Interview with LEE KERSLAKE

November 2019

It’s impossible not to love Lee Kerslake, this big-hearted bear of a man, and it’s impossible not to respect him – not only for the parts that made best albums by URIAH HEEP, with whom Lee served more than three decades, and Ozzy Osbourne, whom Kerslake helped start a solo career, so special, but also for his uncompromising attitude to whatever the veteran has to deal with, be it a professional situation or medical condition. The drummer knows he’s living on borrowed time, battling cancer (and embracing remission at the time of our latest chat – successfully defying prognosis that predicted he’d be gone much sooner), yet this seemed to have spurred Lee’s creativity, resulting in an album under his own name and an accompanying documentary, both to be out soon, and heightened Kerslake’s sense of his value, of the status he deserves. He accepts and projects it with the usual dignity, while remaining the free spirit he’s always been – it’s an indelible part of his characters, as is Lee’s ability to face adversity.

– Lee, you’ve always been a fighter. Where does that trait of yours come from?

From my family. My mom was very strong, and so was my dad. He had nineteen strokes I think; and she had gangrene of the appendix and diabetes – she lost half of her insides and still kept on smiling for thirty years. Part of that is inbred in me, obviously, it’s in my DNA, but the major one is that my love for music is keeping me fighting against all the odds. My music is very important. There’s camaraderie I have with people like Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Nicko McBrain and Ian Paice, all of the people from afar, in the industry, still like me and think of me – I’ve got a lot of “Get well soon” notes from them. And that’s what keeps me going; all of that does – it helps.

– Since you mentioned your family… What was your childhood like?

A lot of it was a blur, because we were moving on. We lived in rented place, and then dad built a house and we stayed there for a bit, but we had to sell that because he was out of a job, and we went to live with my grandma. So there was a lot of moving at the time, a lot of a blur. But I remember my dad being fit and big, and healthy, and my mom being weak and frail, and ill – but she still was in there, and even helped moving the cement bags used to make the houses. She was piling them on her shoulders: “Bring them in! In the house!” She had so strong arms, a lovely woman.

– Why did you decide to become a drummer. Given your overall musicality, I assume it’s not the only instrument you play.

In full flight

I used to play keyboards, but I learned to play the drums – I taught myself when I saw a big band at a dinner dance with my mom and dad. He worked for the company called Flight Refueling – this way you refuel your plane in mid-air, instead of landing – who used to have a dinner party for all the workers as a “thank you.” So when I was nine years old, my dad took all the family, my mom and myself, and we went to this pavilion in Bournemouth, and as I sat down, I saw the big curtains on one side moving, so I went over there and I heard those noises: a clunking of instruments, snare drum tapping, brass going, “Brum, brum,” and this voice, “Come on, lads, come on! We’ve got ten minutes before our set. We’re gonna get it right!” And I stayed there on the side and I was listening to them, and then I heard someone say on the microphone, “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome TED HEATH BIG BAND!” And they came out, this massive band: full of brass and guitars, and drums, and bass guitar… Oh my word! And I just was mesmerized by them, and my mouth dropped, and I watched that show nearly all night until… When the band was leaving, Mr. Ted Heath came over to me and said, “Do you play an instrument, boy?” I said, “Yeah,” and pointed to the drums. I didn’t [play] at that time, no, but I pointed to the drums, so he grabbed me hand: “Come on!” He lifted me up and led me by my hand over to the drummer, I think it was Kenny Clare, and said, “See if you can sort him out.” Kenny was a lovely guy, and he said, “Right, I’m going to play this, and you copy it.” So he played it, I copied it, and he said, “What you’re going to do?” I went, “I’m going to hit the drums.” So I did. And I had such a great time, but my mom and dad never knew I was up there. They finally got told: “Eric, your son Lee is up there, and he’s playing already on the drums!” (Laughs.) And my mom got up, rushed over and said, “Nooo!” But when she saw me, she was so proud of me – I could see that in her eyes – and my dad was proud, too. I was playing the drums with a big band! That’s what started me: I wanted to be a drummer from then on.

