Email 4th November 1998

Subject: Fish 98 - Setlists, American CD's, VH1 and other stories

Dear freaks, friends, FWO and Company members

It seems as if a warm weather front has moved across the list in recent digests so I thought I'd act the part of Raingod on some of these sparks that are in danger of setting off another puerile flame war.

Set List

Every time I go on tour I am always faced with the dilemma of choosing material for the set list. I am very aware that what I provide is entertainment and that people are paying money to be entertained for two hours or so. At the same time I have to remain true to myself and also be fully aware that the conviction of the performance is of paramount importance during the evening. For example when we played the American tour it was obvious that there were fans out there who were going to expect me to play pre-88 material and that for me not to do so after 10 years of being absent would have been bordering on the disrespectful. At the same time, I would never consider playing material from that era that I felt we were unable to do justice to and more importantly, enjoy performing. For example I would never consider songs like 'Script' or 'Garden Party' and especially 'Grendel' because I don't honestly identify with these songs as much anymore. I am obviously more interested in displaying material from my solo years but when it comes down to it, if I cannot enjoy and the musicians cannot enjoy and get a hit out of playing the set then touring would become extremely tedious and an unbalanced set would result in a less enjoyable evening for both audience and musicians alike. The recent concerts had a far higher percentage than normal of pre-88 material due the special circumstances surrounding recent gigs i.e. the set was rehearsed for Fan Club Conventions. I don't ignore the F-Marillion material but I don't wallow in it and try and strike a balance that keeps both the fans, the band any myself happy. I recently saw the film footage from the German Convention (which will make a great Official Bootleg Video in December) and the Clutching at Straws material is really exciting. I can understand why bands choose to concentrate on recent material in their sets and especially a new album and there have been times when I have considered ejecting all F-Marillion songs from the set list. In the end there are some great songs from that era some of which I can still relate to and most importantly really enjoy singing. I have also included cover versions in set lists from the past and feel totally justified in performing that material as long as there is an energy and excitement and a great vibe that comes from performing those songs.
The set list for the 99 tour will be radically different as there is a very strong possibility that I will be adding a female backing vocalist to the band in order to do the Raingods with Zippos material justice as there are a lot of BVs on the album including a duet on 'Incomplete'. This will obviously open up a lot of other possibilities including renditions of 'Just Good Friends', 'Favourite Stranger' and 'Sunsets on Empire' amongst others. There is also a strong possibility that the 'Clutching' material will take over as the medley section within the set. I use the medleys as a principle means of touching on the pre-88 songs without devoting too large a chunk of the set towards that era. I am very aware that people want to get good value for money for the ticket price and as long as I am being sincere in the delivery, comfortable with the material and all the band are excited by playing it then I don't really have a problem.

I don't really think it's appropriate to overly criticise Marillion for their choice of songs as I am sure they approach their set list with the same criteria as I have listed above. I am sure that they do not deliberately avoid it for any other reason that that they feel the newer songs are more in tune with the current feel of the band. I can sympathise with some of you who feel that the older material should be represented but I am sure that those people would rather see a great version of 'King' or another H-Marillion song rather than a dispirited version of 'Garden Party' or 'Sugar Mice' for example. There is no point in playing material just for the sake of nostalgia if fans are only going to leave the venue thinking that they played this song better in a previous incarnation on a previous tour.
To finish on this, I could never 'go through the motions' and robotically perform a set on stage which is one of the principle reasons why after the Malta gig I have decided to take :
a) an extended break for touring,
b) change the band line-up, and
c) completely revamp the set list and allow the Raingods with Zippos material to take its rightful place.

This is and always will be my prerogative and I am very aware that I will never be able to please all of the people all of the time.

The American Release

Roadrunner America decided that they did not want to go with the free CD-ROM for a number of reasons, the principle probably being financial. I am not exactly sure of what is happening in the USA as contact has been limited and only now am I beginning to establish communications with the company. As far as I am aware RR USA are only going to use the CD-ROM as a promotional item rather than as part of the 'Kettle of Fish' release. I brought this point up when the CD-ROM was originally discussed and made RR very aware that there would be a problem with imports into the USA. RR were not particularly concerned and they have made the decision to go with a European release only of the free CD-ROM.
I have no problem with American fans buying the 'Kettle of Fish' album with the free CD-ROM and to be honest, if we can sell them on mail order then it is more to our benefit here at the Farm. There are only 30 thousand pieces of this limited edition of which we have 750 here and the rest are pretty much accounted for in the advanced sell in to retail outlets in Europe.

Price will always be a problem for Americans because they are used to paying cheaper prices. At the moment Sterling is very strong and has been creating problems for all sorts of export business in Britain in the last 18 months or so. Until the Bank of England decide otherwise, I have to deal in the currency as it stands which means that the CD prices may seem excessive to some. I buy the Roadrunner products from Holland and the price we offer CDs at on the merchandise service has to take into account 17.5% VAT, over UKP2 a unit for postage and packaging and doesn't take into account office wages, electricity etc, etc, etc, etc. I don't have a huge catalogue with which I can build up a nice profit and at the same time I supply the CDs at a cheaper price than you will find in most UK retail outlets (a top 40 album can be found at UKP16 in some High Street chains). I like to think that I am being as competitive as I possibly can and finding a balance between giving the fans a good deal and at the same time providing myself with an income.

