One of the nicest guys in the business, few people know that Mark Stanway started in music playing drums, following in his father’s footsteps who had been a very highly respected swing band drummer.
The teenager soon switched to guitar and then finally found his true vocation as a master of the keyboards and then things really took off. Whilst best known for his stint with Birmingham’s own Magnum from 1980 to 2016 and as a member of Phil Lynott’s post-Thin Lizzy outfit Grandslam, he’s played with a glittering cast of some of the biggest names in rock including shows with Robert Plant and Jeff Beck.
The first part of his autobiography ‘Close to the Mark’ was published in 2014 and is full of stories of life on the road and features a real insight into the high and lows of the music business, all told with warmth and humour.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_uZDU7cTj_A&w=560&h=315]
Following the break from the Brum rockers, Stanway put together Kingdom of Madness, calling on old friends who had been members of or associated with his former cohorts, going out on the road to play numbers that no longer featured in Clarkin and Co’s sets.
This project has been welcomed with open arms by fans old and new, the high quality of the artists involved matching the material and both the reputation of the band and audiences have been growing ever since. As with many who’ve spent their lives as a professional musician, the time off touring has hit hard but he’s looking to the future and getting back out there again.
First off, and most importantly: How are you doing?
We are doing very well but like everyone missing friends & relatives. We are also missing playing/working together as a band too.
How have you been keeping yourself busy?
There are never enough hours in a day and in spite of contrary belief this isolation does not necessarily inspire creativity and in all fairness, do we really need another song about lockdown/isolation?[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J31nPt2YnN0&w=560&h=315]
Have you been doing any online live shows or seen any good ones?
We have started to record a version of a Magnum Classic to include our new singer Tony Martin but it is a time-consuming process sending music stems backward and forward over the interweb. A healthy band (IMO) needs to all be in the same room together to get the best of anything creative.
Have you had to change your way of writing material?
I think the answer to the question above has already covered that one!!
Do you keep in touch with your fellow bandmates / other musicians much?
Absolutely, all of Kingdom of Madness are in constant contact with each other, as I mentioned earlier, we are getting to the final stages of a recording of a Magnum classic which we hope to edit a video together to accompany the track. I also do keep in touch with other musician friends and am writing a track with a very talented guitarist/ friend Murray Gould but like I say it is time consuming not being able to get tighter etc.
What plans have you had to change this year?
Well the live shows keep getting put back and personally cannot see us doing any shows at all this year (I hope I’m wrong but being realistic) which means this will be the longest time I have not played live I can ever remember.
What do you think of the social distancing gigs (like the one that happened in Kansas recently – 229 people in a 1,100-seat venue) or the thought of drive-in gigs as has just been announced by Live Nation?
Nothing beats a room full of enthusiastic supporters and I cannot see how one can make it work financially playing to a reduced capacity, I also don’t think many people would like to risk anything like it at the moment. Maybe a drive-in gig sounds a little more feasible but how many UK venues could accommodate such an event?[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QIJoqCCPeuY&w=560&h=315]
How do you think the music industry will have changed after this period of lockdown?
A rather general question really, I can only speak for the Rock side of the industry and personally can’t see that changing dramatically because of this epidemic.
What plans have you got for when the isolation finishes and gigs start back up again?
Like most bands/musicians, we just long for the time we can get out and play live and try to earn a living doing what we do and enjoy best.
How can people support you during this time?
Ha, send me money!!! Joking aside, I regularly raffle off my Magnum memorabilia and encourage people to support that for various and worthwhile local needs (there is a June raffle open at the moment on my group page www.facebook.com/groups/markstanway with great prizes so invite people to join my group page and get involved).
Thankfully, we have a great fan base that stay loyal and we all endeavor to keep various topics alive and encourage discussions and input on all of our various pages. Stay safe everyone, this will NOT last forever.
Interview by Paul Monkhouse for MPM