Email 26th November 1998

Subject: Fish 98 - A lot of stuff! Virtual reality pub talk!

Dear Freaks, friends, The Company, lurkers, the FWO and worldwide Fishheads!
Well I had enough! I never thought that it would get to the point where I have to open up and risk the wrath of the list but in recent weeks reading the Freaks list has become a chore rather than a pleasure.

The recent 'Thanksgiving'/anti Brit/anti US whining has done it for me.
What is this? The Grendel 'discussion' was bad enough but it seems that meltdown is inevitable.

Firstly. I don't really want to play Grendel. It bores me. It's one of the first songs that I was involved with when I joined the Marillos in 81. I was presented with this monstrous epic, a staple of the then set and one of Mick Pointers favourite pieces. It needed a lyric and I duly obliged.
For 2 years it was a centrepiece of the set and when 'Script...' was nominated as the first album no-one, Yes , no-one thought it was good enough for the album. I admit that it is so close to "Suppers Ready" that I felt extremely uncomfortable with it. I mentioned this at the time and we were all aware of the similarities. There was no conscious attempt to copy Genesis in fact our approach was exactly the opposite. But realistically it was a difficult proposition as the structure was almost identical and no matter how we fleshed the bones it was going to draw comparisons which would allow the media to cry "copyists!"

Even Tony Smith, the Genesis manager was to say years later that if they had known about the song before they would have sued us, instead they bought the publishing.
It is a part of our history as a band and was nominated as the B-side of our first single in order to satisfy the fans who had followed us over the first exciting period of the band's development. It was a coup and worthy of a lot of press attention as one of the longest B-sides ever. As a B-side we could record it for posterity and give the song the recognition it deserved but at the same time allow newer and more original tracks to declare our slightly more evolved style on the first album.
I loved the song at the time but now it's a part of my 'childhood'. I don't relate to this track and could never, never recapture the feeling or atmosphere that surrounded the track at the time. Yes, Mick was beautifully sloppy and the naievity of the band was simply magical and unrepeatable.
Ian was right in that interview in Kuno. We were a college band, a great college band and the best on the circuit at the time. Ian started in college bands as well and recognised our potential, that's why he joined the band. It wasn't an insult. It was a valid and true comment at the time.
We were young, inexperienced and influenced by our peers.It sounded like Genesis to a lot of people , especially to those who's ears were accustomed to and grew up with the sounds of the early 70's. We didn't go out to sound like them or copy their style. It happened by the accident of mutual influence within the band combined with a lack of confidence and experience which you will find in any young band on the planet that makes music. Early Genesis sounded like the Moody Blues , Peter Gabriel sounds like Stevie Winwood sounding like Otis Redding. So what! If a band can find their own style from that and add a link to the chain then brilliant! We did. Grendel to me represents that growing up period and to return to try and recapture that is nonsensical. The song was great in it's time and place. I listen to it now and marvel at the ambition and arrogance. I couldn't, along with every member of my band, recreate the feel of those early performances, which is what most people want to hear. To fulfill that moment in their past they associate with a certain happy memory. It's not really the song.
The song is in technical terms well average. The feel, the attack, the drama, the nervous limited ability and energy of a young band made that song special. Yes, I could play it. But most of the audience would think at the end of the night that it was better in 82 and that I shouldn't have tampered with the original. I don't want to play it as is a completely regressive step and a waste of good set time which could be put to far better use by playing something I enjoy, and the band enjoy. Playing material that is far more representative of the way I express myself nowadays. Sorry! Grendel is dead.

What disturbs me more about this issue is the underlying H versus Fish debate. When I joined this list the H v F thing was outlawed as a point of discussion as far as I was concerned. Do you really think I enjoy this shit. It only alienates people. I hear all the time from private e's of people who are scared to open their mouths on the list because the Fundamental Church of H- Marillion zealots will pursue them to the point of capitulation - "Yes Radiation IS the best album they've ever done", "Yes, Kerrang should be boycotted and the said journalist who should have written a great review but didn't because his opinion differed from ours should be tied at low tide to a weighted Hi Fi playing the entire H-Marillion catalogue until he admits to the World that the band are Gods gift to Rock and Roll"! Get real!!!!! It's pointless. I've said this before. I don't want to polarise this list but I feel that I am because of my presence. I do wish Mark, Steve H or R would get involved and help balance the debates as well. They don't sadly and I'm honestly getting tired of the waffle. This could be a great thing here but it's getting well fugazi.
I'm considering breaking away from freaks and setting up my own thing where the F v H debate doesn't matter and the necessity of defending and offending at the same time won't have such dire consequences. There are far more interesting issues and trivia to discuss. I had hoped that the more positive attitudes of the freaks list would prevail but every time the wars last longer and get more bitter. It's a shame.
When I came on the list it was predominantly Marillo stuff and gradually as I posted and flamed my way into becoming a regular more Fish orientated stuff came into the spotlight. At the same time their were certain elements that developed which sparked of confrontations over inane subjects.
I think that I am perhaps creating an unfair balance by my presence and at the same time drawing down fire on other people that are perhaps more open to attack. For this reason I am aware that there are people who would like to get more involved in discussions but are afraid to post in case they are ridiculed or torched. For this reason I am looking at an alternative forum.

