1) You’ve recently played a short European tour. How did it go?

SH: We played the first show in Aylesbury and played a few selected dates around England and Scotland before heading out to Europe. Things have gone really well and the crowds have been great.
SR: We are looking forward to getting over to Spain to get some sun!!

2) Your show at Middlesbrough is your first in the North of England since your University tour when you played in Durham a couple of years back. How does it feel to be back?

SR: It’s been a while since we played this far north. I think we played at the University in Durham and Redcar, the place by the sea before that. I actually grew up down the coast at Whitby, so, yes; it’s nice to be back up North. We always get a good reception up here.

3) Your latest album Marbles was released last year. Can you tell me what it is about?

SH: It’s about losing your marbles!!! It’s about starting to lose the plot in later life. It’s based on a story about marbles physically lost at an early age when me and my mate discovered that you could hit the marbles high into the sky with a tennis racket and they come down again like bullets and can cause a lot of damage to the surrounding area.

4) Critics and fans alike have been calling Marbles a return to form and have compared it to some of your best work. Are you pleased with the results and the reaction to it?

SH: We are very proud of how the album has turned out and we obviously think it is one of our best albums. The reception the album has received has been phenomenal from both the fans and the music press.

5) It also saw you return to the Top 20 with “You’re Gone.” Was that a surprise for you?

SH: We got to number 7 in the charts. We were expecting to break into the Top 20, but were taken by surprise at how high it went into the charts.
SR: To a lot of people you are only on the radar if you are on the radio and in the charts. We got a lot of interest out of it. It helped our profile, especially for a band like us who doesn’t normally get much airplay.

6) Did you get back onto Top of the Pops?

SH: No we didn’t make it back onto Top of the Pops, unfortunately. It was an awkward week because it was the Eurovision Song Contest, so we got bumped aside for the UK entry for the Eurovision Song Contest … and they weren’t even in the charts at the time!!!

7) “Ocean Cloud” is the high point of Marbles with an excellent emotive vocal from Steve H, and dreamy solo from Steve R, which really must rank alongside your best solos such as “Chelsea Monday,” “Blind Curve,” and “Runaway.” Were you pleased with the way that turned out?

SR: That song was a bit of a project. It was one that we kept adding bits to and it kind of kept on growing. It took a lot of work at the mastering stage.
SH: It’s quite a tricky one to play live, but we played it at last years convention and it worked really well. We’re not playing it on this tour but might pull it out for the odd special occasion.

8) When you write a solo, do you have an idea of what you want in your head or do you tend to jam around a bit and see what comes out?

SR: I haven’t got a clue!! When you play a song and record it several times you try to add something a bit different. There’s never a plan as such, it just evolves from a small idea and I stretch it out a bit and make it interesting and melodic. 9) When you write in general as a band how does the process work. Who tends to get the ball rolling? Do you all come in with sketches and basic ideas and develop them from there?

SH: We jam most of the time and bits are dragged kicking and screaming to the table. People bring ideas to the sessions and kick them into the air to see where they go. I usually have quite a lot of lyrics and when the band is jamming if there’s a certain atmosphere I’ll try and work something with the lyrics.

10) One of the fascinating things with Marillion is the From Dust ‘Til Dot series, which provides a complete demo of the albums Afraid of Sunlight through to on one disc, then writing sessions on the other.

SH: Because of the way we write, there’s a massive amount of wastage where some ideas work and develop into songs but a lot is lost along the way. Quite often there’s a lyric that is on 4 or 5 different song ideas that gets discarded and makes it onto one final song. Actually, sometimes a lyric works so well on two different musical ideas that we release them twice as we did on Afraid of Sunlight and Afraid of Sunrise. There was a lot of crossover lyrically, but we didn’t have the heart to throw Afraid of Sunrise away. We actually included the same lyric twice on Marbles with “Damage” and “Genie” where we had the same lyrical idea, which went down two different musical roads, and we didn’t want to discard either of them. So, we’re a bit cheap really!!!

11) Anoraknophobia is rumoured to be getting the “making of” treatment when can we expect to see the results of this?

SH: Well someone is working on that as we speak … going through the discs and picking out the best bits and hopefully it will be out sometime in 2006.

