Fish had just come back from Bergen where the 7 mountain festival he was booked for the day before had been cancelled. However, due to four local fans from Bergen, Fish got to play a gig that day, in a converted WWII bunker below the festival ground. It was a magnificent impromptu gig. Fish was approached by fans on the street outside the hotel and asked if he would play a gig. Fish thought for five seconds and then agreed to do it for free. A Danish version of the interview was included in the Company Scandanavia magazine number 5, July '95.
The Company Scandinavia Interview
Venue: Oslo, Hotel Spektrum
Interviewers: Claus Nygaard (TCS Denmark) & Per Hansson (TCS Sweden).
TCS: First of all, the gig yesterday. Your comment on the gig?
Fish: I really enjoyed it. It was a nice surprise, I was glad... it just seemed such a waste of flying and waste of time to be up in Bergen and not being able to play. I had asked the promoter to try and get us a gig, but he said it was too late in the day and that everywhere it was booked. It was by pure chance we bumped into the guys from Bergen that were in The Company Scotland, and of course with yourselves and that everybody bound it together, and suddenly getting that little chance to play. It was one of those gigs where by the end of it everybody was into it, and I think everybody enjoyed it so much that it just made playing Bergen on the main tour in September a lot more realistic. I enjoyed the show. It was good fun.
TCS: How long time would you have played on the festival. Had you sorted anything out?
Fish: No, I mean, the whole festival thing just fell apart. It was... we were in rehearsals on Tuesday when we were told that the festival had gone down, you know, definitely, and it was a major disappointment. And the promoter I think has been a real idiot about the whole thing, and you know, the agency that deal with the concerts are going to be pursuing him in the court. I mean, he says, "it's not on". You just don't do that sort of thing. You don't sign contracts and then say to us "I'm sorry it's not going to work out", therefore, you know. When you're organising big things like that, you know, you have to make sure that the finances are in place, and the things can carry on. It just seems that it was not done the way people would normally expect a festival would be put on. I mean, I have heard, you know, he announced the fact that there was other major American acts playing and there was a small print at the bottom, it was a disclaimer, which said that none of the acts that had been mentioned here over might be playing, you know [heartfelt laughter]. I mean, you just don't do that sort of stuff, but I mean we had been told that the guy was okay, and that he had done a festival before. But such is life. We got that show in Bergen, full stop.
TCS: In the end we think that these 45 minutes in the cavern there was better than one hour out in the rain?
Fish: I think it was. I really do think it was. I think we did more by doing that gig, and I think it showed... I think it just showed the bands attitude in a perfect way. You know, that we can play anywhere under any circumstances, and it ain't just this big thing. We could had just been, you know, a very big time band about it and gone "forget it, it's no deal, we're not playing". But playing the show last night showed the level of commitment we do have up here in Scandinavia, which some people won't prove, you know, which some people are obviously going to question cause of the lack of gigs. I mean, the fact that we had the slightest opportunity of a gig and we took it, you know, shows what we are trying to do for September.
TCS: Info about the return in September?
Fish: Yeah, I mean, it's important, you know. Already we are talking about, you know, my Swedish agency are talking about giving us, I think it's Stockholm, Malmo and Gothenburg, you know, and I would like to get another one. I think in Norway it's going to be Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim. And I think in Finland... Finland is going to get at least one show, it must get one show. And of course Copenhagen, it's gonna... Denmark, I mean, Denmark has always been a difficult place for me, I don't know why. But it has just always been really difficult. Even in the Marillion days, we never managed to break out. There was also a thing between EMI Denmark and Marillion for some reason. And every year, we were always going back in, and I think the biggest we ever got was probably about 3,000 to 4,000 people.
TCS: Yeah 4,000. But again, that's the biggest indoor venue in Denmark. (We're referring to the Marillion gig in Valby Hallen in Kobenhavn on 11th November 1987).
