Interview conducted April 12 2014
Interview published May 29 2014
When English hard rock legends Magnum's
European tour reached Sandviken in Sweden, this Metal Covenant scribe,
who is a big fan of the band since the eighties, just had to arrange an
interview. Since singer extraordinaire Bob Catley
wanted to rest for a while after arriving at the venue, bassist Al
Barrow happily sat down for a chat. Later on, Bob
was just as happy to do the same. The pleasant and interesting interviews
with both members are therefore below in the order they were conducted,
as it's easier to follow that way. Many thanks to Al and Bob and the Magnum
crew - also for giving us a memorable concert!
First part - Al Barrow
Mozzy: So, now the tour has kicked off.
I guess you are always eager to get out there and play live?
Al: Yeah. I mean, we would love to tour more.
We get a lot of people on our website who go 'can you come to this place,
can you come to this town', and so on. We'd love to, but it's really
hard. Promoters seem so cagey these days. If the gig was big enough,
we'd play everywhere. We just need promoters to get on the ball and
get us to the town so we can get to as many fans as possible.
And now that you have a new record out, you're probably even more excited
Al: Absolutely. I mean, you always know that
the fans want to hear the older stuff as well, but as musicians you
want to develop and create music. It's the reason why we do this. It's
real good fun to go out there and play new stuff, new albums. Sometimes
it's a bit of surprise that the songs you think are going to just kill
and slaughter don't always transcend to live shows. Then you have to
adapt them slightly. So it's always a bit of an experience. But it keeps
you fresh and excited, so you try and mix the set a bit by doing old
and new, trying to please everybody.
Mozzy: You're doing five songs or so from
the new album, I've noticed.
Al: Yeah. Four or five, depending sometimes on
time constraints, and sometimes the show is cut down so you have to
cut a track. But yeah, we try to do a good selection of each album really.
Mozzy: Do you get into the touring routine
straight away after being in the studio? You've done it for a long time,
Al: Well, it's pretty much what we do most of
the time. It's a natural progression. Once you've been locked into a
studio for six months or so, it's really exciting to think when we can
get out there. You don't really see much of the world, though. You're
on the bus and then you're in the venue. So you don't generally see
a lot of what's going around. But we do like visiting places when we
get the chance, and meeting lots of new people. That is brilliant.
Mozzy: And what do you think of the smaller
venues like the one here in Sandviken? It must be different.
Al: It's a totally different mindset. It's going
to be cosy tonight, let's put it that way (laughs). But sometimes this
happens. Sometimes, the bigger venues are very sterile: you cannot see
the crowd and there is no direct contact. Sometimes, these gigs work
out to be fantastic. It's a very small space, so I don't know what the
sound is going to be like. But you know, we're here and playing for
Mozzy: I saw Pretty Maids here last October
actually. The atmosphere was great, and it was very warm (smiles).
Al: Oh, alright (smiles). It's going to be warm
Mozzy: But you really get that intimate
Al: Definitely. It's good, the people get more
involved. It's great.
Mozzy: Congratulations on your new album,
another great one.
Al: Thank you very much.
Mozzy: It could be the best one in quite
some time, I think. And you have gotten good chart positions as well.
Al: Yery good. We're very pleased. We went in
at number 17 midweek, which was a good position. And we ended up at
38 in the UK, in the BBC charts. We did well in Germany, Switzerland,
So it's been good! I think it's been well-received
by the fans, and the media as well.
Mozzy: Yes, the reviews have been terrific.
So you still look out for those, the chart positions?
Al: Well, it doesn't mean as much these days
I think. But it still adds credit to the band, if they are seen to be
in the chart positions of some standard. It doesn't do your profile
any harm to have a good chart position. So it's always nice to get up
there. It's a bit disappointing if you don't get a high one; then you
think you're doing something wrong. We've obviously got some good charts
and the fans seem to like it, so
Mozzy: That's the most important thing.
Al: Absolutely, yeah.
I guess it was different before, like in the 80's, with chart positions.
