Heavy Load: Phil Mogg

Born in Wood Green, North London, Phil Mogg formed hard rockers UFO with friends Pete Way and Andy Parker in 1969.

A huge influence on the likes of Guns N’Roses, Def Leppard and Iron Maiden, UFO rode high in the late 70s and early 80s on the back of albums such as Obsession, Lights Out and the classic live set Strangers In The Night. But Mogg, their hilariously outspoken lead singer, is the only member of the band not to have been fired or to have quit, and he has led them through good times – and bad – for nearly 46 years. UFO release their new studio album, A Conspiracy Of Stars, this month.

What were you like at school?

I tried to apply myself but often found myself outside the headmaster’s office. I got to know his selection of canes very well.

What job did your parents want for you?

They got me a job working for the carpet planners Maples in Kentish Town, right opposite what’s now the Forum. That’s where I heard the phrase “fuck you” for the first time.

When did you realise you could sing?

I worked with a bloke called Clive Cleghorn. He heard me crooning along to a Who record and suggested I join a band. That planted the notion. Plus I fancied the idea – the riches, the women, the fancy perfumes and lotions.

What would the young Phil Mogg think of his now 66-year-old counterpart?

You fucking old fart… You’ve still got the fucking cheek to go up on that stage?

Where do you stand politically?

I don’t. My old man used to say politicians are all liars, thieves and cheats, and he was right.

Are you a family man?

I’ve got two beautiful children – a boy and a girl. Considering they were raised in the melee of what you might call UFO’s more boisterous era, they’re pretty well-rounded.

Do you believe in God?

Of course not. Religion is the most destructive force on the planet. If there was a fucking God he’d have made a better model, wouldn’t he? Whoops! There’s cancer. Whoops! There’s another war. I get quite impassioned on the subject.

Which were the best and worst drugs you took?

Well, looking back on it now, they were all pretty bad. Somebody mentioned cocaine the other day and I went: “Cocaine? People still take cocaine?”

Can you recall any moments of deep professional embarrassment?

There were occasions when I was led astray by the band and took too much of everything and screwed up the show. We became entertaining for all the wrong reasons. Back in the day it was a bit more acceptable than it is now. Recalling those incidents does make me feel quite stupid. UFO were like a runaway train.

Have you ever been arrested?

Occasionally. But at least I haven’t tried to have anyone murdered.

As the only member of UFO never to have quit or been sacked, did those things almost happen at any point?

Quit maybe. But with this band there’s not really a process of “I quit.” We just stumble from one crisis to another.

Were you envious seeing Metallica and their performance coach, who tried to stop them from unravelling in the Some Kind Of Monster movie?

I didn’t see the movie but that sounds a bit peculiar. I can’t envisage that working for us. Naaah. I come from an era when a slap round the head worked just fine.

Coincidentally, you now live close to ex-UFO guitarist Michael Schenker in Sussex. Does he ever pop by to borrow a pint of milk?

No, but I’ve met him coming out of Morrisons. Michael and I get on fine, but he lives in Hove, which is a little more posh.

Does your new song Devil’s In The Detail really contain the line: ‘The devil’s in the detail/Weave within the cloth/The devil’s in the detail/He’s out collecting muff’?

No, it’s moths! What’s wrong with you? Mind you, your version’s not bad. That song was inspired by Pete Way. You know when you start out a band you have great expectations, and of course they change.

What can Phil Mogg do that no one else in the world can?

I can lie on my back and suck my own knob.

What in your life are you most proud of?

I glossed a door last week. My paintwork was beautiful. You should see the shine that comes off it. It was the best bit of glossing I’ve done in years. I’m thinking about putting it outside of the house just to show it off.

After 22 studio albums do you still have any artistic goals?

Not really. If there’s something that motivates me, it’s trying to top the previous one. I’m not a great one for goals, but it would be to keep on doing this, and to continue enjoying it.

**What will it say on your tombstone? **

“You can all fuck off.”

Dave Ling

Dave Ling was a co-founder of Classic Rock magazine. His words have appeared in a variety of music publications, including RAW, Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, Prog, Rock Candy, Fireworks and Sounds. Dave’s life was shaped in 1974 through the purchase of a copy of Sweet’s album ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’, along with early gig experiences from Status Quo, Rush, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Yes and Queen. As a lifelong season ticket holder of Crystal Palace FC, he is completely incapable of uttering the word ‘Br***ton’.