Interview by Mark Lacey
Written by Rebeca Riofrio
Photos By Kam Murali
Tony Moore emerges as a beacon of positivity and charm. Having embarked on a remarkable career that began with a fleeting opportunity to join Iron Maiden in the late 1970s, his musical path has meandered through diverse landscapes. From enchanting audiences with Tanz Der Youth and Radio Java to scaling the charts with Cutting Crew, and even gracing the closing ceremony of the 2019 European Games in Minsk, Moore has left an indelible mark on the industry. While nurturing budding talents through his Kashmir Club and the Bedford, his resolve faced its sternest test during the lockdown. Amidst the onslaught against the creative sector, he found himself caring full-time for his mother in the grips of dementia. And now, with his latest opus 'Awake,' Moore fulfils his ultimate calling, using his one-man extravaganza to spread messages of love.
ML: With a career spanning over four decades and traversing numerous genres, how would you encapsulate your musical persona for someone discovering it for the first time?
Tony: Oh, pigeonholing oneself is always a tricky business, as people often see and hear you in ways you've never imagined. When I was younger, folks would compare my vocal range to that of Jon Anderson or Sting, given my rather high-pitched voice. As for the music itself, I've always written songs that hold personal significance to me. My journey has been a potpourri of sounds. Growing up in Bristol, where creativity flowed through the veins of my family—my father a musician and my mother a dancer—I was raised in a household that fostered artistic expression. Encouraged to pursue my dreams, I formed a school band and performed countless gigs around Bristol in the vibrant seventies. But deep down, I knew that if I were to carve a name for myself in the industry, I had to make the leap to London.
It was an advertisement in the Melody Maker that changed the course of my life. Iron Maiden, still a far cry from their iconic status, were on the hunt for a keyboard player. Ah, those days of Iron Maiden around 1976-77, they occupy a curious corner of time, almost like a hidden treasure with scarce documentation. Those of us who remain from that era are more than happy to share tales, but videos and pictures are hard to come by. For me, it was a magical period—an opportunity to move to London and join a band. I initially stayed with Steve Harris and his dear grandmother in the East End. Steve, always laser-focused, possessed an unwavering love for music and the art of performance. We would sit and conjure grand visions of our future shows, reminiscent of Genesis—unforgettable lights, a mesmerising stage spectacle, and the cutting edge of British rock music. The year 1977 brought about a downturn, with the arrival of punk and the turning away from traditional rock and its larger-than-life dinosaurs. It was an exhilarating time, and I cherished every moment. Yet, after months of rehearsal and planning, we played a gig at the Bridge House, and as it ended, I felt that keyboards weren't the right fit for this band. Thus, I departed on amicable terms, without any disputes. Over the years, Iron Maiden has seen numerous members come and go, but it remains a family of sorts—a bond that connects us all, albeit in different ways.
ML: It seems that your time with Iron Maiden provided a tantalising glimpse into the world of music, igniting a career filled with unexpected twists and turns.
Tony: Ah, indeed! After Iron Maiden, I joined forces with Brian James from the Damned, and together we formed Tanz Der Youth. We embarked on exhilarating tours with the likes of The Stranglers and Black Sabbath, just before Ozzy bid them farewell—a mad experience. Later, I found myself joining a progressive rock band and embarking on a three-year adventure living in a secluded studio out in the countryside. It felt like a quirky cult-like commune, I must say. Eventually, I returned to London and resumed my songwriting journey under the label Carrere, which also had the sensational Saxon on its roster at the time. Our band, Radio Java, recorded an album at the legendary Abbey Road Studios. Although it didn't make much noise, one of our songs caught the attention of Dutch DJs during the Christmas of 1983-84, resulting in significant airplay. We found ourselves jetting off to Holland, performing on grand TV shows, yet the song wasn't commercially available for purchase. It was simply omnipresent on the airwaves. While it didn't reach the heights of a chart-topping hit, it was an exciting time, nonetheless. Subsequently, I joined Cutting Crew, and together we embarked on a global tour following the success of 'I Died in Your Arms.' We had the honor of opening for incredible artists like Starship, The Bangles, and Huey Lewis in America. Ah, the glorious and fabulous year of 1987—a time brimming with musical marvels. However, I departed halfway through the second album due to various reasons and embarked on some solo projects. Towards the end of the '90s, I grew weary of being solely a songwriter with no platform to perform my own compositions. That's when I decided to start a little night called the Kashmir Club. To my surprise, within two months, we were flooded with talented artists eager to perform, and audiences hungry for this kind of music.
