Dutch journalist Marianne Timmer interviewed Fish for the paper Amsterdams Stadsblad. Recorded at the Spittalrig farm.
MT: Do you like the Fellini Days album?
Fish: It has been an interesting album to work on. It has been the first time since Sunsets, that I have worked with mainly one guy which is John Wesley, although John Young was involved in the writing, but all the songs were done with Wes. Raingods with Zippos has two songs written with Mickey Simmonds, the big long track was made with Turrell and Daghorn. The Fellini Days album sits together a lot better. The curve of the album is more gentle. There is a certain feeling which carries on. It is a guitar driven album with a lot of groove, and lot more blues and soul then the other albums.
MT: Do you like it more then the Raingods album?
Fish: Yeah, I prefer it to Raingods.
MT: But you always say that about a new album.
Fish: Yes. But when I set up this new album, the style that I wanted was... like... taken the rocky edges of Sunsets and taken the serene atmosphere and grooves of Plague of Ghost especially. And that's what Fellini Days is.
Also I am singing in a range that allows me to express myself in a lot of different ways, a far richer, more full tone. It's kind of relaxed. The attitude now is: we don't do singles. We can't beat SClub 7. We have done radio edits, just in case. There's gonna be radio stations who would like to play the track once or twice. There's no plans to release anything. The album is being done for our pleasure.
MT: That is always the best way to get a good album.
Fish: The idea is, okay I have a fan base. The fan base want a Fishy kind of album. The fan base trust me. As long as I am delivering that quality - good songs that are well-produced - they will come back and get the next album. If I can sell to the fan base, then great. The minimal target of this album would be 50,000. If we can sell that, I will be over the moon. If we sell 75,000 I will be incredible happy, 100,000 I will be ecstatic.
I have no desire for Greek islands. This house is being sold. I am building a smaller house near the studio which is basically just mine because my wife and I have split. Every 18 months I make a new album, three or four movies, a couple of TV things, I do some writing, go on a holiday to walk in the Himalayas, see some Mayan temples or something like that, that's perfect, you know?
MT: Did you ever make, in the past, an album with commercial purpose?
Fish: I don't think so. I think that was one of the problems with Marillion in '88. There was a lot of pressure on us. They want Kayleigh part II because Misplaced Childhood was a big album. And Clutching at Straws had not sold quite as many as Misplaced. And everybody wanted us to break America. I just felt a bit uncomfortable when I was under pressure like that. To copy something is not necessarily an expression of your heart or your mind, it's more an expression of your wallet.
When you make music, you want to capture your emotions. If you are not true to yourself, the music is not gonna sound true. There is no desire to be a Bono or a Bruce Springsteen or anything like that. That would be a complete pain in the arse. I have got my privacy here. That is the good thing about living in Scotland. I can go down the pub, I can go down and see my friends. It's the good life. Life is not about who collects the most toys. The most important thing in my life is my daughter. The problem with the split is that Tara is back in Berlin with my wife. It is difficult to see her here all the time.
MT: How did you come to the theme of the Fellini-album?
Fish: When I was a kid my dad use to take me to the movies, Sean Connery and stuff like that. And when you're into movies, you can't help to discover Federico Fellini at some point. And I start to realize that the kind of surrealism he was using, there was a kind of parallel with what I am doing. He could take ordinary people in very ordinary situations but his perspective on all that make it magical, even surreal. The kind of surrealist moment is kind what I do in my lyrics. In stuff like Chelsea Monday, Market Square Heroes, some sections of Misplaced Childhood, some sections of Plague of Ghosts. Fellini creates situations which can happen by anybody else, but filmed in a kind of way which makes it beautiful. Or it brings them to peoples' attention in a way. Nowadays the tempo of life is so fast. They don't spend the time examining things in their surroundings. Some really special things they just go missing because they are rushing through their lives. When we are on tour I start to call them Fellini moments, that is when you see strange coincidences. When you have a lot of Fellini moments you have a Fellini Day. It doesn't have to be good things, it can be bad things as well. Coming through them you learned something or have added something to yourself. So on the album, there is still a decrease in darkness and there is a lot of kind of love songs. There is a passion in there. There is an undertone of sexuality.
MT: The song So Fellini, is it about a stripper?
Fish: No it is about a tango. There is a kind of tango-element in So Fellini. When I was in Argentina, I went to a tango club and it was incredible. I have never seen a sexier dance then that. It was like, wow, it was incredible. It was two people dancing like peacocks. It was like which one is trying to catch which. That's 'catch the tiger by his tail' (part of the lyric, M.T) about. It is kind of hunting at each other in a way. (Fish hums tango-music). I would love to write a proper tango. This was as close as we came to that. It is a very sexy song. (Fish looks outside) Look, there are magpies in the garden.
MT: There are awful lot of magpies in Holland.
Fish: This pair is a breeding pair. They arrived in October last year. It is really kind of strange that they came back in my life. Because the magpies for me were always saints for me, that things are going right.
MT: So you are happy now seeing a magpie?
