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Ken Hensley

Interview with Ken Hensley from Ken Hensley
by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos at 05 July 2007, 2:04 PM

Ken Hensley is well known from his work during the prime and most succesful URIAH HEEP era. For many, his Hammond organ sound has been the milestone to the keyboards' role in the Hard Rock and Metal scene and has built the foundation for the Progressive Metal sound. The Metal Temple was truly honored to have a really nice discussion with Mr. Hensley despite the hot as hell weather in Athens, Greece.

How did you come with the idea of making an album that is really the soundtrack to your life?

The idea was born when the boss of my publishing company in Germany read my autobiography. He called me and asked whether I was interested in making music for a part of this story especially the start of my career until the late ?s. It was a very important period of time. So, I took some songs that I had already written, wrote 9-10 new ones and tried to tell the story from the very beginning.

Have you ever thought of making a movie out of it?

Actually, yes. The discussions are about making a theater musical like a rock opera to last at about 2,5 hours and involve more music to it. It has been discussed of turning it into a movie but I am not aware of any progress that has been made. You know that it is a long story to tell in just one CD

So, is there a chance to have a Blood On The Highway part two?

At the moment, no. But this album is been very successful so I could do it and would for sure. Not only a volume two but a volume three. Now we are concentrating on volume one and how to expand it.

When did you choose the singers? Before or after you’ve written the music?

After I recorded the tracks. Of course I have sung the basic melodies and then think who would be the best to sing every track.

Did all the singers you choose make it the album? Did anyone get no as an answer?

Well, I didn’t get a negative response from none of the singers. But for some of them it was just logistically and financially impossible to participate. It was difficult to find the proper time and money to bring them in Spain where I live.

 Is this album a kind of reference to your entire career?

Not all of my career, I took the moments from 1970 to 1980 which was from the time I was with URIAH HEEP. You know, my story begun before URIAH HEEP, and goes on after them. This story is described in my book that will be released on the 20th of July.

 Haven’t you already released your autobiography?

Yes I released the first edition through my personal web site. The second one will be much bigger with a lot of pictures and a lot of detail.

Will it be released along with the CD?



Eventually yes. It will be initially released on its own and then with the CD on a box set that will also contain a live DVD plus a ’making of’ the CD a t-shirt and various other things.

What are the lyrics of the homonymous song talking about?

This is a good question because Blood On The Highway is all about the blood, the sweat, the tears and the effort which were spent in the 70s while placing and making new rules about Rock ‘n’ Roll music and laying the foundations of what became afterwards.

What difficulties did you face in the start of your career?

The first and difficult thing is the decision to start a career as a professional musician. It was and still is a risky decision because if it doesn’t work, what are you going to do? It’s really difficult to make money from your hobby and bring food to the table. Afterwards you have to make professional decisions regarding contracts the people you gonna work with and so on.

So as you look back on your career do you find any regrets? Some things that you wish you haven’t done?

Yes.

Can you name one?

Yes. Drugs. I wish that I hadn’t been involved with drugs. It was a big mistake in professional and personal terms. It was the biggest mistake in my life.

Drugs were actually connected with Rock ’n’ Roll music during the 80s.

Indeed drugs were connected in this music during the late 60s and the early 70s but this doesn’t mean that you had to do it. The fact is that I didn’t need to do it; I just decided to.

Do you believe that music like in Blood On The Highway can survive nowadays with all those trends in music?

You know Dimitris, I am a song person. Monika (his wife) and I always have music around us. Nowadays, the problem is that they use a lot of machines to make music and they don’t experiment with sounds as we did back in the old days. The music is made superficial and artificial and that makes me sad.

In the last track of the album Last Dance you have implemented some orchestral arrangement. Have you ever thought of making a full album with an orchestra?

That’s something that I really like to do in the future. Well, I have made some special concerts with a full orchestra and I really liked it. I am not a classical trained musician so I have to team up with musicians who can write and read classical music. Classical music is incredible in the way it’s been conceived and performed and it’s something I’ll like to do in the future.

