Interview With Singer John Lawton Ex Front Man Of Lucifer’s Friend and Uriah Heep
Interview Done By Mike Wilkerson
MW: Please introduce yourself?
JL: Hi this is John Lawton ex front man of Uriah Heep and Lucifers Friend and various other projects….
MW: You got your start in Asterix in 1970. Why did you all decide to change the name to Lucifer’s Friend?
JL: Actually Asterix was a Lucifer’s Friend project recorded at the same time as the first Lucifers album, but with a different theme running through it and 2 vocalists…..
MW: Tell me about each of the following Lucifer’s Friend albums:
MW: Where The Groupies Killed The Blues…
JL: 2nd Lucifer’s Friend album, very progressive I thought. Several lyrics written by a guy called John O’Brian Docker buta very strong album, got into the Billboard chart which was very good for an unknown German band..
JL: My own personal favourite of all the Lucifer’s albums. Featured the brass section from the James Last Orch. Great songs only 6 of them, but great to record….A bit jazzy for some fans but it just showed how diverse we were….
MW: Mind Exploding
JL: Back to the rock roots and again a good album with some terrific musicianship from the band….
MW: Mean Machine
JL: After a time away from the band with Uriah Heep I rejoined the guys for this album which we recorded in England. Wasn’t the best work we have done, but still had some good songs on it and was unfortunately the last album with the original line up.
MW: Sumo Grip
JL: The last album that the original guitarist Peter Hesslein and I worked on. Again some great material but some say the album was overproduced and I tend to agree, but it was well received….
MW: During this time you were pretty busy because you would also sing for Uriah Heap from 1977 – 1979. How did this come about?
JL: After David Byron left Heep, they contacted some friends of mine who new my work from Lucifers Friend and my work with Deep Purple’s Roger Glover. I had sung for Roger on the iconic Butterfly Fly Ball concert at the Albert Hall in London. I received a call from Ken Hensley from Heep asking me to come to London for an audition. I got the job and the rest is history….
MW: Tell me about each of the following Uriah Heap albums:
JL: The tracks were already recorded when I joined, so it was a case of me learning the songs and putting my own style to them…Some great songs here including on of my favourites WISE MAN.
MW: Innocent Victim
JL: Back to a more rocky style for the band and a chance for me to write something. The single FREE ME became a big hit for Heep all around the world and took the album on to greater things….
MW: Why did you leave Uriah Heap after such a short time in the band?
JL: Many reasons really and too many to list here but basically musical differences. I think the guys had got the taste for commercial success after FREE ME and were consequently looking for the next hit. To my mind that is not what Uriah Heep were noted for. Songs like JULY MORNING, THE WIZARD, SUNRISE and songs of that ilk is what made the band different….
MW: You would go back to Uriah Heap in 2001 to do the live album The Musicians Birthday Party?
JL: Actually I went back to the band in 1995. The singer Bernie Shaw was having some problems with his voice so they asked me to do a tour of South Africa with them, which of course I did. The Magicians Birthday was a good gig with the original lineup including Ken Hensley….
MW: Do you think you will ever go and play with Uriah Heap or record with them again?
JL: I have learnt in this business to never say never J) who knows we have remained friends throughout the years and Mick Box and I collaborated on a Bulgarian Cinema Movie a year ago. Heep are very settled in their present formation and I can’t envisage my going back or them asking me, we both have our paths to follow.
MW: Tell me about each of the following bands:
JL: I was invited to go over to Germany to produce an album by the band. Unfortunately the singer they had couldn’t crack it in the studio, so they asked me to sing it. It turned out okay and opened the doors for future productions…
JL: The same guitarist but different musicians in the “engine room” J) some really good songs on this album and we did do a couple of presentation gigs, but it was never going to be long term for me….
JL: A band I put together with some friends to try and get back to what I started off doing all those years ago, ie playing songs that I liked and playing smaller clubs really just for fun…but we were very good I have to say J).
MW: the Hensley Lawton Band
JL: After so many years away from the music scene, Ken Hensley decided to make a come back. We put our differences to one side and played together at the Uriah Heep convention in 2000. The gig was recorded and we went out on the road together promoting the album and playing the good Heep stuff. It was never our intention to take it further than this and after 6 months we went out separate ways…
MW: the Lawton Dunning Project
JL: Myself and Steve Dunning from the John Lawton Band did a couple of acoustic gigs as a duo and it was so successful that we were asked to record an album which we did called STEPPIN IT UP. It was never going to be more than that and it was just a slight side step from the John Lawton Band.
MW: the John Lawton Band
JL: A terrific band with some great musicians and we recorded an album called STING IN THE TALE. We were together for about 2 years and did lots of gigs abroad aswell as England but the guitarist decided to go back to Canada and my buddy Steve Dunning developed some health problems, so we called it a day…pity but there you go.
MW: OTR – On The Rocks
JL: I met with ex Focus axeman Jan Dumee who played me some of his new material which sounded very exciting for me. He had written most of the music for guitar, so it was a challenge to convert the melodies for vocals. The musicians were from Brazil and the basic tracks were recorded in Sao Paulo. I did the vocals in a studio in Holland and we did plan to take the album out on the road. However the lack of promotion from the record company didn’t help, so we had to let it slip.
MW: How did Diana Express – The Power Of Mind come about?
JL: I have done a lot of work in Bulgaria over the past few years and one of my musician friends introduced me to a guy called Milen Vrabevski who is actually a doctor. Milen had written and produced an album with some Bulgarian musicians called DIANA EXPRESS who had been a very successful band back in the 70’s. Milen asked me to have a listen to this album with the idea that I would sing it in English…. I liked the album a lot, the songs were very well played and produced, so after looking at the English lyrics and thank god they were not a Google translation, I decided to do it. It’s a great album and just goes to show that there are some excellent musicians on the other side of the world J)
MW: What do you have planned for 2013?
JL: We have some new material to sort out for the next album, but right now the plan is to get out there and present POWER OF MIND live….
MW: What would you like to say in closing?
JL: Happy New Year to all the readers…and take care