The last time we spoke to the multi-talented, nattily dressed Baz Francis – frontman and chief creator of heavy-power-rock-pop outfit, Magic Eight Ball, he was telling us all about his vast adventures in a turbulent landscape of Rik Mayall, romance and a bit of well-placed cynicism.
Since then, well, it’s all been kicking off – so much so that, with the latest development of a solo career, a new interview was unavoidable.
For the first time, Baz is trotting off armed with only an acoustic guitar and his vocal chords, another little feather in the fashionable hat of his incredibly impressive repertoire. To cap it all off, Magic Eight Ball has been announced as the first act of Whitby Goth Weekend’s Saturday night line up, and he’s got plane tickets for all over Europe.
The solo record, Face That Launched a Thousand Shipwrecks, is releasing on the 24th of April, and is already garnering pre-orders. It’s truly a bright and exciting time to be in the blistering world of Mr. Francis, and so, we chased him down to ask him about these developments in his own words…
Baz returned our questions from Macedonia of all places, where he’s just kicked off his solo world tour. Fancy that…
COTW: Hello Baz, and welcome back to Cat on the Wall! How have you been since we last spoke?
Baz: I’m good thanks, my man. I’m also more married than the last time, and generally doing well in fact…
COTW: It’s been a busy time for you! A new Magic Eight Ball LP, trotting across Europe, a slot at a certain Goth Weekend and something about a solo record being recorded. How has it all felt?
Baz: The last year has been even busier than those before it, and they kept me on my toes as they were! The reason my solo album is coming out now and not six months ago is because the momentum of Richest Men In The Graveyard meant that more opportunities kept arising for the band and I as a result of it, so plans for my next record were put on temporary hold until I could focus fully on getting it right. That time came late last year, so here we are now.
COTW: How would you say your solo material differs compared to Magic Eight Ball? What has inspired the move?
Baz: Aside from different personnel and a different approach to playing it live, my first solo album was intended to be a singer-songwriter’s record with a minimal usage of guitar distortion on it, whilst still being a band record of sorts and not just an entirely acoustic affair. My approach to my singing, playing and writing have all tapped some new areas for me in the process.
I’ve been touring solo and acoustic for years now whilst also playing in Magic Eight Ball. Sometimes I even open for the band as a solo act, plus there’s the work I’ve done with Donnie (Vie) in my name too, so I decided that now was the right time to give myself a separate cannon of my own songs to play from at my solo gigs.
COTW: You’ve told us in the past that, as time has gone on, Magic Eight Ball has gotten progressively darker and grittier. Does your upcoming solo album follow this trend?
Baz: For the most part it’s the opposite here, actually! I can only imagine about a third of these songs from my new album on the last Magic Eight Ball one. A song called Revenge Of The Animal Kingdom is the most obvious example of this, but I deliberately came at this album with a completely different approach.
COTW: Your LPs seem to follow set themes. Will this project be the same? What sort of concepts and ideas have you worked with for the record?
Baz: I did consider making this as one-concept orientated as the last two Magic Eight Ball albums, but it called for the use of a few distinctive themes instead: the Animal Kingdom and animal rights, the idea of love after the impetuous chaos of youth (I’m avoiding saying “as a grown-up”), and there’s also a recurring nautical theme in both the imagery and metaphors used on this record too. It’s an album for all the nautical love animals out there I suppose!
COTW: We’ve often wanted to ask this, but never got a chance in our previous interview. How did you first get into music?
Baz: I turned on the radio this time 21 years ago and heard A Design For Life by the Manic Street Preachers. At that point I became dedicated to learning the guitar and then attempting to sing at the same time. The following year in 1997 I formed my first band Mansion Harlots with my good friend Will Gray, and it was with that band that I began recording and performing with in public for the first time with songs that I had written.
COTW: Your darker, grittier side in Magic Eight Ball has of course gotten you booked on at our press partners, Whitby Goth Weekend. Did you ever see yourself standing in front of hundreds of Goths when you first started working in music?!
Baz: Baby, I’m darkness and light, and I am relishing the opportunity to turn up the shade in Whitby! Whether I imagined this scenario 20 years ago, I do not know, but our second release back in 2009 was an electro-rock cover of Stripped by Depeche Mode, so even when our sound was generally on the brighter side, we always used at least spoonfuls of heaviness to vary our palette. Now we just use shovels instead.
COTW: What else can we expect to see from you this year?
Baz: Well I’m currently talking to you from Skopje in Macedonia where I’ve begun my solo acoustic World Tour on Saturday the 1st, at Old School Cafe. I’m recording live material in Egypt in May, and I’m also confirmed to perform in England, Hungary, Turkey, Iceland and Finland on this tour at the moment. Magic Eight Ball were busy at play in Barcelona 2 weeks ago at Rocksound in the city, and next for us is rehearsing for our show with you at Whitby Goth Weekend soon after I arrive back in the UK from The Balkans!
(Ed’s note – crikey!!)
COTW: Finally, do you have any messages for the upcoming legions of Goths that are likely to see you very, very soon…?
Baz: Wear black, show love, and let me dig up your graveyard…
COTW: Thank you for joining us, Baz – and we’ll see you at WGW in due time!
Baz: As always Jordan, thank you for all the hard work that you do in our name and for the greater good of the WGW too. We truly appreciate it, and also, keep up your own amazing illustrative artistry. We love it!
(Ed’s note – If you’re really interested in Jordan’s illustration work, check out his instagram…!)
The first solo album by Magic Eight Ball frontman Baz Francis is Face That Launched A Thousand Shipwrecks, Releasing on 24th April 2017 through Magic Cat Records Limited.
29th April 2017: Art8 – Newquay Arts Fesival @ Whiskers / Newquay, England
6th May 2017: Bar Loosister / Helsinki, Finland
10th May 2017: Mahzen Cafe & Bar / Edirne, Turkey
16th May 2017: Cairo Jazz Club / Cairo, Egypt
10th June 2017: Oakfest ’17 / Oakley, England
24th June 2017: Boston / Reykjavík, Iceland
8th July 2017: Unplgd Stage @ Basingstoke Live Festival 2017 / Basingstoke, England
15th July 2017: Rocktogon / Budapest, Hungary