I recall Damien Rice gracing our stage for his inaugural gigs, alongside The Feeling. Even Sheryl Crow was so taken with the atmosphere that she couldn't resist doing a secret gig with us. The Kashmir Club flourished for six years, offering immense satisfaction in nurturing burgeoning careers. Two decades ago, I carried forward the same spirit at the Bedford. Throughout this time, I continued to write music, collaborate with others, and perform my own shows. I found myself entwined with the rise of James Bay, Paolo Nutini, James Morrison, Ed Sheeran, KT Tunstall, and a plethora of new-generation artists. And that brings us, in a way, to the pandemic.
ML: The lockdown brought the live music industry to a standstill, forcing many musicians to turn to songwriting. But you went a step further and created a cinematic concept album called 'Awake,' venturing beyond your comfort zone and showcasing your musical prowess, even playing some Gilmour-esque guitar.
Tony: Absolutely! I thought, why not? There was nothing else to do, after all. I channeled all the musical influences that have shaped me throughout my life—Dave Gilmour, Yes, Brian May, Ritchie Blackmore, even Rory Gallagher. I've always had a profound admiration for guitarists, but I never had the confidence to boldly declare, "I can do that too!" I quietly indulged in my guitar noodling for years. 'Awake' was a happy accident. I stumbled upon a few sounds and started jamming. I shared a two-minute snippet with some friends, who commented that it sounded like it belonged in a movie. Encouraged by their response, I decided to expand upon it. Around the four-minute mark, I felt the urge to infuse it with lyrics, as I didn't want it to be mere indulgence. I had a few lines in mind that I wanted to sing. And so, I continued playing the guitar, and before I knew it, eight and a half minutes had flown by, and 'Awake' was born. During the lockdown, while engaging in live streams, I even performed it live with the track playing in the background as I played the guitar. I shared the recording on Facebook, and to my astonishment, thousands of people expressed their love for the track. Their enthusiasm touched me deeply, and I thought, perhaps this could be the opening for an album. Thus, I challenged myself to write, record, and complete the album within two months—February and March of 2021.
ML: It seems like 'Awake' was born out of a multitude of inspirations. Can you elaborate on what drove you to create the album? It started with one track, and you were already performing it before the others were even written.
Tony: Indeed, there have been numerous experiences and events that have influenced me over the past few years. I wanted to reflect on some of those experiences, both physical and emotional, spiritual and mental. Throughout the lockdown, there was a disheartening moment in the UK when creatives were told to consider retraining for the future. It was a chilling statement to hear. I've dedicated my entire career since the age of fifteen to music, at various levels of success. It's all I know. The notion that we, as creators, were being pushed to retrain for a different path was dark and scary. That moment served as an undercurrent in some of the music. However, it also prompted me to reflect on my life, what I have accomplished, and where I've been. In a strange way, I found myself reconnecting with the thirteen-year-old Tony who adored bands like Genesis, Yes, Pink Floyd, and the psychedelic Beatles, as well as idols like Bowie and Ziggy Stardust. I had dreams of creating something immersive and impactful, something that would touch people's lives. I realized that I hadn't fully accomplished that yet. So, I made the decision to go for it. The album reflects my personal journey, and every moment in it holds significance in my life.
