Company News sheet February 98
Dear Members of the Company Scotland,
Hi there!! A happy new year to one and all!! Late greetings but things have been hecticated up here and time and energies have been diverted into dealing with the fallout from the tour which although well received was a financial disaster. Some of you will have already picked up news from the "Freaks" list and from the "VIGIL..." web site, others may have read items in the press if you live in Scotland.
The facts are as follows -
The tour lasted 7 months and ended up totalling 128 shows in 20 countries. Altogether we estimate the losses to be around 50 k pounds. This sort of amount for a small independent record co. is difficult to bear but combined with other factors has made the future of Dick Bros highly improbable if not impossible.
There were many reasons ; a strong British pound meant our exchange rates were affected by up to 15 per cent (that applied to sales of cd's as well as tour income), a recession in the industry and in some European economies meant ticket and cd sales were down, the German government now imposes Foreign Artist Taxes (up to 40 per cent) which hit our most lucrative area of touring, the French promoter didn't deliver the amount of shows he promised due to his excessive charges to local promoters, resulting in 7 days off in France during which I still had to pay the band, crew, bus etc.
The same problem occurred in the UK where we organised the most dates ever but didn't get the support we hoped for (3 days off in Plymouth didn't help). Our day to day costs were 2000 pounds and that was without lights or technician. The crew was kept to a minimum, only one backline tech., Production mgr, out front sound eng, monitor eng. covering everything with the band reduced by one member we still couldn't make sense of the income from the gigs and even with merchandise the differential couldn't be met. By then I was committed and contracted to continue the tour and had to grit my teeth and get on with it. The shows were great and we all thoroughly enjoyed the world tour. But playing to a couple of hundred fans after spending all night in a bus and then hanging about all day in a freezing dressing room with no hot water and eating in the nearest curry house is maybe fine for a 22 year old trying for the break but for a 39 and soon to be 40 year old it's depressing.
I took the gamble, recognising that "Sunsets.. "was in my opinion my best attempt yet and backing my belief with a humungous tour in order to give the album the highest profile to date I went for it...and missed!
The album didn't sell as much as hoped for and the tour, although generating brilliant reviews to match the general buzz round the album, has forced me to re-consider my options.
Tammi as some of you already know was diagnosed with cervical cancer last May, 2 weeks before the tour started and 1 week before the album was released. The operation took place the day of the first show in Haddington and I didn't know until the Glasgow show that all was well. The tour was nearly blown then and there. In some ways I wish it had been. The problem was the deals and contracts had been done and cancellation could probably have created a legal mess that would have had the same financial repercussions as the final tour deficit.
On top of all that we had further problems when 3 distribution co.'s went into liquidation and a legal case had to be withdrawn from when the other party received legal aid thus severely putting us at a disadvantage and making the recovery of costs unlikely. All in all not a great return from a year that promised so much when it began.
98 opened with much of the same. Kerry our 12yr. old faithful German Shepherd had to finally be put down and the financial losses drew attention from the bank. It was time for big decisions.
Tammi and I had planned to move out of the Farm a long time ago in order that we could enjoy a more family orientated lifestyle away from the circus that is Millennium Studios. The operation meant that we couldn't have any more children and so shutting down the studio and returning the Farm to a family house was not really an option as we didn't need and couldn't afford to run a 7 bedroom household. We also couldn't afford to buy another property and keep the studio running. The solution is to sell the Farm and studio, clear the problems at the bank and use other income to buy a new family home in East Lothian. This would also mean shutting down Dick Bros once the bills are paid and the stock sold off. Jane Findlay and Shona Ford left in January and only Jeremy Lawson is left here with Tammi and myself to deal with the day to day running of the Co's and the fanclub.
Ironically the studio is having it's best year ever and for the first time last year went into serious profit. Bookings this year span 9 months including my next solo album scheduled for recording this Summer. I'm still trying to find the money to record this and I decided to put a number of articles of Memorabilia and artwork up for sale in order to not only pay for the album but also to try and fill in the hole created by last years misadventures. A full list of these items accompanies this newssheet as well as a revitalised merchandise list that supersedes all previous lists and hopefully offers a few deals that may interest some of you who have been thinking of buying something but hadn't got round to it. I cannot emphasise how much this would help us at the moment as we are totally dependant on cd and t-shirt sales until such times as we can find a Major/Major Indie label to handle the albums, including the new one, and take over the responsibilities of Dick Bros releases. We already have firm interest and a number of irons in the fire regarding projects this year.
The studio is up for sale as I write this and we already have interest captured by extensive press coverage gained from the obvious "human interest" story of a "Rock Star" selling a 795,000 pound studio complex!! If only the album had received so much attention!!:)
The other elements of restructuring involve a re-thinking of touring activities which from now on will be limited. I anticipate touring for only 6 weeks maximum per year not including any open airs which are the most lucrative gigs by far. In short I can't afford to lose any more money on tours and the time saved by less roadwork will be utilised in other activities that have been put to the side as touring commanded most of my energies.
