Email 22nd April 2008

Fish 2008 - The end of the Roaring Forties

Dear FishHeads, Freaks, fans and the Company,

Back from another jaunt to London and some highly successful meetings.
The ideas for Zoe 25 were progressed and release date is scheduled for 14th July. I am still waiting for the Paradiso recordings to decide which tracks will be on the download package and with a video production conference in the next week I should be well armed by the end of May.
Everyone is excited about the "Broadcaster of the Year" nomination and Jenny my wonderful press lady together with Jeff my champion at radio will be working overtime to crank things up in the media.
It's not just me that's picking up the column inches. It was great to see Frank Usher and his wife Sue getting accolades in the Edinburgh Evening News last night for raising a substantial amount for the Heart Foundation with their gig in January.
It's been pretty quiet Fish wise for the guys just now but all are filling the time with other projects. Frank is whittling away at guitar repairs and building, Chris has his teaching work and his solo album, Foss and Steve are sessioning and Gavin has the "Panic Room" shows and his other local sessions.
I heard the "Panic Room" album last week and it's pretty good. An eclectic mix of styles with Anne Marie Helder shining as always. Gavin does a great job and it is amazing how much he has grown as a drummer in recent years.

I also had an exciting meeting with EMI Publishing a few days ago and we are putting together a new deal which brings them on board as a more pro active publisher who will market my songs to TV and film as well as develop the catalogue profile in a broader sense. In this day and age of illegal downloads and pirating which has seen CD sales slump across the board by around 25% artists and their publishers need to look at other areas to generate income. This new licensing deal will provide a new platform to work from.
As if on cue I have meetings in May with an executive film producer to discuss not only providing music for a future movie project but also to discuss a script idea I have had kicking around for a few years and which has been brought to his attention by a mutual friend. It may come to nothing but I am getting the feeling that a few more doors are opening that weren't there before.
The most exciting news is that I have a book deal on the table for the Vietnam "autobiography". With my energies still tied to the "13th Star" project until late this year and slightly beyond it is difficult to concentrate on other writing but at least I know what I will be doing this winter when the nights draw back in.

The entire weekend was spent bouncing between meetings and catching up with some old friends interspersed with "cultural" activities and some romantic time with my girlfriend.
Thursday we went to see "Lord of the Rings" at the Drury Lane theatre. Mark Wilkinson's son Sean is working with the stage management and got us last minute tickets. Katie and I got the back stage tour before the show and I was dumb struck at the production and organisation behind the scenes. It was truly another world! The wardrobe area was a hanger of hangers the size of an M and S store with the show prep already in full swing an hour before performance. It put my four costume swap on the early solo tours to shame :-D
It was fascinating wandering round the prop shop and wielding an orc blade or two. A six million pound production in all it's glory and one that comes down in the Summer. I was told the load out was going to take weeks. (Yatta would have done it in a couple of hours! :-D )
But for me the highlight was just standing centre stage at the Drury Lane for a couple of minutes and breathing the atmosphere. A heady experience staring out into the gloom of an empty theatre that was riddled with so much history. Unforgettable.

