WITH ARENA (italian version)
by Giancarlo Bolther
Hi Clive, let’s start with the new album, why have you decided to realize a new live album?
Clive: We had plenty of footage from the tour, and we thought it would be a great testament to the Contagion Concerts.
Can you tell us what we can see in the “Caught In The Act “ dvd?
John: You can expect to see the whole of Contagion followed by a selction of what people might describe as our most classic material from the previous albums.
You have experienced a lot of changes in the line-up, but now seems that you find a period of stability, do you think that this will last?
Clive: We can only hope..;)
In my opinion “Mea Culpa” is one of the best tracks of all times, very touching and full of fascination, how it was born?
Clive: I wrote that track vey quickly... it was born out of how I felt during my Dad's illness... frustrated... isolated!
Rob Sowden now seems to have finally lost the fear being into a great band, he seems more secure about his possibilities, does he will be involved in future on the compositive side, or does he will only continue to sing the Arena’s songs?
John: I think that the current writing partnership that we have (Clive, Mick and myself) works very well and should not necessarily be tampered with. Rob has no real interest in getting involved in the Arena compostional process and we dont really want to upset the apple cart by involving too many people.
How is born the Live & Life’s track list, which is very good one?
John: Its very simple really. It was the setlist for the tour. We were touring contagion at the time so we did that in its entirity and the other stuff was decided on after looking at the Arena polls on our website. Obviously we would like to play everything, but thats just not possible :-)
You have recorded a lot of live albums, why so many? Do you think you are best on a stage?
John: Well, its nice to have a document that represents where you as a band are at certain stages of your career (especially if things are going well :-) and to share that with the fans. Having said that (and more realistically speaking) they also serve the function of keeping the wheels of the big machine turning and help us to bankroll the studio albums. We dont generate a vast amount of money and they help keep us afloat......and yes, of course we are best on a stage!!! :-)
I’ve liked the John Michell’ rendition in singing from the extras in Contagium and Contagious, do you think he can sing some other songs in future?
John: Thank you very much. I'm not the vocalist in Arena and as such that is unlikely to happen. The vocals i do are merely a vehicle for getting the general vibe and melody of a song across to Rob.
I do enjoy singing, but my function in this band is purely as guitarist. And besides, i get to sing in the other things i am involved in so its not like i dont get to have a go! :-)
The covers of your cds are always done with a great care, how do you work out to choose them?
John: We dont. Clive gives the general picture of what the mood and the concept of the album is about and then furnishes David Wyatt with some lyrics. Then its over to Dave to come up with the goods.
During the last tour which was the best concert and why?
John: Hmmmm...tricky one that. I'd have to say The Borderiij in Holland because we sold it out and had to turn away 200 people at the door. Having said that, my guitar amp wasnt working properly and so that somewhat tainted the evening.
I know that you are junt working on a new album “Pepper’s Ghost”, can you give us some anticipations about the music and the lirycs, please?
John: All i can say is that this album seems to be a slight departure for Arena. Its a bit heavier than usual and possible more 'song' based if that makes any sense. The rest you'll just have to find out :-)
(Q for Nolan) You manage a lot of side projects and bands (Pendragon, Stranger On A Train, Medicine Man, Shadowland, Wakeman, Ayreon…) what are you working on in these days?
Clive: There's a few projects being planned and worked on... A third SOAT has been started... there's a kind of ELO project being planned... I'm also trying my hand in a few other areas (a musical and a novel).... these all take time, so watch this space..;)
(Q for Nolan) Does Pendrangon will realize a dvd in future?
Clive: I'm sure they will. In the meantime, Nick B. and I are going over to Poland in January to record a two man DVD... that should be fun. It will feature all sorts of music that we have written.
(Q for Nolan) There are some new collaborations with new musicians in your future?
Clive: There are always interesting collaborations out there. John Mitchell is currently working with John Beck from It Bites and Pete Travawas (Marillion), on a project called 'Kino'.
