NEW MAGNUM DRUMMER LEE MORRIS VERY PROUD OF 'LOST ON THE ROAD TO ETERNITY'
Interview: Chris Dale 12th January 2018
Along with a new album in 'Lost On The Road To Eternity', Magnum have a new drummer in the shape of Lee Morris, formerly of Paradise Lost and Marshall Law. I caught up with him to find out what makes him tick...
So Lee, how did you get started as a drummer?
"Well, my Dad was a drummer so I pretty much grew up with drums in the house, so I think I got an interest in it early on. I used to go and watch him play as a kid and I used to sit on the front of the stage trying to copy what my Dad was doing.
"I remember an old guy coming up to me one night saying I'd worked hard and gave me 50p so I thought 'hey, maybe I could do this as a job' so I guess it worked out OK."
You first came to public attention in Marshall Law. How did you hook up with them and what did the experience teach you?
"I knew Roger Davis really well as we were both in local bands on the Midlands circuit and after we'd talked about doing something together he landed the Marshall Law gig so we never got to play together then.
"Little did I know that they were also looking at changing drummer so Roger recommended me and I auditioned and got the job. It was my first experience in a signed original band so it taught me a lot, especially in the studio as I got to work with producers Steve Harris and Mark Stewart, who incidentally is Magnum's tour manager and sound engineer. So my Magnum link goes back a fair way!"
Lee Morris, second from Right in Marshall Law, c1990
I should tell you dear reader, that I remember Lee and Marshall Law very well. My old band Atom Seed opened for them on tour back in the day. It was a low budget affair up and down the rainy motorways of England for a few weeks but we always had a laugh out of it between the two bands. I asked Lee how he looked back on his early tours with Marshall Law?
"I have very fond memories of those days travelling and sleeping in our (t)rusty transit playing anywhere we could on our quest for world domination! Hehe!
"I still see the guys on occasion and I'm hoping to hook with Roger during the tour as I think he is on tour with Toseland around the same time as us."
Just to let you know, Roger Davis, the bass player, is on the far right in the photo above. So, then you got the gig with Paradise Lost, didn't you? How did that happen?
"That was a strange turn of events. I was playing with Robin George at the time and had just finished tracking drums on some demos. I got a call from a mate of mine in Bradford who wanted me to dep for his band for a short time and as I'd finished Robin's stuff he was OK for me to do it.
"While I was in Bradford another mate of mine told me Paradise Lost were after a drummer. I didn't really know much about the band but my friend said they were big in Europe so I should go for it. The short version is I sent a tape in to their management, the band liked it so I was asked to audition two days later.
"I had to borrow the CDs of songs I needed to learn from my buddy in a record shop."
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Hang on, you borrowed the CDs from a record shop?
"Yeah, like I said, he was a mate of mine. Anyway I was gigging the next two nights and so rather than write all the songs out to learn them I decided it would be quicker just to rely on vocal cues in the tunes.
"Unfortunately, Nick Holmes didn't sing at the audition so I completely butchered those four songs but the band still asked me to stay to play through some of the ideas for their new album. Two hours later I left.
"I got asked back again (having learned the older songs properly this time) and again we jammed through the new stuff. I did a full week of rehearsals then, without guitarist Greg Macintosh as he was away on holiday. When he got back, the band offered me the job two songs into the first full band rehearsal."
Lee Morris in Paradise Lost, second from left
How long were you with them in total?
"It was about ten years; we did five full length albums and a couple of compilation and live bits. I got to travel the world several times playing some great shows and meeting some great people."
Was it fun touring with them?
"Yes, it was! It was funny as we had a serious dour image but we did have a lot of fun and of course there were always pranks or things going wrong to laugh about.
"When Paradise Lost did our first tour of Japan we had a big grand intro tape and unfortunately my kit was set quite far back on stage, so as the intro was about to end I tried to squeeze behind the kit ready to start the show but unfortunately I trod on a power cable and after a flash of blue light all the electrical power on stage went off. Talk about an anti climax! Hehe!"
I heard you jumped into a cesspit for them, is that true?
"I know we used to bet each other we wouldn't do various things so I probably did do some daft things on tour bets. I remember dying my hair bright red on tour in Germany. That's the problem with days off on tour, you do funny things."
So I've heard, anyway moving on quickly to the present day and you've joined Magnum! Tell us how you got that one?
"I've known Al Barrow (Magnum bassist) quite a few years as well as Annie Minnion who is Bob Catley's manager and like I said before I've known Mark Stewart a few years too. Unbeknown to me the band were having problems trying to balance theirs and Harry James' busy schedules."
Harry is the drummer of Thunder but has also been playing for Magnum since 2002.
"I had just become available and Al and Annie had recommended me to Tony Clarkin. Annie actually called me one day to say she'd given Tony my number and he was going to call soon. It's not every day that a true musical legend calls you so I had to calm myself with a strong cup of tea, but the call was great.
"He said he'd heard good things from Al and Annie and said he'd been watching some tube stuff of me and basically would I like to join Magnum?
"I think I said 'yes' before he'd even finished the sentence! Hehe! Would I like to join a band I've been a massive fan of for over twenty years?
"What happened is like something that happens in a dream but you never expect it to happen for real. I still pinch myself everyday! It's a great band to be in musically and personally as they are all great musicians and really down to earth guys. I've been made to feel very welcome."