– And how did you become one?

My mom and dad got me a very cheap kit for Christmas, and I practiced on that for a fair bit until I outgrew it, and then I, coming home from school, was doing paper rounds and butcher rounds during the week, all week, to save money and buy myself another kit. I bought a Broadway one, for about 80 pounds, but my dad realized I really wanted to do this thing – because I got a gig with a semi-pro band – and he bought me a 1953 Sparkle Ludwig kit, which was absolutely amazing, from Eddie Moors in Boscombe, where I lived. After that, I never stopped.

– Judging by the Ludwig kit, your favorite drummer was Ringo?

URIAH HEEP – early ’70s:
Lee, Ken Hensley, David Byron, Gary Thain, Mick Box

No, Ringo’s got a talent of his own – he’s a very clever drummer – but, except for Buddy Rich whom I listened to a little bit on occasion, I never bothered to listen to anybody else because I was teaching myself to play drums differently to anybody else, which I did. I used to listen to the records and copy the records to play on weekends. Later on, my favorite drummer was John Bonham – I knew him and I liked him as a friend – and I liked Ian Paice, a fabulous drummer, and Cozy Powell, also a good one. The thing about it is, there are so many coming-up drummers now who are not in the league with what we were like in our day, because we had it tough – we had to be good to be anything, and we didn’t have money – we just had to do jobs to try and get enough money to buy equipment. Now it seems a daddy is rich and a son gets a whole lot: drums, guitar, bass guitar, but the hardship and the apprenticeship that we had did us good.

– There’s also a tendency that I hate to heavily compress drums now so that you can’t hear neither bottom end, nor high frequencies.

I hate it, too! The compression is to equalize all the volume of the song. I know it has to be there sometimes, but I don’t like it: it takes out a lot of the feel of the drums. Have you heard the new URIAH HEEP album, “Living The Dream”? That’s a great, fantastic album! I praise them well. Russell Gilbrook is another good drummer – he fits the band properly. He fits the band like I did, bang-on.

– What do you think of Chris Slade who replaced you in HEEP?

Chris has a different style of drumming altogether. He was very technical in URIAH HEEP. I have never liked the “Conquest” album: I didn’t like the songs and I didn’t like the way it was put together. Chris had to leave the band, and he went with AC/DC where he learned to go with the groove: you couldn’t digress from your music – you had to play it solid. It was then that he started to become a good drummer… in my mind. I haven’t seen him in 30 years, but I was good friends with Chris, and you never lose your friendship in music.

– You’re one of the most melodic drummers I’ve ever heard. How did you develop this aspect of your playing?

URIAH HEEP

I loved music. I loved playing the piano. I loved writing songs. I loved singing. So I transferred my singing techniques to my drumming, with light and shade – that’s what we call it. The thing is, I had this feeling for music – I just knew I was going to be a drummer: it was just natural. And I got on there, and I played, and I used it to further my career. When I got into a semi-pro band, that was THE GODS, there was a guy called Ken Hensley, and he wrote very, very good, great music, and I was a natural for understanding it. And that’s how it came about. And that’s why, when I eventually went into URIAH HEEP, everybody said I changed the course of drumming in the music industry because of the light and shade, and the feeling that I had.

– There’s always been a great, melodic bassist in HEEP. How easy – or how difficult – did it make things for you as a drummer?

Oh, when you’ve got a bass player like Trevor Bolder or Gary Thain, they are absolutely righteous – they are brilliant for a drummer! – because they look at you and they groove with you, they feel with you. That’s rare, and I had that with Gary and Trevor. And, of course, I had it with Bob Daisley in BLIZZARD OF OZZ: he’s a phenomenal bass player – he’s got just a great drive to him. It’s all about driving. I kick them up the arse and they, in turn, kick me up the arse, and that stays tight, you get me?