Fish: But I mean, you know, maybe a lot of those people that bought tickets for those gigs might, you know, end up buying Yin & Yang and come in to see us again. So I think a lot of it depends on it, and obviously if we go out on this tour, and this tour sells out, and we do the business we think we could potentially do with these albums, you know, then obviously everybody is going to go "you got to come back in again", which means that we are probably coming around again, and Scandinavia is awkward, cause I would not be able to come in till May, you know, you got to wait till the snow has gone, because of the busses. I mean, you know, we could be in a situation where we could be coming, you know, straight back in, you know, less than six or seven months later. You know, we are talking to Arcade just now, and there's talk about doing a major, major radio campaign, you know, an advertising campaign behind Yin & Yang up here, just in Norway. And we are trying to give away a free concert to like one of the big radio stations, I mean, there's a lot of plans to try and expand on it, and utilise really what Yin & Yang is. Yin & Yang is my passport to so many different territories, because places I have never been to, there I can go in, because they know Kayleigh or Incommunicado or they might know Big Wedge or something. But, I mean, we can go right in and introduce them with the solo career as it is, and say, well yeah this is it, there's Suits and Sushi and these are release albums as well. I mean, in South Africa Lady Let it Lie is in the top 40. You know, and it doesn't matter when you're going out, because they're all different areas. Yin & Yang is a world wide simultaneously release. Suits is still working in different territories at different times. It comes out in Japan on May 17th.
TCS: It will be great the have a simultaneous release...
Fish: Yeah, which Yin & Yang is...
TCS: ...cause I hear from the Americans that they say: "Well, all the hardcore fans have bought the album import, when it comes out"...
Fish: At this moment in time, you know, we are dealt up everywhere else in the world, you know, America has been given months to come on board. I have approach so many companies, and they've all gone "no, we don't want it". You know "yeah, we are quite interested, but we really feel that this isn't..." And I'm going cool. I am not going to allow my tight European plan to be put back by the Americans, you know. If the Americans don't want to come on board then it's their fault when, you know, all the imports go in. Nobody can turn around and complain, I mean, most of the majors have been aware, all the big independents... There's still time to set the thing up, but I mean, they are going to have to get off their backsides now. I mean, I can't do it, I-just-can't-wait! You know, I can't see why I'm going to put the album back to January, because I don't know when the US deal is in place...
TCS: But you did put Yin & Yang back to September?
Fish: Yeah, I put it back to September, because of the Germans. Because at Intercord there was two people who left Intercord, and there were major players, and they said that we could release it in June, but they could not guarantee that we would have the full force of the company behind it. And it would be stupid of me to go out with what is the biggest territory that I have and potentially the biggest sales area, cause I mean, I am now working as a VJ on VIVA2, and I have got a German management consultancy, Kick Records, who provide a huge promotion buzz behind me, so I mean, I got to really go with the Germans. And the Germans say "give us September and we'll give you a 120,000 Deutsch Mark TV-campaign", and I said "well, you've got it!".
TCS: What's that VJ thing?
Fish: I do a programme once a month for VIVA2. I have my own programme. It's a big, it's like MTV Germany, it's bigger than MTV in Germany...
TCS: In partly German?
Fish: I do it in German!
TCS: Oh, that's a collectors item, when it's beamed down to the parabolas, then.
Fish: [warm grin]
TCS: There were some late additions for the Yin & Yang album. Somebody Special...
Fish: yeah, it's been redone. Not rewritten but it has been quite rearranged and re-recorded.
TCS: ...and you took out Emperor's Song on behalf...
Fish: yeah, I took out Emperor's Song.
TCS: Why did you do that?
Fish: I just wanted to, I just felt that Somebody Special was stronger than Emperor's Song. And Emperor's Song when I heard it, Emperor's Song was like the whole, the live version of Emperor's Song against the studio version, I think the live version is far better, there's far more life in it, and I don't think Emperor's Song really fit in on it...
