KINGDOM OF MADNESS: interview
ENTER THE KINGDOM OF MADNESS – AN INTERVIEW WITH MARK STANWAY
Last year saw the arrival of a highly skilled ensemble consisting of renowned musicians who have trod the board with such legendary acts as Magnum, Black Sabbath, Whitesnake, Grand Slam, and UFO among others. I am of course referring to the band named Kingdom of Madness, which is spearheaded by the ever-awesome Mark Stanway (keyboards), and the idea basically was to head out on the road and perform classic Magnum material in a live setting, some of which has rarely been performed by Magnum themselves on stage before or simply not been heard for decades. Stanway was with Magnum for 36 years and it is an unbelievably thrilling and magnificent thing to experience Kingdom of Madness tear through the music from the celebrated 1978-1994 period in such a convincing and confident manner. Naturally, Eternal Terror Live had to have a chat with the great man in order to learn more about the outfit as well as his musical upbringing and other interesting facts. Simply put, Kingdom of Madness: Classic Magnum is melodic rock music at its finest, and if you reside in the UK, you should definitely check them out on one of their tour dates listed below.
Hi Mark, I want to start this off by saying thank you for agreeing to do this interview. Much appreciated. You have been performing music for many years now and are as active and productive as ever. What keeps you going after all these years and what motivates you?
Mark: All I ever wanted to do from my early teenage years was be in a band, and my continued motivation comes from playing with great musicians and just as importantly playing with good friends plus enjoying once again having musical freedom and creative input.
I can imagine that you must be quite busy these days now that the upcoming Grand Slam record is underway not to mention that you have been rehearsing and performing live with Kingdom of Madness. How are those two bands and projects coming along? How did the first few Kingdom of Madness rehearsals go?
Mark: I have only just heard some of the initial mixes of the Grand Slam recordings and am really excited about the prospects. Laurence Archer has worked very hard bringing all this together, the band is top notch, the music sounds great, really up to date and seriously ballsy!!
With regard to Kingdom of Madness, the rehearsals went very well, which one would expect from such a bunch of seriously talented and highly experienced professional musicians.
I am curious as to what bands you were into when you were a teenager and what bands and artists inspired you to become a musician yourself. Could you tell us a bit about your musical upbringing? Did your parents play any instruments and did you grow up in a musical household?
Mark: My father was a big band swing drummer, so I was brought up in a very musical household indeed, listening to the likes of Count Basie, Buddy Rich, Duke Ellington, Glen Miller, Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa and that list goes on and on. I guess what really changed my life and had a massive impact on me was when I first heard the Beatles and I don’t think there are any genuine musicians out there that don’t acknowledge the Beatles as a major influence. If you don’t like the Beatles, I personally think there is something sadly wrong with you… My first instrument was the drums because of my father. My brother also played the drums and still does, so I wanted to play something else. I bought a guitar and learned the basics of that and during this time from the age of around 12 – 15, I was sent to piano lessons. During this time I discovered John Mayall and developed a love of blues music and found that I could sort of play this sort of style on the piano fairly easily, not necessarily brilliantly, but I enjoyed trying to copy etc. I also became influenced by bands such as Focus and Camel both of which had keyboards and this prompted me to want to play keyboards in a band. The jazz influence from my father also got me into the likes of Jazz Rock, i.e. Billy Cobham, Jan Hammer & Jeff Beck, Mahavishna Orchestra, Herbie Hancock and so on. Billy Cobham’s 1973 album ‘Spectrum’ is still one of the best albums I have ever heard and had a major influence on me too.
What was the music scene in Sutton Coldfield/Birmingham like when you got into music back in the day?
Mark: Back in 1969 I remember regularly going to a club in Erdington Birmingham called ‘Mothers’ and saw the likes of Jimi Hendrix, John Mayall, Long John Baldry (with Elton John – then Reg Dwight on piano, Jeff Beck and many more), so the Birmingham music scene was really happening and seeing all these great bands convinced me that I wanted to be in a band myself.
How did the first few KOM gigs in December go, more specifically the ones in Sheffield, Wolverhampton, and Swindon? Were you pleased with the outcome and the response from the audience?
Mark: The shows went better than my wildest dreams and the reception we got at all of the shows was fantastic and really underlined the fact that we have a great band and it is growing.
Is there any chance of you guys touring the rest of Europe at some point? Was the idea of doing a UK tour with some of your friends performing Magnum material from 1978 – 1994 something that you had been toying with for a long time?
Mark: I am hoping we find some promoters in and around Europe that will take us on, so yes!! The idea of forming a new band playing Magnum songs was the last possible thing on my mind when I sadly left Magnum, so the idea came about only last year (2018) after toying with the idea with Richard Bailey casually one day over a coffee.
