Interview with former Iron Maiden, and Cutting Crew musician, Tony Moore – The 40 year journey in creating ‘Awake’

“I'm on a bit of a mission here. This is my passion now, and it's really something that I couldn't have done at any almost any other point in my life. It had to be now. This was the point many things were building to”.

Interview by Mark Lacey

Former Iron Maiden, and Cutting Crew musician, Tony Moore on his forty-year journey towards creating the ‘Awake’ show; his cinematic masterpiece, and life’s work

Across an industry that can be unforgiving, Tony Moore is one of its most positive, and endearing characters. Since taking a short-lived chance opportunity to join Iron Maiden in 1976-77, his career has seen many twists and turns; performing with Tanz Der Youth, Radio Java, and the chart-topping Cutting Crew; playing the closing ceremony of the 2019 European Games in Minsk; and championing the next generation of musicians through his Kashmir Club and the Bedford. His greatest personal challenges came to him during the lockdown, which saw him battling against the attack on the creative industries, whilst also becoming a full-time carer during his mother’s final days with dementia. His latest work ‘Awake’ is perhaps his ultimate calling, as he uses his one-man show to share messages of love.

MGM: Your music has spanned so many genres across your 40+ year career, so how would you describe your musical persona to someone coming to it for the first time?

Tony: It’s always difficult to pigeonhole yourself because everybody always sees and hears you in ways that you’ve never thought of. When I was younger, people would say as a vocal comparison that I’m like Jon Anderson because I’ve got quite a high voice. Or Sting. Musically speaking, I’ve always written songs that mean something to me. My musical journey has been very eclectic. I grew up in Bristol. My dad was a musician, my mum was a dancer. It was a creative household. I was encouraged. I had a school band, and did lots of gigs around Bristol in the seventies. But I realised I needed to move to London if I was going to try and make anything of myself in the business.

I answered an advert in the Melody Maker and I joined Iron Maiden, who were not famous at that point but were looking for a keyboard player. This period of Iron Maiden around 1976-77 has been talked about quite a lot and it’s almost, in a weird way, a strangely lost period of time because there isn’t a lot of documentation. Those of us that are still around are generally happy to talk about those days, but there aren’t videos and there’s very few pictures. For me, it was a magical period, because this was my excuse to move to London and join a band. I stayed with Steve Harris and his grandma initially at their house in the East End. Steve has always had this laser like focus, which is that he loves music, and he loves to play music. We used to sit and talk about how we’d have a show and it’d be like Genesis; amazing lights and stage show, and how we were going to be this big band and be the cutting edge of new British rock music. 1977 was this little downturn where punk had arrived and people had turned their backs on traditional rock and the dinosaurs. So, it was an exciting time and I loved every moment. But after many months of rehearsing and planning, we did this gig at the Bridge House and at the end of it, for me, I had this feeling that keyboards wasn’t right in this band. So, I left on good terms, there weren’t any arguments, but I moved on. There have been many members of Iron Maiden over the years. People have come and gone, but it’s like a family, really. We’re all still joined a little bit somewhere along the line.

MGM: That Iron Maiden stint certainly gave you a taste for it, and sparked a career that has taken many twists and turns.

Tony: I joined a band with Brian James from the Damned called Tanz Der Youth. We toured with The Stranglers, and we toured with Black Sabbath with Ozzy in ’78, which was the last tour before he left, which was a pretty mad tour. Then I joined a progressive rock band and moved out to the country for three years and lived in a studio, and it was like a strange cult like commune. I came back to London, started writing again for a little label called Carrere that had Saxon on at the time. We were on this label as Radio Java and did an album at Abbey Road. It didn’t really do much, but some Dutch DJs picked up on one of the songs and started playing it at Christmas 1983-84 and we had an airplay hit. We were flying out to Holland doing all these big TV shows but it wasn’t a real hit because no one could buy the thing. It was just on the radio all the time. When that all fizzled out I joined Cutting Crew and we started touring the world on the back of ‘I Died In Your Arms’ opening for Starship and The Bangles and Huey Lewis and all kinds of amazing artists in America. 1987 was a glorious and fabulous time to be making music. I left halfway through the second album for various reasons, and started to do some solo projects. At the end of the nineties I was just so sick and tired of being a songwriter and having nowhere to play my songs, so I started a little night. I called it the Kashmir Club, and almost within two months we were inundated with artists who wanted to play, and audiences that were hungry for this music.

