Mick Pointer (Founder, Drummer – 1979-1983)The interview was conducted on 31.07.2019
Diz Minnitt(Bassist – 1980-1982)
MMM: Hello Diz, thank you for taking the time to share your memories, shall we start at the beginning: can you tell us a little about the young Diz Minnitt and where your love for music started?
Diz: Earliest memories of music are charging around the room as a 5-year-old while playing the Hall Of The Mountain King at high volume as it gets faster and faster until I can’t keep up with the pace and collapse in hysterics on the floor. My brother took me to see 2001: A Space Odyssey when I was 9 years old, and that was a real feast of sound and visuals. Also Sprach Zarathustra, The Blue Danube (Waltz) and the luxuriant multi layered discordant choral pieces building to the psychedelic end section of the film. He also used to play early Pink Floyd to me with the lights off and just an open fire to light the room. We lived in an old Victorian Vicarage with 14 foot high ceilings so the combination of flickering fire light, shadows stretching up into the darkening gloom and Careful With That Axe, Eugene was quite intoxicating to all the senses and I can return to that cocoon of that all embracing memory still now when it’s played. I think that drew me to the otherness of music. The opportunity to create a landscape that you can inhabit, get lost in and to connect and take an audience in there with you. At its best, a mysterious and almost transcendent experience.
MMM: What attracted you to the bass guitar? Do you play other instruments?
Diz: I used to love playing the piano as a child, I never learned properly then but enjoyed the atmosphere you could create with it with the sustain pedal, and playing the strings for atmospheric sound. I had a go at learning guitar, but was far too impatient to stick with it. Tried the “play in a day” approach… what a lie. I think, ironically, it was the birth of punk that kick-started me. The notion that you could just form a band and then learn to play. Had a friend who was a guitarist, big Floyd and Hendrix fan, and another who fancied being a drummer. The guitarist’s father was a vicar, so we started off doing experimental stuff in his dad’s church with guitar, me on church organ and the drummer (without drums at that point) singing and doing percussion. Him buying drums and me moving to Bass was the next logical step, and we moved from the church to my father’s huge and ambient corn mill with its natural reverb. As a bass player, I knew that you could master it in a month, so I overcame my natural inclination to get bored and give or a go. That and the fact that I was learning at the same time as writing and playing was enough incentive. We added a vocalist, a name, Plastic Surjun and played a couple of gigs (local village halls) and then I found out about the Stonehenge Free Festival (1978) and got us on the bill there for our third gig. I switched to a borrowed synthesizer and got in someone to play bass for the gig. Great formative experience. I have subsequently mainly played bass live, but continued to oscillate between bass and keyboards with some limited guitar work when recording.
MMM: When and where did you first meet Derek Dick, and what were your first impressions of him?
Diz: I need to start by correcting the timeline, the danger of relying on memory rather than checking the dates. In the previous response I talked about playing Stonehenge in 1978, but it had to be 1979 as I only started to play bass in December 1978. The process of bands forming and evolving is like watching a chemical reaction form crystals, or the evolution of The Thing in the original John Carpenter version as it evolves through its stages, shape-shifting before it settles on the shape it decides to be. As I said, it all began with John Perkins, a Hendrix inspired guitarist, and a shared wild enthusiasm for weird experimentation in the natural reverb setting of a village church, with heavily distorted guitar and church organ creating amateur discordant soundscapes to startle the resident bats. This initial trio of rather static minstrels, John, myself and Steve Kemp commenced our creative journey in November 1978 and named ourselves Strange Activity. By December with the minstrels now on the move, and all equipped with portable instruments, (me – bass, Steve – drums and John – guitar) we left the ambient heaven of the church for the darker earthier ambience of an empty corn mill, with its silent audience of endless rows of grain filled sacks and the occasional scittering of uninvited guests in the heavy dark. We were joined briefly by a rhythm guitarist (Mick Parkes) and more consistently by a vocalist, Mark Blagg. Mick departed in January 1979 and the band name changed to Plastic Surjun.
The first gig was at Ranby Village Hall, 20th April 1979. I then switched instruments to synthesizer, and we were joined by another bass player for the second gig at Walkeringham Village Hall on 26th May 1979. The third and final gig was at Stonehenge Free Festival on 27th June 1979. Late July 1979 the band quietly disintegrates (my notes at the time say “inconsolable musical differences”) and John moves to Nottingham. I return to playing bass and there follows over the next few months a musical mystery tour as The Thing seeks to achieve a consistent shape and style. Where Plastic Surjun mixed elements of Hendrix with Joy Division, Iggy Pop and early Pink Floyd the bands that followed wandered here and there across a wider musical landscape. The Black lasted two months as embryonic New Wave. This was followed by a failed attempt to reform Plastic Surjun with a different guitarist, before in September 1979 I left for North London Polytechnic to train as a maths teacher. By December, I had dropped out and returned to Nottinghamshire with a new drummer in tow (Pete Catley) and at the beginning of 1980 formed a new band Battle Catley playing a New Wave/Ska crossover. The new line-up included two drummers with the return of Steve Kemp and a new guitarist, Chris Smith. It lasted until May 1980 when The Thing began to shape-shift again as the passion for experimentation and atmosphere rose to the surface. Chris, Steve and myself formed what would become the Stone Dome Band. Long immersive improvised pieces using the instruments as well as additional percussive assaults on the mill’s machinery with its dark heavy reverb took us away from the brief forage into the more mainstream and back to our shared progressive roots. We were joined in July 1980 by Steve Procter on keyboards and the music became more structured, more contained and with a distinctly prog shape as The Thing began to settle.
We were just missing a vocalist, and so an advert went into Musicians Only. We received a letter, photograph and tape from one Derek Dick at that time living in Dalkeith. We chatted on the phone and discussed shared musical interests – Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Genesis and Peter Gabriel. He talked through a number of his lyrical ideas, which included the concept behind what later became The Web. We met I think in August 1980 when Derek came down to audition and then joined the band. I have a very clear image of that first meeting as he arrived and came in the front door at my parent’s house. Although he had written on the photo how tall he was, this was obviously on the back and I hadn’t noticed. So when I first met him I was struck by his height, he arrived when the sun was shining directly behind him, so this created the impression of a huge visible aura of light around him as he came into the house. I jokingly went down on one knee to shake his hand, which made him laugh and immediately broke the tension and nerves of meeting someone for the first time. Derek moved down to live with us and the process of songwriting commenced. I think there are only two of the songs that got recorded as rough versions. The first started as a song called Astral Stroll and then became The Web. The lyrics in a slightly different version making a reappearance in the Marillion song of the same name. The second rough recording was a song about reincarnation called Eyes In The Sand and I don’t think Fish has ever used those lyrics or the melody anywhere else.
MMM: Prior to joining Marillion you were in a band called Stone Dome Band with one Derek Dick, can you tell us a little history of that band?
Diz: Somewhere I have a pre-Marillion version of The Web from The Stone Dome Band (different lyrics and music) and also a part of another song Eyes In The Sand that I don’t think Fish has ever recorded. I have the originals on tape, but after 40 odd years it may well have degraded. Stephen Procter, the keyboard player from The Stone Dome Band, has the original recordings.
Eyes In The Sand: the other track I referenced – again an early very rough rehearsal with Fish’s honest appraisal at the end, I don’t disagree. Random guitar solo while Fish is trying to sing. This is also pre-Fish as he was Derek Dick back then – he introduced himself as Fish when we joined Marillion. Recording was at the mill, Main Street in Laneham, Notts (it was my family’s business) a corn mill for making animal feed. The mill is now a microbrewery and what was the village shop next door (also part of the family business) is now a pub connected to the microbrewery which is called The Bees Knees. The landlord of the pub (David Anderson) also makes Gin and has made a gin called Dilly Dilly (inspired by the Marillion song Lavender as he is a huge Marillion fan).
Legend and reality… when Fish and I were playing in The Stone Dome Band the guitarist, Chris Smith, was an English literature enthusiast. The original plan was that Chris would join us in Cambridge once we got settled, but this never happened. He subsequently went back to university and studied English literature in Wales, and when I was last in touch (probably around 1982) he was living in the Gower area in Wales. Why is this relevant? Well as part of his passion he studied the Anglo-Saxon stories… including Beowulf, and so he came across the book by John Gardner, telling the story from the perspective of the antagonist, Grendel. Chris told me about the book and when he had finished reading it he lent it to me just before Fish and I set off on our journey to Cambridge, planning to get it back when he joined us there. I didn’t get the chance to read it in Cambridge, but once we moved to Hawkshaw in Ettrickbridge I took the opportunity. The surroundings we were in added hugely to the experience of the book. Picture a snow swept landscape at night and in the valley bottom the lights from a small village nestled beside the beck that runs along the valley bottom. Let the mind’s eye drift gently up to the rising hill on the right, as a single track road snakes up the hillside in the snow. Halfway up the hillside to the left side of the road set back a little, a single point of light illuminates the bleak landscape. Over to the right half a mile away lies a castle tower attached to a farmhouse, but no sign of lights, just the biting cold of the winter winds and the endless snow scape. That point of light is Hawkshaw and inside seen as they were 40 years ago, sit out wannabe progressive rock musicians trying to entice others to this lonely landscape with the siren call of shared creativity having managed to convince the landlord that they are a band called Sirius writing their next album. By this point, their grasp of the circadian rhythm is so far out of balance that they sometimes awake at 5pm when it is already dark and crawl back into bed at 5am, long before dawn. This is the context in which I read Grendel in that nocturnal existence, and it has a huge impact on me in this other worldly setting and existence. When I finished, I gave it to Fish to read just before we packed up to leave Hawkshaw in preparation for heading south to Aston Clinton at the dawn of the coming new year. The story has the same impact upon Fish and the rest, as they say, is history. I reunited the book with Chris via his parents some years later and received a postcard thanking me and updating me on his exploits (the experiences in the Gower).
MMM: Can you remember what songs were on the demos you exchanged with Marillion?
Diz: I can recall that on the Marillion tape there was Close and Lady Fantasy, but I don’t remember what if anything wise they included. On the tape that we sent, I remember that there was a Genesis song and a Yes song that Fish sang along with to demonstrate his vocal ability. We also did the Guards Of Magog section of Supper’s Ready with just bass and vocals. In addition, there was a bass and vocals version of Garden Party written about the experiences gained while living in the girls halls of residence at Cambridge University for a few weeks whilst we tried unsuccessfully to form a band there before we headed off to the Scottish border and Hawkshaw in Ettrickbridge. I can’t remember if we also sent any of The Stone Dome Band recordings or Blewit, but I don’t think we did. Brian might be able to answer, that’s one of the recipients
I have just found a copy of the original tape that we sent to Marillion so rather than guess I will go through and see how accurate my recollection was:
No. 1: Fish singing along to Genesis: More Fool Me No. 2: Fish singing along to Genesis: Dancing With The Moonlit Knight No. 3: Fish singing to Jon Anderson: Take Your Time No. 4: Fish singing to Mannfred Manns Earth Band: Belle Of The Earth No. 5: Bass and vocals version of Guards Of Magog section of Supper’s Ready No. 6: Fish giving an audio biography of his previous experience as a singer. Interesting to hear the original shy Derek before the development of the Fish persona. This is followed by me giving an audio biography of my own musical history. It is clear that I did send down a recording of The Stone Dome Band and I refer to Fish as Derek throughout as he hadn’t yet fully adopted this. This then goes into Fish giving a history of The Stone Dome Band and the subsequent attempts to form a band in Cambridge, including the story behind… No. 7: Garden Party, bass and vocals only, and the story behind…(this version has echoes of The Institution Waltz) No. 8: Crystal Epitaph, bass and vocals only. This captures some of his common themes about life, including the line “son watches father scan obituary columns in search of absent school friends” as well as the harlequin reference, and he then gives the story behind what was at that point the “4th arrangement” of… No. 9: The Web, bass and vocals only. The introduction of the crying Jester…
MMM: This question is from Jerry van Kooten: "I am very interested in whether Diz remembers any song titles from before he joined and after, what they changed into. Why there is such a confusion about Haunting Of Hill/Gill/Your House? And what the title of Herne The Hunter became after there were lyrics?"
Diz: A tale of What there was and what each became which sounds like a J.R. Tolkien book long forgotten and unpublished. Start with the easily remedied before we go wandering into the clinging reeds and murky waters of half forgotten memories, and partially submerged inspired guesswork. The original song Close became The Web, that one is easy well established and in clear fresh water. Next we have Time For Sale, which was an instrumental. This didn’t get repurposed as anything else, and stayed around until we had enough new material to quietly retire it. Next we have Alice which initially became Snow Angel partly metamorphosising into the final section of Forgotten Sons. The Haunting Of Gill House, having just relistened to it, I think is what became Skyline Drifter, but I don’t think I have a recording of Skyline anywhere to compare. Herne The Hunter in early parts sounds like some of Grendel but reworked, but from memory I thought that was based around The Tower, but I don’t have a recording of that to compare. I remember playing Herne The Hunter, but I can’t remember Fish’s vocals so if/how often it was played live we are definitely into the murky water and I think like Time For Sale it was quickly replaced by new material. Lady Fantasy evolved into Madcaps Embrace, a song about Syd Barrett which senses to stay in the set for quite some time. It is interesting to contrast the Doug era songs with the songs after Fish and I joined, a very different band reflecting the different writers and influences.
