INTERVIEW WITH EIRÍKUR HAUKSSON
As most of you know, the lead vocalist & guitarist in Ken Hensley’s current band Live Fire is Eiríkur Hauksson who is also a solo artist in his own right and involved with several other music projects. In May 2007 he represented his home country Iceland in the Eurovision Song Contest finals in Helsinki, Finland. I managed to get an interview from him despite of the busy schedule thanks to my friend Martti Suhonen.
For more information on Eiríkur you can check out his website at www.eirikur.info.
TM: First of all, thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview…
EH: That was never a question. As you know, I am a big fan of Uriah Heep and it’s my pleasure to do this.
TM: Let’s first talk a little bit about the Eurovision Song Contest. You are quite a Eurovision veteran, it’s your third time in the final…
EH: Yes, it’s amazing because I am no fan of the Eurovision music. There is no more than maybe 30% that is the kind of music that I like. But it’s a very strange and nice form of competition. Where else can you get hard rock, blues, jazz, folk songs etc. in the same competition? So in that way I am a fan of the competition, I try to watch it every year. As you say, I have been competing two times earlier - in 1986 when Iceland took part for the first time and in 1998 in Rome for Norway but this is the first time that I compete with a song that I have chosen myself. The earlier times for Iceland and for Norway I was just hired in to do the song so here is more passion for me.
TM: I like the song also.
EH: I love the song. The composer rang me two times and I said: “No, I’m not going to do it. I’ve been in the Eurovision two times so that’s enough”. But he was stubborn and he sent me the song anyway. I listened to it and I thought: “ This song is like it was written for me and my voice”. I thought about it and I said: “If I am once offered to go to ESC with something I like and you get an opportunity to introduce this and yourself to millions of people, that’s something! I do not regret it. Of course I think I have the best song in the competition but I am fully aware of that there are millions out there in Europe who think differently.
TM: I think what’s good in the ESC nowadays is that we have all different kinds of music, it’s not just all the same.
EH: Yes, it’s very good.
TM. If we then move on to Uriah Heep and Ken Hensley. How were you first contacted and how did you became a member of Ken’s band?
EH: There is a friend of mine in Norway who knew Ken Hensley and Ken was playing some gigs in Norway. He convinced Ken to let me do one song at the end of a concert so I did ‘Easy Livin’ with him. We got to talk after the show and he found out that I also play guitar and keyboards. He said: “Hey, Erik! Instead of me traveling from Spain with the full band why not have a band from Scandinavia since here is where I’m playing often. Would you like to put together a band with you on guitar, keyboards and backing vocals?” To me that was an honor and I put together this band and we playing some gigs in Sweden in Winter 2005 where you heard us. Then by Summer last year he phoned me and said: “I’ve decided Erik - if you want to - that I want you to do most of the lead vocals”. I was of course very pleased: We are talking about some songs that I’ve known since I was 10 - 11 years old. For me it’s a dream come true, he is one of my big, big idols. When I was listening to Uriah Heep as a kid I didn’t know who I loved the most: Ken Hensley or David Byron so it was a draw, I loved them both. I think David Byron is one of the biggest stars in rock ‘n’ roll music. It’s a little bit sad that Uriah Heep always was in the shadow of Deep Purple and I’ve often interviews that maybe Heep is one of the most underestimated bands in rock business. I think we never would have seen or heard about Purple if Heep had gotten even bigger.
TM: Actually here in Finland Uriah Heep was bigger than Deep Purple.
EH: Is it so?
TM: Yes. From about ’72 to ’74 Heep was the number one rock band here, they were more popular than Purple. Of course then after ’75 -’76 when David Byron left, then they kind of disappeared. Still for many fans here aged between 40 and 50 Uriah Heep is the number one band.
EH: It pleases my heart to hear that.
TM: It must seem weird for you now playing and singing these Uriah Heep songs…
EH: Yes and it’s amazing how you get used to this. Now I just look at him as a friend and the leader of the band but in the very beginning I was a little shy thinking: “What will he say? If I do it this way, what will he think?” etc. but now it’s a mutual respect and it’s a very good situation for me. The band is very good and in two weeks time after this we will go to Hamburg where Ken is going to have a release party for his new album Blood On The Highway. We will do a show there on 22nd of May and from there we will go to Latvia in the beginning on June and then we are going to do two shows in Finland.
