Interview with Fish by Gary Hill
Music Street Journal: How have your travels in Bosnia and Croatia affected your feelings about the current situation in Kosovo?
Fish: It sharpens them. We had to go in, as far as I was concerned. Nobody likes what's going on down there, but the facts are there. The refugees would have still been getting forced out of those territories and probably less people would have known exactly what was happening to them, if we hadn't gone in. When NATO bombed, the refugees were coming out anyway. NATO's bombing has not caused the refugee problem. We've gone in there for humanitarian reasons, and I saw the evidence of some of the last area conflict when I was up in Bosnia. It's horrific. What you've seen in the papers, it's real, and this is Europe. I mean, for me, I could get on a plane and I could be there in one and a half hours. You think of that as an American, getting on a plane and flying for an hour and a half in America, and you're in a full war zone. Some of the horror stories of these graves and stuff, these things are all true. This isn't like clever photographs being touched up or anything. Somebody had to go in. The Serbian people, as a people, I don't believe genuinely want this war, but you have somebody in charge, Milosevic, who's completely dominating all the proceedings down there. He has the ability to stop it. I don't think NATO are particularly enjoying spending millions and millions and millions and millions of pounds, you know. Nobody wants to be involved in it, but then again, there's people. You know, I'm a father of an 8 year old daughter, and it chills me to the bone to think of my family being in a situation like that. I would like to think that there would be somebody protecting me, and not just going, "Do we want to get involved because it's too expensive or we might lose a couple people?"
Music Street Journal: You've been doing some European shows lately. How have those been going?
Fish: We did some promo stuff in Europe doing like record shows and things, you know. The record company being a record company was like, we'll pay for the flights, but you have to pay the wages for the musicians, so we had to find something to do. We ended doing like 6 two-hour shows, 8 one-hour shows, in the shops, 2 national radio live programs, 2 live TV, and I did about 40 to 45 interviews in fifteen days. I came back, and I was exhausted. I could use another couple weeks in the month of May. We've got some shows at the end of next week across Switzerland, a small festival and two other acoustic shows. Then we're into Canada on, I think it's the 27th we leave to head into Toronto. I'm really excited about the tour. The results on the album have been really good. In America they were kind of taken aback by the sales counts, because they sold a lot more than they thought they were gonna do. The fans are giving a lot of feedback. We're trying to get the focus on the radio. I think that radio is going to be the secret with this tour coming up. This is the first time ever that I've started off a tour, and started in America. I think it shows my commitment to the place, and it also shows it's a response to the vibe that we're getting back from the states. I think it's an appreciation of a good singer songwriting. It's an appreciation of good quality music with content, etc. Let's see if we can really get something going over there. (Editor's note: The US tour has been postponed until the fall)
Music Street Journal: How would you describe the difference between your solo music and Marillion's?
Fish: Completely different. The stuff I was involved with then, obviously there's huge chunks of myself in. I think you could play Clutching at Straws and some of the stuff that's on Raingods and you can definitely see roots and some comparisons in there, but I think now with Steve Hogarth, he led the band quite rightly away in a kind of different direction. There's obviously going to be similarities between both camps in what we did together, but it's removed, you know.
Music Street Journal: How do you write such wonderful lyrics?
Fish: I don't know. It's like a guy who looks at a car engine and knows just what's wrong with it. That's all that is. It's just something I do. I don't understand the mechanics of it. It's just a talent I have. I'm really good at writing lyrics. If I could go to the taxman and present lyrics to them, I think I'd be doing fine.
Music Street Journal: Who would you consider to be your biggest musical influences?
Fish: I don't know. The Genesis guys and that English progressive scene in the '70's, of course I listened to the music, but over the years, there's been so many influences come out, from Lowell George to Van Morrison, the Byrds, The Doors, so many different people that I can't really put my finger on one.
Music Street Journal: What musicians would you like to work with?
Fish: Good ones. No one really off the top of my head.
Music Street Journal: What were your goals for writing the new album, and how do you think you succeeded with the album?
Fish: The goal was just to make a great album, an album that I was going to be pleased with. It was kind of do or die mentality, too. It was like, I'm gonna do what I really want to do, what I consider a really happening album, and if people buy it then great, then we know what we're doing. If people don't buy it, then I've got a couple of big decisions to make. I think I had the best possible setup for Roadrunner. We delivered a great album. My confidence and hopes have been realized to a certain extent. People have responded very positively towards the writing and the performances. That's great, and I'm proud of that. Definitely I think it's the best solo album I've ever made, without a shadow of a doubt. I think the songs are incredibly strong, and I just hope the songs are given a chance to shine. I hope that people don't just go "It's Fish" and don't bother listening to the songs. They're great songs. I think Plague of Ghosts is an incredibly progressive track. And Rites of Passage, the way The Rites of Passage goes from being a kind of straight-forward ballad, it's got great structure in it, and the way it kind of diversifies into that kind of '90's classical sort of stuff. It's great, and throw in Faith Healer as a cover. Taking a '70's track, and throwing a kind of very dark drama in it, a real voyeuristic, Silence of the Lambs feel in it. Tilted Cross was written by two Americans. I got an American guy from British Columbia who works at Nashville. Then another who was working in the blues/jazz/folk field. Then you put a Scotsman in there. What we came up with that track was incredible, when you look at it. I mean, three people writing a track together, with that feeling. It's kind of country, it's kind of blues, it's kind of folk, you know, and it's got that kind of trippy jazzy chorus in it. It's wild, you know. I think it can be a huge album in America. I think if people start talking about it. I don't really think this one is gonna be one of those things where radio picks up and leads it. I think what's going to happen is that people are going to start talking about it, and then, radio might pick up on it. I think radio is going to be a secondary item on this thing. I don't make albums that are just for this year. I like to think I make albums that last a decade at least, you know. You listen to some of the old Marillion stuff. It's still relevant now, and it still plays out now. In the same way, as Vigil, you can listen to Vigil or Internal Exile. It still is relevant in 1999, they don't sound dated, you know. The remasters I did of my solo catalog, as well. There was a lot of really interesting things that came to be in the remastering, you know. They are elements that we knew were in the mix, but you couldn't hear them.
Music Street Journal: What was the last CD you bought?
Fish: To be honest, I was away during the promo tours in the record shops, so I got loads. It was part of the deal, so I came back with about 40 CD's.
Music Street Journal: What have you been listening to lately then?
Fish: John Coltrane. I've got two John Coltrane albums, serious remasters. Van Morrison, Divine Comedy's new album, the new XTC album, a couple albums by Fury in the Slaughterhouse, I got the Steps for my daughter. I listen to lots of different things, you know. Yesterday I was sitting listening to the Beatles with my daughter. She plays piano, and she just discovered the Beatles, and she's playing the white album. She loves the white album. An 8 year old, and out of the Beatles collection, she likes the white album.
Music Street Journal: What was the last concert you attended?
Fish: It was The Honeys. I took my daughter, I did an interview with a radio station, it was a promo gig, and after the interview I watched The Honeys with my daughter. God, they're really small.
Interview May 1999