MMM: Can you tell us a little bit about the famous Saliva tears image?
Diz: I would have been living at 13 Winchester House along with Fish and Brian. Guy would have either been at 64 Weston Road in Aston Clinton (where Fish and I first lived with the band) or 41 Ingram Avenue in Bedgrove Aylesbury (where Steve and Privet the sound engineer subsequently moved to and where I first painted the eye in the mouth logo on the wall which became the logo for the Saliva Tears Tour). The very original was painted directly on to the wall in the sitting room, so the next owner will no doubt have painted our wall or papered over it. Someone else copies it for the t- shirt. Likewise, the art work I did for the poster with the synergistic hand plant that feeds itself (reflective of the community spirit of Marillion with its fans), I designed the original and someone else created the poster from it. The original was just sketched out on a piece of paper, so I don’t think I have it.
MMM: Friars Club Aylesbury was a special venue, I believe Fish had asked the audience to turn up in fancy dress on one occasion, and you famously acquired some Hammer House Of Horror props from an auction for the show?
Diz: We had four gravestones, I think. Two had the same name on because one had a crack in from being struck by lightning in whatever Hammer House Of Horror film it was used in. Those two looked similar and had arched tops. Can’t recall the name. The other two were made from wood that had then been plastered and painted grey. The more we used them, the more they fell apart, hence I suspect why we decided to get rid of them. We used to have a six-foot black cross as well, which originally came with a hook, so it could be hung upside down. Then of course there was the (plastic) rubber plant that Fish dismembered every show. No specific song reference for the black cross, it was a case of using as much of the Hammer House Of Horror props to create a whole stage set in time for the Friars gig in May 1981 in the Aston Hall in Aylesbury as we were aware that we were on stage at the same time as the main band who were in the large hall (Art Noveau with Nick Beggs in). We had dry ice, a smoke machine and pyro technics, and it was the first appearance of the sack cloth monks outfits (the cloaks with the eyes on were added later after, we realised that the sack cloth tops were completely seen through when the stage lights came on). Fish had face paints and other than the dismembered rubber plant very few other props. The exception being at one of the later Friars gigs when he introduced Garden Party as the “Great Cucumber Massacre” and chopped up a cucumber on stage which was full of tomato ketchup and handed out cucumber sandwiches to the audience. All in all very Spinal Tap
We had other “special effects” that we never used. A lever for the lightning scene out of one of the Frankenstein films, and also a large electrical device (which was effectively two squash bottles cut in half and the top halves stuck end to end). Oh, and the alien creature that for a while we had hanging from the outside balcony at 13 Winchester House. Oh, and about seven umbrellas (foreshadowing The Umbrella Academy)… missed opportunity!
MMM: We have a question from Stephan in Germany. He wants to know if you have any memories of the 18th March 1981 show or the set list? I believe that was Bletchley!
Diz: Yes, I remember it well! Tiny audience (less than 10) of hardened drinkers who were completely apathetic and disinterested in the band, which they clearly viewed as an irritation in their usual drinking. Consequently, as the gig went on Fish got more animated and progressively irritated with their behaviour and decided to incorporate them into the performance (in theatrical terms breaking the fourth wall) and so at one point he wandered over to one of the louder, more belligerent of the drinkers and kept time on the tambourine he was holding by using the drinkers head. Suffice to say that the passive/aggressive disinterest stopped to be replaced by a begrudged silence during the songs and polite applause. Strangely, we were never invited back…
MMM: What were the origins of the black and white poster of the woman holding a baby?
Diz: We had a few occasions where fans created their own posters and then gave/offered them to the band. I remember a couple of guys down in Maidenhead who designed a load of posters that they had got printed (full poster size) with a logo they had come up with, and they also organised a gig. After the gig they invited us all back to a house party with lots of free drinks etc. and when much partying had taken place started suggesting that they could manage the band. Fish gave them very short shrift.
MMM: During your time in the band, you played many different venues. Are there venues that stick out in your mind as highs and lows?
Diz: Highs would be the very first gig at Friars in the Aston Hall which we did with the full stage set (six foot black cross, four gravestones, plastic rubber plant that was regularly dismembered in The Web, dry ice, smoke machine, lots of lighting including strobe, intro tape). Despite the fact that we had done only a tiny number of local gigs before that, we aimed to create a show that was a spectacle and made a statement. The whole thing was very Spinal Tap. It was also the first appearance of the, as we discovered, see through monks outfits, but not at that point the later cloaks with the eye on the back. We didn’t realise that the monks outfits were completely see through until the lights came on and Steve and I discovered we were partly dressed with guitars shielding our decency. We started that gig with a following of about 14 people, but their enthusiasm combined with the stage set and performance was infectious and the response and audience built as the gig went on until we had over 400 crammed into a room for 200. The electric atmosphere and the ecstatic response was intoxicating. That was the alchemist moment when the leaden local band began the transformation into something very different. Other excellent venue was the Marquee, always brilliant when playing with both Marillion and later Pride Of Passion (I did an interview about the Marquee a few years ago which I see is still kicking around the internet). In relation to crap venues, the White Hart in Bletchley stands out, which I discussed earlier.
MMM: After Marillion you joined a few bands, the most successful of which was probably Pride Of Passion? Loyal Marillion fans at the time also followed you, can you tell us about this project and the amazing musicians you played with?
Diz: After I left Marillion I joined a Harrow based band called Benzene Jag/Benzene with Nigel Spennewyn on guitar. I then brought in Brian on keyboards. The three of us, along with the drummer Barry Talbot, later left to form Pride Of Passion when we were joined by Deb Hopper on vocals. Brian left after a few months, and we had a few changes of drummers (John Sullivan, Graham Collins) before a brief Barry Connell (Liaison) and finally with Grant Gilmour (formerly Solstice and The Enid). We were then joined by Steven Wilson on keyboards to complete the line-up.
MMM: A few years back a few videos turned up on YouTube of your band The GrandMarstonberries live, you had a special guest on guitar that night: one Mr. Rothery! Is this a regular gig for you? Are you still playing live music, are we likely to see yourself on a stage again soon? (COVID permitting)
Diz: Not on a regular basis. I did a few local gigs with Zealey And Moore (as well as an album 3468 and a couple of EPs Stay In And Sulk, and A Sample Of Zealey and Moore). Prior to that we did a couple of The GrandMarstonberries gigs when I was asked to play at a local fundraiser so put together a band to do it. Line up was me on bass, Steve Rothery, Nigel Spennewyn (also known as Childs – from Pride Of Passion) guitars, Derek Timms (Moondogs) guitar, Howard Rogers, vocals (Liaison), Lissie Minnitt vocals (age 14), Richard York drums, Jo Rothery and Jennifer Rothery (Sylf) vocals. Nothing recently, but we may do another The GrandMarstonberries gig at some point as all enjoyed it, but nothing specific planned at the moment.
MMM: As the museum is a collector’s group, we have to ask if you have any memorabilia from your time in the band?
Diz: I donated my stage outfit along with a lot of other memorabilia to the band via Steve when they were raising money following the tsunami. I think Steve said they would keep the outfit (it has some moth damage) for the Marillion Museum, so it should be around somewhere. Worth a conversation with Steve to clarify.
Mark Kelly (Keyboarder, since 1981)
MMM: Hi Mark, thanks for taking the time to chat to the museum page today. It’s been a tough couple of years for most of us, but you’ve been VERY busy! You released your first solo album, you’ve written a new Marillion album, you’ve written an autobiography, and you got married. Did you find all the work helped you stay sane in a crazy world?
Mark Kelly: Yeah, I would never have predicted that I would have had such a productive couple of years, as you say it’s been quite busy for me with quite a few milestones. Well, in the case of getting married it’s not new, but it’s certainly a milestone, but at the beginning of 2020 when the pandemic first started, I didn’t really know what was ahead, because we weren’t really planning to do Marillion touring. We were planning to write and record an album, but that was what was in the diary. Oh! …and we had Cruise To The Edge, but that was it. So when all the pandemic stuff started, and we all got told to stay at home, that was the point where I thought “OK, I can do that solo album now!”, so that was the first thing. It was because of the solo album that I was doing an interview with a chap called Nick Shilton, who has got a small publishing company, and he was the one who suggested I write the autobiography, “I think you have a story to tell, have you ever thought about writing an autobiography?” and I was like “No” but I said I’d think about it, and then I did that for a bit and I thought it was a nice idea!
MMM: So that was actually my next question, whether it was because of lockdown or because it had been planned… but you’ve answered that now (lol)
Mark Kelly: That was it, I had no thoughts about it, I’m not a writer, and Nick said, “Don’t worry about that, get out a microphone and record some notes, and I’ll get them transcribed, and I’ll find you a writer who can write it up for you to make it read well”. Then I started doing that, trying to talk into a microphone for the first chapter, but it really wasn’t working for me and I just thought, you know what, I’m just going to type it up. There’s a chap called Phil Wilding, who is a journalist, that I’ve bumped into from time to time, got on pretty well with him, nice guy, very funny, I liked his writing style! He’d written a couple of novels, so he’s not just writing reviews of albums and stuff and I asked Phil if he’d be interested in helping me polish up what I’d written, he said “Send the first chapter, see if you like what I’ve done”, I said “Let’s do it!”. To be honest, I wasn’t sure whether to be pleased or disappointed when he didn’t change that much, he added some really nice things and some nice lines that gave it a literary quality.
MMM: It certainly has that, it’s very polished and very entertaining!
Mark Kelly: Exactly! The entertainment factor! A few of the jokes came from me, but it was a case of I’d set him up, and he’d score the goal. We did it a chapter at a time, and it would come back, and I’d be laughing out loud at some of it, the way he changed the story subtly, but it still had my voice, and it still felt like my writing. It was great, I think we worked really well together as a team. I was very pleased with the final result, and I’ve got a lot of positive feedback from those who have read it. It’s nice when it’s not just your Brothers or your Mum, actually (Mark laughs) my Mum was upset about the jacket blurb which said we were from a “dirt poor” childhood, and she was “what do you mean… dirt poor?” We weren’t exactly doing well!
MMM: So did you go to your family for stories, did you find any of those “Who do you think you are” moments?
Mark Kelly: There were a few stories I already knew, like the one about Dick the Gunman. My Uncle Eddie told me that when I was over in the States, about Dick and how he tried to blow up King George, so I dug around on the internet and found he had escaped from Wakefield Prison and the British Government decided it wasn’t in the public interest for him to return to England and serve the rest of his sentence. So it’s all there online and not just a made up story and I managed to find some evidence that it was all real which was really good. So most of the time I shared them with my family before it was published, just in case there was anything that they didn’t like. My Brother did remember one, he said “that party you had when you were 16, when the Hooker stole the money to pay for the beer, and you ended up lending me 30 quid or whatever” so it was quite fun.
MMM: The book starts in your birth city of Dublin, a city ravaged with poverty at the time, as we mentioned earlier, consequently your family had to emigrate and settled in Essex. How difficult were those years for you?
Mark Kelly: There was a little bit of adjustment, but I think when you are that age, you take things in your stride. I lost my Irish accent within a couple of months, so literally you had to fit in, the whole story of me being a West Ham supporter, I didn’t give a damn about football, but you had to support a team, otherwise you were a Freak or a Weirdo, and it just ended up I supported West Ham. So it was a case of just trying to fit in. I was one of those kids who kept his head down and stayed out of trouble, both with teachers and other kids.
MMM: Let’s move on to your academic abilities, or perhaps lack of them. Looking back on it now, for someone who has made a career out of music and headlined festivals, been elected to the PPL, you’ve created crowdfunding and played the Royal Albert Hall, do you think your family or teachers would have been surprised by how well you’ve done?
Mark Kelly: Yeah, I think I could have made better use of my school years, that’s for sure! The thing that would have been useful to me, was to study a few languages, with all the travelling we’ve done, but that was one of the last things I wanted to do, but I suppose I was very lucky, the thing is anybody in a successful band is very lucky, so much luck involved, that who knew what I would end up doing, but I would certainly say I wasted most of educational years!
MMM: Didn’t we all?
Mark Kelly: Well… no! My daughter Tallulah is at Cambridge University, and I’ve never seen anyone work as hard as she does, so it’s clear she doesn’t have my genes (Mark laughs)
MMM: So then like a lot of us you discovered Prog music, and you joined your first band Chemical Alice, the band hardened fans will have known you from first, you released one EP Curiouser And Curiouser, what are your memories of your time in the band, and how would you describe their music to fans who haven’t heard it?