I don't have the ability to sell thousands of titles and heavily discount some as an incentive to buy others. I have tried to get round this by providing free singles and other items as well as special offers. It should be noted that every free single that is sent with an album means that extra postage charges are incurred. This is our attempt to again supply good value for money from the merchadise list. I would obviously prefer to sell more albums by mail order as I make more money than from Royalties alone and the reason that Roadrunner gave me the opportunity to sell on mail order was so that I would be more self-sufficient and less likely to come begging for advances and at the same time provide the fans with a good service as well as selling 'units' which at the end of the day is exactly what Roadrunner are trying to do. As my deal is with Roadrunner Netherlands, they are the ones who provided the initial advances and they are looking to recoup this money in as quick a time as possible. This is in our mutual interests.
No-one should be moaning about availability as all titles are available from our merchadise list. I can appreciate if some people decide to wait on a US release in order to get cheaper albums, that is only logical.
However, please remember that the American version of 'Sunsets on Empire' came out after the European release and had the 'Brother 52' video clip included on the CD and I don't remember many people feeling sorry for the Europeans who missed out on that offer. It would be nice to think that the album would be the same everywhere in the world but due to marketing demands and promotional ideas there will always be variations.
I would like to point out that the Japanese release on Pony Canyon of 'Raingods with Zippos' will have no bonus tracks and will be the same track list as the rest of the world (Pony Canyon are still due 1 album on their contract before Roadrunner command world-wide rights to my catalogue).

Any American fan who feels that 'Kettle of Fish' is not worth buying purely for the two new tracks is well advised to grab the European addition with the free CD-ROM in order to get better value for money. If a USA fan has decided that it's not worth spending bucks on the CD purely for the two tracks, then there is not a 'lost sale' for Roadrunner America and they might as well buy the title on mail order from us and get the CD-ROM as well :-))

Lighter Notes

The interview on VH1 with Tommy Vance is scheduled for tomorrow night (6th November).

The GLR interview with Sean Hughes in cancelled indefinately as Sean felt that he didn't know enough about me and my music to conduct an interview!! :-) I think he was just scared in case I got more laughs than him! :-)
On Tuesday night I was part of a team representing Hibernian Football Club against Heart of Midlothian in a new Football Quiz Show called 'Taking the Pitch' which is compered by Bob Mills. The programme is scheduled for transmission on ITV2 in January '99. I am embarrassed to say that we lost by 50 points which represented 1 question or one penalty shot against Peter Bonetti (ex-Chelsea) in a reduced size goal. You have probably already guessed that I missed mine! :-( The teams were made up on 1 celebrity, 1 anorak football fan and 1 current player. Bryan Gunn, the Hibs and Scotland keeper, was on my side while David Weir and Alex Salmond, the leader of the Scotish National Party, were the respective player and celebrity for the Hearts side.
Needless to say Alex and I had a lot to talk about and we retired to a local curry house to discuss a spicy mixture of football and politics and the end of the evening. Without going into detail, I was very impressed by the man.

This is for Scottish fans only I'm afraid. Tomorrow night at 10.30pm on STV (Scottish Television) I am a guest on a chat show called 'The Sharp End' which involves the discussion around the theme of 'what is happiness'. Other guests included a 'happiness guru', Alison Craig (the TV and radio presenter) and Madamme Cynthia Pane (London's infamous and celebrated brothel keeper).

I also discovered whilst at a meeting in London that I have been put up for a role in a Gladatorial film which is being shot in Morocco in Jan, Feb, Mar next year. The character must be 6' 5" which obviously will rule out a lot of the competition at the auditions. Once again my agent acting in true style has told them that I have the ability to become super fit which will obviously require me spending at least 10 hours in the gym every day for the next 2 months! :-)
The role is too good to ignore and I am seriously going to attempt a Robert Di Niro/Jake Lamotta (as far as the weight loss is concerned).

As I have already mentioned the Channel 4 Programme starts on Tuesday the 10th and you would have to be flind and deaf to be a resident in the UK and not be aware that this series is about to hit the TV screens. All the suggestions are that this programme is going to be a major hit series and I am sure this will have a direct repercussion on my fledgeling acting career.

Special thanks to Yaman for sticking up for me and Lucy you really should know better !!!!!!!! :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-)
The Fanzines are on their way and Tammy has sent all the initial orders for merchadise this week.

Finally this is being typed by the delicate but fast hands of Karen Cowen who has joined us here at the office on a part time basis to help out with all the Fan Club and general office work. She'll be dealing with a lot of the e-mails and questions that come in regarding merchandise etc - so be gentle, she's (I'm) new!!

Lots of love
Onkel Fish
x

PS The lyric on 'Lucky' changed from John Brown's gates to Rosyth soon after the Tory government gave the submarine refitting contract to the Devonport Dockyards. Strangely enough Rosyth was a very strong Labour area and Devonport had more allegiances to the party who made the decision. It has since transpired that the bids on which the contract was decided were actually false and that Devonport did not have the facilities and could not create the facilities withn the budget that they had submitted as a tender for the contract. As a result Rosyth, a once proud Royal Naval Dockyard was closed devastating an entire community on the north side of the Forth River. This followed closely on the heels of a parallel situation that occurred in the Steel Industry when Ravenscraig in Lanarkshire was closed after losing out to a similar decision which benefitted the British Steel Industry but condemned a large number of communities in the west of Scotland to a critical high unemployment level and subsequently devastated the majority of local businesses. The song remains the same . . . .
 

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