Al: Yeah. It's a totally different environment
now; the music industry is so vast. I mean, when Magnum were doing a
lot of sales and were doing big arenas, the whole music
industry was different. Everybody was listening to rock, more so than
nowadays. And with downloads and illegal downloads, chart positions
can be altered drastically, with computers and so on.
Mozzy: I think it's a shame. I still buy
Al: Well I think Magnum fans still go out and
buy the records. But there's a lot of people that not so much follow
the band but still download illegally
You cannot stop it or police
it, it's just got to be accepted.
Mozzy: True. I bought the vinyl as well,
it's really cool.
Al: Yeah? SPV do a great job for us, our German
label. In the last 10 years, they've released everything on vinyl. It's
just a nice thing to hold, and the artwork looks great that big, with
Rodney doing the artwork. It's nice to open up and get the whole thing
there, it's great.
Mozzy: Speaking of your latest records,
I think it's testament to the quality of your newer material that the
set includes a lot of it. There are lots of other bands who just base
their set around the classics.
Al: Yeah. I can speak for Tony and Bob on this.
They're not ones for playing
almost a tribute to themselves. I
mean, you never forget what Magnum stood for and where they came from.
But they want to create and make new music, while never forgetting what
Magnum are and what they did. So we try to mix the set up, we always
try to move forward and try new things, but not completely forget everything
Mozzy: How is the process of deciding on
the setlist, then?
Al: Bob's usually the one that sits and stare
at it. Bob's really good at thinking like how a fan would think. He
goes 'I think these songs from the new album will fit well with these
songs from various old albums'. There's always a set amount of songs
that if we didn't do them, people would just go crazy and go away. So
we try to change it a bit but keep the core of things like Vigilante,
Storyteller's and things like that.
Mozzy: And it's cool to hear the stuff from
the newer albums, because those are very good too.
Al: Yeah, there's plenty from the new album,
and some from The Visitation and Into The Valley Of The Moonking.
Mozzy: Have you ever considered doing some
of the really old stuff from the 70's and 80's, the more rare songs?
Al: Well, there is always some discussion. We
get a lot of fan mail, and they go "can you do The Prize?"
or something like that. Tony will sit there for a couple of seconds
and go "maybe
or maybe not" (laughs). I don't know,
they just like to move forward more, I think.
Mozzy: And you cannot play for three hours
Al: No. They're not as young as they used to
Mozzy: I recently sat down and played the
The Gathering box, and read the great history of the band, written by
Al: Oh yeah? Yeah, it's a nice little package,
it's nicely put together and captures the band quite well.
Mozzy: It said that there were some problems
for a while though.
Al: Yeah, well I think the whole band got to
a point that they had just been on the road and been recording so much
for so many years. It's a long history. I think they just felt they
needed a break and step away for five minutes. Maybe try a bit of something
else. And then Tony just called Bob and said 'let's get back on the
road, let's go for it'.
Yeah. I remember the gig at Sweden Rock Festival in 2002, a while after
the comeback. The atmosphere was just amazing. You could tell that a lot
of fans wanted to see Magnum again.
Al: Yeah, that was my first Sweden Rock. I think
there's still a lot of fans out there. We just got to be promoted. There's
still a lot of people that go 'oh, I didn't know you guys were together
still', and then they go and buy the back catalogue stuff.
Mozzy: Could it have been good in way as
well to be away for a while; it might have brought new ideas, hunger and
Al: Yes. Yeah, maybe you're dead right there.
Maybe they felt a bit tired, and when we came back it was like 'come
on, let's do it again!', you know.
Mozzy: And you were in Hard Rain, the band
Bob and Tony had in-between, of course.
Al: Yeah, I was. That's how I met the guys,
I came in to do Hard Rain and then I kind of stayed on.
Mozzy: Did they talk back then about re-uniting
Al: Well, not really, no. We did a couple of
albums, and they were good fun, but they were not really going anywhere.
