Bang Your Head festival
Balingen, Germany
26th of June, 2004

RockUnited caught Magnum leader Bob Catley in Bang Your Head just before their show and as it turned out Catley was quite a spokesman, so thirty minutes seemed like five while listening to him and his stories in his pleasant company. I mentioned Magnum's show in Finland in 1989 which was one of the best shows I've seen and Catley remembered the show in Helsinki and was hoping to catch all their fans again in Scandinavia later on. It has been long since they were last seen here. Magnum's official website is running behind on tourdates, so we'll just have to see where the band ends up playing next. At least Japan was supposed to be in their menu in November. The main thing was the new Magnum album "Brand New Morning", which still sounds like the good old Magnum and has also gotten great reviews.

RockUnited - What has Magnum been up to lately, other than working on the new album ?

Bob - Rehearsing for these festivals coming up. First one's today. We've been rehearsing for two weeks. We finished the album about two months ago, it comes out in the end of August, "Brand New Morning", a very good album. Everybody go buy it in Finland ! We just finished rehearsing now, 'cos we've got this show together and some festivals and then we go on tour in September. We have to rehearse the show now, so by the time we get to Europe in October, hopefully come to Scandinavia again, that would be nice, haven't been there in ages. Then we're gonna go to Japan in November to play, we've never played there, so that'll be fun. Stuff like that, just busy. Always something going on you know, organizing the art work, the schedule, flights, hotels, 'cos we manage ourselves now so we have to do it all. And we have a Magnum website now, it's looking pretty good, so that needs managing, let everybody know what's going on. Go home, sleep, come out and do some more shows, rehearsing, interviews. We've got lots (interviews) today, which is very good. Yeah, sit down, chill, talk to people. Hello, how 'ya doin' Finland ? We had a good time there.

RockUnited - Do you still need to practise the older songs ?

Bob - Yeah, 'cos we haven't done them in some time. We're mainly trying to promote the new album, but you gotta do a lot of older songs as well. Can't just do new songs. It's boring. "No, we wanna hear the old ones, "Kingdom Of Madness" and "Soldier Of The Line", ok, we'll do those...We're trying to do them a bit different than what we've used to in the past, just to keep it fresh for us and the crowd. Rehearsing can take so much time, yeah. We'll get together in the pub in between and then start again. It takes us about two weeks, but we've got a good show now. We're doing two new songs today and the rest are old ones. Stuff that everybody will know, if they're into Magnum at all you know. The crowd pleasers.

RockUnited - You don't have a long show here.

Bob - No, we're doing about an hour and ten minutes. Kinda short, but there's a lot of bands on, so..on tour we do like two hours, but we can't do it here today.

RockUnited - Tell us about the new songs.

Bob - They're terrible...we wrote a lot of crap...ok, the new songs...there's ten new songs on the album "Brand New Morning" and we'll be playing that track today and another song called "We All Run", which is basically about nuclear holocaust and the end of everything as we know it. Like it was in the cold war, when Russia had missile basis in Cuba and it was almost the third world war then. It's basically about that. "The Last Goodbye" is an uptempo sad song, but it doesn't have to be slow, does it ? "Immigrant Son" is what it says, a chap coming out from somewhere in Europe, to England actually and starting a new life, like a lot of people are now. "The Scarecrow" is a bit of an epic, it's long, it's the last track on the album. That's about SCARECROW ! "What's a scarecrow daddy ?", that's somebody saying to the child, a son or a daughter "I'll tell you a story about a scarecrow. Are you listening ? Are you sitting comfortably ?". And he's a very sad guy and not very happy and doesn't want to be there and he's got no life. But in the end he gets off his cross and he walks. It's got a little religious content as well. There's a couple of those on the album, a song called "It's Time To Come Together", which is also about whatever religion you may have, we shouldn't be arguing and fighting. Religion can cause a lot of upset and who's to say who's God is right and there's only one God as we know and he loves everybody. So why fighting over it. There's lots going on now in Iraq and Afghanistan...My God is better than your God...come on, it's time to get together. We only got one life in here. So a lot of the songs are about "come on people, let's all pull together". And everybody loves music don't they and nobody argues about that. Why can't everybody chill just like music fans, you know. You never see any trouble with music fans, they're great. Look at today, no trouble. Why can't everybody be like this, that's what some of the songs are about.

RockUnited - Talking about religion, is Magnum at all a religious band ?