You all know how much I've wanted to increase my profile as an actor and get more involved with movies. I've talked for long enough about screenwriting and novels now's the time to put words into action. I've already been in discussion with certain people who are very interested at the prospect of dealing with my writing career and I am under orders to write 3 chapters of my first novel "Number 1 with a bullet" in order that my prospective agent can seek a deal with publishers. My first audition is tomorrow for a well known UK TV series and my Theatrical agent is confident that he can secure me a number of small movie and TV parts building me up to more demanding roles as I gain more experience and confidence.
This career re-structuring is necessary and I must admit to being very excited at the prospect of new challenges and experiences. I am not as has been rumoured giving up or retiring from music. I'm simply spreading my energies into other areas and spending less time banging my head against a brick wall hoping for a single or album to take off and deliver me security of both a financial and creative nature. The business has changed and so have I. I promised Tammi and I'm sticking to that promise that if "Sunsets..." didn't work then I'd re-think.
I've thought it out and this is our decision. I retire from the battlefield in order.
There was once a Scottish king who took a severe kicking and went and hid in a cave for a few months trying to work out his next move. His guide was a spider! I seem to remember mentioning him in an old lyric somewhere!!:)
So it's not as bad as has been rumoured. I have more chances of gaining recognition as a singer/songwriter as a by product of other activities as I have at present following this long and arduous route which has been both soul destroying and expensive at that!!
Ok that's the bad news!:)
The good news is that the Haddington fan club Convention will be held on May 30th at our regular venue The Corn Exchange. This time the event is part of the Haddington Music Festival and my show is the first of a fortnights activities. We've been given the local youth club's facilities which you'll be pleased to know are next door to the Tyneside tavern. I intend to put on an exhibition of the entire Mark Wilkinson artwork collection which may sadly be the last time the pieces are all together as most will be sold soon after.
Other events will be organised and the band will play a special acoustic set in the afternoon at the Tyneside as well as a special evening set which hopefully will also have special guest appearances. Tickets will be 10 pounds and are open to all comers. You can send cheques made out to Fishy Tours Ltd. And addressed to the Co. Scotland at our usual address.
I hope to make this the best one yet and under the present circumstances I'd like as many attendees as possible to make it a real special occasion. This after all is my 10th anniversary as a solo artist!!:)
Other gigs so far this year are-
May 23rd Stuttgart with the SAS band exact venue to be confirmed!
June 14th Geneva with the SAS band (as above)
August 1st Holland open-air festival, Fish band TBC
September 5th Malta, Fish band
August 15th Wembley stadium. London charity concert. Fish band, TBC.
This list will be confirmed as contracts are signed and more shows are sure to follow as promoters start to fill the festival bills!!
There was a tentative show at the Ross Bandstand on April 19th as part of the opening of the new Hard Rock Café Edinburgh. This is now unlikely due to licensing problems .
Please don't travel unless you have this show confirmed. I repeat it's unlikely to happen so if you don't hear from us then it's not on!!!
I'll be working with a Dutch artist called AYREON on his new album in April. Titled " Into the Electric Castle" the material I've heard in demo form is very compatible with where I'm at as a solo artist. I'm writing lyrics for and singing 4 songs, most as duets or with other vocalists. He's already released 2 albums under his own name "Actual fantasy" and "The Final Experiment" both on Transmission records . You may have trouble finding them in this country but Ayreon is very well respected in Holland where his Progressive style has many admirers. We'll be recording here at the Farm in between the Blue Nile sessions in March and June.
We have a new addition to the family here as well. After Kerry died there was a huge emptiness in the house so after a day trip to London to meet agents etc I came across an advert in the evening news offering black long haired German shepherds for sale . I couldn't resist.
The 13 week old puppy is called Simba (Lion in Swahili!) and was the name of my first dog when I was a mere wee laddie! She's beautiful and I must admit that her antics have injected some much needed smiles to the household!! (apart from the endless toilet training!!:))
As well as the other things on sale I've decided to sell the F1 SHS number plate which at this time is surplus to requirements and potentially offers some more much needed revenue to make the album possible. It's advertised in fishing magazines and anybody out there who's feeling rich and has a fishy name can have it if they can offer over 9000 pounds!!
The web site has changed as well. Mark and Julie Wynne who have been doing a great and admirable job maintaining the site have decided to retire from active duty. Their work commitments have steadily increased in recent months making updates less and less regular. On top of that their son Paul, who was seriously ill at the end of the year deserves his parents back and those all night sessions on the site have taken their toll of family life. I'm sad to lose the 2 people who did more than anyone to introduce me to cyberspace and to another dimension of the fan club activities! I'd like to publicly thank them for all their hard work and dedication to the site and my career and for all the miles and fingernails they covered and broke in keeping up with current moves and the Luddite that kept them up for hours as he needed yet another explanation of how his PC. worked!!!!:)
They'll still be helping on an advisory level but the web site will now be run by Mo Warden who some of you may remember from earlier fanzine issues when she contributed cartoons.
