“An Introduction For Children Of Another God” - Nick Magnus and Dick Foster talk about their current project to Alan Hewitt and Stuart Barnes on Saturday 28th November 2009. Photographs by Stuart Barnes and Alan Hewitt.
Well, it has been a while since we last caught up with Nick - well, he keeps on running away from us! Seriously though, it was a pleasure to catch up with both Nick and Dick and hear about their current activities so, over to you, guys….
TWR: So, here we are talking with Nick Magnus about his latest magnificent octopus or something like that. So, tell us a bit about this new project then…
NM: Right, it’s a concept album because I like doing concept albums now (laughs). This one’s based on a … it’s a slightly different concept to the last one, which was Hexameron which had a general overriding theme to it but not a narrative. This has actually got a narrative to it but the overall theme is a sort of comparison/examination if you like of the differences between uniformity and diversity.
TWR: That’s a BIG concept to deal with.
NM: It is, because diversity is the Darwinian idea whereby having diversity you get lots of variations and it is by variation and adaptation that you flourish and grow and survive. In the same way that if there is global warming, for example, then the way to survive is to adapt rather than to try and stop it. You are never going to stop it, to quote Patrick Moore, one of my favourite quotes of mine, of his sorry when the comet crashed into Jupiter and everyone was going “Oh God, it’s the end of the world” and he said “it’s not going to do a thing; it’s like throwing a baked bean at a rhinoceros” (Laughs) and I love that quote so I throw it in as often as I can but yes, trying to stop climate change is just bad so you have to learn to adapt to it. So, diversity is all about that and variation and it is about embracing the differences between everybody, you know; different cultures, religions if you MUST have them; different sexualities; everything really.
Whereas uniformity insists that there is a kind of global norm that everyone should apply and everyone should be like the global norm. The thought police all of that kind of stuff from which you get all the classic sort of cults and religious fanaticism and Nazism and all that kind of stuff. You can obviously guess which side the album is on but it does it in an allegorical way. There is a back story which underlines it but I don’t want to go into the details of what the back story is because it would spoil the effect. The thing is it should be possible for the audience to make their own deductions. You want to allow them to make their own interpretations. If you say; “well, it’s about this character who did this, and this, and that…”
TWR: It’s basically like wanting to read a book and somebody telling you how it ends…
NM: It’s like reading the synopsis including the ending.
TWR: So when did you start working on this one…?
NM: This has been the longest one so far to do. Hexameron took me a year to do. This one so far has taken me… a year and six months. I am still doing the last two tracks. Actually I moved the goalposts recently because there were two tracks to complete and the final track was actually going to be two parts but the first part ended up being a stand alone track in its own right it just couldn’t after I got to the end of that part I just couldn’t go on and I felt that it had to end with this and unlike Hexameron which ends on a big sort of… all hands on the choir, this one ends very quietly and thoughtfully and it seemed wrong to put anything after it.
TWR: Does the album have a title?
NM: Yes, it is Children Of Another God. It went through several titles (laughs) and we settled on this one because it is what the album is about in a way.
TWR: The other good thing about this one is you have got visuals to go with the sound and they really do augment the story and once again if you are having difficulty grasping what the lyrics are saying, which you shouldn’t do because they are self evident, the visuals really do accompany the story so if you are in any doubt, by the time you have got to the end of it, the visuals you won’t have any problems with it. I notice you have got a couple of familiar faces involved with it again…
NM: Yes, participants so far and probably this will be the final count as well; Tony Patterson on vocals he has sung on the title track so far, he will be singing the final track and the penultimate track as well which is sort of half written at the moment. The other vocalist is Peter Hicks, of course. He has done one and will be doing a second so they are the only two vocalists. Oh, how could I forget, I am doing one! My first lead vocal ever on a track called Identity Theft and there is a video to go with that as well. There are three videos and we would have loved to have done the whole album but it would have taken forever. The video for Children Of Another God, that is all Dick’s (Foster) work. I still can’t believe how good it looks.
TWR: Speak of the devil and here he is… (as Dick Foster enters the room) Congratulations on the visuals they are excellent.
