Fish interview (by phone) with Bruno Deltombe of the Company France, transcribed by Mo Warden. Anything written in [square brackets] is indecipherable or uncertain, some of the sound quality was poor.
Bruno Deltombe: How are you?
Fish: A lot of good things happening today. It looks like I've finally got that Polish video, we're talking to this guy in Poland who's been acting as the middle man, so he can talk Polish to the Polish... and he's got it, at one seventh of the price they wanted for the Krakow sets. It's not finalised but it looks like we should have that, so we'll put that out in February/March just before 'Raingods' comes out. Brilliant, brilliant video.
Bruno: Alain (Company France) has told me because he had a satellite, you know? He recorded the half an hour they played on Polish TV. So he showed me, once when I was in Lyon. It's brilliant, I love it.
Fish: Yeah. The new video will be ready in about two weeks, we reckon. T-shirt is on it's way, about another two weeks. The Haddington tapes, we're working on them now, Elliot's up just now. I've got the German video and that's just got to be mastered but that won't be done until the middle of December because Calum's really busy. And the Haddington tapes won't be mastered until the middle of December as well. So that means the Haddington tapes and the German video, it's probably going to be January by the time that's all ready.
Bruno: Cool! It's very busy!
Fish: It is, it's really good. There's a lot of things happening. I've got a big meeting on Monday with the guys about the house, about the planning. If he says no then it's going to make it tough for us but we're still going to go for the house. If he says yes, then it means that we'll definitely be able to keep the house.
Bruno: The equipment is shut down now, it's up for sale.
Fish: Yep, the equipment is now up for sale, it starts moving out of the studio on Monday. The last thing that's going to be done here is the Haddington tapes.
Bruno: I have an amount of questions here, Alain gave me questions, and Jean-Pierre (Company France). Let's start with 'Raingods', it's the big thing people are waiting for, so.. As you know I heard some bits at Roadrunner and I like it very much. So, first question - is there a concept behind it?
Fish: Yeah, but it's very difficult to explain. It's really funny because I read a review of a Family album in Mojo magazine recently, and it said "This is an incredible album, it's got folk, it's got jazz, it's got rock, it's got this, it's got that" and it said "Why don't people do albums like that any more?" and we were in the middle of 'Raingods' and that's what 'Raingods' is, it's that sort of album. Although it's got a theme that runs right the way through it, it's very difficult to explain. I mean, 'Tumbledown' is about somebody on the verge of breaking up, every time he tries to build something it falls apart. You could say that within some of the songs there's the relationship, how it affects his relationship and how his relationship's falling apart. There's this whole thing about how he feels better on his own and there's two religious songs like the 'Faith Healer' thing, which has got that sort of new wave religion feel to it. Against something like - let's say for example 'Tilted Cross' which is like an old wave religion thing.
Bruno: I read the lyrics on the Net and I was wondering, is this a funeral?
Fish: It becomes like a funeral, a little bit. 'Plague of Ghosts', when it goes into it, it's like... the guy dies, you don't know whether it's a drug overdose, whether he's tried suicide or whether he's just basically called himself back from reality. He's regressed, you know? And really that's up to the person to decide where that's at. But at the end he kind of comes through and he realises that there's no point in letting things happen to him, that he's got to make them happen himself. It's quite inspiring in some ways, I was very desperate to make sure the ending was very up. That it was a message thing, you know?
Bruno: On the lyrical side, don't say too much, they'll discover it, eh? (laughs)
Fish: Yeah, that's kind of how I feel about this album, every song can be taken as an individual song, or you can find a thread, there is something in there. But I think it's got a lot to do with my frame of mind in the same way as, you know, be it 'Clutching at Straws' or 'Internal Exile' or 'Vigil', or be it 'Sunsets'. It's got a lot to do with my frame of mind at this moment in time. And I'm feeling on the verge of major change, so the album and the lyrics is very reflective of the mood.
Bruno: Musically, I have this impression, it sums up maybe everything you did as a solo act.
Fish: Let me ask you something, did the version that you heard have lyrics at the end and everything? Or was it all musical at the end, instrumental?
Bruno: 'Plague'? Yes, it was with lyrics and stuff, yeah.
Fish: OK then, what you've heard is the mixed rough but it's not been mastered. Because there's a version that Roadrunner have got that's got no lyrics at the end.
Bruno: I have the sensation it was a kind of musical mixture of what you did before and placing it in the future, 'Plague' is a kind of blending.
Fish: That's it, you've got it in one, that's exactly where it's at. It's like, after the confidence coming from the 'Sunsets' album, and knowing that I couldn't repeat 'Sunsets' and I had to push it further. And I just got braver. I just felt more confident and I just felt that, you know, being more brave I could take in different types of music and I really wanted to experiment a bit on this one because I knew I could make it work. I didn't want to fall into the trap. A lot of people, when I said "it's a 27 minute track" and everybody went "oh fuck, it's like 'Grendel 2'" or 'Misplaced' - and I'm going "no". Some people have heard it since and have gone "fuck me!" (laughs). I've not had one negative on it at all. Not one single negative on the album. I mean, if Mark Wilkinson had turned round and said that he didn't really like 'Mission Statement'... but 'Plague of Ghosts', everybody that's heard Plague has gone "wow, incredible".
Bruno: That was my reaction too. You know 'Clutching' is the album I love the most from Marillion, ever. I think you've got a mixture of 'Sunsets' at the beginning of the track, some 'Jungle' in the middle which I think is really brilliant because it's not David Bowie doing 'Jungle' with the rhythm at the front, all rhythm and no melodies behind.
Fish: The melody was really important on this.
Bruno: Yes, and at the end I have the sensation that the last two tracks - it's very 'Clutching 2000', you know?