– You started in HEEP together with Mark Clarke, right?

Yeah, yeah. He’s a bit too technical but he’s a great bass player, I can’t say anything different. But he didn’t suit URIAH HEEP: he played too many notes. And when we found Gary, and he came to the audition, I said to all the guys in the band, “He is perfect. He is just what we need.”

– If I’m not mistaken, it was you who brought John Wetton into HEEP.

John Wetton, Lee Kerslake, David Byron

Yeah. We knew each other: me, Greg Lake and John Wetton were from Bournemouth, and John was my friend from the old days down there. When I was in THE GODS and we lost the bass player, I’d got Greg Lake into the band who joined us for a bit and then moved on to KING CRIMSON. And it was the same with Wetton. (Laughs.) When we’d lost Gary, we needed a great bass player, and I said to the guys and the management, “I know of one – he’s fabulous!” They said to go and phone him, which I did, and the next day he came up from Bournemouth and joined the band. We went on the road, but in the end of the day John was too ambitious – he wanted to be his own boss and, fair enough, wanted to move on – so it didn’t work out with him. He left us and went on to get ASIA. He was replaced by Trevor Bolder who stayed there for thirty years.

– What did you think of Lake having made it big as well?

I was happy for Greg. We were down in “The Speakeasy” once when Greg was there, and we were chatting away, and he said, “I’m going to form a band with a guy who’s a great keyboard player, and we need a drummer, so I would love you to join us.” I went, “Oh yeah. What is it?” and he said, “I can’t say too much.” It sounded good but I was set NATIONAL HEAD BAND and didn’t want to leave them. So EMERSON, LAKE AND PALMER could have been EMERSON, LAKE AND KERSLAKE, and I turned then down!

– John had been with CRIMSON earlier, and you knew it would be challenging to play with him, and it would have been challenging if you joined Lake and Emerson. Do you like to challenge yourself?

THE GODS:
Joe Konas, Lee, Ken Hensley, Greg Lake

Oh yeah. But I didn’t mind. The reason [for inviting Wetton] was, he was such a well-known bass player, and I hadn’t seen him play for ages, since we were in Bournemouth where we used to play in a band. But I had no idea what he was like then, and then he came to us. Again, he was great – good singer, great player – but he didn’t suit URIAH HEEP. We needed a bass player that was on the groove, like me, and it didn’t work out, so he left, and we had to find someone else; luckily enough, we found Trevor. And Trevor was just so talented!

– Would it be right to assume, then, that Trevor was your favorite partner in a rhythm section?

Well, he was to the point, but Bob Daisley is one of my favorites as well. You’ve got to understand that it was two different kinds of music – Ozzy Osbourne was totally different from URIAH HEEP – so they were two different bass players, that’s what I’m trying to say.

– But you were the same!

The drumming was easy to me. If a bass player is on top of it, no matter which style he plays, and he can relate to the drummer, he makes the drummer’s job easy. It is true. You can look at them and you can see what they’re going to do: you know when the beat is coming harder or lighter, or they change into the middle eight – you read the way they play. It’s a unique thing.

– By the way, who invited you to join URIAH HEEP?

Ken. We were working together in different bands from the beginning of my professional career, but I had no intention of joining URIAH HEEP. I was in NATIONAL HEAD BAND, and we did an album called “Albert 1,” so I wanted to promote them, so I went and played it in front of Gerry Bron, who came back to me and said, “Yes, your band is really good, but we don’t want the band – we want you. We want you to be the drummer with URIAH HEEP. You’re the missing piece in our puzzle.” I wasn’t that keen, so they offered me 35 pounds a week, and I went, “Okay, where do I sign?” (Laughs.)

THE GODS:
Joe Konas, Lee, Ken Hensley, John Glascock, Ken Hensley

– Your drumming in NATIONAL HEAD BAND was quite different to what you started to do with HEEP.