[The interview is interrupted by knocking on the door. Yatta and Frank appear to remind Fish that he has a bag of merchandise that has to be transported to the venue. After having sorted that out, we continue with the interview. We skip the talk about the Yin & Yang tracks]
TCS: When is Yin & Yang released?
Fish: They'll both be out on September 4th. But there's an 8 track CD we're putting out, it's going to be available in July, but it's available to the fan club now, that we're doing for GBP 7.50 which is the 8 track single edits and 8 interviews. There's 8 little sort of one minute, a minute-and-a-half, two minutes interviews and then 8 tracks. I've left the cassette downstairs, but there's a cassette on its way over to you now. Lucky, Kayleigh, Just Good Friends with Sam Brown, Boston Tea Party with Alex Harvey Band, Lavender and Somebody Special (the last two tracks are not mentioned) and all they're are edits for the radio. And we're giving them out to the rock radio stations, to the rock DJ's, on the middle of July. Since like the Marillion album is coming out in the end of June and I don't want to cross with that, and if I put out the CD now, then when they start to put on Marillion tracks, then there's going to be confusion. So I am going to hold till the Marillion album has sort of passed, till the end of July. Then we're putting Lucky out as a single in the first week of August, and the B-sides are probably taken from all this life stuff, we probably do Solo and A Gentleman's Excuse Me, which finished up the collection of the other CD's. So Lucky will come out as a single 1st August, the album comes out on September 4th, or the albums come out on September 4th. What we are going to do is, the 8-track CD is out there, and it that's called Yin and Yang the radio edits, right? So the fan club can get that and see exactly where we are going, as a collectors item, which we sort of can keep low. It's ridiculous, you know, the Acoustic Set, you can get for, the fan club one, you can get for GBP 35 on some of the record fares. It's crazy, it's crazy! Which is why we sell the promos, so everybody gets a chance to get them. And again, you know, we will be given away so many of these 8-tracks to the radio stations, it's like the fan club we have supplemented help us keep the Dick Brothers going, in order to give us the finance to feed them out, and at the same time the fans know that they are not going to go out and have to go to a record shop to keep up their collection. But there's another nice thing we are going to do as well, which is all lined up. I'm also going to do a 75 minutes interview, where I'm gonna get somebody in and interview, and it's going to be the whole lot, all the way through, and that will be put on CD, and that will be sent out to the radio stations as well, to give everybody a chance to getting interviews. And then we are going to do a deal with the fan club on that, I still have to work this one out, but we are going to do a deal with the fan club, because when the Yin & Yang come out, there's going to be a box, a special box, available to all the fan club members. And we are trying to work out at the moment how to get them numbered, like to individuals, you know, and we give them away only for The Companies. So what happens is that if somebody wants to get the box, he sends away for the box. And in the insert in Yin & Yang, the albums released to the public, there's also going to be an advert for the lyrics, cause we're not putting the lyrics out on the sleeves. It's sort of little stories and a lot of brilliant photographs by Fin Costello. So if people want the lyrics, they sends away, and there's a little book that has got all the lyrics for right across the two albums and that goes with the photographs by Fin Costello, so we'll do like a big fat CD booklet. So when you actually, as a Company member, when you get your box, you get your box, and into the box goes Yin & Yang and the lyric thing goes into the middle with the interview CD on one side and the 8 track on the other side, so it's a little nice wee collection. That is just going to be fan club, that is not going out to general public. I will advertise the fan clubs in Yin & Yang as well, what I probably do is rather than putting all the addresses down, we'll just put the one address and save the space, and once it comes in, we'll send them out, right. If somebody from Scandinavia writes in, then we send them out to you... You know, you can send it to this address, and we'll fax it to your country, you know. So that could work really nice. But that together with the whole attack with this fan club thing as well, could sort of change things about.
TCS: In connection to the release of Yin & Yang, what are the fan clubs like The Company Scandinavia supposed to do in order to help to promote the albums?
