CD Review: Zakk Wylde – Book of Shadows II

CD Review: Zakk Wylde – Book of Shadows II
eOne Music
All Access Rating: A

Zakk Wylde - Book Of
Shadows II 2016
A sequel two decades in the making, Zakk Wylde's Book Of Shadows II seems at odds with the gregarious personality – not to mention the increasingly muscular physique – of its bearded viking of a creator.

Foregoing the mighty roar of a typical Black Label Society or Ozzy Osbourne release, Wylde crafts a dog-eared, toned-down hymnal of introspective, bittersweet ballads with a soulful Southern-rock drawl reminiscent of the Allman Brothers on this, his beautifully rendered second solo album.

The assured work of a man once broken and lost and cautiously hoping beyond hope that he's completely healed, Book of Shadows II, due out on eOne Music, is deeply moving, with the lush, pastoral "Autumn Changes" and "Lay Me Down" and a bluesy "Tears of December" serving notice immediately that Wylde, for all his fortitude, is acutely aware of his all-too-human vulnerability. "Darkest Hour" and "Forgotten Memory" – with its echoes of Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing" – quietly and gracefully swan dive all the way to rock bottom and yearn for salvation, while "Lost Prayer" has a hopeful, sunny glow ensconced in blues tradition.

Here, warm organ sounds coat a rich, organic blend of tasteful electric and acoustic guitar meditations, all backing resonant vocals soaked in too much melancholy. Melodies slowly evolve and take shape, in no hurry to articulate the inner turmoil of the artist. Tracks such as "Sorrowed Regret" and "The Levee" start out spare and haunting, before Wylde adds instrumental flesh to these creaking bones, in a sense gradually bringing them back to life in some sort of folk-rock resurrection. Spiritual and cathartic, Book of Shadows II is full of woe, evocative of a life of hard-earned lessons and turning inward to confront whatever demons are still in there.
– Peter Lindblad

Kings of Concert Posters: Chris "Coop" Cooper

Devil is in the details for this renowned and rebellious "Lowbrow" artist
By Peter Lindblad

Steel Pole Bathtub 1995 Jabberjaw
Original Concert Poster
Silkscreen by Coop
To say the irreverent artist known as "Coop" – his real name is Chris Cooper – has a way with women is a massive understatement.

With devilish glee and an appreciation for bold colors and kitschy imagery, he seems to relish creating titillating scenes of scantily-clad, voluptuous women in lascivious poses, although he's also widely known for works featuring a smiling Satan chomping on a cigar.

In the forward to Coop's 2001 book "Devil's Advocate: The Art of Coop," Robert Williams writes, "Coop doesn't exploit the occult metaphysics of satanic malarkey. Why should he? This gifted wonderboy is the devil himself."

Those wanting to see more of Coop's art should hunt it down, seeing as how it boasts a treasure trove of reproductions of his posters and stickers and other assorted memorabilia. Or, to own one or more his pieces, which generally range in price from more than $100 to $500, check out

Born in Tulsa, Okla., in 1968, but now living in Los Angeles and working as a hot rod artist, Coop fashions himself as the "Insensitive Artiste." With a wicked sense of humor, Coop made his bones coming up doing ads and illustrating album covers for the similar-minded indie record label Sympathy for the Record Industry and its leader Long Gone John Mermis. Other artists whose work graced Sympathy for the Record Industry material included Williams, Todd Schorr and Mark Ryden.

Green Day The Riverdales 1995
Original Concert Poster Silkscreen
Art by Coop
Eventually, Coop made a connection with famed concert-poster artist Frank Kozik, whose influence on Coop's work is fairly evident, even as Coop developed his own unique style. Along the way, Coop became a go-to artist for some of the biggest alternative-rock acts of the '90s, doing posters for Green Day, Nirvana, Soundgarden, the Reverend Horton Heat, Lords of Acid and the Foo Fighters. Those signature "femme devils" he's so fond of are often seen on various stickers, usually plastered on cars. That, more than anything, has made Coop's art a cultural phenomenon.

Again, in that same forward, Williams writes, "It is with this kind of exposure that the name Coop has come to typify art for many people who like visual stimuli." Often, Coop is associated with the revolutionary visual art movement referred to as "Lowbrow," also called "pop surrealism," which exploded in the Los Angeles area near the tail end of the 1970s and is laced with a sardonic sense of humor that gained favor in underground comix, punk rock and hot-rod culture. And he is held in high esteem in the Kustom Kulture community.