It was a different style of music: what we wrote for “Albert 1” was kind of a country-rock. They were all from Liverpool, and they were very, very talented. Our producer was Eddy Offord who used to produce YES. But we weren’t earning any money and it was very tough, so when I got offered the job with URIAH HEEP I couldn’t turn it down. I had to go.

– How do you recall all those early bands you were in?

There wasn’t a lot of those. My career really started with THE GODS were a cult band: Greg Lake, Ken Hensley and me – we were good, harmony-wise, and those harmonies were carried by Ken into URIAH HEEP. That’s why I was the missing piece, not only because I was a good drummer for them.

– You mentioned light and shade, but what else did you bring into HEEP in terms of musicality and personality?

I brought in heavy drumming, that what the band told me. They have always said that my drumming was great and perfect for URIAH HEEP, the drumming had light and shade. Ken Hensley, who wrote “July Morning,” has turned around and said he’s played with the greatest drummers in the world and none of them are up to me to play this song like I can, because I have a feeling for it. Songs have to be like a story, and you’ve got to play them like that – that’s what important. And I think that’s what made me the wanted drummer in URIAH HEEP, because I had that ability. Also, I wrote songs: me, Mick Box and David Byron – we would write songs together.

– Let’s turn this question around, then. What was so special in HEEP for you that you spent most of your musical life in that band?

As you remember, I left the band in 1980, because I had an argument with the management, and was back in 1982, but I was going to leave permanently – I had no interest in the band then. I was angry and betrayed by the manager, so I went to do my own thing, and then I went and joined Ozzy Osbourne, which is humongous: we sold records that became platinum, double platinum, quadruple platinum, five times platinum… Unbelievable! So I knew I was okay as a musician, and I knew: wherever I went, I would help make a band successful. But when I fell apart with Ozzy and we left him and went away, Micky Box phoned me and said. “Do you want to get URIAH HEEP back on track? Because I’m just not happy with the way things are.” And I said, “Absolutely! Absolutely I do. Does a bear shit in the woods? I do, as long as you’ve got rid of the manager, and go with another agent.” He said, “Okay,” and we got it together. We had Bob Daisley for a bit with us, and we got Pete Goalby, and we became a really, really commercial rock band, but again, that didn’t last, so we just carried on auditioning people till the band split up. But we got the people back together, and it keeps on going. Bernie Shaw, Phil Lanzon, Trevor Bolder, Mick Box and me – we carried on for twenty years, but I left because of illness in 2006. It’s so complicated, my life with that band; in and out of it like there’s no tomorrow.

– Why do you think Mick called you, of all people, to reform the band? There’s must be a special rapport between the two of you.

He phoned me up because he knew that I was out of Ozzy’s band, but we’re like brothers. We love each other immensely, and we understand each other. Mick’s just a lovely guy, and he has a talent. You know, when you have a unity like with him and me, it doesn’t break: doesn’t matter if you leave the band, you go on – you still talk, you’re still friends, and he’s my closest friend. He phoned me up just now, before you phoned me, to see if I was okay. And it’s lovely: we have love and respect, whether on-stage or in the studio – it was always like that, we were just together. We used to work together really well.

– It was also lovely to see how Mick was supporting you when you lost your dog. He helped you with another one, right?

Oh yeah… But that’s not quite true. He sent his regards to us. We went to find another one. We found one because one was left at RSPCA, The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; his name was Blaise; and we’ve still got him; he’s fabulous. He’s sixteen years old, so he cries a lot, moans a lot. You’ve got to love animals, bless ’em. You see some of these animals that are treated poor, that are abandoned, that are left in the wild, and their eyes say it all: they’re so tired and they’re so afraid… Oh man! That’s not on for me. They are so loyal creatures, animals; they’ll be so loyal to you. So we look after them. We look after the big ones, the older ones, because the puppies get first hand. We don’t know how long we’ll be around, my wife and myself, so we look after the ones who are fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, and give them the last few years with a bit of pleasure.