Mo has since become an expert in site design and has created a number of computer games.
She is one very clever lady and I must admit to being overjoyed at having her on board as the Web site moves into another dimension and takes on an even more prominent position in my career as a means of spreading information worldwide.
For those of you who don't have Internet access I suggest that you visit a cyber café some day and check the site out to find out what you're missing!
The address is - http://web.ukonline.co.uk/fish/
At the moment the site is called "Torch Song" but as we move the present official site over from - http://www.livjm.ac.uk/fish/ at Liverpool John Moore's University there may be a change or amalgamation of title. Mo will be attending the convention as will others from our international community most of whom we now contact directly using the web and E-Mails!
I post on a regular basis to a mailing list called Freaks which has daily updates with discussions between fans on a worldwide basis on all things fishy and Marillion like!!
They can be found on E-Mail at Freaks Mailing List . It's well worth signing up if only for the arguments and points of view!:)
Check these sites and addresses out and find out what everyone's talking about. You're never too old - look at me!:)
Steve Wilson is sadly unable to work on the new project due to commitments to his own career. He's currently working in Wales with Elliot "Ness" on the new Porcupine Tree album which now goes through Miles Copelands Label Ark 21. Robin Boult and Mickey Simmonds will both be helping with the writing process and I'm going to be experimenting with a musician called Steve Hitchcock (no relation to Dave!). He's a wild and wacky genius who can guide me further down the road I've set off on with : Sunsets.." Avril Mackintosh is also in the frame as is Stuart Hamilton our engineer here at the farm and someone who is gaining a lot of respect for his talents. The album has two possible titles!
Tammi prefers :"Mission Statement" (inspired by the film "Jerry Maguire". Check it out!) or the other choice is the afore mentioned " Raingods With Zippos". I'm not sure. I'll wait to see how the sounds start to happen!:)
I don't know if we'll have anything new to play at the convention as my head is tied up with financial considerations at the moment. I'll try my best, you may be surprised.
As far as other releases go I'm trying to get the traditional live album together from the 97 tour. I have to go through another company to produce as our circumstances dictate that we cannot take on the financial burden of mastering, artwork etc. The album will be available on mail order through the Co. Scotland and hopefully will be available in April together with the "Fortunes of War" 4 cd set taken down to one single cd. (apart from 3 versions of FOW that were on the original single). The digipak is now deleted and some of you may be pleased to know I saw it offered at 40 pounds in Spain in a collectors magazine!:)
"Vigil..." is now available as are the Marillion Remasters "Script..." and "Fugazi". These are both double cd sets at single cd prices and include a plethora of different versions of tracks previously unheard. Yours truly contributes to the sleeve notes!
The "Krakow Electric" videos are out of stock and unlikely to be available for some time.
I'd hoped to have a video from the Polish leg of the tour but the demands from the TV companies and the promoter were in my mind excessive and at this stage in our perpetual evolution impossible to consider. I was particularly annoyed at their attitude and honestly feel that other peoples greed has robbed me of a chance to provide not only a great memento of the tour but also the chance to use a classic performance to open the eyes of those who are unaware of what I do as a solo artist.
You'll have to get in contact with Polish fans if you want to see this concert as it was screened on National Polish TV free of charge last year! I'm sure someone videod it!
The video collection of promo clips will be released sometime this Summer as I hope to be able to license the material on Polydor to complete the collection.
Due to all this mayhem and reorganising the March fanzine will be delayed until the end of April . This will allow us to regroup and gather all the relevant news regarding the new album and the tour.
There are a number of very exciting things in the pipeline but I don't want to show my hand too soon .
All will be revealed once contracts and agreements have been put into place.
This will tie up nicely with the convention and allow us time to develop some ideas for the day.
You will notice the merchandise list has been revamped. Please note the new catalogue numbers when ordering and if you use the credit card hotline please talk slowly and clearly as Tammi has problems with "regional" accents!:)
So that's about it for now! Could you handle much more anyway! It never seems to quieten down at any point and the high drama that is an essential ingredient of my life never dissipates.
Always look on the bright side of life someone once said!:)
Take care and stay alive,
Thanks for being out there
Ps. I just passed my first audition and will be appearing in "The Bill" a well known and widely watched police series on Granada TV. My characters name is Lawson and I run a security firm which hires out bouncers all of whom are gay as I am (in the script). The episode involves a male rape victim and as the gay security guy I'm under suspicion as I'm involved in dealing with skinhead neo nazi gigs! Wow!
I'm really pleased especially as it was the first audition/reading for a long time! The door opens!!
Email 9th March 1998