12) You have established your own label, Racket Records, where you sell your back catalogue, special non-retail versions, as well as general merchandise and releases by bands connected with Marillion in some way. Was this your reaction to your frustration with the major record labels?

SH: Not specifically. It started originally to serve fringe projects and fan club things. We actually found a loophole in the contract where we could sell our own recordings through the fan club without EMI being involved, and in that area; at least, they didn’t want their pound of flesh. So it started off like that and grew from there. We were to a certain extent disappointed with the way the record labels handled us and certain A&R men were self-serving egotists. EMI still has the records we made with them, but the later ones are ours and we do distribution deals to get them into the shops. We make 20 times as much on these than with our earlier recordings.

13) Unplugged At The Walls was a particularly fine release. I understand you played to pay for your food … that certainly beats washing the dishes at the end of the night?

SR: Yes, that covered our food and accommodation, which we had received from this fantastic olde-worlde restaurant in Wales, which we went to while we were mixing the Radiation album. We actually had people fly in from all over the world … from Japan, Mexico, and Australia who came to listen to us play acoustic versions of our songs.

SH: When we heard that so many people were coming from so far away, it changed the whole thing and we thought that we’d better get our shit together! We were originally going to bash through three or four songs, but it took on a life of its own. We got wind of this and had to rehearse and ended up playing over three days. We ended up rearranging the songs, breaking them down, and building them back up. It was a good way of introducing new people to the band and gave them the bare bones of the songs.

14) Steve, you have a very unique voice, who are your main influences?

SH: These days I don’t think I have any! I just tend to open my mouth and just let it out and try to keep it honest. When I was younger it was Peter Gabriel. I really liked his voice. Also Daryl Hall from Hall and Oates, they are the two main ones.

15) Perhaps a bit of Mark Hollis from Talk Talk in there too?

SH: Yes, I hear that too. It’s not deliberate, but when I sing in certain ranges it’s quite eerie how much like him I can sound. I never actually thought of him as a great singer, but I really admire him as an artist. The Colour of Spring and The Spirit of Eden are great albums and all the musos love them too!!!!!

16) It must be a great source of frustration to you that to many you are Scottish, have a singer called Fish, and have done nothing since Kayleigh! You have moved so far away from your earlier sound that you are essentially a different band. Did you ever consider changing your name?

SR: They also seem to think that we are a Heavy Metal band!! We actually talked about changing our name, but we thought the musical identity of the band was the same as it always was and it would have been crazy to throw that away. In hindsight, people may have listened to us without any preconceptions, but then we might not have been able to achieve a fraction of what we have done.
SH: Artists should be judged on what they are doing now and not what they were doing 20 years. People should just listen to the music and hear for themselves.

17) With such an extensive back catalogue, it must be difficult to pick a set. How do you decide what to put in and what to leave out?

SH: We had about 100 songs since I joined the band, so I made a list of them and e-mailed them to the boys and asked them to asterisk the ones they wanted to play. The ones with the most asterisks are in the set. Lucy, our PR girl, also feeds back what the fans are saying on the forums so we try to include the material fans want to hear too. 18) Do wish you could leave the Fish-era stuff out altogether?

SH: Well I requested that for this tour. I don’t see why we should play that material now as we have so much of our own.

19) Steve you’ve been in the band for 17 years or so, and as band you’ve achieved longevity that at the time no-one thought was possible. Is it satisfying to prove your critics wrong?

SH: I wouldn’t have thought I was capable of it let alone the critics! 17 years is a bloody long time for anyone to be in band. How many bands manage to last 17 years together, and lets not forget the time the band were together before I joined. Some bands have had so changes of members over the years that you sometimes wonder if they should be allowed to call themselves the same name!!

20) Having Steve in the band allowed the band to become far more flexible to experiment with different styles of music.

SR: Well Steve is a musician as well, so it gave us the freedom to have musical sections where Steve was involved instead of walking off the stage while we did our bit. He has more empathy for what we are trying to create as he has a musical background.

21) You have worked hard at re-establishing and reinforcing your profile. Recent projects that spring to mind are your University Tour where you gave away the Crash Course in Marillion sampler CD, which was a pretty inspired way of reaching a wider audience. Did this achieve the desired effect?

SR: We are always trying different things to reach a wider audience, and I think these have worked well in showing that the band is still out there and doing it. I think we picked up a few extra fans along the way.