In 2004, Coop released another book titled "The Big Fat One," which contains more than a thousand sketches. Another one, "Idle Hands," was published in 2012 by Baby Tattoo Books and is a collection of his fine art created between 2001 and 2012. For Hot Wheels fanatics, Coop recently collaborated with the toy car maker on a series of miniature "Coop-Customized" hot rods.

To get a taste of his style, here are some examples of Coop's work:

Unsane Steel Pole Bathtub
1995 Original Concert Poster
Silkscreen by Coop S/N

Go Nuts 1995 Jabberjaw Silkscreen
Art Concert Poster Original by Coop S/N

Gas Huffer Clawhammer 1996 The Whisky
Concert Poster Original by Coop S/N
Dave & Deke 1996 San Francisco
Kilowatt Original Concert Poster
Art by Coop

DVD Review: Twisted Sister – We Are Twisted F***ing Sister

DVD Review: Twisted Sister – We Are Twisted F***ing Sister
Music Box Films
All Access Rating: A-

Twisted Sister - We Are
Twisted F***ing
Sister 2016
Dubbed "the band that killed disco," Twisted Sister did hard time for its crimes against '70s dance music.

Looking absolutely deranged with their outlandish costumes and garish makeup, the flamboyant, but gritty, glam-metal combo that brought drunks onstage to sing parts of the Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane" and led boisterous chants of "disco sucks" in hot, sweaty venues couldn't catch a break.

Despite a rabid following growing exponentially in the club circuit around New York City, record labels passed on them time and time again, never doubting for a second they could possibly be wrong about this hot mess of a band. History would prove otherwise.

Directed by Andrew Horn, "We Are Twisted F***king Sister" is a rollicking, 134-minute documentary that never drags while providing an entertaining, in-depth account of Twisted Sister's decade-long struggle to make it big. Out in theaters as well, the DVD version includes a disc packed to the gills with bonus interview material. The main story doesn't need much embellishment, however.

While Dee Snider and Jay Jay French, among others, tell funny and revelatory old war stories – although one about a particularly racist club owner was troubling to say the least – loads of vintage footage of raucous live shows from the early days give a true and undiluted sense of the grassroots-level excitement they generated, as well as the palpable hostility the band faced. Viewers wind up in the trenches, pumping their fists along with the rabble with the knowledge that behind the scenes, not everything was peachy.

Unabashedly open about their ambitions and their ruthless intentions to mop the floor with any act they shared stages with, including poor Zebra, Snider and French are refreshingly candid about their thorny relationship, with Snider admitting to his alienation from the group and his desire to usurp power as Twisted Sister's leader. Snider was confrontational, whereas French established an easy rapport with audiences. They were different people. Yet on some level, even back then, they instinctively knew they needed each other to realize their dreams, and the film lets that sub-plot unfold naturally. What also emerges, from talks with managers, fans and other group members is a picture of a barnstorming bar band – loved by many, but also reviled in some quarters – that worked tirelessly and went to great lengths to get noticed, even to the point of exhaustion.

Just as importantly, what Horn does is give the unvarnished truth of how Twisted Sister became Twisted Sister, letting all the personalities in this dramatic comedy reminisce and confess to all sorts of misdeeds as the story unfolds about the band's difficult birth. In a sense, from the very beginning, they were entrepreneurs selling wild, rebellious rock 'n' roll and eventually their business took off. Along the way there were disappointments and deals that went south, but with a little help from an enthusiastic patron at Atlantic Records, they were able to get out of New York – to the chagrin of some supporters – and go national. Theirs is a story of dogged persistence, of chasing the American Dream really.

And if nothing else, "We Are Twisted F***ing Sister" is ... well, inspirational, but not in a "self-help book" kind of way. Empty platitudes are nowhere to be found here. Twisted Sister put in the hours. They, to borrow a phrase, stayed hungry. And when an opportunity presented itself, they weren't afraid to jump at it, even if there was nothing to catch their fall.
– Peter Lindblad

CD Review: Anthrax – For All Kings

CD Review: Anthrax – For All Kings
MRI/Megaforce Records
All Access Rating: A

Anthrax - For All Kings 2016
Oaken strings and deathly drums usher in For All Kings, the latest album from thrash-metal trailblazers Anthrax. Reverential in tone and almost orchestral, the brief intro "Impaled" is suggestive of a ceremonial procession – something along the lines of a royal funeral or the lead-up to a very public and bloody execution.

