Subject: Fish 98 (part 5)
What a lovely day! I figure I should start off with good news, subvert in the middle and leave with happier news!!!
While in London one of my appointments was with an old friend who had fallen in love with Kerry, the ex-dog, while visiting us at the farm. She was upset at hearing of her demise, being the owner of a magnificent black long-haired German Shepherd herself. The dog was beautiful and brought back reminders of how the house feels now, very empty and spookily quiet. Later that night on the plane home I opened the Edinburgh Evening news and in the ad columns there was an entry offering black long-haired GS pups. One phone call, a very brief family discussion and 20 hours later we returned to the farm after a long hike to Fife with Simba, a 7-week old puppy. Tara is in awe, as are we all at this cute wee hairy ball of drool and legs. The family seems complete again and I swear when I look in her eyes there's an older dog staring back.
I was very interested to read Miles Copeland's post about the industry. Like so many others I've talked to recently there are many professionals who are very concerned about the current state and the future of the music business. I don't want to repeat myself and won't about my regard of retail practices and radio plays. It's covered and to go into more detail would bore you. All I'll say is that these are not only my views but those of other fellow participants. To briefly touch other subjects from Darren's post, which does have a number of good points and back-ups to my own arguments, I'd like to add the following -
Agreed the Rolling Stones and Elton John have loyalty. They have also become institutions over the years and capable of commanding media attention almost at will. Agreed that most older fans want to slip back a few years at gigs and want to boogie away to the old favs. But as institutions they seep into new generations who get turned on to old material and investigate new. I disagree with the view of "not having done anything interesting in years". "Lion King", the "Made in England" album were both acclaimed as were "Steel Wheels", "Bridges to Babylon" and "Voodoo Lounge" projects. They still consistently work and are well represented in all forms of media. Yes they have loyalty and I'd say loyalty from a small bunch of fans at my level probably means just as much if not more. It's relevant!
The loyalty is earned from consistency, quality product and well maintained profile. I admit having had problems in these areas at different periods in my life!! I accept the responsibility.
But let's get this straight, it takes money and lots of it to back this sort of profile manufacturing and I've not had access to this sort of money. Refer to the singles budget in the last post!
Yes I agree it's a business and it must make money for shareholders, corporate owners (Whisky anyone?) AND pay the overheads as well as fill the distribution pipelines that swelled during the 80's. Everyone went for the quick buck in Europe, signing low maintenance, high output, mostly anonymous dance bands most of whom were incapable of supporting album projects. The compilation album became standard industry fodder both in dance and rock markets. Long term investment in bands became a rare commodity and labels began to rely on re-releases to keep the coffers full and the shareholders happy. A huge gap has developed and co's realise the back catalogues are drying up and there's very little new catalogue to exploit. There are fewer and fewer career bands out there. Alan McGhee of Creation Records said to me only last year that it was frightening that a band is lucky nowadays to reach a second album and that a music career these days is considered a long one if it spans the same amount of years. 5 years is considered veteran!!!
I have been very, very lucky to have come this far and achieved what I have. I appreciate there are many musos out there who even I'd consider better than me and who never even had the chance to go missing in action. Everyone I know in the industry recognises that major changes will occur in the next few years and like a lot of people the Internet will play a major role. There lies the possibility of the even playing field, outwith the present "capitalist" structure and in a more "socialist" set-up where everyone gets a chance to compete and music is available to the masses judgement and taste is not pre-determined and as manipulated as is by the present means of media and retail control. I just think it will become a larger industry with smaller components that won't be as subservient to the whims and desires of accountants. This obviously is a simplistic argument but as the present system falls into decay the future of the music industry (which btw. I have grown to love dearly over all my years and care about perhaps more than you may gather from my posts!!!) will become clearer.
I am at the end of the day a professional musician. I'm 40 years old this year. I'm no fool and realise that youth will always control the field. I still love music and still buy albums by new artists and still enjoy a lot of current material. I'll always feel part of it all. That will never desert me and if anything allows me more than a lot of people to comment on the sad state of affairs.