Bob - Not really, no. Our keyboard player Mark (Stanway) is a born again Christian. Me and Tony (Clarkin, guitar) used to have Christian connections. Not so much now, we're just normal blokes. But it's still in us, but we're not preaching Christianity, we're not a Christian band, that's all. A lot of people used to think we were, 'cos we did songs like "The Spirit", "Sacred Hour". But that's just people misinterpreting the lyrics. Spirit is just something inside you, your heart, yourself. It's not going to church and that. Just be a good person. Have a good heart and spirit that guides you, follow it through. I mean, God's looking down on us, but he can't do it for us, we gotta do it ourselves. He needs a lot of help, he's got enough to do, we're sorting out everything else.

RockUnited - What about the Japanese bonus track, is it any different to the material on the european print ?

Bob - The Japanese track is called "Dreamland". It's a lovely big ballad. It's quite romantic in content. It's about a guy saying to his lady "let's go out and look into the stars. I just wanna be with you tonight". You know, let's go out together, let's drive into the desert and just sit under the stars and talk. Stuff like that, "I love you very much, darling". That basically. Whether that was the right one to do I don't know, but it didn't seem to fit on the album anyway, 'cos we wanted to do a big, epic rock album. The ballad kinda got in the way. We put it out for the Japanese, 'cos they always want a bonus track, so you can only get it from the Japanese import, sorry. But we've got ten great rock songs on the album and it's a very good album to listen to from start to finish. I hate the albums where you have to muck about with the order and program it differently. Just put the goddamn thing on and play it, that's a listening album for me. And you've got uptempo stuff and slow stuff and heavy stuff, it's a show, it's entertaining. It's meant to be entertaining, not boring. "Oh, I wanna put that on again", that's what we're trying to do.


RockUnited - You have a guy from Thunder in your band now.

Bob - Yeah, Harry James, he's good. He's the best drummer we've ever worked with, he's terrific. And the band is better than ever having Harry on drums. He's on the album and he's with us on all the shows. But he's with Thunder really. They're a great band, nice guys. So they let us borrow him sometimes when we're doing stuff. We don't want anybody else, we want Harry. But he's their drummer, so we have to fit in around his commitments to them. But we're managing to do that and it works great. Thunder and Magnum share the same drummer. It's not unheard of, is it ? They'll probably say "get you own drummer" next week..(laughs) We're gonna keep him, don't worry.

RockUnited - Tell us about "The River Sessions" live album recorded in Glasgow in '85, how did you decide releasing such an old live show on cd just now ?

Bob - Jimmy Devlin runs a River Records up in Scotland. He said we've got the rights to this live recording he made some years ago and asked if we'd put it out. We said sure and got involved. We did the artwork for him and cut the album. Sometimes these things just come out anyway, you have no control. And they sound terrible, because they're really old. But as soon as we get our new record out, the old record labels we used to be in put this old shit out. Just make it sound good. We took control with this "River Sessions" and we made it sound better than it did twenty years ago. It's the first tour that Micky Barker on drums did for us, he just joined the band. Couple of the speaches are too fast and there's a couple of mistakes, but it's live and it's the guys first tour. But all in all it's a very good album, it's definately worth getting. It's got some great artwork, Alan Barrow did it, same as our albums.

RockUnited - Do you think the Glasgow show is great song and soundwise ?

Bob - Yeah. It's a good selection of songs, the playing's fine, singing's good. We would've stopped it coming out, but we listened to it and thought it's pretty good, quite impressed really. The recording wasn't that great, so we've improved the sound of the record. But the rest is just live. It's about an hour and a half, recorded in Scotland in a place called The Mayfearer in Glasgow, nineteen years ago actually. There was a big crowd, sold out, big club. I'm very pleased and proud to be part of that. And I'm glad it's on the market now. We just wanted it to sound good, not rubbish. It might put people off you know, they might now buy the new album. "If that's what you sound like I'm not gonna buy the new album". So you gotta sound good all the time, if it's old or new it doesn't matter. It all has to be of certain standard.

RockUnited - Too bad I never caught you live back then, was just getting into your music at the time. My mom has all your albums, so...

Bob - Really ?! Good old mom ! That was the year of the "Storyteller's Night" album. That was the tour for the album. That was when we became more excessible to anybody. Before we'd been a bit self-indulgent, "we're a rock band, we don't care what anybody thinks. We think it's great and up yours !" But then it stopped, we started thinking we're not doing it right, we gotta get more excessible. We'd like to sell more records, please, let the truth be known. So to do that you gotta play to a lot more people and a lot more people got to want to come and see you, 'cos they love the songs. So you gotta start writing the right songs then, that's what we did. There's a big difference to us, before and after. The "Storyteller's Night" came out and we toured, the whole year. And we started to pick up a much bigger crowd, we were doing support tours with other bands, picking up their crowd and we started doing it right then. We toured with Ozzy Osbourne in the States, that went down terrific, massive places.