Mark Kelly: Well, I think at the time I was very happy to get into a band, we took it very seriously, but we didn’t have aspirations to make a career out of it! I don’t think, certainly at the beginning, but I enjoyed being in a band, the whole going to rehearsals, learning to write songs, learning to play other people’s songs, trying to do gigs, so all that was exciting and lots of fun, but the music we made was I think we weren’t really all on the same page with what we thought we should be doing, which was a big part of the reason when I got the chance to join Marillion! I jumped ship from Chemical Alice because I really didn’t see eye to eye with the guitarist David Weston on the sort of music we should be making and as I said in the book, it was more towards “Let’s jam for hours on end” and we do jam for hours on end now (Mark laughs), but he liked to jam in front of an audience, a sort of Grateful Dead and Phish (not the Scotsman, but the jam band from the US) so that was that, and it didn’t really appeal to me.
MMM: Marillion supported you in those days in late 1981, did they impress you then?
Mark Kelly: Very much, Yeah! They had a very big effect on me! To think that on the same night I saw them, they asked me to join was a bit of a shock! But I was keen and didn’t have to think that long about it. I completely burned my bridges, I went to see my lecturer, I was studying Electronics at the time, and asked him if it was alright if I joined a band and come back in a year if it didn’t work out. I was already two years behind the rest of the kids. I’d messed about going to art college and a year of doing nothing, and I figured another year wouldn’t make a difference.
MMM: There were a lot of departures from the band in those early years, we won’t go into them all, we’ll save that for the readers, but was it hard to write about all those emotional moments?
Mark Kelly: Not really! I think it was a mixture of excitements about all the things that were happening. There wasn’t a week that went by whether it was playing at the Marquee or the Radio 1 session, the Friday Rock Show. So we were all being swept along. It was a combination of excitement, anticipation and new experiences with worry and fear that we wouldn’t get signed, and we wouldn’t break through, and we wouldn’t have enough money to live on. Sometimes we barely had enough money to buy food, it was really tough at times and for me personally. I don’t know how the rest of the band thought, I’ve never really discussed it with them, but I’ve always thought the way Diz was fired, Brian was fired, Mick was fired, I felt like it could be me next. It would only take Fish to take a dislike to you for whatever reason.
MMM: You do mention in the book, your fear that you might be next for the Assassin(g)!
Mark Kelly: Yeah, why not? I’d seen it and been part of it, what happened to Diz and Mick. I’d seen how ruthless Fish and we as a band could be, and it wasn’t as if somebody was sticking up for them. The way they fired Brian, they saw me one night and two weeks later I was in the band. You know it was fairly unstable and again in the book I talk about having a baby and getting married and the rest of the band were all single young guys. That felt really risky, from the point of view of whether my face would fit anymore, coz I could see in the case of Brian, his face didn’t fit anymore, so I was nervous some of the time, but they were really exciting times! I wouldn’t change a thing, and I’d do it all again tomorrow!
MMM: As we all know, there are many sides to every story, this is yours. There will be a large number of fans who will be most interested in the Fish era and in particular how that all ended. None more so than Fish himself, his Fish On Friday broadcasts in recent weeks have been very vocal about his interest in reading it? Do you think he will like how he’s portrayed in the book?
Mark Kelly: He (Fish) messaged me yesterday, asking if I was going to send him a signed copy. I said I’d actually written him a note in a book the night before, it’s actually ready to go, and it ships out today. So I think it’s hard. In the book, I’ve tried to be as honest about everybody as I can, like my failings as well as everybody else’s. We had a great time together, and I think in the case of Fish, if he hadn’t had been in the band, we wouldn’t have got anywhere! I think his presence in the band was the reason I joined, or a big part of the reason. I could see this guy had a lot going for him, if anybody was going to go places, it was Fish! Anybody could have seen that. There were a lot of difficulties as well, and I try to describe how it was for me, and it’s my recollection of how things were, everybody has a different version of events. The firing of Diz for example! I’ve read what others have said, like Mick, and Diz has said a few things about it himself. One of the things that Mick said was that somehow Diz had got wind that we were going to get rid of him, that isn’t my memory of it at all! I can remember Fish saying, you’re going to have to tell him and then literally stepping in himself and taking over, but that’s exactly what happened, and I have a clear memory of that. So what Mick remembers I’m not really sure, everyone has their own version and this is mine, as far as I remember it’s the truth. I’ve left out some personal stuff, because the people I’m writing about are real people, and they’re still alive, and it’s not my intention to hurt people. There’s a lot been said about Fish leaving, and it’s not like I’m saying anything that hasn’t been said, so hopefully it will still be interesting to people including Fish and like I’ve said to him, he’d been threatening to write a book for years, I don’t know what kind of book he’ll write but if he doesn’t like or agree with what I’ve said, he can always answer it in his own book.
MMM: And I’m sure he will…
Mark Kelly: …or in his podcast on a Friday night (laughs)
MMM: Well, I’ll be watching on Friday…
Mark Kelly: Yeah, I bet you will, a lot of people will, but whatever he says I’m sure it will help sell more books!
MMM: So listen, there’s a lot of bad books out there about the band, is there any recurring error in them that irks you more than others?
Mark Kelly: I tried to fix the ones that people pointed out, like with the Brian Jelleyman story for example… (at this point we were interrupted by my dog Ziggy barking at some passing cat, I had warned Mark we might be… lol)
MMM: Sorry about that, had to give him a treat to shut him up… (lol)
Mark Kelly: Good idea! We do that to Pete when he starts shouting (everyone laughs) There’s a number of things that I hopefully corrected and as much as I could, I tried to cross-reference with things that are out there, as well as from other people or even just factual stuff, like it’s great when you guys (Scott’s Porridge, Marillion Archive) helped me out, I was messaging Claude (Micallef Attard) and saying, “have you a copy of this particular gig?” I don’t want to hear the songs, I just want to hear what was said, like what Fish said at the Pier 83 gig in 1983, when we were opening for Todd Rundgren. I remember that event with the peach being thrown at him, and I remember him starting off really calmly. I don’t remember the exact words he said, but I got Claude to share the gig, then I reprinted his exact words, I knew he said something like “If you’d like to come up on the stage… thanks to the guy who threw the peach it got a bit damaged on the way in” his voice goes up and up and up until in the end “I’ll stick it in your face!” …and to the rest of the people, “good evening”. It was quite a moment, that whole tour was quite memorable actually, but yeah like I said, where I could, I tried to verify stuff I was writing about!
MMM: So, what did you learn about yourself from the writing process?
Mark Kelly: I think I got better at writing, by the end of it according to Phil anyway, he said I had improved. I enjoyed it as a process, “What did I learn about myself?” well I suppose, that I’ve gone through life… I think I say something about it in the book, like feeling like I’ll just give things a try and if it doesn’t work I’ll give something else a try! It always worked out for me, maybe I was lucky!? I’ve always had that attitude, you should give things a try, don’t be afraid of change, like the whole crowdfunding thing, if I’d been a cautious person I wouldn’t have suggested it, I wouldn’t pushed for it because there was some nervousness about it in the band and I think if we’d all been nervous we wouldn’t have done it! Let’s just sign the record deal, that’s guaranteed money there, and we know that! So I think you have to willing to push yourself off into things that aren’t always the easiest option, but it usually worked, but not always! Sometimes I jump before looking and realize I should have looked more carefully whether it be in my personal life or my professional life, but I’m grateful, I’ve looked at my last 60 years and I think I’ve ended up in a good place.
MMM: I’ve been asked by a number of people, will the book be available on Kindle, or will it have any translation into other languages?
Mark Kelly: OK! In answer to the first question. It definitely will be! I’m in talks with my publisher about it and I think it’s something that should be made available sooner rather than later, because I think I’m one of those people that generally doesn’t pick up books anymore but buys everything on Kindle and there’s been a few books that I’ve wanted to read, but they weren’t available on Kindle. So I’d wait for it to be released on Kindle rather than buy the book, but to be blunt, there’s so little return in putting it out on Kindle or even putting it out through Amazon. They’ve slashed their price by 30%, and I’m going to the publisher going “bloody hell” how can they sell it for that? The publisher said you offer them a book, and they say, we’ll pay less for it, and they knock 40% off the price of what they should pay, so take it or leave it and if you say “no!”, they won’t sell it. So that’s the world we live in, that’s how Amazon sell so cheaply, as an Amazon user I’m being hypocritical because it’s great, you order something, and you get it the next day.
MMM: Well, I stopped using them because of all that, I only buy from the artist now!
Mark Kelly: Being at the receiving end of their tactics or behaviour, I’ve already started doing what you said, not stopping using them, but seeing if I really need to buy from them, or can I get it from someone else? So if I have to wait two or three days for a new pair of trainers or whatever, it’s no big deal. Anyway, it will be out on Kindle at some point in the not so distant future. The translations we’ve already had a few people talking about that, it’s hard to know as it’s not going to be a bestseller. I think there is a chance, but some of the humour would be hard to translate! And you have to pay for it, but it is something we are considering.
MMM: Moving on to the new album now, you released one track Be Hard On Yourself to fans and that went down a storm on the recent tour, you are due to release a second track Murder Machines on 4th February (2022). What can you tell us about that song?
Mark Kelly: Well Murder Machines, when we started doing this album, I remember h, well not when we started, we sort of started doing it a few years back, some of this album, you know we started jamming as soon as we finished the last album, but because of all the touring and other stuff, Marillion weekends, 2018 was a year we did quite a bit of jamming and mostly 2020 really. But lyrically h had sort of had lots of ideas knocking around and quite a few songs that were at various stages of completion that are not on this album, because some of them we felt were not quite right, quite finished, or we just weren’t happy with them and at some point we had a shortlist of about 20 which we narrowed down to about 10 that we finished. I’ve been pushing right from the beginning to make an album that is 45 minutes or less. An album we fit on one piece of vinyl, not because of the vinyl thing but mainly because peoples attention span and willingness to devote time to listen to an album, I think 45 minutes is a really good length for an album, it’s always just worked!
MMM: Yeah, I totally agree!
Mark Kelly: I think we’ve been guilty of it, Happiness Is The Road is a great 45-minute album, not such a great 80-minute double album, in my opinion! So instead of making another Happiness Is The Road we took the best which is 50/52 minutes. I pushed and pushed, but that was the best I could get, I’m happy that it’s 50 minute of songs that we all like a lot. But to answer your question, h did say a couple of years ago once all the pandemic was going strong, he just said “I can’t make this an album about Covid, I’m going to try and avoid writing about Covid” but he didn’t manage it really, because he writes about what’s going on in his head, in the world, the things that upset him, make him angry, make him sad or happy whatever! Things that raise some sort of emotion. You have to write about what moves you I suppose, good or bad, so Murder Machines I suppose on the one hand is about “the virus”, the Murder Machine is a virus, bacteria for instance are self-contained living things that reproduce, viruses do nothing unless they invade a cell. They hijack the cell’s reproductive machinery to make copies of themselves and that’s all they do, viruses are barely alive really. They can’t exist outside of living cells, where at least bacteria can live on their own, if you know what I mean. So a virus is barely alive really, like a machine, so that’s the Murder Machines title. But there’s also that line, “I put your arms around…” Oh, you probably haven’t heard it? (such a tease) “I put my arms around you and kill you with love”. OK, that’s got a killed-her-with-love theme, the virus killed her in a more literal sense and also it’s a song about unrequited love and.. erm… I wouldn’t say stalking but… erm… you’re better off asking h actually, it’s my interpretation of the lyrics having read them, but I think with a good lyric, people take from it what they want.
MMM: It was mentioned early on that you were in a very productive writing mood on this album, was this in some way unusual for you?
Mark Kelly: Well, in the book I talk about my writing, around about the time of Misplaced Childhood, especially Clutching At Straws, Steve Rothery was in a real creative period and wrote most of that music at that time and I always felt that I… not played second fiddle! But bits of songs I wrote tended to be half of what Steve wrote, but it was mostly his ideas through most of the band’s career actually, but for the last 10 years or so I started to get into my stride with the way that we worked… better late than never, I’ve just been quite creative, coming up with lots of ideas in the jamming process that we have, it just works well for me, I just feel comfortable experimenting, coming up with stuff. I don’t really think about it when I’m writing. It really is just, switch off and see what happens. The only thing I do in preparation for writing is, get some sounds together, so I’ll have lots of keyboards around me and each keyboard will have a different sound on it, like a palette of sounds if you like. I’ll have a bunch of those all queued up ready to go, and then I’ll hit a pedal and have a whole bunch of other sounds, but they’re all sounds I’ve previously selected, so I know I like them, because if you just randomly start using sounds, you can waste a lot of time, and it’s just pisses everybody off! So that’s my writing technique if you like, I generally come in here with no idea of what I’m going to play, and I get inspired by the sound, we jam around stuff, but I have to say, if I come up with the start of something, the melody, the chords or a keyboard part, Pete will come up with something that will be really creative on the bass and that takes it in a different place to where I would have had it, Steve Rothery will do some guitar around that and Ian will do his thing. A great example of that for me is the song Care, the middle section of that, we’re all doing different things, but it really works well together, and it’s one of my favourite bits on the album.
MMM: Looking forward to hearing it, you’re teasing us again… (lol)
Mark Kelly: But you know these jams… there’s a little snippet of Care that Tim (Sidwell) used on the trailer, it’s got like a funky bass thing and a big guitar riff type thing. That big guitar riff was from 2010. We’ve had that little jam, but we’ve never been able to find a home for it and every new album, someone will say what about that bit, but we never found anywhere to put it until now, and then it just really worked.
