hated me. And that hatred continued for years after I left the band. If I had my time over again, I wouldn’t have joined Heep…mainly because the band’s main man wasn’t happy with me. But I was young and thought things might turn around. But I had complete respect for Ken’s contribution to the band. And I loved his playing. We never got to sit in a bar and talk. And now he’s gone, the possibility of that has gone with him.
Your solo output has been incredibly and refreshingly diverse, Is this a conscious decision or do ideas just “hit” when you start on a new album? (Rikki Fox)
JS: It’s not a conscious thing. Other than the decision to do what I like. As opposed to what people expect. But once I’m into an album, the subconscious will throw ideas at me. Sometimes I’ll doubt it’s any good. But often, those doubtful tracks can turn into the best thing on an album. The Last Coalminer is a case in point. When I started reciting the lyric as a poem I thought ‘Sloman, are you sure?’ But fortune favors the brave, as they say.
Given the chance once again…would you join Heep?…Was your tenure beneficial to your later career or rather negative? (Richard Pascoe)
JS: If I had my time again, I wouldn’t join Heep. And I don’t think they’d have me either. Nothing good ever comes out of forcing an issue. And some of the criticism I took in the years after I left, proves that. When I talk about the stuff I did way back, it’s like stumbling through a minefield. I’ve never traded on Heep etc. And if it has come up, it’s been seen as a negative. Which is why I never ever talk about the stuff from back then, unless I’m asked a specific question. And whenever that happens, I always give an honest answer. And I can honestly tell you now, that the stuff I did back then, as a larynx for hire was no benefit to me at all. And in most instances, quite the opposite.
Re John’s time with Paul Young – was there any bootleg recordings, video, or promo photos? (Kevin Julie)
JS: I’m not aware of any bootlegs from the tour I did with Paul Young. The very first thing I did with him, months before the tour, was the video for the single “Wonderland”. Felt like a fish out of water. As the tour progressed, I acclimatized to the role. But that first day was awkward. I did various TV shows around Europe with Paul ahead of the tour. But the highlight was Saturday Night Live.
How did you feel about your image in the late 70s -80 being compared to Robert Plant, and in retrospect did Plant influence him in some ways? (Kevin Julie)
Of course Plant was an influence. And I took a lot of stick. But I made it easy for them by wearing Plant style shirts on stage. If I had my time over again, I would crop my hair really short and burn the silky shirts. I was a talented kid who wasn’t as confident as he might’ve been. So I hid my light.
John’s list (top 10?) Of his favorite Heep songs (from before his time)!? (Kevin Julie)
Top Ten Heep tracks?
Look At Yourself
I Wanna Be Free
Traveler In Time
Would John please come to London Palladium in October? (Sue Cullen)
So Heep are playing The Palladium? That will be quite an event. I don’t think they’ll need me showing up though after all these aeons. But it will be a great night, I’m sure.
I hear Motown and Stax as well as some Stevie Wonder and Robert Plant in your voice. What are your influences? (Mike Shannon)
JS: Well, all of the above. Stevie was an inspiration. His version of We Can Work It Out was amazing…changing the emphasis from the word We, to the word Can. I already loved jazz, and could see a link between Stevie and Ray Charles. Motown was everywhere in that late 60s early 70s period. James Brown and Marvin Gaye. Led Zeppelin were a huge influence on me. They were like my big brothers. And, once again, there was a thread running through all the great soul acts to Zep. Especially on the first two albums, where Plant is channeling the Blues, Soul and Jazz. All that while inventing Hard Rock! And, just like Stevie, doing lots of improvisation. I learned a lot from listening to Todd Rundgren. Genius. And of course, Joni Mitchell. But the two people who really inspired me most early on were Stevie and Robert.
If you know what you know now, would you still have gone into the music business ? If not what would have been your career path of choice? (Ian MacLaren)
JS: By the time I was 13, I knew music was the only road I wanted to take. So it’s hard to think of an alternative route. When I left school I worked on a tugboat at Cardiff Docks and served part of an apprenticeship as a fitter/welder. But I knew I was only marking time until I could do music full time. It’s been a bumpy ride, but I can’t let it go. But if you’d asked me what I wanted to be when I was in primary school, I would’ve said ‘Archaeologist’.
You express so much in your music, how else do you use your talent to reach out to the world? Do you teach or mentor ? (Julie Shannon)
JS: Up until the Covid thing, I was doing some teaching. Guitar and a bit of voice stuff. I really enjoyed it. It’s a responsibility I took seriously. Someone placing their trust in you. I taught someone from when he was ten till he was around 16. Natural talent. He was offered a place at The Brits School here in London when he was 14. He declined. But then eventually re-applied and got in when he was 16. He’s now playing around London with his own band.
Soon I’ll be publishing a book on Amazon. Kind of a rock memoir. But it’s a bit more than that really. I intend to do more writing. It’s a side of me that is largely unknown. I spent a number of years trying to get a film made, during which I kept recording music as well.
What is your opinion of the Abominog, Peter Goalby sung version of ‘Think It Over’? (Mike Shannon)
JS: I’ve only heard Pete’s version of Think It Over once, many years ago. But my immediate impression was how tailor made for American radio it was. Right on point for that time. Not too fussy. Good vocals…guitar break. Wasn’t it a bit of a radio hit?
Are there any Heep songs you would like to sing today ? (Ian MacLaren)
JS: The first Heep album I heard was Look At Yourself. So the first Heep track I ever heard was the title track. That would fun to sing. The other one is Rain off The Magician’s Birthday.
Is there any chance of you ever appearing to perform a song or two with Uriah Heep as a special guest? This fan would certainly dig it! (Mike Shannon)
JS: If I said yes to that, it would open a floodgate of emotion. Next thing Mick and me are looking at each other across a stage. Our friend Trevor gone. All the people gone out of each of our lives. Lee Gone. Ken gone. And here we are connecting again. And in the same instant reactivating that emotional circuit which lay dormant for decades. People think being in a band is just about music. But it’s so much more than that. Which is why I’ve stayed away. But who knows.
The Bells Of Berlin has rightly achieved iconic status What’s your take on that track John? (Wendy Fox)
JS: The Bells Of Berlin is probably the best thing Lone Star ever recorded. It had something to say about the world at that time (and possibly in future times, given the current situation). Dixie’s drumming is epic. Those guys were so good, they didn’t really need a vocalist.
Back a few years, someone gave me a Marshall digital radio for my birthday. I took a break from working on one of my albums one day, turned on this digital radio (which was tuned to Planet Rock). My finger hit the on button and the very first chord of The Bells Of Berlin came thundering out of the speaker. For a moment, I thought the radio also had a CD player which had Firing On All Six inserted into it. But no, it was Planet Rock. Spooky.