We’re proud to bring yet another contributor to the table, Todd Houston, who is a major UFO fan and was stoked to talk to Danny Peyronel. Danny made his name playing for super groups such as Heavy Metal Kids, UFO and Tarzen, and also has written for some of the biggest names in rock including, Aerosmith, BonJovi, David Gilmour, Meatloaf and Sade! Todd caught up with Danny just before leaving for another European Tour with new group X-UFO! Read on…..
Lets start with your new project X-UFO! Each of the members have had some kind of affiliation with UFO and or MSG respectively. How was it that this band came together and were you already friendly with these guys on a professional level (or otherwise)?
The idea just hit me suddenly, so I thought…which UFO member am I in some form of touch with these days…? The answer was Clive. We were face-friends and had exchanged messages lately, so he was ideal. I’ve known Clive forever, since we were both 19 or so, and touring in different bands, often meeting up on the road somewhere in the UK. Oddly though, we had never actually played together…
I knew Clive would be straight and tell me if he thought I was insane, or the idea was naff…but it was terrific when he reacted as he did. Turns out that he had been thinking on similar lines. Clive immediately suggested Laurence, which was so weird because not only did I know him, but we had been together in TARZEN, my eighties band, and I really liked him and his playing, which is, of course, on a different level than most mortals.
Next, Clive, again, came up with the idea of asking Rocky to join us on bass. Now…again oddly, I had briefly met Rocky in Madrid in the eighties, when he was touring with Michael…in a complete coincidence, we happened to arrive at this club one night, and Michael and Robin and the other MSG boys were there, trying to get in, but not having much success…turns out I was known to the club people, so I got them all in of course. Needless to say I’d completely forgotten this little anecdote, but when Rocky reminded me we’d met in Madrid, I realized that was it!
Rocky is so hugely talented, with his playing and brilliant backing vocals (he sang on the first two huge Def Leppard albums, Pyromania and Hysteria, as well as in MSG and Lionheart), that we soon decided to ‘bend the rule’ we had set out with, and have him in the band. We figured that, having been a long-serving member of a UFO ‘franchise’ as was MSG, he was unquestionably one of us.
I can’t tell you how excited I am to be in this band…it’s easily the best time I’m having ever since TARZEN. We are all good friends who find ourselves in a very similar place in life on many levels, and enjoy each other’s company. The fact that Clive is a machine who’s surely in the top-5 of greatest English hard-rock drummers of all time, Laurence is in a class all of his own, with his power and presence, coloured by a unique sense of melody and spontaneity, and a song-writing force, and Rocky easily one of the best bass players I’ve ever worked with, as well as a proven writer too…well…all that is just the icing on the cake.
TH: It seems like there has already been a great reaction to X-UFO, and at the time of this interview you guys are getting ready to head to Italy for some dates! Any plans on heading to the States for a few shows?
DP: ABSOLUTELY! As you well know, the US is consistent and ultra-loyal UFO-land, and we expect the vast majority of fans from our days in the band and throughout, to join us. We offer an exciting alternative of the great UFO catalogue, including material that the fans don’t normally get a chance to hear and are craving for, and re-worked versions of the classics. You need to remember that we are, in essence, a three-piece and front-man…much like the original UFO and with that kind of energy, but with the added bonus of the experience that our four varied careers have given us.
We’ve had tons of requests from fans and promoters to tour the US asap and now we have a decent and hard-working Manager, Nigel Hart, who will be listening to proposals and coordinating with our American friends to put together a decent and workable tour, most likely for early 2012.
TH: Let’s talk about your early days in the band “Heavy Metal Kids”. HMK were signed to an Atlantic Records deal by Dave Dee! Dave had also been responsible for bringing Bon Scott era AC/DC and lots of others into the Atlantic family, correct?
DP: Correct. Dave Dee, who sadly passed away recently, was like a second dad to me. Since that day when he signed the first ‘official’ pro band I’d ever been in, we kept meeting up and working together through the decades. He managed TARZEN in the the eighties, and even gave us a hand with the HMK reunion tours in 2003, in spite of the fact that his health was already failing.
TH: You toured with many bands during this time including KISS! Rumor has it you guys were booted for heckling Gene Simmons!
DP: It wasn’t heckling, it was laughing, but…put yourself in our situation: Gary Holton (our singer) and I, were standing on the side of the stage watching the show, when Gene started doing his ‘fire-swallowing’ routine…suddenly his hair caught fire, so he threw himself on the floor of the stage and started whacking his head against the boards to try and put it out…now…if you could stand there and not laugh, then you’re a bigger man than us.
TH: In 1975 you joined UFO on keyboards and actually wrote the only 2 singles ( “Highway Lady” and “Can You Roll Her” ) on the album No Heavy Petting. What was it like recording with legendary producer Leo Lyons?
DP: Brilliant. Very easy-going and, mostly, I remember what a nice, good bloke Leo was. The other thing I remember is going to his lovely country house to do pre-production for the album with Phil and Pete (can’t remember Michael…but he must have been there!), in this Jaguar ‘E’-type he had borrowed from this really dark and dodgy manager we had at the time. I couldn’t stop asking Leo about his gig with Ten Years After at Woodstock!
