Skanderborg Festivallen. Interviewers: Claus Nygaard (TCS Denmark), Stuart James (English concert photographer), Ole Brandt (Pressetjenesten) & Soren Engelbrecht (Genesis Mailing List).
Soren: You might find my presence a little bit peculiar, because I'm actually a member of a Genesis mailing list. I know you have had some relations to Genesis in the past and so on, so I'd like to ask you a few questions.
Soren: First of all, most people think about Marillion as two distinct periods of time. With you and after you.
Soren: Most people say the same of Genesis also, because there was Peter Gabriel and after Peter Gabriel.
Soren: Would you say that you have any preferential period, or you don't like them at all?
Fish: Who are you talking about? Genesis? They're just a band. I mean, I tell you right now, I'm not going to spent the next 15-20 minutes here talking about Genesis, you know.
Soren: Of course. I know you've done a cover of I Know What I Like...
Soren: ...on the Songs from the Mirror album...
Fish: No, I mean, you know obviously, I mean, when I was a teenager, I mean, bands like Genesis, Yes and Pink Floyd were around, and they were like starting up, so that was the first music I got into, which is why I did that song on the Songs from the Mirror, cause all the songs on that particular album was relative to, you know, my adolescence to when I was a, you know, a big fan of music. And I still like what Genesis do, I mean, you know, the obvious question that has been up in the last two or three months was, I mean there was a very firm rumour that I was joining the band...
Soren: I wasn't going to ask you about that one...
Fish: No I mean, yeah it was something I was thinking of, but I didn't really want. I wasn't really sure, and it was only, actually about two weeks ago, because I heard they were making, they were about to make their minds up, and I phoned up, their publishing company was also my publisher around, we're all friends, and he said to me, "well, I don't really think you'd be into it", and then I thought "well, I really got to find out", so I phoned up Tony, and I said to Tony: "you know what is the score with it?", and he said: "yes, I was considered". He's a big fan of my voice anyway, so obviously he was very pro for it, he was very up for it, but I think, I mean, at the end of the day [deep breath] I mean, I don't think I would have really fitted in. I mean, I think I'm too strong a personality to be just a session singer, which is really what that job is going to be. You know, I mean, Tony, when I've worked with Tony in the past, he has a very particular way of working, and ehm, you know, I operate very much on feel, and he operates very much on calculating where the thing goes, and I think when you've got two different dynamics like that, and two different approaches, it's possibly not going to be the best chemistry. And I wouldn't have liked going: "yes", you know, if I'd taken the job, if I'd got the job, if I'd been offered the job whatever, if I'd taken it and found out after about two weeks that I didn't like it, you know, I mean, I'm a very strong character, which is why I'm solo. But I mean, I think the next version of Genesis that comes out, is going to be very, very different from what has been before, but you know, I mean, I was one of the people when Peter Gabriel left the band, I said the band was dead, and the same as a lot of people said that about Marillion. And it was really not the case, it took me a couple of albums, but I mean, I think Genesis, I admire them the same as I admire Bowie, in that, you know, when they needed to be brave enough to make the changes, you know, they found the strength to do that, and I think you got to admire that, you know, there's a lot of musicians, there's a lot of bands that, you know, you can keep on doing the same stuff for years and years and years, and basically you're just copying yourself. You become a parody of yourself, which is why, which is one of the reasons why I left Marillion, because I felt we were in the danger of becoming that parody in the fact that we was just going to keep on trying to repeat a formula, and I wanted to do something a bit different.
Soren: Many people would also have seen it like a kind of defeat for you, that you went solo, and then had to go back into a band, because you could not have a career...
Fish: But yeah, I mean, I am in a band. We're people working, you know, I don't walk up on that stage on my own. I walk up with five other guys, and it feels like a band. In fact the band feels more like a band than Marillion did, I think because there's a hierarchy, there's an established, recognised hierarchy within the band. He's the singer, he runs the band, we do this. That works. I don't abuse them, they don't abuse me, there's mutual respect, and we have a lot of fun together. I've got some very classic musicians working for me, I mean Ewen Vernal, the bass player that came in from Deacon Blue, and you know, we work together because we want to work together. [Squeeky enters the room] we don't make a lot of money, as Squeeky will tell you, Squeeky makes no money, but yeah, I mean, what happens is that you know, as long as you're enjoying it, I think enjoyment is a lot more important than to make the money, which is again, I mean, yeah, one of the attractions with the Genesis job would have been, yeah, there would be a lot of money in it, but I think probably the most interesting in that job would have been, yeah the profile that I would have got from doing a job like that would have helped selling my solo records, you know, but you know, it's not, and we've just about finished recording the new album Sunsets on Empire, and that sounds brilliant [sincere optimistic smile]. So that's going to be out next March, and you know, we'll see what's happening from there.
