HIT CHANNEL EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: March 2020. We had the great honour to talk with a legendary drummer: Lee Kerslake. He is best known as a member of Uriah Heep and for his playing and songwriting contributions to Ozzy Osbourne’s “Blizzard of Ozz” and “Diary of a Madman” albums. He has also been a member of The Gods, Head Machine, Toe Fat, National Head Band and Living Loud. Lee is currently working on a documentary on his life and he has already recorded material for a new solo album called “Eleventeen”. Read below the very interesting things he told us:
How is you health now?
All the cancer is back. I’m treating that again. It’s one of those things. You just do the best you can.
You are currently working on a documentary on your life. Could you tell us a few words about it?
It’s a fabulous documentary! I’ve seen it and it is ending up superb! A very well-made documentary. It’s a documentary centers on my life, from my meeting with KISS, back to the day I started playing drums and working with bands. It’s great stuff. Basically, it’s just that: It covers everything that I know, that I do and everyone I worked with.
You recorded drums, keyboards and vocals on your new album called “Eleventeen”. What should fans expect from this?
It has different sounds. Rock ‘n’ roll sounds. You will want to play it again, anywhere.
Did you have a good time meeting Kiss last summer?
It was great seeing Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. It was great watching them play. They are nearly my age and I think they are just incredible.
How emotional was it for you to perform “Lady In Black” onstage with Uriah Heep on 14 December 2018?
It was great. It reminded me all the things that I did for years, what we all did together. Now, I am wondering where is music going.
Are you proud of the “Demons and Wizards” (1972) album by Uriah Heep?
Yes, of course. I’m extremely proud. We did it from the heart.
You co-wrote “Spider Woman” from “The Magician’s Birthday” (1972). Is there any interesting story regarding this song that you would like to share with us?
No, everything that’s out there is good. I like all the music that Uriah Heep have done. It’s one of those things that I cannot play, as I got older because of my spine, the cancer and my arthritis in my shoulders. It’s tough. I can only do one-two Heep songs and that’s it.
Do you believe that David Byron (Uriah Heep vocalist) should have received more recognition for his talent?
He was recognized for his talent as much as he could. He was a brilliant singer. He had a heart, but he was always drunk. He was fabulous. Best singer we ever had.
The chemistry between you and Bob Daisley (Ozzy Osbourne, Rainbow -bass) on the first two Ozzy Osbourne album was incredible. What was the secret?
It was just fun. We got on so well. We went over the top with our experiments and it worked. We had the best bass parts, drum parts, guitar parts. It just worked. Everything was beautiful and that was great. It was a pleasure working with Bob.
What was your reaction when you saw Randy Rhoads playing for the first time?
Oh, mind-blowing! It blew my mind! I just said: “Wow, what a player!” He was incredible! He was fabulous. You must remember, Randy Rhoads was so talented. When Bob and me walked in, he picked it up and kept playing. I was singing with him and he was singing it below. Fabulous! Such a talent! Such a waste!
Is it true that Randy Rhoads was the biggest Mick Ronson (David Bowie guitarist) fan in the world?
I don’t know. I don’t think so. I don’t remember Randy Rhoads mentioning him. He might have been a fan. I don’t know. I couldn’t tell you.
Why weren’t you credited for your playing and songwriting contributions to “Diary of A Madman” (1981)? Was it Sharon Osbourne’s idea?
We weren’t credited for writing songs. We weren’t credited for playing drums and bass guitar. She cheated that way from everybody. We played and wrote songs but she didn’t put our names on it.
Were you frustrated when Frankie Banali (Quiet Riot drummer) said he wrote the “Over the Mountain” intro?
We never met him. He wouldn’t have known about it. It’s just a stupid thing to say. He tried to get the credit out of me. In no way, in a million years, that he did that intro to “Over the Mountain”. I did it. It’s my own thing. I thought it and I did it.
Ozzy finally sent you your platinum albums. Was it a kind of vindication for you?
Yes, I ‘ve got them on my wall. I’m looking at them right now. All twelve of them. It was just a nice thing to do, because I was very ill, I nearly died. I wanted my records to put them on my wall. So, my manager set it up and got it done. They are on the wall now.
