Who: John Sloman, singer & musician
Bands: Uriah Heep, Lone Star, Gary Moore
John Sloman is a composer, singer, multi-instrumentalist and a musician, who is best known for his time in Uriah Heep and Gary Moore’s band in the early 80’s. He has also made a noteworthy solo career for the past 30 years. His debut album “Disappearances Can Be Deceptive” was released in 1989 being an interesting mixture of rock, fusion and modern soul. His latest album “El Dorado” has a more blues style approach.
John’s style as a rock singer is completely unique with tastes of blues and soul, the passion of rock and the innovativeness of progressive and fusion music. From these aspects John is by far one of the most interesting rock singers of our time. His musicality and style has always been above the average level.
Heavy Profile has the great honor to interview John, so let’s get started!
1. Hello John! You released an album called El Dorado a while ago. How would you describe the music of the album to someone who hasn’t heard your music before?
The songs on El Dorado are the usual mix of styles I’m, erm, “known” for. But due to the fact that the album is all about my late brother Robert, I’ve also set out to reflect his tastes (which were similar to mine) as well as reflect the different musical sounds of the country he chose to live in (USA) for the last fifteen years or so of his life…Rock, Soul, Blues, Country.
2. You are best remembered from your time with Uriah Heep and Gary Moore in the 80’s.
How do you remember your time in these bands? Can you share with us any funny stories from this time? Personally I think Conquest is one of Uriah Heep’s best album: it’s soulful, innovative, groovy and the songs are well composed. And of course singing is truly great!
From Gary Moore’s Rockin’ Every Night the song Nuclear Attack is absolutely amazing performance from all of you. I think it’s even better than the studio version of the same song.
I have mixed feelings about my time with both Uriah Heep and Gary Moore. In the case of Heep – some parties were not so keen on me being in the band at all, and as a result, I had to constantly watch my back. In spite of all that, I considered most of the guys in the band as friends. Especially Trevor Bolder, who was instrumental in getting me into the band.
Funny stories? Well, there was the Hammersmith Odeon show on the first tour – at that time flash-pots were big. Probably still are. Anyway, we were about to play the new single “Carry On”. I did this long introduction so Ken could set up his sequencer. Meanwhile, these flash-pots were primed to go off on the first beat of Carry On. I finish the introduction with the words “so here’s the new single, Carry On”. Chris Slade counts us in and BANG! the flash-pots go off – and so does the P.A. and every amp on the stage. The houselights came up and all I could hear was Chris playing his kit acoustically at the back of the stage. We went off while the crew fixed the problem and came back ten minutes later. “Well, that was the jingle version,” I said, “now here’s the single version.” And that time, the P.A. and everything else stayed on.
With regard to Gary Moore, my time in the band was sullied by illness, so it’s hard to find much amusing about that time. Although, the night Don missed the start of the show was pretty funny. We were due to go onstage – can’t remember where. And Don was nowhere to be seen. We stand at the side of the stage ready to go on – still no Don. We start the first song “End of the World” – still no Don. Eventually, Don came running onto the stage. We had to wait till after the show to find out what had happened. Turned out that Don had been in the pub next door when he heard music coming through the wall of the pub. ‘Sounds like us,’ Don thought to himself. Then suddenly it hit him: ‘It is us!’ and he ran out of the pub and into the venue. I go into more detail about my time with Heep and Gary in my forthcoming book.
3. You released your brilliant debut album, Disappearances Can Be Deceptive in 1989. The album was produced by Todd Rundgren. What kind of producer Todd is from the viewpoint of the singer? Did he have any personal ways of producing singing?
On the album the musicians are also very talented ones. Pino Palladino might be one of the best rock basists ever. Do you agree?
Disappearances was the culmination of several years work. Todd Rundgren produced the original recordings. But the album was reworked and remixed before it finally came out a few years later. Todd is a great producer, especially for vocals, and is one of my favourite artists. I don’t know how he works now, what with the advent of hard-disk recording, but back then, he preferred everyone to play live. I spent several weeks out in Woodstock. But unfortunately, things didn’t go according to plan. It took me a long time to get over the disappointment. But eventually, I did. And looking back all these years later, I feel it was a privilege to work with Todd, in spite of the outcome.
The musicians on the album were all brilliant players: Pino, of course, Alan Murphy, John Munro, Richard Cottle, Rob Fisher, Adrian Lee, Jodie Linscott, Gregg Dechert, Neil Lockwood, Shaun Baxter and Alun Thompson.
4. As a singer your style is an interesting mixture of blues, rock and soul. Who are your biggest influencers in the field of music?
Influences? Early Stevie Wonder, Led Zeppelin, Todd Rundgren, Joni Mitchell, Weather Report (with Jaco), Tony Williams.
5. The way your singing sounds has changed over the years. In the 80’s your singing combined soul and rock, as nowadays you sing more in a style of blues. Has this been an aware decision or happened unintentionally?
The change in my singing was intentional. That rock/soul thing is synonymous with the 80s – a decade I didn’t particularly enjoy. So, once it was over, I wanted to return to a more “rootsy” feel. Generally, I don’t see any stylistic demarcation lines in music – I tend to drift where I feel appropriate at the time. In bands like Heep, this was problematic. But those days are behind me, and I no longer feel I have to conform in any way at all.
6. What kind of themes you have in your lyrics?
Lyrically, I write about whatever moves me. On the previous album, The Taff Trail Troubadour, I wrote about Terrorists, Atheists, Psychopaths, Lying Politicians. Anything goes really and I have a lot of fun writing about subjects that are not the usual “rock material”.
7. Is there any chance you would be touring at some point in Finland?
I’d love to tour Finland at some point. If you know any venues who’d be interested in me playing, drop me a line and I’ll come and play – solo acoustic or with a band.
8. What has been your best gig so far?
Best gigs? When I was fifteen, I got asked to sing this one-off gig for a band who were a lot older than me, while their singer was in hospital. I was really small at that age and must’ve looked like one of their kids in front of the band. One of the songs we played was July Morning. The response was unbelievable, and from then on, I found it hard to concentrate on my school-work.
Then, when I was seventeen, I was in a band called Trapper, with Pino Palladino on guitar. We supported a band called Curved Air at Cardiff University and went down really well. Reading Festival with Lone Star – as I sang the lyric “an electrical sunrise”, the sun came out.
The first gig with Heep (Birmingham, Odeon) was really good. Afterwards, Trevor said “I only saw one other person do what you did tonight, and that was Bowie.” There was also a great gig with Gary Moore at Newcastle Mayfair.
9. What kind of dreams you still have considering your career?
I’d like to get my book released. Do a tour to promote it. Telling stories from the book. Playing music featured in the book. Maybe do the Edinburgh Festival next year? Also, I’d love to get one of my screenplays made into a movie.
10. Free word.
For many years, I couldn’t get any of my material released. As a result, I lost a lot of time. But then came the digital era – the internet. And suddenly, artists such as myself had an opportunity to reach an audience. Eventually, I’ll release all the stuff I couldn’t get released back in the early 90s. Maybe I’ll do an anthology?
Thank you for the interview!
Interview: Pekka Montin
Edited: Aili Viitanen