Fish: Yeah, but it's very removed from that. I think it's just me growing up. I think I was very confident of my singing, of my approach to this. You can hear jazz Sinatra-type phrasing in it. And I was really proud of that because working on the off-beat, like I was doing, was really difficult. Having a very forceful beat but taking a relaxed attitude towards the vocal on it, rather than it being very syncopated. I think five years ago I would have been right bang, bang, bang on the beat. But it's now, you know, it's very lazy across it, it's got a very blues/jazz feel. But at the same time it's incredibly effective.
Bruno: I was really impressed. I can't say I understand all the track now because I don't know it enough, you know?
Fish: As soon as it's mastered, Bruno, I'll send a copy across.
Bruno: Cool. But like I said in my e-mail, the singing is like a mixture of the 'Sunsets' singing and maybe the singing from before. You know what I mean, more quiet in a way. More relaxed.
Fish: Relaxed but intense, which is a contradiction in terms, but it fits it.
Bruno: It made me laugh in a way because I think that the Positive Light guys are really Mark Kelly from 2000, you know what I mean? Because they play themes on the piano, on the keyboard, that you can remember very easily. But their songs are ambient or techno sounds. And it fits!
Fish: Yeah, well they're really fired up, I mean they'd already sent this stuff up to me going like "can we do this in the next stuff, can we do this in the next album?". But I gave them the idea behind [good stuff that I had already] and they'd been throwing ideas together for that and I'm going "whoa, whoa! Ow!". But they're really fired up. And Tony Turrell is a very inspiring keyboard player. I think they're very exciting.
Bruno: That's it for 'Raingods', I think. Next question, where is Steve Hichcock? Who was supposed to be involved in 'Raingods', at the beginning.
Fish: Oh yeah, I lost contact with him. He was someone that Avril (Macintosh) had suggested, it was just one of those things where we met up and it was a good meeting but it never moved on another step.... but perhaps, you know? He's a very interesting guy, in his approach and things but it just didn't work. We just used different people. By the time we came to doing the 'Raingods With Zippos' album we were in a situation where, you know, I'd been down to the castle at Marouatte which meant that there was a shape that had already started to take form. So when Mark (Daghorn) and Tony (Turrell) came up there was no need to get anybody else involved because we knew where it was. I've not spoken to him for about 6 or 7 months.
Bruno: When you met him you said it was a kind of 'Nine Inch Nails with violins'
Fish: Yeah, I kind of followed that through into the 'Plague' stuff that I did with Elliot (Ness).
Bruno: And on 'Faith Healer'
Fish: Yeah. Exactly.
Bruno: I thought of Paradise Lost or Nine Inch Nails. Very, very modern. The singing is like... there is a kind of breathing at the end of the song and it's like... Alien, the movie!
Fish: Yeah. It's supposed to have that feel of 'Silence of the Lambs', that sort of vibe. It's totally evil.
Bruno: Was the team totally different this time - I suppose so, there were lots of guests and stuff but were the usual guys there?
Fish: Well, yeah, Squeaky and Steve played a big part in it, Robin played a big part on all the acoustics and of course Steve Wilson came in to do the electrics (guitar). Til (from Berlin - Tammi's cousin) did some rhythm stuff, Robin did a little bit of electric rhythm, and the keyboards were mostly Tony Turrell, I mean, Mickey did not do as much on this album as other people. It was funny when I played the album at the weekend people listening to Tony's playing and going "Oh that's Mickey" and I'm going "no, that's not Mickey, that's Tony Turrell".
Bruno: What does Mickey play? Does he play 'Tumbledown' intro and outro?
Fish: Yeah. He plays some of that intro and outro and he plays on 'Rites of Passage'. But Tony did all the 'Plague of Ghosts' stuff. Between the two of them, we had two great keyboard players working on the album, you know? But.. I mean... that things are... there's going to be a change next tour.
Bruno: Mickey leaving
Fish: I think so. Mickey's in a different headspace, every time we get together for periods of time it's great, but once we've been together for a while, it's kind of like, we have to get away from each other. And I think we're at that stage at the moment. Mickey does not like 'Tumbledown'. He really doesn't like it.
Bruno: He wrote the song but he doesn't like the treatment?
Fish: No, because I kinda have a lot to do with the way [we go on] and there were certain of the sounds that I really didn't like, I felt they were too dated. I think Mickey felt that those sounds were correct for it, and I didn't, and at the end of the day it was my choice and I decided to let Steve Wilson take the guitar and to play a far more dominant role at the top of the track. Mickey tends to take these things a little bit to heart, you know? He said to Steve Vantsis "I wash my hands of this" which indicates to me that he doesn't really identify with this album. I don't want to have anybody playing on the road that doesn't identify with it so I think it's time for a change.
Bruno: When I listen to 'Tumbledown's intro/outro I thought of Tony Banks from Genesis, really classic, 'Firth of Fifth', you know?
Fish: There's space for that. Mickey's got two songs on the album, great. But I really felt the chemistry in the band needed recharging. You recharge it by bringing in different people. That's one of the bonuses of being solo and having session musicians. It is possible to change the chemistry, I mean, I really want to take a female backing vocalist out on the next tour. That suddenly brings a whole new dimension into the band because suddenly we've got 'Just Good Friends', 'Favourite Strangers', 'Sunsets on Empire', 'Plague of Ghosts', 'Incomplete', 'Tilted Cross'... bang! There's at least half the set already arranged. And the 'Clutching at Straws' material, I've got a really big kick out of playing that recently and I'd like to try and bring that in and re-examine that material in a way and maybe create some sort of medley vibe, I don't know. Within that piece, you know?
Bruno: Will you try some day... 'Just For The Record'? (laughs)
Fish: I've never liked that song.
Bruno: Too difficult?
