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Arena have been around for a while now building-up a good reputation both in the UK & Europe. Clive Nolan has also been involved with Pendragon, Nolan and Wakeman and many more. Arena's new album 'Conatgion' is out at the end of this month: If you like modern day prog rock then get this album!

1. What are you currently up to?

We are currently preparing the new Arena 'Contagion' tour for April. Over the next couple of months we need to get the first of the special edition EPs ready (We are hoping to sell this on tour). I am also just beginning to write material for the next 'Nolan & Wakeman' project, as well as compiling tracks for a new Archive CD (called "Skeletons in the Cupboard") which will come out in a few months.

2. What has been the highlight(s) and lowpint(s) of your career?

Wow, I think this one keeps changing... it's a matter of perspective..;)

I will never forget the first time Pendragon played the Paradiso in Amsterdam, Holland. After a diet of fairly average small UK gigs, this was a real shock to the system: 800 people hanging off the rafters... excellent. It made the whole thing worth doing. Low points... ah yes, so many to choose from..;) I guess travelling all the way to Milwaukee, USA, to find out that the gig had not been promoted, and the required equipment had not been provided. After a long struggle with the situation, we had to walk on stage and announce to the few that had turned up that we would not be playing. That was very demoralising.

3. Which songs give you the most pleasure to perform live?

I love it when we play a song, and the audience are singing along to one of my lyrics.. its a real buzz. There have been some magical moments like that when we played the Arena track, 'Solomon'. I always used to get a strong vibe when Shadowland played the song 'Jigsaw' as well.

4. The new Arena CD is out in January. What is the theme behind the album? How did the band go about arranging and writing the songs?

We have a fairly set method of writing. I usually get the ball rolling with a bunch of ideas, then Mick comes in and adds to that, then John comes in with some more material. We start of with bits and pieces, and see which ones work the best, or feel the strongest. It's quite an organic process, really, although some songs are more influenced by different writers. The theme behind the album? Well, it's a kind of mix between Noah's Ark and Pandora's Box..;)

5. The instumental track 'Riding the Tide' is feast of keyboards and one of the best instrumental tracks I have heard in a long time. Which style of keyboard playing do you enjoy most? The subtle approach or the more bombastic style of say Keith Emerson? What inspired you to take up playing the keyboards?

Actually it was Rick Wakeman! A friend and I used to go into the practice rooms at School and work out bits of his solo albums. The friend was a guy called Matt Clifford... he's playing for the Rolling Stones at the moment, I believe. Actually I still have his copy of Wakeman's 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth'!

6. Arena vocalist Rob Sowden has a strong vocal presence. How did he link up with the band? Are songs written to suit his style of singing or does he adapt the songs i.e. add his own touches?

We met Rob through his friendship with John Mitchell, so he was never very far away..;)

We have learned what his voice is capable of, then he makes the songs his own, which is more a question of performance style than notes. It's a very natural process.

7. Pendragon - what are the plans for this band? How easy/hard has it been to be a major part of two bands (Arena & Pendragon)?

There's always time for both.

I believe there may be some dates later this year, and Nick Barrett has started writing the next album. There is also the chance that Nick and Peter (Gee) may come out for some of the Arena tour as a support act..

8. How healthy is the progressive rock music scene in the UK? Is it easy to get gigs and exposure to new music? Where are Arena's strongest markets abroad?

The UK has been a somewhat 'featureless desert' for quite a while now. However, I have a theory that it is going to change again. We are actually planning more than just the one London gig on this Arena tour. We hope to find more people coming out for our style of live music again. We shall see!

Our strongest sales are in Germany, Holland and France.

9. Outside of business, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I enjoy going to the cinema. For years, I hardly ever went, but we now have a brand new multi screen cinema very close, so how could I refuse?

10. Message for your fans...

Hi everyone. I hope you enjoy the new album, and hey... come and see Arena on tour in April!


Related>> Review

Related>> John Mitchell interview

Interview © 2003 Jason Ritchie/
Format and edit: The Music Index.

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