Hardly a solemn occasion, For All Kings is not at all a pretender to the mighty throne that was Anthrax's storming blitzkrieg of a comeback album in 2011's Worship Music. Instead it raises the bar and then some, with immaculate and visceral production intensifying and articulating perfectly the combination of increasingly dynamic, well-crafted songwriting, raging energy and taut, tactical precision that has Anthrax flying high at the moment.

Leaked early, the stirring anthem "Breathing Lightning," probably the most radio-friendly song Anthrax has ever recorded, is a bracing and glorious pop-metal spectacle with an unforgettable, yearning chorus powerfully expressed by Joey Belladonna, whose singing on this record is remarkably melodic, charismatic and forceful. And while thrash-metal's old guard might wring their hands over its obvious commercial appeal, just as they did with Metallica's Black Album, this is not a betrayal of their uncompromising principles or their raucous past. It's still Anthrax at the wheel, driving as aggressively as ever, although now they're speeding away in a sleeker, shinier vehicle and the insurance is paid up – i.e., this is Anthrax showing its maturity, even if their anger still tends to spill over from time to time in socio-political commentary that hits especially hard.

In typical fashion, however, Scott Ian and company thrash to their hearts' content in compelling fashion on "You Gotta Believe," stopping only to survey its smoldering ruins of dark melody before violently beating the song into a coma, as drummer Charlie Benante unleashes a mind-boggling array of beats throughout. Even faster and more frenzied, "Zero Tolerance" is a furious blaze, ranting against racism with old-school venom – some of the rough edges sanded off with modern sonic sensibilities.

And if that's not enough, the vicious bluster of a heart-pounding "Evil Twin" and the seismic pounding of "Monster At The End" – a massive earthquake of a track, where the rumblings of bassist Frank Bello causes the ground underneath mighty guitar riffs to crack wide open – serve notice that Anthrax still packs a devastating punch. More ominous and heavy, "Blood Eagle Wings" broods like a hulking monster hiding from villagers wielding torches and pitchforks and plotting his vengeance, while tough, bruising grinds "Defend Avenge" and "All Of Them Thieves" pummel, even as the latter picks up sweeping momentum.

That Anthrax remains this vital and continues churning out material this bold and exciting is truly awe-inspiring, resulting in eye-opening chart performances that are well-deserved. One day, maybe time will soften them. This is not that day.
– Peter Lindblad

Rock 'n Pop Music Memorabilia Auction Highlights

By Patrick Prince - Editor of Goldmine Magazine

In April, Backstage Auctions presents its annual Rock & Pop Auction packed with many irresistible items for collectors. Make sure you mark your calendar for April 23 to May 1, 2016.

Backstage Auctions owner Jacques van Gool was on hand to explain to Goldmine the significance of this upcoming music auction.

GOLDMINE: Tell us about the highlights of the Rock & Pop auction.
JACQUES VAN GOOL: The auction as a whole is one big, glorious fest of collectibles! We are still processing collections but in the end I anticipate that we will have in the vicinity of 1,000 auction lots. As an auctioneer it’s always hard to point at your favorite child. There are obvious highlights, such as the Beatles’ album-used Vox organ or Johnny Cash’s album-used recorder. At the same time, one might find Paul Stanley’s stage-worn boots or an interview cassette with Glenn Frey the highlight of the auction. For me, I just look at the event in its entirety, and what I see is a spectacular celebration of Rock & Pop memorabilia.

GM: Many of our readers will be interested right away in The Beatles collection in this auction. Please detail it for us.
JVG: Indeed, it is a remarkable collection, coming from the estate of a former Florida-based DJ. Safe to say that this individual had a legitimate man-crush on The Beatles, as the collection alone consists of nearly 1,000 individual pieces, ranging from massive amounts of books, magazines, CDs, DVDs and current-day merchandise all the way to an impressive collection of 1960s memorabilia, vinyl and reels. Among the eye-poppers are a Beatles turntable, rare Vee-Jay records, a Butcher cover and a fantastic collection of Bag One artwork, including two original portfolios, five John Lennon signed lithographs, 1970 exhibition programs and many other official prints. 

