Subject: Fish 99 - Grinding the upward curve! The Feast of Hope co-starring the fastest milkman in the North!! Part 1
Dear Fishheads, Freaks, Fans and the Company,
Well last week was one to forget and to be honest the weekend was a welcome break from reality! Nothing like a couple of gigs to remind you of where it's at!!:-)
I'd been offered a chance to perform at the Feast of Hope by a very good friend of mine Pierre Michel Meier an extremely well known journalist in the French speaking part of Switzerland. Pimi as he is known to most people, has been an avid supporter of my career since our first meeting in the early 80s and has continued to hold a very bright torch for me throughout even the darkest periods of the career. His idea was to set up a free festival in the Geneva area with the music supplied by a number of musicians and singers that had become both favourites and friends throughout his long career. Pimi and his wife Isobel had been to visit me at The Farm last year and had first mentioned the proposed Feast at that time. The project gathered momentum and I was really pleased when firm dates were announced. As this was a free festival and I had to carry the band with me, once again I decided to place two paying shows to support the band wages. With the mid-term holiday at Tara's school, it also provided an opportunity for a small family holiday. We left the house at 5.30am and headed to the airport. The 'plane was delayed but the luggage was checked through to Geneva and we arrived at Heathrow ready for the release of the forthcoming mainland European shows! I was supposed to arrive for interviews at 12.30 - the three of us eventually arrived in Geneva at 4.30pm minus our luggage - bugger! Ironically the first interview on Friday had been rescheduled due to a previously delayed flight on the promo tour. However, I did manage to conduct another 'chat' with Pimi at his radio station 'Du lac'. During the interview we discussed the forthcoming meeting with Steve Hogarth who was aslo scheduled to appear on the bill on the Saturday. As Pimi was also a good friend of H's and still a fan of post-88 Marillion, he had invited Steve to perform a short set but was extremely concerned over whether I would object to his presence. Obviously I had no qualms but couldn't resist the wind-up. I knew that H, as Wes before him, had been warned about getting involved in drinking sessions with me and H's reputation as a bit of a light-weight interested me :-)))
As Wes had now been in my company for a number of weeks and had passed his apprenticeship degree, I felt he was ideal bait:-)). Wes and I had worked out that he was going to put H at ease with a few whiskies and then draw him into our hedonistic web. Once H was suitably plastered, I announced on radio that we were going to take him up a mountain and leave him on a lonely slope chained to a goat on which would be attached a small sign saying 'plague'. The assembled engineers and visitors in the studio were open mouthed and then dissolved into laughter when I announced live on radio that anyone finding a small English person wandering the streets of Geneva chained to a goat in the early hours of Sunday should immediately go up and ask him for an autograph. Thus we would have our first victim of a Plague of Goats:-)))!! Needless to say, we relented although I did mention our bizarre notion to H the following day which was greeted with a wry smile although I did sense a nervous tick. Friday night was spent in a Thai resturant in the red light district of Geneva with Steve Williams and Judith Mitchell from the Company Scouseland. Tara had a good giggle at the sex shops and announced with that worldly voice of an eight year old "I know what it is, I saw through the curtains. It's got loads of Daddy's stuff in it". What me worry? On Saturday the rest of the band arrived together with our luggage and we headed for sound check late afternoon under a high sun that was glinting of the snow peaks around us.
Coincidentally, Switzerland had suffered its severest rainstorms in years and all the rivers were swollen to a point that was concerning the authorities, especially as the waters were about to be joined by the soon approaching thaw which was being accelerated by the heat-wave - my kind of country:-)
Out sound check went well and we hung around the back stage area waiting on the evening's entertainment to begin. Steve H and his wife Sue turned up around 7 and joined us at our table. This was the first time we had actually met away from a Marillion environment. Obviously H knew Wes very well from the past and his presence helped break down those awkward social barriers. After a few wines and a clutch of jokes, we were all very relaxed and the obvious subject of doing something together on the night was approached. Finally it was decided that Wes and I would go up and sing backing vocals on 'Hope for the Future' and that H would join me for a duet on 'Lavender'. The vibe was amazing and the Festival had a feeling of a mini Womad. There were no egos and everyone was doing their utmost to make the occasion a memorable one. I was interested to watch Steve's performance and ducked behind the monitor desk to watch the proceedings.