I definitely don't feel the need to die to be recognised. It would be great to have a song played on radio other than Kayleigh but I bow down to the computers selection and appreciate more than most that K. is still my most successful record and to match it's success would be a miracle!!! It still frustrates me! I don't lose sleep over it!
I'm well proud of what I've achieved and don't need to buy any more fame as I bought into it a long time ago and have since downsized to a rather attractive property on the outskirts (I got a nice price!!). Fame doesn't drive me any more! I enjoy the satisfaction of creation and even though my ego still breaks free of the chain sometimes, I'm pretty much in control of where I'm at. I'm glad that you, Darren, still get a kick out of it all. You're not the only one.
At the end of the day I'm not greedy. I am honest. I didn't like the tone of your post and as I expressed earlier there's one issue which is not applicable to any of your comments on the business or my career. I appreciate your candour and respect your arguments some of which are not far removed from my own. Thanks for your best wishes and for your closing remarks which seemed totally at odds with the atmosphere created by the preceding disclosures. I'd like to get on with the rest of my life now and as the list has already guessed I'm still intending to contribute and defend any decision I make and accept any responsibility that derives from those decisions.
Positive news to follow in the next candygram!!
Love Onkel Fish
Subject: Fish 98 (Part 6)
Dear freaky friends,
This hopefully will be the final piece and bring you up to date and beyond.
You've all hopefully realised by now that I'm still going to make records but that the energies put into promoting and touring will diminish accordingly.
My visit to London was illuminating and has helped me to determine my future and guide me into a new and exciting era!
After long discussions with my up till now frustrated theatrical agents a lot of energies will be applied to procuring acting roles and developing a CV and profile in the movie and TV industry. They're highly enthusiastic and confident that what was looked on before as a "hobby" will now develop into a substantial part of my career and the experiences gained will be put to good use in furthering the opportunities of work behind camera as well as in front. It's no secret that I've nurtured dreams of working in movies for a long time and that screenplay ideas have been on the shelf for a long time, sacrificed to the great gods of touring commitments. This will all now change and my agents have been given my diary to fill. They already are actively looking for parts and have a number of options. I wait on audition calls!!!
This also means that film music and placing tracks on soundtracks become another option as I hopefully will be rubbing shoulders with the "Right People" who decide what and who goes where!
I also met with a prospective literary agent who has always enjoyed my lyric writing skills and agrees with me that there is a lot of potential in Derek W Dick the novelist. In the next few months I'll be attacking my first novel "Number 1 with a Bullet" an idea I've been mulling over for quite some time. Strangely enough it's a thriller/murder/mystery about the music business based in current times. I have to complete the first 3 or 4 chapters and draft a plot and character outline for her to present to publishing companies with the intention of attempting to secure a deal for a multi-book package. She has great faith in my abilities although I must admit to feeling rather daunted but equally excited about the prospect of a completely new career in writing. This also ties up the movie activities as the intention is to write with a screenplay in mind.
I really don't want to go into detail just now as a lot will happen as well as not happen in the next few months and I don't want to disappoint either of us by talking too much about projects before they're locked in for definite. Take it from me that there's some exciting things happening out there.
On the album front I was disappointed that Steve Wilson can't help with the "Raingods" project due to his own album commitments but I can tell you that both Mickey Simmonds and Robin Boult intend to cooperate with the writing along with a new contributor Steve Hitchcock (no relation!). I'm going down to London in the next 2 weeks to work on some material and all going well Steve will join the writing coalition. I was introduced to Steve by Avril Mackintosh who worked on SOE. I also intend to bring in Avril on "Raingods" as eng/producer to work alongside the Millenium engineer Stuart Hamilton. The roles as yet are not clearly defined but as the weeks progress so will our arrangements. I intend to have this album in the can before the end of June for release to retail Sept/October. I want to have it available on mail order for the end of August!!!