Magnum 2018 - Lee Morris, Bob Catley, Tony Clarkin, Al Barrow and Rick Benton
It must be said that Magnum have a had their fair share of great drummers over the years. As both a drummer yourself and a fan of the band, how do you rate each of Magnum's previous drummers?
"I feel very honoured to be following some great drummers in this band. I thought Kex Gorin had a great style and you could feel the energy in his playing. He was perfect for the early Magnum material.
"Jim Simpson did a great job on 'Storytellers Night', though I don't think he actually joined the band, but what a great album to do a session on!
"I thought Mickey Barker was a great drummer too and he brought some real flair to the band. I saw him on the 'Vigilante' tour and was blown away. Great groove and some tasty fills. Plus having two bass drums is always cool.
"Jimmy Copley. I first saw Jimmy with Go West many years ago and he had such an incredible swing feel to his playing. I was really saddened when he passed away as he really was a great player.
"Lastly Harry James. He's just such a solid player. Great feel and as tight as they come. You don't get so much work as a professional drummer if you're not on top of your game and he's been there for a few years so that tells you a lot.
"All very different players but they all brought out different dimensions in the band. I'm honoured to have my name alongside all these great drummers. No pressure eh? Hehe!
"It's always difficult joining a very established band, especially one that has had such an amazing set of previous drummers. But, I just want to bring what I do to the band and hope the fans like it. I know the band have an incredibly close relationship with the fans and no doubt they will tell me if I suck!"
Lee Morris' debut performance with Magnum at the Z7 Festival, Switzerland 2017
Are you on the new album, 'Lost On The Road To Eternity' then?
"I am; I didn't think I was going to be at first as I think Harry was maybe pencilled in to do it but Tony wanted the new line-up on the album to show that this is the new full time line-up. I'm glad he did, I'm very proud of this album and I put my heart and soul into it.
"The way it worked was the songs initially pretty much get to the band from Tony as full complete demos and we just replace the parts Tony used in the demos. The recording process was an incredible experience.
"When you see how Tony puts songs together it's inspiring and he had some great drum ideas that worked great so why change them? But he also was so open to me taking some tracks in a completely different direction so it really was an amazingly creative process. Like musical tennis!
"We're in tour rehearsals now. We start the UK leg of the tour on February 20th in Bristol before we start the European leg on the 14th March in Holland. We finish this leg of the tour on 16th April in Madrid. Can't wait!"
Here's the full Magnum tour dates:
26th January: UK-Minehead - Giants Of Rock 20th February: UK-Bristol - Trinity 21st February: UK-Cardiff - Tramshed 23rd February: UK-Holmfirth - Picturedome 24th February: UK-Manchester - Academy 2 25th February: UK-Hull - City Hall (with Saxon) 26th February: UK-Aberdeen - Garage 27th February: UK-Glasgow - Garage 1st March: UK-Belfast - Limelight 2nd March: UK-Birmingham - Town Hall 4th March: UK-Preston - Guildhall 5th March: UK-Nottingham - Rock City 7th March: UK-Leamington - Assembly 8th March: UK-Cambridge - Junction 9th March: UK-London - Islington Assembly Hall 11th March: UK-Southampton - Engine Room 12th March: UK-Brighton - Old Market 14th March: NL-Leiden - Gebr de Nobel 16th March: SE-Stockholm - Fryshuset Klubben 17th March: NO-Oslo - John Dee 18th March: SE-Gothenburg - Sticky Fingers 19th March: SE-Malmoe - KB 21st March: DE-Munich - Ampere 23rd March: DE-Nürnberg - Der Hirsch 24th March: DE-Aschaffenburg - Colos-Saal 25th March: DE-Berlin - Columbia Theater 27th March: DE-Bonn - Harmonie 28th March: DE-Stuttgart - Im Wizemann (Club) 29th March: DE-Freiburg - Jazzhaus 31st March: DE-Wuppertal - Live Club Barmen 1st April: NL-Uden - De Pul 3rd April: DE-Leipzig - Werk 2 4th April: DE-Hamburg - Fabrik 5th April: DE-Bremen - Aladin 7th April: DE-Neuruppin - Kulturhaus 8th April: PL-Bydgoszcz - Klub Kuzinia 10th April: CZ-Prague - Nova Chemelnice 11th April: DE-Memmingen - Kaminwerk 12th April: CH-Pratteln - Z7 13th April: IT-Milano - Legend 15th April: ES-Barcelona - Bikini 16th April: ES-Madrid - But
Tickets for all UK and some European dates are available right here.
Final question then Lee, just for the drummers in our readership, what cymbals and kit are you using these days?
"I'm just looking into my cymbal options at the moment. I'm currently using a maple shell Sonor kit but I'm switching very soon to a new endorsement deal with Duallist drums that I'm very excited about. The owner of the Company, Kevin Mackie, has some incredible innovative ideas so I can't wait to see his vision."
Incredible? Innovative? This is drums we're talking about Lee.
"No really, this guy is doing something quite special. I just can't tell you about it yet."
Sounds, intriguing. Dammit, I'm not supposed to be intrigued by drum kits!
Thanks very much for the interview, Lee! See you at the London show at Islington, March 9th! These drums better be something special now. Then again what I've heard of the new Magnum album is something pretty special too...
'Lost On The Road To Eternity' is released by Steamhammer/SPV on 19th January 2018 as 2 CD digipak version including bonus live disc, 2LP coloured version, download and stream and is available to pre-order right here.