Interviewed by Mark Dean (Journalist/Writer/Contributor) Myglobalmind Webzine
Pete Way is a true musical legend and icon renowned as much for his legendary off stage antics as his innovative bass playing style. Currently recording a new solo album this will be his first musical venture since his much publicised serious health problems. I had a recent opportunity to discuss the new music in addition to reflecting and looking back on his musical legacy.
Hi Pete, how are you?
Pete”Hi Mark, I am good.”
I understand that you are working currently on a new album?
Pete”I am indeed, having a couple of days break as we are moving from 1 studio to another. Sending it over to America. Repeating some vocals but it is very close. It is just taking an awful long time.”
This will be your first solo release for quite some time?
Pete”Yes it is, as I was playing with Ufo. and Waysted of course. I started by chance and then I got prostate cancer. That resulted in a lot of time spent receiving treatment. I lost about nine months of time. I am back with a bang and I was in Yorkshire in the studios last week which are owned by John Parr. It is fantastic and a bit like going to the Starship Enterprise. We were mainly just doing vocals where normally you would have a band in there. Most of the guitars and things have been done. The hardest thing is when you are spending several hours on your own just doing vocals. Your voice starts to tire a bit…”
Health-wise how are you now? Have you fully recovered or still in remission?
Pete”Oh yeah, well I mean I’m not quite sure what it really means when they say there is 0.1%chance of it coming back. The only thing is I suppose talking to you as a journalist probably to say is they regard me as an ambassador for Prostate Cancer. It is a good idea for people around the fifties Mark at that age to get a check up. It costs nothing and would be surprised. It caught me out as I went for something completely different and they wanted to scan me. They checked me for something and said “can we talk to you, you have got prostate cancer” However I was lucky as they caught it early,one of those things. Unfortunately some people are less lucky than me because I met quite a few that had a lot more repercussions. I was able to continue doing what I do, making an album extremely slowly. Anyway I just thought that I would throw that in because it is my duty really to let people know. It came as a surprise. Having tested up pretty much everything that you can to be as decadent as you like your body becomes stronger. I was quite surprised when they told me. I thought”is that all that I have got ,that’s a bit of luck”
The album title”Walking on the Edge”autobiographical and a comment on your former lifestyle and also your physical conditions?
Pete”Yeah, not so much about the illnesses as indulgences,and yeah illnesses actually also.”Walking on the edge”because in a way it was going through a lifestyle that was perhaps a bit much. You lose a little bit of contact with reality but I was very lucky. Other people didn’t pass the course-I did. I look back and think that if I can be of any inspiration in one way or another. I am no preacher if you know what I mean, and I’m no saint that’s for sure”
Are those addiction problems that you have had in the past something that you are still struggling with?
Pete”Well put it like this-I wouldn’t be thinking about sticking a needle in my arm at the moment, or later or when ever. That’s something that has been and gone. When you have gone that far you get to the point where you know there is no return. I decided that I wanted to be a musician and I wanted to go back to my roots. I still continue to write but unfortunately there came a time where just when we were about to finish it off when bang you get told that you cant really work for about nine months. We have been making up for it by being in the studios as much as possible and I have got Mike Clink who did Guns n Roses he is producing it”
Didn’t Mike actually work on the “Strangers in the Night”album also for UFO?
Pete”Yes he did, we have a history that goes back a long time. I was corrupting Mike long before he was of age ,well I got him in practice for when he met Guns n Roses. (laughs)
What stage is the album at the moment? Are all the songs finished?
Pete”Yes its all finished, just the polishing up and changing a few words here and there. We certainly didn’t want to put it out around Christmas time. Obviously we are not going to try to compete with Slade or all the ones that they dig up for Christmas. January looks more likely to be the time for that and perhaps the end of January. We want to tour so obviously you want to tour with the album out. As opposed to”this is what you will probably hear when the album is done ”Its really been a lot of hard work.”
What about the songs themselves? Are they from a collection that you have built up over the years, or all new?
Pete”In a way they are songs that I have had ideas for but then it gradually fell into almost a story. If I could put it like that,because if you were to write a book then each song is a chapter….”
I also read that you have some notable musical guests playing on the album?
Pete”Well Mike has worked with Slash obviously I know him, and I know Nikki Sixx well. When I was ill what we were doing was as I couldn’t go to the States or anything like that so they both volunteered to do some work on the album. That was great so I haven’t necessarily heard the final things that have been done because Mike has been working on it. I have been singing to the basic tracks at the moment. To be honest with you the longer that you live with an album the more you grow into the songs. It becomes a part of you and a part of your memories. It is interesting and it is all true-that I the funny thing about it. I don’t need to write like a ballad or something that is going to be a cabaret ballad. Anything that is sort of soft is going to be more like in a Bob Dylan vein, Johnny Cash or something like that. Anything that is hard goes from being something like Acdc to Waysted and to the Stones. There is a lot of Stones influenced stuff on there.”