ML:The show not only captivates listeners with its auditory feast, but the accompanying visual screening brings the entire journey to life, and more. Each visual has a personal meaning, it seems.
Tony: Some of the visuals feature ballet dancers, as my mother was a ballet dancer. The show starts with a piece of music from A Clockwork Orange. When David Bowie opened his Ziggy Stardust shows, he entered the stage to a snippet of music from A Clockwork Orange. I included three references to Stanley Kubrick throughout the album, as he is my all-time favorite director. Even in the imagery towards the end of the show, you'll notice primary colors reminiscent of the title sequence in A Clockwork Orange. While working on the album, I was also taking care of my mother, who had dementia. I moved into her house and became her primary caregiver. She is woven into the music because she played such a significant role in my journey. After I had written 'Awake' and decided to create an album, I knew it had to be a live show. The beauty of a concept album is that you aren't bound by any rules, so I created a space where I could direct the mood.
ML: Your show is described as immersive and cinematic. Did you anticipate it becoming such a visually rich experience when you initially started writing the music?
Tony: All the videos in the show are either ones I made, compiled, or edited together. Much of the footage is sourced from the public domain, repurposing the weird and wacky material that's out there. I'm upcycling, so to speak! I discovered some incredible cartoons from the 1920s and 1930s, which have a psychedelic touch and were ostensibly made for kids but feel more suited for adults.
When I began writing the songs, I knew that I had to create a show that would be the visual counterpart to the music. I didn't know how it would be received, but as I wrote the songs, I collected bits of video and pictures, creating a mood board in my head. Once I finished the album, I immediately started putting everything together and began testing it during my live streams. For me, much of this process is about manifestation. I have a clear vision of what I want to achieve, and I refuse to let anything stand in my way.
ML: Many people have drawn comparisons between your show and Pink Floyd, noting the high-quality soundscapes and cinematic production. Like Roger Waters, you write from your own experiences, and your lyrics have a deep-rooted and personal feel to them. Some of the lyrics, such as "Love removes the fear" and "Don't leave us lost and alone," are quite sentimental. But you also change the mood and sing about "Just one night; playing in the house band in front of a crowd, going crazy." In 'Dear Life,' you express the sentiment of "Holding on for dear life. I'll protect and love you." It's clear that these lyrics hold significant meaning for you.
Tony: "Love, we need you here" is almost the core message behind everything. Each person who experiences the show takes away something unique, and I don't want to dictate what people should feel. However, many people do pick up on the mood of what's happening, and there are both dark and uplifting elements in the music. What I really want to convey is that love is the most important thing, especially in a world that is currently divided, fractured, and fragmented, and where those divisions seem to be deepening. To counteract this at a personal level, we need to embrace love as much as possible. We need to be forgiving, thoughtful, and grateful, but above all, we need to be as loving as we can be and let love guide us. Love is this unseen force that we all experience in different ways.
'Just One Night' was inspired by the situation with Rishi Sunak and the suggestion of musicians being asked to retrain. It came from a dream I had where I was simply in a band playing music. Whether you're Roger Waters, Brian May, or just someone playing in a band in a pub, the real reason we all make music as musicians is because we love it. There's something truly gratifying when we play music and see people enjoying it. I've played countless cover gigs in my life, and even now, sometimes I still do. When I sit down and play 'Hotel California' and everyone sings along, it's like we've had this shared experience. That's what music does—it brings us together. 'Just One Night' represents my dream of being in a band and playing guitar for people who simply want to have a great time. It doesn't have to be about fame; it's just about making music.
ML: You're known as one of the nicest people in the music industry, and your warm personality spreads positivity. After the challenges of COVID, many musicians expressed anger when confronted with the suggestion of retraining. However, you seemed to have transformed that darkness into something positive.