Fish: No, I've just never liked it. You've got people on the Freaks list going on about 'Going Under'.. blah blah blah... between 'Going Under' and 'Just For The Record' - fuck me - I'd rather have 'Going Under' on an album.
Bruno: To end up with Mickey, just I was surprised because, as I said, on 'Tumbledown' it's very classical piano from the 70's.
Fish: I knew, as soon as I was putting the lyric together for 'Tumbledown', that it had to be the lead track on the album because... as you're listening to it there's a lot of little games going on - I'm not going to tell you what they are - there's obvious lyrical references but there's also musical references within it that go into 'Plague of Ghosts'. In the same way as 'Lavender' that came across all the way through the album on 'Misplaced'. 'Tumbledown' is the same as that, it's a lead track but there's a lot of bits of it - it's kind of like an introduction. It's funny because I've been reading a guy called Syd Field, who is an American screenwriter, and I've been studying screen-writing in the last week or so, just reading it up in books, just putting things in my head for next year. And it's funny, the way he talks about writing a screenplay is exactly the same way that I approach writing.. putting together something like 'Plague of Ghosts' or, more importantly, putting together an album. You've got to have introductions, you've to catch people in the first ten pages, and then you've got to take them on a journey.
Bruno: A question about the situation, I remember January when you sent that e-mail, very difficult e-mail.
Fish: Well, fuckin' hell, yeah!
Bruno: Since then there's been a lot done.
Fish: We've done a lot this year. We've been boxing very cleverly this year, and we've got to the stage where... I come from an old school, I've not come from the 1980's Margaret Thatcher school of yuppies, where it's like... you form a company, the companies get fucked, you've overspent your money, you kill the companies and fuck everybody else over. That's never been my attitude. My dad brought me up very well, when you've got debts, you pay the fuckin' debts off. So what we did was through this year we've been paying all the company debts off, I've got it all paid. So now the only people we owe money to is the bank. And we've had long discussions with the bank in the last two months, and the bank are very supportive of what my plan is at the moment. We tried to sell the studio and nobody's interested in it, it's a bad time to sell studios and I think it'll be a bad time for the next... probably a hundred years. The problem was that both Tammi and I felt, with this house, we both went "we don't like it", you know? And we kind of convinced ourselves that we didn't like it, I mean, it was about two months ago we'd been looking about and we were excited about trying to find a new place but at the same time, we realised that we were never going to find a place that we loved as much as this. It was like, "OK, do you want to keep the house? Do you want to fight for the house?", and Tammi and I both sat down one night and said "right, we want to go for it". Tara loves the place, Tara was up for this as well, and I said "right, OK, let's find a way to make it work. We can't sell the studio, so we sell the equipment, we shut the studio down". So, as of Monday, the equipment is moving out of the studio, we're selling it. There's a lot of bids already for the equipment. So we shut the label down, Roadrunner now work it so we don't need the staff, so we don't have the overheads and taking away all the wages and all the overheads that go with running a company, like commercial rates and things, has made us able to live a lot cheaper than we were doing a year ago. What we're trying to do at the moment is get planning permission to build three small houses in the garden because we don't need all the land. If we can put three houses on the land that we own, on the plot, if we can get the money for that then it helps reduce the debt. But even if we don't get that there's a way we can do it, that if we get lucky with 'Plague of Ghosts', if it goes out and sells 250,000 albums world-wide, then with the back catalogue... then we're looking at a situation where, financially, we should be able to take the debt down enough to make it like... I wouldn't say "an easy mortgage" but a handle-able mortgage, you know? All the money I make from music is going into paying off my debts, and the money that I'm going to be living off is the money that I make from acting and writing, and all the other bits and pieces. And the merchandise, basically, so between the acting and what we sell of merchandise through the fan club, that is what keeps me alive, the rest is paying off the debts. And if I do it this way, it means that although I don't have the equipment I've still got the sound rooms which means I can rehearse and I can write in there, and with the computers and the technology that's available now I can bring in equipment to record the albums to a certain standard and then go into a major studio for a far smaller amount of time. Which means I've still got the working facility of the house, I can still keep all the equipment that I've got here, and I've still got my offices here so I can write, and at the end of the day it becomes a family house. It's no longer a studio.
Bruno: What I find amazing is that in January it was very depressed but then there is this new deal, the best deal you had for six years - you found it, at last - there was a publishing deal for a novel, there was acting, already two parts for TV and another in February for 'Gladiators', I still wonder, how do you find the strength to do all that? When you come from so far down?
Fish: It's just the way I learnt to fight, Bruno. When I was a kid I learned to fight that way. When somebody comes at you, you hit them fuckin' too hard right back. You just got to keep on hitting the fucker. And that's the way I looked at it, I could have lain on my back, put my hands and legs in the air and gone "OK, I'm dead". But what would that have done? I've still got to look after my wife, I've still got to look after my kid, and I've still got to find a living. There's no point in just walking away from it, you've got to accept your responsibilities, deal with it and try to find a way out of it. And the way I look at it, it's like, keep your mind focused, keep it strong and you'll find a way. 'Plague of Ghosts' is very representative of where I've been in the last year.
Bruno: Yeah, it sums it up musically and lyrically and.. in fact, totally. Is it a track you've got in your coat all day long and you show to people in the business and stuff?
