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Interview with Danny Peyronel, September 2012
Danny Peyronel – The former UFO keyboard player is flying high with the X-UFO band.

Interview with Danny Peyronel, image 1
Aside from the fact that the Heavy Metal Kids, UFO, Sade, Meatloaf and Angel are all great names in the musical industry they all have one other thing in common. They have been touched by the presence of veteran keyboard player Danny Peyronel either as a player, writer or collaborator and even sometimes all three. With the recent re-release of the UFO album, No Heavy Petting as well as Peyronel’s labor of love via his recent project X-UFO, Peyronel is finally receiving the respect and credit that has long escaped him.

Aside from the fact that the Heavy Metal Kids, UFO, Sade, Meatloaf and Angel are all great names in the musical industry they all have one other thing in common. They have been touched by the presence of veteran keyboard player Danny Peyronel either as a player, writer or collaborator and even sometimes all three. With the recent re-release of the UFO album, No Heavy Petting as well as Peyronel’s labor of love via his recent project X-UFO, Peyronel is finally receiving the respect and credit that has long escaped him.

Interview with Danny Peyronel, image 2
Interview with Danny Peyronel, image 3
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MP: Danny, it appears that No Heavy Petting has mistakenly been labeled as one of UFO’s underachieving albums. The 1976 album was finally released on CD back in 2009 with several fabulous bonus tracks. Why has this album been so overlooked over the years?

Danny: Because of a number of factors, most of them, as is usually the case, unrelated to the music. For starters, the album went to number 57 in the US album charts, hardly underachieving. What happened was confirmed by Pete (Way) in the book on UFO by Martin Poppoff… the record company at the time thought it would be a good idea to change US distributors shortly before the release.

Result: with fans going wild at every single one of our American tour dates to support the release, and rushing to the record stores the following day, they would find no albums in the stores. That was the main reason for the relative underachievement of No Heavy Petting, which was quite naturally expected to top Force It and break into the top-50 big time. It was also the reason for my departure for the band. A scapegoat was needed and since the label would never have owned up to being at fault in such a blatant way, 'the new boy' was the ideal choice. Still, as many now seem to think, including the author of the liner notes on the re-issue, the songwriting style and approach started in NHP carried through to the following albums, which is very flattering, of course.

Alternative history scenario: The label does not change distributor mid-release, and No Heavy Petting makes the Top-10 in the US. Strangers In The Night then becomes one of the biggest live albums of all time, the band reaches the level it really deserved to, and so on...but life is much funnier than that.

Unable to build on the success of its predecessor Force It, No Heavy Petting was considered a commercial flop and the short sighted UFO asked Peyronel to leave. Danny went on to form The Blue Max that also featured Robin Millar who later produced the fabulous Sade resulting in a brief Peyronel contribution. Peyronel’s penmanship was also extended to Nick Mason of Pink Floyd (with a track sung by David Gilmour) as well as the title track of Meatloaf’s third album Midnight At The Lost And Found. Meanwhile, Danny endeavored to create another band in the form of Tarzen who managed to last five years and create two albums. In 1999, Peyronel also appeared on Angel’s attempted comeback album In The Beginning and was featured on one of the albums stronger tracks “Long Gone”.

MP: Did The Blue Max ever commit anything to tape? What was the musical style?

Danny: Sure, we made one album on Charisma Records, which was Genesis and Peter Gabriel's label. The style was rock/pop or melodic rock or whatever label was the thing at the time. Our problem was we got together in the middle of the punky-pooh period (1977) and made a tactical error in not going out to just gig. We thought we'd be lost in the current climate in London at the time (it would certainly have been different had we been in the US), so chose not to gig. Unfortunately, by the time we got a record deal, something not easy without concerts, we had rehearsed so much that, in my opinion, our performance had become a little too slick, and we had, maybe, lost some of our natural feel.

The band was made up of great musicians, Ross Elder, Murray Ward and Robin Millar, who later went on to discover and produce Sade. A few years ago, we lost Murray, and we get together on as regular a basis as is possible, to toast his memory.

MP: Have the Tarzen albums ever been released on CD and if not do you ever see them becoming available in our mad mad world of downloads?

Danny: They have been available on CD, after Marco Barusso, my great friend, guitarist and producer, re-mastered them. However, it was very much on an 'artisan' scale and not 'official', whatever that means these days. I do hope they are made available at some point, but only in some way and by someone who will account justly to Salvador, Michel, Ralph and I, and not just profit themselves, as is so often the case.

By the turn of the decade Peyronel decided to surpass himself and took on the outlandish task of reforming the Heavy Metal Kids. Needless to say the deceased Gary Holton was not available but drummer Keith Boyce and bassist Ronnie Thomas joined the fold, rounded out by the duel guitars of newcomers Marco Guarnerio and Marco Barusso. Peyronel was not only on the keys but also took on the lead vocals and with significant credibility. Musically, the group retained some of the raw power of its origins and yet updated the sound to make it modern, commercially accessible and convincing all at the same time. Hit The Right Button certainly lived up to its name though sadly it was once again another overlooked gem that Peyronel was involved in.

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MP: Hit The Right Button was surprisingly very impressive and there was talk of a follow up record by the name of Uncontrollable but it never came to pass. There were songs written and named but nothing materialized. What happened?