DF: Oh good, shame about the music really (laughs).
TWR: How long did it take you to do the visuals?
DF: Difficult to say because I did them in little bits and pieces. We filmed it in little bits and pieces when Tony was around and when Nick was around. It was done in so many fragmented bits it is difficult to say how long it took , really.
TWR: And it must have been a nightmare having to work with him (Tony) because we all know how temperamental these singers are… (laughs)
DF: I won’t have a bad word said about any of them.
TWR: Have you enjoyed working with these guys?
TP: I loved it. I love Nick’s stuff. It’s been an absolute pleasure. The rest of it from what I have heard is really good. I love working on Nick’s stuff he’s… how can I say this? It’s not just a case of going in and doing the vocal, he drives you really hard but he gets good results.
DF: When they are writing together they are both such perfectionists.
TWR: How many tracks will the finished album have altogether?
TWR: And who else have you got on it apart from yourself and Tony…?
NM: That’s the vocalists covered; Tony, Pete and me spreading the vocal duties around… and Andy Neeve, he does vocals on Colony of course. Then the instrumentalists; Steve (Hackett) is doing guitar on one track and John is playing flute on one track. On double bass there’s Glen Tollett from The Enid who was my predecessor in The Enid, he’s doing double bass on Identity Theft which is the track I sing. Linda John-Pierre - another vocalist, how could I forget this! Also doing vocals on one track. We saw her at the West End performance of All You Need Is Love which was a musical that I did the arrangements for and she was one of the characters in that when we first saw her and she is brilliant. We have done a couple of other projects with her in the past. The vocals have a sound similar to Dusty Springfield in the quieter moments. Have I left anyone out? There are only the three instrumentalists.
TWR: I guess that you are doing the drum programming and everything else yourself again then?
NM: Yeah, I would dearly love to make up a name for who the drummer is basically. Just to throw people off the scent because drummers always like it but inevitably it is always non-musicians who complain. People don’t know unless they are told. The biggest mistake I made on Hexameron was that quip about “No drums were harmed in the making of this album” and oh God, that came back to slap me in the face! I really wish I hadn’t said that. Once you give people the clue and it is always the non-musicians who complain. Musicians don’t they say “loved the drum programming” and drummers saying “who’s playing drums on that?”. It’s the same mentality of non-musicians complaining that you have used Mellotron samples or the wrong brand of synthesiser.
TWR: Speaking as a non-musician, you won’t hear any complaints from me! And when may we expect to see this wondrous opus in the shops?
NM: Oh God, as soon as possible. I really had hoped to have got it finished before Christmas but I don’t think that is likely and it always takes a while to get the machinery going and particularly the manufacturing of the album. Doing the music is such a small part of it and running the whole cottage industry. If you are signed to a major label you have got a whole office or team of people doing all of that for you. It is harder work but at least you are in control of it. And also to try and encourage because I am still something of a Luddite when it comes to all this download stuff; you will notice that none of my albums are available on download although you will probably find them on a torrent site somewhere but none of them are OFFICIALLY available for download because I would much rather people bought the physical copy!
DF: You can savour the graphics, you can read the lyrics …
NM: And this time I wanted to wave goodbye to the jewel case and spend a bit more money and have a digi-pak and try and make it an object that people will want to own. The videos are purely promotional tools, because I physically didn’t know how to do it to enable the videos to appear in a nice environment where you can watch them on your computer and I didn’t have the money to have someone do that so the visuals are going on to You Tube and my web site so once I know what the release date is going to be that is when the videos become public and they will be up on You Tube and my web site, it’s basically the first three songs and they will go up at weekly intervals.
DF: We did toy with the idea of making a little mini DVD with the three tracks and some of the blogs because we have been doing blogs about the making of the album and they are on the web site already. We did toy with that idea but we don’t know if there will be any demand for it. We don’t know if people would be interested in that or not.
NM: You will find more variety of style and colour and mood on this album than on Hexameron even.
DF: It’s a journey, each album should be a journey with landmarks and postcards along the way.
And with that, we come to the end of our chat with Nick and Dick. Children Of Another God is now available direct from Nick’s web site.