Fish: I think we are going to be more aware of what's going to need to happen in the next sort of two months. I mean, after the release of Lucky, we are negotiating at the moment for a world wide satellite broadcast as part of the new sort of Live Aid which is called World Aid Relief, which goes out on August 19th. I want to record some gigs in Scotland for that, and we want to send them out to all the different radio stations, anybody that wants them, and there might be a deal happening in different part of Scandinavia with radio stations, like a national independent radio station, that will be given either the whole or whatever they need of that concert. And I think after that it's a case of request, you know request. Go towards your magazines and stuff, just write in letters where you know interest letters is going to be printed, or whatever. I mean, we'll become, we will be able to get more ideas of what's needed near that time.
TCS: We heard that the working title for the next album was...
Fish: Sunsets on Empire.
TCS: Have you started up writing?
Fish: Not really...
TCS: Just ideas?
Fish: Ideas, yes, but we got to try to work it out this summer as well.
TCS: In which direction is the album going?
Fish: I don't know yet. I don't really know yet. It's acoustic based. I'm toying with the idea of a serious concept album, but I mean, it's too early to say.
TCS: Speaking of musical direction, to me Vigil is "still trapped", Internal is "Confusion" and Suits is "Direction". You have gone in a new direction. It seems like you're mingling with a new crowd now. I hear Sting, I hear Rainbirds and I hear maybe Sade in there.
Fish: Yeah, there's a groove element. There's a jazz element. But the jazz element was always there since listening to Joni Mitchell, you know, I mean, it has always been there, I mean, yeah there'll be a lot of grooves. If I was to say, to tell you the direction, I would say State of Mind together with Incubus, together with, you know, Raw Meat and Lucky, then that's what it would be. That's why it was interesting to record the Yin & Yang stuff, and I think people will get an idea of the production feel, of where it's going, from, from the Yin & Yang stuff. The production on Yin & Yang is exactly where I want to go. Especially on Incubus, especially on Incubus.
TCS: What's new about Incubus?
Fish: You'll hear it. You'll hear it, It's difficult to explain.
TCS: Is it a progression...
Fish: You'll hear it. I'm not going to talk about it. It's a waste of spool.
TCS: No, we're not talking about the song here, is it a progression between you and James?
Fish: Yeah, and the band. I think it was just the attitude that was taken, and what we have learned from the acoustic tours.
TCS: I thought about this direction. Has it something to do with you being your own manager now, Fish?
Fish: I don't know. I don't know what it is. I just, I think I got bored of like doing all that bombastic huge [spreading out his arms conducting] baam-baam-baam and then having to sing over it. I think I started to enjoy singing on the acoustic tour better, you could do more, you could here the voice, you could express more, and I like the space. And you know, we tried a long time ago, to try and create it, after Vigil, we tried to create that space, but we just never did it. We kept on falling in that trap of like "oh, we'll throw in this" rather that go "oh, we'll just leave it". And I think on this album we deliberately held back the production, you know. We did not allow it to over go, I mean, Suits could be sometimes taken as being slightly overproduced. There's a lot of embellishments on Suits. And I think it just came from being nervous, it was like being a young band again going "well, we better make sure this works". And I think some of the Suits tracks, as have been shown in the acoustic set, like Jumpsuit actually works far better when it's stripped down.
TCS: You have saxophone on for the first time, on No Dummy, its brilliant.
Fish: Yeah, but we could have done it less produced. We could still had put that in, but produced it less, made like the sounds all fall together. Made it starker. Actually I will make a stark album. I would really like to get into like when you're listening to Roy Harpers BulletinaMingVase album, you know, the one with One of These Days in England tracks one to nine or whatever it is. You know, that was for me great, I loved that, and I still love listening to that and, you know, putting together an album like that would be stunning. I mean, doing, I mean, oh no, I'm not going into it, because I'll just waffle. Hey, I have got an idea of where it's going, but it's just going to be squeezed gently.