Fish: I'd say, some of them, when I get the CDR. At the moment it's on DAT and I've got a problem with DAT machines so I don't play it as much, but once I get the CD it's something that I'd play a lot. I get a real big kick out of listening to this track that I don't normally get... I mean, 'Sunsets' was the first one for a long time - 'Goldfish and Clowns' and things like that - I went "fuckin' hell, that's brilliant". I like it myself and that might sound a bit strange, but 'Plague of Ghosts' is the same, I've got total confidence when I play it to people that it's convincing them, it's like saying "look, don't think I'm fuckin' dead yet, my heart is still beating here" and I think, seeing the reactions makes me feel very up. Because people recognise that after all these years and the fight that we've been through is kind of worth it, you know? And it's like "wait a minute, this is not a dead artist, this is somebody that's still making relevant music" and that's why when I wrote all the sleeve notes for all those albums some people said "fuck, you can't write that, that's so down!" but I said "look, I can't lie", I can't turn round and say we did really good in Poland and lie about the other shit that was going about because the music was made in that. The music, what comes out of me creatively, is relevant to what happens to me personally. It's paralleled completely. I think people can hear, when they look at, you know, from 'Internal Exile' onward, and see what we've been through and read the sleeve notes and understand the chaos and sometimes the depression and the negativity that was around us at that time, perhaps we'll get a little bit more respect for what we've done and people won't just write off some of these things that were done at the time. They'll understand why that happened, and the approach and everything, and the way my head was working. Why 'Songs From The Mirror' happened. Why we took so long to make 'Suits'. Why 'Suits' and 'Internal Exile' were... it was kind of like... if you look at 'Internal Exile' we're on the way down, the 'Songs From The Mirror' was the lowest point, and when 'Suits' came out it matched 'Internal Exile', and then 'Sunsets' has gone up to 'Vigil' heights and now the next album... it's like a big three... it's like going down one side, going into the bottom of the trench and coming out the other side and coming over the top.
Bruno: What was the reaction of someone like Lucy Jordache when you met her and you played 'Plague of Ghosts', because she's a long-time fan of the Marillion stuff, what was her reaction to this track?
Fish: It was interesting, because Lucy is... I mean, I love Lucy to death but Lucy's a record company person and every day she's played new stuff. I kind of watched her and her reaction was not negative, but at the end of the day when she went home and she was thinking about it, she sent me a really beautiful e-mail. I think Lucy recognises this album for what it is, a big springboard, and if Roadrunner do their job right and I do my job right we could be in a situation where.. I mean, I don't think it's going to go out and sell a million records but I think it's going to do that magic 300,000 or 500,000 figure, I think it's capable of doing that with the right work behind it.
Bruno: I'm not sure people understand the values that you have and why you do things, as you say, why 'Suits', why stuff like that. Do you think they would understand, if they were fans of Marillion or at least the fans of progressive music, that 'Plague' can be a kind of progressive stuff for 2000, not from the seventies?
Fish: Yeah, I'm aware of those old fans, I'm aware of the Marillion fans, I'm aware that there's a lot of people who don't follow either band. I'm aware that the current Marillion have lost a lot of fans as well. 'Plague of Ghosts' can go in and excite those people but I'm not looking at dragging things from the past I'm looking at dragging people from the present. Elliot Ness, his brother played 'Sunsets on Empire' at his college, and everybody's going "wow!", they think it's fuckin' brilliant, they've never heard it. And that's more where I'm at, the same way as Floyd, I mean you're going to get a lot of energy from a certain era of fans, but at the same time you're still hoping that there's going to be people out there that are going.... The word of mouth thing is very important to me, it always has been. Since the beginning of my career, word of mouth has been important. 'Raingods' has got the ability to create a flash fire and it's going to spread. I remember when Mike Oldfield came out, when I was a kid at school and 'Tubular Bells' came out and it wasn't advertised, you know? But it was kids in school saying "fuck me, I love this track and it's brilliant". 'Tubular Bells' had it's major theme which was used in the film, and I think the secret to 'Raingods' is getting a single. In the same way as 'Misplaced Childhood' was, people were exposed to it in millions because of 'Kayleigh' and I think that it's a possibility that there are songs on 'Raingods With Zippos' that are strong enough to be able to create that big, high-profile single that's going to attract people to the album. I think 'Incomplete' is a great way of bringing people in because I think it represents the feel of the album. In the same way as 'Kayleigh' was part of 'Misplaced Childhood', it fits perfectly within it, but at the same time on it's own it can exist as a great song. But I think that Roadrunner have the capability that Dick Brothers never had, to deliver a song to radio. I feel confident, very, very confident. And the thing is, the more relaxed I am, the better I'm going to be able to deal with it. And not having Dick Brothers and since I haven't had the studio I'm becoming more relaxed. That what comes with having the confidence of having made an album like that, and the confidence that's coming off the acting career, etc. I'm supremely confident at the moment. And if I'm going into interviews and going in to do bits and pieces, and that's reflected from me, then people are going to feed off that. In the same way, you do one TV, yet get another TV, you do two TVs you get three TVs, that's the way it works. My profile is at that point where - as I've always said to you - people start going "yeah, Fish" and walk into a record shop and they go "ah, I wonder what he's doing now" and that's where the old fans come into play. That when people who are aware of what I used to do suddenly go "let's just go and have a look at this guy again". In the same way, it happened to Pink Floyd, you know? And Bruce Springsteen, when he came out with 'Born in the USA', the one single off a brilliant album, and everybody went "ah, 'The River' is a great album and so's 'Nebraska'" and stuff like that. And it catapulted him into the big time. I think 'Raingods' could possibly do that.
Bruno: I tend to think that in the musical press, especially the fashionable press - that tend to say "yeah, we know what's in and out", you know - they would never admit that it's brilliant. Even if they know it.
Fish: I don't know, I think I disagree with you. I think there's a certain coolness that radiates from 'Raingods'. There's something different in there, and it's got the songs, it's got the lyric, it's got the melodies, it's got the structure and it's got the drama. And there's no reason, it's better than 'Sunsets', and I was really worried, I admit, I will tell you honest - I was shitting bricks after 'Sunsets' thinking "how the fuck am I going to beat this?", you know? And the most incredible thing that happened to me, between then and now, was the Castle Marouatte sessions. Because I suddenly took myself away from the business and put myself in the purest song-writing situation, and I went "fuck me, I can write songs!" (laughs)
Bruno: I think you've topped 'Sunsets'. I think so too! (laughs). So what's going to be on the sleeve of the album?
