An e-mail interview for a Maltese magazine.
Raphael: You have been active in the popular music scene for over two deades, both in bands and as a solo artist. What keeps you going on and how do you find inspiration to produce the goods in this commercialized environment?
Fish: I entered the music business in 1981 with the view to making it a career rather than a smash and grab raid that seems to be the trend nowadays. It was a lot easier to find inspiration in the early days but as the years and albums go by it does become more difficult to doscover new concepts and themes without covering yourself. I find nowadays the inspiration requires more complex carriers to relate my thoughts which is why I am excited about spreading my creativity into screenplays and other forms of writing. I find the music industry very restricting as the promotion costs and corporate craving for "something new and young" eliminates a lot of opportunities for established artists who may not have the nimblest of dance moves buit who still have "something to say"! I still intend to make albums but the touring activities are becoming more selective and I plan to dedicate far more energy into my acting and movie career. I wouldn't say I am disillusioned by the music industry but I do find the film industry more exciting these days.
Raphael: Undoubtedly, you remain a legend for your time with Marillion, especially the 'Misplaced Childhood' album with its smash hits, 'Kayleigh' and 'Lavender'. I'd like to have a brief overview of your time with the band and how you took the step to strike out on your own?
Fish: I left Marillion 16 years ago after 4 albums and 7 years. My history with that band is well documented and I was proud to be part of a very successful unit. It was a wonderful era and contained some great albums and memorable shows. I resigned in 88 for a number of reasons both professional and personal. I felt we had become victims of our own success and after my last album with the band; "Clutching at Straws", which I considered our finest moment, we needed time away from the band and each other. Management decided otherwise and there was a lot of pressure to come up with another "Kayleigh". I didn't consider Marillion a pop band and I felt we were being asked to compromise too much by the record company and our management. The feeling of togetherness and camradarie had all but vanished by that point and I felt manipulated by people who had no other agenda apart from making as much money as possible from the band. The spirit was broken and rather than stay in a situation where I was going to lose myself as a person I elected to resign. No regrets. My career might not have been as successful since I embarked on a solo career but I consider the last 16 years to be more satisfying and the experiences since then to be more valuable. I have changed dramatically since that period in my career and overall I enjoy life more these days. There have been some very tough and hard times but these have helped to build my character and it is a far more mature individual that engages the creative process nowadays.
Raphael: Musical influences are important but there has always been a certain amount of originality in Fish's conceptions. How do you get that originality and what spurs you in this path?
Fish: To be honest I have no idea. I get excited by certain concepts or ideas, normally generated from stories, and follow them with my heart. Sometimes not a great idea but it seems to work ok for me. As long as something excites or inspires me then it must be a good thing!
Raphael: Briefly describe three memorable moments from your career.
Fish: Finding the balls to walk out on a succesful band and then putting together the writing team and band for the "Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors" album, my first solo effort, and then delivering a great album with a new team around me. That was a big move and took a major jump in attitude and confidence. It was both exhilirating and frightening.
The tour of Bosnia in 96 where we performed to UN troops. It was there I grew up and saw a different world to the one I thought I lived in. Not only did I remind myself of what music meant to people but also how inconsequential my problems were compared to others. I came back with a new perspective and a new drive.
Acting opposite Oscar winner Adrien Brodie, Kris Kristofferson and Jennifer Jason Leigh in my first ever Hollywood movie, "The Jacket" in January this year. It was only one scene but I have never felt such a relaxed high for a long time. I was genuinely excited and took ages to come down. I will never forget watching the camera crew thread the new film onto the camera between takes. A simple every day occurence on set but it remided me of the time I was equally as excited watching the 2 inch tape threaded on to the Studer tape machine in the Marquee Studios in 82 when we started to record the first Marillion album "Script for a Jesters Tear".
Raphael: A tough question now! Do you think that you have matured as an artist ever since leaving Marillion and does the band still influence your musical thoughts and aspirations?
Fish: Obviously I feel I have matured. I find myself constantly discovering and learning new aspects to writing and of course in order to avoid duplication you must keep searching for new approaches. I don't look back much and in the 16 years I have been solo the Marillion musical influence somewhat dissipates. There are obviously areas where my material sounds similar to the older albums because after all I was the singer and a writer with the band. I can't hide my roots.
Raphael: You have come to Malta quite often and even performed here. What makes you come back to this sun-soaked Mediterranean island?
Fish: I fell in love with the island on my first visit back in 1990 when I came over to see my old friend and ex Press agent, Keith Goodwin who sadly passed away this January. He had waxed lyrical about Malta and after my first solo tour I came down to recuperate and get away from the pressure of the high level litigation I was then involved in with EMI Records. I was overwhelmed by the friendliness, openness and the charm of the people and was made to feel completely at home. Although the island climate is slightly different from that of my own country of residence, Scotland. Since that time I have played two solo shows and one with the SAS Band, all of which have been well recieved. On a personal level I have visited a growing company of friends on regular occasions and my visit for the festival in the summer will be my third time on the island this year. I love playing there an I am really excited about the forthcoming gig. I'll be staying for around three weeks with my partner and my 13 year old daughter Tara who is as excited as her Dad at returning to Malta.
Raphael: What are you working on at the moment and what are your plans till the end of this year?
Fish: I am planning to devote a lot more time and energy to my acting career and beginning work on a movie screenplay that has been on the back burner for too long. I still have some touring activities in South America and Eastern Europe to consider and a garden that is desperate to be finished landscaping. There are no plans for writing as the new album "Field of Crows" was only released a few months ago and it will take me a while to feel the desire to return to the recording studio.
The next major touring project won't occur till next year when I want to take the "Misplaced Childhood" album out into the World with a solo production to commemorate the 20th anniversary of that work. It is planned to be a fun tour and would obviously make a stop off on Malta. The rest of the year is earmarked for film and acting work which hopefully may mean another visit to the island! You can't keep me away! :-)
Interview 5th July 2004