Subject: Fish 2005 - Tales of summer
Dear Fishheads, Freaks, fans and the Company,
Well the summer is moving to a close and time has been disappearing so quickly it is quite scary!
I was glad to get away to the Azores last weekend and remind myself of what I am supposed to be doing after spending the last couple of months reorganizing the office with Elspeth. It has become painfully apparent where the main problem with the mail order service lies and since July we have been clearing up the back log of complaints and missing orders and creating a system that is far more efficient. I hope those of you who have placed orders recently have noticed a vast improvement in our service and those of you who had lost faith will give us a chance to prove ourselves again with the forthcoming release of the "best of..." double CD "Bouillabaisse" on September 26th and the new T shirts and other items we are about to receive for the "Return to Childhood" tour.
Dave Gould and Mark Wilkinson have put together a spectacular shirt which we will have on the fast approaching Norwegian tour.
"Bouillabaisse" will be available for sale from the weekend before the 26th September. As yet I don't have pricing on this but will hopefully have more news next week.
As expected there have been questions over the validity of releasing another "Best of" album so I would like to take the opportunity of explaining the theory behind the project.
In '85 I was selling over a million copies with Marillion and over the years this figure has dropped dramatically for many reasons. My solo career has as most of you know been plagued with bad luck, some of it created through my own decisions. On Roadrunner "Raingods" sold around 75,000 units and "Field of Crows" around 40,000. This drop can be attributed to two reasons and they are lack of promotion and effective distribution. Both these factors are linked as you will find it difficult to find numbers of albums in the main retail chains if any at all.
Signing to Snapper Music will provide me with an effective distribution system worldwide (e.g. I will have releases in South America for the first time in years!) as well as the ability to draw people's attention through a concerted and focused promotion campaign that I have been missing badly in recent times. Having a double CD containing tracks from throughout my career will hopefully attract fans that have perhaps drifted away from my music because they had no idea that I was still making albums. Even in Edinburgh when I go to Easter Road I have people coming up to me and asking "Are you still singing, big man?" Not a good sign!
I think the album gives a good cross section of what I have been doing over the years and to be honest after listening to the running order for the first time I was actually surprised at just how well the songs worked together. Even Kayleigh and Lavender don't sound out of place amongst the solo material on the "Balladeer" album which should perhaps have a warning label of "Don't listen to while undergoing relationship trauma as it may cause serious melancholy!" :-) I admit to having quite a few sharp intakes of breath when I heard some of the material and the songs placed in the sequence they are delivered raised quite a few memories and faces from my past.
The "Rocketeer" album is very strong and the inclusion of the more recent material lends a harder edge to the album. Again the running order sounds very natural and "Plague" ends the album in style.
A few earlier fades on some songs gives the album a bit more muscle and I decided to go with the option of the radio edits on a few tracks to give me both more space for other material as well as entice DJs to perhaps give them an airing for the first time. Songs such as "Tara", "Goldfish and Clowns" and "Shot the Craw" all work well in edited format and are well good enough to warrant air play in their own right.
I know most of you will already own copies of the original albums and I do understand if some of you decide to miss this album out but I hope you will support this project in any way you possibly can through calls to radio stations or local media. I have tried to put together a compilation that reflects the changes in my overall style across the years and one that also recognizes that over the last 4 studio albums since "Kettle of Fish" there have been some great songs written that have got "lost" due to the lack of availability and promotion. I hope this album creates interest from media and fans alike and re-introduces me to those people that lost touch with my career over the years since my days with major labels. I consider this a positive move and linked to the release next year of the "Return to Childhood" project on CD and DVD I hope that this is yet another exciting new beginning for me. Your help on this project is sincerely appreciated and who knows, I may even get a chart entry for the first time in years! :-)
The "Return to Childhood" tour moves in to another gear in the coming months with the Norwegian and Danish shows preceding yet another foray in the United Kingdom in October. Dates are still coming in and JB's at Dudley should be confirmed this week for the 18th October.
We will be recording and filming the show at the Paradiso in Amsterdam on the 15th November followed by a show at the 013 in Tilburg the day after. Another Dutch show is under negotiation and the London show should be confirmed for the 19th. All details to follow next week.
The touring plans have been agonizingly slow at coming together due to my commitment to Tara, Yatta's workload outside my operation and the reluctance of promoters due to economic circumstances in mainland Europe. With this in mind I am hopefully going to be able to announce a new agent in the next month who will take on the responsibility of booking the tour in to the beginning of 2006 to support the release of the "Childhood" project. I am confident that this will pull the touring together into a manageable level that takes in to account all my personal responsibilities and my financial requirements.
I auditioned for two movies in the last month, "The Last Legion" and "U237" (?), both unsuccessfully. Again the schedules were worrying as the second movie would have required me working in Rumania for 6 weeks in October, cancelling the few dates that had come in at that time and organizing for someone to look after my daughter who would by then be back at school. It is a tough juggling act!
The one "non-music" project I got involved with was Will Smith's "Misplaced Childhood" show which is on at the Assembly Rooms, George Street as part of the Edinburgh Festival. It is running there until the 28th August (7.30 - 8.30 PM) and Will is taking his show on a UK tour in Spring 06. If you can't get to the Festival gigs then make sure you see one of the UK dates.
Will is one of the favourites for the coveted Perrier Award for best comedy show at the Festival and reviews have been excellent.
I am actually quite proud of my input into the show as Will and I co-wrote part of the performance which is shown as video footage in the programme and my acting has received quite a few plaudits from fans and other comedians who have rated the show highly. I know Lucy Jordache and Ian Mosley have seen the show during the London warm ups and they loved it!
