Prior to British rock veterans MAGNUM's June 5 performance in Aberdare, Wales, vocalist Bob Catley spoke with Midlands Metalheads Radio. The full conversation can be streamed below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On how, after 40 years and 20 albums, the band chooses which songs to play live:
Bob: "Some songs just pick themselves over the years. There's certain pieces in the set that you need, that everything else revolves around like satellites. Some songs come and go over the years, but some songs have to remain there, like 'Les Morts Dansant', 'How Far Jerusalem', 'Sacred Hour', 'The Spirit'. They're usually there, all your life. Other songs come and go, but those are the big ones that people expect us to play and hear and tell your friends about, and who are we to change that? But we bring along older songs — we bring them back now and again, and the new stuff, we're always looking to promote the new songs, and people take to them — like lately, this last album, [2018's] 'Lost On The Road To Eternity', the new songs [were] greeted with the love that people greet the old-timer stuff, the old classic songs. The set, me and Tony [Clarkin, guitars] will go through it, and everybody goes along with what we put together. They're quite happy to do that — there's no, 'Oh, I don't know. I don't think we should be doing that.'"
On the status of group's in-progress new album:
Bob: "The new album [is] coming out in January next year... We aren't even halfway through recording at the moment, but the new album usually comes out in January, and we normally tour just after that — February, March, April, something like that... [Tony's] written all the songs, and we're doing our parts now. I've been away with AVANTASIA for some time, but I've done most of my vocals before I left. I'm going to change some lyrics, so I've got to do some of these again now, which will be for the better. I'm looking forward to doing that when we come back from Spain, playing with RITCHIE BLACKMORE'S RAINBOW in Malaga [this weekend]. Then we come back and resume the album and start again from where we left off. [It] should be done by the end of September [and] should be out by January... We still have Rodney Matthews for the front cover, as always. Lovely stuff. We've just seen the pencil drawing he sent to the studio the other day of the new artwork. [It's] great — fantastic... It works really well, I think. It's old-school artwork – fantastic old-school stuff. A bit mysterious, a bit arty, a bit fantasy. We like dragons, and we like wizards. We like all that stuff. Why not? A lot of people out there still love that stuff, so why not?"
On expanding their horizons:
Bob: "We're always trying to break new territory. We played Poland for the first time last year. People go, 'Really? Other bands have been playing it for years.' Well, good for them. We've actually played there now, and we went down really well, so hopefully, we'll do two gigs in Poland next time. We're getting good in the Czech Republic now. We did two there last time, so maybe that will expand. It's all new territories for us, the old eastern bloc countries. We do great in Germany, great in the U.K. We're getting better in Spain. It's France that we don't do any good in, to be honest. God knows why... you can't win everybody over, but we do pretty good through most of Europe these days. Better than ever, really, and our new lineup now is stronger than ever before. It's a good time for MAGNUM at the moment, and we're really enjoying ourselves, and the people love the songs and keep coming back for more, so we can't be doing everything wrong."
On whether he prefers recording or performing:
Bob: "I like all of it these days. There was a time when I was younger when I was only interested in getting out on that stage and getting out on the road. That was the exciting bit — traveling around and all the stupid stuff on the road, and being in the studio was a necessary evil. But nowadays, I appreciate more the recording process and the creation — being in at the start of something being created, and seeing it through to the end, and being in there when Tony's in there. I never used to be like that — I used to go in when I was needed, but now, I can't wait to be in there. It's great. I find it far more interesting. I've changed a lot."
MAGNUM's 20th album, "Lost On The Road To Eternity", was released by Steamhammer/SPV in January 2018. It became the first-ever MAGNUM album to crack the German Top 10 and also charted highly in Switzerland (No. 8), Scotland (No. 9), the UK (No. 15), Austria (No. 22) and Sweden (No. 23). The disc featured guest vocals by Tobias Sammet, whose "metal opera" group AVANTASIA frequently features Catley.