You are a rock musician - why did you start writing musicals?
Clive: When I was a child my parents had a radiogram. You were pulling the little doors open and there was room for albums on the sides and the record deck in the middle. Being an only child I used to have a lot of time on my own and I used to go through these records. We had a collection of albums like South Pacific, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music. At that time I did not really think consciously about the genre - I just used to listen to these albums all the time and make up my own stories, cause they did not have proper sleeves. So, I had to imagine what was going on in the story. Thus from a very early age I was listening to that kind of music and my parents used to take me to see some of the musicals in the cinema. I remember being taken to see Oliver! and Scrooge the Musical and various other ones as well. So, I was brought up on a diet of musicals to some extent. It's always been there somewhere and when I started doing music myself (I ended up producing and playing in various bands), it was only at a certain points in that process that I had enough credibility and support from record labels that they were going to make it possible for me to do anything. So, musicals just sat in the background. And then a meeting with a singer Agnieszka Swita kind of just triggered this idea that perhaps it might be possible to do a musical. That was the beginning of She the Musical and it just went from there. I remember ringing up Tomek Dziubiński in charge of Metal Mind Productions and saying: "Hey, I've got an idea - I want to write a musical..." and he said, "OK, you do it and we'll bring this out". So, that was fantastic! I started writing at that point and it just kept going from there.
How did you come to write “Alchemy”?
Clive: After I finished writing She, I was thinking about doing another one, and I only realised how lucky I have got when I took a book like H. Rider Haggard's She and set it as a musical, because every other book I read and every other story I looked at was already transformed into a musical. That presented me with a problem, because the kind of stories that I liked were already out there in some format. So, in the end I decided to choose things that appeal to me and I started to write a list of what I called the set pieces - the elements in a show or a story that I would enjoy. Then I remember I was sitting in a Russian restaurant in Lithuania when I had the starting point of the idea for Alchemy. It was a very different story then, but the characters were there and I made notes and it sort of grew over the next year. It is quite a slow process to do the story. I wanted to make sure it was right and as watertight as it could be. And then music started to gather. Once I can see in my head what the story is, then the music follows. And... thus we have Alchemy.
What is your writing process?
Clive: Writing a musical is a very different discipline to writing an album with the bands I'm involved with. I've done some concept albums with a thread of a story running through some 55 minute CD. You don't have to worry about any visual implications as far as this is concerned apart from the artwork for the booklet. I like to think there are thematic links, but there are bands who wouldn't even consider that. When you are writing a musical it's a much bigger project. First of all, it's like writing two albums, because you are writing about two hours worth of music. Secondly, you do have to consider themes, things that can occur and re-occur through the show that will tie the music together thematically and lyrically. It's a big big project and it takes a lot longer to write something like that. It's a big commitment and I was quite surprised just what a commitment it was when I started with She I walked in completely ignorant as to what the real discipline of this would be, which is probably good and we got the result in form of She. I learnt a lot when I was doing that. I started to realise a lot of elements I haven't even considered and I've used that education to write Alchemy and it's been a very fascinating process. I enjoy the challenge of writing these things, but it does require that I go and sit in a room for two or three years to do it.
What is the idea behind “The Fire and the Quest” event?
Clive: After we performed Alchemy in London last year, I was trying to think what we could do next. I haven't written a new musical as I wanted to concentrate some energy on the ones I'd written. I came up with the idea that perhaps we can do She and Alchemy back to back. It's ambitions and presents quite a few problems, but I the idea was born and I wanted to take it back to Cheltenham. There's always been a very good atmosphere at the Cheltenham Playhouse. It's a good size for an event like this and it will be like a mini convention. We are doing She on Friday and Alchemy on Saturday and, to make things even more interesting, we are putting the afternoon show on Saturday. This acoustic show is going to feature some of the original singers who performed on the original recordings and in original performances of both the musicals. That will add an interesting angle to the whole event. And, to add some additional flavour, we have the Ghost Walk on Friday nights conducted by Ross Andrews. He's done a lot of this kind of things in the past and written books about hunted Britain, so hopefully that will be an interesting experience to people who wish to get involved in that. Then of course there will be the legendary afterparty on Saturday night to round things off. The whole thing is being filmed, so there is a possibility that we will turn it into a memento, a box set or a DVD, so there will be some evidence of this particular challenge.
To be continued...
Interview by Magdalena Grabias