He was very impressive and worked well with the Swiss musicians that were backing him on the night. When Wes and I popped out to hit the microphone stage left there was a tangible buz of expectation in the crowd and our presence unannounced was greeted enthusiastically. I don't think anyone noticed that the song was falling apart after the second verse and I will never forget the look on H's face when he turned to us and said 'I don't know where we are!' We bravely battled on repeat choruses which I must admit sounded pretty up as we exited the song to great applause. There was much congratulations and hugs after while the outrageously brilliant Zebda took the stage. They are a French/Algerian band based in Toulon who have a number of albums to their credit reminiscent of Manu Negra and their ilk. They took the crowd by storm and I must admit that following them was going to be a daunting task. Soon after they had finished we hit the boards running with 'Somebody Special' before chilling out with the sublime 'Just Good Friends'. It was at this moment one of the 200 or so people gracing the rear of the stage inadvertantly knocked over a glass of champagne into the monitor amps and tripped all the PA power. I was left with a dilema - walk off and ruin the curve, or soldier on. I decided to call 'Tilted Cross' and Wes, Liz and I sat on the monitor amps and played the acoustic acoustic version to a hushed audience. The effect was stunning and when the power came back on during the last verse, it received a rapturous reception. 'Brother 52' continued the upward trajectory and when we reached the soleful improvisation of the 'Goldfish and Clowns' section I knew that Zebda's set had been eclipsed. 'Raingods Dancing' and 'Make it Happen' added to a high goal average but all that would itself be outdone when we returned for an encore and I introduced Steve Hogarth to the stage.
This was something very special and Pimi was noticibly crying at the back of the keyboard set up as were others in the audience. It seemed appropriate that the Feast of Hope something special would occur and I must admit to feeling really proud at being part of something that would be so memorable for so many. It was a surreal occasion standing next to the Marillion singer after all this time (in the Festival programme, H was marked down as the M singer and after Zebda, I was marked down as the former M singer:-)) An incredible reception was given to H's arrival on stage but this was nothing compared to the reaction that followed our joint performance. There was lots of sincere hugs and smiles and we retreated to the sanctuary of the dressing rooms and one of the wildest back-stage parties I had been at for a while. Both H and I joined Zebda in their dressing room with a zoo of other people to dash out renditions in French and Algerian of songs from their repertoir as well as some standards. The clouds of sweet scented smoke added to the occasion and the eventual farewells were long and heart felt. It took me about 30 minutes to find the bus after wandering the car park in a demented smiling stupor. On Sunday I slept late and went down for lunch. We met up with some of the musicians who had partaken in the previous night's events including H and his wife Sue and headed for a nearby street cafe. H and I sat opposite each other and had a great time discussing the usual fare of lacklustre American record companies, touring problems as well as past histories and future hopes. All in all we had a good time and I personally was very surprised how well both of us got on. We parted on extremely good terms with a promise to stay in touch and there was a great feeling of a lot of ghosts being laid to rest between us. As H has already said in his post to the Marillion e-web this does not infer any joint touring operations or projects. In a similar sense as to the Christmas 98 meeting with the others from Marillion it only indicates that there is a friendship and respect which is natural between musicians who are both maintaining careers during difficult times. I can only thank Pimi and Isobel for making this event possible and would personally like to nominate Pimi for the Nobel Peace Prize for services to Rock and Roll!!:-)))
We left Geneva to the sound of bleating lonely goats............
To be continued....
> Found this extract from Robert Fripp's online diary quite interesting:
>"Three trays of cassette tapes for sorting. Included among the gems are a
> bootleg tape of Frippertronics in the US during 1979, now playing behind me
> as I sit and tap the IBM QUERTY. Wailing guitar screams away over the loops.