Fish: Two magpies. One for sorrow, two for mirth, three for a wedding, four for birth.
MT: Well these magpies will get chicks, you will get three, four, five!
Fish: Yeah, if you have nine, you are the lucky one. Because nine is the devil.
MT: I think it is hard to see nine together.
Fish: I did once.
MT: And then, what happened?
MT: Back to the Fellini Album. It is a rocky album, is it as heavy as Sunsets?
Fish: In some areas, yeah. A song like Long Cold Day is really agressive. 3D is made with a very stoned filter. It launches itself. It is smoother than other numbers. When you got a CD-production, then you use a song like this. Like you use other songs which are suited for a more physical performance for a live-concert. In the studio you use a lot of technical gloss.
MT: From what I have heard, I like 3D the most.
Fish: There is a better one, which is called The Clock Moves Sideways. It is just astonishing, it is huge. It is immense. And the Address, which is now called Pilgrims Address, it was first named Soldiers Address, is also incredible. At the gig in Januar we played it acoustic. On the album it is full band. We got a soldier, he spoke all the lyrics.
MT: How will you perform it at the gig in May?
Fish: We don't use the soldiers voice. Live is live. On the album, we got a lot of backing vocals. It's gonna be very difficult to recreate all the backing vocals. I look upon them if there is two different mediums. There is a live medium and there is a record medium. At a record album you don't want to dance. You want to sit and listen.
MT: But I also like the live albums. You can taste the atmosphere.
Fish: The live albums capture moments. There are some things on the album from which even I would say oooh you bastard, you're bad in that. But it is true the live thing. I remember in Marillion, the Thieving Magpie, we were replacing all the bass guitar and a couple of other things. Marillion was a lot more controlled. I think there music in general is a lot more controlled than the stuff I do. What we do is a more rockier, more wild.
MT: That's what the taxi driver said when I asked about your reputation. He said 'wild and kind'.
Fish: (laughs) The live albums kept me alive for two years. When I left Polydor after the album Songs from the Mirrors there was no advance, I had nobody back in there. In 98 we signed to Roadrunner. That was a disaster. It was a complete waste of time. Roadrunner really blew the chance. The reason that I signed was that we wanted the promotion and the international back-up that we did not have on our own Dick Brothers label. One of the main reasons why I was talking to Roadrunner was America. We had been there in 97 on the Sunsets tour and we got a really positive reaction. And I felt there was a chance because America did not really know these albums. There was a great opportunity and they blew it! Nobody knew the best of album (Kettle of Fish, M.T.) was there. They said: 'We don't want to do all the interviews now because we want to keep some for the album'. They said: 'we do the best of album now, then we do the remaster catalogue, then we do the studio album. There is gonna be a continuous promotion belt all the way through the releasing of the album. We gonna have a single, then we're gonna look back, then have another single.' And it did not happen. They did not spend any money on the Kettle of Fish album. We sold less then the Sushi album, which is a double live-album. When Raingods came out, the promotion was there for two weeks. That was it. There was no work put in it. I was really disappointed. The America situation was really what did it to me. Because we were ahead, booked the tour, then discovered that Roadrunner had decided that all they were gonna do was sell the album in America. They didn't want to promote that.
I think in all honesty that with the Kettle of Fish album and Raingods, Roadrunner had the opportunity to at least double the sales. It meant that the album after that could not be a big album, because there was not enough money. Raingods sells 50,000 less albums than Sunsets, then we do on our own label Dick Brothers. Roadrunner just want to sell on to the fan base and then: 'next album'. I couldn't do that.
MT: How will you distribute the Fellini album?
Fish: It goes through Voiceprint. At the end of April we have the album in our hands. That means that we can sell the album on the road through the merchandise stall and by the internet. In July the album goes to retail.
MT: About the gig, is the set list the same as the gig in January?
Fish: It will change. There will be more new songs coming. It's gonna be roughly that style, which is a harder style. Because the drummer is John Martyr and the base guitar is Steve Barnacle. They are quite hard hitting.
MT: Are you also planning to talk so much between the numbers?
Fish: I don't plan that. I just do that.
MT: Some people say if he did not talk some much, he could have played two more numbers.
Fish: Oh, no not really. Because we always have a 1.45 hour set. And we play two hours. You get 15 minutes extra. Other funny thing people talk about is that they are wondering that your voice is left. You just done 15 shows in 18 days. That's another reason why I will keep this tour to six weeks and taking my time with it. There is a lot less stress. Stress is the one thing which destroys me on tour. That was the problem with the 99 tour. When it got to the end, it was so stressful. I just could not enjoy it. I really started to hate going on stage. I was frightened. You had to do the shows. The last show, there was no money for the shows. I was on the road for eight weeks and zero money.
But now I try to avoid that. After the tour, we concentrate on Haddington in the weekend of 26, 27 August. I have even been talking to a film company about the possibility to get four, five Fellini movies shown. I think it will be great, it will be the biggest one.
Interview April 2001