MMM: So was there any conscious decision to not make it F.E.A.R. part 2 or make it rockier?
Mark Kelly: For me, I was saying let’s make it a bit more guitary coz F.E.A.R. was quite keyboardy, and also it’s quite low-key, lots of slow atmospheric stuff on F.E.A.R., well it’s certainly how it feels to me! So I don’t know if it was conscious or not, but we ended up choosing songs that were a bit more up-tempo, Be Hard On Yourself is a good example, it sort of motors along, Murder Machines does as well as does Reprogram The Gene, so there’s quite a few songs that will work really well live I think. They’re not slow or lacking in energy or all this washy atmosphere, so musically I think it is a bit of a departure, we’ve had great reactions, the record company people are raving about it. It was finished months ago, and it’s still not out, so it’s really weird, we’re really excited about it and hope people when they hear it, will feel the same we do about it!
MMM: You’re starting rehearsals soon for The Weekends?
Mark Kelly: Yeah! Eh, Monday actually, I’ll be in the other room getting the sounds and click tracks for us to play along to and on Monday we’re all in here learning the new album.
MMM: Do you know yet, how much of the album you’ll be playing?
Mark Kelly: All of it! Yeah, Poland will be the first time you get to hear it live, and they can hear the whole thing.
MMM: Wow! Well, that’s something to look forward to. Well on that note, I’d like to say thank you again for talking with me today, good luck with The Weekends, the album and of course the book!
Mark Kelly: Cheers Mark
The interview was conducted in January 2022
Mark’s book Marillion, Misadventures And Marathon: The Life And Times Of Mad Jack is available to buy direct from Racket Records
Also, buy the new album An Hour Before It’s Dark at Racket Records
Andy Ward (Drummer, 1983)
In January 2021 I approached Camel drumming legend Andy Ward to see if he was interested in talking about his brief time in the band. He told me he didn’t do interviews anymore, but thankfully he did break his own promise to answer a few questions by email. Andy and his wife Didy are now retired and spend their time gardening. Didy told me that they thoroughly enjoyed seeing Fish on the recent Gardener’s World episode, and it brought back many memories. As Andy doesn’t do computers, Didy was left with the task of typing everything for him, so we kept it reasonably short. Big thanks to both Didy and Andy for taking the time.
MMM: You left Camel after the Nude tour in 1981, you had a few health issues at the time, and you took a few years off. Were you actively looking for a new band in 1983 when the Marillion gig became available?
Andy Ward: I was playing a few jazz gigs with friends and working as a barman and not really expecting a permanent band.
MMM: Were you aware of Marillion before they offered you the job? Can you tell us the story of how that came about? Who approached who, etc.?
Andy Ward: I had been reading about Marillion in Sounds magazine, so when I went to pick up my drums at Nomis studios they were there auditioning drummers, so I gave it a go.
MMM: What were your first impressions of the guys in the band and their music? Fish wearing greasepaint etc.?
Andy Ward: They were really nice guys and their music impressed me. As for the greasepaint – it certainly made Fish stand out on stage!
MMM: Was there anyone moment or song that made you say “…yes, this is the job for me right now!”?
Andy Ward: No – I was just glad to be in a “proper” band again.
MMM: It’s been said that because of the band’s admiration for your work in Camel, you never even had to audition, is that true?
Andy Ward: Pretty much. I remember after we played a couple of songs, Fish just said, “Let’s cut the crap – do you want to join?”
MMM: After joining the band, you really didn’t have much time to learn the set! Your first gig was at the Marquee 12th May (1983) under the pseudonym Skyline Drifters. The Marquee was always a favourite venue for the band and their fans, do have any memories of that first show?
Andy Ward: I had a couple of days to learn the whole set at home, so I was pretty nervous. But it went really well.
MMM: You only had a short time in the band, but in that time you crammed in some very iconic moments! The Garden Party video must have been one of the first things you’ve done in the band, it’s still my favourite video! Looked like a lot of fun, what do you remember of that day?
Andy Ward: My main memory of that day was that in one scene Fish fell on me – and I’ve had a bad back ever since.
MMM: Next up was your first TV appearance with the band on 20th May (1983) on The Old Grey Whistle Test. You had done it a few times with Camel, it was a huge step-up for the band! Were you or the band nervous about doing the show?
Andy Ward: I remember that Pete was very nervous, so I told him just to pretend it was a gig, not TV.
MMM: Every band remembers their first Top Of The Pops, it’s a special moment, Garden Party was Marillion’s, I remember it well! It changed my musical tastes forever! I’ve heard different stories from different artists over the years that said filming TOTP was usually chaotic, how did you find it?
Andy Ward: It felt phoney as we were miming, which I tried to make look obvious, so they cut me out of most scenes! Served me right!
MMM: You played a few festivals around this time, Mannheim, Würzburg, Glastonbury, Parkpop and Roskilde where Fish either fell or jumped into the crowd and couldn’t find his way back, any memories of these shows?
Andy Ward: Was great, as was Roskilde, but to be honest they all kind of blur into one. It was 40 years ago, after all!
MMM: By August and the onset of the band’s first US and Canadian tour, you had had a good few gigs under your belt, were you feeling settled in at this point or having any second thoughts about your position?
Andy Ward: I felt pretty settled at the time, don’t remember having second thoughts.
MMM: There are various stories on how the US tour went, it ended with the last few shows being cancelled after a show in New York and you allegedly being put on a plane home by Paul Lewis. In the book Separated Out, it mentions some incident in a hotel lobby with a cigarette machine, that being the straw that broke the Camel‘s back for the band, (pun intended). I don’t think I’ve ever seen your comments on what exactly happened. What’s your version of the events of that day?
Andy Ward: I can’t really remember “machine gate” but I must have done something pretty bad. I think they had already decided to fire me, though – I certainly felt very isolated by then.
MMM: How was that flight home? Your head must have been reeling?
Andy Ward: I felt upset, angry, guilty, but relieved that it was over. I had never been fired before, but I knew it wasn’t working, because of my mental state and excessive drinking. The two are closely linked. Looking back, I now know that this was all symptomatic of the bipolar I was to be diagnosed with many years later.
MMM: Back in the UK, you’re still in the band, you play two more shows, the Reading Festival and a warm-up show for that at Liverpool Royal Court. Had the band called time on your position in the band before these shows? Because they had brought in John Marter on drums for these two shows, and you were playing some percussion, the band effectively being a six piece. What’s your recall of these events? Were you upset at being relegated to percussion?
Andy Ward: I wasn’t sure what was going on, although I know that they asked me to play Reading as a friendly gesture. But I wasn’t sure if they wanted me back in the band… They didn’t!
MMM: In your short time in the band, did you ever have any writing sessions with the band?
Andy Ward: No!
MMM: What are your high and low points from your time in the band
Andy Ward: The high point was when I first joined, and we were getting to know each other. The low point was when Fish stopped talking to me, halfway through the US tour, after a silly misunderstanding.
MMM: Final question, will we ever see you on a stage or record again?
Andy Ward: No! I’m happily retired and living in Suffolk with my dear wife Didy. Life on the road has no appeal to me now, though I have very fond memories of bashing the skins as a younger man.
John Arnison(Manager – 1982-1998)
John Arnison became Marillion’s manager in 1982. He helped the band get a record deal with EMI in August 1982. He subsequently managed them for 16 years through their most successful period with Fish and on through to the Steve Hogarth era. John Arnison is still working hard in music management. I would like to thank him for his side of the story of Marillion – John Arnison has been very busy with work, but still took the time to share his memories with me and the fans. Thanks, John Arnison!
MMM: Hello John, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. How did you get into music management? What inspired you to do so?
John Arnison: Back in the early 70s I was at law college, I started running a rock disco night in a college bar, and started to book local bands. This led to me running a rock night at the Saxon Tavern in South London and live shows at Thames Polytechnic in Greenwich. One of the bands I often booked (Jeni Haans Lion) called me, asking me if I would be interested in working with them as personnel manager. They had been offered a record deal with EMI and a major management company wanted to take them on, but wanted them to have a day-to-day person. I went along to the meeting, on the wall were gold discs for Status Quo and Rory Gallagher, they offered me the job, and it started from there.
MMM: What were your daily duties as a band manager, and how have they changed over the years?
John Arnison: The manager runs the whole thing, when you start with a new band it’s them and you. Back in the 80s the first things you need is a record label, live agent, it’s your job to oversee and make the final decisions. One year down the line we had full road crew, press officers, promo team/radio/TV international department at the record label, accountants, lawyers etc.
MMM: What are the difficulties in managing multiple artists from different genres?
John Arnison: To be honest, I have never had more than two or three acts at any one time. I was given great advice by Status Quo’s press officer that to have a career in management you must break an act, so that when you find one that you think you can help do this, concentrate all your time on them! That’s what happened with Marillion!
MMM: Were you ever a musician yourself?
John Arnison: No! Just a DJ!
MMM: Can you tell us the story of how you first discovered Marillion, and how did you sell yourself as the man to bring them success?
John Arnison: It was one of those chance meetings. I had finished a late meeting at CBS records in Manchester Square and was walking back to the tube. I decided to pop into the Marquee Club for a drink. I saw a Press Officer I knew called Keith Goodwin, who came up and thanked me for coming along, as he was working with this new band from Aylesbury. They had just started, I could hear them and to be honest, I thought they sounded like Genesis! So I went in to watch and was very impressed. Not just the band, but also the fans who were all young teenagers (some should not have been in the venue, but back then they were not too worried about age). Keith asked me if I would like to meet them, so we arranged a meeting in a pub in Earls Court, we agreed that I would start a trial period (3 months) which ended up as 16 years.
MMM: You took over in August 1982 and almost immediately the band signed for EMI. Can you tell us how that came about so quickly, and also the disastrous offer from Charisma?
John Arnison: I had contacted EMI A&R man Hugh Stanley Clarke, he agreed to put the band in a studio for some demos. The problem was that he used a studio in the garden of a friend of his who was not a producer, just the engineer. The band had no real experience of actual recording at that time, so to be honest the demos were not that good! I took Hugh up to a show near Aylesbury, and we agreed that we would not play the demos to his boss (head of A&R) but get them all to see the band the next month when they were headlining the Marquee. This was 1982, the Punk era was over, so I just said to the EMI team “don’t just watch the band, look at that audience! It’s not all old Genesis fans, but real young Marillion Fans!” They offered a deal on the spot! The Charisma offer was just nowhere near EMI. Tony Stratton Smith was very upset! However, we did sign with Charisma Publishing after offered a much better deal.
MMM: Did EMI understand the Progressive Rock element of the band would mean they were always going to be an album band? It is often mooted that EMI put pressure on the band to have hits! How true is this?
John Arnison: As you know the first album went great as did the second, but unfortunately EMI thought they would take off in the USA, which never really happened. So when we got to Misplaced Childhood, EMI did say they were looking for a single that could also have a chance of radio play. There had been technically hits off both the first two albums, but not radio hits! Hugh spoke to me and the producer, Chris Kimsey. Chris called me from the studio and said he thought the band had written a piece for the album that he could turn into a radio track. Hugh and I flew out to Berlin to meet him and the band, who after a while agreed to let Chris have a go. Kayleigh was born.
MMM: How important was breaking the USA to EMI and the band? Do you have any stories about the ups and downs in that market?
John Arnison: As I said, EMI did think that it would take off in the USA as it had done in UK/Europe, but it didn’t! In some ways it was frustrating as the band were now playing large concert halls across Europe but small clubs in the USA. I decided I needed help in the USA, so we appointed Rod Smallwood as joint manager for North America, as he was managing Iron Maiden and was based in L.A., close to Capitol/EMI. The record label did support the band’s tour and wanted them to stay in the USA for six to nine months. However, as Kayleigh was a massive hit right across Europe, it was decided to concentrate on that market.
MMM: It has often been mooted that Fish and the band were offered a place at Live Aid? Can you tell us your side of that story?
John Arnison: The band were the first reserve for Live Aid, as Kayleigh was a current hit at the time, but all the acts asked to appear did, so there was no room for Marillion.
MMM: It would have been nice to have a film recording from the Misplaced Childhood tour, was this ever considered?
John Arnison: You may know that the band did record a Live From Hammersmith on its first Script tour. Unfortunately it did not sell so EMI stopped filming live shows. We did approach TV companies, but even after Kayleigh they said no as the band were not mainstream.
MMM: Another story from this time was the band being offered the soundtrack to The Highlander movie, subsequently done by Queen. What do you remember about this offer, and what stopped it happening?
John Arnison: It was suggested, but as soon as Queen confirmed, it was taken off the agenda.
MMM: With the release of Clutching At Straws the success continued, and you pushed the band to play bigger venues like Wembley Arena? From a logistical point of view, I fully understand that it’s impossible to do ten nights at Hammersmith when you can do two or three at Wembley. What were everyone’s thoughts on playing bigger venues?