Tony: From a young age, my mum instilled in me the value of doing your best. None of us are perfect, and we all make mistakes and do foolish things at times. But if we strive to do the right thing and be good people, it brings joy to our lives. I genuinely enjoy my life because of that mindset. I don't have moments where I worry about someone turning up and remembering how rude I was to them. I simply go through life, doing what I do, and I'm content. If it all ended tomorrow, I can honestly say I've had the best time. However, I'm now at a point where I'm about to have an even better time because I've finally gained the momentum to do what I love. 'Awake' is not just something I can do; it's something I have to do. I'm completely obsessed with what I'm doing with this show.
ML: Living with your mom during her final months played a significant role in inspiring this concept and production. Did she ever get the chance to hear the 'Awake' recordings in their entirety?
Tony: Here's the wonderful thing. Alzheimer's and dementia are incredibly cruel conditions, and during the lockdown, I moved in with my mom. At the beginning of the lockdown, I started doing a live stream every single night. From March 24th, I played for two hours every night for 110 consecutive nights without a break. And every night, I had to perform some new material because I was primarily playing to the same people, although the audience was growing. So, I had to change the music. What I learned from that experience was that life feels meaningless without purpose. Why get out of bed in the morning? Why bother with daily routines? You need to have some kind of purpose in life. In those days when everything was taken away from us, my purpose was to be ready at 8 pm every night and provide a sense of normality and community for this group of people. And my mom would watch these live streams. She would often forget, so I had to figure out how to remotely turn on the TV using an app on my phone. But she watched the shows, and the amazing thing about music and dementia is that she knew every word of every song and would sing along. Even when I wasn't doing the shows live, she would watch the replays on YouTube. It made her happy. She knew the entire 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 grasp the word 'crazy.' I have video footage of her as part of the show. When you see it, it's very moving and difficult for me. But she is with me every single night that I perform the show, and she always will be.
This is a very personal story, but I've come to realise that my story is quite universal. When I sing about my mom and perform 'Dear Life,' expressing the idea of being there for her, protecting her, and holding on to her for dear life, I look around the room, and I know that many people can relate. There are those who have lost loved ones or are currently losing them, and they shed tears along with me, but they are good tears.
ML: You have truly tapped into people's emotions with that song.
Tony: That is the highest compliment because in this show, all the music is a reflection of my vulnerability. Although it's a theatrical and fun show, I am not hiding behind anything. I am simply revealing everything I am going through. And because of that, we have these emotional moments... and then we transition to 'Crazy in the Shed.' When that part comes in the show, it's the last thing you would expect. I wanted to create an album where you couldn't quite predict what would happen next. Emotionally, you follow a narrative arc across the album, and at the end of it, you should feel that you've been on a journey and that you are part of a larger community.
ML: You have upcoming shows in various locations, including Camden, Bournemouth, Hungerford, and the famous Cart & Horses in Stratford. How do you feel about playing at the birthplace of Iron Maiden?
Tony: It's incredibly exciting because the Cart & Horses in Stratford is known as the birthplace of Iron Maiden, and that is arguably true. It's where all their very first gigs took place. I've had the opportunity to play there a couple of times, doing some solo performances. The new venue in the basement is amazing, and they have a screen there. A lot of what I'm doing with 'Awake' reflects my time in Iron Maiden. One of the things I loved about Maiden was the theatrical aspect of the band. So, on May 2nd, I'll be performing there. I also have plans to take 'Awake' further afield. America is a definite goal, and I have someone interested in taking the show to LA. I also think it would work well as a residency in Vegas, where the entire space becomes part of the show. There's so much potential with this project, and these are very exciting times for me. I'm just getting started, and I can confidently say that this is the best time of my life. I invite anyone who can attend to come and be a part of the experience with me.
Here are some upcoming shows for my 'Awake' performance:
May 27th: Croft Hall, Hungerford
June 10th: Compton & Up Marden CE School, Chichester
For more information and tickets, you can visit:
MANY THANKS TO MY GLOBAL MIND FOR THIS ARTICLE
Interview by Mark Lacey