TH: Why only one album with UFO?
DP: Well…to begin with, technically there were two albums, since, albeit many years later, a pretty good Live album called “ON WITH THE ACTION” was released, featuring my line-up at the London Roundhouse.
To answer your question though, I think Pete answered it very straight-forwardly for me, in Martin Popoff’s biography of the band “Shoot Out The Lights”. When asked why I was out of the band, he explained how our then record label, Chrysalis, had had the brilliant idea of changing US distributors at exactly the time of the release of “No Heavy Petting”…everybody expected it to, naturally, go into the top-50 at least, after the performance of “Force It”. However, the result of this huge change, was that, as we were touring the country to packed audiences and going down a storm everywhere, there were no copies of the album in any stores. So thousands of fans would go in the stores the day after a brilliant UFO show, only to find they did not have one single copy in stock. The end result was that NHP only got to number 57 or so. A great opportunity lost.
You can just imagine that the record label needed to blame someone else for the poor performance. Who better than “the new guy”? Still, time seems to have vindicated my contribution, as you can see in the latest EMI re-issue of the album. The liner notes suggest that the change in direction that my writing and co-writing brought about in the band, continued in the following albums.
TH: When I spoke with Neil Carter (UFO guitarist/keyboardist) I asked him about the white Gibson ES-175 guitar he played during his time with UFO and his reply was, “I don’t know what happened to it….it probably ended up in Phil Mogg’s suitcase!” I trust you got your Fender Rhodes keyboards back when you left?
DP: Hahahaha!!! It was a Wurly, actually (well, two of them, because one kept going out of tune from me hammering the keys so hard and we had to be sure we had a replacement!) and yes, I did keep them…though I didn’t keep my glorious white Hammond B-3 chop, custom-made for me by Valley Sound in L.A…someone told me recently that it might be somewhere in storage…must look it up!
TH: Phil Mogg was loosely quoted as saying “There were a lot of egos to be dealt with during this time”. Would that be considered a fair statement?
DP: Possibly. I know I was a handful when I was 20, as I’m sure were many of the others…but you need egos to be in this business! Otherwise, you can always do something else, like accounting, or whatever. Nobody forces you to do this.
TH: So after UFO you went on to play in a handful of great bands most notably Tarzen in 1985! This band was also snagged up by Atlantic UK. Tarzen seemed to be taking off just when UFO had sort of dissolved. What was your mindset during this time?
DP: It was just one of those few moments, just like the birth of X-UFO earlier this year, when everything just seemed to gel perfectly. Or rather, did gel perfectly.
As you know, there are just so many little factors that impact on what happens to a band, that are completely outside your control or even influence! Almost by chance and completely spontaneously, I’d stumbled on the guitarist, bass player and drummer I’d been hoping to find forever, and then got a record deal at the first attempt. Something that was nearly unheard of at the time, as I’m sure you know. A terrific album followed (imho!!!), stadium gigs in Europe and what seemed like a good American tour with Twisted Sister…only that the “senator’s wives” thing had exploded, Dee went up to Congress to declare what a straight, law-abiding and morally upright ‘family man’ he was…in something of a contradiction of his stage, recording and video persona…and the fans started abandoning the tour in droves. Not much of a surprise there, eh?
This is the perfect example of what I meant before, about the many things that you just have no control over, and can help un-do the greatest plans, the best chemistry, the hardest working players, the best intentions from managers, crew, etc.
Everybody we met when rehearsing for that tour in London…amongst which, now that I recall, was our Clive!…was convinced we were going to be mega. But, then, life with all its chaos hits, and that’s that.
We still made two decent albums, though the second one, “Madrid”, was only released in some territories, and never worldwide, as had the first. I have nothing but great memories of it all, and, of course, I’m still in regular touch with all the guys, Michel, the drummer, is my brother, so no problem there!, Salvador, the guitarist, has become a successful book writer as well as continuing to play and record non-stop, in his native Spain, Ralph Hood, the bass player, retired from music mid-way in the TARZEN story, and has had a really successful and happy life and career, and, of course, Laurence and I are rockin’ it together again, and with X-TRA gusto!!!
TH: You’ve worked with and written songs for Meat Loaf, Bon Jovi, David Gilmour, Sade, and many others. What were some of the highlight moments during this time?
DP: You could probably argue that my ensuing career, writing songs like MIDNIGHT AT THE LOST & FOUND, the only hit out of Meatloaf’s album of the same name, as well as other stuff for Dave Gilmour and others, support the argument many fans and critics seem to voice now, regarding my contribution to UFO…I’d have to say that hearing Dave G. singing my words would have to be right up there for me…He has to be one of my favourite guitarists, and his voice is so recognizable that it just sent chills up my spine to hear that.
Then there IS “Midnight…”. It has now been included in so many compilations, live and studio, even performed by the London Symphony Orchestra!!!…I even heard that Meat has been opening his show on these massive tours he’s been doing, with the song…let’s just say it’s the gift that keeps on giving.