TCS: Your lyrics, then. They are more straightforward now. There are two points. Half of the people say you have lost your flamboyant image by going in that direction and that you are not so tale telling and adventurously now, and the other half says you've just grown up over the years, you have found yourself and now you have the guts to say what you really want to say.
Fish: I don't know. I mean, there's a lot of the stuff on Suits that I think... I mean, lyrically I'm really proud of what happens on Suits, Raw Meat is the finest lyric I think I have ever done. And Jumpsuit, you know, Somebody Special is a bit wordy, you know, 1470, I really like all of them. It's nothing... even Bandwagon, you know, for all it's weaknesses and flaws it's still... as lyric I'm really happy with it, you know.
TCS: Has choosing to Yin & Yang been slightly towards the lyrics?
Fish: Eh, no. All the songs are picked because of something that's in them, you know, as a whole...
TCS: I noticed from the latest merchandise list from Scotland that Pigpen's Birthday is back in stock. Is that now released on Dick Bros Record Company?
Fish: No, I think we found a box [laughs]...
TCS: ...in the corner...
Fish: ...yeah, I think that the Dutch sent some back, I think that was how it was. I mean, towards the end of next year we might redo Pigpen's and the Crypt Creepers one, which I think are the two best, the Hammersmith and the Dusseldorf one. I think we will do then, perhaps for the next tour, we might release a video in the middle of the tour, commercially. And one of the ideas is, you know, we were going to keep the five, but I'll rather keep just the two, I'll put them out in the middle of the tour, then take the Fortunes of War 4-CD set, crunch it into one album, into one acoustic album, then probably put that out, but I mean, it will be called Fortunes of War so nobody's going to be deceived by the fact that it's new, you know, and keep the four digi pack just purely as a fan club item, so it's deleted to the shops, but you know, we'll sell them direct through the fan club, so that anybody joining the fan club can, you know, keep up with that side of things. But I mean, probably maybe those three lives will come out before Christmas, if we put another single out or something or if there's a lot of profile. I mean, if Yin & Yang starts to really go, you know, Just Good Friends is probably the second single, the one we did with Sam Brown, and it's a real stunning single, it's a great single, it's a great track, and I mean if that goes, it could go really big, if that goes big you're talking about a complete relaunch of the entire Fish back catalogue. I mean, at the moment Internal Exile and Songs from the Mirror has just been mid-priced by Polydor, which surprised me, but I think they was the one that were thinking I was putting my album out in June, so I think they might have perhaps, you know. But it was a nice, you know, it was really funny I got reviews in Q-magazine, and I got three stars [laughs] so it just goes to prove that Fish gets better with age. I told you I was ahead of my time.
TCS: About the Funny Farm. We read in an old interview The Company Belgium did one year ago, that you were going to move?