> A demo of Marillion, handed to me during the 1981 Crimson show in Friars,
> Aylesbury by Fish. This before they were signed to 'a major record label' ".
Yes Bob was handed one of the 3 track demos at Friars on that occasion. I never heard back!
Another anorak corner piece of info is that Robert Fripp married my old friend Toyah years later who was also produced in the early 80's by Nik Tauber. It was her work with him that influenced the decision to use him on the Script and Fugazi albums. Toyah's bass player Phil Spalding would introduce Marillion to Jonathan Mover and would then go onto working with Mike Oldfield where he would work with none other than Mickey Simmonds!!
Subject: Fish 99 - Switzerland Part 2, Mullerhoentzigen and Winterthur, pondlife and other Fishy tales!
Dear Fishheads, Freaks, Fans and the Company!
I drove the hire van to Bern and our second date in Switzerland! 2 hours in blazing sunshine through spectacular scenery to the soundtrack of the Aerosmith live album recently acquired at a pit stop! "Living on the Edge" takes on a new meaning driving on mountain roads especially - on the wrong side! :-)
The Mullerhoentzigen (MHZ) I have played about 3 times previously and it's one of my favorite small venues in Europe. Run by a very caring guy called Peter, the MHZ is basically a converted barn on about 4 floors all of which are jam packed with everything from stuffed penguins to ancient kids toys and other antique artefacts to a full blown Belgian steam Wurlitzer.
Outside the venue there are a collection of weird and wonderful sculptures, a steam operated mechanical frog and a huge brazier which is lit every night when a gig comes to town. Tara had been here before and fell in love with the algae covered pond with its dayglo Jesus and array of ornamental figures. It is one of the most intimate environments to play an acoustic set as from all three floors people can easily get a great set line and great sound and this leads towards wonderful interaction with the audience which to anyone who has ever seen my shows, I welcome wholeheartedly. We were late in arriving so sound check and food were rushed in order for the doors to be opened to the 300 or so assembled punters. It was great to see Max and a band of Company Italy members who had made the repeat pilgrimage to the MHZ. The show was not to disappoint and for the first in a very long time I split the set on Peter's request so that the audience could have a beer break and we could polish off some more choice Swiss wines back stage. Altogether we were on stage for over 2 and a half hours allowing Wes a four song introduction before the main set and Liz to sing her rendition of Kate Bush's 'Man with a Child in His Eyes'. The humour and general playing about was endless and a couple of times I must admit to nearly collapsing with laughter at some of the antics that were on-going on stage. The now classic 'Goldfish and Clowns' jam finished the first set and the second opened with great versions of 'Solo' and 'A Gentleman's Excuse Me'. But the highlight for us all was the 'Raingods Dancing/Make it Happen' epic which closed the second set. At the end of the song as we repeated the choruses, I introduced the members one by one who after a short solo spot left the stage eventually leaving me to sing with the audience who held the rhythm diligently until I eventually retreated to the back stage area. We sat drained in the dressing room while the audience continued to sing and returned five minutes later to pick up the song where we left it and conclude it to an amazing reaction from the crowd. It seems as if the end of the next electric set is already worked out:-)
'Sugar Mice' is also developing a new arrangement and I must admit to poaching a wee bit from Alex Harvey's 'Framed' during the 'silence' before the final 'Blame it on Me's'.
Everybody shone that night and there was a great sense of achievement in the back stage area. After the disappointment of losing the American tour, it was a relief to us all to just go out and do what we were all good at and to leave a crowd with wide smiles on their faces. Even so we were aware that the next night was to be Liz' last night with us and she was particularly sad at the prospect of her last performance with Wes, Tony and I for a long time. As a foot note to this gig I was extremely proud of my daughter who took on the job of wine roadie for the night. I will never forget during the last number standing centre stage looking at my daughter huddled in the wings and then calmly walking out totally oblivious to the crowd to present her Dad with another one of those mini bottles of wine that are now known as 'Peters'. It is patently obvious that the spotlights are beckoning her.
