Magnum has been around since the early 70's, made about 10 successful studio albums, but called it a day in 1994. What was the reason for the split?
Well, we've been together for 20 years, and Tony was feeling the need to move on musically, and he wanted to have a change in songs. He wanted to write different stuff, moving on as a songwriter. He felt restricted having to come up with the same kind of songs all the time that were expected of Magnum. So he said: 'I can't do this anymore, I'm leaving the band to pursue my own personal interests. So that was sad, we talked about it and decided to do a farewell tour. That was fair to the fans, for they probably never would see us again. So we did the farewell tour in 1995, released the live album 'The Last Dance' in 1996, and that was it, over and out. In the meantime Tony had got some songs demod, which he was gonna use to put round to other people, and he asked me or I would be the voice on de demos. 'Sure, I got nothing else to do', there's no more Magnum now, what am I gonna do, I'm out of a job'. So I carried on working with him, and fortunately for us those songs ended up as an album themselves. Somebody at CBS Records was sent the demos by Tony, with the question if he knew somebody who could sing them, but the guy thought is was great stuff as it was, so he suggested that Tony and I should stick together. Now it was quite different then what magnum had been doing, so all this ended up in the first Hard Rain album.
Indeed, after the break-up you recorded two albums with Tony Clarkin under the moniker Hard Rain, but you also recorded three solo-albums. How do you look back at these albums?
It was kind of strange. We were doing Hard Rain, and the record company Now & Then Records got in touch with their Internet lady Annie, asking if we (as Hard Rain) were interested to appear on the 1997 Gods of Rock festival, and also if Bob (that's me) was interested in working with a young, upcoming songwriter called Gary Hughes. Well, I did fancy it, if the songs were really good, and Tony said like: 'Yeah, yeah, go for it, as long as it doesn't interfere with Hard Rain.' So I had a meeting with Gary and the two guys from Now & Then Records, we got on fine and I heard some of the stuff, and I said: 'Yeah, let's do it. Gary was writing some songs a bit like Magnum used to do, in the same vain as the older Magnum stuff. So we did an album called 'The Tower', which was very 'A Storytellers Night'. It was very well received by the press and the fans, and I still think it was kind of a Magnum album, but then without Tony, and felt very strange. But anyway, it was great to do it, and I started doing some gigs (I put a band around myself), which went very well. So, it became three albums, but there came to a point that what I was doing with Gary started to clash with Hard Rain. I was doing my second album, 'Legends', and I had a big tour coming up, but so did Hard Rain also unfortunately, and at that time I was more into Gary's songs than I was with some of the Hard Rain songs. So I had to make a big decision, and I told Tony and the other guys that I would leave the band to follow what I considered to be the best for me. So I left Hard Rain, Hard Rain packed it in, and I carried on as a solo artist.
Your last solo effort was entitled 'Middle-Earth' (2001), which was all about the JRR Tolkien novel 'Lord of the Rings'. How did you like the movie?
I enjoyed the movie very much, brilliant, yeah I thought it was great. It was all in there…although a lot was missed out, but still it looked good, and it's a three hour film anyway. All the main points were in there, and I think they've done a great job, the actors were terrific, the special effects wonderful, everybody's in there, so I think they did a really good job on the film.
Last year Magnum came back together again to record a new album. The obvious question of course is why?
Well, so many people were saying or asking when we would Magnum back together again, the interest for Magnum never went away. Tony thought about all these requests, and he called me one day, when I was in the middle of the recording sessions for the 'Middle-Earth' album, and asked me if I fancied making another Magnum album. He honestly thought that I didn't wanna do it, but I immediately said like: 'Yeah, why not? I said to Tony that I thought that he was the one who wouldn't do it, but nobody rang anybody…Anyway, Tony had about twenty ideas for songs and a little later we went to the studio (we've got our own studio in Wolverhampton) and began to record stuff. It all worked out brilliant in the end, especially when you realize that I thought I had lost Magnum forever.
'Breath Of Life' is the first Magnum studio album in eight years. How was it to work as Magnum again?
Oh, it was pure fun. I never stopped thinking Magnum, even during my solo stuff, I was always coming out with stuff that I'd learned from the Magnum years, and it wasn't that long that I stopped working with Tony, only for a year I suppose, so it was quite easy really, Tony and I just went in there and all the ideas came flooding back, so we tried to make the new tunes sound like classic Magnum, and I think we've succeeded in this, I think we've done a very good album, and all the reports from fans and the press say the same.
How would you describe the sound on the new album, to somebody who isn't familiar with the band?
Well, it's classic rock stuff. A mixture of multi track guitars, keyboards, vocals, strong melodies. It's not as pompous as we used to be, some of the songs are a bit more straight ahead now, but there still a couple of epics in there. All in all it's a typical Magnum album, but with a really wonderful production I think.
About the songs, were they all written especially for this album, or did you also use some left over material from the past few years?
No no no, it was all brand new stuff. We got some stuff left over, which we're gonna use as a basis for the next album, for this is an ongoing thing now.
The rock scene has changed quite a bit the last few years, and a lot of new styles emerged in the rock spectrum. No I don't hear any really new influences in Magnum's music, so I wonder, do you keep up with the new developments in music?