Fish: That was an idea at the time to move house, but now it's not. Circumstances changed. I mean, things across at the Farm changes all the time, I mean, [heavy Scottish accent] with a fair wind, a fair wind and a strong arm on the rudder, we could be in a situation in September where we have got out all the investors at the Funny Farm, you know, all the people who have got their fingers in the studio, have them out, and have the whole Dick Bros as a company in a far more stable shape. You know, the moment, you know, in the last year has done us a lot of good. Then we have the Japanese and South East Asia deal in place, and South Africa. And I'd like to say the American deal alone if this comes off, we're going to be able to like get all the people out of the business that can shut us down. We are certainly... we are building the walls now rather than fighting from behind sandbags, we are actually building the castle a wee bit. And it's going to give us more room to play about with as a company, I mean, I would like to be able to go in and write this next album without the thread of some suit coming to the farm to take the keys to my house away and throw us out in the street, which is what we have been living under for the last four years. And I think, you know, a lot of jokes has been made about it, but I think a lot of people do actually appreciate the sort of level of stress we have been operating under for four years. I mean, it has been do or die so many times, I mean, although some people may look on it and have said [Basil Fawlty voice] "that has been a bit melodramatic!". Actually it was like that! You know, it has been really scary, you know, sometimes it has had a lot to do with the voice hassles I have had recently, getting a virus, which is a stress factor and nothing else. So I'd like to be able to go in and do the next album, I mean, if we sold, even if we can sell, I think it is going to take us about, in the region of 300,000, if we were to sell 300,000 albums, you know, that would be perfect, between the twos, that would be 150,000 of each, which would be, you know, you know, another 50, another 30 percent more of each album than Suits has sold, you know, and that would set us running... Which is why Yin & Yang is so important for like for example Norway. Cause, I mean, as I said to my agent "I've got a silver album on my wall from Norway for Clutching". It was the only place we got an... it was the first place we got an award for Clutching apart from the UK. And I said "How come we've done 25,000 albums with that album which is more relative to the stuff I'm doing now?" and he says he doesn't understand it. He says the problem has been the promotion dollar, cause he's buying it from somebody else, and it's a bit awkward, and if we were to go direct it means we can save at least sort of like 10-15 kroner on an album which we're talking about putting in that radio campaign and putting a real severe curve behind Norway. Cause if I do it now, if I can sell 25,000 albums, even if I can sell 20,000 of each one that's 40,000 albums. 40,000 albums would mean that the next album we put out, we would probably going to be able to do in sort of like the 20 area. It means we know that we are going to have a really big bridgehead to really build a really solid solo career, which is like I can concentrate on doing the music and doing the artist bit. And at the same time be part of like, you know, a company that's dealing with other artists. I mean, it would be nice to have the finance available to take on maybe another act, build up a label of acts that we can just move all time, it's interesting. So, I mean, yeah, that's where it's at, I mean, yes, Yin & Yang are really important, you know.
TCS: It seems that in Norway and in the rest of Scandinavia Arcade are massively backing their albums on TV. They make a lot of compilations and stuff.
Fish: ...I mean, my agent up here in Norway is a fan, you know, and in a way he is like me, and we both understand, you know, with some heavy work, you know, we can turn this into like a major thing. I mean, I have done more gigs here now as Fish than I did with Marillion, you know, and if I can duplicate that in Sweden, and duplicate that in Denmark, then wonderful. But I mean, it just takes a bit of vision you know, we could be talking about a 200,000 kroner radio bill, you know, and we got to work that out, I mean, you know, you got to work like a real company and say "okay, we have got to do so many thousand albums to head that". We have to at least, you know, go 5 times the albums sold here at the moment, you know, in order to sort of like, I mean, have that sort of thing pay off. But I mean, if they're into it, I'm into it. I mean, I've never been one that sort of go [wee scary voice] "Oh, I better not", you know. It's like [general commanding voice] "Oh Forward, ramming speed, bom, bom, bom, bom".
TCS: I don't know if you saw our latest magazine, where we printed the Disneyland story? You returned to Disneyland recently with Tammi and Tara. How was it to return there and remember the whole Steve Hogarth business last year?
Fish: Oh my God, oh yes. I didn't know about this until two weeks ago.
TCS: Well, the interviewer kept calling you Steve Hogarth.
Fish: I did not know this.
TCS: You did not notice that?
Fish: No, cause he wasn't talking to me, there was a guy talking to me, he was translating to me. I knew nothing about that, nothing.
TCS: The independent charts. We tracked down all the charts from '94 and you actually had high positions.
Fish: Yeah, but it could have been higher.
TCS: Well, Suits went in as number two.
TCS: How great is the impact of an independent chart?
Fish: Hm, not really, everybody looks at the main charts still.
TCS: Can you come on the main chart?
Fish: I was number... can't remember, can't remember what it made, it was higher, it was one higher than Songs from the Mirror.
TCS: So you're not just categorised as an indie...
Fish: yeah, I'm indie, yeah, but I can still go into the main chart as well.
Interview 14th May 1995