John Arnison: To be honest, the promoters and label wanted the band to move up to arenas earlier! It was our decision to play multiple nights in concert halls, as the band and I felt we didn’t want to move too quickly. Looking back it’s funny because some of the band found it hard to get the vibe when playing four, five nights in the same venue. Usually the first and last nights were the best from their point of view.
MMM: The winter Clutching At Straws tour in 1987 was a huge success. To take advantage of the success you immediately booked a second Spring 1988 leg, I believe not everyone wanted to do this! Some wanted a break, it’s often been said that the resulting fatigue made tempers fray, and it contributed to the split. What’s your take on this time within the band and the eventual split with Fish?
John Arnison: This is a tough one as everything was going so well, but behind the scenes there was some issues. Fish did come to me with his thoughts about the future of the band, which without going into detail, I did not agree with! He wanted to make changes there and then, I suggested that we finish the tour, the band should have a break and then discuss his thoughts with the rest of the band, which he did reluctantly agree too. The band went to the USA for some dates to help the US label try to get some momentum. Lots of things were going wrong on that leg. I was kept up to date and went over for a few days to speak with Fish, who agreed to wait until the end of the tour. I then got a call from the band, saying they had had a letter from Fish telling them what he wanted to change. One of those was change of manager! I was then told by the band members of the personal issues that they had with Fish over the last couple of years. I was asked if I felt they could continue without Fish, because I did think it was possible! They were happy to continue with me and Rod in the USA!
MMM: Did you or EMI have doubts about the band continuing without Fish?
John Arnison: EMI had a period of time before they needed to take up the options for both the band and Fish. They were happy for the band to find a new singer and then demo new material. Nick Gatfield was head of A&R and he came down to the studio to hear how things were going and said “…sounding great, let’s go for it!”
MMM: Were you at any of the subsequent auditions for a replacement?
John Arnison: The band tried out a few, but the problem was they were all trying to be Fish! Then Dwayne Welch called about a demo he had heard from Steve Hogarth. At first, it was about his lyrics. We sent it over to the band, who said straight away, “…let’s get him in to co-write!” During that session the band decided that Steve could be the one, I arranged a lunch meeting with him and explained the business end of things and what I believed the future for the band with him could be. The rest is history!
MMM: The addition of Hogarth split the fans and many gave up… personally I think he was a great addition as subsequent work has proved, but I understand why many didn’t get it. The band continued to have minor chart success with singles, how did you perceive the post Fish era success?
John Arnison: Steve did not stand in for Fish, the Hogarth Marillion always had to stand up for itself! I know the singles didn’t come, but the band had and still does have a loyal following, and it’s great that they have proved you can be a successful band without hit singles!
MMM: The end of the EMI era and your split from the band, what are your memories of this time?
John Arnison: It’s funny that they were dropped by EMI because an album only sold 250,000! Today that would be No. 1 all over the world, but that’s what happened! EMI decided they would rather invest in a new artist rather than pay Marillion the advice due. As it happened it was the best thing that happened as it put the band’s future in their own hands! They had a great fan base that had stayed loyal, so we went direct to fans to help, and it worked then …and is still working today.
MMM: Looking back at your time with the band, what are your biggest regrets and proudest achievements?
John Arnison: Achievements: selling out Hammersmith before Marillion released its first album (3,600 x 2 nights), breaking the band across Europe (Germany sales were larger than UK). Proving that Steve Hogarth could follow Fish and the band to still be selling out major venues today.
Regrets: not many…
MMM: Do you still follow the band’s career?
John Arnison: Yes, I am still in touch with the guys! Lucy has done a great job! She has taken over from me as the longest manager.
MMM: I see you are managing Billy Ocean at the moment. He’s been on TV a lot in the last few months, so you’re still working hard, but with Covid affecting the music world, are you as busy as ever for different reasons?
John Arnison: Yes, it’s been very difficult this last year, but I love this business, especially the live side! Nothing better than seeing a crowd singing along and having a great time at a live show! Looking forward to this getting back to normal.
MMM: With the state of the music business today, very little money from records, streaming etc. Would you, if you had the chance, do it all again, if you had to start again today?
John Arnison: It’s so different now! So hard for new acts to get the funding to give it a shot! But I do believe music is part of all our lives, it will not go away! Just got to keep looking at new ways to get new artists started on the long road.
The interview was conducted in January 2021
“Privet” Hedge(FOH – 1981-1997)
Privet was front of house and sound engineer for the band from the very early days, He was there for the Doug Irvine-, Fish- and Steve Hogarth-eras of the band. He has worked with many great artists including Genesis, Mike And The Mechanics, The Who, Black Sabbath, Cream, Eric Clapton etc. so it’s a real treat to have this opportunity!
MMM: Hi Privet, thanks for taking the time to chat with me today. I’ve been after you for some time, so I’m delighted to have the opportunity. I guess we should start with your rather unusual name, it has intrigued fans for decades, It’s an obvious pun, but how did you get the Privet tag?
Privet: My surname is Hedge. I was called it at school when I was probably about seven, and it stuck.
MMM: Can you tell us how you get started with sound engineering, was there a college course? Did you have a friend that did it, or was it pure accident?
Privet: I had always loved live concerts and music since I saw The Who, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin etc. as a teenager so when I had a chance to take any part in live music, I jumped at it. I started by helping the band out where I could, doing a bit of anything. I did work for a cassette mass production company at the time assisting with mastering, and while it was very basic stuff with minimal equipment, it helped me understand audio to a small degree. Anyway, John, who was the then engineer and owned the P.A., unwisely went on holiday, so I mixed the gig and took over from there. I still had a nine to five job, so it was just a hobby to start with, but I found mixing a very intuitive thing from the first minute. As time passed, a day job got in the way, so I went on the early gigs with the band. Eventually, after Fish joined, we were playing so many shows, it became a “full time” hobby.
At the time there were no recognised educational ways to become a professional sound engineer, even if I’d had the time – you learned from your experience, your peers, magazine articles, and equipment manuals. For years, I carried a fat folder of manuals and parts of magazines in my toolbox. It was up to you to educate yourself and have the humility to ask for advice when you felt you needed it.
MMM: I was speaking to Stef Jeffrey (from The Web) earlier in the week, and she said that of everyone associated with Marillion, she’s known you the longest. Your mother’s worked together and your sister sang with her in the choir, so would I be right in saying you were friends with the band before they formed Marillion? How did you come to work with the Marillion boys in those early days?
Privet: I met the Silmarillion guys (through Stef) who lived in the same village. I got involved in various capacities, but basically just hung around helping out if I could. I barely knew the other Silmarillion musos, and it started with meeting Mick and Doug, and then Steve. I’m not 100% on the timeline, but around the time Doug left, Steve, Guy and I moved into a rented place in Aston Clinton together. Then Fish and Diz appeared and things started getting very busy, playing more and more gigs…
MMM: In the Jon Collins book Separated Out it says you were present at the recording of Lady Fantasy and Alice at The Enid‘s studios in Hertford. These early songs despite the poor recordings have retained a lot of charm and are still loved by a sizeable group of fans. What are your memories of that day and those two songs?
Privet: Honestly, nothing! I took no active part in the early audio recordings. I was just a keen helper-outer with no specific role until the band, with Steve, started playing local gigs.
MMM: Can you remember anything details of other early recordings like Close (later The Web) or The Tower, the embryonic Grendel?
Privet: Again, band writing, rehearsing and routining songs were not in my sphere beyond the fact that they, like bands generally then, tested a lot of songs on a live audience. It was always exciting to hear their new ideas, especially once Fish and Rothers started gelling musically/lyrically. Steve, as well as his ability to play blinding solos, has always been able to call on a broad palette of styles and sounds, from the most gentle acoustic to filthy rock guitar.
MMM: How far back does your connection go, did you see Doug or Pete Trewavas in Orthi, or Mick’s band Electric Gypsy?
Privet: I didn’t! I was only aware of these bands after I became involved.
MMM: Were you at or did you work at any of the other notable shows, the famous Silmarillion show at Southall that coincided with the riots? Or perhaps the first Berkhampsted show with the young Steven Wilson in attendance?
Privet: Again, before my time.
MMM: You were there FOH (front of house) for the very first show with Fish and Diz Minnitt line-up at The Red Lion, Bicester on 14th March 1981. We’ve recently unearthed negatives from this show, including a couple of yourself. Do you have any memories of that night?
Privet: My lasting memories are more the feelings of excitement at playing a show with the new band. Fish’s arrival and accompanying stage presence had transformed the band’s direction, and there was a feeling of intent to succeed. I remember everyone being happy that it had gone well.
MMM: Doug Irvine is somewhat of an enigma with fans, he’s like Marillion’s Syd Barrett, he just left and wasn’t seen again for many years. What are your memories of him?
Privet: My memory of Doug was of a friendly, genuinely good bloke. He was never anything but warm towards me. I knew little or nothing of his departure until after it happened. His only vice was his Ford Capri. Syd, I believe, had a few others. I don’t know if Syd had a Capri or not.
MMM: Fish came in January 1981. Listening back to some of those early recordings from 81-82, I’m immediately struck by the phenomenal energy! There was almost a Punk influence in there, the musicianship was still a little raw, but they were improving with every show. Was there a moment or a show where you thought these guys really have something?
Privet: Straight away, as soon as Marillion started playing gigs, they were good. Fish had a “succeed or die trying” ego and an awesome stage presence from the off. It was obvious that Steve and Fish were unusually excellent live performers. Mark and Pete joining made them into a great band. While perhaps not immediately the finished article (who ever is?), history has shown that the sheer amount of musical talent in the group meant that Marillion soon were several levels above any other up-and-coming rock band in the area, and probably nationally!
MMM: There is a story that you once stood in for Fish on vocals and that he went on to the sound desk. Can you remember this night? What you sang and the reasons for it?
Privet: I may have fannied around on a harmonica, which I can’t play, at a show once in Bangor in the very early days. But it wasn’t anything more than a bit of a laugh. There’s only so much you can do creatively with a slow, bad version of Last Of The Summer Wine. The band were very kind – they didn’t fire me – perhaps the sensitivity of my interpretation of that classic tune moved them to show clemency.
MMM: Do you have any other special or funny stories you think the fans would be interested in hearing, I’m thinking, gigs that went wrong, Fish stage diving, great crowd reactions, monks habits, Hammer Horror tomb stones etc.?
Privet: I accidentally blew Steve up once with home-made pyros. Things don’t go much wronger than blowing up the guitarist, although I maintain it was Steve’s fault for playing guitar during one of his own gigs on a stage I was trying to blow up. Sorry Steve! There were scorch marks on his cabinet permanently afterwards. That’s why I do sound. Special effects are patently not my métier, and the collateral guitar-playing casualties are 100% lower.
The Hammer Horror/monk madness was bonkers, but theatrical. It certainly made people take notice. The Friars hall gig looked like Steptoe’s Yard without the old bicycles. That was a cracking gig, there was the touring opening act playing in the Friars main hall being watched by exactly nobody while their intended audience were all jammed into the side hall watching Marillion!
A really fun mad thing we did was during the Brave recordings: myself, Mark and h did some great “guerrilla” FX recordings, smashing bottles in flooded mineshafts, getting asked by Transport Police to leave London Bridge tube station (that is the best recording of a tube train arriving ever…), destroying mics trying to record quarry blastings etc. A lot of them made it onto the album. Today’s Quiz: find those FX…
MMM: Those early years of 81/82 have gained an almost mythological status with fans as there’s so little available, photos are few and far between, there’s no video/film that we’ve found yet and only a handful of live shows. When you think back to those days, what springs to mind? How would you describe them to younger fans who weren’t there?
Privet: The band worked incredibly hard to build a following and finesse their material by playing, playing, playing. It was also a time when the band line-up changed musically for the better. The band’s internal relationships are always between just them, but the dynamics and the drive to succeed inevitably led to changes. Both Mick and Fish, and in a very different way, Steve, had an ambition I’ve seen many times since in artists who have succeeded. But musically, with Mark, who was a total revelation with his virtuosity and ear for texture and sounds, and Pete who’s just intuitively a musical genius, the band was only ever going to succeed. It also needs to be said, that despite line-up changes, it was a real family affair within everyone involved. Steve’s mum looked after us in Whitby, and Fish’s folks, Bert and Isa, adopted the band and lent us their flat in North Berwick as a base for the mad Scottish tour, where I think they played every day, sometimes even at lunchtime in pubs, too. Marillion were dedicated, exciting and impossible to ignore. Everywhere they played, you could feel people who’d never even heard of them being turned on. It was thrilling just to be a small part of it. By the time they left Scotland, they were in full sail. The Marquee shows at that time were incredible, sold out madhouses. Fantastic days!
MMM: Getting back to your job on the FOH (front of house), was there a point where you said to yourself, I’m rather good at this, I might just stick with this?
Privet: It came naturally, I wanted to improve, and I was as driven as the band to succeed. I learnt about systems, consoles, FX etc. on my own time and as a young engineer, I have never had an ego that stops me taking advice and guidance from other engineers. And luckily, I was mixing Marillion, and as anyone who’s mixed them since will tell you, it would take a pretty special engineer to fuck it up.