Soren: I've just got a question to the title of that album. I was wondering if there was any relation to the Spinal Tap album, The Sun never sweats on the British Empire...
Soren: I guess that's coincidence.
Fish: I didn't actually know that one. The Sun never sweats on the British Empire, oh. No Sunsets on Empire is something very, very different.
Ole: Now we've been talking about yesterday, what about tomorrow. What are you doing tomorrow, what are your plans?
Fish: Tomorrow? Well, I'm going home [stresses]. We've got another two gigs after this, and then I'm not touring for four months, I'm not going to do anything. I think in the last five years, there has never been a month passed by which we've not got a gig in. I mean, we've done something like 120 shows in the last 12 months. That's a lot. And we've been everywhere, we've been everywhere from Hong Kong to Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Turkey, I mean everywhere, and then of course the big tour last year that brought us into Denmark for, you know, the three finest shows that I've ever played in this country, which is why we're here. And yeah, I want to take four months off. We've just to finish the album, which I've enjoyed writing, and I don't think I'm really finished writing either. And I'm working with a guy called Steve Wilson from a band called the Porcupine Tree, and he's also got another project called No-Man, and I think he's helped to get me excited about music again. I think he showed me that the simplicities are often the finest points in music, I mean, you don't have to be complicated to make good music, so I mean, we're about finishing that, and I've got a gig in Dortmund next weekend, and then we finish up the whole thing in Haddington, which is at my home, and I'll get sooo drunk, and then I'm supposed to be doing Macbeth, a film on Macbeth, and after that in the four months I don't know, maybe I'll do some more acting, cause I feel I should start to do a bit more of that, cause I'm not done that for a while, and I'd like to continue writing, but I'm not touring. And then we start off from January in, I think it's Brazil, then we go to Japan and Southeast Asia, and then after that we go back to South America again, and I think probably a North American tour will come in about there somewhere. And the ideas is to do open airs in the summer and then play the main European tour in the September, October, November, December next year. If I feel the urge to write, then we can just work, so I mean, I got very concerned that there was two years between the Suits album and this album. And it worried me [with stress]. Because, I mean, I think in the last two months I've made some very serious decisions on the direction that I think, not only my career but my life should take, I mean, I've been managing myself, I've been running a record company, and I'm also the artist. And I think the artist has suffered, out of all the different characters, the artist has suffered the most over the last two years. We've been playing great shows [fist in the table] but the work that has been necessary behind those shows has meant that, you know, we could not write when we should have been writing, and I think I've recognised, that yeah I do need a management to take a huge proposition of the business element away from me, you know, in order to let the artist breath, and I think in the same way as an independent record company I think we've got to re-evaluate just how we put the albums out, and I think that Sunsets on Empire is such a brilliant album that I really want to make sure that it's given the best opportunities, you know, to allow itself to develop, and when we're really talking about that, we're probably talking about a major record company. So with a new management coming in, I could see a lot of other things changing as well. And on top of that, you know the studio, the Funny Farm, we're changing the way that operates as well, you know, we're turning the studio, the ideas is to turn it into a major complex, which involves multimedia, education for multimedia, and also work with music therapy as well, and keeping the studio working as well, so it all works as one big commercial complex. And with that I can come out of the studio, and I can get my own house down the road, which means again, is part of this "let's find a life". I mean, I've learned a lot in the last three years, and I think anybody that's going to be working with me, they're not dealing with this, eh, a naive individual, and I think the management we're talking with, I think they're perfect for me, they're German guys. So I think together we can create a very, very good team. I mean, I'm capable of a lot more than I'm actually doing at this point in time, but I've recognised that probably 75% of my time at this moment is being taking up by bureaucracy by working with the business, and that's not what I'm