This Freaks list could all be bigger than it is but it's bogged down in so much pettiness and one upmanship meltdown seems the only conclusion. When the list fragments and splinters down to a vitriolic core I'd like to think that there's somewhere for people to go to.
I'd like to think there's somewhere without these childish arguments, useless confrontations and perpetual bickering. Hogarth Versus Fish, F-Marillos versus H-Marillos, tic-tac-toe, tic-tac-toe!

I'm disappointed.

Think about it amongst the "buy tickets for Chicago now, before it's too late", "we saved your ass in 44", "27 votes in the all time poll" and "Kerrang, how dare they" tedious interludes. The 'bladerunner' stuff was all that kept me interested for a week.

I'll read this in the morning before I post so you know that this is sober and thought out.

It's real sad guys. I don't want to be party to the squabbles, only interjecting with relevant - and I like to think - pertinent and interesting argument or discussion points every now and again and watching the issues ignored on list but discussed in corners.
I'd hoped to get more involved and create more communication between 'artist and fan' than I'd ever been previously able to consider. But I can tell by the private e's and the site count that there's a lot of people avoiding an appearance on the freaks list. It's becoming too parochial for me and I think for a lot of other people too.

I'm open to suggestions and opinions. I've declared my position and look forward to everyones genuine opinions on this including Jeroen.

Do I move on? Should I unsubscribe and move elsewhere?

Should I get me coat?

lots of love,
Onkel Fish

Subject: Fish 98 - more pleasant items!

dear Freaks, friends, Company members and FWO,
It's my pleasure to announce that the Tyneside Tavern in Haddington is being refurbished and as part of the new decor a couple of oak beams will grace the bar. Kenny Graham has asked me to provide him with a piece of lyric to be painted in goldleaf on one of the beams and I've chosen to go for part of the lyric to the 'Company'. The Tyneside will therefore become the official Company bar and will be officially dedicated at the next Haddington convention in the early Summer of 99.

The Acoustic session CDs are now in stock again and will be heading out to their new homes this week. The Kettle video goes into production next week and will be out in the post end of the first week in December. The German video requires mastering as does the Haddington Tapes but as Calum Malcolm is busy until mid December it's unlikely that these will be available till January as the holiday season will disrupt production runs.

It appears that the ADATs from Haddington are missing tracks as the last tape wasn't formatted properly. I'm looking into alternatives including adding some songs from the acoustic sets and replacing the missing sections from other sources. Anyone with recordings of the set please get in touch.
Don't worry - no comebacks or hassle!
I'd appreciate some help with this! The recording we do have is great BTW!

I'm appearing on Sean Rea's radio programme on Tay FM on Sunday 29th at 1pm until 4. Only fans in the Tayside region of Scotland will be able to tune in to the show which will be a long interview with most of the music from myself and Marillion as well as my personal choice of tracks. As the show is immediately before the national charts the listening audience will be massive. It broadcasts on 96.4 and 102.8 FM if you're in the area and on Sunday we'll be taking calls on 01382 20 40 20. There's an e mail addy as well, tayfm at

Say hello on the day if you want - it should be interesting!

The new Kettle T-shirt will be ready first week of December as well. It's a stunning design with the album sleeve on the front in glorious 11 colour print which has driven designer Dave Gould crazy as the print is complicated. The rear has the web site addy and 'the perception of fish' printed above the new logo and the much needed slogan of "Hug a Freak Today"!
It's possibly the best T for a long time and one which the manufacturers are doing as a special design as the printing is so intricate and impossible to make in quantities.
There will be xL shirts for those who ate too much turkey last week!

"Raingods" is nearly complete with Calum mastering this week (later than anticipated due to his workload) and the cover shot will be made in the next few days so that Mark Wilkinson can complete his duties. Mark has created some brilliant imagery to match the individual tracks and those graphics will be put up on my site and Mark's in December together with the first of the soundbites from the album. It is still on Roadrunner's schedule for March with the first single due out in January.
Interest from the media is huge and the articles planned will continue the profile building begun with the Kettle release. This is a long term campaign that will gather momentum as the months go by. The lack of advertising around the latest releases is mainly due to a hectic market in which there's no point in competing without spending a truckload of money and even then we would be lucky to be seen. The big guns come out in 99.
Many journalists were told that they could interview now but only on the Kettle project.
Most preferred to wait till next year when more space could be given. The reviews so far on the remasters have been generally positive and the anticipation of the new material is inspiring to both RR and myself. I am supremely confident.

I saw my contribution to "Young Persons Guide..." on Wednesday as I was in London post-synching some voice-overs. It is very funny and I think the profile generated will be just what my career needs just now. There's a lot happening in the background and over the coming weeks all will be revealed.
Considering how the year started the current situation is the best it's been for years. For the first time in ages I can see the light and I'm inspired and excited by the promise of 99.
After all that's happened in my solo career - as most of you will have read in the Remaster's booklets - there is a great sense of change for the better. Back on track after too long in the wilderness. Let's just hope that the promise is revealed.

all the best,
Onkel Fish x

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