To: Freaks Mailing List
First of all a happy New Year from Scotland and everyone here at Millenium Recording Studios! Yes, the name has changed but more on that later. Lets get down to the floor straightaway with some explanations and sharpened pens.
Itchy - you have the wrong end of the stick - here's the pointed one!
Contrary to opinion I am not closing any Company set ups. The Company Belgium will still operate with newsletters but the fanzine which was printed in 2 separate language issues, Dutch and French, had become uneconomic and a huge workload for Frank Clauwers who was dealing with only a couple of hundred members. In the last year Frank has had a number of stressful situations and family problems which I don't feel I have to explain, but which necessitated his resignation. There is no animosity and I completely understood and related to his decision.
I am restructuring the fanclubs and offering our model here at the Company Scotland as a suggestion to other countries. It's not an order. The Fanzines as a method of spreading up to date information are redundant, however, they are not being disposed of.
Subscription rates at the Company Scotland have stayed the same for the last 4 years and we have borne the losses incurred, as costs have increased. We can't handle these anymore and realise that to raise subscriptions to what we would require would put a lot of potential members off and others in financial hardship. If you've seen the fanzine it's a 70 page or thereabouts extravaganza of which we've never received complaints apart from it being out of date regarding news items. A quarterly fanzine by it's very nature can't cover "current" news.
The "freaks" list and the website now provide a more proactive news service which is why I've changed the focus and why I'm writing (typing!) this article.
My suggestion is to work a two tiered membership. The first being a service which will provide 6 bi-monthly news-sheets with up to date news, membership laminate and some assorted paraphernalia. This will enable members discounts on merchandise and special offers. The second will include a subscription for 4 fanzines. The fanzines will also be available as a merchandise item and posted on the website for those who have access.
Non pc users will, therefore, have info on the news-sheets and national telephone info lines (which we're trying to cut the costs down on - they're too expensive). Features and major interviews will be printed in the fanzines should they choose to subscribe with the news-sheets carrying relevant excerpts. The fanzines will also be made individually available in retail outlets i.e., Fish friendly record stores as well as tour merchandise items.
E-mailers can get the info off the "list" or from the web site and if they choose the tier 1 membership which'll get them the discounts etc which will more than compensate for the basic fee.
The website will also have postings of translated articles in Dutch, German, French etc which together with EXISTING Companies operating phone lines and news-sheets in different nation states should satisfy non-English speaking fans. The Companies can decide whether they want to continue producing fanzines themselves but there is no pressure to do so. If they can make them economically feasible and they have the drive, will and inspiration then who am I to take them away.
If the Company Scotland fanzine is a high quality item and we can move them to the USA to back up news-sheets then our costs come down and English speaking fans have access to a professional magazine that will far outstrip anything being printed on small runs.
The merchandise will be run solely from Haddington as there's been too much confusion over prices, ordering, invoicing, vat (national sales tax) deliveries etc. By centralising we have control and a financial structure that can support a dedicated member of staff to run the fan club on a full time and more professional basis which in turn makes the communication systems far slicker.
OK - so that's the cunning plan re the Companies. We're still working on costs and the fine details but I'm hopeful to make an announcement in mid-February.
Right! Merchandise. No one is forced to buy anything! It's on offer and if you choose not to take it up then cool! I've never considered mugging people, relieving them of some wedge and leaving a Fish video in a bloodstained anorak a realistic option (Well, ok only once but Yatta & I were drunk in the Tyneside at the time!).
I've built up a decent catalogue of items that are all what I consider good value. There are new fans coming in all the time and the stuff is ageless (keyrings with annual logos?) It's not that high a turnover - we ain't exactly Marks and Spencers. It's there and available to anyone who wants it.
Bootlegs/live albums? If I didn't do it someone else would and I'd earn nothing. The majority of fans want souvenirs of gigs/tours. We provide good quality recordings at prices well below your average price of your record fair mercenary. Again it's the fan's choice!
The tracklisting isn't always the same and the renditions are often different. I'm a live unit sort of person and enjoy the spontanaity of live performance. That extra shard of edge, that additional passion or feel of a moment that lends itself to some live magic.
Dick Bros has only 5 live double cds :- Pigpens Birthday 1990 tour; Uncle Fish & the Crypt Creepers 91 tour; Sushi 93 tour; Krakow 95 tour and Fish Head Curry 95 tour (5000 limited numbered CDs), from 8 years of what seems constant touring. (Derek Dick & His Amazing Electric Bear 91; Toiling in the Reeperbahn 92; and For whom the bell tolls 91 were only available on Battleside Records, a short termed subsidiary of our old company Windswept Thumb Ltd., and are now deleted. Griffin Records USA licensed these titles for a couple of years and no longer have the authority to produce. They are, therefore, unavailable and only exist now as collectors items - their value dependant on my future as an artist and human being.
(I estimate on average only about 15,000 copies of each of these titles exist - numbers vary according to licensee and licensor which explains one of the reasons I'm not with Griffin!) I have no intention whatsoever of future production as, I myself feel, that the Dick Bros catalogue is more than sufficient.
Apart from "Songs for the Company", now deleted, there are no other videos of my live performances legally commercially available apart from "Krakow" electric and "Krakow" acoustic, both 7 camera professional shoots. As these are now available on NTSC directly from us on mail order. This is the only opportunity the US has had to visually gauge a live performance in 8 years.
