Phil Mogg has confirmed that next year's 50th-anniversary tour with UFO will be his last as the frontman of the long-running hard rock band. Consequently, it seems almost certain that at that point they will cease to exist. UFO were formed in London in 1968 and Mogg is their only ever-present member, performing on all of the group's 22 studio albums.
"This decision has been a long time coming. I've considered stepping down at the end of UFO's previous two tours," Mogg explains. "I don't want to call this a farewell tour as I hate that word, but next year's gigs will represent my final tap-dancing appearances with the band.
"2018 marks UFO's 50th anniversary, so the timing feels right," he continues. "There will be a final tour of the U.K. and we will also play some shows in selected other cities that the band has a strong connection with. But outside of the U.K. this won't be a long tour.
"Being out on the road isn't always tremendously luxurious and although the playing is as great as it ever was, the stuff that surrounds it becomes very tiresome. I always told myself that when I reached that stage, I would step down, and that's what I'm going to do. This is the right time for me to quit."
Mogg turned 70 back in April and although his voice remains strong, he admits that age played its part in his conclusion.
"I'm a big reader of obituaries, and my finger always goes down to: 'I wonder how old they were…'," he chuckles. "The last few years have been tough — losing Lemmy was awful and I was sad that Jimmy Bain passed on a cruise ship. That distressed me quite a lot."
While many veteran bands in such a position simply cease playing live and continue to record, UFO will no longer be releasing new music. "A Conspiracy Of Stars" in 2015 and last year's covers collection "The Salentino Cuts" are set to become a signing-off point, though Mogg insists that however unlikely the prospect might seem — the singer is a lone strand of consistency throughout a 50-year history — he would have no problem with UFO continuing with a replacement.
The band's current lineup – completed by keyboard player/second guitarist Paul Raymond, guitarist Vinnie Moore, drummer Andy Parker and bassist Rob Le Luca — have, of course, been informed of Mogg's decision.
"I've told the guys that this is how it is," he says. "They know it's my time to go and they know that they can do whatever they want to do without me but I don't want to play live or make records anymore, though having said that I might go on and do an album of my own. I'll have to see how I feel about that."
Of course, UFO has either split up, retired or gone on hiatus several times before but Mogg is keen to make the distinction that next year's dates don't just mark the end of his touring commitments with UFO — for Phil, there will be no further concerts of any kind.
"For me, this is the end of my stint with UFO," he clarifies. "This is a line in the sand. I'm suggesting we call the tour 'Last Orders', though I also like 'The Bar Is Closing'. I'm also tempted to name it 'The Drinks Are On Parker'," he chuckles, referring long-suffering sticksman Andy Parker.
You'll have gathered that Mogg is not about to slash his wrists anytime soon. Of course, he is sad that the finishing line is now within slight but has had sufficient time to live with and process such a massive personal decision.
"Maybe the best word to use is 'bittersweet'," he concludes. "But my time has arrived and all that remains is to make sure that we have a good tour."
UFO's first confirmed live appearance of 2019 will take place in March at the Hard Rock Hell festival in North Wales.