Ahead of his UK tour Darren Johnson talks to the former UFO bass supremo Pete Way.
It wasn’t that long ago that the only news we’d be reading about Pete Way was in connection with his various ongoing health battles. But now, following a well-publicised autobiography in 2017, he’s back on the road performing. A UK tour begins later this month and a new album ‘Walking On The Edge’ is due out at the end of January. Always a charismatic stage presence in his UFO days (the archetypal motionless bass-player mode was never one for him) one of rock’s most colourful characters and, improbably, one of the great survivors of to-the-limits rock ‘n’ roll excess is now back as front-man of his own Pete Way Band.
What can fans expect from the tour?
Wild rock – with a couple of ballads. For the shows there’s stuff from the album, stuff from The Plot – the album with Michael Schenker, there’s the Amphetamine album, I do a little bit from Waysted and I do the obvious songs, the ones that everyone remembers from UFO. You know people buy a ticket and they want them. I was talking to Phil (Mogg) recently and he said the same: ‘you have to do them’.
Out of all the classics that you co-wrote for UFO which are the ones you are most proud of?
Oh that’s difficult to say really. We do ‘Shoot Shoot’. We do ‘Too Hot to Handle’, ‘Doctor Doctor’…
And so you’ve been getting a good response from audiences so far then?
Oh incredibly so, yes. I mean we go out of our way to do that. There’s no indulgent excess but people come along for a guitar show. I mean there’s a lot of lead guitar. Playing in UFO or Waysted there was also a lot of guitar. The thing is there’s nothing too egotistical. We just play the songs.
Do you play bass throughout the show or is it just certain songs?
Here and there. I could be 100% vocals or I could be 100% bass and get another singer in. But, you know, I wrote all the words when I wrote these songs. Apart from, obviously, the UFO songs where it was with Phil. You would have to give Phil a very precise melody and he would write the words as he saw it to fit – but I would give Phil the melody.
On the tour you have Burnt Out Wreck supporting you – another band with musician- turned-frontman in the form of former Heavy Pettin drummer, Gary Moat.
Yeah Gary is very talented. I mean, yes, I see the AC/DC influence but they write all their own songs. They compliment what we do. All my songs are about my experiences in life which is a bit like something from a Quentin Tarantino film. They balance that out with what they do.
You’re clearly still in touch with Phil. Could you imagine sharing a stage with UFO now?
Nah. My main focus now is on vocals. Everybody says to me you’ve got character in your voice and, you know, it seems to work so I’ve got to get on with it. My heroes are not the vocalists who sound like opera singers. They are people like Bon Scott and Bob Dylan.
Your autobiography ‘A Fast Ride Out of Here’ in many ways is that familiar tale of middle-class suburban kid becoming wild rock star. But the wildness started fairly early on didn’t it? You say in the book you first smoked heroin at 13, for example.
When I first met Phil I was, like, 15. The people we hung out with were the people who were older. It’s like David Bowie said – we did things that other people thought incongruous. But I felt comfortable in that role and in going into things with that attitude to life. But, of course, the icing on the cake was actually getting to America. Suddenly, we’d got money, you know. But we were professional in that we always gave a good show. Because if you’re in a shambles it’s always easy to mess up. But we were totally focused on the show and it was only afterwards when we’d get fucked up. It really was a journey. I could blow half a million in a year but, you know, we always gave a good show.
In your book Joe Elliott of Def Leppard is quoted as saying: “If you threw Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood in a bucket and mixed them up you’d end up with Pete.” Is that a fairly accurate description of you?
Oh, Joe and I go back a very long way. Myself and Ross Halfin are always having a bit of a laugh at Joe and, you know, he would say anything about people to go (adopts mock Yorkshire accent) ‘I’ll fucking get him back for that’.
After all the health battles you went through: addiction, cancer, heart attacks – there must have been times when you thought you wouldn’t be performing on stage again. What does it feel like to be out on the road again?
Great. It was three or four minor heart attacks but the prostrate cancer was the main thing. And you don’t know you’re ill until you find out from a professional. For me if I was feeling a bit under the weather I’d just have another drink or do another line or something but it gets to that point where you have to get checked out. It took me a long time to grow up. I still haven’t really grown up. And so it was a health battle of my own making. And now, ironically, I have to take medication because of all the drugs I used to take. But I’ve written some good songs and I’m looking forward to getting the album out there and getting out there with the show.
The Pete Way Band’s #ExpectTheUnexpected UK tour begins on October 23rd. Full tour dates here: http://www.peteway.co.uk/tour-dates/4594565419
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