Interview: Tony Clarkin, Magnum

A Right Royal Welcome

Veteran rock stalwarts Magnum will shortly release their eighth studio album Goodnight LA upon us. After years of sheer grafting it looks like the band may well be set for the big time both in Europe and more importantly in the US.

As the band brace themselves for their imminent UK tour, which includes the band's first ever headline appearance at Wembley Arena, we decided to hook up with guitarist/ songwriter Tony Clarkin at his LA apartment for an exclusive insight into the new album and what the future may hold for these British rock legends.

What can you tell us about the new album? How have you approached your songwriting this time around?

"As you know, it's going to be titled Goodnight LA, which is the name of the studios that we've been working at out here. For the first time in my career I'm co-writing songs with other people. I've written three with Russ Ballard, two with Jim Vallance, and one with Sue Shifrin. The remaining 60% of the material I wrote myself."

Are there any over-riding themes throughout the new songs?

"Well, it's got all the usual Magnum trademarks, the longing for lost loved ones, the epiphany of war, etc. I wrote the song Reckless Man about your typical American politician who gets into hot water – it's a real great rocker! There’s also a track called Only A Memory, which has a really serious storyline."

So, how does the new material differ from the Wings Of Heaven album? What sort of attitude have the band taken in the studio towards recording it this time round?

"The new stuff is both harder and in many ways much more commercial. It's much more guitar-orientated! Yet to me it sounds a lot more like we do when we're playing live and is a much better representation of what we really are. Keith Olsen, our producer, has been amazing to work with and he's given our songs much more energy. And Bob's done some amazing vocals on this album. Just wait till you hear them! All the same, things have been pretty meticulous in the studio and we've been working to a strict timetable, which has given us a greater sense of discipline."

Are you going for a more American sound, or are you sticking to that essential English rock sound that I think is the band's trademark?

"I think that some of the songs are typical Magnum. There's one called Born To Be King, which is a real epic. On the other hand there's a lot of variety on this album. For instance, there's a song which I co-wrote with Russ titled Rocking Chair, which is a much lighter, fun type of number. It's a throwback to past musical influences really. We've also done some great ballads this time round."

Which new album cuts are your personal favourites then?

"It's hard to say really because I'm so involved with everything that we're doing. It takes me at least six months for me to pick out individual songs that I like. Everything's so fragmented at the moment it's difficult to pin down anything. The true test will come when we get out there and play them live to our fans!"

As far as your forthcoming live shows go in the UK – will there be any surprises in store?

"We'll really be doing the same show as we did on our last tour with all the props we used last time. The only difference this time will be the fact that we're playing some larger venues which is going to be fun."

What are your touring plans after the UK shows – will you be concentrating your efforts on Europe or will you be heading stateside again?

"Probably later in the year I think that we'll be concentrating on European dates as far as I know. We definitely won't be playing any shows in America until the album takes off out there. There is talk of some festival dates though."

Are there any shows that you are really looking forward to doing?

We're looking forward to the whole lot. It's always great for us to play in the UK. 90% of our success has been due to the continued loyalty of our fans and it's always a pleaser to play for them.

Mark Crampton
Rif Raff
May 1990

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