OK are we all still here, let's move onto justification in more detail. Since March 93 when I parted company, and was dropped by Polydor after fulfilling a 2 album contract, I have not had the benefit of being able to phone up a major record company for a cheque to help me through a rainy day.
The five double live albums released that Summer on Griffin, Battleside kept me alive and with a roof over my head. It paid the bills and it supported a band as we finished writing the Suits album. Sushi paid for the session and recording fees (it maybe my studio but I had to pay investors, electricity, tape, engineer etc.) set up Dick Bros and helped with the initial production costs.
When Suits came out our best form of promotion was continual live work and it was the only financial kickback I had for a while. I couldn't afford to stop touring, thus writing time was non-existent. We made ground but were caught in a trap.
Stop touring, go under, keep touring, forsake writing. I chose the latter and decided a "Best of" collection with new studio recordings of older material would provide a passport to new areas to tour in. It worked; it didn't get us to the States as you well know, but took us to Turkey, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Singapore, Hong Kong etc. Hey! read the back of the T-shirt! The Marillion titles which were recognised helped introduce my solo material. I make no bones about it. It helped show off the musicianship and capabilities of my band and it proved that I hadn't metamorphosised into a grungie, folkie or some guy who had completely lost the plot as some had surmised. It tidied up my past and re-invented the future. I drew a straight line through 15 years of creative activity and for some it brought them back on the path I was travelling. I'm proud of Yin and Yang and have no regrets. Even Institution Waltz I felt glad to lay it down properly after all those years in an unmarked grave on Bootleg Hill.
Anyway, I'm on tour with the collection and the response was great. Some critics put the boot in with regards to lack of new material and I admit freely that it dented my confidence and put the fear into me abaout writing the new album. But I was getting the live reactions and turned the general feeling around that I was on a downward spiral to progressive rock bargain bin hell. Fish is now seen as a positive force. I toured Yin and Yang until August 96 and began writing Sunsets with Steve Wilson around May of that year using the live income to finance the new project.
I still have a house, a studio, a career and a positive attitude as well as an ass-kicking new album leading a healthy back catalogue of material. The Sunsets album is worth the wait.
I am not and never have been a millionaire. I'm a very hard working musician operating in a very difficult small corner of a very large ball park. I've survived against some extremely difficult odds which I won't bore you with and to be honest I get bored with regurgitating. This is now and so am I.
I've taken my time in making Sunsets cos it had to be perfect. Steve had "Porcs" touring during the writing and recording and Calum Malcolm who I really wanted involved wasn't available until November because of a delayed Prefab Sprout project. I had wanted it out in 96 but circumstances and artistic arrogance dictated otherwise.
Bob Ludwig mastered the album in December, again my choice, and it is now complete in every respect. So 96 was out and Pony Canyon in Japan have first release due to problems with imports in that Country. They need 3 months to set an album up for release and 4 weeks clear "window" to avoid competition. It's out there April 18th and scheduled for Europe and the rest of World, May 19th.
We sniffed about the major labels but to be honest no one was particularly interested in a 38 year old progressive rocker who can't dance that good! Of the 4 principles approached only one wanted to hear the album!
Therefore, Dick Bros release independently in Europe but before the Americans start E'ing, I have appointed Jim Pitulski (Dream Theater, Spock's Beard) as management in North and South America and after meetings recently in NYC, he is actively and positively pursuing a deal for those territories. I finally have professional and dedicated representation there, which will, as I'm sure you're aware, make a BIG difference. With a release in May, we have adequate time to set things in place and plan touring schedules. This appointment will have far reaching repercussions (stop drooling out there, you'll electrocute yourselves!).
So where did I come in? Oh yeah! the studio. As of January, "Funny Farm Recording Studios" no longer exists. We are now called "Millenium Recording Studios" and it's under this name that we are moving into a new redevelopment phase which will, hopefully, incorporate a 240+m2 live/orchestral room, new control room and secondary studio with new office and residential facilities. Calum Malcolm and his engineer, Stuart Hamilton, have moved from their old studio "Castlesound" - Scotland's best known studio where Calum has produced the Blue Nile, Runrig, Simple Minds amongst many others, and taken up creative residence here with a revamped control room. This venture is the jump off to much bigger things in the future which I'll keep you informed about. All in all, it's pretty exciting and a realisation of a long term dream for both Calum and myself. It means I take a back seat role, which to be honest I'm more than happy to do as the artist has become a demanding animal.
Touring calls and dates are already coming in. Watch this monitor screen!
It's been a long visit, I hope I've not bored you. I'll get back to shorter question/answer stuff later, but I just had to scratch an "itch". Nothing personal!
Once again, Happy New Year, take care and stay alive.
p.s. Competition news next week!
p.p.s. "Krakow" Electric Set (2 hours) and "Krakow" Acoustic Set (1 hour) videos are now available on NTSC format from this office and our credit card hotline number is: 01620 824111. Both videos cost GBP13.00 ea + p&p GBP1.50 UK; GBP2.00 Europe;GBp5.00 O/seas.
"... just another alien living on the planet,
in another world, living on the planet
its just one of those days when you know
that somethings gonna happen."
Fish : The Perception of Johnny Punter
Copyright : Fishy Music Ltd 1996
Email 10th January 1997