Email 17th April 2007

Fish 2007 - Alignment of stars

Dear Fishheads, Freaks, Fans and the Company,

I can finally bring you the band line up that will be shooting for the stars this year!
After much consideration I decided to take Chris Johnson on board as second guitarist to Frank. Chris has been playing in a similar position with 'Mostly Autumn' backing up Bryan Josh on acoustic and electric guitars as well as keys and vocals. He's a great all rounder and I have not only seen him with 'MA' but also in his own covers band 'Hazard County' that's been playing in the Old White Swan in York on Friday nights, impressing me on both counts. Chris has also written material on the last 'MA' album "Heart Full of Sky", and with his other band 'The Evernauts' so his appointment at this juncture in time when we are still in writing mode is fortuitous.
He joined 'MA' last year and has received a warm welcome from fans and great reviews after taking over guitars when Liam Davison left the band. With Bryan Josh embarking on a solo album this autumn and the 'MA' touring shutting down in June, Chris's availability escaped my notice until Heather suggested him for the missing position in my band. I asked Bryan out of courtesy and he was more than willing to "loan" Chris out for the rest of the year. With Gavin Griffiths out on loan playing drums for 'MA' and Heather and Angela working with me as backing vocalists on the "13th Star" and the supporting tour, Chris's appointment takes us up to 4 out of 7 active members of 'Mostly Autumn' in my outfit this year. Obviously the question is raised as to when 'MA' go out on tour next year, what do I do for a band? I think we may have come up with the perfect solution 8-)
I am planning to go back to mainland Europe in Spring next year after the South American tour and with that in mind I have suggested to Bryan Josh that his band come out and work with us on that leg giving him a great window on Europe, me a great support and a working band, the fans a great bill and the promoters something to get their teeth into. Everyone is very positive about this idea and if it comes off I think it will be an exciting and very positive project.

Steve Vantsis has been coming up with some great material for "13th Star" and we are ahead of the game at present with principal recording scheduled to begin on the 21st May with Calum Malcolm at the helm. We hit a rich seam about a week ago when we arranged "Manchmal". This has proven a key track on the album and the other material has clipped in around it and is making sense in terms of the overall concept and the structure sound-wise and stylistically.
At present the track listing and state of affairs is as follows:
"Circle Line" 90% lyric 90%
"Square Go" 100%
"Micklegate" 85% lyric 100%
"It Ain't Easy" 60% lyric 20%
"Arc of the Curve" 70% lyric 70%
"Manchmal" 100% lyric 80%
"Open Water" 60% lyric 30%
"Dark Star" 75% lyric 50%
"Going Home" 50% lyric 40%
"Where in the World" 75% lyric 60%
"13th Star" 100%

There are still perhaps one or two numbers still required but we may have enough already with the necessary links being found in the end sections of the existing songs. I now have two weeks "off" to work on the words while Steve works on the music sections down in Birmingham. We get together for the last writing session on the 29th April and have a week until the band arrive for pre-production on the 6th May for a week. After that it's a week "off" then into the recording here at the studio.

Dave "Squeeky" Stewart has been helping Steve V out with the drum end of the demos as Gavin has been away and as such the album has a distinctly heavier feel than previous projects. The demos have been played on my Planet Rock show every Friday 6-8pm and repeated Sunday 7-9pm and have been receiving great reviews. Elspeth has noticed a real upsurge in people buying back catalogue which is a good indicator of converts and new arrivals. It's a great sign and obviously the show is proving a success on all counts.
On the subject of merchandise the "Communion" album will be with us next Monday. All the pre orders have envelopes waiting so you should get them pretty quickly once the units arrive here at the Studio.

My "new" keyboard player Foss Paterson is currently out on tour with John Martyn. Try and catch the show as John is a bit special.
Frank Usher has been named in the past as John's favorite guitarist and worked with him in the late 80's together with other ex-members of my band including David Paton, John Giblin (bass on "Vigil" album), Neil Hay (bass at first solo gig in Lockerbie) and of course Foss on previous tours.

I saw the Lockerbie footage recently as I have been getting my vast Mini DV and HI8 video cassette library transferred across to DVD. I have been amassing the DVDs as the FishTV project will be coming at you in May with the first "proper" programme available in June. There is a free demo of material available to see on the web site in the coming weeks with some clips and interviews from the current studio project as well as some archive samples. If you answer the questionnaire on the web site you are then directed to the demo where you can see (amongst others) part of that Lockerbie gig which featured a band consisting of Mickey Simmonds, John Keeble (Spandau Ballet - drums), Hal Lindes (Dires Straits - gtr), Janick Gers (Iron Maiden - gtr), Bruce Watson (Big Country - gtr), Neil Hay, Frank Usher and Alison Jones on violin.
It was the very first solo gig and we debuted "State of Mind", "Big Wedge", "Family Business", "Internal Exile" as well as the first solo outing of the "Kayleigh"/"Lavender"/"Heart of Lothian" medley. Tracks from the show will be streamed on the programmes as the months go by.