I remember Damien Rice did his first gigs with us, and The Feeling. Sheryl Crow even came down one night and liked it so much she did a secret gig with us. This ran for six years. It’s a very gratifying thing to be able to help people’s career at the early stage because they’re not only grateful, but there are things that you can do that will make a difference. Twenty years ago, I took over doing the same thing at the Bedford. And through that period of time, still writing, still working with people, still doing my own gigs but I got caught up in James Bay, Paolo Nutini, James Morrison, Ed Sheeran and KT Tunstall and all this new generation of artists that came through. So, that kind of brings us sort of to the pandemic.

MGM: The lockdown put a pause on the whole industry, and without live music, many musicians could only write. Your answer was to write a cinematic concept album called ‘Awake’, and it’s seen you step outside of your own comfort zone to showcase the breadth of your musicianship, even playing some Gilmour-esque guitar.

Tony: I just thought, well, why not? There was nothing else to do. I’m channelling all the things that I’ve ever loved in my life and all the things that have influenced me; Dave Gilmour, Yes and Brian May were big influences. Ritchie Blackmore was a big influence. Even Rory Gallagher. I love guitar players. I just never had the confidence to stand up and say, I can do that as well. I just secretly noodled away in the corner for years. ‘Awake’ was just an accident. I just had some sounds and I started jamming. I sent two minutes of it to some friends, and they said it sounds like it could be in a movie, and I was encouraged to finish it. I thought, four minutes in, maybe I should have some lyrics, because I’m just being indulgent. I had some lines that I wanted to sing. Then I carried on playing more guitar. Eight and a half minutes later, it’s finished, and I’m doing these live streams during the lockdown and in the middle of the stream, I just did it live. I had the track playing behind me, and I’m playing the guitar live. I posted it on Facebook, and got thousands and thousands of people tell me they loved this track. I was so touched by people’s enthusiasm I thought maybe this could be the opening for an album. So, I gave myself two months, February and March of 2021, to write, record and finish the album.

MGM: What was the inspiration for it? It started out with one track, so you were performing that first track before you’d even written the others.

Tony: There has been a lot of stuff going on over the last few years. I wanted to reflect some of the things that I and my friends had experienced. It’s partly physical, but partly emotional, partly spiritual, partly mental. We’ve been on this crazy journey through the lockdown, where we were told in the UK as creatives, maybe we should think about retraining. That was one of the most blood chilling things I’d ever heard in my life. I’ve spent my entire career since I was fifteen, just playing music in one way or another and at different levels of success. It’s all I know. I was quite disturbed at the thought that we creators were being told we have to retrain for the future. That was a very dark moment and it wasn’t even like it was a temporary thing. No, this was like, this is it! Very scary, and that underpins some of the music. But that moment also made me look at my life and reflect on what I’ve done, where I’ve been. In a weird way, the little thirteen year old Tony who loved Genesis, Yes, Pink Floyd, psychedelic Beatles and Bowie and Ziggy Stardust ….  who had these dreams to be like that and create something that would affect people, and be immersive as an experience. I thought, I’ve never done that. By anyone’s standards, I’m proud and blessed to have had an amazing life, but I still haven’t quite done the thing that I wanted to do. So, I thought, well, I’m just going to do it. The album is reflective of my personal journey, and there isn’t a moment in it that doesn’t reflect back to something that has significance in my life.

MGM: The show is an audio feast, but the accompanying visual screening brings all of that journey to life, and more. And each visual has a personal meaning.