MMM: Most people will just see a dimly lit guy at the back of a hall, pressing buttons. How important is your job to the quality of sound the band and audience hear?
Privet: My (former) job has changed massively, but not totally, since the 80s. The speaker systems in the type of shows I’ve done in the last years are more efficient with better coverage of the room, have few or no inaccuracies in frequency response and usually arrive with a computer-equipped system tech who will have made calculations regarding coverage based on the dimensions of the room. There is, of course, a need to follow your experience and knowledge of the system to make “organic” decisions regarding set-up and speaker positioning, but bar the response of the room itself, the daily starting point for live audio mixing is consistently much more controlled than it ever was.
The bit that hasn’t really changed is the mixing part. While consoles are far more flexible now that the majority are digital, and some argue the toss late into the night whether old analogue consoles sound better (they don’t – discuss…), but that’s a moot point in any case, because the truth is, it’s still all in the ears and fingers. A good engineer can make any console sound good with good inputs. What hasn’t changed is that you actually have to be able to mix, not just operate – you have to know what you’re going for regarding the sound of the band you’re mixing, understand the needs of the audience’s expectations and control the volume sympathetically to the artist’s music, the audience and the room. Anyone can do loud. Powerful is very different. Of course, if you’re playing in a small space and the onstage sound is brutally loud, you’re stuffed… however finessed your mix is. So go and mix a band who care about how they sound…
MMM: What’s the biggest fear for a sound engineer on the night of a show, have you ever had a real nightmare show?
Privet: “Acoustic medley sections” were always my biggest fear! They always make you need a pee…. no idea why. Everyone makes the odd mistake, and missing FX cues occasionally isn’t unknown, only horrendous-sounding rooms, unnecessarily loud stage volume and/or awful speaker systems can really ruin the evening. But staying calm and working to make it better is all you can do. I’ve done shows where the power goes, the inputs disappear, and it all goes quiet, but calmly identify the problem, fix it and get on with it!
Doing bands with stupidly loud onstage sound is always the hardest, and sometimes you can’t beat the row coming off-stage, so those are the nightmares. You can talk to the band about it, but if they are set on being destructively loud, so be it! You deal with it as best you can. Fight to keep the vocals clear, do the gig and load the truck. I stopped doing stupidly loud bands long, long ago. It’s not mixing, it’s crisis management.
MMM: With the advent of constantly improving technology, did that make your job easier or harder? What were the struggles with keeping up with new tech?
Privet: In-ear monitoring has been a boon for both engineers and artists, it gives us all more control. Some artists still use traditional monitoring – I saw Bonnie Raitt a few years back in Newcastle City Hall, and they used floor wedges as IEMs made it harder for them to banter and react to one another, but generally, most people use IEMs now. A variable benefit/problem is that virtually all bands use tracks these days to some degree, varying between a few backing vocals to the whole thing. Tracks often sound one dimensional and can lack dynamics, especially percussion tracks. There are very few 100% live bands left in larger shows. The drummers usually have to play to clicks to keep in time with visual FX etc., but it is what it is. In a controlled environment you set the levels in rehearsals with the ProTools programmer and musical director to introduce more appropriate dynamics, and then they’re the same every night.
As I said before, speaker systems now are so good, they level the playing field. Most top engineers can operate the most common boards, although some of the very top guys never have to change, because they have total control over their choice of equipment for every show anywhere in the world and freight it. Everyone has their own favourite console, and I used versions of the DiGiCo SD boards and a few outboard FX and valves for my last few years. On a tour without your own audio control, you will face a few different consoles, but you can build a show for all worthwhile consoles on your laptop, send it on ahead to the house guys and have it in the board waiting for you. But I’ve always insisted on DiGiCo, while carrying my own outboard, as with a bit of tweaking, it is fundamentally the exact same mix every night.
All that said, there is a vast production quality diversity between the larger venue tours I’ve spent most of my career playing, and the small pub/club gigs many bands play, and which I started out doing. The degree of flexibility and compromise required is very different. But that’s how you learn.
MMM: After the band signed to EMI, the venues got much bigger. How did you personally find that challenge of getting the sound right in bigger venues? Did you have favourite venues or ones to avoid?
Privet: I still just loved it, the challenge to keep up with the band’s development. And my responsibility to the shows was enough to override any fears. I have always been a very confident engineer, and have been helped by many other great techs and engineers I have worked with. Venue sizes were just a small part of the learning curve in 1983. In terms of professionalism, the whole touring organisation and production changed. John, the then manager, brought in new people. The late, great Andy Field, our production manager, was an inspiration to all of Marillion’s crew with his respect, total competence and professionalism, and most of the core crew worked for Marillion for years, and we remained friends long after h had replaced Fish. Some are still among my best friends to this day. Other peripheral but experienced crew toured with us, and they all contributed to us becoming a brilliant team under Andy’s leadership. The atmosphere, attitude and dedication in a crew has never been bettered in my long years in the business.
I didn’t know about it until after it had happened, but there was one other huge change. I really felt for Mick, he’d been fundamental to the band’s success. Unsurprisingly, it took a long time to find an even adequate replacement. It was my first awakening to how unkind this business can be! After several false starts with replacements, Ian joined. He was the total pro, just brilliant and supremely confident. I don’t know how the band felt, but he scared the shit out of me at first. Either way, we all had to step up. It was a sharp learning curve.
As far as venues go, Hammersmith Odeon always has a place in my professional heart – it was always an ambition to play there with the Marillos when I started out. I saw so many great bands there, and we played amazing shows there. And anywhere in France or Italy, obviously, because you could eat so well on days off.
MMM: Do you have any favourite Marillion gigs that you’ve worked on?
Privet: That’s kind of an impossible question! When I start thinking about it, too many come to mind. The two tours that always pop up are Brave and Misplaced when they supported Rush in North America. To play a whole 45 minutes of new music so well without a pause has a special edge to it. It takes balls.
MMM: Can you remember your last gig with Marillion? How did that go?
Privet: I did a couple of shows in Yorkshire in August 2002, depping for Stewart Avery, whose wife was having a child (no priorities some people). The last one was Richmond, an outdoor. It was lovely to mix Marillion again, and I thought it sounded great. (Well, I would say that….) The set was full of many favourites and the last encore was King, which I always enjoyed mixing – it sounds huge.
MMM: You obviously made a name for yourself quite quickly as the big boys came calling. You have worked with Genesis and Eric Clapton, Black Sabbath amongst many others. How did you find that step up in terms of larger arenas, stadium shows, larger egos?
Privet: All the great artists I’ve worked with, however famous, have been strong-minded people and I approached what I did in the same way – with respect for them and knowing the importance to them to trust me with their music. As far as egos go, I have long learned that what is said about artists being “difficult” is 99% bollocks. Great players and performers are not “normal” people – if they were, they’d be doing karaoke in their local.
I was always nervous to varying degrees before any show, but never daunted. Once the house lights went out, I was calm. All nerves went. It was what I was there for. I was always prepared, and I relied on my skills and mental strength to do it as well as was possible.
MMM: I’m a huge Genesis fan myself, as I’m sure many Marillion fans still are! Were you a fan when you got that job with them? How did that come about?
Privet: Just for the record, my association with Marillion is a different thing to my association with any other band because I grew into the business with them over many years and their place is unique in my development as a professional. Of course, mixing Genesis was a great thrill as I am a big fan, and they are a band any engineer would want on their CV. However, there are so many other artists I have mixed FOH for, with whom I’ve had longer associations during my career. Although hardcore prog rock fans may well scoff at many/most of them! Quality is quality and these are great artists and performers, and electrify audiences – Simply Red, KT Tunstall, Neil Finn, Status Quo, Ricky Martin, Roxy Music/Bryan Ferry, Gary Moore, Brian May, A-ha, Joe Cocker, Mike And The Mechanics, Alicia Keys, Zucchero, and Cream at the Albert Hall…
Genesis were one of my favourite bands as a teenager, and there wasn’t much they could have played that I didn’t know. I’d seen several shows as a a fan and apart from loving a lot of the tunes, it’s impossible to not respect a band who have been so innovative and consistently excellent live and who advanced global production standards. (Did you know they came up with the concept of and pushed the development of the Vari-Lite with cocktail sticks and a polystyrene coffee cup? A game changer in lampie world.) Anyway, somehow… or other… I ended up mixing Mike And The Mechanics for several years before (with Paul Carrack and Paul Young) and Mike was great to work with, and was happy with my work, so it came from there. Genesis needed an engineer for a tour, so it was easy for them to use me.
MMM: How aware were the Genesis boys of Marillion and the new wave of progressive music they had inspired?
Privet: They were very welcoming and friendly, but walking in cold, it was easier to keep a professional distance from the band. It was my job to mix them. The production and its details were always the main discussions. Late night chats in the bar are never a great idea (with the odd exception…), so the subject never came up. Like most bands, their internal dynamic was special to them, and to be honest, on large shows, once the tour was going, you didn’t often meet the artist for more than a debrief every day or quick chat at soundcheck, if they did one. A professional distance is generally the easiest place to inhabit. First and foremost, you’re part of a show, and too much personal familiarity risks diluting a perfect professional relationship.
MMM: Am I right in saying you worked at Live Aid? Were you doing the whole show or selected artists?
Privet; I mixed Quo and The Who on the day, and was house engineer for the audio control for the whole thing.
MMM: Do you have any abiding memories of that day?
Privet: Well, I love The Who and Quo, so that was an incredible thrill. Queen on the day were magnificent. One of the greatest live performances I ever saw. The atmosphere in the stadium was unique for a big stadium show, when The Cars Drive and accompanying video played in the stadium, the gravity of what it was really about dawned on the audience. We techs were madly busy of course, multi-band superstar shows had never been done before with such insanely short changeovers, but the feeling of why we were there was always present. Then Queen came on, pressed the release button and turned it into a party. I felt a bit sorry for anyone who came on after them, you can’t follow a performance like that.
While we were loading out, Geldof turned up with huge bags of big macs for everyone working. I think I ended up sleeping on the floor at Marillion’s Victoria office after watching the US side of the show. Most of the crew on the show did the whole thing – rehearsals and the show – for free. I was happy to do it gratis. Live Aid was an important wheel to put your shoulder to.
MMM: I believe you are retired now from the music business, what’s the thing you miss most and least about it?
Privet: There is a massive sacrifice in touring. For all the thrill and adrenalin of live shows, you are missing your life and time with those whom you love. But that’s the price, it’s your choice, and your family’s. What I will miss is mixing the gigs! That was always the best bit. The house lights going out and just doing what you do. An electric and irreplaceable feeling. The airports, buses and being away from home? Over time, that all wore thin. I’ll never miss that now, not for a second. Sadly for all of us, Covid has put the mockers on international touring for now, and a lot of my friends are hurting from the absence of work. Nobody foresaw the global effects of the pandemic. Unfortunately for British touring productions, the UK has a government who don’t appear to give a toss about anything beyond their own pockets and puerile jingoism, so it may be a long road back to normality in our business. Elton John’s recent appraisal of the situation in live music hit the nail squarely on the head.
Professionally, I’ve achieved more than I could have ever dreamt of, and I owe so much to Marillion! My time with them gave me the opportunity to start on my career, but most importantly, the long years of friendship, camaraderie and time after time, to feel the thrill of being a part of some truly amazing gigs. It still makes me happy to know that they are out there making music and turning audiences on. Marillion are the real thing!
And now? I’m happy to just be at home currently residing in the “where are they now” file, driving Fiona mad, riding my bike and enjoying life in our little world in the Lot. Of course, I still listen to music loud – when I’m allowed to of course, isn’t that right, dear? 🙂
MMM: Have you managed to keep in touch with any of the band over the years?
Privet: I’ve honestly never felt out of touch with Marillion, so whenever I do have any contact with any of the band, I don’t feel as if there’s ever been a break. I’ve been directly in touch with Mick not long ago, and Mark of late. Rothers kindly gave me a copy of his excellent book of photos when we all met up in Gateshead for a curry. The last time I saw all the guys together was when I lived in Northumberland a few years ago, backstage at the Sage. I catch up with Ian from time to time and remain in regular contact with some former crew guys who are close friends.
Bar a couple of hellos and communication during the overdubs for La Gazza Ladra, I’ve not really spoken to Fish much since he went. In the aftermath of his departure, he made it very plain it was him or Marillion with all the crew. Sadly it meant some stayed, some went, so a great crew was split. But when h arrived in Marillion-world, it was all systems go again. It was obvious to me from the first second that Steve was the perfect fit. Musical, great voice, electric on stage, the lot. He had no prog rock baggage, just passion and musicality. It was really positive change, and brought a lot of new energy. And 30 plus years later, it seems to have worked out very nicely.
Many of us old crew live in various parts of Europe now, and while I have now passed on all my acts and have fully retired myself, my dear chums Smick (Hardgrave) and Alan (Parker) have moved into different types of production and are very successful in TV and corporate productions in their home countries. I stayed with the boys as FOH engineer until 1997-ish and during that time helped them set up and run the Racket Club, and the installation into Château Marouatte to record Brave. The whole Brave project was fun from start to finish. Dave Meagan did a fantastic job and everyone was so up for experimenting and enjoying it. Really great days. But in the end, there was no denying that my undoubted forte, and ambition, involved purely doing live shows, Stewart took over at the Racket Club and I went off to pursue making noise in big dark rooms.
