Nazareth formed in Dumferline, Scotland in 1968, and went onto release their debut album in 1971. A string of hits including Razamanaz, Love Hurts, and a cover of Joni Mitchell's This Flight Tonight. Axl Rose has cited the band as an influence, and Guns N' Roses even covered the Naz classic Hair of The Dog on The Spaghetti Incident album. Now in their 50th year, the band are preparing to embark on a European tour and are releasing a brand new album with new singer Carl Sentance. Photogroupie caught up with founding member and bass player Pete Agnew to find out more about 50 years of the band and their new album Tattooed On My Brain.
PG: THE BAND ARE HAVING THEIR 50TH ANNIVERSARY THIS YEAR, AND YOU'VE GOT A BOX SET AND A NEW ALBUM OUT TO CELEBRATE, TELL US A BIT ABOUT THEM. PA: It's more reminiscing than a celebration (laugh). It's an amazing box, I've got the first serial number 00001. It wasn't meant to happen that way, they sent me some copies over, and that's the one I ended up with. When BMG told me they were going to do this last year I told them that we were recording a new album – with a different record company – and I didn't want the two things to clash. Of course, that's what's happened, and the new album and the box set are being released at the same time. It's worked out pretty well as one supports the other. People are talking about the anniversary and that there's a new album to go with it, so it's like we are doing one big release. PG: HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE STILL TOURING AND MAKING MUSIC AFTER 50 YEARS? PA: It's great, it can be a bit tiring at times, but it's wonderful. I'd never have believed back in 1971 I'd still be doing it when I was 71. I don't think anyone in the rock business, especially anyone who came from that era, still thought they would be doing it and there's quite a few like Uriah Heep and The Stones. It's great, I feel blessed that I can still get to make a living out of something that I love and I'd have done for nothing.
PG: CARL'S BEEN WITH THE BAND FOR THREE YEARS, BUT THIS IS YOUR FIRST ALBUM WITH HIM, WHY DID YOU NOT TO RECORD SOONER? PA: The first year's somebody's in the band you just want to get to know each other. You know they are the right person when they join, and they rehearse and learn the songs, but to make new music together, you have to know each other really. We just gave it time. We were going to go into the studio January 2017 but we weren't really prepared, and nobody had their heart in it. I'm glad we waited this length of time because the material we have now is much better and although we have a new singer, by the time we recorded the album he didn't feel like a new singer. PG: HOW DID IT FEEL TO RECORD THE NEW ALBUM WITH A BRAND NEW SINGER AFTER RECORDING FOR SO MANY YEARS WITH DAN MCCAFFERTY? PA: Carl's brought a new lease of life to the band, and he's got a great stage presence. We were very lucky to get the guy. When Dan left, we decided that if we were going to continue that we were not going to get a Dan McCafferty sound alike. We'd have got murdered if we had tried to do that. Most of the auditions and stuff that were sent to me by some good singers sounded like they were trying to be a Dan. You can't blame them for trying I suppose, but it wasn't what we wanted. When someone showed me, Carl, I thought “this is the guy.” Carl's got a great voice, but he doesn't sing like Dan, he's got a different delivery, but they're still both great singers. He puts his own stamp on the old songs and the good thing about this album is that he gets to sing new Nazareth songs. A lot of the songs on the album he helped to create. PG: HE'S GOT A BACKGROUND IN MUSICAL THEATRE TOO HASN'T HE? PA: He has, I think he did some stuff in the West End when he was younger too. If you look at the video of Tattooed On My Brain a lot of the direction comes from Carl. It's very theatrical so you can see that he has that training in him. I think it's quite obvious when you see him. PG: HOW DID YOU GO ABOUT WRITING THE SONGS FOR THE NEW ALBUM? PA: In the old days you had to do an album every year, and that was expected – one year we did two! At that time you used to get together and jam because you were desperate to find material and everybody put their heads together. When you've got three years between albums, you don't have to worry so much. We still collaborated, but all the tracks were written individually. Carl was dying to record, so he had all of these songs written. We took five of them and did them first because he'd be the most comfortable with his songs. While we were recording the guys were still going away and coming back with other songs. I wrote Tattooed On My Brain while we were still recording and Jimmy was still working on Pole To Pole. Everyone was still working on their songs, the only one who had their songs finished was Carl. So it came together over the actual recording, even a month in we were still putting down songs we hadn't heard before. PG: DID YOU DO ANYTHING TO TRY AND KEEP THE BAND ORIGINAL SOUND ON THE ALBUM? PA: I don't think we ever really had a Nazareth sound apart from the vocal sound. We were always a very diverse group, on one song we'd have a backing track that was country on another it would be electronic and then we'd have the heavier rock things. I don't think we had a sound to live up to, what we had to do was make sure the sound we were making now was a good one.
PG: YOU'VE SAID THAT THE ALBUM IS THE ONE THAT FANS HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR – IN WHAT RESPECT? PA: The thing is that this one was always going to be judged and closely looked at. It was quite nerve-wracking to make the album because we had no wiggle room, it either had to be really good or it was going to get slammed. You're always going to get people that say “it's not going to be Nazareth unless it has got Dan” so you've always got that crowd to take care of. By the time we were making this record and were in the studio for about ten days we were thinking that this could be one of the best albums we've ever made if we choose the material carefully. By the time we finished I was impressed by the album, you're not normally impressed by you're own work, but I keep playing this one. PG: ARE THERE ANY TRACKS ON THE ALBUM THAT YOU'RE PARTICULARLY PROUD OF? PA: Everyone wrote songs, and everyone made their contribution. They are all different styles from different guys. I like all the tracks, there are some I like better than others so there's not a track that I think that's the one. PG: WHAT'S NEXT FOR NAZARETH? PA: Well this is album 24, and I really want to do 25. At the moment it's going to be a lot of touring, and it's back to the grind again. I'm looking forward to it because of the new album, and it makes the future look a wee bit rosier when you've got one under your belt, especially when it's a good one.