Fish: I'm organising a photographer at the moment, and basically it's myself standing in a suit, like a black tuxedo sort of vibe, I'm standing there with an umbrella and it's a blue sky behind me with all these different colours and shapes on the sky. The umbrella's black but it's got pictures of rain gods on it, and it's a blue sky but underneath the umbrella it's raining. It's very Magritte in some ways, and very surreal in some others. But I'm standing there with a golden Zippo with a blue flame, under an umbrella that's got dark clouds and rainfall. Mark Wilkinson's going to put that together on the computer and he's already done illustrations for every track on the album, all generated on the computer and some of them are absolutely brilliant. It's going to be a very different cover but Mark actually showed some of the ideas to an American art-house person and she thought it was incredible. She said with this style we could get you tons of work in America. It's just brilliant artwork. So both Mark and I are changing, Mark's moving into computers now and I'm moving into my style of music, so we're both undergoing a big change at moment.
Bruno: Do you think that the Americans for instance can like stuff like you did on 'Sunsets' or 'Suits'?
Fish: Yes. I think America's going to kick off on 'Kettle'. I think 'Kettle's going to get a lot of people interested and I've got a lot of high hopes for America as a whole with Canada and the USA. And I think it could fill a big gap in my career and if we're accepted in America to some degree then I think the acceptance in Europe is going to go higher. In France, more so than any other country - not because I'm on the phone to you but in France there's a lot of very strong possibilities with this album, probably more so than Germany. There's been a constant build in France whereas in Germany it's been a very different vibe. I think France is going to be an exciting territory with this 'Raingods' album, I'm expecting one of the most positive reactions to come from France myself.
Bruno: I think it's possible, because there are still fans for this music. When I said "this music" I wasn't thinking of old-fashioned progressive rock, but nouveau progressive.
Fish: It's the Floyd-isms that I think the French are going to go for, they're going to get off on the emotion of it all, on the jazz of it all. That's my feeling as an outsider. I think the Dutch will go for it, but it's going to be interesting to see what Germany does. But I think that if the single happens, the air-play happens, then I can't see any reason why this album cannot take me back up three or four rungs. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to be a millionaire - you go out and sell a million albums, it's a pain in the fuckin' arse.
Bruno: Yeah, it's difficult. I saw an interview with you on the Buzzbox site, was a big interview about 'Sunsets' and as you said, in the 80's it was long-term contracts and stuff and in the 90's they play safe. Safer than ever. What we were thinking, with the people at Roadrunner France, we want to create a surprise.
Fish: Yeah, Duran Duran did it. It was funny because there was an interview with Simon Le Bon recently and he said 'Ordinary World' was their biggest-selling single ever, and people thought 'Rio' and stuff was bigger. I really admire Simon and the guys for doing that. Perhaps something similar could happen with 'Raingods', I'd be quite happy but when it comes down to it my main concerns are getting my family sorted out, keeping the house and getting to a stage where I can pay a bill and not have to worry, not go through some of the chaos. I want to get my garden sorted out next year, there's one room that I want to build, it's going to be the writing room. That's what I'm into, not Greek islands and five-star accommodation and first-class travel. I just want to make albums and if I made a huge amount of money then I'd probably go out and buy some stuff and put the studio back together again. But it would just be my thing, it wouldn't be for anybody else, just my one.
Bruno: For Duran Duran it was exactly what you said before, it was a surprise. Nobody was talking about them.
Fish: It was a brilliant song.
Bruno: Yes. When it appeared, people were saying "hey, they're back! I didn't expect that!" It was ten years, we didn't see them. In France it was enormous, I think the single sold one million copies. But what you were explaining in this particular interview - in Buzzbox - was interesting, you said "I'm taking the acting career very seriously and any offers will over-ride tour plans". I think it's the first time you said that.
Fish: Yeah, I was talking to Mo Warden the other day, I was going back over my career and all the way back to 1982 when I had the possibility of going for an audition for the 'Pink' role in 'The Wall', and I said "no, I've got to go with the band" and on the 'Suits' tour it was the 'Braveheart' thing and 'Rob Roy'. Before that there was 'Alien3' and things like that. Every time I've come to a decision where it's been "am I going to do movies or am I going to do music?", I've always gone for the music. Maybe I've been making the wrong decisions. I really think nowadays that you can be just a musician all the time. You've got to try and develop your profile in a lot of other areas and acting is providing a huge level of excitement for me, a lot of confidence, I'm enjoying meeting other people who are opening different doors for me all of which benefit the music. If I do get that Ridley Scott film then suddenly Hollywood opens up, then America, then you become a name and suddenly you're into the Keanu Reeves bit where you become a famous actor and then all of a sudden you launch a band career and you've got something on the other side. Kris Kristofferson did it, Herbert Grunamar (?) did it with 'Das Boot' across in Germany, there's a lot of people who are have a really successful song-writing career but, at the same time, are successful actors. And that's what I'd like to do, balance my life out so that I get my creative kicks from movies and music simultaneously but they're both benefiting from each other. There's no point in me going out on another eight month tour with this album, even if it was a huge success I don't think it would be beneficial to my life, my family or my psychology to go out on another tour like that. What I'd rather do is go out and be really fuckin' good on the gigs that we are going to do, rather than going out and over-killing. Let's just keep people interested, we tour regularly but not in huge chunks like that. I've got to be honest, if the band booked a tour and I got a phone call that said "Steven Spielberg would like you to come in and do this" I'd rather go for the movie, because I've done that, I've done the touring, a lot of touring and I want to make sure that when I do go on the road that I'm walking onto the stage and I want to be there and I'm really getting a kick out of my performances. At the end of the last tour - recent gigs like in Malta - I wasn't getting that kick. Wasn't getting as high and it was starting to feel humdrum and if I feel bored on stage, people are going to see that and then it doesn't become the gig and I'm known for doing really good gigs. I want to make sure that when I do walk on stage in Paris, in Lyon, in Bordeaux, or Berlin or Copenhagen or wherever, that I'm walking onto that stage because I want to be there.