Tony: Some of the images are of ballet dancers, and my mum was a ballet dancer. The show begins with a little piece of music from Clockwork Orange. When David Bowie opened the Ziggy Stardust shows, he came on stage to a bit of music from Clockwork Orange. There are three references to Stanley Kubrick in there because he’s my favourite director of all time. Even in the imagery at the end, there’s some primary colours that were also very influenced by Clockwork Orange in the titling sequence. When I was making the album, I was looking after my mum, who had dementia. I moved into her house, and was working in the shed in her garden and I became her primary carer. She’s in the music as well, because she was such a part of my journey. After I’d written ‘Awake’ and I started thinking about making an album, I knew it had to be a live show. The great thing about the concept album idea is that you aren’t governed by any rules, so I created something as I was writing it where I would direct the mood.

MGM: Your show is immersive and cinematic Did you know that this was going to be as visual an experience as it’s become when you started writing the music?

Tony: All the videos in the show I’ve either made, I’ve collated or edited together. Much of them are found footage from the public domain. There is so much footage out there that’s all a bit weird and wacky that I’ve repurposed. I’m upcycling! I got some incredible cartoons from the 1920-30’s; quite psychedelic stuff that was ostensibly made for kids, but I think really made for adults.

I knew that I had to create a show to go with the music that would be the lead for the music. I didn’t know how it would go down, but in my head I was collecting bits of video and pictures; like a mood board as I was writing the songs. When I’d finished the album, I immediately started putting it all together and I was trialling it during my streams. A lot of this for me is manifestation. I’m seeing really clearly what I want to do and I’m just not letting anything stop me.

MGM: Many people have compared this show to Pink Floyd for its high-quality soundscapes and cinematic production. Roger Waters wrote from his own experiences, and your own lyrics also feel deep rooted and personal. Several of the lyrics across your songs are quite sentimental, like “Love removes the fear”, and “Don’t leave us lost and alone” but you also change the mood and sing “Just one night; playing in the house band in front of a crowd, going crazy”. In ‘Dear Life’ you also sing about “Holding on for dear life. I’ll protect and love you”. You can tell that those lyrics really mean a lot to you.

Tony: Well, “Love, we need you here” is almost the key message for everything. Everyone who sees the show takes something away of their own. I don’t want to dictate what people feel. But a lot of people do pick up on the mood of what’s happening and there’s a lot of dark elements in this as well as very uplifting elements. What I really wanted to impart is that love is the most important thing because we’re currently in a very divisive, divided, fractured and fragmented world and it seems to be getting worse. And in order to counter that at some personal level, we have to embrace love as much as possible. We need to be forgiving, we need to be thoughtful, we need to be grateful, but we need to be as loving as possible and we need love to guide us. It’s this unseen force that we all experience in different ways.

‘Just One Night’ came out of the Rishi Sunak thing about being asked to retrain. This was me having a dream that I was just in a band playing music. Whether you’re Roger Waters or Brian May or whether you’re just someone in a band in a pub playing, the real reason that we all make music as musicians is because we love to make music. There’s something truly gratifying when we play music for people that are enjoying it. I’ve done a million covers gigs in my life, and still do sometimes, and if I sit down and play ‘Hotel California’ and everyone’s singing along with me, it’s like we’ve had this experience together. That’s what music does. It joins us. ‘Just One night’ was my dream that having been told I might never do it again; I was just in the band playing the guitar for people that wanted a buzz. Didn’t have to be famous. We just want to make music.

MGM: You’re known as one of the nicest people in the music industry, and you have a warmth of personality that spreads positivity. After COVID, so many musicians have cited being asked to retrain, and their reactions were angry, but you seemed to have turned that darkness into a positive.

Tony: Something my mum imparted to me when I was very young, was just to do the best you can. No-one’s perfect, right? None of us can live in this world without messing up and doing stupid things, but ultimately, if we try and do the right thing and be a good person, I enjoy my life because of that in a weird way. There are no moments where I think, oh, God, I hope so and so doesn’t turn up because I was really rude to them. I just bumble along in my life quite happily doing what I do. If it all finished tomorrow, I’ve just had the best ever time. But I’m at the point now where I’m about to have the better, best ever time I’ve ever had, because I finally managed to achieve the momentum to do the thing I love. ‘Awake’ for me is not just something that I can do, it’s something that I have to do. I’m absolutely obsessed with what I’m doing with this show.