TH: In 2002 (re-mastered w/ bonus tracks in 2009) you released a solo record called MAKE THE MONKEY DANCE. I really like this one! In fact, I woke up this morning with “Never been cool” locked into my brain! That one has a hot-rodded Eddie Cochran feel and a super hooky chorus, while “Bigger than love” has almost a Sting vibe going on! Your thoughts?
DP: I had a great time doing the MONKEY and I love “Never been Cool”…kind of the story of my life, hahaha! “Bigger than Love” is the only song that my girl Alexandra has ever co-written with me, and is very autobiographical…we’ve been together since 1975.
My band for the album, Max Zaccaro on bass, Luca Verde on guitar and Mario Zapparoli on drums, is just totally terrific. A great bunch of guys and excellent musos.
I did a little tour of the US (Florida, actually) earlier on this year, and played many of the songs from the album, which was a terrific adventure.
TH: A couple years later HMK recorded a new album called “Hit The Right Button”. Who’s idea was it to do another HMK album?
DP: Marco “Barux” Barusso, my producer on the MONKEY and a brilliant guitarist, had the idea, when one of the other original members of the band was having a holiday at my place in Milan, Italy.
TH: Some artists have a writing ritual where they get up, have a cup a coffee, sit behind a guitar or keys and wait for something to happen. What inspires you to write songs?
DP: I have to admit I’ve had a lot of inspiration from the telly! I usually get an idea for a song title, and develop it from there. I’m very lyric-orientated.
TH: If I were to visit the Peyronel household, what would I expect to find on the living room stereo? In other words, what is Danny Peyronel grooving to these days?
I’ve re-discovered “High Stakes & Dangerous Men” of course, thanks to Laurence and Clive. What a great album that is! Totally under-estimated it would seem, but chock-a-block with true gems like “Love Deadly Love”, “Backdoor Man”, “She’s the One” (all of which we are currently doing in our show), “Borderline”, “Running up the Highway”. These are all great tunes that deserve a re-birth, and we plan to re-work at least a couple of them in our studio album next year, along with some new material. Of course, some will already be in our forthcoming Live album, which we’re working on right now, and which will be our first release.
I still love a lot of old greats, such as the great Sam Cooke, always my original inspiration, Hendrix, Cream, and so many others.
Can’t say I listen to much other hard-rock stuff though…I’ve had all the influences I needed for a lifetime, hahaha! the last rocking thing I liked was an English band called The Wildhearts a few years ago…great power, great songs and great humour. Something that always needs to be there for me…can’t stand people who take themselves seriously.
TH: I once read that Nicky Hopkins was a great influence early on. Who else inspired you to play starting out?
DP: Ian “Stu” Stewart from the Stones, Mac from The Faces, Little Richard, Professor Longhair, Ray Charles and many others, and not necessarily keyboard players, like Jimi, Jack Bruce, etc.
TH: I was born and raised here in Rockford, Illinois (home town of Cheap Trick) so it’s sort of my obligation to mention the band Cheap Trick! Ever cross paths with these crazy fellas?
DP: Yes, though I’m not entirely clear on the particular occasion. Great band!!!
TH: Let’s have a little fun here!
The last time Danny Peyronel ~
Had to help someone pronounce his last name = Hahaha!!! I’ve been living in the south of France for the last seven years, so there’s not much need for that, since that’s where the name comes from!
Spoke to Pete Way = a couple of months ago, when staying at Clive’s house, we called him up and had a good old chat. He seemed very happy to talk after quite a while, but who knows?
Thought Phil Lewis was a good choice in replacing John Altman in Heavy Metal Kids = Sorry. I don’t know what Phil’s like as a singer. I know him by name, but never seen him on a stage or heard him on record. I’m afraid I don’t know who John is or what he’s done, though I understand he’s a tv actor?
Was mistaken for Neil Carter = Hahaha!!! I don’t think that’s likely! I have looooooads of hair!!! hahaha!!! Neil is great!
Was asked to autograph a body part = just a few minutes ago, when taking a break from this interview and walking the dog to the local Starbucks.
Got a royalty check from the UFO camp = last week! but not “technically” from the UFO camp. Fortunately, I kept the publishing to my songs with the band (thanks to the manager at the time being too lazy and/or not bothered to check his facts. When calling my previous publishers to confirm my contractual status, they wrongly told him I was still with them…without bothering to check with me, on tour in Scandinavia at the time, he just got the artwork people to put “Copyright Control” in the credits of my songs on the album, thus saving me from being automatically included with the band, under Chrysalis Music Publishing…and allowing me to collect my royalties by myself…and not ripping myself off!). “Highway Lady” has been very good to me and my bank manager through the years! Thanks, UFO manager at the time!
Had a beer with Keith Boyce = forgotten.
Shook hands with Andy Johns = 1975, but spoken to him briefly on the phone sometime in the intervening 35 years.
Thought about joining Uriah Heep = Ha. Nahhh…I understand they have a great singer and keyboard player!
What a class act! Thanks Danny!