good at. I'm good at being an artist. And when we did the two weeks in Bosnia and Croatia, you know, we were playing to kids, to soldiers that are like anything from 18 years old up to like 45 year old guys, guys that knew Kayleigh and guys that were big Oasis fans and had never heard of me before, right [enthusiastic voice]. And every night, we got three encores, standing ovations and everybody was going "wow!". And I suddenly realised this [knocks the table three times] the music that I make can go right across the borders, it can cross everything, because of the style the matter, the entertainment that we have within, you know, the dimensions of what we create. And I think with that, I've got to allow that to breathe again, I've got to use that, you know, there's no point in me going down to, you know, sit in a office in Stuttgart for like two days and sitting there and talking percentages [knocks the table] that's not what I'm good at! So like I said, when I came back from Bosnia and Croatia, that was the decision. Okay, let's just change the whole balance. Cause I think, you know, when I went solo, I was still probably about 80% artist and 20% business, and I think it's reversed. And I've got to try and get them back again, you know. But then again, I mean, I think, since the Polydor fiasco, ehm, and coming out of that, I mean, I think for the Suits album, with Yin & Yang, and what we've done in the last two years, that we've actually, we've taken a career that was going [lift his hand over his head, and cruises it through the air towards the table] "Wrooooooammmm", screaming into the ground, and I think we stopped it, we laid the ground and we put the foundations on, and what we've got now is a great album, that should help us built up, and if that album goes then everybody will go: "Oh, Fish, yeah. Remember him." Suits, Yin, Yang, Sushi, Krakow, whatever. And I think we'll be discovered. There's still a lot of space for the sort of music we play, a big, big space, and that certain people will recognise this.
Ole: That's great. I mean I ask one question, and you answer 30 questions at the same time.
Claus: The three words about the new album. What is the direction you're talking about, and what did you find in Steve that you didn't bring out yourself before?
Fish: Steve, I mean Steve saw his first Marillion concert when he was 12 years old, before I joined the band, and he was brought up in that new progressive stuff, but he's also into dance music, I mean he's got a project called No-Man as well. So he likes the early Floyd and things like that, and I like the sort of psychedelia aspect, I like groove, you could tell from the last concerts that, you know, you could tell that, you know, there's a groove in this band, and that's what we going at, we're trying to fuse some of the dance stuff together with the progressive rock element. Because I mean, I think there's a lot of progressive rock about now, that's just shit. They're just copying what was done, what Marillion did in the early 80'ies, and copying what was happening in the 70'ies. And that's not even what the word progression means. There's no band, no-one is trying to explore the areas, and I think what Steve wants to do and what I wanna do is together we're mutually creating what you could be calling the new whole progressive. I mean it employs the grooves from, it employs the grooves from the dance sector and the hip-hop vibes, but at the same time you've got a lot of drama, you've got sound effects coming in all over the place, and it's still a very conceptual album.
Soren: It's just a circular movement...
Fish: There is actually not a circular movement, it's all very individual songs, but you can sense the movement, so I'm very excited about it. And I think, as I said before, because we've been writing and the writing has been successful I wanna do more writing, you know, there's even a name for the next album [laughs].
Claus: What's that then?
Fish: It's called The Range of the Porcupine Heard.
Claus: You're talking about sound effects and stuff like that, you're having the guy from Trainspotting to participate on the album.
Fish: I've been trying to find out where Irvin is, I'll be phoning him up in the next week to see what we can do, but I think he's in Amsterdam at the moment. Cause he's a big Hibs fan, that's how we know each other.
Claus: So football tie people together there.
Fish: Yeah, have you seen the Trainspotting movie?
Fish: It's an incredible film. I mean it's a side of Edinburgh that nobody talks about. Edinburgh is just like, oh, it's all castles and stuff, and it's really, it's like when you go into Copenhagen and you go into the island [obvious reference to Christiania].
Stuart: You were singing the Flower of Scotland for the national team at Wembley during the Euro '96 football championships. It must have been a powerful moment for you. How did this come about?