John Lennon Bag One

GM: You mentioned that a Johnny Cash recorder.
JVG: That’s a good one, too! In the late 1960s, Johnny Cash bought an Ampex MM-1000 recorder for the recording of several of his albums. In the mid-1970s, Johnny then sold the recorder to the SmithLee Recording Studio in St. Louis, who subsequently sold it to a Kansas-based recording studio owner. It’s been in Kansas ever since. Not only does this 2-inch recorder (the “Rolls-Royce” of its time) come with the original paperwork from Johnny Cash, but the Kansas studio owner wrote Johnny and received a letter back confirming that, indeed, this was the recorder he used for a number of his own albums. Not only are working 2-inch recorders hard to find for those who want or need one, but to potentially own one with this level of music history is an exceptional opportunity. Heads-up though; this is a 700-pound behemoth, so proper space and reinforced floorboards are required.

Rare Pressing of David Bowie's "Heroes" Album 
GM: You also have Bowie memorabilia up for auction. Does a rock star’s death make memorabilia more sought after? Is that merely a mainstream assumption? Or does it depend?
JVG: Good question and I think it’s a little bit of everything you mentioned. Sure, there’s always the immediate wave of demand and with Bowie that was no exception. But in general, it’s just a small spike on the longevity chart of an artist’s overall degree of collectability. Bowie was already collectible and will remain collectible long after his death. The prices are a little higher now than usual and with time, let’s say a year or so from now, it’ll swing back to where it was. And yes, we do have some cool Bowie collectibles. The one piece that deserves upfront mention is that we have literally the only one existing multi-color vinyl pressing of “Heroes”, coming directly from the L.A.-based pressing plant that was commissioned by RCA Records at the time. 
KISS Paul Stanley Used Boots

GM: Is there a favorite lot that you are personally excited about?
JVG: Oh man, where do I begin? Maybe I stay close to home. It’s no secret that KISS was the band that made me a collector back in 1975, so I’ve always been partial to KISS collectibles. We’ve got some great stuff this time around, including record awards, vintage 1970s shirts, passes and cards, autographed items and so on. There’s even the original light board controller used to light up the massive KISS logo on the 1979 Dynasty tour. But of all pieces, it has to be the pair of Paul Stanley tour used boots. There’s just something magical about these crazy platform boots.

GM: Anything else you’d like to add about this upcoming auction? 
JVG: Yes, there are a couple things I would like to add. One is an amazing collection of Bruce Springsteen memorabilia that includes signed items, rare promotional material, vinyl, concert CDs, record awards, jackets, you name it. There is even of rare college magazine from the 1960s that published Bruce’s first poems. Bruce Springsteen collectors will be thrilled and impressed with the depth and width of everything.

Another fantastic collection features original Fillmore East negatives, mostly from the late 1960s. There are all the usual suspects, but I’m partial to the set of “The Wind in the Willows” negatives from 1967, featuring none other than Deborah Harry.

And speaking of 1967, remember the band The One Percent? Probably not, but it eventually morphed into Lynyrd Skynyrd and we will feature the original management contract for this band containing the signatures of the likes of Ronnie Van Zant and Gary Rossington ... and their parents! None of the band members was old enough to enter into a legal contract, hence all the parents’ signatures.

Fleetwood Mac Fully Signed Set List
We have a fantastic collection of original interview cassettes that comes from the private collection of a Japanese journalist who interviewed American and British rock stars for a host of Japanese magazines. These are intimate recordings with the very first lineup of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and an hour-long discussion at the Aspen home of Glenn Frey — great stuff.

I can go on and on. There are hundreds of fantastic concert shirts, tour itineraries, backstage passes and tickets, collectible vinyl, Alice Cooper-used stage and album props, more autographed items than one could hang on a wall and an equal number of impressive record awards. There are posters, promotional jackets, and just about everything else. 

This is hands down one of the most comprehensive Rock & Pop auctions we have ever done and we couldn’t be more proud. Come to our site when the auction preview goes live and feast your eyes on all this amazing music memorabilia and history.

A PREVIEW of the Rock & Pop Auction will be live on April 16, until its official opening. 

The auction will be open for bidding from April 23 to May 1. For more information, or to bid, visit: 

 — Patrick Prince - Editor / Goldmine Magazine 

Reposted from Goldmine with permission. All Images are property of Backstage Auctions. 