Given that your discography/resume is extremely impressive and vast, I can imagine that it must be quite challenging to compile a set list whenever you are about to play a gig with KOM. There are so many classic tunes to choose from. Who is in charge of choosing what to play? Is it a democracy where each member gets his or her say?
Mark: Obviously I was in Magnum for a considerable time (some 36 years), so I had a good inside idea what the fans wanted to hear, but this band I am happy to say is a democracy, which is such a refreshing situation for me and therefore everyone has a say in what and how we play. Until you actually strike up as a band and start playing a particular song, one never knows how good something could be.
Are there any specific Magnum tracks that you are particularly fond of performing yourself when on stage with Micky, Richard, Laurence, Neil, Chris, and Mo?
Mark: All of them!! But I do have some favorites and ‘Tall Ships’ is one of them, a great song and I think we play it exceptionally well. Obviously ‘Sacred Hour’ is a favorite also especially with Laurence Archer’s wonderful guitar playing on a newly adapted intro.
You know, you guys should release a live album containing a full show following the 2019 dates – that would be magical 🙂 Any chance of that happening?
Mark: I don‘t quite see the point of just recording a live CD but we have plans to record an HD Video/DVD of our forthcoming Wolverhampton show in November later this year.
Are there any long-term plans with respect to KOM or do you intend to just do a few shows each year and then keep it at that?
Mark: I would like to see KOM grow in popularity and therefore play more shows wherever and whenever we can (in spite of the opposition). It is such a pleasure to be playing and sharing the stage with such fine musicians and will always enjoy performing live so long may we reign!
How do you feel about meeting fans, hanging out talking, signing autographs, and so on and so forth?
Mark: A pleasure and a privilege to meet and talk to the fans. After all, without them it is all pointless. I always try to make sure that the band do a ‘meet & greet’ after every show possible.
One of the better live albums I have listened to is Magnum’s “The Spirit”. The selection of songs is superb, and the band sounds incredibly tight and right on the money. What are some of your thoughts and recollections with respect to that album?
Mark: Pride & Happiness, this was Magnum at their peak in my opinion with Micky Barker and Wally Lowe etc. It was a good and healthy time for the band when we recorded “The Spirit” live album. We had a great sound engineer at the time called John Halke, proper and professional lighting designers, and of course we had record company backing and budget, which I feel reflects in the product.
What was touring like back in the late 70s and early 80s compared to now? I remember Bernie Torme (Gillan, Ozzy Osbourne) once telling me that back then a band could do thirty gigs in the UK alone!!!
Mark: Bernie Torme (R.I.P), a friend from years back and sadly missed. Yes, the late 70’s and early eighties did seem to be a good time to be in a band; there were so many gigs you could play and indeed Magnum would do 30-date tours of the UK back then.
What is it like to work with Neil Murray? He is one of my musical heroes and he always comes across as a genuinely nice guy in interviews, so I just have to ask ha-ha 🙂
Mark: I have known Neil since the late 70’s and we have been friends for a long time and worked together on quite a few different things including Roy Wood, M3 Classic Whitesnake, Bernie Marsden band etc. Neil is the consummate professional and frankly one of the best bass players in rock, so it is a dream come true to be playing with him again in KOM.
Personally, I appreciate each era of Magnum and I like the variety of the band’s discography. Were you into Magnum’s early albums prior to joining them and how familiar were you with the band before you became a member? Did you know them all beforehand?
Mark: We all sort of knew each other as we all played the same places in the early days i.e. the Railway in Curzon St, Birmingham. I at the time was more into Jazz Rock, so I was not familiar really with their music. I only really got into the music when I joined them in 1980.
When you were touring with Grand Slam back in 1984, how did you feel about performing Thin Lizzy material? I think “Cold Sweat” in particular blended in rather nicely with Grand Slam’s incredibly varied and captivating songs. Speaking of Grand Slam, are there any news as to when we can expect your upcoming album to hit the streets?
Mark: To play some of the Lizzy songs live on stage with Phil Lynott, Brain Downey and John Sykes was an absolute thrill and a pleasure. Fantastic playing the likes of ‘The Boys are Back in Town’ live on stage with such a legend. Treasured memories indeed. As for Grand Slam, a new album has been recorded this year so stay tuned to the FB page and website for the latest news.
Thank you for doing this interview, Mark. It is truly an honor for me. Any final comments or words to the faithful readers of Eternal Terror Live?
Mark: Thanks for reading and thanks Jens for the interview (always a pleasure my friend) and hope to see lots of you at our next ‘Kingdom of Madness’ shows. Here below are the latest confirmed shows for 2019. For the latest info please visit: www.kingdomofmadness.co.uk
July 13th Rock & Bike Festival Derbyshire
July 25th Cambridge Rock Festival Cambridge
Aug 3rd A New Day Fest Faversham
Oct 4th Hard Rock Café Glasgow
Oct 5th Green Hotel Kinross