Steve Rothery

Marillion’s Steve Rothery called to chat with Mick Burgess about the new album from his side project The Wishing Tree and Marillion’s new acoustic album More = Less.

Your new album, Ostara, has just been released. Are you pleased with how it’s turned out?

Yeah, I am pleased. It’s the second album by Wishing Tree, the first came out 13 or 14 years ago and this one has taken four or five years to come together and I’m very happy with it.

Why such a gap between releases?

After the first album we had some major label interest from Sony and we went away and wrote some songs for them and that didn’t really come off and to be honest when we listened to the songs we didn’t really like them ourselves so we put Wishing Tree into semi-retirement. About 5 years ago we talked about doing another album just for ourselves, for the pleasure of working together. There was no long term strategy, it is just something that we both enjoy and it was the right time to do our second album. I hope to be able to grow this so we can justify our existence.

How would you say Ostara is a progression from your first album Carnival of Souls?

It has progressed in a number of ways but mainly Ostara has its own identity. Hannah didn’t really write much on the first album apart from one song but on this album it’s a true collaboration. Hannah wrote all the lyrics and vocal melodies and I wrote all the music, produced it and played all the instruments apart from the drums.

You’re used to writing in a group environment with Marillion. Do you approach songwriting differently with Wishing Tree?

I think it was a little bit more like it used to be in Marillion. In Marillion we tend to write by jamming for a few months and then use the best bits as the building blocks for the songs. In the old days we’d take an idea and go away and develop it and that’s how we wrote this album.

Being only two of you in the band, did that make the decision making process easier or was it actually more difficult as there were less people contributing ideas?

I think in a way it’s harder as I self-produced the album and there wasn’t the luxury of bouncing ideas off a few different people. There were also time constraints and having to fit writing and recording around other things that made it take so long to finish.

You live in England and singer Hannah Stobart in America. How did you carry out the practicalities of writing and recording the album? Did you send sound files and ideas via the internet or did you get time to actually work together?

Sometimes we’d work together and I’d go off to California a couple of times and she’d come to the UK. Often though I’d develop an idea separately and I’d send her files via the internet and we’d both work on our PCs in our garages and that’s how it all came together. That’s one of the good things about the internet is that it’s much easier to work with people on the other side of the world.

Were any of the ideas on the album initially planned for use by Marillion?

One of the ideas, the beginning part of “Hollow Hills” was something I came up with when writing for Marillion a few years back but it wasn’t used so it’s good having another outlet for ideas which aren’t used by Marillion.

The album has been released on Edel Records, why hasn’t it been put out through your own label Racket Records or is that more of a store than a record label?

The initial pre-orders were actually released on Intact, Marillions’ own label but it’s one of those things when you spend a lot of time making a record you want people to hear it and I simply didn’t have the budget to promote the record the way I thought it deserved so I thought the deal with Edel was by far and away the best option. It’s not about money, I just wanted people to be able to hear it. Edel seems to be doing really well and have just done the new Chickenfoot album and have also worked recently with Deep Purple. They seem to be one of the few labels that are actually thriving in the current climate so I think they are a good choice for us.

There was a special pre-ordered signed version which you both signed. How did the pre-sale go?

There were about two or three thousand pre-orders. That was a lot of covers to sign!! They pretty much sold out straight away which we were very pleased with.

Marillion fans have a history of supporting the band and the likes of Anoraknophobia and Marbles sold 12,000 to 15,000 on advance orders alone. Are you finding a lot of Marillion fans checking out Wishing Tree or are you attracting a new audience or a bit of both?

I think it’s a mix of both really but in a way I’m surprised there wasn’t more of a cross over. When we did the Marillion conventions everyone seemed to love The Wishing Tree and we had a lot of great comments but there’s not as many Marillion fans as you’d think embracing The Wishing Tree which is a shame as I think it’s a really good record. Maybe it’s not Prog enough or Heavy enough or because it’s got a female vocalist, I don’t know. For whatever reason there’s not been as many Marillion fans as I expected getting into it but the good thing is there seems to be a much greater cross over potential outside of the Marillion fan base. I think it has a life of its own and you don’t need to like Marillion to like The Wishing Tree.

Marillion must be a pretty full time job for you but are you planning on taking The Wishing Tree out on the road?

At the moment we have only one concert date in London on December 20th at Shepherd’s Bush. It depends on how the album is received really and we’d both love to do more shows if at all possible and we have a great band to go out on tour with. All things are possible, it’s just finding the correct time spot.

What about being your own support act or would that be a bit much in one night?

Well it was suggested at one point but for whatever reason certain people didn’t think it was a good idea.

Talking of Marillion how is the new acoustic album, Less Is More coming along?

It’s coming along really well. In fact it’s all finished now and has gone off to the manufacturer. I think it’s a lot more interesting and quirkier than people are expecting. It’s not one of those where we’re strumming on acoustic guitars like we’re round a campfire.

You are going to rework a number of Marillion songs in an acoustic format. Was this inspired by your Unplugged at the Walls album from a few years back?

We were a little bit but it’s a lot more radical than that. We’re using strange instruments like dulcimers and things like that. I think it works really well.

What songs are you reworking?

We’re doing “Hard as Love”, “Quartz”, “Go”, “21st Century” . There’s a really good cross section of our material and some songs like “Hard as Love” are totally different to the version everyone is used to. It’s really good and I think people will be pleasantly surprised.

Will you be doing a special edition with extra tracks or will it be a single disc release?

No, it’s just going to be a regular CD release this time.

You’re not the only Marillion member that’s been busy recently. Pete has been working on a new Transatlantic album with Mike Portnoy from Dream Theater. Have you heard any of it yet?

I’ve only heard a couple of things from it while I’ve been in the studio and it sounds great and will do very well. There’s a great chemistry between the guys in the band and they work so well together and make great music. It’s crossed over to other fans too which is a very good thing.

What about the other guys, are they doing any solo work at the moment?

Not that I know of at the moment. I know Steve wanted to do another solo album but he just hasn’t had the time. He was going to work with Richard Barbieri from Porcupine Tree but it hasn’t come together yet but I’m sure it will eventually. It’s just a case of finding the time.

Your work with Marillion and The Wishing Tree must pretty well take up all of your time. What do you do in your spare time, if you have any left after everything else?

Spare time?? Ha! Ha! I remember that once!! I tend to spend what spare time I have with my family.

Are you still dabbling in photography?

I’ve got a website for my photography but I haven’t updated it for a couple of years. You can take a look at that. I’ve got tons and tons of photos that need sorting and now that the album is finished that’ll be my next project.

What are you going to be doing for the rest of the year?

I’ll be concentrating on the Marillion acoustic tour that starts in a couple of weeks and we’ll be touring until December 7th. I’ve also got The Wishing Tree show on 20th December at Shepherd’s Bush in London and then in January we have some more shows where we’ll be going to Turkey, Greece and Malta for the first time.

Have you started writing for the new studio album yet or have you been concentrating on The Wishing Tree and the new acoustic album?

We’ll start writing the next Marillion album around March next year and that’ll probably take most of the year and we’ll start recording towards the end of the year.

Will you be doing the special Marillion pre-sale for this?

We haven’t really thought about it. It will depend on what type of record it turns out to be but it’s certainly a possibility. The fans like those and it makes it more of a special occasion for a lot of people.. The album will probably come out sometime in 2011. So that’s us pretty busy for the next couple of years.


  • 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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