– Loyal: that’s the perfect word to describe you with! You’re fiercely loyal to your friends.

TOE FAT:
Cliff Bennett, John Glascock, Ken Hensley, Lee

Um, that’s my feeling. I’ve always been that way. I’ve been loyal to the band I worked with, I never wanted to let them down – but I can’t help being ill, and now I did let them down, when I left. But I get so sick when I see managers that have no loyalty to a band, that rip them off, steal every penny they can and then just dump the band. Oh, I don’t like that. Loyalty doesn’t hurt; it doesn’t cost much – in fact, it costs nothing – but its results are great. And I’m like a dog: you look after a dog, and it’s been in pain for weeks and weeks, and you find it and nurse it – it’ll love you forever. It will never leave your side, it will love you and it would die for you if it had to – that’s loyalty. And that’s what my loyalty is; it’s the same principle.

– How did you feel when you left HEEP?

When I had to leave the band for the second time, it broke my heart, even though I knew it was coming – I was getting older and sicker. But the first time, I left with anger because the band became a political tool for the management and the record company, but I wasn’t sad.

– I could never understand the situation. You said that Ken was working together with the management, but wasn’t it always like that, given it was mostly Hensley’s songs in the ’70s? What exactly made you leave?

It was Hensley’s songs, but that didn’t matter. I was just sick and tired of the manager. He called me irrelevant – but I was drummer of great talent: I’d already been put in the Top 10 in the world at one time. I didn’t like him – I never liked him – and that time, I’d had enough.

– You’re talking about Gerry Bron, aren’t you?

URIAH HEEP – late ’70s:
John Lawton, Ken Hensley, Mick Box, Lee, Trevor Bolder

Gerry Bron, yeah. I loathed the man. He took so much money – he took fifty per cent of everything we earned, which in today’s way is illegal. You can’t do that today. But he got away [with it] because he did what he did, and it annoyed me immensely, but there you go. He was so ungrateful that he said – I heard him in the background when he was talking to these people, and I was round the corner, hidden away in the dressing room: “Those are my crew. I’m the one who holds it together. I’m URIAH HEEP! I build it, I made it!” Wow! Uhu! That’s a wrong thing to say with me hearing it. Bloody hell! Sorry, that’s not the manager – that’s an egotistical bastard! Anyway, though you can’t speak ill of the dead, the shit is gone, so forget about him – I’m not interested. I have no feelings for the man; he’s six feet under, and that’s the way it is.

– He said some nice words about you when we met some fifteen years ago.

He said some nice words? Oh! Blimey! Jeez! I mean, that’s a first. I don’t care. If he said it, he said it – it’s too late now. But then I left and joined Ozzy, and sold over 60 million records, so I did okay.

– Weren’t you supposed to form a band with Colin Pattenden from Manfred Mann‘s band, your label mate?

No, no, no, no. No. I don’t know where these rumors come from. I was going to play and make my own solo album; that’s what I was going to do. I was friends with Colin who had a recording studio in a movie studio in Shepperton that I would have rented if I didn’t get a phone call from Ozzy. So I said, “Well, I’ll audition you, you’ll audition me, and we’ll see what happens,” but then I heard the guitarist, Randy Rhoads, play… Wow! Oh, wow! He blew me away, and I knew it was going to be a good band.

– Ozzy had been thrown out of BLACK SABBATH because of his addictions, and you previously worked with another heavy drinker, David Byron. How could you be so sure that Osbourne would be reliable?

Well, the difference between them was that Ozzy drank but he was still looked after by the management, and when David drank they didn’t give a shit about him. Drinking is a terrible thing, but it is necessity for some people, when you’re working on the road 24/7 and eighteen hours a day. Certain things happen to people. That’s all I can really say about that – I can’t say too much, because it happens.

