Mick Underwood Interview (1982)

Posted: June 11, 2013 in Classic Rock - Interviews, Deep Purple Family


This interview with Gillan drummer Mick Underwood was conducted at the bands hotel a few hours before the gig in Stockholm on March 25th 1982. They played in a cinema called Draken, which had sold out in a matter of hours. It was to be the only visit (and the only show) in Sweden by this outfit (Gillan), since the split was closing in. I chatted with Mick Underwood for about 45 minutes and I recall him as a decent chap. The interview was published in Deep Purple Magazine 26 that summer, which is where I translated it back into english from. Enjoy!

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You were a member of a band called Strapps…

– Yes…

…and they opened up for Deep Purple on their British tour in March 1976. Can you tell me what the general feeling was backstage with Purple?

– I am nut sure how the feeling was backstage with Deep Purple, the only one I spoke to was Jon Lord.

The only gentleman around?

– Yes, I think you may be right. I know Ian Paice fairly well but for some reason he was not very friendly. We just said “Hello”. But Jon Lord, who´s always been a gentleman, was OK. I did not see much of Purple´s shows. They played very loud. I catched maybe five minutes all in all because they played far too loud, I just couldn´t stand the volume. In all honesty, they were not that good.

They had perhaps reached the end of the line?

– Yes, that was my impression at the time.

You have had some problems on this European tour?

– Nothing major. The worst was when our passports were stolen and we had to cancel Switzerland.

How did you go down in Norway?

– Very well. Very good crowd. The whole tour has been very good. I hope the public here in Stockholm will be good as well.

I suppose the people in Trondheim are not used to bands coming in, you must have been superstars over there (laughs).

– Yes, nice to be big in Trondheim (laughs).

I think it is a wise move to visit smaller cities as well, and not just the big ones.

– Yes, we have always done that. We played way up north in Finland and it was really good.

You are big in Bankok now?

– Hard to say, we only stayed for one day. We sold out a 5.000-6000 capacity hall. We will go back later this year and play in a bigger hall.

How was Australia?

– We only played smaller places. 2.000 people a night. But we sold out so we hope to return and play to bigger crowds.

It is growing…

– Yes, but we have not really worked much in Australia. Neither did Deep Purple.

Japan must have been the first really good market?

– Japan has always been very good. I have only been there once with the band but we did a good job.

Exactly how big are you in Japan?

– It is hard to say. We sell out our concerts. I suppose we could sell more records. It is good but it could be bigger. “Double Trouble” has just been released in Japan, so we will see how it goes.

Your US tour was a disapointment?

– Yes. Not that we did not play well or had a bad reaction from the fans that did see us or anything like that, it was the business side that failed. When we arrived, nothing was prepared properly. Some gigs went to hell because there was no advertising at all, so people did not know that we played. On top of this, our records could not be found.

Could you not have toured with a bigger band?

– Yes. Personally, I really don´t feel like going back. There is talk but… I have been in America a few times, it was never that good. To me, there are so many places that are far more interesting.

How about that idea to tour by boat?

– We have talked about it. It would be a massive undertaking. We lack the time right now but I suppose it might happen some day. I´m not sure what to think of it. It could work, but I suppose it could also be a nightmare (laughs).

You record new albums all the time.

– Four albums in three years, that is not that much.

But you also play 200 shows a year…

– Probably more than that now…

How do you find the time to write new material?

– We write some during our tours. This sunday ends this tour, then we will have three weeks off, then we rehearse and record the next album.

Are you OK now since Janick Gers joined the band?

– Yes, he is OK. What the fans think is up to them but we are very happy with him.

All these tours and this way of life, how is possible to keep a family life going when you have this job?

– It is very hard. You must have a very understanding family. Luckily, I have that. I have a daughter that is four months old.

So you have not seen her very much…

– Very little, a week here and a day there…

I saw that Ian has his girlfriend with him. I guess that would be hard for you now that you have a child?

– I would not bring my wife on the road. It´s… too hard. She used to come along for a week now and then but she never really liked it.

She might not like the music of Gillan that much…

– Well, she likes some of it, but mostly she likes ABBA (laughs), that is what she listens to at home.

Well, I guess everybody listens to ABBA now and then…

– They are very good.

I guess they are a group for all ages…

– Exactly. My wife loves them, she has probably got all their albums.

Do you have any idea how many records Gillan have sold?