Steve is a very intense and likeable guy whose style is difficult to explain!! (9 Inch Nails with orchestras anyone!! ???) I'm interested to see how our initial ideas and visions develop.
I do know that this will be an interesting album and I think challenging to some. It's intended to follow the path in the cliff already partially cut by the SOE material and you can be damned sure I intend to enjoy every moment of it. Schedules will probably move but if they do it'll be for the right reasons!!! (see MOVIES above!!!).
The serious writing will co-exist with the lyric writing and don't be surprised if there's a crossover!!!
(As you can see I'm getting lots of practice on the PC!!!)
Finally, the record co.
As the restructuring moves ahead and discussions are developed with potential investors or buyers of Millenium Studios (we're examining all possibilities) I still have to deal with the tour loss and financing the new album.
I've decided to tidy up the catalogue and at the same time have a Spring Clean.
The original "Fortunes of War" 4 CD single box set will be deleted as it is a very expensive piece to manufacture and we have to order large no's of CD units for it to make sense. It will be repackaged as a single CD containing all the acoustic live set but minus the 3 versions of FOW that were required on the original release for it to qualify as a single in the UK charts. The CD will be mid-priced and available in March together with a similarly repackaged and re mastered "Suits" which will contain "Black Canal" and "Out of my Life" the B-sides from that project. These will be used as part of any catalogue deal we may procure in the USA. I'm examining the DAT's from the last tour with the intention of releasing this double CD as part of our official live series. This is also aimed for March. No title as yet!!
I'm still trying to get an OK on the live video shot in Poland but at the moment I'm still waiting on clearances from Polish TV.
While in London I also met with Polydor and we are attempting to secure the return of the licenses for "Internal Exile" and "Songs from the Mirror" as well as the relevant video clips. Should we be successful these titles and a definitive video collection will be released early Summer as repackaged remasters. Polydor will decide on the fate of these projects in the next 2 weeks. My fingers are crossed to the elbows!!
I know there will be a few eyebrows raised at the extent of material being issued but I have no choice but to (a) tidy the catalogue up now before a USA deal and re-structuring of our distribution process and (b) raise as much capital as I can to support me through the next 6 months!
As part of the "Fund Raising" and the Spring Cleaning of my career I've also decided to put a number of items up for sale!
Over the years I've amassed a large collection of Marillion and Fish items, mainly T-shirts, tour jackets, special band only merchandise etc none of which I would wear nowadays but may be interesting or collectable to others. Some items are unworn, others worn once or are worn rarities. Rather than let them lie buried under the stairs I've decided to sell them to support current activities. In the next week I'll be sending a complete list to the website and if it's not too long onto the list with all details of the items. As I also have to contact the co's and the non-PC fans I won't decide on offers until the end of February when bids for certain items will be opened and we'll deal with others on a first come first served basis. With some articles I expect a lot of interest but with others there may be none!! Let's see.
I'll post more detail when it's available.
I've also discovered that I have artwork (Solo era only) that will never find it's way onto wallspace and other pieces which would better serve the present rather than as mementoes of the past.
I've decided to use their sale to put against the tour losses and the various other "misappropriations" that have occurred and to secure the next album project! It's sad in some ways to lose some pieces but I have to be realistic. The future's more important and I would hate to be in a position of being forced to sell to people who would have no real interest or respect and to whom the sleeve artwork didn't really mean much! Mark Wilkinson has agreed to personally sign and authenticate all the artwork and as with the memorabilia the details will be available soon on the website.
BTW, I'm hoping to be putting up some digital live footage soon shot on the 97 tour. We're working on it!!
I'm accepting the responsibility for my previous decisions and welcoming the responsibility for my future plans and projects. I am honestly excited at the moment even though the pressure is on to advance the projects. It can be done and I welcome the fight. I can only lose in spectacular fashion and even I enjoy a good fireworks party (Hi Tosh!!!)
Read you all soon my freaks!
love Onkel Fish
Email 24th January 1998