Interview May 17th 2003

The Glasgow Herald

A rock star and his roadie became the best of pals in the most unlikely of settings.

Fish and Yatta

Fish made his name in the rock band Marillion and has since carved out a successful solo career. He is currently making an album and touring Scotland.

Fish: We met in 1987. I was aware of him; he worked with a band called Magnum and they did a festival in Germany with Marillion. He had a reputation for being a stalwart, a great all-round roadie - a loyal, trusty road animal.
Years later, after I'd gone solo, my tour manager Andy Field died of cancer. That was 1991, Andy had spoken highly of Yatta and I trusted his instinct because he had a reputation for bringing in good all-rounders.
So Yatta came on board, initially to do a bit of lighting, and ended up being production manager. But he was always more than just a member of a crew. When I was getting hell down the phone from the wife, or just being laid low by the tour blues, he was someone I could talk to, have a few vodkas with. We just got closer and closer.
Looking back, we went through hell and high water together. We had a run-in with the Russian mafia during 1996, got shot at in Bosnia and saw the inside of so many hospitals. I'm sure Yatta was ticking them all off in some "I Spy" book he'd retained from childhood. The worst thing I had to do was leave him in a hospital in Stuttgart in 1999. He developed an infection in his elbow and there was a possibility of amputation, but we had to get on with the tour. We kept in touch by mobile.
He has seen me through various financial hells and in the last year of my marriage he acted as a peace officer.
It's been a remarkable friendship, not least because in this industry it's really hard to maintain relationships. You're always on the move and, although you meet other musicians, it's in a professional situation. But me and Yatta, we come as a pair.
We're both really stubborn, which can be a problem. We're good at keeping the other person's feet on the ground. If I screw up, he's the first person I apologise to. We look after each other - we've been through so much we're not going to stop now.
His organisational qualities are better than mine; I'm stronger on the creative side. We compliment each other well... God, we'd have to - we spend an awful lot of time together when we're on tour. Tours can last for 15 months and really need someone you can rely on, in an emotional and an operational sense. It's invaluable. He's the one who deals with all the nuts and bolts while I'm the one going: "Let's try this, let's try that." It's like a marriage without the sex.
We're pretty good at picking up on each other's moods and have become, to an extent, each other's counsellors. Yatta is a life-loving person, someone who can find a tiny piece of silver in a big dark cloud. He's got a great sense of humour but at the same time, if things have gone wrong and there's some bludgeoning to be done, he'll be there with me, making sure it all gets done.

Yatta is the production manager for Fish. He's from in a village in north Wales, is married to Kris and has a daughter, Karis.

Yatta: I'd heard a lot about him from my days with a band called Magnum, I wasn't really a follower of Marillion but we wound up playing a festival together some time in the mid-eighties. We were both drinkers and had a reputation that way. We were rebels, if you like.
When we met at the festival we took an instant liking to each other. He was rather tall but also very friendly and very unassuming. You've got to remember that at the time he was a big star - not that he isn't now - but back then 20,000 people would come to see Marillion play, but you'd never have known it by his attitude. He had no entourages, unlike some of the other bands. He was a really nice chap, the kind of guy who showed the same respect to the lowliest member of the crew as he would the frontman. He always said thank you, which means a lot after 19 hours of hard graft. Everyone liked him for it.
When he went solo during the early nineties and had his own crew, he asked me to do the lighting. That's how it started and the friendship kind of grew from there. Now as Fish's production manager basically I do what has to be done.

It can be hard going when you are on a strict budget, as we sometimes have been. It requires all your ingenuity and organisational skills. It's a challenge but we get through - somehow.
He's my best friend and is great to work for. You don't feel like a number, a tiny cog in a large machine - you feel like a person. Fish is always creative. He's a true musician and my job is to listen to his ideas, then hold him back by voicing the practical considerations.
On tour we give each other a lot of emotional as well as practical support. You're confined in a small place with lots of people all with different personalities crowding round you and you need someone who understands. There's a lot of strain involved in touring. You're in a coach all day and all night. You wake up in a car park, then you do a gig and come offstage at 3 am exhausted. I relish being back at home after a tour, going to the pub and talking to Joe Bloggs at the bar.
So when we get back from touring, we'll take an initial break from each other just to chill out. But we're soon on the phone talking again, as friends as well as working partners. We're always keen to discuss future projects. I have no desire to work for anyone else, I feel part of the outfit; like I've found the right place in life.
We've done a lot of stuff together, we've been in Bosnia and Kosovo, sleeping on factory floors with the army. It's so rewarding, you feel as if you've really done something. It's much more of an experience than going onstage somewhere like the SECC and the people are so far away you can't even see the whites of their eyes.
We're like a gang. Fish is at the top and he's where the buck stops, but it's a very egalitarian thing, really, everyone's opinion matters.
Fish is a true Scot. He believes in his country and in his fellow people. He's the kind of guy who would bend over backwards to help someone in trouble. That's why so many people like him. As far as he's concerned all men are equal and in his opinion they have the fight to their own beliefs. And he doesn't just talk that way, he lives that way.

Interview: Roz Paterson

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