A few years ago, the hugely interesting outfit known as Kingdom of Madness came into being and immediately caught my interest as this talented group of wildly skilled musicians perform songs from Magnum’s classic eras and albums, namely the period ranging from 1978 to 1994. Several line-up changes have occurred since the band’s inception with the core of the epic hard rock/prog rock act consisting of Mark Stanway (keyboards), Micky Barker (drums), Richard Bailey (keyboards, flute), and Mo Birch (vocals, percussion) having remained constant – all of whom have previously performed with Magnum. The sparkling new constellation of the ensemble with Mark Pascall on vocals is looking incredibly promising and so RAMzine caught up with Stanway to learn more about their upcoming gigs and plans as well as how the renowned keyboardist has coped with the pandemic and why his memories of the Phil Lynott (Thin Lizzy) tour of 1983 mean so much to him. Do not miss out on Kingdom of Madness when they tour the UK in late 2021/2022.
Greetings Mark, how are you doing and what have you been up to today? Let me start out by saying thank you for taking time out of your schedule to talk to us. First, let us discuss Kingdom of Madness’ plans for late 2021 and 2022. You have a hometown gig in Wolverhampton in December and then quite a few dates for spring and autumn 2022. You must be truly excited about getting out there on the road again?
M: Hi Jens, good to hear from you too. Yes, it seems at last after many re-scheduled shows that we will be playing live at the Newhampton Arts Centre in my hometown of Wolverhampton on December 18th, 2021. All other dates have been re-scheduled for April/May and September/October 2022. It has been so frustrating not being able to play live especially for the fans who have paid to see us and had to wait so long before they can. (All tickets are valid for the re-scheduled shows and all of us in KoM are itching to play and premier new singer Mark Pascall).
Will the Wolverhampton gig be filmed or recorded for future use? As I think I have mentioned to you before, I have a dream of you guys releasing a live album on CD or vinyl one day.
M: We are hoping to get some video and audio footage from the show for promotional purposes rather than commercial as I don’t really see the point of recording Magnum material for a CD release as this would not benefit us financially. However, new original material is being looked at as the lockdown restrictions have now been eased enabling all of us to get together more freely.
Given that Magnum’s discography is quite extensive, how do you go about organizing a set list and choosing which songs to play? Do you mostly stick to fan favorites and classics or perhaps personal favorites? Or maybe even a mixture of both?
M: Yes, Magnum are blessed with a huge catalogue of songs – well over 200! The idea of Kingdom of Madness was to only play material from 1978 to 1994 as Richard Bailey was on the first two albums, Micky Barker was on all albums from 1986 starting with Vigilante through to 1994’s Rock Art, which many people refer to as the Classic Magnum period, and of course I was on some 19 albums, so we stick to only songs up to 1994. The last thing I wanted was to try and compete with the mighty Magnum but to play the classics that so many fans still want to hear and where possible songs that Magnum don’t play these days. There are some personal favourites of mine of course with songs like ‘Tall Ships’, ‘Wild Swan’ & ‘Loves a Stranger’ as a few examples and we will introduce other songs once we have toured with the present intended set list.
I noticed that the Kingdom of Madness line-up changed not that long ago, one change being that Tony Martin (Black Sabbath) was replaced by Mark Pascall. Did you ever rehearse with Tony or did the pandemic get in the way of that? His work with Black Sabbath is magnificent in my opinion.
M: We did have a couple of run-throughs with Tony Martin who remains a very close friend of mine especially. By the time the COVID-19 situation eventually eased and allowed live shows to be re-scheduled, Tony had solo plans for 2022 so unfortunately, he never actually would end up playing with us. However, Mark Pascall is a wonderful replacement and if anything, more suitable to the Magnum back catalogue of material. The proof will be in the pudding when we debut him on December 18th this year at the Newhampton Arts Centre Wolverhampton (our only live show of 2021).
The 2021/2022 line-up looks impressive for sure, and I was wondering how Brian, Mark, and Alan became involved in KoM? Were they friends of yours before they joined forces with KoM?