Kings of concert posters: Frank Kozik

First in a series on rock artists who shook up the modern-rock underground
By Peter Lindblad

Frank Kozik Unsane
Guzzard 1995 Concert
Poster The Whiskey
Hollywood S/N
Often shockingly bloody and unapologetically violent, the grisly album art for New York City noise-rock merchants Unsane was never for the faint of heart.

Seeing two cuddly bears, one carrying a bucket of PCP, on a concert poster promoting the band's 1995 show at the Whiskey in Hollywood with openers Guzzard and Lowercase in what looks like an otherwise innocent scene from an illustrated children's book certainly subverts expectations. Artist Frank Kozik is notorious for doing that.

Born in Spain and raised during the reign of fascist dictator Franco, before his family settled in California, Kozik has parlayed his delightfully twisted world view, fearless cultural commentary and incredibly bold use of color and clashing textural elements into worldwide fame. His works are highly sought-after by collectors.

Until Kozik arrived on the scene, the art of making concert posters had, for all intents and purposes, gone the way of the dodo bird. Many believe it was Kozik – his Unsane poster one of hundreds he's made over the years – who was responsible for bringing it back from the dead. (To view a really good selection of his works you can check out prints available for purchase on eBay: Frank Kozik Posters

Zeni Geva Original
Concert Poster by
Frank Kozik S/N
In his zeal to spread the word about the early '80s underground punk scene in Austin, Texas, where he was stationed while in the Air Force, the self-taught Kozik's first forays into the world of rock art involved making black-and-white fliers for friends' bands and splashing them all over telephone poles. Soon, people began taking notice of his provocative, in-your-face designs and unique treatment of , noting how the oddly compelling imagery made subtle and not-so-subtle cultural statements.

Eventually, Kozik moved on to developing the vivid and almost surreal silkscreen concert posters that gained him world-wide fame, creating artwork for the likes of Green Day, The White Stripes, Neil Young and Nirvana and lesser-known acts such as Hammerhead and others, and then going on to direct various music videos, including Soundgarden's "Pretty Noose."

Hammerhead Liquor Bike
1996 Original Concert Poster
by Frank Kozik X/N
After moving to San Francisco in 1993, Kozik established his own record label, Man's Ruin Records. Most of the posters and album art he produced back then were hand silkscreened and numbered at his studio. More than 200 singles and full-length albums were designed and released by Kozik – among them a Sex Pistols record and the first Queens of the Stone Age single.

In 2001, he shuttered Man's Ruin and moved on to other artistic pursuits, including throwing himself into the exploding art toy movement. He has designed more than 500 different limited-edition figures. Living in San Francisco today, Kozik also designs products and campaigns for a wide range of major companies. But, it's his wildly imaginative concert poster artwork – with pieces ranging in price from as little as $12 all the way up to $500 and beyond – that are his crowning achievements.

Here are some examples of his best work:

Groove Merchant 1997 Original
Silkscreen Gig Poster by
Frank Kozik 9737 S/N

Frank Kozik Man's Ruin Records
The Hammer of the Gods 1996
Concert Poster S/N

Butthole Surfers Pigface Bad Livers
1991 Original Concert Poster
by Frank Kozik 

Smashing Pumpkins Garbage 1996
Original Concert Poster by
Frank Kozik S/N

Soundgarden 1996 Mesa, Arizona Gig Poster
by Frank Kozik 9654 S/N

CD Review: American Head Charge – Tango Umbrella

CD Review: American Head Charge – Tango Umbrella
Napalm Records
All Access Rating: A-

American Head Charge - Tango
Umbrella 2016
War of Art came out in 2001, generating widespread critical acclaim and establishing a beachhead for the industrial-metal juggernaut American Head Charge in a nu-metal scene just starting to unravel. Then, it all began to fall apart.

Substance abuse and vicious infighting, often actually spilling out on to the stage, stopped their dysfunctional advance dead in its tracks, however, as did the death of guitarist Bryan Ottoson. Resurrected in 2013, the Minneapolis collective toured extensively and put out an EP titled Shoot, before readying the incendiary and cinematic Tango Umbrella, due for release via Napalm Records.