And then, one of the managers said that people are still asking for
Magnum. And Tony and Bob went 'yeah, let's do it, it's good time'.
Mozzy: And now you've had a very solid career
since, it's been over 10 years now.
Al: Yes, it's been very good. We were talking
about it last night; every time we've gone out on tour or release an
album, it's crept up a little bit more. Not massively, but just a constant
upturn, and hopefully we can keep that going and people will come back.
But what we've noticed now, is that it's not just the original fans;
it's also the original fans bringing their kids. And there's lots of
new faces coming to the shows.
Mozzy: That must be good, to see the young
Al: It's great! And they know the songs; all
the old stuff and the new stuff. They absorb the whole show and it does
make you feel good.
Mozzy: Great. It must be the quality of
the music, then.
Al: Hopefully, we still bring out good music
to a new generation of rock fans.
Mozzy: You've been very consistent as well
in that you've released several albums during the last decade, it's been
constant. Tony has been very productive.
Al: Yeah. Tony is always writing, he doesn't
know how to not be writing, or recording in some way. He's got a studio
at home, and he'll just sit there
I mean, literally we'll just
get off this tour and he's starting to think of new ideas for the next
Mozzy: It's quite amazing really to always
come up with such great and catchy songs.
Al: Yeah. He's certainly got a mind for being
able to constantly evolve and write - stuff that sounds like Magnum
but without copying yourself.
Mozzy: Definitely. And there's some more
progressive parts and longer songs too, as on the new album.
Al: Yeah, the new album has got some time signature
changes, and some production ideas that we wanted to try. So we're trying
to do different elements; light and shade.
Mozzy: Also, I think the new album has a
couple of more up-tempo songs as well, more 'rocky' too.
Al: Yeah. That's what people are saying; it's
quite of an up-tempo album. It's a strong album. It's weird, because
some are saying it's guitar-heavy and then some are saying it's keyboard-orientated.
I think it depends on how you listen to it.
Mozzy: Yes, it's a mix for sure. Now, since
Magnum came back, can you perhaps consider it a bit of a second coming
for the band?
Al: That would be nice, yeah. We just keep working
on things and playing as many gigs as we can.
Mozzy: And for yourself who are younger
than the rest of the band, how do you see the future? You cannot go on
forever obviously, though I hope you will!
Al: Absolutely. I feel very proud and honoured
to be in a band such as Magnum. I get to play songs that are brilliantly
written, there is a great history, and I stand before fans that have
followed the band for many years. I'm still a new face for a lot of
people. I feel very honoured and very pleased to be able to do what
I do. And of course, there are time limits on everything, you know.
But we'll just keep doing it for as long as we can.
Mozzy: Cool. Do you remember your first
time in the band, like that time at Sweden Rock for example? It must have
been pretty new for you to play to such many people, I guess?
Al: Yeah. I remember that gig very well. It felt
natural, I felt comfortable with the guys onstage, and we had rehearsed
for a couple of weeks. We just went out and I had such a good time!
I mean, you can't help but
when you look at a crowd like that
they want you to do well too, and I've seen bits of videos of it, we
played well and just really had a good time.
Mozzy: It was great, one of the best ones
I've seen there.
Al: That's fantastic, cool!
You seem to have a good bond with the fans, and nowadays with Facebook
and so on there is another way to have that, isn't it?
Al: Yeah. It's another good way of having a
direct link to fans. I mean, you used to have a lot of mail, physical
mail coming through the post. To actually read them all and re-post
them was quite expensive and time-consuming. So a lot of the times,
it was someone else who was looking after that sort of thing. But now,
I look after the Facebook page, and the website. So it's very direct;
anything that gets asked on Facebook gets asked to the band.
Mozzy: I suspected it was you who did that,
that you're more into that (smiles).
Al: Yeah (laughs). The guys are not that into
computers, so it's easy for me to do it.
Mozzy: That's cool, that you get a quick
response on there.
