Sandra: You are currently on tour with “Saga”, how is that going?
Tony: Good! We’ve known Jimmy and Michael for a long time. This is the first time we have met the other guys in the band, but Michael actually sang on one of our albums way back in 1990 or something like that in America. And we recorded some bass sides with Jimmy because he has got a recording studio there. So we knew the guys anyway. And it’s going good. Both very different music but it works good.
Sandra: Congratulations on your new awesome album, which is now your 20th. How many more will there be? Until it’s not possible anymore?
Tony: I don’t know! Haha I hope so! It’s nice to do new albums rather than just looking back all the time, and it’s a bit of a challenge trying to do something you haven’t done before, you know?
Sandra: We are definitely looking forward to more! Has Magnum ever considered breaking up, of course we hope not!
Tony: Breaking up? Well, I can’t remember when, but I’ve said to the lads “I’ve had enough of this!” and sort of quit the band and it fell apart. I said that I wanted to get in the studio more and not come on the road. And that lasted for about 7 years, but then I found everyone else and asked if we wanted to put the band back together and they were like, “YES! YES!” And we did and here we are, still Magnum. That was about 10 or 12 years ago.
Sandra: You can probably remember your first tour in the history of magnum. Would you still tour under these circumstances today, so that your music can be carried around the world?
Tony: I guess so. Music is music. They just call it different names and dress it up in different clothes. I guess it has always been hard to start out as a band and getting people to notice you, and you hope the people like the music you are playing. There is a lot of luck involved. There is no formula to it. You can’t just follow a certain formula and be successful. It doesn’t happen like that. So, I guess it has always been the same. Just a lot of luck.
Sandra: It says in the trade press that you guys performed in front of Judas Priest in 1976, and especially that it was the stepping stone to your success. Do you think the same? And why was your debut album released 2 years later?
Tony: The Judas Priest tour? Was it really 1976? Yea I think you are right! See we were playing in a pub in England, in Birmingham. And all the local bands used to play at this pub, and the one night we were playing, we finished playing and came off the stage, and this guy came up to us and he was the manager of Judas Priest. He said, “Do you want to go on tour with Judas Priest?” And we were like “Whoa! YEA!” So he said to be at Liverpool Empire tomorrow at like 10 o’clock in the morning. He said you are on the tour and we were like what?? We couldn’t believe it. So we got all our gear and got up there the next day. Liverpool Empire held about 3,000 people and we had only been playing in pubs and things. The pub held about 150 people. And this is like 3,000 people. Really crazy! It really did help us. Not only did it help us get to more people. But it certainly made you realize what you have to do when you are playing on a really big stage with a really big audience. I mean I had like a small amplifier and it was on a chair! Just crazy. But I think it was really good and we couldn’t believe it. We felt like we were on the moon! And that led on to other things. It was great for us.
Sandra: A lot of musicians fall into a deep hole when the tour is over. At the end of a tour when you sit at home again, do you wish that you could go back on tour, or do you think that it is enough then?
Tony: When you get back, for like 2 weeks after you get home you are like “Thank god!” You are watching the TV and it is about 9 o’clock and you feel like you are ready to go onstage. Haha After about 2 weeks you want to start doing it again. Normally I start writing songs, to fill the hole I suppose.
Sandra: Ok, let’s talk about your new album. Where did you guys get all these awesome new ideas from that you have on your new album?
Tony: I don’t know…here and there. Haha Well I write the songs at home, and I have a cabin where I go and record them as songs. Then I get Bob to listen to what I have done. Normally I write about 50 pieces of music and then get it down to about 20, and that’s when I give them to Bob to see which melody he likes best and see whether we are thinking the same things. By then I have written the lyrics and Bob just has a go at singing them. It is just the 2 of us at this point. Bob sings it and we are like, “Oh yea that sounds great!” or sometimes it doesn’t work. That’s the way we choose them. And hopefully we end up with a good album.
Sandra: Do you actually sit down and think about composing new music or does it just come to you while doing something else?
Tony: When I am not on tour, I write every day. But a lot of it might be rubbish. I write things down like phrases I have heard or people on the telephone or someone walking down the street. “Live till you die”, this place in Lichfield near where I live, I was walking down the street and this old guy turned to a little girl and said “Oh anyway! You’ll live till you die!” and kept walking on. So I write it down. Haha and now you see it’s the title. A lot of things happen like that.