RockUnited - What do you think is the best album from you ?

Bob - I don't know. I like them all. Maybe "Storyteller's Night", maybe, probably. And "Wings Of Heaven" and this one (latest). But it's the new album, isn't it, and so it's all new to me. I just love the tracks.

RockUnited - What about the album covers, do you prefer the unicorns to the new ones ?

Bob - The unicorn was for the "Vigilante" album, but this is good as well. We like to do proper, goodlooking artwork. Alan (bass) has done great work, he does the artwork for us. But the "Vigilante" album was also great with the unicorn. "Chase The Dragon" had a dragon on the front, what a surprise ! That was the record labels idea, so we just kinda went with that. But that was done by Rodney Matthews who's a great friend of ours and a great artist. He did quite a few albums for us, he did "Chase" and "Eleventh Hour", which was brilliant artwork, you've got the devil with two faces, holding his hand at the little child, like temptation, a good versus evil. (In "Brand New Morning") there's the jets coming in with birds claws, so it's half bird half jet. Amazing artwork. The bombs have just been dropped in the background, so there's a bit of a holocaust going on there. But a lot of songs are about that.


RockUnited - Do you like fairytales ?

Bob - Yeah, I write fantasy lyrics myself. My solo career is where these lyrics come in, Magnum's not so much about fantasy lyrics. They're more political, general. I have a solo band under my name, Bob Catley.

RockUnited - I have the third solo from you, "Middle Earth", with the "Lord Of The Rings" theme.

Bob - I always wanted to do that, do a "Lord Of The Rings" album. The producer and the songwriter was a guy called Gary Hughes from a band called Ten, a friend of mine. I've done two (albums) previously with him and he said "what do you want to do this time, Bob ?" and I said I always wanted to do a tribute to Tolkien's "Lord Of The Rings". It took me long to read it (laughs). And he (Gary) said "ok, I'll give it a go" and it started off as like four songs, like a little peace dedicated to "Lord". But then it just carried on and ended up being a whole goddamn album. Fine. We couldn't call it "Lord", so we called it "Middle Earth". And I think it came out a real treat. And then the film comes out and wouldn't it been great to get some songs on that ! But that was all done. But I've done four solo albums so far. My last one was "When Empires Burn", but that was written by a different songwriter called Paul Hodson. He's the keyboard player with Ten, 'cos Gary was too busy at the time. And I don't write songs, never have, never will do, rubbish. But I can sing them. I know which songs I can sing and which ones I want to sing and which ones I don't want to sing. I choose the songs. We worked together really well. Tony Clarkin in Magnum he's my songwriter, but I use other songwriters outside Magnum. I've done some demos for a fifth solo album, I don't know what it's called yet. I've got four songs in the can, as they say, demos which we can work later. The record label liked them very much, they wanted us to carry on doing some more demos later this year. It should be coming out probably next September. It might be called "The Spirits Of Man", but I don't know yet, that's just a working title. And I'll be on tour with my own band doing festivals in UK and Europe next year. But this year it's Magnum.

RockUnited - Do you prefer festivals and big shows to clubs ?

Bob - Both shows. Festivals are great, but there are few and far between. Most of our shows are club shows now. But when they're sold out, it's the best gig in the world you know. I don't mind it being a club, all the fans are there and it's quite hot and sweaty, but it's sounding good and nobody minds it being too hot. I just spray water on everybody and myself...and it's a great feeling for people to come and say we love your music and thank you for the years of music. The fans are really appreciative for what we've done, which is great, terrific. But festivals are brilliant as well, any show is great.

RockUnited - The place you played in Finland in '89 takes in about 1,500 people, it was a great show.

Bob - We enjoyed it. We'd never been there before, we haven't been back since unfortunately. I wish we could, I really wish. Maybe soon.

RockUnited - Do you want to say something to our readers ?

Bob - Yes, hello everybody, especially in Finland. We hope to come back soon, we're on tour later the year around Europe. I hope we can put some shows in up north, in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland. So hope to see you then and I hope you enjoy the album. Thank you for having us all these years, thank you. My pleasure.

RockUnited - Thank you.

Interview: Satu Reunanen,
Pictures: Kari Helenius,