ON THE ROAD WITH URIAH HEEP

Hello to all, ok so after much thought I realized that for now my fantasies of writing a weekly blog were not realistic, so for now I will settle for bimonthly, every two weeks for now and see where it takes me, hopefully I can eventually be able to do that. With this in mind I must say I now have even more respect and appreciation for friend and founding member of URIAH HEEP, Mick Box who keeps a weekly blog, how does he do it?? Considering, performing, recording, band business, being a husband and father, does he ever sleep? Believe me its not easy.

Speaking of Mick and the Heep last month the band arrived in the US for the first leg of their US tour and I joined them on a number of East coast dates.

The first was BB KINGS in New York city, it was a Wednesday night and a very hot night at that/ Daniel from QUEDG phoned me up and asked me if I can bring down some prints that we can sell (WTS, CELEBRATION) which I did, it was sunny but just as I was about a minute from pulling up to the venue a torrential storm hit with the rain coming down so hard that you could not see a foot away from your face. Poor Daniel ran up to my car and quickly grabbed the case as he blurted out “ pleased to meet you” even though we have been working together for almost two years we had never met face to face. I parked the car in a nearby garage and headed for the venue the rain had stopped and now it felt like a sauna. I was met by Daniel at the door where also my friend Monte Connor head of Artist Development for Roadrunner records was waiting for me.

It was great to see Monte himself a fanatic URIAH HEEP fan, I have known him for well over twenty years and we worked together on SEPULTURA CHAOS AD album.

We went backstage, and were met by the bands manager Martin Darvil, I gave Martin a big Greek hug and he yelled for security! LOL. We had a few laughs, as we went into the bands dressing room and I got to greet the boys. After we exchanged hellos I showed them the Vinyl layouts to LIVE IN ARMENIA and everyone was very pleased, I signed the art proofs and gave them as a gift to Daniel. The band hit the stage on time and delivered an amazing set, which had the packed house on its feet. After a 90 minute blistering set the boys went backstage to greet fans and various VIP’s including the president of the band’s US label Derek Shulman who started his career as the lead singer of prog giants GENTLE GIANT, now that was cool! I chatted with Derek over the sorry state of the music industry and asked when would the next GENTLE GIANT re union occur which had him laughing. Anyways he had a great evening after saying goodnight

I headed back to my car leaving NY around midnight and got back home to CT.  around 2:00 am.

The following day I was back at the office organizing things and checking to see if the prints were ready for INTO THE WILD. Friday morning I headed out for the next date which was Foxborough Massachusetts the band was playing in the entertainment complex which is the stadium home of the New England Patriots one of the premier football teams in the US, (American football that is) which is a bit similar to Rugby.

On my CD player I picked the music for the trip, I was in an electronic mood (I am a big fan of electronic music) TANGERINE DREAM Rubycon and the soundtrack to the Sorcerer, JEAN MICHAEL JARRE Oxygene, FUTURE SOUND OF LONDON best of collection, THE ORB with DAVID GILMORE, VANGELIS Bladerunner special edition soundtrack, and finally AIR walkie talkie.  It was a very misty surreal evening

I arrived at the venue and set up next to the merch booth after I went backstage to greet the boys and get them to sign some prints. I was very surprised and humbled when the fans started to arrive as a number of them surrounded the table excited to meet me, they had their picture taken with me for their facebook pages, asked me questions about my work and my experiences about working with HEEP. I signed a lot of items, as they would request once they bought all types of merchandise which had my work, t-shirts, mouse pads, CDs, etc. a lot of them had brought stuff from home for me to sign of other bands covers I had done. One fan in particular had brought several items including covers of mine I had not seen in years.  When the band hit the stage things settled down and I was able to get away for a while and catch the band’s set, they had pulled in a very good crowd and they were really enjoying it. Once the concert was over we were again swarmed with fans I received great compliments on the new prints and sold several sets. Once the fans were gone I headed backstage and sat with the boys, they once again signed more prints and we drank and chatted, I especially had a great conversation with Trevor about his days with BOWIE and his friendship with Bill Nelson of BE BOP DELUXE fame as I am a big fan of both the band and his later work. Trevor had some great tales, which I enjoyed very much. Around 12:30 am I headed back to my car for the two-hour ride home, I had debated about staying at a hotel for the night and would have if the band did also. However the band was in for a four hour ride to Pennsylvania and would sleep on the bus,” ah life on the road!”  I got home about 3:00 am and crashed in my bed, content but exhausted.