Al: Yeah, we try to. Sometimes I can't get back
straight away, but it's a great way for the fans to stay in touch, also
with little changes of plans or if there's something we're excited about,
something that's happening in the studio, it can go straight on the
web for everybody to see. So it's very good.
Mozzy: I bought the limited edition version
of the new album, which includes among other things a video for Too Many
Clowns. In that, you can tell you have fun together and that you have
a good chemistry.
Al: We do, yeah. It's sounds very cliché
to say that we're a good bunch of mates, but you cannot do a tour and
spend so much time with these people and not get on, it just wouldn't
work. So we all give each other space and when we're all together we
have a good laugh. There's a certain amount of mickey-taking and piss-taking;
no-one safe's for a joke (smiles). And it's the same with the crew.
You've seen the guys setting the stage up today, they got a bit of a
headache today. They work so hard, and if it wasn't for those crew members
and people like Annie that you met
The group of people we have
around make our job very easy. We get up and we play while these guys
do all the hard work. We're very lucky to have them.
Mozzy: That's important for sure. I'm sure
you have a good time on tour.
Al: It's always good fun travelling on a tour
bus. Once the show is done and packed away you can have a drink and
a chat and watch some films. Last night, me and Tony and the engineer
guy and lights guy were upstairs watching Rammstein while the other
guys were downstairs having a drink and eating.
Mozzy: And after tonight you're off to the
Al: Yes, we're touring the UK for a couple of
weeks and then come back to do some German shows and later on Sweden
Rock. That should be fun!
Mozzy: Oh yes. Thanks, and see you there!
Al: Yes. Thanks, it was a pleasure!
Second part - Bob Catley
Mozzy: As I said to Al before, congratulations
on another great album. It has done well in the charts too, do you still
find that important?
Bob: Thank you. It has been among top 20 to
top 30 around Europe. So it's encouraging. And it still means something
to be in the charts - the album charts. The rock charts is cool but
the album charts is more the real thing. I think we're number two in
Sweden in the rock charts.
You've always been popular in Sweden.
Bob: Yeah, we seem to be! We're coming back,
we're playing Sweden Rock in June. We're headlining the Wednesday night
I believe, when Queensryche are also playing. Sweden has been very good
for us over the years. It's a proper rock country with rock fans, just
like in England. Only a little prettier country, I think (laughs).
Mozzy: How do you find this small venue,
Bob: Well, it's quite a small stage so we're
trying to squeeze the people onto it (smiles). But it should be alright.
Should be a good crowd, we've had two good shows in Sweden so far and
they have been sold out. So it's a positive response from the audience.
And maybe next time we come to Sweden we can play slightly bigger venues.
That would be nice. But that depends on how successful the album is
every time, you know. And it's good playing to the Swedish people and
getting the band together for the rest of the tour.
Mozzy: I saw Pretty Maids here in October
actually, featuring your mate Ronnie from Avantasia. The atmosphere was
great and intimate.
Bob: Oh, Ronnie! My mate, good bloke! I sang
with him in Avantasia, of course. Yeah, I like the more personal gigs.
We've done all sorts of places as you can imagine. The personal gigs
have the people right by you and there's a different atmosphere compared
to when they have barriers and the people are six miles away, you know.
There's no contact and you feel quite impersonal there. But you know,
that's where promoters ask you to play so you play there; you're not
going to argue with it. We used to do the ice hockey stadiums in Sweden,
years ago, but we haven't done those for a long time. But it's just
good to be in Sweden again with our friends to have a good time. There's
always been a good following up here.
Mozzy: Going back in time, I bought the
box The Gathering. It has an interesting story written by Dave Ling, and
you can read that there was a bit of a difficult period there for a while.
Bob: Well, things were not really happening
It was after The Eleventh Hour and before On A Storyteller's
Night, in that two-year period. We were not really going anywhere to
be honest. Tony had a bad time at the time and
nothing was happening
for us as a unit. The drummer got pissed off and left (laughs). But
then we got ourselves a manager, Keith Baker, and he put some money
into the band and we recorded On A Storyteller's Night. We got a new
drummer, Jim Simpson, and Mark Stanway came back from Grand Slam, Phil
Lynott's band. Then Jim Simpson left, for some reason. I think he was
going to join UFO but it didn't actually happen. Then we got a new great
drummer in, Mickey Barker, and he stuck with us until the mid '90s.