Fish: They phoned up. The English FA wanted people to sing the anthem, I mean, when I look back at it now, it was a very clever trick. It was a big psychological blow to the Scots, cause in Scotland, when we play rugby everybody sings the Flower, and it's really up, and it's like, it's like the song where all the Scots can go "Yes!", you know. So we go to Wembley, and there's 70.000 tickets sold, but there is only 8.000 Scots there. And I walked out on the day and it was like, it was red and white. I'm standing in the tunnel and they're going: "Please welcome the singer of the Scottish anthem, Fish", and there's all these people hanging over the tunnel swearing at me, [laughs] and I walked on the pitch, and I was probably the loneliest guy in the world and I stood there in front of 20.000 English fans that were all shouting abuse and suggesting that I should go home!. And of course the English anthem came up, and it was the most powerful rendition I'd ever heard, and then of course, you know. The Scottish anthem followed, and I've got this little speaker in front of me, and the Scottish crowd down the bottom end are singing in the wrong tempo, in the wrong key, to what I've got in the speaker. But it was great to do it, I mean, more people have actually talked to me about that, than they've talked about my last album. I've got more press from doing that one football thing than I did from the entire album.
Stuart: It seemed like a good idea to have different persons singing the anthems.
Fish: Yeah, but it was a cheat, because the English anthem is so big, that the English football team went "wow" [arms up], and the Scots were going "uuh" [frightened].
Claus: The release of the album, Fish, you talked about splitting it up. Is it now a simultaneous release with the album out everywhere in March?
Fish: I don't know. Until we work out which, until we work out how we're going to distribute this album, there'll be no decision on single release schedules until then, but I cannot realistically not see any new material coming out before December, although it's all done. Because I think if we signed, if we signed to a label, like a major label, you know we're going to meet people, we're going to decide how the strategy is, the management has got to come in, the management has got to deal with that, so I've got to create a stronger relationship with the management, then the management can deal with the record company. I've got to learn now to take a step back, and with that we've got to really look at next March, it makes some more sense. Also because we're got a lot going down in South America now.
Claus: It made good sense to go down there.
Fish: Yes, it was a great place, amazing.
Stuart: You have a new distribution throughout America?
Fish: There's nothing...
Stuart: Nothing's happening?
Fish: We've got a company in America that was going to take us, but they'd problems with their investors, and the whole deal was put on, it was stalled, but I've heard that it could be on next week. But I mean, we just got to deal with that, I mean again, well America has always been, it's been a place we never actually, even with Marillion we never really did anything there. But I mean, I think the music that I play now is more relative to America, you know in these present days than it was before, because grunge has gone and everybody is into singer/songwriters, I'd say that our new material has certain similarities even to the stuff that Alanis Morrisette does, in the fact that there's a strong groove in it, there's you know quality lyrics, there's a sense of melody, and there's a, you know, a big drama. And I think that's why I feel that in America I've got the best chances that I've ever had in 15 years.
Claus: But it was Renaissance that were stalling?
Fish: Yeah, Renaissance, they were the company. But again, it looks like it's sorting itself out this week.
Claus: Some of the old questions again, Fish. A b-side album?
Fish: No intention yet. There's no point [stressing] there's no point in this stuff. I'm not going to re-do, you know, Vigil is now, Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors is now on Dick Bros. We've got that back. So I'm now in a state where, you know, I really want to get Sunsets, I'd rather concentrate my energy on Sunsets as the next album, and then put out a b-sides album or whatever. I mean a lot of people said with Yin & Yang : "Why is he doing this? It's a best of album, we've already got these tracks!", but what people didn't understand was that we were playing gigs in Southeast Asia, in South America, South Africa, and people didn't know us there, so we were to use the best of albums to like reintroduce ourselves. And at the same time I had to put these albums out in Europe, and yet again it was just a built up situation. I mean there was a lot of cynicism coming out, and people were saying: "Can't he write anymore?" and things like that! You know, Yin & Yang did a lot for us, but I mean, at the same time, I mean, people want new material, and I've got to give them that new material.
Claus: When you look at Scandinavia, last year you brought us more gigs than you've ever done before. 9 in a row, and they were the best actually, and you're building, and now when you come back again today, you say it's due to the fact that you played so well...