MGM: Living with your mum in her final months played a part in inspiring this concept and production, but did she ever get to hear the ‘Awake’ recordings in their entirety?

Tony: So, here’s the great thing. Alzheimer’s and Dementia is such a wicked and cruel condition, and during the Lockdown, I’d moved in with her. At the beginning of lockdown, I started doing a stream every single night. From March 24th, I did two hours every night for 110 nights without a break. And every single night I had to play some new material, because I was playing primarily to the same people, but a growing audience, so I had to change the music. What it taught me, though, was that life is meaningless without purpose. Why do you get out of bed in the morning, why do you wash, why do you do anything? You have to have some kind of purpose in life. My purpose in those days when everything was taken away from us, was to be ready at 8pm every night to help this community of people, and we would have two hours of our own normality. And my mum would watch these streams. She would forget, so I had to work out how to remotely turn the TV on using an app on my phone. She watched the shows, and the amazing thing about music and dementia is that she knew every word to every song, and was singing along with them. And when I wasn’t doing the shows live, she’d be watching the repeats on YouTube. That kept her happy. She knew the whole show. There’s a song called ‘Crazy in The Shed’ and she used to call it ‘Daisy in The Shed’ because she couldn’t quite get her head round ‘crazy’. I have video of her as part of the show. When you see it, it’s very moving and it’s very difficult for me. But she’s with me every single night that I do the show and she always will be.

There’s a very personal story. But I discovered that my story is quite universal. When I sing about my mum and I sing ‘Dear Life’ about being there for her and protecting her and hanging on to her for dear life, I look around the room and I know that there’s many people who feel the same, who have lost people or who are losing them, who are in tears with me, but good tears.

MGM:  You’ve managed to really get to the core of people’s emotions with that song.

Tony: That’s the greatest compliment, because all the music in this show, for me, I’m very naked, and vulnerable. Although it’s a show and I’m being theatrical and fun, I’m not hiding behind anything. I’m actually just revealing everything that I’m going through. And because of that, we have some emotional moments … and then we’ll go to the ‘Crazy in the shed’. When it gets to that point in the show, it’s the last thing you’d ever expect. I wanted to make an album that you couldn’t quite predict what would happen next. But emotionally, you would be following this narrative arc across the album, and at the end of it, you should feel that you’ve been somewhere that you needed to be, because we all feel like we’re part of a bigger community at the end of it.

MGM: You have some dates coming up across the country in Camden, Bournemouth and Hungerford, but you’re also playing at the famous Cart & Horses in Stratford.

Tony: That’s really exciting because obviously that’s nicknamed the Birthplace of Iron Maiden, and arguably it is. All the very first gigs took place there. I have played there a couple of times, doing some solo stuff, but the new venue in the basement is amazing and they got a screen there. A lot of what I’m doing has reflections of my time in Maiden right. One of the things I loved about Maiden was that it was going to be such a theatrical band. So that’s May 2nd. And then I have plans to take ‘Awake’ further afield. America is very much in my sights and I’ve got someone who wants to take it to LA. I also want to take it to Vegas, because I think it would work very well as a residency, where the entire space becomes part of the show. There’s so much we can do with this. It’s very exciting times and I’m just beginning. But this is the best time of my life. And for anyone that can get to come and see it, there’s an experience to be had and I’d love you to be a part of the experience with me.

Tony Moore will be performing his ‘Awake’ show at selective venues:

April 27th: The Camden Club, London

April 29th: Trouville Hotel, Bournemouth

May 2nd: Cart & Horse, Stratford, London

May 27th: Croft Hall, Hungerford

June 10th: Compton & Up Marden CE School, Chichester

For more information and tickets:

www.tonymooremusic.com

www.awakemusic.info/wp/

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