So that was what happened in that time. And Tony was writing songs for
On A Storyteller's Night which were more commercial, I should say, and
accessible for most rock fans. Whereas before, like on The Eleventh
Hour, it was more introvert and self-indulgent, you know. So when On
A Storyteller's Night came along it charted everywhere. It was like
a different band with different music - a new start for us. The record
came out on FM Records and then on Polydor. The German Polydor took
over and put it out around the world, and we got a gold record for it
so it sold very well over the years. It was a very good album for us.
It certainly was, and what a great album. Your career did not hit off
in the US however; is that something you regret? You didn't play there
Bob: No we never really took off in America.
But we did a tour with Ozzy Osbourne in 1982 (smiles). We were the main
support band, and we went down terrifically well. We did the Eastern
seaboard, down the Southern states. It took about six weeks. But we
had to take a break because Ozzy lost his voice (laughs). So they flew
everybody home back to England and then back again (laughs). It was
a great tour! We'd love to play in America again but we don't seem to
get that far, you know.
Mozzy: It's a more difficult market, I guess.
Bob: Yeah, it is. We do well in Europe. In Germany,
Scandinavia and the UK we do really good. America is like
know. We're told that we have quite a few fans in America, but they're
like a drop in the ocean. I think we have to go there with a more interest
in the band, with promoters willing to take a chance on the band, to
put us around more than in one or two states. It's so vast, you know,
so there's a lot of travelling involved which costs a lot of money.
But we just have to be invited really. And the same thing with Japan;
we sell records there but we haven't actually played there ever. South
America is the same. So there are a lot of countries that we'd love
to play in, but how do you do it without going bankrupt, basically (laughs).
It' all outlay, so even with the best intentions in the world, it's
difficult. You need support from the promoters and people like that
to make it work. So we're working on it. We've had offers before, but
they haven't come up to what we require to sustain us out there. Maybe
one day it will happen, that would be nice.
Most importantly, though, you're still here going and doing well, after
40 years. That's an amazing achievement!
Bob: Yeah! I think that's enough to be going
on with. To be doing this at a certain level for 40 years
a bit longer than that now, even (smiles). That's great, you know! I'm
still here singing in my 60's, and Tony as well. We're still here doing
it, in front of a much younger audience; a much broader, wider audience
than we've ever had before. You get the old guys that come and see us,
with the old t-shirts (smiles), but all the other ones are younger and
are more into the new stuff. So I think it's nice that we can relate
to a younger audience. And that's because of the music; it's timeless
Mozzy: It's quality music.
Bob: I think it is, and I think people appreciate
that and know that they are going to get 11 great songs on every album
we put out. And who cares how old we are and how young they are, you
know; it doesn't matter. It's the spirit and the feelings within yourself
that is most important. It's not, you know, "that one is my dad's
age" - we're not normal dads, believe me (laughs)!
Mozzy: I remember the gig at Sweden Rock
Festival in 2002, a great gig with an amazing atmosphere. You could tell
that a lot of fans had missed Magnum. Could it have been good in some
way that you were away for a while? You've had a very solid career since.
Bob: Yes. Yeah, it's been great. Well we went
away for a few years, for six years or so. It just was not working,
there were many things. So it was just like 'stop!' (laughs). So we
did Hard Rain, and Mark went off with other people. And Al came in via
Hard Rain, of course. And then when we came back in 2002, like at Sweden
Rock, it was like 'oh yeah!'. It was like we never were away. The crowd
was all there. We thought "will anyone remember us?", or "will
we be first on the bill before anyone is there?" and so on (laughs).
But it was like we never were away. And that's down to the support of
the Swedish fans for Magnum's music, which keeps going year after year.