I saw it on the opening night in Edinburgh and admit to being more nervous than Will as I tried to hide in the audience. Tara also had a small part in the video sketches and as her first acting role and she was terrific. She was a lot cooler than me when she saw the show!
I can't say much more about the content without spoiling the surprises but I highly recommend you catch the show when it hits the road in an extended form next year.
I also caught Guy Pratt's show "My Bass and other Animals" at the Underbelly. I know Guy from his work as musical director on "A Young Person's Guide to Becoming a Rock Star" as well as from his various session stints with amongst others Pink Floyd. It was a hilarious show as he rallied on a series of stories from his career and just what it's like to be the unsung member of a band! :-)
It was like being on the back of a tour bus with a professional comic!
Spending so much time in the Assembly Rooms bar with a bunch of comics has prompted me to getting this book together and who knows? Maybe I should take the advice I have been getting in recent weeks and book a show for next year's Festival!
As I said the Azores show was a welcome break from the rigors of office work and luckily we missed the British Airways fiasco and managed to get to Terceira, one of the two major islands in the Azores group, just as Heathrow went into meltdown.
The island was fantastic and a first for most of us. I was amazed at just how green it was and flying in on Thursday to a misty rainy mini airport felt more like arriving in the Hebrides - if it hadn't been for the temperature.
That night I caught a great Portuguese band "Da Weasel", a rap/rock outfit who are currently top of the pile on the mainland. I met them the day after and they turned out to be big fans of my own stuff! Strange how music translates across different styles!
Our gig on the Friday night was a late one and not helped by the support band who bounced around with a Bono sound alike through a set that seemed to comprise of the same song with endless sing along endings that were boring me rigid and setting our stage time back by over 30 minutes. They had a hit after a mobile phone company used one of their songs. It must have been a long advert!
We managed to get a result and considering we hadn't played together for a while held our own and weren't that rusty. A better overall set than Parkpop which after seeing the DVD from the Dutch TV company had me worried as we played the set at near double speed thanks to the adrenalin rush from playing to over 350,000 people in a park!!!
Terceira was a fine performance marred only by a singer who went into "Albanian" mode with the lyrics a couple of times and a bearded guitarist who forgot there was a twin guitar arrangement at the end of the "Kayleigh" solo. The look on Andy Trill's face was one of fear and bewilderment soon followed by a similar expression on Frankie's as they tried to cue the ending! Priceless! :-)
The promoter was so pleased with the show we are now talking about the possibility of touring the island group next summer! Nice :-)
Also tied to that will be a series of gigs in Spain and Portugal, two territories that have been neglected in recent years.
As this was my "holiday" this year I made the most of it and hit the festival dance tent till 6am with my new "special friends" one of whom, a skipper of a yacht and friend of the promoter had me singing sea shanties on his boat into the big hours of the morning before crashing out in a bunk. Coming to on a yacht in a harbour in the Azores in the brilliant sunshine was definitely from the Fellini locker!
The previous afternoon had it's own special moments as we watched the bull fights on the beach from the safety of the mooring, drinking champagne as a US Sea King helicopter showed off it's manoeuvres above us while blowing most of the small craft - anchored to watch the bulls in the bay - to buggery in a tornado of spray from the down draft!
For those of you shuddering at the thought of blood splattered beaches and seas of gore I'd like to point out that the bull is revered on the Azores and none are hurt apart from their feelings which are damaged by the inability to gore one of the hundreds of half-canned guys they chase up and down the beach while being goaded by thousands of onlookers hanging over the sea walls. There were a couple of casualties, none serious, as the beer provided a false illusion of speed and nimbleness in a couple of the runners. One guy who seemed to be wearing a Hibs strip caught a bad one. Probably a Scot on holiday! :-)
It was bit like a Pamplona bull run with 6 guys hanging on to a rope attached to one of the animals rear legs just in case he broke for freedom onto the esplanade or caught someone who'd read too much Hemingway!
The six bulls running that afternoon walked away 4-0 winners!
Saturday was a day off spent drinking in a harbour bar in the brilliant sunshine before a flight to Lisbon late at night and an eventual arrival back in Edinburgh for me late Sunday afternoon. A result!
The garden has been a bit neglected of late but the harvest is booming. I seem to have slightly over-sown some crops and am roasting my way through truckloads of onions, garlic, about 7 varieties of peppers, a mountain of potatoes and sacks of carrots while fighting off the dreaded cabbage white butterflies who are dropping off legions of caterpillars onto the broccoli! The wet weather followed by scorching sunshine has meant I probably have the biggest collection of weeds and thistles in the country and as anyone knows trying to get a 14 year old working in a garden is nigh impossible! Ah well! Dad needs the exercise! :-(
A heron appears to have had its own feast in the pond or the three remaining goldfish have developed extraordinary camouflage. Not as bad as Paul the Tyneside Tavern owner who has lost around 30 fish from his garden pond. If it's a heron then it must be the size of a Zeppelin!
Into another routine tomorrow with Tara back at school. I am no longer entertainments officer!
The office is still demanding my attention as Elspeth and I continue to clear up backlogs of missing orders left over from the old regime that are thankfully reducing in numbers.
I asked you to get back to me if you had paid by cheque or postal orders (or other cash payments) last year and some of you have returned the questionnaire on the web site. I would sincerely appreciate more feedback on this especially those of you who purchased merchandise between January and August 2004. Anyone who is still awaiting orders to be delivered (apart from recent orders) please get in touch with us. This is an important issue for us here and we really want to repair the lack of confidence created in the last year or so in order that we can create an efficient and reliable service that you can trust and rely on to deliver your orders. You are names not numbers!
Thanks for all your support
All the best
Take care and stay alive
Onkel Fish xx
Email 21st August 2005