MMM: As this is an interview for Marillion fans and collectors, I have to ask if you have any band memorabilia you’ve kept from down the years, recordings, shirts, gold discs etc.?
Privet: As far as recordings go, all my live shows I recorded as engineer, bar a couple of shows I copied and kept for myself, are at the Racket Club. I gave everything to the chaps when Racket Records started releasing selected old shows many years ago. I have some recordings on various media of all the tours of bands whose music I enjoyed particularly, or the mixes were perfect, but I never listen to them. I’ve never been one for memorabilia, bar a few commemorative plaques/discs, and any old T-shirts I had have long ago been used to polish a bike or decluttered.
I do have a cassette of the first demo in a gold casing of Garden Party/He Knows You Know tucked away somewhere. I worked in the cassette duplicating company at the time, so slipped a gold one through. Having said that, I duped it, so it’s probably got K-Tel’s Best Of Gladys Knight And The Pips on it. I also have “Privet’s Big Towel” which incredibly has never worn out and is like new despite almost daily use. I think production, Andy no doubt, had the towels made up for all the crew. We were touring in Italy, and every day the shower towels provided by the promoters were in effect small nylon non-absorbent handkerchiefs. The moaning from the crew was relentless even by crew standards – crew love a moan – so to shut us up, within a few days these bespoke personalized bath towels showed up. It’s still fluffy after all these years. I still love a moan, though.
There is one particular piece of history I have that really matters to me above anything else. The green sleeveless tour jacket Andy Field got made for us crew in 83-84 (with “Priv” embroidered on it). I use it for working outdoors when it’s chilly. It’s hanging by the back door.
MMM: Thank you, Privet!
The interview was conducted in July 2021
Aislinn Knight – Andy Field(Production Manager – 1983-1988)Our latest interview is a special one and an emotional one with Aislinn Knight. Aislinn worked with the band in a few areas, very much behind the scenes, but we will get to that in a moment. She was also married to the late great Andy Field, Marillion and Fish’s production manager. As we all know Andy died very young, perhaps you were at the tribute show to him in Hammersmith back in the day, this is a tribute to him on his 30th anniversary.
MMM: Hello, Aislinn! Huge thanks for taking the time to share your memories of your time with the band and of course Andy himself. I guess we should start at the beginning, how did you first meet Andy, was it through his work?
Aislinn: Thanks for asking me, Mark! I’m happy to shed some light on “those who were on the fringes, those who never really got the fame but contributed hugely” which is how you explained to me why you wanted to do an interview with me about Andy. To answer your question: I first met him through friends of mine, Bob and Chris Bowman. He was having a cup of tea with them in the kitchen. Back then in the early 1970s it was not unusual for people living and around in Cannock, Staffordshire to know someone who was in a band or worked for one, The Midland is a hotbed of talent. Bob Bowman, himself a very accomplished, technically precise guitar player, seemed to know them all. Mel Galley from the band Trapeze was a close friend and a frequent visitor there. Andy started his career with Trapeze as their roadie, joining their USA tour in 1972.
MMM: For fans like myself who perused the finer details of album credits and tour itineraries, Andy Field’s name will be very familiar. He started off with Marillion as a crew member but quickly rose through the ranks to be stage manager, crew manager and eventually tour/production manager by the time of Clutching At Straws. Can you remember how he got the gig with Marillion? Was it through John Arnison?
Aislinn: It was Gary Townsend who asked him, I’m not sure how they met. Andy at that time, early 1983, was working freelance and toured with various bands, so they probably crossed paths on the road. This is what he wrote about his “Misplaced Youth Of A Production Manager” for The Web 1988: “Asked (conned) by Marillion roadie friend Gary Townsend to do four shows as drum roadie for Mick Pointer and have worked for Marillion until today.”
MMM: From doing these interviews and chatting with other band and crew from that time with the band, Andy’s name always seems to pop up! It’s always positive, he must have been very good at his job, but he also seems to have been a bit of a joker?
Aislinn: He did have a good sense of humour, most of the time anyway, and he and the crew were a band of brothers, so got up to all sorts of mischief and fun. They worked hard and played hard, but, as the old saying goes, “what happens on tour stays on tour”. I didn’t get to hear about much anyway… and I didn’t ask!
MMM: I’m reminded of a story you once told me of the great Lighter Wars tour. Can you tell us about that?
Aislinn: I think it was started by Ian Moseley. He would steal anyone’s lighter as he kept losing his own, and then everyone started doing it. There would be a lot of giggling and skulduggery, especially when someone desperately needed a cigarette, they all smoked back then. Always up for a bit of fun and constantly playing daft tricks on each other.
MMM: How would you describe him as a boss on tour, was he strict or fun to work with?
Aislinn: He was both strict and fun, old school, but still one of the boys. He had T-shirts made up for the crew “Never Change A Winning Team” which sort of said it all really. I worked for him at home in the office, typing up schedules and tour itineraries. It was obvious by the careful way he arranged everything for the entourage that he was doing his best to look after everyone. Keeping them safe and well-fed too with good catering was the priority. He was always worried that accidents might occur through the crew being too tired to cope, and he would adjust the budget to make sure there were days off and hotels to break up those gruelling back to back tours. He justified these extra expenses to the accountant by saying "A tired crew, accidents bound to happen, drop a lighting truss on a rock star’s head during a show and see how much that will cost you!"
MMM: How would you describe a typical work day for Andy?
Aislinn: He would call his work on tour "18 hour days". When describing what he did as a job to our neighbours he’d say "Oh, I do a bit of this and a bit of that" but when questioned further would come back with "Being a production manager is not as tiring as being on the lighting or catering crew who are first in and last out of the hall. I just spend the whole time juggling everybody’s problems and thinking on my feet, the worrying machine of the tour."
MMM: What did you and Andy like to do to unwind on those rare days off?
Aislinn: When he was on tour and had a day off and a hotel he would sleep mostly and catch up on paperwork, he’d phone me if he could, no mobile phones back then, and often send postcards back home, which I still have. When he was at home, he’d sleep for a couple of days then start doing loads of DIY or plan our next house move, he was a workaholic and restless soul, I think he had a gypsy traveller’s heart.
MMM: We always ask interviewees if they have managed to save any memorabilia or tour items, did you manage to save any?
Aislinn: Not much, I’m afraid. Andy had been so ill for so long, 7 ½ years, and towards the end just before he died accumulated a lot of debt, I don’t think he realised how bad our finances were, and neither did I until after he’d died. A couple of months following the funeral I was forced to sell the house to clear some of the debts and had to store everything I owned in a garage, which was damp and far from ideal. Unfortunately, the box of itineraries from his 20-year career in the music business was ruined by vermin. Tour jackets and T-shirts and laminates disappeared, presumed stolen. Such a shame! But thankfully all our photos survived as they were stored in a wooden crate, and during the first Covid-19 lockdown I sorted them into albums. Made me smile as I went through them as typical "on tour Andy Field memorabilia photos", not many of the band, just a few from backstage, but plenty of the crew, tour buses, trucking, staging, backline equipment, lights and sound, all things important to him. A few promotional Marillion and Fish signed photos, silver disc Fugazi 1984, gold disc Real To Reel 1985, double gold disc The Thieving Magpie 1988. Also, from the Lighter Wars Tour 1987-88, Andy’s inscribed brass Zippo. All Marillion and Fish picture discs from that era, most of them signed, and many "not for sale" CDs including A Singles Collection 1982 To 1992 which Marillion kindly dedicated to the memory of Andy Field. Packed away in boxes which I haven’t looked at in years, mugs and tour bits and bobs, a Willie Nelson bandana comes to mind, and an inscribed pewter beer mug from Ian Mosley.
MMM: You mentioned tour itineraries, they are some of my favourite items, so jam packed with great detail of life on the road. I believe you had a role in making them with Andy?
Aislinn: Because I’d trained as a secretary, I found office work really easy, we worked together organising the tours. He thought everything through as though he was actually travelling on the tour, and I typed up the itineraries and schedules by the dozen. Besides looking after the family, farm and animals, I supported him. I was his unpaid personal secretary, taking notes, making phone calls and driving him here there and everywhere, but it was great to be involved.
MMM: You drove one of those big American trucks across the US? That must have been exciting, any memorable stories from the road you can share?
Aislinn: Crazy, really! But yes… oh… so exciting! I could not resist the job offer from John Arnison to share the drive with Andy across America in a big truck, complete with CB and twin stacks. From Hagerstown to Hollywood, a 2,600-mile journey in a 3½ days, three showcase gigs for the band in L.A., and then back to New York 2,800 miles, again in 3½ days. It wasn’t one of those huge articulated trucks as in the 1978 film Convoy, but it was certainly bigger than any truck I could legally drive on my ordinary licence in the UK. I had driven a Bedford TK horse box, but… not many miles. When confronted with "The Little Ryder" yellow truck with 16 gears and five steps up to get in the cab on the wrong side I was a little flustered to say the least, but soon gained confidence under the cool instruction skills of Andy as follows: "…keep that yellow line exactly that part of the mirror on the offside, and you know you’re sitting in the right place on the highway, just keep looking ahead, if you have to stop don’t bother with first or second gear, engine is governed so you can’t break the speed limit" We then swapped seats "…wake me in a couple of hours!" Acutely aware that all of Marillion’s backline was in the back, I was on full alert and extremely careful not to throw the truck about. So off I went, donning my newly purchased Coors Beer baseball cap, singing to myself Willin by Little Feat, Dallas Alice, but no weed, whites and wine. LOL! I was trucking! Anyway, that’s how we carried on, eating up the miles, and besides calling in to say hi and have dinner with his "American family" in Oklahoma, and getting coffee and trucker’s meals at the famous 76 Truck Stops along the way, we had one short night in motel, just a few hours’ sleep and a shower, can’t remember where exactly. We stopped at an American Native Indian Reservation roadside shop to buy gifts of beautiful handmade turquoise jewellery.
It was such an incredible experience for me, but for Andy who had driven that route many times before, just treated it all like any other time out on tour, and found my naivety and excitement, like a kiddie in a sweet shop, very amusing. A few days in Hollywood, a day off treat for us and crew to Disneyland, I didn’t go to any of the three showcase gigs, I did my usual stay out of the way of busy people thing. Then back in the truck for 3 ½ days to New York, flew to Heathrow met with rain contaminated from the Chernobyl disaster. Life in the fast lane.
MMM: It really sounds like you and Andy were a great Yin/Yang like team and complemented each other well.
Aislinn: Yin and Yang is a good way to describe us, I guess as we were very different, me being very shy, quiet and home loving, I never wanted to travel, not bothered about holidays abroad or in the UK, actually. I spent more time on the farm with the horses, sheep and rescue animals than with people. In contrast, Andy was out there, just on it! Living a life larger than most, dealing with all sorts of problems on tour that not many people would ever come across in their lifetime, he had such a strong work ethic. He was very clever, quick-witted and a natural organiser, but also quite complicated and sometimes a contrary character. Not always sweet and forgiving, did not suffer fools gladly, and as Fish wrote about Andy in The Company fan magazine issue Jan 1992: "He was a roadies’ roadie, and could charm, fix, threaten, blag, score and manipulate anything when he needed. He was scrupulously straight and sincere, and God save the bullshitters!" Yes, I’d agree with all of that!
MMM: In 1988 with the band at their commercial height, Marillion split up. That was a huge shock to me and to fans all over the world. Were you or Andy surprised, or could you see it coming?
Aislinn: I had no idea, and shocked as everyone else was at the time. Sorry, I can’t enlighten you on much about the situation as I never got involved with band and management politics. At that time, Andy was in The Royal Marsden Hospital in Epsom having treatment and a bone marrow harvest operation. I was staying there with him. I seem to remember we were there for a week, which was unusual as Andy normally talked his way out of staying in any hospital overnight, let alone a week! The only comment Andy made to me on hearing the news was that if he had been around and involved with what was going on, he may have been able to do something about it, and things might not have turned out the way they did.
MMM: There is then the awkward moment of which crew members decide to go with the band or go with Fish. I’m thinking Andy was so close to Fish that the question answered itself? Can you remember any chats you and Andy had about the split at the time?