Do you have any plans of getting Blood On The Highway on stage?

We’ve already done in Hamburg on the 22nd of June when we released the CD.

I meant for a whole tour.


Actually we don’t have such plans but a lot of people are asking about. It’s not easy to do so; Jorn Lande and Glenn Hughes have other commitments so finding the right timing is really difficult and expensive. Probably we gonna to do some special shows instead of a whole tour.

Do you have any DVD plans?

Yeah we’ve recorded the show in Hamburg. I am going to Hamburg next week to start the mixing process. It will be probably available in late September or the early of October.

Are there any tour plans?

We are discussing on this matter. We want to take the CD on stage but it has to be done properly to see which of the artist on the album can make it.

 You should visit Greece, though.

I’d love to do that. There are many countries that I have not played in while I was in URIAH HEEP. Eventhough I have been to Russia, Latvia and Ukraine and I am going to Serbia in August there are still many countries that I haven’t and Greece is one of them.

What is your opinion about reunion tours?

This is a very common question Dimitris and I don’t blame you for that. It’s something really impossible. If I got with Mick (Box) together then it would be me and Mick and three other guys just like a cover band not a URIAH HEEP reunion.

Fair enough. You play guitar, keyboards and you also sing. What do you most prefer doing?

My favorite thing is to write and record; those two things are for me adventurous. Playing live is something that depends on so many other things while in the studio you are completely alone. I write music exclusively at a special room at my home located in a very remote place in Spain.

You have done some great work with other bands. Can you pick out the best one?

My feeling about the works with other bands is that it wasn’t that great, to be honest. I surely enjoyed the challenge and learned a few things by working AYREON, CINDERELLA and other bands.

You didn’t mention your work with W.A.S.P. in Headless Children which I personally think it is a wonderful album.

I don’t like it; it’s clearly a matter of personal taste. It wasn’t difficult for me to do that but I recorded the album without hearing one single lyric. As much as I enjoy Blackie Lawless as a person and the experience of writing an album with him I really didn’t like the lyrics.

So, If you’d read the lyrics you would have said no to Blackie?

Probably yes. My work depends on the dynamic of the lyrics so I want to know them and hear the voice before I start working with the music.

Do the lyrics come first and then the music?


Absolutely, yes. It has always been this way. In the ?s we were most of the time on the road so I could only write lyrics and get the music for a small period of time when we were in the studio. So, I’ve learned working this way.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

For Blood On The Highway it was really easy, because I just had to re-live the moments and the feelings and come up with the music. Most of the songs that I’ve wrote were based on ideas that came completely out of the blue.

The subtitle of the album says When too many dreams come true; did all of your dreams come true?

Well, yes and this was the original title of my first book.

Are you satisfied?

Extremely. As it is said on the song I Did It All I achieved many things in my life and if nothing else ever happens I have those memories to celebrate and be thankful.

We’ve reached the last question; what is Esperanza Street?

I am really glad you ask me that because it is a non-profit foundation that was my wife’s idea. The funny thing is that I was born on 24th of August 1945 in London at number 48 Speranza street which I think may have been a misspelling. We have plans about building a shelter for people who have been in life threading situations and doing some work for handicapped people; we will also build a shelter for abandoned animals which is a major problem here in Spain. We also have a component for helping musicians that are in difficult times and have been forgotten. Today (27th of June we have launched the official announcement in my web site www.ken-hensley.com and on www.esperanzastreet.com and are ready to start the whole foundation activities. It’s the most exciting thing in our lives!

 I want to thank for your time; it was more than pleasant talking to you.

The pleasure is all mine Dimitris and I hope that one day I’ll get to play in Greece.  

Add anything you like to close this conversation.

Just celebrate your life and care about each other; understand that we are all equal in the face of this earth.



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