Bruno: It's good that you're going into other territories, like acting and novelist.
Fish: Yeah, that book or screenplay is going to take a bit of time to get together but I'm making the time. One of the things I'm looking at doing is the garden, knocking down all the old sheds at the back and I want to do that myself, go out and get some physical work done. You're out there doing manual labour and you're starting to think a little bit about stuff, you get ideas - my mind tends to work like that, you know? It's developing a healthier approach to life.
Bruno: The novel is a kind of natural progression for a lyricist.
Fish: It's scary! It's as scary as when I did my first-ever acting role. I'm reading books about things at the moment, about structure, I'm studying for the first time in years. I'm taking this acting, this writing thing very seriously. It's not like "I'm Fish, and everything I do is going to be brilliant!". I really want to put the work in and learn how to do it properly and make sure that when it does come out it's done with respect. Taken seriously for itself.
Bruno: People ask: On the last tour, on the tour before, there was no big light show, there was no screen, no stuff because maybe they don't understand the costs, what it means financially.
Fish: And it's going to be more expensive. I'm not going to kid anybody else on this. I'm not going out for these ten pound ticket prices, I'm talking to my agent, we've got a meeting in the first or second week in December. I've already said to him, look, I don't give a fuck, the promoters are going to have to agree that we're going for a certain type of ticket price, you want a light show, it's got to come off the ticket price it's not going to come off my bank manager. I am never, ever going to go on a tour again unless I am guaranteed that I'm going to make money off it. It's no good just breaking even, I'm not going to spend six weeks of my life on a tour where I'm not making money and that's not being greedy, it's being absolutely goddam realistic. I was walking on stage in Grenoble and Lyon and I knew I'd lost two thousand pounds before I even got to the microphone. I can't do that any more. I've gambled my house, I've taken so many gambles and I cannot gamble on that sort of basis any more. As I said before I'm not the sort of person who's [going to pull out] when the tour's going down, I'm going to fuck over the trucks, I'm going to fuck over the lighting company and I'm going to fuck over the crew. If we go out it's to make money and I want a wage like everybody else next time. And I think I can do that, make it work with a higher ticket price, a shorter tour and playing the right venues. And some sort of sponsorship, and maybe an event bill with another band. We were talking about Porcupine Tree but Steve says they've already booked a tour and they've got their thing sorted out. I think there's a very strong chance that we're going out with at least one other 'name' outfit next tour.
Bruno: Good idea. Personally, in Lyon, what I was going to say to you was "go home, my friend!". Even the best fans in the world didn't deserve what you did in Lyon. I felt really bad for you. You were ill, you had the bad knee, you know? It was too much.
Fish: Yeah, but I needed to save my reputation, you know? And it's a reputation as a very solid live performer. I want to make sure that when I go out on the next tour with 'Raingods' that the gigs are going to be stunning. I want a great light show, I want to make sure of the sound. I was in the airport yesterday and I met a guy from the Isle of Man, you know they have the TT races there, and he said "why don't you come up here, would you like to play?" and I went "fuck, yeah! And I'll do it" and he said "what you need is real [production/promotion] on [the island]" and I phoned up Yatta today - he's in Germany with Status Quo and I said look, I think we've got production sorted out for next May, the guy's giving us some serious money for it. But the Gerard Drouot's of this world are not the sort of people I want to work with any more.
Bruno: I understand that. (laughs) He's the guy who charges the most expensive tickets for the least impressive shows!
Fish: The way I look at it, I don't want to go and play to 200 people in Paris next time. I'd like to think that we can go and do the Olympia. I'd rather do an event show at the Olympia than a small club show.
Bruno: Or the Bataclan, or there are some places, of course. Even on the last tour, you could have made it.
Fish: Yeah, we could have. But now with Roadrunner, I've got a record company behind me, and there's a big difference with a promoter working with a record company in the area rather than just a distribution company. The distribution company are not going to be that interested in the promoter whereas Roadrunner are going to want to work absolutely together with the promoter to make the whole thing work. And that's the difference in attitude, Bruno.
Bruno: You answered me on the Porcupine Tree possibility, so it's no way. It's a shame! It would have been a great deal! And Steve Wilson playing with you too, there's no way because he's going to be on the road...
Fish: There's things that.. I mean, as a joint touring possibility... he'd booked a tour already.
Bruno: So, we're going to have some new guys in the band this time? Steve and Squeaky might be there, but...
Fish: Steve and Squeaky are both telling me that they want to be in the band, and I want them in the band, so I think that's agreed. The backing vocalist, I don't know yet. The keyboard player, I'm not 100% certain, but 95% it's going to be Tony Turrell. And the guitarist is going to be - I hope - Robin. He says he wants to do it, he's free at the time we're talking about touring, but if Robin can't do it then we'll find another guitarist. But I've got the time, this isn't like the last tour. If I can book the advance stuff then I can say to Robin, right, I want you locked off on these dates. But the touring thing... I'm more concerned with the Ridley Scott film than I am with the tour at the moment.
