The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world




on the great new album 'Sacred Blood, 'Divine' Lies'; and lounging on a balcony in sunny PerthÖ




For years Tony Clarkin has guided Magnum to become one of the great British Rock bands. We caught up with him to talk about the new album 'Sacred Blood, 'Divine' Lies' - an album that it's not possible to play and skip a single track. It's great to hear that the best years are still to come...

Mark: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today Tony.


Tony: No problem Mark.


Mark: Iíve just been listening to the new album ĎSacred Blood, ĎDivineí Liesí album back to back; you know what, itís bloody good! Were you pleased with it once you got it in the can?


Tony: Thank you, thanks mate, very pleased with it yeah!


Mark: Where did the title for the album come from, itís a cool title?


Tony: I started writing the song ĎSacred Blood, ĎDivineí Liesí but I had no idea what it was going to be called but I came up with that line even before I came up with the music. It was more like writing a poem really, I pretty much wrote the chorus without any music or melody and it ended up being the title track. I guess I just thought it was a cool title for the album.


Mark: Do you always start out like that? Do you have a loose concept before you start writing or does it just come to you?


Tony: I donít really have a formulaic way of doing things, this time I just started to write some lyrics and I liked them but itís really quite rare I do it that way. Normally Iím working on music or a melody, but the melody came second on this. So this is a rarity.


Mark: Itís a really rocking album, there are some really big songs on there and I love the two singles that are out there at the moment. If we look at some of the tracks there are some long songs on there. Do you find yourself writing more that way these days; theyíre all five minutes plus more or less!


Tony: (laughs) I think itís harder to write short tunes! You know if you write like a three minute twenty like the radio always wanted I donít think thereís enough time to really get to what you are trying to say so maybe it just takes me longer to get it across lyrically to say what I want to say (laughs)!


Mark: As a fan for many years Iíve always loved your lyrics. Some of the highlights for me aside from the title track were ĎGypsy Queení the song that was inspired by your St Petersburg show. Now that is a great song. ĎDonít Cry Babyí the closer too is wonderful as is ĎYour Dreams Wonít Dieí. Do you have any particular favourites or ones that will definitely make it into the live set?


Tony: (laughs) Itís real hard for me to really speak about them other than ĎGypsy Queení when I actually got that to where I wanted it to be I was jumping up and down thinking ďThis is great I love it, I absolutely love it.Ē And everybody that heard it was telling me ďThatís a great songĒ but Bob was silent and I was thinking ďDoesnít he like that song or something?Ē But he told me he does like that song, I just thought it was funny that he was silent when everyone else was telling me it was great (laughs). I think one of my favourite songs is ĎDonít Cry Babyí, Iíd written ĎSacred Bloodí and then it was íDonít Cry Babyí so I had the first and last song and all I had to do was fill in the middle bit! (laughs) I actually like the al though to be truthful. I havenít heard the album though now for about a month, Iím trying not to listen to it!


Mark: To me personally, and Iíve been a Magnum fan from way back, to me I think this is one of your very best, certainly since you got back together in 2002. Is that something you think about at all? Do you ever look at a new album in the context of what youíve done before? Or is that the furthest thing from your mind?


Tony: Itís the furthest thing from my mind when Ií writing it, but when itís done and you listen through you go through this 18 month period of listening to songs a million times till it drives you crazy. But then in a short period of time when the albumís finished I just go to bed and lay there with the headphones on and it really impresses me. And that makes me feel really confident. So this album and ĎEscape from the Shadow Gardení which I thought was real good, and this one I think is better I really do. I donít know if I mean better, itís just another album that Iím really proud of, I think weíve pulled out all the stops and Iím really pleased with it.


Mark: Iíve played it a dozen times now and I love it, itís one of those rare albums where you canít skip a track.


Tony: Itís great that you say that, I love it that you said you canít skip a track.


Mark: Has technology vastly changed the way you write. Back in the old days I remember reading that you didnít used to write anything down, youíd turn up in the studio with a song and show the band how to play it!


Tony: Yes it has, I mean Iíve got my own studio in my house now, In those days I used to write on an acoustic guitar and Iíd go in, and never record anything Iíd just have to remember it (laughs) and then as you said Iíd go into the rehearsal studio and go ďThis is how it goesĒ and hope it worked out! When I look back at how haphazard it was I canít believe it! These days I take a good 14 or 15 months writing, not just this album but just writing and writing and writing, not every single day, but most days and at some point Iíll get to a place where I think ďOK this is sounding good nowĒ and Iíll record it all and I donít have to go through that stupid thing where Iíd say ďThis is how you sing it Bob, This is how the bass goesÖĒ (laughs) I just put it all down then I go in the studio weíre going to record in and re-do it all. Iím there with Bob on his own really, just to go through all the songs and make sure everything is singable that Iíve written, itís all silly little things like certain words are better than others to actually sing . So technology to me, yes I could have recorded it one a tape recorder back in the day, but these days I use a computer and edit it before the band has even heard it. Now I donít have any excuses and itís a much quicker process as well.