A diverse, tumultuous and ominous set of screaming, elaborately conceived tracks that traffic in the raging, disciplined riffs and unsettling electronic malignancy of Ministry and the mind-blowing array of innovative vocal treatments of Faith No More, Tango Umbrella also swims in the moody, progressive currents of Tool on the expansive and menacing "Sacred" and the surging "Down and Depraved," before spiraling downward into the dark, watery vortex of "Antidote." Adrenaline shoots through the veins of a rampaging "I Will Have My Day," setting a furious, breathtaking pace, while the burbling bass and slashing guitars of a thrilling, anxiety-ridden "Prolific Catastrophe" build compelling drama and the action-packed "Suffer Elegantly" goes 100 miles per hour, until downshifting into slower, heavier grooves, like those that grip "Perfectionist."

What American Head Charge has done here with album No. 4 is engineered, if not a miraculous recovery, then at least a stunning reversal of fortune. It's been a rocky road to get to this point. Hopefully, all their troubles are behind them.
– Peter Lindblad

The 'Sacred' works of Magnum

Bassist Al Barrow talks about the making of prog-metal legends' new album
By Peter Lindblad

Magnum is Tony Clarkin, Bob Catley,
Mark Stanway, Al Barrow and
Harry James
Tony Clarkin never rests it seems.

The mastermind behind the long-running U.K. progressive-metal powerhouse Magnum is always working on new material, and bassist Al Barrow marvels at his bandmate's industrious nature, as well as his creative ingenuity.

"I admire each and every time I read Magnum lyrics," said Barrow, the band's bassist since 2001. "He seems to be able to pull the most imaginative images to put them to the music. I have for years been writing my own material but yet to have anything that even comes close to what he does."

Magnum's latest record Sacred Blood "Divine" Lies (Read a review of it here: ) arrived in late February via the Steamhammer/SPV label with a batch of strong, soaring melodies, rugged riffs that never fail to satisfy and theatrical vocals that treat Clarkin's words with the sincere reverence they're due. Balancing forceful, driving rockers like the churning title track and the stirring anthem "Crazy Old Mothers" with the occasional ballad, Sacred Blood "Divine" Lies displays Magnum's might and awesome majesty with aplomb.

Barrow talked to All Access about the new album, as well as his indoctrination into Magnum – also singer Bob Catley, drummer Harry James and keyboardist Mark Stanway – after his stint in Hard Rain, a melodic hard-rock spinoff formed after Magnum split in 1996, in this in-depth interview.

Magnum - Sacred Blood "Divine"
Lies 2016
When Tony Clarkin presented the band with the songs he’d written for this record, what was your impression of them? Did the material seem different or special in any way?
Al Barrow: It`s a bit of weird process. Not that it`s bad in anyway, but when we hear the first rough ideas of the songs they are very disjointed, no vocals as such, just rough drum patterns off a drum machine and guid guitars and a few keys … maybe a chorus if we are lucky. You can get a vibe from it, but it really is too early to say wether it`s gonna be a huge album or not. We have worked this way for many years and we trust in the evolution of the process. There will always be a song that will hit you straight away, but this changes as the writing process continues and develops. There are so many massive changes to be done from the initial renderings of the early song ideas. I know that Tony was excited about the ideas for this new album right from the start and that always lights a fire amongst the band. We are always excited about creating new music that we enjoy and we hope others will enjoy also.

Are you privy to the process of selecting songs for a particular album or is that completely in Tony’s hands? And if so, how are the songs for recording sessions introduced to the rest of the band? Does a meeting take place where all of you go over everything?
AB: Tony will collect maybe 30 ideas he has worked on. He will then bring them to the main studio to transfer into Pro Tools. He will work on them a bit more and replace guide guitars with more guitars that have been run through his cabs and amps. This way he gets a better feel for what will work or not as the case may be. There is not meeting as such. It`s generally Bob, Tony, myself and Sheena Sear, the engineer, in the studio most days. Only when the songs have got to a reasonable stage will Tony say, okay, lets shelve those, keep those or put them in the "maybe" folder. Then he will concentrate on about 15 songs or so.