Leads me nicely on to my next question. Do you see this solo release as different musically in sound to your previous solo releases?
Pete”Nothing is intended to be different, right now I have different song ideas and Mike is saying to me “get some songs ready for the next one”My mind and head is still in what we are doing now which it has to be. Every now and again I am strumming the guitar and thinking”I know what I am going to do there”You are not suddenly going to change the album and replace songs.They all stand up themselves and I have run it past the test now after three and a half years and waiting to see peoples reaction.Their reaction has been one of surprise that each song has an identity of its own. It is rock but it is also catchy too. …quite a surprise but it is heartfelt.
To be fair all your previous bands, Fastway/Waysted and Ufo all possessed the sense of melody and at the same time also rocked in a hard way.
Pete”Yes I can never lose that but I still like my Bob Dylany type of thing I like music that really means something. Words that mean something. Some of it is almost fun.Its like I am poking fun at myself or my friends even.Particularly the druggy type songs, because its a bit like”Is that what we did”?
Looking back now how do you view your musical legacy? Primarily with Ufo obviously, but it must be something that you are incredibly proud of?
Pete”Well I am very grateful, because either the fans who are as enthusiastic were blind and dislike me because I was actually decent to talk to or they really did like “Love to Love” and “Doctor, Doctor”and all that. I would like to think that I am very proud of even the songs that I haven’t written but that I have played on and was part of the rehearsal for. I loved the combination of UFO the way that we worked in the earlier days. We had an element of fun, and seriousness. Also we played a lot so we became very efficient at that.”
Your musical legacy still stands strong,even going back to the “Save Your Prayers”album.Those songs still sound great today.
Pete”Actually Danny Vaughan is terrific,his singing and Paul Chapmans guitar playing was great.In a way it was slightly lighter than the stuff I did with Fin with the earlier Waysted. At the time we were with Capitol Records and EMI and they were looking for a band that would have some sort of singles.Now I liked it when Guns n Roses came along actually and I take a great deal of pleasure that Mike was involved with Strangers in the Night and worked with us on our other stuff with Ron Nevison.Their favourite album was Strangers in the Night, but particularly Slash’s.”
The inevitable question is bound to arise because you spent the majority of your musical career with Ufo. Has that chapter closed?
Pete”awww you know it is difficult to say. I think that Ufo have moved on in a different way and really and truly if you were to put my album side by side…I Haven’t listened to their latest stuff to be honest I think in some ways that you would probably say that I have moved on. I was always enjoying playing the songs but I wouldn’t feel that I was part of it now. I feel that they have got their own way of doing things.”
In most bands though, there has to be a chemistry-there has to be between bass and drums. Do you miss that relationship with Andy.
Pete”I speak to the guys on and off you know. It doesn’t mean to say that I go down to the concerts or anything like that. We are not always in the same city at the same time. I have got up and done some tour dates with Michael just doing four or five songs. He is nice and we actually spent a lot of time rehearsing together a long time after Ufo in fact. It was with Herman Rarebell the drummer of the Scorpions. Well who used to be in the Scorpions. That was fun and great potential but Michael of course had Msg and had to incorporate that and I was heading in the direction of my solo albums. It didn’t go further than me going on tour for a couple of weeks and playing a few songs basically just for fun. Actually it really rocked and that was the whole point of it. I got time to do it and Michael was pleased to have me come and get up and play. It gave me the opportunity to say hello to fans that had perhaps waited to see myself and Michael on stage together.”
Do you not feel that because this album is going to be carrying your name as an individual rather than under a group moniker it will bring more expectation and an added weight on your shoulders?
Pete”Yeah it is actually it can be quite stressful.Like I say I am still recovering from the illness, I was told that it takes about a year and a half before you fully recover-if you do.We didn’t go to a record company and I financed it. The reason being that we have had offers, but they were short of what we were looking at. Considering these days that record companies operate that you are only really borrowing money and I didn’t need to borrow money to finish it. There is no point going to the bank. The most important thing is that you have got it. You look for the most enthusiastic label and that is the one that will be able to sell-and also obviously the advertising. These days its a whole different way of promoting.”
You had indicated briefly earlier that once the album has been released you would want to go out and do some shows? Have you any idea regarding potential band members for those?