We hit the nearby Loch Fyne restaurant for some pre show oysters. I love the creatures as some of you know from the previous UK tour. I'd demolished 18 pre the Dublin show and tonight I was going for an even dozen. Katie opted for six. Only the previous weekend when she had been up at the Studio we had hit Clarks, one of my favourite fish shops down by Musselburgh harbour and picked up 18 at 50 pence each. They were three times that much down in this bar and nowhere the same size or quality. I'd shucked the Musselburgh ones myself and the flesh was disproportional to the price at the Loch Fyne establishment. I had to cut the muscle from the shell with my Leatherman knife whereas the London ones I scraped with my thumbnail. They were pale and watery. Fellini was notified when Katie admitted to having had food poisoning twice in recent years at different restaurants in the Loch Fyne chain. I wolfed mine down confidently having been one of only two people to survive "Bus bum" both in Poland and on the last tour and having my ribbons from Vietnam.
Ironically the barman serving us was Polish as were the two assistants. The shells were clocked up and I burnt the plastic and headed slightly late into the theatre.
Lots of tutting from the ushers and we were loaded into the rear of the stalls rather than our seats in the circle. I knew it was a long performance and had been drastically cut down to a three hour show from the original length which allegedly required taking days off work :-D
It was still ass numbing and I found myself clocking my watch after about twenty minutes. The production was superb but the script had been edited with an axe and clunked. The acting was nowhere near convincing and Gandalf in particular had as much presence as a bass player with Hawkwind (no disrespect intended to either bass players or Hawkwind :-D). The visuals were great though and there were a few moments where I was captured, the "Prancing Pony" scene in particular was a rare gem. The problem was I'd seen and loved the movies and this came across as a pale imitation, much like our oysters. The Balrog in the film was scary, the one in the theatre production was a made out of crepe paper and was as frightening as a crisp bag in a light breeze. The interval couldn't come soon enough.
We'd agreed to meet Katie's sister and husband in the pub at half time and after a few pints with them found ourselves drifting away from the idea of another 90 minutes of Middle Earth, gay Orcs and wobbly hobbits. We both shared the same opinion and opted for a restaurant and to catch Sean again after the performance.
Katie wasn't feeling too great and as we sat down to starters she excused herself and disappeared to the ladies room. We both knew full well what it was and sure enough she returned with the news of a rogue oyster. In my previous experience with girlfriends and dodgy shellfish that would normally have signalled the end of the night (my ex wife had to have a doctor called to the hotel and was close to hospital admission on the night of a London gig and 24 hours before we flew to Kenya on holiday!). Katie was of different stock and I was full of admiration as she sat down without a moan and ordered her main course with a smile. My kind of lady! :-D
We met up with Sean later in the pub and apologised for our no show in the second half. He understood our reluctance to return. We quaffed a few pints and shared a bundle of laughs before disappearing into the London night. It was great to see him and I must admit to feeling my age a bit as I'd known him since he was hobbit sized and was now a 23 year old and quickly becoming a veteran of the London theatre scene. I also felt a wee tinge of pride as his early visits to gigs had definitely lit up a dream and to see him realising it and making it happen was wonderful :-)
His sister Hannah had also followed the artistic footsteps of her parents and has become an accomplished photographer who recently did the photo session for my "13th Star" press shots. Mark and Julie can be rightly proud of their offspring :-)

After my meetings on Friday Katie and I went to the Electric Cinema in Portobello Road. A unique movie theatre with sumptuous leather seats and plenty of leg space. It also has a bar! Tickets were steep at 16 quid each and the vodka and cranberry a heady 7 quid. I don't know how people can afford to live in that city as every time you go out it's "kerching!" It must be one of the most expensive cities in Europe.
I got rammed with a Bloody Mary in a hotel recently for 12 notes!!! =-O

The Electric is a fascinating place with a colourful history. Check it out at http://www.electriccinema.co.uk/
Katie had booked the tickets on the "blind" and it was only when we arrived we found out it was Mike Leigh's "Happy Go Lucky".
I am not a huge fan of his bleak views of UK life and this one was a toughie as Poppy the lead played by Sally Hawkins is one of the most irritating characters I have endured for a long time. I think it was because she reminded me of an ex who drove me close to madness through being so annoyingly "up" all the time and never really embracing the reality around her. Eddie Marsan who plays her driving instructor is truly brilliant. It was slow and with no discernable story line hard to embrace and run with.
I found it slightly depressing and not an ideal movie for a Friday night out! I'm all for throwing a light on a down trodden reality (as you well know :-D) but this was a bit too close to home in some scenes and it was hard to deal with Poppy's effervescence in the face of some obvious hard hitting truths. Great acting all round as you would expect but for me it straggled too much. Favourite scene was the Flamenco teacher cracking up in front of her night class and that I took away as the funniest moment in a movie otherwise plagued for me by too many shadows.
I was glad I'd seen it but we both ambled up the Portobello Road feeling disappointed.

Saturday was a trip to Henley to meet some of Katie's friends and Sunday we called in on some old friends of mine. I hesitate to use their names as I was rolling about on the floor in stitches when I was told by my friend's partner that he had been barred from his local Blockbusters video store. He had gone down the previous weekend to rent a couple of DVDs and as his son was a member and my mate didn't have his card he tried to bluff it. At the counter he gave his son's name, his address, apologised for not having ID but offered the titles of the last two DVDs he'd hired as proof that there was a valid account. The guy behind the counter said that he could have hacked into the shops computer to get that information to which my mate called him a "jobsworth" and not to be "f##kin ridiculous". He was promptly barred and then the Lord of Blockbuster offered to open an account for his lady but only after my mate had vacated the premises!
As the story was being told my mate was outraged yet again and the rest of us just creased up! :-D
He turned 50 last year and his partner is convinced that since then he has turned into Victor Meldrew! I'm worried :-D

It was a fun time and I'd achieved a lot in a few days and although I was glad to get on the plane and relieve the burning sensation in my pocket from overused credit cards I was sorry to leave behind my lady who is also desperate to get out of the city. Great to visit, still ultra necessary to do business in, but I would never opt to live there.