The next day I set off early to Winterthur as I had a promotion schedule supplied by Bruno the representative from Music Vertrieb the Company who still represents my catalogue there although this time it is via Roadrunner. Bruno was having a great time with us and after the 2 radio interviews of the day - Radio Top in Winterthur the most important national radio station in Switzerland who are ably supporting 'Incomplete' and a major local radio station in Schaffhausen - we joined up with the band at a TV station in Zurich. The TV show was called 'Oops' and was presented by the lovely redhead Mona. Essentially a kids TV programme it went out live a 6pm and Liz, Wes and I performed 'Tilted Cross' after I had conducted an interview and interview in almost perfect German with the host. Our performance had obviously gone down well because after a play back of a video from a 'boys band' she announced that she thought that the video was rubbish and while holding up a copy of RWZ to the camera, announced that this was where the future of music lay!!!:-))) Nice . . . . . So it was back into the van destination Winterthur and a sold out gig at the Albani.
The club was also an hotel where we were staying that evening which signalled extreme danger to the amateur drinkers in the band. We hit the stage at around 9.15 after yet another rushed meal in a restaurant in the tangle of streets surrounding the gig which was in the old town of Winterthur. I had noticed that outside the venue there were are a number of fountains, basically 3.5m diameter concrete circles full of ice cold water provided by the nearby mountains. I pointed this out to the band and over two hours later and another spectacular performance in a hot and sweaty club, Wes, Tony and I stripped off our shoes and trousers and rushed out the back stage door to immerse ourselves in the cool waters of the street fountains. As the fans emerged from the gig they were shocked to find the providers of their entertainment for the night splashing around drinking wine and signing autographs for all and sundry. We were to be joined not only by the local promoter but by a couple of fans who got into the spirit of things and I must admit it was the perfect way for a Fish to end an evening. The gig had been really special and we were all sincerely saddened at losing Liz after so long. With the cancellation of the American tour and the rescheduling of the European tour, there is still a chance that Liz may be able to join us after she finishes her gig with Incognito this summer. It really feels as if she is a part of the team now and she will be the first to acknowledge that her time with us has been some of the most fun times she has ever had on the road. Liz loves all the material and also admitted that she thought that she would never get into it but now finds herself a real fan of what we do.
The post-gig celebrations, once we had dried off went on, late into the night and next morning it was a bedraggled and pained band that dragged themselves into the van and a journey to Zurich airport and home. We had made a lot of new friends and provided a lot of entertainment for many old friends and at the same time, the euphoria of the entire weekend had helped wipe out the depression that had gathered from the previous week. With the profile that had been raised by the Feast of Hope, the 2 gigs and the promotion it now seems certain Switzerland will be providing a number of dates on the forthcoming autumn tour which my agent Nigel Hassler is now setting up.
When we arrived at the Farm it was to meet Steve and Squeeky who were gutted that they had not been part of these acoustic shows. However this week rather than walk away from the tour preparations, we decided to start rehearsals and are spending two weeks putting material together for the forthcoming tour. The band sounds brilliant and even I was concerned at following the previous line up which had been, in my opinion, the best ever. Initial signs are that this unit are going to hit an even higher bench mark and any worries I had about Tony or Wes are now forgotten.
This week I have started to reconstruct the touring plans and have spent hours on the telephone to the States, Holland and London in an attempt to get the RWZ project back on the rails. Initial feelings are that the new cunning plan is possible. I know there has been discussion about one-offs etc with particular regard to the USA but I want to hold back and let the dust settle before I announce the next moves. I am confident that given time and understanding from the powers that be that I can resurrect this dream and once again find the momentum to carry us all far and beyond all the hopes we had at the beginning of this year. We have suffered a glitch but we are nowhere near the end game. The cunning plan unfolds . . .
