FISH: “There’s Plenty Of Shows And Music Before My Farewell Tour”

FISH (Live at the O2 Academy, Newcastle, U.K., December 2, 2018)
Photo: Mick Burgess

Marillion’s final album with Fish, Clutching At Straws, is over 30 years old. Fish is celebrating this landmark release with a special tour playing it in it’s entirety together with its B-sides along with songs from his forthcoming Weltschmerz release. Mick Burgess caught up with Fish for a chat about the tour, the making of Clutching At Straws and the writing of his new album.

At the beginning of next month, you’re heading out on your latest UK tour. Are you looking forward to getting back on the road again?

I’m looking forward to getting on a plane at the end of the European shows and getting back to Edinburgh before starting the UK shows. Those shows have been fantastic and it’s the most shows I’ve done in a long time. I’ll be back for a couple of weeks to sign the reissue of the Clutching At Straws album and then I’ll start the UK tour which I’m looking forward to very much.

Were you involved in putting together the reissue of Clutching At Straws?

Mick Wall wrote the sleeve notes but earlier in the year I took part in the documentary that appears in the deluxe set about the making of the album. There were a few awkward moments doing that with the other guys from Marillion as that was the last album I made before I left the band. We all got on pretty well though when we did the documentary.

You kick off the tour on 2nd December in Newcastle. You’ve played up here many times. What are your memories of playing in Newcastle?

I’ve got great memories of those shows we played at the City Hall. I used to love playing there and I was glad when it was saved from closure. The gig we did last year in Newcastle was wonderful, we got a great reaction so we’re looking forward to starting our tour back in Newcastle to give a farewell to the Clutching At Straws album.

With you living up in Scotland, the shows that you do in the North of England are almost home territory for you?

I always remember when I was in my late teens driving down to Newcastle for the Lindisfarne Christmas shows. I loved those. Marillion actually supported Lindisfarne down at St. Albans in 1981.

This tour will see you feature songs from Marillion’s Clutching At Straws and songs from your forthcoming album Weltschmerz. How will you work that into your show?

We play the entire Clutching At Straws album including all of the B-Sides indispersed with about 40 minutes of material from the forthcoming Weltschmerz album so between the two it’s a great balance and it’s interesting to see how well the Weltschmerz material sits so well with the Clutching songs.

Are the three new songs on your Parlay With Angels EP on the new album?

Yes, they are on the album. What happened is that we started writing in January and we realised there was a lot of material and a lot of very long songs. Waverly Steps on the EP is almost 15 minutes long and there’s three songs as long on the album. I realised that it was too much for a single album so as it’s my last album I thought I’d go out with a double. I knew that once we decided to do that we wouldn’t have everything written and recorded by the time we went out on tour which is why we decided to release the Parlay With Angels EP. There’s three brand new songs and some live tracks that we played on last year’s UK tour. I say an EP but it’s 55 minutes long so it is more of an album.

As a singer you’ve never been afraid of playing material from a forthcoming album before it is released. You did this on the Fugazi tour which took place before the album came out and you did the same with Misplaced Childhood. Does this give you the chance to road test songs and fine tune them?

Not really. The songs that we will be playing live are already recorded. We might touch them up a bit but the new material has been going down really well in Europe and Man With A Stick has been getting quite a bit of airplay too which is really positive.

Turning to Clutching At Straws firstly. This was your final studio album with Marillion. It’s hard to believe it’s 31 years old now. Does it feel like that much time has passed since you recorded it?

It’s incredible that it’s that old. It just feels like yesterday that it came out. Time certainly moves fast.

That album followed up Misplaced Childhood that reached Number 1 in the UK album charts and yielded two Top 10 singles including Kayleigh. Did that instantly put pressure on you when you started writing Clutching At Straws?

There was a lot of pressure from the label to come up with Kayleigh 2 but we weren’t going to do that. We weren’t naturally a Pop singles band. We did what we wanted to do and I’m glad I did that one before I left because it’s my favourite album by Marillion. I’m really enjoying playing it on the road on this tour. We’ve been recording shows on the tour so we should be releasing something in the future.

Did you sense the feeling that Clutching At Straws would be your last album while you were making it?

Yes, I knew during the recording of the album it’d be my last. It was a difficult process and a difficult time. I got out of the band at the right time.

You’d actually started work on the follow up and a couple of those ended up on Marillion’s Season’s End album. Was it strange hearing how those songs ended up?

I don’t really know as I haven’t heard the Season’s End album for a very long time but some of those initial ideas did end up on Vigil, the first album I did after leaving Marillion.

Moving right up to the present day. You have a new album due for release next year, Weltschmerz. Are you excited ahead of its release?

I am very excited. We’ve still got writing and recording to do but I’m very pleased with what we’ve done so far. We’ll be working on it more in January for a few more months to finish it off. There’s some way to go yet but there’s three songs out already on the EP.

When is the official release date?

We’re planning on getting it out by May of next year. We wanted to feed some of the material out through Spotify and other streaming services before the tour though so people could hear it before they came to the show otherwise there’d be periods of silence as people wouldn’t know what it was we were playing.

Where did the title come from?

It means pain of the world or the world’s pain. The album is all about characters, it’s about people’s feelings about the world they live in. Man With A Stick is about getting older and losing power. Waverly Steps is about the Black Dog, depression and male suicide so it’s about dealing with the world you live in. There’s songs about different people in different situations.

As always, the artwork looks incredible. You have worked with Mark Wilkinson since your Marillion days. Did you sit down together discuss what you wanted or do you give him the lyrics and the themes to the album and let him get on with it?

Mark listens to the demos and has dropped in during the recording process and he keeps me up to speed with how he’s linking the art with the lyrics and music. Artwork is such an important part of an album to me and it’s become more important as the years have gone on. I think most of my fans prefer something tangible in their hands. There’s a big artwork project involved with the album and there’ll be a lot of great artwork in the deluxe version of the album.

What are your plans going into 2019?

We’ll be finishing the Weltschmerz album and will also be reissuing the Vigil album and we’ll do a tour based on both of those albums and then the tour after that will be my Farewell Tour but there’s still plenty of music and shows before then.

Fish’s UK Tour starts at the O2 Academy, Newcastle on 2nd December 2018


  • 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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