Well, me and Tony, while we were recording, listened to a lot of records from the newer bands like Limp Bizkit, The Offspring, Rancid and other bands and thought is was pretty good. We'd like to keep up with what's going down, not to copy but to keep our ears at the ground and try some things out in our own songs. I think there's a little bit of Limp Bizkit in one track on the album called 'Cry', you know, we steal a bit here and there, like everybody does, and mould it into our own songs. So it's good to keep up with other bands. You just can't keep doing the same you did twenty years ago, there are some really great sounding rock records around right now, and you've got to compete with that, so you have to listen to stuff, you have to keep up with time and we are concerned about that. We still want to be relevant, you know, but still in the classic Magnum way.
'Breath Of Life' contains 12 brand new songs, but the first (limited) edition goes with a bonus CD, on which are two live tracks ('The Flood' and 'Back Street Kid') and a radio acoustic ('We All Need To Be Loved').
Well, that was the idea but it can't happen now. We could have let it happen, but it would cost too much, for it would have ended up as a double CD, for double the usual price, and that was never the idea. It was supposed to be like a free CD, but SPV (our label) looked into it and what it was gonna cost, and they should have to charge the record shops a bit more, so the record shops would be forced to charge the fans more, so in the end we blew the whole idea out of the water. In the beginning it were six tracks, we knocked it down to three, and these (the ones you mentioned in the question) ended up as bonus tracks on the album. The other three tracks we'll probably use for something else in the future. We wanted the people to pay the normal price, and we didn't want to outprice ourselves hahaha.
For CD's already cost a lot of money as it is, here in Holland it's about 20 up to 25 Euro for one CD.
Yeah, about 15 English Pounds, and I agree that's too much. People think that bands get all the money, but they don't, it's the record stores, they bang the price right up.
According to the booklet of the promo the band hasn't got a drummer. Who (or what) drummed on the album then?
Well, Tony did actually, he can do that as well. I mean, he did most of 'm, but there are also some drum samples on there, some drum loops, but Tony did most of it. On stage we're gonna be using Harry Jameson, we got him now for the duration, so that's what people will see if they come to see us life. He's a brilliant drummer, unfortunately he wasn't available at the moment we were recording, but on the next album we'd like Harry to record with us, or somebody else, whoever is available.
In March Magnum will do a UK tour, the band's confirmed for the Sweden Rock Festival in June, plus the Bang Your Head Festival in Germany the same month, but what about the rest of Europe?
We're coming round hopefully somewhere in April, to do some shows in Germany mainly, we're doing a few in Sweden as well, we're doing some in Spain, so they're coming in slowly. Promoters are aware of our new album coming out and that we want to be on tour, so it's just a matter of getting agreed on the right price. I mean, as long as we don't loose money we'll come and play. The artist tax is pretty big in Europe, so we have to add all that up, and you have to ask yourself if it's financially viable to tour certain countries in Europe. And it's not just us, a lot of other bands have that problem.
What do you prefer anyway, gigs at the big festivals, or club performances?
In fact all of it hahaha. I love the stadiums of course, with all of them people, brilliant, you can't beat that, but on the other extreme you got your little clubs, which are packed and sweaty, and your feet are sticking to the floor, there's hardly room on the stage, people pulling you off the stage, that's brilliant as well. And anything in between, theaters, or big clubs, anything. Everything got its own vibe, as long as the fans turn up it doesn't matter were you are. We just love working and touring and playing live, you know, it doesn't matter were it is, but the more people the better obviously.
Now Magnum has resurrected, does this also mean that there's less or no time at all for your own solo efforts?
Not at the moment, no. My other record company knows that I have to give Magnum a fair go this year, although later this year I'm supposed to record another solo album. I don't think Gary's available anyway, he's doing a lot with other people and his own band, so unless I start working with different songwriters I don't see myself doing anything this year. I mean, I've got to be fair to Magnum now, and be available, you can't start pissing about again, so I'm all Magnum this year. As far as I can see now another solo album won't come out as early as spring 2003. I don't know at this time who's gonna write songs for it, but there are some names up for it, like Kip Winger, Russ Ballard, a guy from Survivor, but it's just talk at the moment, so we'll see.
But you are also involved in a project called 'Hound Of The Baskervilles', which is gonna come out this year, right?
Yes, that album's gonna be out soon. It's all about the Sherlock Holmes tale 'Hound Of The Baskervilles', a musical version if you want, and I play the part of Sir Henry Baskerville. This project is actually from Clive Nolan from Arena and Oliver Wakeman (Rick Wakeman's son), they've co-written the album, and there are some really good people on it (like Arjan Lucassen from the Ayreon projects). I did one album before for them, called 'Jabberwocky' some years ago, and that was good, so when they asked me to appear on this one I didn't hesitate to do so. It's a concept album, and totally different then what Magnum does. It's good to do different stuff you know, it keeps you on your toes. I'm also appearing on the new Avantasia album which comes out this summer, I'll be doing a couple of songs on this Heavy Metal kind of opera album.
So here's the new album, here's a tour, what do you expect from this all?
I would hope that everybody gives us a chance and comes to see us play, come to see just how we are and enjoy the music. Furthermore hope to carry on recording for a few years yet, just like we always did, trying to get back to a lot of people that we played to before, just trying to get back to the Magnum days, you know. That's what I hope for, not expect but hope for.
Is there anything left you want to say?
I just want to say to your readers, give this album a change, it will grow on you pretty quickly, we're very proud of it, we hope you enjoy it, and we hope to see you on tour. Keep Rocking!!! Keep music alive!!!