Bruno: There were a lot of questions from the fan club and on the Net I saw about the 'Clutching' remaster. You met Lucy Jordache and you said there are some tapes from '88 so people are already smiling! We talked about it a year ago and you were not sure about the half-finished stuff going onto the remaster. What changed your mind?
Fish: If it helps to sell the record then it helps to sell the record. The way I look at it - and I'm going to be absolutely straight about this again - 'Clutching at Straws' is coming out at the same time as 'Raingods With Zippos'.
Bruno: In March, yeah.
Fish: Yep. So it benefits me as much as it benefits the Marillos as much as it benefits EMI. If 'Clutching' can go and sell 150,000 albums because it's got some stuff on it that nobody's ever heard before, that was part of the missing sessions, then great! I'm over the moon because it's helping me. It helps me keep the house. And at the same time the fans are discovering something, etc. but most importantly the profile that's going to develop about that and the awareness of what happening, then if makes people aware of 'Raingods With Zippos' then that's where I am at. You can rest assured that 'Raingods' is going to be mentioned a lot of times on that 'Clutching at Straws' sleeve! (laughs) It's a chance to advertise what I'm doing now from something that was from that era, and I find it ironic that 'Clutching at Straws' is coming out at the same time as probably the best album I've done since 'Clutching'...
Bruno: (laughs) It's cool! The only thing I regret, already, is that it's not Calum Malcolm who's going to remaster it.
Fish: Ah! That's something I've been talking to Lucy about. I want to get Lucy to have a look at that, when she looks at the purchase stuff, you know?
Bruno: Calum is so brilliant. There's so many differences between his work and the Abbey Road works. Totally different. On 'Internal Exile' (remaster) I heard stuff, noises that I never heard on the CD, on vinyl, on cassette, never. On 'Suits' I discovered a million things.
Fish: Yeah. I was the same, when I heard the [DAT] I went "fuck me! I remember doing this but I can't remember ever hearing it since!".
Bruno: I don't think people really realise that Calum's work - not only on the remasters but production - Steve Hogarth is a big fan of Calum, you know? He wanted Calum in the studio for his solo album. So, if he could remaster 'Clutching' it would be brilliant because, with this album I already know what's going to happen, they're going to push the basses and the drums, and it's going to be bombastic but we won't have the depth of it. 'Warm Wet Circles' and 'That Time of the Night', they deserve so much depth.
Fish: That's something I'm going to talk to Lucy about, rest assured. Again, the band are going to have to make a decision, they outnumber me four to one, you know? And if they decide to go with the EMI guy then fair enough, but I reckon it's worth giving Calum at least a shot.
Bruno: What everyone wants to know now - maybe it's too early - is what are the bonus tracks from '88?
Fish: I don't know. I have no idea, Bruno, I've got to look through some of my tapes as well, on these sessions. I don't even know what I've got, they're all on unmarked tapes I've got lying in boxes that we'll have to go through. We'll have to spend about four days going through them.
Bruno: I have an even more difficult question (laughs), Jean-Pierre read in a magazine in 1986 that in the working titles of 'Clutching' there was a song called 'Beaujolais Day'. What happened to this song?
Fish: Nothing. It's a lyric that was never used.
Bruno: There was no music for it?
Fish: I think Marillion used some of it on 'Seasons End' but I can't remember what it is. Lyrically, it was never resolved. It's something that might happen on the next album, I don't know. I've still got my bits and pieces about it, it's about a visit to Jim Morrison's grave on Beaujolais day.
Bruno: Ah, you were in Paris and you visited it.
Bruno: OK. Next, the Sparks cover ('This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both Of Us'), is it going to be a B-side or is it going to be something else?
Fish: I don't know. I've got no idea what's going to happen to that. It's now sitting, half-finished, in a tape somewhere. There's no lead vocal on it. We'll have to just see how it goes.
Bruno: I discovered the track very recently, when I heard you were going to cover it. It's amazing!
Fish: It's a great song. It's a great rush we got from playing it. We may use it somewhere, some time. It's there, all the drums and stuff are there and a lot of the lead instruments, but let's just see how it goes. And I've got a version of Rickie Lee Jones' 'Skeletons' on a tape that I did with Mickey, and there's a couple of other wee bits and pieces of songs all kicking around.
Bruno: One thing you mentioned earlier, is you want to keep your profile as a performer. I read something on the Net - they were saying "yeah, I went to a Marillion concert and I saw Hogarth and he didn't say anything and didn't talk to the audience" which he did in Paris, in fact, but at this concert - in Germany - it seems that he didn't do it. You had a totally different approach when you began on-stage, there was make-up and stuff maybe to hide some anxiety. After that, when you stopped using the make-up, you began to speak to the audience more and more and as a solo act I think it became one of your trade marks. How did you develop it, was it really natural?
Fish: Confidence. It was just a natural accumulation of confidence.
Bruno: Sometimes it can be scary on-stage.
Fish: Oh yeah! There's times, yeah. You get hecklers in there that won't shut up. Everybody else is laughing but the heckler still keeps on going at you and he's getting really nasty, then there's very little you can do. I mean, you get to the point where you're just going to have to walk off the stage and give him a good kicking. But if you can make people laugh then you can normally chill out and it's over. I've been watching this thing on the Freaks list about "why do people shout things out?". Why? Because it's an interactive thing. It's not a case of people just coming along and watching the band. There should be an interaction there and the frontman should be able to deal with hecklers. He should be able to communicate with the audience and to break what's called the [fourth] wall, it's the wall between the actor and the audience. You should be able to go through that and walk back and forward through it and deal with it. And at the same time it's like you're working with animals, with the greatest respect you don't walk into a shed full of tigers... if you show fear they'll do you in. In the same way, you walk out on stage, you say "wait a minute, you paid to see me, I didn't pay to see you". Even the worst heckler in the world, he paid money to see you play, perform, right? He wants to be part of it, then cool. Then you make him part of it and eventually he'll feel so stupid that he doesnae want to get involved with it any more. (laughs) That's what I do. Steve Hogarth does his bit and I do my bit, you know? We deal with those situations in a very, very different way.