Describe what it was like recording this album. In what ways has the process gotten easier for what you do in the band since when you first joined in 2001?
AB: Lot`s of tea making by Bob (laughs). Tony is in the studio with Sheena getting the tracks up and ready for about 10 a.m. I arrive about 11 and chat to Tony about ideas, what we have seen on TV or the web and then may discuss artwork and plans for mercy and tours. Bob will arrive around midday. Tony will go over with Bob what we have discussed or done in the studio that morning. As we now use Pro Tools instead of tape the process is much more streamlined and easier to work with. Some things Tony and Bob will have taken home to listen to the night before will be looked at again for any changes they feel might be needed. Tony will continue to put down guide melody lines either with guitar or keyboards. Occasionally if Bob is unavailable Tony may get me to sing a few guide vocal tracks just so we can move along and to see if a melody he has in mind will work. Then Bob will replace it later. When it comes to recording the bass parts we spend a while getting the bass rig set just right and fine-tuning the sound to get close to what we want. To be honest, with the gear I use now it's pretty much plug and play. I use Warwick amps and on this album I also used TC Electronic amps and cabs. So we like to mix it up a little.

Were there any unexpected obstacles that cropped up in the making of this record?
AB: No, not really. We have been doing this a while. If anything the obstacles we seem to get [have to do with] running order and the final mixes. Sometimes it's hard to separate yourself. I have a few days away and then come back and with fresh ears I can sometimes point out things that may pass the rest of the guys by. Sometimes you have to step back.

How do approach adding your bass parts to a Magnum record? Has that changed in any way over the years? 
AB: Not at all really. As I say, we have been doing this for a while so it's a situation we feel comfortable in. We have a good idea of our parts before going in the studio to record our parts. Tony wants to hear the basics first. What he gave us as guide. That way we can spend a few days putting down what we have rehearsed in our own studios. So it all comes together. So we get a good mix of what Tony wants and what we want to add. He gives us a lot of scope and time to do what we want. But to be honest with you Tony has a good idea from the start, so I don't tend to deviate too much from the roots. Magnum is not a band that has complex bass lines. It's the song that is important here, not being all freaky with bass lines, etc. 

What qualities do you admire most about your colleagues in Magnum?
AB: They have been there, done it all. They have the T-shirt and pretty much written the book on how to tour and write albums that stand up over the years. These guy have stories that would make Lemmy look like a virgin nun, but as they say, "What happens on tour stays on tour!" Those days have since gone, and these days it`s more professional and relaxed. It`s all about giving the fans the best show possible.

I also like that they are all talented in their own way, but as a band [they] show [their] strengths. I have always been told there is no bigger band member than the band itself. Some of us have bigger members though!

Tour artwork for Magnum's
upcoming 2016 trek
Do you think this is the most dynamic record Magnum has recorded since you’ve been in the band? What previous Magnum records does it remind you of?
AB: Absolutely! I have said it with every album I have been involved in. I believe that completely. We have stepped up to the bar and surpassed it each time. This has a lot to do with what the members bring to the band. But ultimately it's down to Tony writing another stunning album. It is its own entity. Obviously as the band [members] and the songwriter and production team are the same there will be some similarities. But I find with each album there is a progression to another level. Another story to write, a new sonic avenue to explore. With each album for me personally this has to be the best bass sound I have recorded … grittier and more upfront than any other album. This pleases me a lot, but it sits in the track well. It`s down to great production.  

The chart performances in some European countries of recent Magnum releases have been pretty eye-opening. Why do you think Magnum’s newer material is resonating with fans?
AB: Thats something you would have to ask them, but we have a great social media page and the interaction between the band and fans is great. We see them say what they think; they get the chance to ask the band questions, etc. I think this helps build a very personal feel between the band and fans. After all the music is very close to their hearts. It deserves a good interaction from us.

So from reading the pages it seems we are hitting the nail on the head most of the time. The new album has been so well-received. Of course, there will always be the few that will constantly harp on about Storytellers No. 2 or Wings of Heaven No. 2. But why as musicians would you want to repeat something that you have done already? We are in a band to create new and exciting music –something that floats our boat first, then we just hope it floats others.

We never want to rest on our laurels and not be tribute to ourselves. It's well documented Tony and Bob wish to always move forward and try something new. I bet if they did a new album that sounded like Storytellers we would get slagged for not pushing boundaries and playing safe to a formula we felt would sell … selling out almost – becoming a tribute to ourselves.

I am not saying that Magnum wish to forget their past. They are very aware of why fans got into the band to start. But we are a bunch of guys who want to create. We hope that fans understand that.