Mark: When you actually get into the studio do you ever change your mind? Do you ever listen and think ďI wish Iíd done thatĒ or ďMaybe I can change that up a bitĒ?


Tony: These days when I get into the studio Iíve got a really well structured set of songs. The way I decide whether itís any good or not has a lot to do with how Bob sings it. Obviously I try to get the best melody I possibly can, but I donít necessarily finish all the lyrics before Bob sings. So sometimes Iíll say ďsing a chorus on this one Bob and see how it worksĒ and sometimes it doesnít and Iíll put that to one side. And then other times Iím jumping up and down again thinking ďThis is great I love it, I love itĒ. But itís all a bit of a shot in the dark really with everything you do. I can come up with what I think is a great rock song and maybe it donít suit Bobís voice, though most things do, but something can always go wrong . When we did this album I wrote 25 songs I think it was, then I broke it down to 16, then 13, then to 10. The last three songs I discarded I put on a bonus disc with the DVDs.


Mark: Thatís the first time I think youíve ever done that isnít it? (Release bonus tracks)


Tony: Yeah, people keep saying to me ďWhat do you do with all the material that you donít use?Ē and generally I just shelve it because I take the opinion if they didnít make the album they canít be good enough, but these three tracks I thought were pretty good but I thought broke up the flow of the album but were good enough to be heard so we put them on the bonus disc.


Mark: Iíll certainly be buying that one. Taking it all the way back Tony, what was it that triggered you to want to become a musician? Was there a defining moment or was it a gradual process?


Tony: I think when I was at school, I made a guitar because I couldnít afford one and I had some mates and one became a bass player, one became a singer and one became a guitarist and the other a drummer - It seemed like quite a natural thing. And the Ďwork thingí, well that seemed to get in the way of becoming a musician so I did that for a about three years, (laughs) I mean I worked for about three years and then I just quit and said to myself Iím going to take music really seriously, this is what I want to, and come hell or high-water thatís what Iím going to be. And Iím still doing it now!


Mark: Itís certainly stuck! So what are the best and worst aspects of a life in music? Tony: I donít really know anything else really. I feel so lucky that every day I can go in my studio and play music, every day I can play guitar if I want to, and then go on tour. I just feel really lucky really. Mark: It sounds like youíve still got all the passion you always had in the early days too?


Tony: I think itís got more, I think Iíve got more passion than I ever had. When I was younger I was just doing it for the fun of it you know, getting drunk and all that sort of stuff. Now I just really enjoy it more than I ever have.


Mark: Do you have any unfulfilled musical ambitions either with Magnum or personally? Anything youíve always wanted to do?


Tony: My main thing is that I just want this to continue. I want to write the unwriteable song, come up with some magic stuff. Thatís what I want to do all of the time. I mean Iíve been writing these last two or three weeks and itís a bit of a shock because you finish and album and your head is completely empty, youíve had a few months without writing, and like I said I have my own studio and Iíve written six songs now I think and I just have this urge dragging me saying ďCome on, come on youíve got to do somethingĒ and I was just so excited about doing it and I just want that feeling to carry on Mark.


Mark: Just time for a couple more questions before our time is up. If you could have been a ĎFly on the wallí for the creation of any great album from any period, just to see how the magic happened and it all came together, what would it have been for you?


Tony: (pause) It would have to be a Beatles album wouldnít it I suppose, purely because they were so ground-breaking. I loved them when they came out, but I was more of a Stones guy at the time, but being in studios and seeing records lying about you put one on as you havenít heard it in years and you realise how good McCartneyís voice was and how great the songs were. You tend to forget things like that, but I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall for any one of those albums.


Mark: And finally easy question to end with Tony: what is the meaning of life?


Tony: (laughs) Yeah thatís a really easy one! I think itís lying on your balcony in the sun in Perth, thatís got to be the meaning of life Mark.


Mark: (laughs) Do you think you guys will ever get out here one day? Iíve got a sun lounger for you! Is there any country youíd like to play that youíve never been to?


Tony: (laughs) I donít know. Thereís like a million countries out there Iíve never been to but you always need a promoter to say ďWe want the band thereĒ you canít just get on a plane and turn up, but Iíd love to come out to Australia it would be brilliant.


Mark: Weíll have to see if we can find one then for you. We get quite a few rock bands out there these days; we had Uriah Heep out just last year.


Tony: Oh really? OK.


Mark: They packed out a thousand-seater and thereís lots of ex-pats in Perth.


Tony: Weíre with the same agent so you never know.


Mark: Well thank you so much Tony for talking to The Rockpit today, itís been a pleasure; youíve always been one of my favourite song-writers so itís been great to catch up and talk about the great new album.


Tony: Thank you Mark, itís nice of you to say.


Mark: Iíve always loved Magnum and it was so cool to hear you say youíre even more passionate about the music than youíve ever been, itís brilliant knowing that the final tour is still light years away!


Tony: Cheers mate.



Tony Clarkin spoke to Mark Rockpit - February 2016  


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