Bruno: Sometimes you have to hide the fact that you are embarrassed with what you say, with the reaction. Does it happen sometimes?
Fish: Yeah, but come on, I'm an entertainer, I'm an actor on a stage, you know? There's a lot of me up there but at the same time there's an actor that's very aware of the situation. It's very much a [feel] thing but at the same time there's a brain that works at the back.
Bruno: I'm laughing because I've got a comparison. In Paris I was very sad for him. I didn't appreciate what the fan did, but...
Fish: Who, Steve?
Bruno: Yeah. At the Marillion concert, last year. This year I found him very confident and living the show, you know? But last year, I don't know what happened, maybe he was not in good shape, but a fan started "Big Wedge" before a Marillion song...
Fish: Oh, what!?
Bruno: He was destroyed, he couldn't say a word any more! Maybe two months later, you were in Paris, you played at the Divan du Monde and someone was going "OK, finish presenting 'Goldfish and Clowns' please", you finished your speech and just before beginning the song, you looked at the guy and said "death on you!". (laughs) And it was the two opposite reactions to the same situation. It was really funny. I thought "one is in his element and the other is still learning".
Fish: I think what Steve Hogarth does is really good, but he's dealing with a similar audience....... (pause) Look, I find it difficult to talk about what Steve does.
Bruno: It wasn't to talk about what he does, but because you said "I'm a performer", you know? People don't see that it's not that easy to be a performer, on stage, to talk to people and to be confident. I don't know many persons on-stage, it's considered to be rough on-stage. It's more than that, maybe. I don't know if the stage is scary....
Fish: It's scary, but you've just got to learn to live with it, it's like working with dogs, working with tigers.
Bruno: Back to my questions. Who was the singer who was supposed to sing on 'Jigsaw' originally?
Fish: Can't remember.
Bruno: There was a name mentioned, it doesn't matter. There was another question about the back catalogue, the other bits of the old stuff you didn't play solo - maybe you are thinking of playing it some time?
Fish: I don't know, some of the really old stuff I don't relate to. I just sort of go "Ee-yuchhh!".
Bruno: Sometimes it's difficult to listen to?
Fish: No, I can't do it as well. That's what it comes down to, I said on the Freaks list. If there's a song I really don't identify with, I won't play it. And that's it, full stop. Like 'Grendel', I won't play it. 'The Web', 'Script', 'Forgotten Sons' I don't identify with. You know, it's not me any more. It's like... it just doesn't make sense for me to play it.
Bruno: What's the last record recently that you found unbelievable?
Fish: Ummm... Don't know. I've got a couple through there (music room) that I want to listen to that were delivered today which are Bob Dylan's Albert Hall concert and a load of Marvin Gaye remasters from the 'Sexual Healing' sessions. The last one that totally blew me away... I can't remember.
Bruno: What is the book you're reading now?
Fish: I'm reading Syd Field's analysis of four screenplays at the moment. I'm reading two books, one's 'Primary Colours' and the other's this Syd Field. I'm currently reading the analysis of 'Thelma and Louise'.
Bruno: OK. Next, the novel you're writing. You said it's unfinished.
Fish: There's loads and loads and loads and loads and loads of work to go yet. I mean, forget it. I was going to tell you not to ask about that again! (laughs)
Bruno: (laughs) OK. About the fact that you're 40 now, you've been a solo artist for ten years. We talked about your ambitions but now about the values you have, as a person, what did change? In particular, about the music business? When you began as a solo act, I suppose you had an idea about what you were going to do and when you look back, do you think you realised all the dreams you had?
Fish: It's still on-going. I mean, I don't like to look back at all. I'm enjoying my life.
Bruno: Another question. Nearly finished! Working with Tony Banks, I read it was still a possibility.
Fish: Yeah, it's possible but I've not talked to him. I'm too busy at the moment, if Tony phoned me up tomorrow and said "can you work on something next week?" I'd go "can't do it". That's kind of where it is at the moment.
Bruno: What's interesting is that you tend to do a lot on your own, a new approach, in your music, even if it fits with what was in the past. But you tend to appreciate to work with people who maybe do another style, even if it's more old-fashioned than yours. How come?
Fish: I just like it. I get a kick out of working with other people and it's like working with old actors. It's all the experiences, and if you get the opportunity to do something then you tend to take it up. Well, I tend to do it. It's good to keep on pushing yourself into different areas.
Bruno: Like the Ayreon stuff?
Fish: Well, that's really tongue-in-cheek, a lot of people haven't got the 'Rocky Horror Show' vibe of that yet. I liked it because... I wouldn't say he was taking the mickey out of it, but he was doing it very tongue-in-cheek, like what the 'Rocky Horror Show' was to glam and rock music. I quite liked it, it was being quite disrespectful but at the same time being very clever. Ayreon's musicianship is immense, he's a very talented guy.
Bruno: About 'Raingods', I'd like to end with this. In 'Plague of Ghosts', we can say that there is some techno-orientated stuff. Do you think it would be great some day to do a complete techno music album?
Fish: Maybe, I don't know. That's another question that's been raised, I don't really want to go into that because there was someone I was talking to about that today and I don't want to mention it again until.. I've got a meeting through these people in the next three weeks. But it's a completely separate project under a completely different name, in fact, some people won't even know that I'm involved in it. Yeah, I'm interested in that. Again, it's like working with different people or working on different films, you know? It's just pushing yourself into different areas and playing about. I'm just having fun, Bruno, I'm learning to have fun with my life again.
Interview 26th November 1998