Sandra: On your last album, “Escape from the Shadow Gardens” you have the feeling that every note is hitting the point. Do you write your music as music theory is being taught, or do you compose the way you want it to sound?
Tony: I’m actually not really interested in the sound when I’m writing. And sometimes when ideas come quickly, I may be playing on an out of tune guitar just to get the idea down. It still gives me the idea of what I want. I don’t have any preconceived ideas. It’s like, I’m writing a piece and then the next day I come in and listen to it and think, “Oh that sounds like rubbish.” Or come in and say “Well yea I know what I was thinking.” So I would add a little bit to it, or take a little bit away. Then maybe I’ll here it the next day as well and just things like that add to it and finally it becomes a song. That’s the way I do it. A lot of people do it their own ways. I think it is very good to walk away from a piece of music that you are writing, especially when you are stuck, when you are looking for lyrics and things. It’s really good to walk away and walk down the street. You will come back and most of time things will seem to fall into place.
Sandra: After finishing the music for an album, do you have the cover of the CD in front of your eyes? Or do you give an artist your music and see what is going to come out?
Tony: Well I know the guy that does that very well. I have known him for years and years. I just give him a call and he comes to the studio when we are recording the album. The artwork for this album, he had come to the studio and I met him at the studio and I said, “Oh by the way, I want you to do some artwork for me.” And I have got the title of the album, “Escape from the Shadow Garden” I said to him and he said, “Oh I like that!” He had asked what I was envisioning and then I told him all of these things. Then he did a quick rough drawing of it and he made some suggestions about the shadow garden. So probably about a week went by and then I called him and told him I wanted question marks on the tree. Then the next day I called him and said that I wanted melting question marks on the tree. So he is great and he puts all of these ideas, or all of these stupid ideas that I come up with, and he puts them into perspective. He then brings me the finished artwork and uncovers it and I am like “WOW! That’s great!” That’s how we do that. Haha
Sandra: “Escape from the Shadow Garden”, especially because of the keyboard, sounds very much like the 80’s. Have you guys ever considered to sound more modern, or was that not even a question?
Tony: Yea it’s not a question really. It doesn’t worry me in the least when someone says that we sound old fashioned. I would just say “Oh ok. That’s good!” I don’t really care. I don’t try to write commercial music or fashionable music. I try to write what I think is good music, and passionate music. That’s what I like. I just hope other people like what I am writing. See I write for myself initially. You can only write for yourself. You can’t really write for 20,000 people can you? So you can write for yourself, that’s what you can do. So that is what I do and hope that there are people out there like me who really like it!
Sandra: Did you record your new album like you did 30 years ago, or do you also use the modern recording technology?
Tony: No we use computers. It just makes it less painful and there are just so many different things you can use. I change things a lot in the recording process. For instance, I edit things all the time and it’s easy to take things away if needed. So with a computer you can instantly do all that. Using anything else is so time consuming. There are advantages and disadvantages of both things. But the advantages of using the computer far outweigh the disadvantages, in my opinion.
Sandra: Which album from your point of view, the best album of the band?
Tony: The best album we have done? You know I am going to say this. “Escape from the Shadow Garden”. Haha I’m kind of fed up with it, because it takes me about 14 months to write the stuff, 3 months to record it. And by then I’m really fed up with it. But I think it’s a good album. And I particularly think the lyric content is really good. For the last 4 albums, each time it has gotten better. Not by vast amounts. It really is difficult to make an album. Like a whole thing. I don’t have the feeling like “why did I do that” with this album. I might have it in six months. But at the moment, I believe it’s our newest album.
Sandra: Do you still have role models even after all of those years?
Tony: I wouldn’t say role models, I would say…Inspiration. Inspiration from people, sure. Like a beautiful melody can inspire you to write something or gives you the energy to actually write something, you know?
Sandra: What would you give guitarists on their way if they asked you for advice?
Tony: Oh that’s a tough one. I could only say the stuff that has happened to me. I have been playing for like a zillion years, and you just keep plucking away, really. That’s all you can really do. And at some point maybe you will be quite successful. You just have to keep going!
Sandra: Okay, thank you very much. Have fun at the show and good luck.