Mark Stanway was a member of the legendary band Magnum from 1980, util his sudden departure in 2016. The band being a fine mix of hard-rock, pop, and prog – Mark’s contributions to the band’s recordings were a major part of the band’s sound. Since his departure from Magnum, he has kept busy getting new projects going, which will be of major interest to Magnum fans, as well as those that remember the band Grand Slam [w/ Phil Lynott, RIP].
In this interview, Mark shares some recollections from his early days, his time with Magnum, and what he is currently up to and has in the works for the future.
Check out more on Mark’s history, his upcoming gigs and projects, stories, and to order his book – http://www.markstanway.co.uk
Also, check out Mark’s youtube channel – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCk2kj8h6oEzGDk4tAxElW_A
Can you give me a ‘top 10’ of your favourite recordings/LPs growing up in the 60s and 70s?
Beatles: Sgt Pepper, Revolver, White Album, Rubber Soul, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Cream: Disraeli Gears, Led Zeppelin 1 & 2, Jimmy Hendrix, Billy Cobham: Spectrum, Focus: Moving Waves, Camel: The Snowgoose. Jeff Beck
You were heavily influence by jazz, as well as John Mayall. Do you have any favorite pop/rock keyboard players who you picked up from and admired over the years?
Jon Lord, Don Airey, Tony Carey, Tony Hymas, Jan Hammer, and the list goes on
Your first big gig was playing with Alvin Stardust, who was on Magnet Records. I also assume you’re in / were in Wolverhampton [!?] . curious if you could recall a tale from those days or from any of those Wolverhampton bands – Trapeze, Fable…?
Yes I played with the guys from Trapeze (individually) and knew them all well.
You joined Magnum in 1980. what were you first impressions of the band and their music at the time?
I liked the fact that it was keyboard orientated rock at the time, I knew all the guys before I joined also
You played on so many Great Magnum albums. Looking back at the run the band had throughout the 80s from Chasing The Dragon on – what were/are some of your proudest or favorite moments on record? Fave contributions , solos, intros….
Obviously the intro to Sacred Hour (which my wife actually wrote and I adapted for the record but was refused a credit, being a new boy at the time I didn’t argue, but all of the albums from Chase the Dragon all the way up to 1995, when Tony split the band up – were all good albums and I was given a fair bit of freedom with the keyboard parts and
Magnum had a huge following in the UK, but never really broke through in North America. And why would you think the band never made it huge over here or managed to get on regular tours here?
Yes as we only ever played there once supporting Ozzy in 1982. So that’s why we never cracked the States as we didn’t go there again
You worked briefly with Phil Lynott in his solo band and Grand Slam. What impressed you most about Phil – as a person [friend] and as a writer / musician?
I worked with Phil from Summer 1983 on his solo tour and continued to work with him and formed Grand Slam up until late 1984. Phil was a great friend, great sense of humour, great writer and deliverer of lyrics and open to all contributions from me at all times. A true star and sadly still miss him so much
During Gland Slam you guys recorded and performed “Dedication”, a song many only know as a Thin Lizzy song [which it wasn’t really]. What do you recall of recording/performing this one and any other new tracks you guys were working on?
Dedication was written by Laurence Archer for Grand Slam (lyrics were by Phil, the music by Laurence), and we performed it many times, I have all the recordings (mostly on cassettes that we ever did) and we worked on many tracks together including, Military Man which I actually co-wrote, Sisters of Mercy, Slam, Gay Boys and many more – all of which I co wrote also
During your time with Magnum, songs were [are] always written by Tony Clarkin. Was that the deal when you joined and did you ever put forth material?
Tony always wrote the songs, which was not negotiable! I obviously contributed keyboard parts and arrangements
How did a Magnum song evolve in the studio – because your keyboards were a huge part of the band’s sound, and there was plenty of room for grand intros and solos. [!?]
Tony would, back in the day – just come to the studio and play his song ideas with just an acoustic guitar and they evolved from that really; that is up until the time he got a computer and learned how to record his demos at home.
I did not really get Magnum until I got Into The Valley Of The Moonking to review when it came out, and from there I was hooked [and am still trying to fill in gaps in my collection]. Again, for you – what are the highlights on record and as far as the live shows from 2002 til 2016? and can you shed any insight into a few of those fantastic keyboard intros – When We Were Younger, Live Til You Die, Crazy Old Mothers….?
I used to take the demos home and work on parts in my own small studio and then take them back to the recording studio and some were used and some were not, I still have copies on CD of the stuff I did even the stuff that was not used.
Can you or will you ever shed any light into the reasons for leaving the band in 2016?
Yes in time or maybe my next book (which I have started), which would enable me to answer the question comprehensively which cannot be done properly in a few paragraphs or an interview. Its like trying to tell someone why their 36 year marriage came to an end!! There are 36 years worth of small reasons which accumulated and
came to a head which basically made my decision/mind up for me.
You wrote and released your own book in 2015. Now, I’m only part way in to it – but there are some hilarious stories. How exactly did you determine that you should do this and how has feedback been, particularly from a few of those mentioned in some of the stories?
The book continues to sell and I started writing it years ago, it is all 100% positive stuff about Magnum but I was never allowed to sell it at Magnum shows which obviously resulted in the serious potential loss of sales. It was after my book was released that tensions arose which still baffles me to this day.
You’ve been very busy since leaving – reforming Grand Slam, solo shows….what else am I missing?
My ‘Evening With’ Shows are taking priority at the moment as I still have to earn a living etc, but also do a lot of Raffles on my facebook group page for local causes which is worthwhile and fun albeit very time consuming. I am also when we get the chance writing new Grand Slam Material with Laurence for a proposed new album as and when time permits. I am also looking at putting an all star band together for late autumn (again if I get the time)
What’s the status on a new Grand Slam album? when will it be out and who will be writing and playing on it? will there some of Phil’s songs used?
We have a live recording and DVD from Sweden Rock 2 years ago which we will also get round to mixing and finishing which does have the old Grand Slam songs included. (The rest of the answer to this question is answered in the previous questions response )
You’ve done a few solo shows (?) – what do these shows consist of – as far as material performed and guests who perform with you?
I have only done 1 show so far and you should get to one, as they will vary from show to show dependant on the availability of friends and guest artists.
Do you foresee yourself putting together a band and/or writing and recording a solo album?
Yes again as time permits, I have several songs waiting to be recorded when the time is right and convenient
Do you buy / listen to a lot of music at home? and anything in particular these days?
I always listen to music at home and watch very little TV, and what I listen to always depends on my mood at the time so it could be anything from Debussy, Stevie Wonder, Gino Vannelli, especially anything by Jeff Beck, all the way through to Art Tatum, Meades Lux Lewis and Fats Waller!!
Interview, Kevin J. / Feb. ’18