Are there specific bass parts on this album that really pushed you or challenged as a musician?
AB: No, not really. I mentioned that the bass lines in Magnum are very simplistic and just support and enhance the song. This is the most important part. If I want to go play all up the dusty end and give Frank Zappa a run for his money then I will find another project to work on. Now when it comes to backing vocals … that's another story. Tony pushes me and Bob to the max. He gets me singing notes I did not think I could ever hit. It`s always fun as they sit there laughing at me trying to hit some of the notes. Ye ye Im just here for entertainment's value (laughs).

You were in Hard Rain, and that led to you becoming a member of Magnum. At the time, what were your hopes for Hard Rain and then Magnum? Was the transition difficult?
AB: Hard Rain was fun, but it just didn't have the backing or the prestige of what Magnum had. It was a lot of fun to record and tour, but I think it was a stepping stone back to where we are now. There were no issues with the transition at all. It was just a follow-on for me. Of course I was happy to get the call, but it all felt very natural.

Did you expect that Magnum would reform during those days? If so, when did it become apparent to you that things were headed in that direction?
AB: I was alway hoping in someway. Just in the fact that having the Magnum name would allow us to play more shows in bigger venues. Hard Rain had some stunning songs and we approached it in a very different manner. As I mentioned it's all a lot more of a professional approach these days. Less time in the pub and more time in the studio and rehearsals. I think we had the balance wrong on that. Now Magnum are on the ball, tighter and more polished than ever before.

Talk about designing the artwork for Breath of Life and Brand New Morning. Did you feel any pressure when working on them to articulate exactly what Magnum wanted?
AB: I had no idea. Me and Tony would just sit down and try to come up with ideas. It was very early days for me with design. Computers were all new to me, so I was learning as Tony was telling me what he wanted. I have to say I learned a lot, but I prefer to leave those covers well in the past. I can't look at them.

We work very closely with Rodney Matthews these days. We have swapped from time to time who gets the front covers. I think he has excelled this time on Sacred Blood.

You come from a family of musicians. What was your upbringing like and how did it influence you to do it for a career?
AB: My older brother was actually the drummer in Hard Rain. Rob had played for many years and was asked to step in when Kex Gorin was unable to continue. He recorded the second Hard Rain album When The Good Times Come with us. My younger brother is also a drummer and lives in Canada playing sessions for local bands. He has probably the quickest feet of any drummer I have ever seen play. He is crazy talented. He does not play so much these days but still keeps his hand in from time to time. My older sister is a singer and has also sang on Magnum albums and also sings in a Journey/Toto band.

Again extremely talented and has been very inspiring to me over the years. They had been doing it for years before I got to the point I wanted to be a pro musician.

Tony’s talked about how hard it is to write hard rock songs, as opposed to ballads. Can you feel how difficult a song’s creation was when you hear it for the first time?
AB: I can only speak from a personal point of view when it come to writing songs ... I have learned from (Tony), though. He has some formulas in some areas, but even he says himself he has no idea how you write a song. Each album for him is a massive uphill struggle. To find something new and fresh after all the albums he has produced, just not to repeat your own ideas must be so hard. He still says he has something to say, but it's how you say it and make the connection from something that is personal to him and others.

One thing I know he hates is when people ask him to explain his lyrics. He's been better in the last few years. But he likes the music to speak for itself.

Magnum have some stunning ballads. Tony has said writing ballads is easier, but the hard part is trying to talk about love, loss and heartbreak in a new way. That's the trick!

What excites you most about being in Magnum these days?
AB: Pretty much everything. At this point I have just gotten back from a trip out into the mountains in Tennessee. I got an email on my phone telling me the mid-week chart placements in the UK. It was probably the most bizarre feeling. Feeling so far away from everything I am used to, out in the middle of the mountains trying not to get eaten by bears – yes, there are bears here – and seeing how well Magnum's new album had sold. We only hope that this gives us a lift and gets the promoters to sit up and take notice and start booking us into more cities around the world. The fans are there. We will be there to play for them if the promoters will take the chance and book us.

It`s a very exciting time tight now. I am looking forward to getting on the road with the boys and playing some of the new album live. What's not to like?

Thanks for taking the time to ask some questions today and we hope to see lots of you on the next tour. Cheers for now. Al Barrow. Play it live , play it loud. Live your dreams!