Russell Gilbrook joined URIAH HEEP in 2007, and made an immediate impact with his drumming performance on Wake The Sleeper. Coming up to fifteen years since the release of that first album, Heep’s brand new album is titled Chaos & Colour, and Russell Gilbrook has not only given the band a strong boost of once again, but has also contributed 4 songs to the new album! Along with longtime friend and guitarist Simon J. Pinto, Russell also co-wrote the band’s newest single “Hurricane”. In this interview Russell answers my questions pertaining to the amazing new Uriah Heep album, his writing contributions, and more. Enjoy the read, and check out the new Heep album, as well as the links below.
You’ve contributed 4 excellent tracks to the new Uriah Heep album, co-written with Simon Pinto. First, can you tell me a bit about Simon and how you came to work & write with him?
I’ve known Simon for around 30 years and played in quite a lot of bands with him. He really understands my approach to drumming and rock music in general. He’s a great player and I knew the chemistry would work between us when it came to a writing process.
How did you and Simon write together — who came up with musical ideas, lyrics, etc…?
We got together and I gave him all my ideas of feels, grooves, chord progressions etc.. and he did his own research and familiarized himself with the Heep back catalogue and we slowly built up the songs from those initial ideas.
We wanted to write songs that had a storytelling element and wanted the music to help tell these stories.
Was there an abundance of songs to choose from for Chaos & Colour, more so than previous albums? How was it all cut down (producer’s choice?) And was there anything put to tape that wasn’t included?
Because of the lockdown situation, everyone was able to put down a lot of ideas. We had a lot of time on our hands. All those ideas were brought to the table during our two weeks of pre-production and we picked what we felt were the strongest ideas for the next album. Our producer, Jay Ruston, also had a say on which ideas he would like on the album.
The 11 songs were agreed and recorded in Chapel Studios over the three-week period.
Are there any plans to work on / record your songs that didn’t make the album in the future or with another project (solo or with Simon)?
Yes! All ideas that didn’t go on this record are saved and may be used for either a future Heep record or another project somewhere down the line.
Hurricane sounds like it will be a great live track. I know it might be a ways off, but have you guys discussed what songs from Chaos & Colour you’re probably going to include in the live show?
Well, we have no idea at this time what will make the live set but I’d definitely love to see it in there. What tends to happen is when we rehearse for touring the Chaos & Colour album, we’ll try out various songs from the album to see which ones we think will fit well with existing Heep songs.
You’ll Never Be Alone is an epic piece! Can you talk share a bit of what influenced this song lyrically and musically?
The story is about a child’s dream where fairies are luring and kidnapping children but this one particular child realizes that there is a problem and alerts the parents who then come to find the lost children and take them from the fairies’ grasp and when it seems like all the children are safe and well, the initial verse structure repeats, suggesting that it is a recurring dream and the fairies are up to their usual tricks. If you close your eyes and focus on the music, it really accentuates the story in a dramatic and magical way. It was really important for us to match the lyrics with the music, making it such an epic track!
Can you give me a bit of insight into Hail The Sunrise (a great catchy chorus), and Fly Like An Eagle (just an awesome hypnotic, progressive sort of song)?
Hail The Sunrise is going back to ancient times of how people erected these sacred formations and the blood, sweat and tears and long journeys that went into the process of moving the stone from one place to another, all for what they believed in. The dedication and devotion that ensured the formations at places such as Stonehenge, Gurung Padang and Gobekli Tepe stood through the ages is astounding and difficult to even comprehend! We wanted the chorus to be quite anthemic to represent the elation these people must have felt when these structures were completed and in use.
Fly Like an Eagle… On the surface it’s about meditation but it also touches on the indigenous cultural tradition of ‘Vision Quest’ – A spiritual journey to receive knowledge from the spirit world. The song was written to be uplifting journey for the listener, so hopefully, everyone gets those feelings from it.
Of the other tracks on the album from with Davey or Mick & Phil – what are a few of your favorites?