Lots of love
Subject: Fish 99 - BBC Live Sessions and Polish Video and the Proposed Haddington Convention 99
Dear Fishheads, Freaks, Fans and Company Members
This e is a little bit later than I anticipated as the announcement got lost in the fall out from the American tour. A company called Blueprint which is owned by Rob Ayling who previously held the position of Label Manager in the early incarnation of the Dick Brothers Label in 1993/4 has acquired with my blessing recordings of the two BBC sessions that were committed to tape during the early years of my solo career. The first session was recorded at the Town and Country Club in London on November 11th 1989 while the other was recorded at the Royal Concern Hall Nottingham on November 15th 1991. Both these concerts are now available on a double CD set 'Fish - The Complete BBC Sessions' BP297CD. We have now acquired copies of this title for our merchandise service and this double CD set is now on the merchandise list as FS040 costing UKP15 UK and UKP16 ex UK including postage and packing. Members will receive a UKP1 discount on these prices.
There are sleeve notes provided by myself as well a colour photographs from the time of the two concerts in an 8 page colour booklet. The Town and Country gig is from the pre-Vigil release tour that was put in place to support 'State of Mind', while the second concert was produced by none other than Mark Radcliffe of Radio 1 fame from the early stages of the 'Internal Exile' tour. The track listing is as follows:
The Voyeur (I Like to Watch)
Punch And Judy
Script for a Jester's Tear
Warm Wet Circles
Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors
Heart of Lothian
Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors
Market Square Heroes
Heart of Lothian
The first three tracks on disc 2 are from the Town and Country Club while the rest on that disc are from Nottingham. The quality is extremely high as you would expect from the BBC but sadly, the intros have been deleted due to the programming length for radio.
Next week I will be going into a production suite in Edinburgh to prepare the long awaited video from the 97 tour which was shot in Przemysl in Eastern Poland on the 'Sunsets on Empire' Tour. This title will be available at the end of July. Further details will be announced once the video moves toward production as I do not want to get into the same embarrassing position as with the German Convention video where people were kept waiting due to manufacturing delays. This title will be available in both PAL and NTSC formats and will be listed as FS036 costing UKP16 UK and UKP18 ex UK including postage and packing. Company members will receive a 1 UKpound discount (please remember to quote your membership number).
This will mean that during the last 12 months that the discount provided on the Haddington Tapes, Kettle of Fish video and the German Convention video for Company members has covered the cost of their membership with the above discounts.
With the re-scheduling of the American tour and the repositioning of the European dates, I am now looking at opening up the entire 99 live proceedings with a Haddington Convention. Last week I went to see Rick Wakeman play in St. Mary's Abbey which some of you may know as the impressive monument between that dominates the old part of Haddington.
There have been a number of acoustic concerts there and after discussion with the care takers, it seems probable that we will be allowed to put on a concert for 400 people during the August bank holiday weekend (27/28/29/30th). This acoustic show will be followed by a full electric show at the Corn Exchange and I am, at the moment, waiting on confirmation of dates from the local Council. The only spanner in the works at the moment is a Line Dancing evening which is tentatively booked for the Saturday night and the fact that it is unlikely that Tammy and Karen will be here due to the former being at a friend's wedding in Berlin and the latter being on holiday:-)) As soon as I have firm confirmation of the dates, I will let you know. I plan these to be the only shows in Scotland with the acoustic show being, as it is for limited numbers, strictly Company Members only. More details will be supplied as soon as they are available. An extensive UK tour is highly improbable with my agent currently looking at only three other venues in England. The mainland European tour will follow with the re-scheduled North American dates and the South American tour to continue until mid-December. As you well know by now this is a plan and nothing will be confirmed until it is FULLY locked in. All depends on fees, venues availability and record company backing which more than anywhere is a specific reference to America. I should know within the next fourteen days whether or not the August convention dates are a realistic proposition and to allow flights, lodgings and holidays to be booked. I will provide you with as much notice as possible.
Lots of Love
Email 8th June 1999