Back home this week I've been following up ideas and building on the cunning plans. I'd hoped to be in the garden this week but so far I've been trapped in front of a PC or hanging on the phone. The onions are still not in and the Dutch bulbs are still in their bags.
The Rome gig fell through for a number of reasons and the recent change in government in Italy hasn't helped.

May 1st will now be the Edinburgh show where I'll be performing a couple of numbers with Jethro Tull at the Queens Hall. The gig is already sold out and I'm sorry to disappoint those who would have liked to have come along. Ian Anderson, who I have obviously known for quite a few years, got in contact with me when I was in Vietnam and asked if I'd like to special guest on a few shows on their 40th Anniversary tour and sing a couple of numbers with them. With Italian shows in the reckoning at that point I was unable to commit to as many as Ian and the band wanted to and it's only in the last month that my diary became clear. With the potential gig in Rome only just being pulled from the diary even the one show in Edinburgh was under question but I am really honoured to get the chance to sing with the band especially on this commemorative tour after having worked with them on bills throughout my career from the Theakstons festival in '82 when Marillion opened the day to the Milton Keynes festival in '86 and most recently Loreley last year amongst others.

And this is where the story takes a huge Felliniesque curve! (now take a breath! :-D)

Some of the other shows I was supposed to be doing are being guested by none other than Brian Josh and my ex fiance Heather Findlay as a stripped down Mostly Autumn line up. Although I had known Ian for quite some time I had never met his son James until introduced to him by HF who had been a friend of his for a few years. We took a shine to each other on first meeting and after the split James and I became good friends and met up a couple of times for "aperitifs" in London. Back at the end of February I'd arranged to go out for a drink with a photographer friend, Ami, who'd shot the session for Classic Rock. We met up with James in a pub in South London and he arrived with three other girls one of whom was his flat mate. By the end of the night James's flat mate and I were locked in conversation and we agreed to try and hook up at the O2 gig. We did and have been seeing each other regularly since then :-)
Obviously it wasn't going to take long for news to reach York and 3 weeks ago on the weekend I went down to London for Will Smith's wedding, to which I was taking Katie, I received an sms message from my ex fiance, the first contact since the debacle of last year. On the short message I was told to "urgently check my e mail" which I duly did and was informed that she was three and a half months pregnant and engaged to the guy she met shortly after leaving Scotland. To be honest I wasn't particularly surprised about anything apart from the timing.
The news has since been made "official" as obviously with their touring activities it's pretty difficult to disguise the fact that your singer is (now) 4 months pregnant.
It's ironic that in 2007 we both came out of the year with most of what we wanted. I got a great album and she got the fiance and the family. Fair result really! :-)
I wish her all the luck as it's going to be difficult balancing a pregnancy and a birth in the middle of all the intended MA touring plans this year as well as dealing with motherhood while maintaining a career as a gigging musician.
No hard feelings. I left them in Vietnam. I'm just glad to be where I am in my own life :-)
So Fellini!! :-D

On May 2nd I head off to Bergen in Norway to play a couple of gigs with Chris Thomson's Norwegian band, Mads Eriksen. The gigs are at the Madam Felle, Bryggen, Bergen on the night of the 2nd and on the 3rd.
http://madamfelle.com/mf/chris_mads_leo.html
It's an SAS type arrangement and I'll be singing about 4 numbers as special guest.

The SAS gig is on the 5th July but we also have a warm up at the Brook in Southampton on the 3rd July before heading to Lulea - Pitea for show day at the Pite Havsbad Festival on the beach!! Showtime 22.30 - 00.15. It could be a fun weekend apart from the flights which are horrendous.

And with that I retire to the garden with my trowel. Only a couple of days till I hit my fifties. It's a strange feeling knowing I have racked up this amount of years (much to the surprise of some :-D) and chalked up this amount of world experience without too many scars.
I am so glad my parents are going to be with me on Friday and am looking forward to a wee gathering of friends and family.
It'll be a hoot! :-D

until next time, take care and stay alive

love

Onkel Fish xx

 

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