We're getting more and more people come and see us now, so we thank
our fans in Sweden very much for remembering us, keeping the faith with
Magnum and coming to see us time and time again. Plus it's because Tony
writes great songs. And they seem to like my voice (laughs), and the
way we come across.
Mozzy: Definitely. Your voice is certainly
important as well; you express feelings brilliantly for example.
Bob: Well, it's my job in the band, to express
the lyrics, you know. And I try to involve the audience in what we're
trying to say lyrically. Plus I'm quite expressive onstage rather than
just standing there looking at my shoes (laughs).
You seem to have fun together in the band. I saw the video for Too Many
Clowns, and you seem to have a good chemistry.
Bob: We do, yeah. We have fun and get on real
good. Al put that clip together, with backstage footage from the Shepherd's
Bush Empire in London. It's quite funny. And Harry (James, drummer)
is quite funny, a comedian. So yeah, the music can be quite serious
sometimes but we're not that serious or take ourselves that seriously.
We're not like 'don't speak to us, we're rock gods!', which can happen,
without mentioning any names (smiles). The music is the serious side
of the band while we are just fun guys who like a good laugh and a drink,
and to chat to people. We have some good fun and humour on the bus,
a bit of slap-sticking. Me and Tony are old-fashioned blokes who like
good humour, it's all in the heart, you know. But when we're onstage,
we're serious. 'Cop this, people!' (smiles). 'Listen to the music, listen
to the words!'. But everybody has a good time.
Mozzy: I think that's important, also that
the audience sees that.
Bob: I think so. And we loosen up towards the
end of the show, jumping and clapping. 'We've done all the serious shit
and here's the fun part', you know. We do four songs from the new album
live and we want people to listen to them, you know. We don't want to
mock about with those songs so we leave that towards the end of the
Mozzy: Some of your peers in the business,
not mentioning names there either, they do almost entirely old stuff,
'the hits' and so on. But you have such good new songs too.
Bob: Well, I think if you have got great new
songs, play them! Don't just keep playing the old stuff. Yeah, the old
stuff is great and has a place in the show, of course, but if you've
got new stuff, let people hear it! They want to buy the album so they
want to know what they're buying, you know. We want to promote and sell
the album, it's charting and we want to keep that going and keep the
profile up there. We do four new songs live, I think that's enough.
And they're going down terrifically well. People have had the album
long enough now to actually recognise the song when we play it onstage.
It's not like 'oh what's this, I don't know this one'.
And there's also songs from your other recent albums in the set.
Bob: Yeah. We brought two back from the last
album, On The Thirteenth Day: Blood Red Laughter and Dance Of The Black
Tattoo. And we do two from the previous album, The Visitation: Black
Skies and Freedom Day. We thought that would be good; people have had
time to absorb them by now so they've become part of the show and I
think they will be there for a long time.
Mozzy: Yes, they are excellent songs.
Bob: Very good. But then people say 'well you
didn't play the old, old stuff'. So we try and cram as much as we can
into our 1 hour and 45 minutes, and try to please most people.
Mozzy: Well, you couldn't really play for
three hours either (smiles).
Bob: We would have to do a three hour show,
yeah (smiles). It would be like
I think Rush do a three-hour show
but they do a drum solo, bass solo and so on; it's not just singing
all the time. I wouldn't be doing many gigs then; I wouldn't be fair
to do a three-hour show vocally, because it's knackering (laughs). I'd
loose my voice (laughs). So we do the best we can in about half that
time. I've got a lot of people to sing to, it's a long tour. We could
play longer, to please everybody and play all the songs everyone wanted,
but you would be onstage all night. The cleaners would be coming round
with the broom, you know (laughs).
Mozzy: Probably (laughs). Well thank you
so much for your time.
Bob: Alright, I hope that's OK for you. Enjoy
Sweden Rock and I want to thank everybody for listening to the album
and coming to see us. Bring your friends, see you soon and take care!
of the gig the same night