M: The first proper band I was ever in was a band called Rainmaker back in the mid-seventies and Brian Badhams was the bass player. He is a tremendously talented bass player and sits in perfectly with the wonderful Micky Barker on drums making it a phenomenal rhythm section. Brian was in Bernie Marsden’s Alaska back in the 80’s so he has all the credibility required for KoM. With regard to Alan Bell, yes, he was a friend from before I formed KoM and he actually stood in on guitar for us on a gig in 2019 at very short notice and did a sterling job, so this gig in December will only be his second show with us. Mark Pascall was actually recommended to me by a friend and after checking him out I quickly came to the conclusion that he was an absolute perfect and natural replacement for Chris Ousey, which in itself says a lot as Chris is still one of my favourite singers. So again, I can’t wait to debut him also in December.
The KoM line-up has always been slightly fluid with Mo, Micky, Richard, and you forming the core of the band. Would it be fair to say that having had quite a few different musicians involved in the endeavor over the years has also kept it fresh, interesting, inspired, and inspiring at all times?
M: KoM is still in reality a fairly new band (especially having a 2-year break because of the pandemic), and the likes of the wonderful Neil Murray, Chris Ousey and Laurence Archer all had other commitments and found it difficult to stay with KoM from a financial point of view… we all have to earn a living! As a matter of interest if ever the situation arises that Brian Badhams could not do a show for whatever reason, then Neil is always available as a stand-in as we remain very close friends, and let’s face it, they don’t get any better than Neil Murray.
Are rehearsals an enjoyable exercise for you and is the atmosphere within the group laidback and easy-going? Do you guys crack jokes and have fun when jamming together? There must be a lot of funny stories being shared considering that most of you have been professional musicians for years and toured the world many times over.
M: Everything about the new KoM band is positive, enthusiastic, and indeed as you say, a lot of fun what with the ‘Birmingham humour’ and in all fairness, if it is not an enjoyable experience, I wouldn’t be doing it. I have had too many years of not being happy or musically satisfied, especially in the latter part of my Magnum career as all artistic input was completely stifled in my opinion and all the songs had been demoed on a damn computer with the likes of all the drum parts, all the bass parts and a large percentage of the keyboard parts and therefore no arrangement flexibility was possible like there used to be. Sadly, no longer was the band involved collectively anymore. It stopped being a band as such and basically became the Tony Clarkin Band. This was a shame again in my opinion because Clarkin is a super talented songwriter and spites himself when so many great songs could have benefitted by having a little ‘band input’ like there always used to be. In all honesty, I was never truly comfortable with the rhythm section since the reformation back in 2000 and working with click tracks and sequencers live became a damn obsession, and the feel of (or rather the lack of feel from) the bass player especially who was never up to it and never came close to filling Wally Lowe’s shoes! However, it is great jamming with KoM with the likes of Micky Barker and Brian Badhams and the rest of the members; so personally refreshing, feeling like you are in a band again, and above all, it is fun, relaxed, productive, and musically pleasurable again.
I have been thinking a lot about the Phil Lynott tour of 1983 lately and I wanted to ask you what your thoughts on that tour are and whether you have many fond memories from that period?
M: All memories of playing with Phil are golden! One of the funniest guys I ever met and one of the most down to earth guys too. The 1983 Phil Lynott solo tour of Sweden was one of the happiest, proudest, and special musical memories I possess, and of course that was the forerunner of what was originally to become Grand Slam with John Sykes on guitar, Brian Downey on drums, Doishe Nagle on guitar myself and obviously Phil etc. There are so many fond memories and photographs in my book Close to the Mark (still available from my website www.markstanway.co.uk) with a whole chapter dedicated to that cherished time with the great Phil Lynott. I still miss him dearly to this day and he left a huge hole in British rock music when he so sadly and prematurely passed away.
How have you coped with the pandemic and what have you been working on these past many months, musically speaking? Do you have any hobbies or interest outside of music that you have been able to devote more time to or immerse yourself in?
M: We are still trying to cope with this damn pandemic and wonder if things will ever be back to normal or anything like the same again. During the pandemic, I always seemed to be super busy and did a few sessions for other people and stored many musical ideas for future use as well as writing at least half of my intended second book, which is taking longer than expected as inspiration cannot be just dialled up when required. Much of the time during lockdown the last thing that was generally around in my head at least was inspiration. But hey, fingers crossed that the future is getting brighter, safer, and exciting again. Hobbies and things I like outside of music include firstly my ever-increasing family having 10 grandchildren at the last count, I enjoy drawing when I have the time, watching and closely following tennis and Formula 1 especially and (coronavirus restrictions allowing) I also enjoy playing snooker very much.