Danny: With the invaluable help of Marco Barusso, we brought the band back from oblivion for a terrific album, easily the best album we'd ever done...and the one we had always dreamt of making. Marco put in years of hard work and talent into the band, touring, arranging, recording, producing, even, with the help of Marco Guarnerio, helping to provide the studio at no cost. He eventually brought in the great Matteo Salvadori in as second guitarist, who, in turn, put in two years of painstaking dedication and hard work into the new album.

The album was taking longer than expected, due to Marco having commitments he needed to prioritize in order to survive, and the other original members decided they could do better. For my troubles, I received an email from one of them to inform me of this. Marco wasn't informed much less Matteo. As some form of consolation, I took them both on tour to the US, (a first for both the boys) presenting my solo album, and we had a terrific time.

I have no idea what happened to the other guys and/or if the album, which was virtually finished (rough mix stage) will ever see the light of day...I have some vague memory of people in their camp sending lawyers' letters to potential labels to try and block any release...Have you ever heard anything so silly? Especially when you consider the sort of sales any album by the band could hope for. You need to remember that this was a band that, in its heyday, the golden age of rock, with the full backing of a major multi-national like Atlantic, sold in the region of 10.000 copies of each album. Unfortunately, not much to build a second career on.

Almost 30 years after Peyronel’s 1974 debut with the Heavy Metal Kids, the keyboard player finally took matters into his own hands and released his first solo effort Make The Monkey Dance. Once more the material was well written material and the production top notch including the revisiting of the UFO classic “Highway Lady” though the focus this time was a more guitar driven rendition. This was followed up a few years later with the re-mastered edition of No Heavy Petting/i> that also features the bonus track “All The Strings” written by Danny. Though No Heavy Petting was eclipsed by the commercial breakout album Lights Out, it is an album often ignored and it only now is being viewed upon as an exceptional inclusion to the UFO catalog.

MP: Your 2005 solo debut Make The Monkey Dance was a very solid outing so much so that I was a little surprised that you followed it up with the X-UFO project. Any thoughts of another solo album?

Danny: In reality, the Monkey was recorded shortly before Hit The Right Button, and was, partly, the reason why HMK got a chance to make that record.

Marco was really keen to make a Danny album, helped me put the band together, using top players like Max Zaccaro, Luca Verde and Mario Zapparoli, and did a superb job of producing it.
Yes, is the answer to your last question, I have already been working on a number of tracks, always with Marco and Matteo, and hope to find enough time in my X-UFO schedule to finish it off soon. I guess I've always been a group guy; I enjoy the camaraderie and find the solo artist thing a little too lonely. Thus X-UFO!

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Significant commercial success continued to elude Peyronel but his credibility has never been at stake. Rather than follow up his solo effort, Danny decided to place his energies into X-UFO that also features guitarist Laurence Archer and drummer Clive Edwards who were featured on the 1992 UFO release High Stakes & Dangerous Men as well as the live album Lights Out In Tokyo. The band is rounded out with bass player Rocky Newton who never appeared in a UFO line up but was a significant player in the McAuley Schenker Group which of course featured the brilliant but erratic former UFO guitarist Michael Schenker. Thus the name X-UFO is fully justified and warranted with their touring transforming to a commitment to tape via their 2011 album titled Vol 1 The Live Files. The focus is on the classic UFO era however, a few songs are taken from the High Stakes & Dangerous Men album and they sit very comfortably alongside the epics. The title suggests that this may not be just a one off effort.

MP: Danny, how did X-UFO come about and is the title accurate in suggesting there is more material to come from the X-UFO men?

Danny: Some time after the Heavy Metal Kids debacle, Clive and I started chatting through Facebook about the idea...funny, because I joined UFO immediately after having been forced out of the Kids the first time round! ...the rest just fell into place with no effort. Clive suggested Laurence, and I knew him well, having played together in Tarzen in the 80's. Then there was Rocky, whom I had also met, albeit briefly, when he was in the McAuley Schenker Group. Oddly enough, although Clive and I had known each other forever, since the 70's, we had never played together or even spoken more than a few words.

We got together for a 'blow' in London, and it was just wonderful! It was immediately obvious that we were a band. In the best possible meaning of the term! To date, every time I get ready to fly and meet the boys, I feel younger and look forward to hanging with them. Of course, the music is the bottom line.

We've already recorded the first track from our forthcoming album, which is tentatively called Vol.2: The Studio Files. “Busted” will shortly be available for download on iTunes, as a taster of what's to come. The album will mainly consist of new material, and we'll be including re-makes of some of 'our' UFO songs, strictly ones we either wrote or co-wrote during our time in the band.

As you know, our first album, Vol.1: The Live Files! already includes our own live versions of some of the songs we wrote whilst in UFO. We 'road-tested' “Busted” at a few of the festivals we appeared in during the summer, and had a tremendous reaction! So we're excited!

This is a frighteningly powerful outfit and it's thrilling to be onstage together. But it's also really fun and pleasant to hang out together...I'm a very lucky guy. And/or, just maybe, I've made a few good decisions. Karma? May be!

All the best to you and all your readers, Danny.

So it appears that Vol 1 The Live Files, as the title suggests as well as our conversation with Danny will likely translate to another group effort. And why not! Listening to these epic UFO songs delivered by artists that have either directly or indirectly been part of UFO’s rich rock and roll heritage is a blast. Driven by the egregiously overlooked talent of Danny Peyronel, the worldly measurement of significant success to date has evaded this talented musician. This may be immaterial, as X-UFO is further clear evidence that Danny Peyronel has been creating viable music for close to 40 years, leaving nationwide attention in serious arrears.
Michael Debbage
September 2012