Pete”Yeah I do, but there has been a lot of people that have been not necessarily involved but we talk about possibilities. I am waiting to see because anybody that people would probably buy a ticket to see me play with normally has their own schedule. If you see what I mean? Therefore you have to try and get in when they have the time themselves. Or be prepared to put their time aside to work with you. ”
We have discussed the recent changes in the record industry, but one thing that you have particularly embraced seems to be the world of social media and particularly Facebook.
Pete”Yes our website, the actual Pete Way Official we have got some terrific people that are in touch all the time and hearing things. I am trying to keep it as interesting as possible until they get the opportunity to hear one of the early first tracks in part. So that they can hear that there really is an album and there really is a Pete(laughs). We spend every night working on the questions that people have. The only disappointment is that I am looking forward to having some new pictures coming up but that will come with the new album. You would be amazed just how many interesting pictures that fans send in that I cant believe. I am asking”wow, when was that done?” Its from all over the world ”
Briefly stepping away from music, I am aware that you are an Aston Villa fan, but do you have any other hobbies/interests outside music?
Pete” I don’t really have the chance to have hobbies really,my lifestyle is a little bit…I have really been focused on recording. With the illness and that I have to take the evenings almost relaxing. Not for the sake of not wanting to do anything. Hobbies yeah I have got a few, I have always been a train spotter. My mum took me when I was five and I had model railways. I don’t go actually train spotting. There are no model railway set up around here, the only thing is been onto the Internet and getting back to the people who have been kind enough to get in touch. Therefore my only hobby really at the moment is playing rock music”
I am also sure that after your illness that it is such a relief to actually get back to playing music again?
Pete”Yeah it is, I am OK well for the moment.Touch wood as they say that it wont come back. Unfortunately I saw the other side of it where people left it too late.That’s why as I said earlier people should just go for a check up because I was cured but I still have to take the medicines to be comfortable. Not the playing so much its really just nose to the grind and I don’t need any substances to play Rock+Roll. That comes from the soul, as they say.”
I guess when something like that happens-it serves as a wake up call and a reality check?
Pete”Yeah, sometimes you forget your age, I get complimented on looking good for my age but I am not quite sure that they actually know how old I am.!!(laughs)I played bass on the album also, indeed there are 1 or 2 people that also played bass.That is only because I realized that once you get into doing fourteen tracks and you are virtually writing a book and getting the vocal melodies for that my concentration isn’t always on playing a few bass notes. There is my influence on it because I will put down a certain amount of bass and if it needs touching up then I have good people that can patch it up for me.”
What about your musical influences, do you listen to any modern bass players?
Pete”I have been asked that but it is very difficult to say what is modern anymore. A lot of the bands that I have heard people would tell me who it was and I would think “that sounds just like the Who….or whoever” Jack Bruce I liked I loved to put on the early Cream stuff, that’s where a lot of it came from. There is a band called The Creation, and the Blue Cheer the first people to turn amps to 11.”
Looking back on your life what would you say that you were most proud of?
Pete” Probably breaking America. That was important to us basically financially but we enjoyed being there.It wasn’t until we had really broken America that people in Europe would take us seriously. I am not saying that they would criticise the band’s playing because the band and the songs were pretty good. It’s when they see the albums in American charts and see us selling 10,000 tickets they start to think”wow, what are we missing and when are you going to tour back in Britain, or Ireland…?”
Just a couple of questions to finish up-do you have any regrets?
Pete”Being a junkie, drinking too much. ”
That’s all in the past now and you are looking forward to a brighter future with the imminent release of the new album?
You indicated a possible January release for the album?
Pete”Obviously it has got to be finished,and to the absolute perfection of Mr Mike Clink. He didn’t sell over a hundred million albums for nothing and I was lucky to get him. He takes his time,and I’m not complaining but I am complaining”can he bloody hurry up”(laughs)I am with the fans who want to hear it.
You have also got to be aware of respecting your physical limits and not pushing too hard.
Pete”Yes obviously when you are on tour,you stay in a hotel all day and its nothing to go and play for 45 minutes or an hour and a half.When you are in the studio and I have been singing recently I have been doing six hours at a time.That is exhausting.Other than that I am just thrilled to have the opportunity. The fans of Ufo, Waysted, Fastway and obviously my solo things are prepared to give me another chance instead of giving up.
There seems to be both a high level of expectation and also personal support.?
Pete”Trust me, the expectations will be totally fulfilled”
Thanks very much Pete, as a longstanding fan its been a pleasure chatting to you. I’m really looking forward to hearing and reviewing the album.
Pete”Take care Mark, I look forward to you ringing me again when it is out and saying that it lived up to your expectations.