Magnum: Q&A with Al Barrow


Questions by Dave Evans

MR: Firstly congratulations on Evolution, it seemed to be very well received throughout Europe. What were your feelings about re-visiting older material?

AB: It is something that is not all that often done by Magnum. Sure they have albums in the past re-visiting some songs, and maybe re-recording them in a new way.

It seemed great to be able to go back in the studio and take some songs – that have now become a major part of our live set, and record them in a state we now play them. They do evolve quite a bit live, and with new recording techniques it was great to take the songs and add the more beefy sound, I think we now have?

I understand Tony Clarkin (guitarist and songwriter), is not one to dwell on former glories. How was he convinced to the album?

The album came from a conversation he had with Ollie Hahn at SPV Records. They are a great bunch to work with, and have been so positive in everything Magnum have done in the last ten years or so. After a conversation it seemed a good idea, and it was nice to get in the studio again to be honest. I think it was nice to be able to record without Tony having to really work as hard as he does on writing all new lyrics etc. So it was quite a pleasurable experience for us all. Not to say for one second we didn’t put in the hours of work. It was still lots of blood, sweat and tea.

Were there any songs you re-recorded, but that didn’t make the final cut?

No, we knew exactly which songs we wanted to do. We all got together and wrote out a list, then we all looked at the lists, and found we pretty much agreed on the set that should be recorded.

Has the making of the new album changed how the band look at set-lists, i.e. re-visiting older songs/albums?

Not really, Bob always comes up with the set-lists really. We do sit down and discuss what we feel might be best, but Bob is good at this so we tend to leave it to him. He has done a good job so far I think?

You have been a part of the Magnum family for a number of years now, and are involved in all manner of band activities – website, sleeve design, the Press etc. Could the band possibly do without you?

I am sure they could find someone else who is young, talented, good looking, suave, sophisticated, intelligent, modest – and generally the sex interest of the band. If they looked hard enough. We all bring something to the table. We all play our part. It has been a blast for me to be able to use what talent I have to make something very special, and that gets seen by a lot of people. Being in Magnum has opened up doors to me I may not have even had a chance to look into. I feel very lucky to have been given the chance to be part of something like this.

How do you get on with the iconic, and oft present sleeve designer Rodney Matthews. You both had illustrations on The Visitation. Would you ever collaborate one one single combined image?

Me and Rodders get on very well. It has been a real pleasure knowing an working with him all these years. I don’t think we could work on the same piece of artwork as our styles would conflict. But somehow when we bring my computer graphics, and his hand drawn illustrations together they seem to marry up pretty well. You can never say never though. I had admired his work for many years before I met him, so once again I feel very lucky.

 The band have just entered the studio to record a new album I understand. The two new songs on Evolution; ‘The Fall’ and ‘Do You Know Who You Are’ were extremely well received. Is this the direction you envisage the new album to go in. Any song titles, or an album title?

We do have a working title, but I’m sorry I would have to kill you if I told you. We have no set game plan recording new material. As everyone knows, Tony will work in his home studio and tehn bring in the basics of the album. This is when he will get Bob to put on some guide vocals, to set keys and tempos etc. Then one by one we all come in and lay down our parts. I have been spending more and more time sitting in on the recording process as years have gone by. Doing more and more backing vocals, and working on the artwork. Being in constant communication with Bob and Tony about future plans. We spend a lot of time together over the year.I think they need all the help they can get. As I said I am the sexiest and most talented.

You have recently reverted to playing and recording with a Fender Jazz bass guitar. What were the reasons from changing from Warwick?

I still use Warwick basses and amps in the studio and live. I just walked into a shop and saw this Fender Jazz gleaming at me. I tried it out and took it home. I have used it on the last set of dates, and it feels and sounds great. But I will not stop usuing Warwick gear either. Hans at Warwick has been very good to me over these years with fantastic service, and supplying me with some of the best basses in the world. I am not going to forget that over night.

Bringing it back to the beginning. Is there an album from Magnum’s back catalogue you would love to have played on?

All of them if I had chance. I do like Rock Art and there is some nice playing on there. I am very proud of what I have recorded with the guys, and I hope for the fans, it stands up as well as any other previous players Magnum have had. I try hard to bring myself to the band, but not forgetting to stay true to the original recordings when playing back catalogue stuff live.

As you are the youngest member of the band, how do the others keep up with you when you are on tour. I understand Tony is a tea-totaller now, but I bet there are a few hi-jinks that would surprise fans?

From the time I joined the guys I was always the one trying to keep up. You read about all these bands doing the rock and roll thing, but if people only knew the half of it. Magnum made them look like choir boys in comparison. These days the pace is a lot slower and hardly any drinking happens. It is more sedate as you would expect. But, even though I say that, when they do get up to no good they still have a wicked streak. There is a saying; “What happens on tour, stays on tour”. As with any band, it is the un-written rule, so sorry about that..I can’t say.

And finally, Magnum 2012, do you have any immediate plans to tour?

We are at present in the studio recording, and we have some big plans for later in the year. All I can say today is keep an eye on the website for news.

Footnote, at time of going to press Magnum have announced the title of the new album (On The 13th Day), a series of European tour dates, and a show with Toto.