I have had a film crew up last week and they conducted more interviews about the new material as well as historical anecdotes as we shot footage around the control room, Studio and the gardens. Steve and I were filmed writing and arranging "Square Go" and getting stuck in the "Pond Du Canard" with "Micklegate" :-X
As well as the film crew from the "official" footage suppliers I also had my friend Henk Templeman over from Holland shooting additional stock this weekend. Between the two sources I plan to put together a DVD to bring in as part of the "13th Star" mail order package that will be available from late July early August. It should provide an entire behind the scenes story of the making of the album and the entire creative process including first rehearsals in July. It's the first time I have managed to get cameras in and around an album project and, with the promise of a memorable piece of work, I am glad it is being documented.

Mark Wilkinson has been applying his "dark arts" and had been coming up with some very fine visuals as part of the ongoing teaser campaigns I want to instigate around the new album. "13th Star" will not be going to retail until January '08 and I want to attract as many people as possible to buying the album directly from us either from the mail order operation or on the '07 tour where it will be for sale on the merchandise stall.
It's another approach and after being a bit disheartened by the lack of promotion (again :-|) around the RTC project I do not see the point in giving this album to a third party at the outset when I can maximise myself on direct sales and - with the extra margins - supply a DVD extra which couldn't be provided within a "standard" release and accumulate a war chest to supply extra promotion around the album when we go out on tour in Spring '08. I am looking at revisiting the Dick Bros Record Co. model but with a slightly different and leaner set up.
I am hoping to be sending out stickers with the 13thstar.com leader. The new header automatically directs people to the official Fish web site and as such is a great tool to entice newbies and the curious. The stickers are for windows or straightforward stick-ons and will only have the front cover image and web site address and album title. Once we get this going we can also supply cards and other promo items for fans to disperse.
Mark is working on the full inner cover artwork which involves a "traditional" airbrush meisterwork in the coming months for an overall booklet design which is very different from anything we have used before.

The star image you can already see on the website which I must thank Mo Warden for, as she has done a superlative job revamping and redesigning it for the new project. Thanks also to Tosh and Mark for their work on helping out with the glorious entrance to the portal!
I am really pleased with the "new" site and the band have found it inspiring as we get into the core of the album project. Everything is feeling very together! :-)

The November/December dates should be finalised soon and will be on the web site as soon as they are all confirmed. The warm up's are still not yet in place but I should have them booked by mid-May.

On the garden front it's horrendously busy and Steve V was out with me a couple of mornings during the writing sessions getting things in some semblance of order. Early potatoes (Epicures) are in as well as over 180 onions of three different varieties. Heather is still getting her stuff moved in but has been out planting the salad bed with green goodies. Since moving to Scotland she has become a carnivore and has even discussed eating "mystery meat" pies at Easter Road :-) Thankfully she is an avid gardener and we are spending quality time together weeding and tidying this week as Steve has returned to sort out his own jungle down in Worcs. Turns out Chris J has an allotment as well so there's scope for plenty garden talk in the back lounge of the bus. A sort of rock and roll travelling "Gardener's World"!

I'll get some pictures of the garden up to the site in the next few weeks so you get an idea of the fight on my hands. The "lower field" is the big headache just now as it has all been levelled in recent weeks and has had to be resown. The sprinkler movement is the curse of my life at the moment. I think I need to call up my ex-employers in Aylesbury, Hozelock, for some advice :-) Tired of traipsing across Somme-like fields to move the piddling sprinkler another 4 metres!

Apart from that it's all go here with wedding arrangements nearly together. Ironically the last thing we have to get is a band!! :-)
My main thing is to get the new kilt. After years of being told by my Dad that the Dicks were attached to the Macdonalds (I should re-word that :-D) I found out two weeks ago that our family actually ran with the Keith clan. TBH I am happier as they have an interesting history and are a bit more unique :-D Tartan's pretty cool too! My nephew James will actually be wearing my old Campbell kilt (Grannie was a Campbell). My best men Yatta is in a Welsh kilt, Steve is also kilted as will be Frank! First time for everything! :-)
Additions to the bridal party are Kenny Greenan my best mate in Haddington as usher, with his daughter Georgia ("wee Dod") as flower girl and his son Charlie as "mini me" Usher, Steve V's son Calvin (also kilted) as page boy. The other ushers are my brother in law Chris Gibbs, with his son James as a page boy or another mini me Usher, McKinty aka Angela Gordon's husband Mark (kilted) and "Hutch" (obviously kilted). All coming together!! TBH I am really looking forward to it all! :-)

But for now the garden calls and I have to get my next two programmes sorted for Planet Rock.The sun is shining!
Into the Blue!! :-)

lots of love

Onkel Fish xx

 

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