– How did you cope with constant touring?

Oh, It’s nice to enjoy a drink, but I used to go to bed early for thirty years, at 12 o’clock – that was early for us. Every time you go to a different city, in America or wherever you’re playing, they want you to party, because they haven’t seen you for so long, but if you did that, you’d be dead – you’d be absolutely exhausted and dead. So you have to decline and just go, “Now’s a bedtime,” and recuperate – that’s what gets you through it.

– About enjoying a drink… How did you get involved with an ad for “Jägermeister”?

I love “Jägermeister”! I mean I loved Jägermeister, because I can’t drink anymore. So when they offered me to be in that ad, I agreed on the condition that I’d be wearing a T-shirt with our latest album [“Firefly”]. These 50×40 posters were everywhere, on all the trains and buses: it helped sell another 100,000 records.

– About your writing. It’s interesting that you co-wrote one of the most delicate HEEP songs, “Circus”…

Yeah, yeah. It was just an idea that David and Gary Thain had. I was with David, and Gary phoned us up and sang his idea through the phone, and I wrote the vocal melody and wrote the rest with [the uncredited] Micky Box., and we put it together. “Circus.” It was fabulous! Really good. And remember: I wrote “Come Back To Me” as well.

– But why did you basically stop writing in the late ’80s?

I lost my faith in music writing – not playing music, but writing it. I just quit, I just had enough. It was too demanding, and I just didn’t want any more of that, so I stopped. And then I carried on later.

– Yes, there was a song on “Sonic Origami” that you contributed to: “Everything In Life.” Why did you return to writing?

Lee’s ad for Jägermeister

I had the song that I played to the boys, and they liked it, so we put it on. There was a majority vote with the band: any song you’ve written and they liked it, we put it on – and that’s great. Before that, I’d just write the odd one, but I had lost my will for writing. I didn’t feel it was right. I was just writing for myself, at home, and leaving it – ready to do it maybe in twenty-years, thirty-years’ time. And that is what I’ve done: I’ve just recorded the songs I wrote thirty years ago, and they turned out really good. So now I’m going to try and release them. I’ve just signed a record deal with Cherry Red Records who love it, so we’ve got a bit of a chance to do something with it. I’d love to go and do some more festivals off the back of the album, but we’ll wait and see. There’s no release date yet – I’m going in the studio in a couple of days to get a final mix done to be exquisite, as I call it, to be the best, and then we will wait because we’d want to release it together, back to back, with a documentary on my life, by a company called London Bridge Films. I’ve interviewed Joe Elliott and Ian Paice for the documentary, and I’ve got an interview with KISS – with their make-up off and their make-up on. How about that? KISS got into a studio in London as my special guests, and we had a wonderful time. It was an honor when they called me a legend in drumming, which is fabulous. It’s going to be a very, very good, honest documentary.

– Did you invite them to take part in your album?

No – no, no, no, no, no. They only took part in the documentary. On the album, it’s just me and a guy called Jake Libretto, a guitarist extraordinaire and a brilliant drummer, too (laughs) – that’s it. I’ve done all the music, and there’s a couple of tracks that a friend of mine, Thomas [Jakobsson], gave me to listen to, so I wrote words and melodies to them, and put these songs on my album. I also share a track with Jake, called “Home Is Where The Heart Is.”

– You played on two Ozzy records as opposed to sixteen studio albums you recorded with HEEP. Why do you think the Osbourne material gets much more attention?

Randy Rhoads, Lee, Ozzy Osbourne, Bob Daisley

Basically, because it was a brand new project and we had a guitarist who was beyond good, who was genius. Also, it was original: we just had our own pleasure and we had control of the music, and the music was damn good. It was magic. To me, it proves that I have more about myself, that I do have a talent – not just playing the drums. Now I’ve done all the keyboards on my new album – it’s called “Eleventeen” – and I sang all the songs, so you have to look out for it.