Saturday the band was playing in Connecticut where I live, they were performing at the Ridgefield Playhouse, which is a wonderful theater, holds around 700 people; the previous summer I was Martin’s guest there for ASIA, among many other great bands that I have seen through the years.

I arrived at the venue a few hours early and set up then went backstage to talk with Scampi the band’s road manager and the boys, we had a great time as there was an opening act, we ate dinner and traded stories particularly of DEEP PURPLE as Scampi had worked with Ritchie Blackmore. I made it to the merch booth as the opening act finished, once again loads of fans and onlookers, lots of photos, signed loads of stuff and some great conversations, with fans about the band’s artwork. One fan in particular was all the way from the Ukraine and he was so excited to meet Mick Box he was shaking! He and his wife bought a WAKE THE SLEEPER print and he proclaimed to me that he would never sell it and take it to his grave! Now there is an “Ioannis” art fan!

The band once again performed a great show and had the audience on its feet asking for more. Later backstage we had a few VIP’s and had a terrific time that lasted well past midnight, the band was staying at a nearby hotel so they were not rushed, we signed more prints had a few beers. and then finally called it a night. My home is on the shore of Connecticut and only 45 minutes away after the marathon drives of the previous nights this was a breeze. Happy and content my head hit the pillow somewhere around 2:00 am.

Sunday was a day off for all and believe me we all needed it, I was thinking of maybe having lunch with the boys, Mick said he would call me if they were up for it although playing golf, lounging by the pool and doing laundry might have taken priority, which it did.

Monday I headed into the office and got caught up on work. Daniel sent me an email that LIVE IN ARMENIA had been pushed up for delivery, as was the LIVE IN BRISBANE AUSTRALIA for the bootleg series. In order to make the Frontiers deadline I realized that going to New Hampshire for the final date was not going to work, which was disappointing. My good friend and lead guitar player Jim Matheos from FATES WARNING himself a huge URIAH HEEP fan was looking forward to meeting me there as he lives in the NH. I asked Scampi to get Jim on the guest list and emailed him the bad news, being in the industry himself he understood.

That evening I headed to Norfolk in northern Connecticut for my final date, I also brought with me my brother and his family and my wife and sister in law, on the way we stopped at a great restaurant and had dinner then on to the venue. The theater once again was a beautiful place with a fine restaurant and bar in the building. Once inside I was disappointed to find that not only there was no place for me to set up next to the merch booth but that the credit card machine of the merchandiser was not working. Since the prints are a major buy the cheapest going for $190.00 your doomed without one as people don’t carry that much cash on them and if they do they are not going to blow it on one purchase.

I set up near the bar as best as I could and once again the usual collection of fans and onlookers, however to my surprise I got a visit from Mike Vescera lead singer of Loudness, Yngwie Malmsteen, and MVP among other acts. I had not seen Mike for a number of years since he moved to Nashville to set up his studio, I have known him since the mid 80’s when I did the cover for his band Obsession. We had a great conversation, and could possibly be working together again on a new project in Japan. Just as Mike left I got another visit this time from John Arch, John was the original lead singer of FATES WARNING and the last time I had seen him was a year after he left the band, which was almost 24 years ago.  In a few minutes it was like old times, man what an evening this was turning out to be.

I headed upstairs to the venue and caught the band’s last four songs, once again it was a good turn out for a Monday night and the band had the audience on their feet. After signing some autographs and packing up I headed backstage Mick offered me some wine and pizza, however being on a diet I opted for an apple, which believe me, was not easy. The backstage area was really small, so we opted to wait until the hall was emptied and then go upstairs to meet with everyone and the VIPS.

Once upstairs I introduced the band to my family and had some great laughs and conversations with Bernie and Mick. Finally the band headed out to the tour buss for the long ride to New Hampshire and I headed home with some wonderful memories having toured with one of the greatest Classic Rock British bands.

We had discussed the possibility of doing West Coast dates this month, but with the deadlines I am facing in both the LED ZEPPELIN book plus a major media corporate project I have taken on (for now its top secret) I had to bitterly decline. However there is a good possibility I may be doing the whole UK Tour, which would be a blast, so many fans to meet there and friends, we shall see.  So until my next installment, which I promise, will not take as long for me to post, take care and be happy.

Cheers

Ioannis

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