– No, I have no idea. We sell records all the time so it is hard to tell. We just had a Gold record in Jugoslavia. Hard to keep track of such things.

Jugoslavia? But that is behind the Iron Curtain…

– Yes, on the map. But it is the same.

So the music of the West is well known there?

– Yes. As I said, “Future Shock” went Gold there and by the looks of things “Double Trouble” is going that way too. It´s not like in West Germany, were a double album will cost you a weeks pay. Records are cheap in Jugoslavia. They also have a lot of concerts.

In Gillan, you play hard rock, sometimes with the odd 50´s cover thrown in. What do you listen to at home?

– I don´t listen to music other on the car radio, and if they just talk that is fine by me. You get enough music as it is.

Could your amount of touring be bad for your health?

– Yes, we are probably doing the maximum amount of work that can can be done. We may cut down a little. This is a nine week tour, I think that is a bit much.

What would you do if Gillan suddenly broke up?

– Umm… Maybe I would join another band, or maybe I would be a studio musician? Or I might do something else, I don´t think about it right now. I suppose no matter how much you plan things you can never really know where things are going anyway. Time will tell.

What was your opinion of the Ian Gillan Band?

– That was a terrible band, I didn´t like it all. They confused the public. Still today, that band does us harm. If we tour a market for the first time, and Ian Gillan Band has been there, people might not know what to expect.

Deep Purple could get back together some day again I guess…

– Probably. They would make a lot of money, that is for sure. And they would never have to do an honest days work ever again. It´s an interesting thought and I know that Ian has been in touch with people regarding Deep Purple, but I don´t think he is that interested in it. But it is up to him. People would, no matter how good or bad it is, want to see Deep Purple again. They have not worked together for years now, and they are doing things in different directions. I don´t know the members of Deep Purple well enough to know what they are thinking. I have only met Ritchie Blackmore once in the last 10 years.

You worked with him in The Outlaws…

– Yes, we met a while ago when he jammed with us at The Rainbow. We only chatted for five minutes. So I have no idea what he, or Jon or…

Has he changed much since The Outlaws days?

– I have no idea. Ritchie is the kind of person that it takes a while to get to know.

Has Ian changed since the Episode Six days?

– Oh yes, everybody changes. He has gone through a lot.

The “For Gillan Fans Only” thing was a nice surprise. There is more than just music on it…

– Yes, some people in this band are pretty nuts! I don´t know if that record means anything to anybody, but we had a few laughs when we did it. Some of that stuff is hilarious. Some of it is, well… It´s a matter of taste. A gesture to the fans that managed to get it.

Who´s idea was the book cover of “Future Shock”?

– That came from the record company. It worked very well.

It is very decent of you to do these things because the fans feel that you really care…

– Yes, and they are the ones that we aim for when we do things like this. The fans that really care. They always know when a new album is coming out so they will be the first in line to buy it.

What actually happened when you joined Gillan? Did he phone you up?

– Yes, he called me and said that his band would have a new guitarist and a new drummer, and they could not find a good drummer.

What were you doing at that time?

– I was still a member of Strapps, but things was not good. We were writing for another album when Ian called. When he asked I had my doubts because last time I had seen him was with the Ian Gillan Band thing and that music didn´t interest me. So I knew he had a new band but I didn´t know what kind of music they were going to play. But we met and jammed and the next morning we started recording “Mr Universe”! It worked very well.

You live in England. Would you leave if the band suddenly sold a lot of records, Platinum and all that?

– I would not move, certainly not to America. This is a problem that we don´t have at the moment, but it would be a nice one to have. The problem we have now is getting to the bottom of who´s hiding the money we make now!

Are your albums out in America?

– “Glory Road” should be out, but I honestly didn´t see a single copy when we were there. I don´t think that our kind of rock suits their radio very well. They think that Foreigner is tough. We could get big if we, like you said, toured with a major band.

So why did you go over there on your own?

– We didn´t know! Ian might have known.

Who makes these decisions?

– Ian and the office. Ian is in charge.

You never get asked for your opinions on things?

– Not really, things are ready to go when we hear about it.

Is this one of the reasons why Bernie Tormé left?

– Probably, yes.

You are popular in England now.

– Yes, but we can only do one proper tour a year, so we tend to make it count. Last year, we played 43 shows! We may add the odd festival.

Will you be doing Reading this year?

– No, we have done Reading four years now, and last year we headlined. You can´t do that two years straight.

