UFO Take Cover On The Salentino Cuts
October 31, 2017, a year ago
UFO may not be a household name, but no one in the world of hard rock and metal will argue their influence. Their solid songs and heavy riffs coupled with vocalist Phil Mogg’s raspy- yet melodic vocals built the foundation for countless bands of the genre. Their 1979 live album, Strangers In The Night featured the band at the peak of their prime and came just in time to pave the way for the NWOBHM. As the band approaches their 50th anniversary, they are still releasing great albums and play to a growing fan base when they tour.
UFO is no stranger to recording covers, in fact, the band jumpstarted their career in 1970 when a remake of Eddie Cochran’s “C’mon Everybody” did well in Japan and Germany. Elsewhere within their vast catalog, there’s Love’s “Alone Again Or” on “Lights Out”, Jr. Parker’s “Mystery Train” on “No Place To Run” and the Small Faces’ “All Or Nothin” on the expanded edition of No Heavy Pettin just to name a few. For their 22nd studio album, the band, now featuring UFO mainstay Mogg along with guitarist Vinnie Moore, bassist Rob De Luca, drummer Andy Parker and keyboardist/guitarist Paul Raymond, released a collection of covers in fall of 2017 titled “The Salentino Cuts” where the band tackles tracks originally recorded by The Doors, John Mellencamp, The Animals, Bill Withers, ZZ Top and more.
Bassist Rob De Luca, who also plays with Sebastian Bach and Spread Eagle, took time out of his schedule for a chat about the tracks, and what he and UFO will be up to in the future.
BraveWords: For the uninitiated, you joined UFO in 2008 as a touring bassist when original UFO bassist Pete Way was unable to get a Visa, and officially joined in 2015 during the recording of A Conspiracy Of Stars. How did you get the gig back then?
De Luca: “Through Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal. He and Vinnie Moore are friends and Vin had asked him if he knew of a solid bassist to fill in for Pete Way. Sebastian Bach had done 90 or so shows supporting Guns N' Roses, so I knew Bumble quite well. Also, Vinnie knew my brother-in-law a little bit, so I think that helped too. I first met UFO at rehearsals for the 2008 spring tour and we were off and running! Looking back, the fact that we've fit so well for ten years shows how intuitive Ron Thal is about music and musicians.”
BraveWords: I have read Pete’s autobiography (A Fast Ride Out of Here: Confessions of Rock's Most Dangerous Man) and he states he is an unconventional playing style. How does it differ than yours?
De Luca: “My primary focus is foundation, then tone, then feel. Those three things together create an incredibly strong bed to build things on top of. Then I add melody when needed. One of my main influences is ‘70s classic rock, so I feel that's a reason I've fit the band well over the past decade.”
BraveWords: When you play the older UFO material live, do you stick to Pete’s baselines, or do you adapt them to your own style?
De Luca: “I try to respect Pete's basslines because those songs are perfect the way they are. However, players always interpret things slightly different, even when they're not trying to. Ultimately, all musicians are unique.”
BraveWords: Although UFO has been doing covers since their start in 1969, what made the band do an all-covers album now?
De Luca: “For some reason the prospect was interesting to Phil Mogg at the time and I'm glad we did it. A covers album is very different from writing an album. In some ways there are less pressures because the songs are already written. However, there may be more pressure because the songs are known and people may have stronger preconceptions and expectations.”
BraveWords: Where did the title of the album come from?
De Luca: “We recorded the album in Hannover, Germany. We would often end up at an Italian restaurant afterward to eat, drink, hang and plan out the next day. The restaurant is called Salentino's. So it became our defacto clubhouse.”
BraveWords: How did you choose which songs to be included?
De Luca: “Every night on tour we'd be driving to the next city and making a master list of songs. Every morning that list would be in the trash. Eventually, the recording deadline was closing in and things came together.”
BraveWords: Having listened to the album a few times, I did notice the band made each song their own, especially as Phil Mogg has a very peculiar vocal phasing style. Did you notice this while recording it?
De Luca: “No. That's one of the beauties of this album. We simply learned the songs and tried to play them like the original versions, for the most part. However, whenever we play we can only sound like UFO. I feel we added a muscle filled menacing vibe to the versions.”
BraveWords: I was impressed by the choice of tracks you chose; you remade some classics, yet some are not as known. Was it a group effort to choose the songs, or did each of you come in with a list?
De Luca: “I don't remember exactly who chose what. Phil chose most (of the songs) because they had to suit his voice. I think Vin chose Robin Trower, Montrose, ZZ Top, Mountain... Andy chose the Tom Petty song and probably more. I chose John Mellencamp.”
BraveWords: Were any songs considered that did not make the final cut?
De Luca: “Yes, there was a beautiful Vince Gill song that didn't make it called ‘Whenever You Come Around.’ I believe there was another song that I can't seem to remember right now.”
BraveWords: The track which surprised me most was Mad Season’s “River Of Deceit”. How did that song come about?
De Luca: “Phil loves that song! He's been singing it on the bus for years. Layne [Staley] was an incredibly gifted, unique and influential singer and it's such a powerful song by him and [guitarist] Mike McCready. I was lucky enough to see Layne sing a few times and I think Phil did a fantastic job on it!”
BraveWords: You also changed the mood of Tom Petty’s “Honey Bee”… It’s so much more metal!
De Luca: “As I said, whenever we play something it naturally sounds like UFO. There was no mention of making any song heavier, but together we have such a menacing groove.”
BraveWords: And Vinnie added a solo to the Yardbirds’ “Heart Full of Soul”...
De Luca: “Damn right he did, he's Vinnie Moore! His playing on this album is up there with the best UFO albums.”
BraveWords: UFO just finished a tour with Saxon. Will there be a tour behind the new album, or will you wait until there is a new studio album?
De Luca: “I would expect not much waiting from UFO. We always seem to stay busy. The road is where we're comfortable and luckily our fans keep showing up!”
BraveWords: There are rumors online of a Strangers In The Night anniversary tour. Is this real, or is it just fans’ wishful thinking?
De Luca: “I think it would be super fun, but haven't heard any solid plan for that yet. We've done most of those songs at one time or another. So I don't think it would be a stretch, as long as we had a couple rehearsals. So I'd definitely be up for it.”
BraveWords: Are you able to give any information on UFO’s future plans?
De Luca: “As I said, I haven't heard anything concrete yet. I think everyone needs to get through the holidays before new plans are made. I would hope we also have more studio albums ahead of us.”
BraveWords: Now that UFO is off the road, they are taking a break, but you are touring again. What are you doing now?
De Luca: “I'm touring Australia with Sebastian Bach. We started in Singapore, which was great because none of us had been there before. After Australia is Bach in the USA into December. Come see it, the band is on fire!”
BraveWords: What do you have lined up? You are involved with so many projects. Have you had to turn down gigs and/or projects because of schedule conflicts?
De Luca: “If I could, I'd do everything that's quality. Unfortunately, there simply isn't enough time. When I get home in December, my focus will shift to writing songs for my band Spread Eagle. We've been offered worldwide record deals and will record a new album in 2018. After all these years, my focus is to make sure it's 100% as cool, powerful, spirited and relevant as the two previous Spread Eagle records.”