By Thomas S. Orwat Jr.
Vinnie Moore has always been a hard-working and passionate musician. During the mid 80s, Moore was regarded as one of rock music’s most innovative guitarists; with his lightning fast fret board skills and melodic riffs. He released several impressive instrumental solos records during that time period on the guitar shredder-oriented label, Shrapnel Records. In 1991, Vinnie Moore released his break-out ‘Meltdown’ album, as the title track became a critically acclaimed masterpiece, getting huge radio play and being one of the very few instrumentals, to not only have a music video shown on MTV, but to be put in heavy rotation on the fan favorite show, “The Head Bangers Ball.”
After a short stint as part of Alice Cooper’s touring band in the early 90’s, in 2003, vocalist Phil Mogg of the classic rock band, UFO, offered Moore the position of lead guitarist when he was looking to continue UFO, and needed a guitarist to replace the legendary Michael Schenker. Mogg ultimately decided that Moore would be the best fit for the band. It was a dream come true for Moore; he was a big fan of the band since childhood.
Presently, Moore is working harder now than ever before. The 50-year-old guitar virtuoso is currently co-headlining the ‘XG Extreme Guitar tour,’ with ex-Scorpions guitarist, Uli Roth, and the Black Knights Rising, which is a band consisting of Craig Goldy, Vinny Appice, Elliott Rubinson, and John West.
Moore is also involved with an amazing power trio, Red Zone Riders. This band consists of veteran musicians Kelly Keeling on vocals/bass and Scot Coogan on drums. They released their debut record last year and plan on doing some touring this year.
In addition, UFO will be releasing a new CD entitled, ‘A Conspiracy Of Stars,’ which is the fifth studio record that Moore is doing with the band. UFO will also be kicking off a world tour on Feb 20th.
What follows is an exclusive RMS interview with Vinnie Moore.
Rock Music Star: Vinnie, you are currently co-headlining the ‘XG Extreme Guitar tour,’ which is a cool tour, also featuring Uli Roth and Black Knights Rising, the band consisting of Craig Goldy,Vinny Appice, Elliott Rubinson and John West. You have a week plus of touring under your belt; how has this tour been going so far?
Vinnie Moore: So far, very well. Everyone is playing really well. There is a good vibe; the audiences have been great. It’s good to be out here doing it. There is a lot of rocking going on this tour.
RMS: Following the ‘Extreme Guitar tour,’ you have a tour with UFO starting soon.
VM: Yes, the first show is on Feb 20th.
RMS: When is your last show on the Extreme Guitar tour?
VM: The last show for me is on February 9th. Then, after that, I go home for about a week, and then I leave and start the UFO tour. It’s a little tight (time-wise). I don’t like to have them booked that close, but it happened that way.
RMS: With an established band like UFO, do you have to even rehearse much before you hit the road?
VM: Well, we do have some new songs to learn this time, because we have a new record coming out. So we’re going to rehearse a little longer. But, normally it doesn’t take very long for us to rehearse for a tour, because we have played the songs so many times. So, we kind of just get together and go for it, and that’s usually just a couple of days.
RMS: I haven’t seen the UFO set-list in awhile; do you play any songs from the Paul Chapman era (1980-1984) of UFO?
VM: I’m not sure if we will this time, but we have played some in the past. We played “Long Gone,” and a few others. But, we haven’t gotten together to discuss the set-list for this tour yet. But, it’s something that we should do soon.
RMS: There are so many classic songs that you have to play, so I would imagine it is difficult to sneak in too many of the lesser known tracks.
VM: Yes, UFO has such a history and catalog, is it difficult to sometimes pick what songs should be played and what should be left out. You’re always going to leave out something that someone wants to hear.
RMS: Right on. As a long time UFO fan, I’m pretty excited about the upcoming UFO release, ‘A Conspiracy of Stars,’ which comes out in North America on March 3rd. How does it compare to previous releases? Is it stylistically different, at all? Or is it typical classic UFO.
VM: I think that we are following in the same direction. It’s a rock record. But, we have explored some new territories, as well. It’s hard to describe your own music. It’s basically a rock record, with some really good songs and moods.
RMS: What do you think motivates the other members of UFO to continue to record new music? They are getting up there in age, and they already have a great catalog of classic songs.