Do you like playing in front of huge masses?

– Yes, the bigger the crowd the more fun it is. I know that some people in the band preferes smaller places but I get energised by large crowds. It´s more adrenaline.

So 12.000 people at The Budokan is the best there is?

– I still have to play The Budokan. The best place is probably England, Reading is 30.000. We played to 20.000 in Athens, Greece. England is our best market.

Will you go back to Greece soon?

– Later this year. I only heard this morning. I think it was August.

I heard that 20.000 couldn´t get in last time…

– Yes, that was a lot of fun. We spent a week there doing only two shows. So we had our families with us, making it a holiday.

You have played in a lot of countries, any new ones coming up?

– I would like to play in the Soviet Union, not that I like the politics, but I would like to play there. I think South America is coming up. Brazil has been mentioned.

Are your albums out there?

– Not sure, maybe. Since there is talk about going there I guess they are out there. I would love to go.

I have seen Gillan grow the last two years. It seems like you are building this up at the moment.

– I hope so. We are certainly working very hard for it. Our strength are our concerts, which is why we travel so much.

What if you recorded a new album live?

– We never play songs until we know that our audience knows them. The fans need some time to learn our material before we play it. We have triend new songs on a few occations, but the response is not as good. Everybody plays the well known songs on stage, you can see that on the live albums. People want to hear the hits. If we played everything we would be up there for four hours.

How about a “Best of” album?

– (Laughs) Funny you should mention it, we discussed that just the other day. It would be a record company decision anyway. Personally, I don´t want to see it, because it usually means that a band is going downhill and the record company moves to get the gold while they still can.

Yes, but you are on your way up, clearly…

– Yes.

You could add the odd unreleased track…

– It´s up to Virgin to decide (laughs).

The album covers, what is the working process like? Do you get to see a few and then you pick one you like?

– We figure out a title, then we discuss ideas with the record company. Then there might be three or four covers that we are presented with. Then we might decide on one, but we have also thrown it all in the bin. But it has never been a problem. I think our best yet is “Glory Road”, with the black background. “Double Trouble” is OK. “Future Shock” was amazing, but the end result not quite what we had hoped for. The drawing makes us look slightly… weird… But we didn´t have the time to change it.

I think that images of the members are important.

– Yes, so that people know what we look like. We have always had some pictures on our albums, some good, some less so. But we would never use a band shot on a cover. The book for “Future Shock” was quite nice.

Who´s idea was the “Double Trouble” cover?

– I can´t remember his name.

You have not been attacked by crazy women?

– Not that I know of.

Whitesnake would have been killed if they had used it, but they are more into…

– I know what you mean. We have never had any problems in Gillan but when I was in Strapps we had it all the time. They used to come up to us and say “You can´t continue to view us as sex objects”. And they were right, because the only women that ever complained looked like the door over there…

What is your wives take on this?

– She´s fine with it. She has seen pictures of me with naked women on my lap and kept her cool. I liked that photo shoot! The great looking women never complained. She knows how it is. She has met enough people in this business to know.

When you have time off, do you still hang out with the guys in the band?

– Only Ian, becuase we all live in different places. Ian lives 30-40 miles away, so we may play a game of golf. I will see him now because he has promised to attend our daughters baptism. I live in London, far away from the rest of the band.

Bernie Marsden has said that when he and Cozy Powell play a game of golf, the first to mention Deep Purple loses points…

– (Laughs) If I was in Whitesnake and played a game with Cozy, I guess that could come up. But Ian and I don´t have those sorts of problems. I can sympatise, because I am in the same situation. Ian was in a very famous band called Deep Purple, a band that does not exist any more. But people from all around the world – like yourself who runs a fan club – keeps a big interest going, which is OK. It can be a little annoying for those of us who was never in that band to answer questions about them, because we never had anything to do with them. We never talk about Deep Purple in the band, so we don´t feel a need for any kind of special rules when we play golf!

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Michael Eriksson (1982) / Top image courtesy of Patrik Hökby

(No part of this interview may be copied without permission)

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  1. […] I did post an interview with Gillan drummer Mick Underwood on this blog about three years ago. It was made back in 1982 and you can find it here. […]

  2. […] COVERDALE (1981), JON LORD (1981), MICK UNDERWOOD (1982), JON LORD (1984), BLACK SABBATH (1983), BLACK SABBATH (1986), JUDAS PRIEST (1986), TOTO (1988), […]

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