– How many songs did you write for the album that you started back in 1979 and what happened to them?

I’d written five songs then. They’re on the side – they’re listed for the next album. I wanted to do this new album first, and I’ve done it, but I’ll record those songs again, later. I’ve got to redo them, because I’m going to modify them for the 21st century.

– LIVING LOUD: was it a sort of nostalgia trip for you or you wanted to create something new?

No, no, no. LIVING LOUD was just a one-off: we didn’t know which way it was going to go. Bob Daisley’s management was trying to get a band together to do an album with some new stuff and some of the old stuff, and I went, “Yeah. Great idea!” And that’s all we did. Me and Bob flew over to America and went to Steve Morse’s house where we started writing material and rehearse it; then we went down to the studio and put the drums and the bass down. We also had Jimmy Barnes and Don Airey there, and it worked – it was great. We played two shows in Australia – one in Melbourne, one in Sydney – where we went down a storm. They called us a supergroup, and we thought, “Okay, that’s quite a nice thing to have.” But the record company dropped us because Jimmy was about to release a solo album, so there you go.

– Unlike that, your group with Stefan Berggren was a creative unit.

You mean “The Sun Has Gone Hazy” album? Yeah. I knew Stefan, a great singer, because we had a band called MASTERS PROJECT, and he was our singer. We kept in touch and at some point we decided to do an album together. So I flew over to Sweden, where we wrote new songs, learned them and practiced to get things right before going to the studio to record the backing tracks, where I was playing drums in the kitchen to get an ambient effect. (Laughs.) It was great stuff but, again, because of politics – the name of the band, and this and that – it all fell apart, but it was something that I was proud to do.

– You penned quite a lot of songs. Which of those define you as a writer and as a drummer?

Lee leading HEEP

The songs that I wrote with Bob and Randy. That was the period when I thought, “This is good!” I love ’em all: “Flying High [Again],” “Over The Mountain,” “S.A.T.O.”, “Diary Of A Madman,” “”Mr. Crowley,” “Crazy Train”… Although I didn’t write “Crazy Train” and “Mr. Crowley,” I played the best I could do on those, and it worked. Before that, I wrote songs in partnership with Micky and David – we wrote “commercial” songs together – so I was kind of semi-identified (laughs) in URIAH HEEP. But everybody that I know comes up to me and says, “‘Flying High’ is brilliant – those triplet drums!”

– You’re a good vocalist, too, so are there any songs you wish you’d have sung instead of Byron or somebody else?

David, myself and Ken had a unique harmony, we were incredible, but I would never take a main vocal part with songs that David would sing. He was a genius, and now if I have to do a song – which I’ve done, as I sang on every track of “Eleventeen” and I’m very, very proud of it – I think about him.

– What fuels your uncompromising professional attitude? I remember about 20 years ago, we were having dinner and you were fuming about somebody who “threw a wobbler” in the dressing room…

I hate situations where the band have an argument, and there’s a lot of people in there listening around; I don’t like that to happen. If we have some problems, get into a room together and iron them out – that’s the only way to do it. My attitude is to do your job: that would be totally professional. We all have our issues, and I don’t complain with people around me; I do it when I’ve got a chance and time – on my own or with a person who’s involved. We all get emotional but, for instance, now I’m too busy worrying about staying alive. I nearly died twice in the last four years, and I just want to carry on as best as I can. I’m that stubborn!

– Lately, a lot of attention was focused on you getting platinum discs from Ozzy. But it wasn’t about the discs per se, right? It was about you reclaiming your place in history.

It was about the discs, really: they’re on my wall now, and I’m looking at them – all three of them. I’ve got twelve platinum albums altogether, and that’s incredible. But when I die, I’ll have left the legacy of my playing, of my style for ever. I’m happy: I’ve left a legacy that people will remember. With my illnesses, you never know when you’re going to pass away so, at the moment, I’m enjoying every day I can look forward to.

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