22) The internet has been attacked by major record labels that seem to view it as “the enemy” eating into their profits. I see that Marillion have used the Internet to their benefit and, if anything, it has helped you career. How do you feel?

SH: The internet has given us an enormous amount of independence and we were really one of the first bands at the forefront to harness the power of the internet. It really has opened up a lot of opportunities for us that we wouldn’t otherwise have had.
SR: There will always be people who will download your stuff or copy it onto a CD, but as long as there’s enough people buying the album, then we are in a lot stronger position and we have a good hard core fan base.
SH: If someone gives you a copy of something and it blows your socks off, then you are going to buy a concert ticket, a T-shirt, and so on. It’s not like we don’t make money out of these people, so it’s not entirely counter productive. Maybe that person would get into your music after getting it for nothing and could become a lifelong fan whereas he might not have done that otherwise. At least the word is being spread. When I was a kid I used to tape stuff off the radio. It’s never been any different, the only thing now is you have master quality copies rather than something that sounds like it’s been recorded in a wardrobe during a Force 10 gale !!!

23) You have always had a close relationship with your fans and encouraged fans to take an active part in Marillion whether it’s with the fan-funded USA Tour or the pre-sales of Anoraknaphobia and Marbles. How successful has this participation been and have you got any plans in the pipeline for future fan involvement?

SH: The pre-sale was totally revolutionary and based on faith and trust that our fans had in us. How many people would you send 30 quid to for something you’d get in 18 months time and there was no guarantee of actually getting it?!!! 15,000 people paid up front for these albums, which is pretty amazing really. It was such a display of faith and it made us feel very proud. It’s almost like a family really.
SR: The fans like to have the special packaging with their names in the book. Unfortunately, the pre-order takes away from our sales numbers for the charts but it’s a great souvenir for the fans.

24) For the avid Marillion fan out there, you have gone one step further with your Front Row Club series. Is this a way of beating the bootleggers or more a way of satisfying the hunger of fans?

SR: It’s a bit of both really. It seems to have killed the market for Marillion bootlegs as we try to release something from each tour, which fans can buy and be assured that it’s of a decent quality.
SH: We have discussed recording all shows and then allow people to download the concerts that they want at maybe £10 or so. I think the fans would like that but it’s the practicalities of doing it. All you could give them is the desk tape and the vocals would be too loud, otherwise you’d have to get a sound engineer in and mix it and it would increase the costs involved. It’s not really cost effective to record, mix, and release all of the shows.

25) The recent re-mastering of your back catalogue has been one of the most successful in terms of fan pleasing content by including a disc of extras and revealing liner notes. How involved were you in this?

SH: Lucy Jordache did this for us before she left EMI and she did a great job. She’s now our PR girl!! She always believed in the band and has worked very hard for us.

26) You have over the past couple of years run Marillion weekenders at holiday camps. Have you got one lined up this year?

SR: This is still at an early planning stage and hopefully it will be in Centre Parcs in Holland.

27) As a band you have allowed each other space to explore different projects Steve H with The H Band, Steve R with The Wishing Tree, Pete with Transatlantic and Kino. Does this keep the band fresh and allow more freedom artistically?

SH: It allows us to get things out of our system. Sometimes ideas which are not suitable for the band can cause a blockage, so it allows us to clear the blockage. If you start to get a lot of ideas you can’t get out, they can get in the way of the creative process in the band.
SR: There is only a small window of opportunity for us really to do side projects as we are busy as a band. Pete Trewavas is lucky as the people he’s worked with have been available for a couple of weeks and work quickly.

28) Are there any solo projects in the pipeline?

SH: I was just demoing a new “H” song in the street by the tour bus today!!! I am also hopefully going to do a solo tour in February, just a piano and voice as sort of an Evening With … type of show.

29) What have you got lined up for the coming year as a band?

SH: We’ve actually been recording recently and have 5 songs in the can all recorded and mixed. We will be rehearsing and writing in the first 6 months of 2006 to add to these with a view to a release in early 2007. We might not do a pre-sale for this album, as we don’t want to appear to be trying it on with our fans, but the fans are always asking us to do this, so who knows? This year will be pretty busy for us working on our new album. So watch this space for further news as it comes!!!


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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