Save Me Tonight by Davey and Jeff Scott Soto is a killer, high energy track! We had no doubt Dave would bring something like this to the table after ‘Grazed By Heaven’. I also really enjoy Silver Sunlight by Phil and Mick. The dynamic changes within that song and the big melodic chorus are exactly what Heep fans love, but all in all, I think every track on the album has it’s strengths and the album has something to offer everyone.
There’s that cool little exchange between you w/ Mick and Davey, back and forth on “Freedom To Be Free”. A pretty intense instrumental section. Can you recall a bit about that song and section came together?
The song was written by Mick and Phil and we agreed that it would be great to have Davey do a bass solo in there. We played a musical phrase and Davey basically answered it. What that tends to do within a song is give it a bit of a cool musical expression to add a bit of interest. It’s the proggy part of Heep coming out, I suppose!
How did you approach this album playing-wise — anything different?
As a band, no, nothing different really. The song ideas determine ways to play and in the pre-production weeks, we try out a range of different approaches for the playing and find which works best. For me personally, the way I tackle the songs is pretty organic – When I hear the first demos I can already hear what the song needs and as I come from a session background and have played a load of different music styles I tend to have quite a few ideas on the spot and as a result, the drum parts come together pretty easily.
Prior to the release of this album you played on the White Spirit album. Can you tell me a bit about this project? How you got involved and all? Any plans to perform with the band live or on anything in the future?
Actually, Dave Ling (Classic Rock journalist) recommended me to Cliff Evans (Guitar) and Mick Tucker (Guitar) as they were looking for a drummer for the project. They sent over the rough demos and said that I was free to do my own thing on it. Unfortunately, due to the Heep schedule, adding in other touring responsibilities is quite difficult, however, I never say never if there is a gap in the Heep dates, I’ll be out there playing! I’m very happy with the outcome of the album and the songs are really good! It’s a great album, with awesome artists collaborating on it. I’d recommend people go check it out if they haven’t yet.
You’ve been in Heep now for 15 years. Have you ever sat and gone through the band’s Entire catalogue? And do you have a few favorite albums, and/or a few favorite tracks that might be considered ‘deep cuts’ or hidden gems in the Heep repertoire?
I wouldn’t quite say I’ve sat and gone through every album! Haha, but when we have rehearsal time to put together a new set, we tend to go back in the archives and find tracks which the band hasn’t played for a while, such as ‘Love Machine’, ‘Shadows of Grief’, ‘Wiseman’ and ‘Against the Odds’. As for albums that I love, ‘Wake The Sleeper’ is special to me because it’s the first album I played on, just a few weeks after joining the band and ‘Look At Yourself’ is such a Great early album for Heep that has the fantastic ‘July Morning’ and title track. Special mention goes to ‘Chaos & Colour’, of course as It’s my first contributions to the writing.
What sorts of music do you listen to at home (in car or at the gym)? Anything new you’ve been into lately? btw – Do you still buy albums – physical copies or mainly download or stream?
I like a varied amount of music – My car playlist is a bit of a joke actually! Haha
My car favourites go from the likes of Saxon and Judas Priest to Billy Joel and Oscar Peterson.
I’m really enjoying the new Ozzy album ‘Patient Number 9’ at the moment – I’m listening to it a lot in the car.
To be honest, I mainly stream because I only really get to listen to music in the car or in the tour bus. Unfortunately, streaming is the easiest way to access music in these cases.
Can you give me Russell Gilbrook’s Top 10 (favorite) Albums from your youth?
I struggle to name my top ten favourite albums from my youth! I have too many, but I can list 10 albums that I really like in general?
- Billy Cobham – Spectrum
- Buddy Rich – The Driver
- Deep Purple – Live in Japan
- Chuck Mangione – Children of Sanchez
- Iommi – Iommi
- Heaven And Hell – The Devil You Know
- Billy Joel – 52nd Street
- Whitesnake – Whitesnake (1987)
- Rainbow – Rising
- Scorpions – Love At First Sting