John Jowitt (from IQ, another band we like very much) played with you, will you play again together in future, maybe on an IQ album?
John: Strangely enough, John will be playing with us at Rosfest in the States in the new year. Ian is unable to come with us due to other commitments, so John is stepping back into his old shoes albeit on a temporary basis.
Every period has had its magic moments, which are the ones that made possible the born of the new prog in the eighties?
John: Probably the death of punk! Which single handedly managed to kill off prog in the late 70s. Once again the door was open for prog!
Does we will listen again the Mellotron in your albums or do you think it’s too vintage for your sound?
Clive: There's mellotron on the new album!
Have you ever thinked to do an album fully instrumental (Rob, this is not a Q against you ;-))?
John: Nope, never considered it. Never say never, but we're a singer led band. It might be a bit weird.
In my opinion your best songs are the ones that reminds to Pink Floyd in some ways, it’s only an impression of mine or you recognize this influence in your sound?
John: Well we all love Floyd. And of course Mr Gilmour is a big influence. But then so are It Bites, Queen, Tool...the list is endless.
The popularity of prog music it was always restricted, there is something that can help the movement (like radio stations or mass media in general) or it will last a cult phenomenon due to the complex character that it has?
John: Not really. I think it will always bubble away underneath with cult status. Its an ecclectic form of music that requires that you have an eclectic taste. At the risk of sounding a bit snobby, i dont think the record buying public at large requires eclectic music...just what i descibe as coffee table music.
Which is the most important audience (country) for Arena?
John: Erm...I dont wish to appear to favour any country in particular..but Holland is a bit of a fave in terms of audience turnout. And germany is very financially lucrative for us! :-)
(Q for Nolan) If you have to choose only one Keyboard to keep with you, which one you will take and why?
Clive: The Korg 01/Wfd would probably win: it's like an old friend... I very used to it. However, I've just got a Korg Triton Extreme, and I'm loving it! Ask me again next year!!
Usually you were compared to Marillion, do you still think to have something in common with this band and do you like again this?
John: No, nothing much in common. And yes i like Marillion...selectively.
Have you listened to the new Marillion album? What do you think about it and in your opinion does it will fit the prog music?
John: Pete gave me a copy and i must confess, i still havent managed to get around to listening to it...so i'm gonna have to pass.
Do you know the italian new prog scene, there is something that you like?
John: Im afraid i dont keep my ear very close to the ground when it comes to prog. But i do like Lacuna Coil (I think they are Italian arent they?)
Do you think to have made some errors in your carrer? If possible there is something that you would change in your past?
John: Erm......perhaps we shouldn't have spent soooo much money making The Visitor album. And maybe my tartan trousers were a mistake ;-)
For a songwriter which is the most difficult thing to do: to write always new material or to keep the interest of the audience?
Clive: I don't think you can afford to worry too much about those things. The best way is to keep looking forward, whilst learning from the past. Confidence and faith in your ability is important.
How do you manage the compositive process inside the band, do you work together or separately?
John: The three of us throw our ideas into a big pot. And we see what works well with what. Call it a musical casserole! It works for us. We always collaborate, to end the question on a serious note.
Very often prog music is melancholic and sad, which is the reason of this, are the times we are living or is something different?
John: Because the best songs in the world are the sad ones. The sad feelings are the ones that stir the most emotion for some reason. And the land of prog rock is no different.
Which are the kind of questions that you like and the ones that you hate?
John: I hate the ones where we get asked about how we find the time to do all the things that we as individuals do. The answer is simple....we only do music, nothing else!
A salute to your italian fans?
John: Hi there you lot in Italy!!! We're gonna come and see you on tour late next year. Looking forward to seeing you again! In the meantime, I hope you like your Ghost with a little Pepper! :-)
Reviews (in italian): Breakfast in Biarritz; Contagion; Contagious; Live; Pepper's Ghost;
Ten Years On
Other interviews: 2000
Retrospettiva su Clive Nolan (article in italian)