What memories do you have of your jam with Jimi Hendrix at The Speakeasy in 1969?
That was such a long time ago with Joe Konas (ed: The Gods guitarist). He was brilliant, you know. We were playing and then I came off, and Joe stood up there and then Hendrix came on and he pointed to me and said: “Come on up! Come on!” So, I came on stage and start playing. Trevor Burton from The Move played bass with him and Carl Palmer replaced me on the drums. Jimi appreciated me and asked me to come on and play. He pointed his finger to me, which was fabulous. A very nice guy.
What was it like to record two albums with The Gods at Abbey Road Studios?
We did two albums there: “Genesis” (1968) and “To Samuel a Son” (1969). It was fabulous. Abbey Road was EMI’s huge studio. David Paramor was the engineer and producer and he had a great time. It was a fabulous band.
Did you get to meet The Beatles there?
No. I met Paul McCartney later on, when he came down to do albums with his band, Wings, of course. I knew Paul and then when I saw him, we would talk to each other. He did know me and he liked me.
Was it an interesting experience to do the first Toe Fat album?
It was a band that I was in. Cliff Bennett had a great voice. We just went in and got to do an album. Ken Hensley (ed: keyboards, guitars – Uriah Heep, The Gods) was in the band then, but Cliff Bennett wrote the songs.
Did you enjoy touring with Derek and the Dominos when you were a member of Toe Fat?
I don’t remember touring with Derek and the Dominos, but it was a good fun. The band was good and we had a great time. I enjoyed everything in my career, from the starting point and going onwards.
Do you feel lucky as a drummer that you got to play with many great bass players such as Greg Lake, John Glascock, Bob Daisley, Gary Thain, John Wetton and Trevor Bolder?
They were all in Uriah Heep at some time. I got Greg Lake in The Gods, because I knew his family and I also got John Wetton in the band (ed: Uriah Heep), because they were from Bournemouth, my hometown. We all knew each other, so it was fun. John Wetton was a fabulous bass player. Very-very clever. It was Trevor Bolder who suited the band. He was just a bass player you could hang on.
Robert Fripp, Greg Lake, Mick Taylor and others used to visit your 44 Dukes Avenue home in Chiswick, London. Did you have fun jamming with those great musicians?
Greg Lake lived with us, when we were in there. It was our home. I shared a room with him. That was the band’s (ed: The Gods) home. Greg Lake, Ken Hensley, myself, Joe Konas and eventually John Glascock. Robert Fripp would come over and play with Greg Lake., but it was always just jamming. It was a great time.
You admired John Bonham and also you got to know him. What’s your opinion of him as a person and drummer?
I loved him to pieces. He was one the greatest drummers that I have ever known! It’s as simple as that.
How did it happen to form Living Loud with Bob Daisley, Steve Morse (Deep Purple, Dixie Dregs – guitar) and Jimmy Barnes (Cold Chisel singer)?
It was an idea of Bob Daisley’s manager. He said: “Why don’t we get Jimmy Barnes to sing”. We came over to Australia. Of course, we had Steve Morse playing guitar on the songs we wrote and it was a bit of Ozzy (ed: material). That’s why it was important to get the players: Steve Morse, Bob Daisley, Don Airey, myself and Jimmy Barnes. Jimmy Barnes had the right voice to do the Ozzy stuff, so we did it. It was great! Fabulous. We got two standing ovations when we played there.
Do you think popular music which was written in the ‘60s and ‘70s is much better than today’s music?
Yeah, there is no question about it. The songs that were written in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s were far superior. They had far better themes, tunes, words, everything.
Did you feel a bit nervous when you played in front of Keith Moon (The Who drummer) at The Speakeasy?
(Laughs) Oh, when a band from Bournemouth played there, he used to visit the Speakeasy with my then girlfriend’s friend -not my lover, she was my girlfriend’s friend. She went with him there (ed: they eventually got married). So, we used to meet and chat. The band was called The Nite People and I would get on the drums with them. They were a Bournemouth band. A great-great band. It was nice to get on them and Keith would get on and play.
A huge “THANK YOU” to Mr. Lee Kerslake for his time. I should also thanks Mrs. Tayla Goodman for her valuable help.
Lee Kerslake documentary Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/theleekerslakerockparty/