VM: I really think that it’s just a love of what they are doing, and the passion is still there. When you love something, you want to keep on doing it. In fact, it’s hard to let go. It’s almost like an addiction. Other people, who are getting up there in age, are doing jobs that they are not really happy doing. They just want to stop doing it as soon as they can, and move on. If you love what you are doing, you just want to squeeze every last drop out of it and keep going as long as you can.
RMS: Sure, that makes sense. What is the writing process like in UFO? Does the band get together, or do you write parts and email them to each other?
VM: We start the ideas at home, on our own. I send over pretty much complete song templates and send it over to the other guys, mainly Phil Mogg. He’s the guy that has to hear it and then decide what he likes or doesn’t like and can write lyrics to. But, for any album, between us all, we write about 20 songs, and then Phil picks the ones that he can work with and likes the best. Then, we get together and rehearse. Then, at rehearsals, we tweak the songs- maybe change some arrangements- and see how they feel when we play through them.
RMS: One of my favorite members of UFO is Paul Raymond. He is a great all-purpose musician. What were his contributions on this release, and what role does he play in the songwriting process?
VM: Well, he writes as well. I think that he has two or three songs on the new record. He usually plays guitar on the songs that he writes, and plays keyboards on everything.
RMS: Do you play all of the guitar on the songs that he doesn’t write?
RMS: I’ve always wondered why, at least in North America, that UFO doesn’t hook up on some of the bigger rock tours. It seems that, for the last decade or more, that UFO only does headlining shows in clubs. But, it would be cool to see them on tour with a classic rock band, such as Def Leppard, KISS, or Mötley Crüe.
VM: I know that they have done that in the past, but I would personally love to do that. I have no idea why that hasn’t come to fruition. I’m not sure why. But, yeah a double bill tour would be very cool.
RMS: Yes, it certainly would be. I also want to discuss the other band that you’re involved with, Red Zone Rider. This is a great band that also features Kelly Keeling on vocals/bass, and Scot Coogan on drums. You released your debut CD last year, and it’s really solid. It kind of has a bit of a Winery Dogs vibe to it; were they an influence at all?
VM: No, they really weren’t any direct influence. It was a project that happened very quickly when I had some time available. I found out that Kelly also had some time available, so we started talking about putting something together. So, we wrote some songs, found a drummer, and put together a record. We were very happy with the way that it came out. The only template that we had for that record was that we wanted to make something that had a 70s vibe to it.
RMS: Are there any plans for Red Zone Rider to continue on? Maybe tour and put out another record?
VM: Yes, we want to do some touring. We would also love to do another record; we all loved the last one. But yeah, I do think there could be some stuff coming soon. It’s just a matter of us finding the time to do it.
RMS: You have a lot going on with between UFO and Red Zone Rider, and you also do solo shows, as well.
VM: Well, I haven’t done solo shows in America in quite a while; that’s why it’s great, being out now. I’ve done some solo shows over in Europe and different places as well, but not in America. So, I’m excited to be doing these gigs. I actually have a new solo record coming out, too, in a couple of months. It’s good to be doing solo work again. It’s going to be all instrumental, and I’m putting it out on my own label, Mindseye music.
RMS: That’s great; I can’t wait to hear it. Before you joined UFO, were you ever approached by any other bands to join them as lead guitarist?
VM: No, not really. I’m not really sure why not, but it never really happened.
RMS: How did you get involved with UFO? Do you approach them, or did they approach you?
VM: We had a mutual friend that called my manager and told him that UFO was looking for a guitar player, and then he went to them and told them that they should speak to Vinnie. So then, I was eventually asked to send over a CD of music to Phil Mogg. I sent him about eleven songs, and then he called a couple weeks later, and said he wanted to do it.
RMS: Yeah. I think, other than Michael Schenker, you are the best guitarist for the band, at this point in their career.
VM: Well, thank you very much.
RMS: The material that you have recorded with them, so far, is very good, and you haven’t changed the sound of the band too much. Sometimes, a new guitarist comes in to an established band, and you get a brand new sounding band.
VM: Well, I was a fan of the band when I was growing up. So, it was natural for me to keep the sound of the band similar.
RMS: Last question I have for you; many UFO fans are wondering why original bass player, Pete Way, isn’t in the band anymore. What is the current status with him? Is the band still in communication with him? Is it possible that he may, one day, return to the band?
VM: Pete has had some health issues; he had prostate cancer and other things. It’s definitely not going to happen at this point. He’s a good guy, and we miss him. Unfortunately, it’s over.+
Special Thanks to Dave Tedder for setting up this interview, and to Dana Kaiser.