TM: Oh, I have heard only of one show so far at a festival in Joensuu?
EH: That sounds like it. I think they have booked another gig at some smaller arena but maybe it’s cancelled, I don’t know. Then of course we have the now traditional Summer Party in my home town of Gressvik.
TM: I was there in 2005.
EH: I wasn’t playing there yet.
TM: Now, he still had the Spanish band. I think it was quite different when I saw him play at the Summer Party in July with the Spanish band and then I saw the Norwegian band in November. It was much more powerful, the style of playing was different.
EH: Yes, the drummer is very tight and there’s more power.
TM: About Ken Hensley as a person there are many different kinds of opinions, he seems to create strong feelings, positive and also negative. I personally have nothing but positive things to say about him. I met him for the first hand in 2000 and I have been in contact with him ever since and have worked with him on several occasions. What do you think?
EH: I think he is a very complete person in that sense that when he speaks about religious matters, he's very sincere. His lyrics are often about life itself. Often when I listen to his songs - not just the music but the words - I kind of agree with him on his matters. He does some beautiful lyrics. There are many songs on the new album Blood On The Highway with lyrics that I understand completely because it’s about life on the road and how it can ruin you and how fame and fortune doesn’t necessarily lead you to happiness. You have to find the happiness within. I’m hoping he’s going to have big success with his new album so that we travel around and play because that’s what we do.
TM: But you’re not playing on the album yourself. How is that?
EH: No, I’m not playing on the album. I think that even though he likes me a lot as a singer, I’m not the same kind of worldwide name as the others: Glenn Hughes, Jorn Lande and John Lawton. So that was understandable, no hard feelings about that. At the show in Hamburg we are going to play the new songs so I get to sing them live and I have a feeling I will end up on another album later in time.
TM: I was hoping I could go to the show in Hamburg but it’s in the middle of the week so it’s bit difficult. If it was on weekend, it would be another thing.
EH: This will be a special occasion, it is going to be Blood On The Highway played completely, then a break and then we’ll do some of his old songs. Everybody’s joining in so I will have a very easy night. I’m playing guitar and singing most of the harmonies so it could be fun. There’ll be a lot of people there. I look forward to meeting Glenn Hughes. He’s one of the greatest singers, I admire him. I’ve seen him live and he seems to be doing just as good as in the old times. Maybe even better.
TM: How would you describe Blood On The Highway songs compared to for example The Last Dance or the other latest albums.
EH: It’s influenced by the fact that this is a story so the lyrics go into each other, it’s all about the same them. He obviously has written music that has ups and downs like the story is. That’s a story about a rock ‘n’ roll artist. It’s a mixture of straight forward rock ‘n’ roll songs and some beautiful ballads. I have not heard it completely yet but I have it with me because I have learn it before the 22nd so when I’ve finished here, that’ll be my priority. I will go and dig deep into it and learn it by heart. It’s exciting, I hope it does well.
TM: You filmed a live DVD in 2005 but it hasn’t come out yet. Do you know why?
EH: Oh yeah, I’m not quite sure. I think it’s cut and it’s ready but perhaps he wanted to delay it because of his book is coming out and the new album. So that will come out eventually, it’s just a question of when.
TM: What are your favourite Uriah Heep songs?
EH: I’ve thought about this often and there are so many fantastic songs but if I was to name one, I name this one because I love to sing it live: Circle Of Hands. It’s absolutely a perfect song, it’s so great to stand on stage and sing it, so much feeling there. But having said that, there are so many other great songs. All the Uriah Heep LP’s were my favourites when they came out. I sort of drifted away after Byron left, he was after all my favourite singer and the last album I really was into was Innocent Victim. After that I sort of took a break. From his solo career The Last Dance is a fantastic song. You’ll hear a new version of that on Blood On The Highway with Glenn Hughes singing. Of course that will be a little bit different than when Hensley is singing it himself, there’s a difference in their voices.
TM: Well, I think I won’t keep you any longer. I know you have a busy schedule here. Good luck for the competition and I’ll be seeing you again in Joensuu in July.
EH: Thank you, it was my pleasure.