Fish: Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland are really high in the priority list. I mean, I was looking at the sales for the Vigil album up here, and they were incredible, and we should be able to get those sales and more. You know, but again, there has been a lot of problems with promotion up here. I mean, when I got the figures for Yin & Yang from Denmark, I was [dark voice] annoyed! Cause we basically played to more people than we sold records which didn't make sense. But yeah, I mean, this is what I'm saying, I mean, this festival is just beautiful. I mean, if I could take this, and take it back to Scotland and set the site up, this is definitely the finest festival I've ever been at in my life, you know to play here, just the vibe, and everything that's going on is great, the woods, the lake, it's great.
Soren: They call it the most beautiful festival in Denmark...
Fish: There you go. I mean, I love it! If we can come back in the summer, if we can get the album out in March, then we've got an excuse, you know we can say to the promoter: "Please give us more gigs". Because we know that if we play, and you know Kim Worse he saw that on the last tour, you know we went out and we played gigs in places that we've never played before, they gave us a break, and we showed that it worked. We showed that, "give us an audience, and we'll turn them on", you know. And that's why I need really high quality promotion for this album, so it gets a very high profile, so that people are actually talking about what I'm doing again. And if they talk about you, they'll come and see you, and once they see you, you know, nobody's going to leave this band.
Claus: About this being the most beautiful festival, have you noticed the Ram Jam tent over there?
Fish: The what?
Claus: The Ram Jam tent.
Claus: So you know the rules when we sign you up to 1 o'clock?
Fish: Nah [doubtful voice]. When I do a gig in there, that's going to be it. I cannot really see us going down there.
Claus: It's going to be a good laugh.
Fish: Arh, nah.
Claus: It's okay!
Fish: Well, you don't plan stuff like that. It's like planning sex with your wife. "You dress up and wait in the room, and I come in later and we'll do this, and we'll do that", it doesn't work. You just got to go with the feel, what happens, that happens, that's the best. When we played Turkey actually, we did the concert in Turkey to 5.000 people and we got asked out to this disco, and suddenly we were on the stage playing another hour in this disco. It was un-real. But that just happened, we were there and somebody said: "Do you want to get up?", and "Okay, yeah, we went up!".
RCE: Is it okay, if they take some pictures?
Ole: I'll take them later on [the gig was filmed for television for Pressetjenesten by Ole Brandt, TCS].
Fish: Ray Wilson is going to get the job with Genesis.
Soren: Ray Wilson?
Fish: Yes, he used to sing with Stiltskin.
Soren: Oh, I've heard that rumour actually.
Fish: I know Ray. He's on, I don't know if you know the Outpatients album?
Fish: You know the Outpatients album, Claus?
Claus: Yeah. Is he on there?
Fish: The new singer with Genesis is the singer that sings Swing Your Bag.
Claus: Oh, is it? It's like a party song...
Fish: [in swing voice]: "I'm going to swing your bag, wap-bab-baby"...
Claus: Just tell me how he fits in with Genesis?
Fish: I don't know.
Ole: What is Genesis today, anyway?
Fish: Well, the biggest album they ever had, was their last album.
Ole: To me the best album they ever made was Seconds Out and A Trick of the Tail, after that, nothing.
Fish: Yeah, but they had to change. They could not just sit there, they had to change.
Soren: They could not do any progressive rock, because of Phil Collins.
Fish: But the problem with progressive rock is, you know, you can put bits together, and eventually the bits may be different, but they still sound the same.
Ole: It was like they were influenced by Peter Gabriel still on A Trick in the Tail and Seconds Out...
Fish: I was actually hoping that Peter was going to go back to the band, I thought that was going to be the best move they could do, to put Peter back with the band for an album. Because I think that would have been very interesting, now Peter having done his solo stuff, and could go back in. Cause he was working with them last year doing a lot of the remixes and things.
Soren: You say that A Trick of the Tale and Seconds Out were still great albums, but after that Steve Hackett left. And I actually think that made a bigger change.
Fish: Yeah. For me, I would have liked to see Gabriel and Hackett come back in, you know, and the influences, with Hackett doing Brazilian stuff, and Gabriel used new world stuff, and then Tony's sensibility and Mike's pop thing, that's an interesting mixture.
Yatta: [enters the room] It's time.
Fish: Oh, my manager. No more record company executives. Gentlemen, I've got to see Little Feat.
Interview 10th August 1996