Aislinn: I had no say in it, which wasn’t out of the ordinary, it’s just the way we were and our relationship worked. It was Andy’s career and lifestyle, and I just fitted in around it. I just got on with it, and things worked just fine. He often spoke of me being "the ideal Rock ‘n’ Roll wife" which was okay with me. Fish came to stay with us, we were living in a renovated Welsh longhouse Pantcoch in Tre’r Ddol, Machynlleth. Fish thought our address was made up from the left-over letters of a Scrabble game. Made me smile, and definitely no offence intended, it was just acknowledging that the Welsh language can be rather challenging at times. I remember keeping out of way and left them to it. They spent hours chatting, went out for a drink, and after Fish had left, Andy told me that he was going to work for him. I think that apart from the excitement of being part of Fish’s new solo career and touring again, the thought of helping him sort and equip a studio was a challenge that he could not resist. Always one to test himself. At that time, Andy was also offered work from the manager of Bon Jovi and The Scorpions. He flew out to Rio de Janeiro to stage-manage a show with Rick O’Brien who was production manager for Queen and Pink Floyd. He was in demand but turned down all the offers, being cautious not to commit to any contracts as he became aware that he was no longer in remission with a future of frequent hospital appointments and treatments of chemotherapy. He knew Fish would support him through thick and thin, and likewise. Yes, they were close as friends, so I guess the question does answer itself.
MMM: You mentioned earlier Andy’s chemotherapy, as we all know Andy passed away on 25th January 1992. Despite his illness, Andy, now in the Fish camp, continued to work through it as best he could. I’m guessing these were very hard times for you both and Daniel, your son of course. Did Andy find the work a helpful distraction?
Aislinn: Yes, he continued to work at the same pace as he’d always done with Fish. When he wasn’t arranging or actually on tour, or sorting out equipping the studio at The Funny Farm in Haddington, he kept himself occupied at home. He was just always busy. We moved in March 1989 from Tre’r Ddol to a small farm in Llanddeiniol where he found lots to do which made him very happy. Planning the future, fixing up the house, outbuildings, stables, fencing, buying sheep, a horse box, a new hay barn. He also just kept on spending like there was no tomorrow, and I guess that was on his mind, but he never once spoke about it. He bought a wreck of tractor, a vintage grey Ferguson, in Wales fondly known as a "Fergie Bach". He was so happy with this project. He spent hours in the garage working on it, totally restored it to like new, then loaded it on to a trailer and towed it through a snow storm up to Haddington as Fish had quite a rather large garden back then. He was just fearless. When he set his mind to do something he just did it, and usually made a good job of it, whatever it was! I don’t think Daniel was aware of quite how hard things were, we tried to keep things, our homelife, as "normal" as possible. He was at school during the week, on weekends and during holidays out and about with his friends mostly.
MMM: In March 1992, Fish and Andy’s old friend Glenn Hughes got together to have a memorial concert in Hammersmith. That was a truly wonderful night for music fans, but it was mixed emotions of joy and sadness for those who knew him. What are your memories of that night or how the show came about?
Aislinn: Following Andy’s death, Fish was very kind to me. He did his best to help me out, and it was his idea to put together a benefit gig, a tribute to Andy. He set things in motion and worked through the logistics to make the show happen. A friend of mine from Aberystwyth accompanied me on the journey to London, and without her support through that day and evening, I doubt I would have been able to attend. I was so distressed and disorientated during this time, still in shock and grieving, and worrying about the future. Everyone involved gave their time for free, so generous of them, the show was fantastic, and it was wonderful to see everyone backstage. All his friends and work colleagues were there, it was really overwhelming. My knees turned to jelly when Fish invited me up on stage to say thank you to everyone, I really wanted to, but physically couldn’t. I’m so proud of Daniel that he went up on stage on my behalf and thanked everyone, it was all very moving. I stayed a while after the show, it was a fitting way to say a final goodbye for us all, but especially so, as playing in the background during the load out was Jackson Browne’s The Load Out, the perfect tribute to the crew and all the people he’d worked with over the years.
"Now the seats are all empty
Let the roadies take the stage
Pack it up and tear it down
They’re the first to come and last to leave"
MMM: Wow! What a profound and fitting lyric that is, thanks again, Aislinn.
The interview was conducted in November/December 2021
A very direct piece of advice from Andy about how to become a roadie, just in case any of you still have that notion, courtesy of Aislinn:
"Apart from the obvious of "have a lobotomy" I would suggest the first steps would be to apply to a sound or light company (there are loads of em!) If you’re lucky you would probably start in their warehouse, moving equipment and learning how to repair it. Go to college at the same time. When you’ve proved your ability you would probably get offered your first tour as a junior member of the crew and from then on it’s all up to you!"
Some very recent dedications and thoughts of some of those who worked with Andy. Huge thanks to all who took the time to write something!
"Andy was a major part of the management team, his experience of live touring and looking after the band members when I was not on the tour with them was exceptional!"
(John Arnison, former Marillion manager, January 2022)
"My first ever tour was with Marillion in ’84, and I worked on all of their European tours until ’89. As an 18-year-old, fresh into the world of touring, I could not have been with a better group of people… band & crew. Andy was the drum tech at the time, before he became production manager, but more importantly for me, he was one of the seasoned pros I got to learn from, and I had a lot to learn back then! It had only been a year since I had left school. Andy was someone who you listened to because it was clear he knew what he was talking about, and he was always happy to offer guidance. He always had a smile on his face, and he loved a good "wind up", and I feel most fortunate to have crossed paths with him at that point in my life. I still think of those five years of touring with Marillion as one of the best times in my life. It was tragic losing Andy… he went way too soon. I can’t believe it’s been 30 years, but even now I can still picture Andy’s grin clearly in my head."
(Warwick Burton, Lighting Crew, January 2022)
"I only worked with Andy for a few short years, but it was at a time when we were all young and green. Andy brought a lot of experience to the job and was always a calm and pleasant person to be around. He is missed by everyone who knew him!"
(Mark Kelly, Marillion, January 2022)
"I had the pleasure of working with Andy and Marillion for a number of years. In life, you meet a few great people that mentor you and show you the right way, Andy was one of those people to me! He had a way of bringing a crew together and motivating them to do their best and more for the band while having a human touch which was always interweaved with humour. I remember my first job for Marillion: we were flying out to France to do a television or a show and the crew had to fly from Heathrow. At the time, they had an old Austin princess as the crew get around. When we arrived at the airport, Andy asked me to go park the car in the car park while the rest of the crew checked in. Eager to please, I found a parking spot and went to find reverse and the gear stick came off in my hand!! I panicked, then laughed to myself and pushed the car in the slot. When I got back to the group, Andy asked if every thing was OK? I replied "…if by OK you mean this?" and handed him the gear stick I said "yes, it’s parked!" Everyone, who was obviously waiting to see what my response would be, fell about laughing along with Andy who said "You’ve passed your initiation test!" We as a crew and band had many years of hard work which was always fun, I will always attribute this to all of the people involved but mostly to Andy’s great man management skills. He was always so laid back, but a lot of that was due to the amount of work himself and Ash would do running up to a tour, so everything was in place. I still think of him often."
(Steven "Robbo" Robinson, Road Crew, January 2022)
"I first met Andy in 1980. He’d come along with his mate Dave Whitehouse to a Saxon gig that MCP were promoting. Dave worked for them, I’d been roped in to look after the support by Malcolm Hill Audio who I worked for. Think it was the first or second gig and I needed another roadie. Dave explained Andy’s history, and it was no brainer, spoke to the band’s manager and next thing: Andy on the tour! Forgot the band were from the USA (RIOT) hence no crew, had a ball working with Andy so professionally made the tour easy plus he liked a smoke!!! End of the tour promised Andy would keep in touch and if any gigs came up would be the first person I would phone. Wasn’t till 82 when John Arnison rang to say "Gazza, I got this band there going to be huge, I need a stage manager! Come babysitter because the band had never done any major tours!" Next thing I’m flying down to London. At first, I thought what the fuck, but anyway he talked me in to it. Took a couple of months, it was then I told John we were a couple of crew short, he said get one, and we will take it from there, hence the call to Andy… and as they say the rest history! When I left because of personal reasons, I stayed in touch with Andy! He was top bloke, can not say enough about him, I shared a room with him, I slept in the next bunk on the tour bus, and we drove all across the USA and Canada together while Privet slept in the bunk (he did not drive). It takes a lot to be in close proximity to someone for weeks on end, was in contact with him almost till the end. Still miss the guy!"
(Gary Townsend, P.A. Crew, January 2022)
"I first met Andy during the tour following Marillion’s signing with EMI. He came with Arni, along with Gary Townsend and a couple of others. He was initially Mick Pointer’s drum roadie, as I recall. He had a ready smile and clearly knew what he was doing. This was a whole new ball game for me as I had previously helped set up and take down Mick’s kit, but he made me feel welcome, with a laugh and a joke, and I liked him. I didn’t really get to know Andy, though, until he became Fish’s tour manager. Working in the office, I probably had more contact with Andy than I did with Fish. He was a pleasure to work for, always courteous but a consummate professional in his job. He never lost his cool. His instructions were clear and concise, he was easy-going, up to a point. I knew better than to argue when he had made his mind up, like the time… there was a gig in ? And a fan from the olden days, working for Radio Luxembourg, played Fish’s songs all day, in the hope of a quick phone interview at some point. I think Fish had a bit of a sore throat or something, and nothing I could say would change Andy’s mind that he would not allow the interview to take place. He refused to let me speak to Fish. That was the firmest he ever was with me and left me a bit embarrassed explaining to the DJ it was not going to happen! He could organize things at the drop of a hat. At the end of the Vigil tour, EMI had arranged a party, which for various reasons was cancelled. Within a couple of hours, Andy had found a venue, catering and the Deep Sea Divers’ party appeared, like a rabbit from a hat. It was tremendous fun, probably better than the original would have been. We sat up after till the wee small hours, laughing and chatting. It is one of my favourite memories, along with him driving us down the motorway, flashing his lights at anyone who dared to get in the way! I miss him tremendously and like to think we would still be in touch now, if it were only possible."
(Stef Jeffrey Deppola, The Web, The Company, January 2022)
"I was lucky enough to meet Andy and the crew just the once in London back in the 80s. I was on my own, and they asked if I was enjoying the show, I said "…of course, they’re my favourite band!" They were all top blokes and very nice, they were surprised I’d travelled so far to see the band. They chatted with me for about 15 minutes, their parting gift was to give me a backstage pass and an invitation to the aftershow party. I was a young teenager at the time, so was too scared to take up the offer, much as I’d like to have. The kindness of Andy and the crew always stuck with me down the years."
(Mark "Marko" McCormac, MMM, January 2022)
"The Misplaced Youth Of A Production Manager" by Andy Field (1987)
1972: Joined a band called Trapeze as all round back line person/”roadie” and learnt all aspects of setting up equipment and touring. We did 15 tours of the USA in 3 years. 1975: Toured with Justin Hayward and John Lodge (Blue Jays) as a drum roadie. 1976: Lived in America and worked for Concert Lighting where I learnt all aspects of lighting design and toured mainly with country and southern bands, Willie Nelson, EmmyLou Harris, Poco, Pure Prairie League, Flying Burrito Bros, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder and more… 1977: Moved back to England and joined Deep Purple‘s crew and looked after Glenn Hughes as his personal tour manager. 1978: Trapeze reunited for a farewell tour of the USA, on which I was their touring manager and lighting designer. At the end of this I decided to get a proper job, but after a couple of years had to return to the "business" which I missed anyway. 1981: Toured with Fashion, Riot And Rods and others… 1983: Asked by Marillion roadie friend Gary Townsend to do four shows as drum roadie for Mick Pointer and have worked for Marillion until today. 1986: Busman’s Holiday! Europe, Monsters Of Rock Tour, The Scorpions, Bon Jovi etc. as stage manager. 1987: Busman’s Holiday 2: Rock In Rio and festivals as stage manager.
After Marillion split in 1988, Andy went to work with Fish as his tour manager for a while before his illness and his untimely death.
And finally here’s the BBC documentary Rock Against The Clock (1987) which includes Andy and the other members of the road crew. Looking at it today, it’s remarkable how fast they were at taking down a stage, it really is a tough job!
Andy Rotherham(The Web UK, since 1991)Andy has been an important member of the Marillion backroom team for many years and probably needs no introduction to most fans. He has worked at The Web UK amongst many other jobs detailed below.
MMM: Hi Andy, thanks for taking the time to chat with us. I’m sure many Marillion fans will be familiar with you and your relationship with the band down the years, but we’ll get to that in a while. I guess we should start at the beginning, when did you first discover Marillion?
Andy: I remember it vividly! It was in a pub in Kettering. My older brother was living there at the time. I rode up on my motorbike to visit him. We went to a town centre pub that evening for a beer and there was a video jukebox. It was a good rocker type pub, so the music selection was very good. My brother put on the video of Garden Party by Marillion. He had seen them shortly before at Nostell Priory and told me that they were interesting. I thought it was one of the most amazing things I had ever seen. Loved the music and the humour in the video. I bought Script as soon as I got back to where I was living and was determined to find out more. I first got to see them at Reading Rock in August 1983.
MMM: I must say the Garden Party video also had a huge impact on me, it’s probably still my favourite video by any band. So what was it about this new Prog band that appealed to you?
Andy: I really didn’t have much idea of what Prog was, so the Genesis comparisons that the music press were constantly mentioning at the time passed me by completely. What I heard was a very individual band who were describing my life at that time. I was living in a lodging room in a house in a strange town. Unsure of where my future would take me, but determined to win. All these elements from my own life I found reflected in the music and lyrics
MMM: Am I right in saying you were more a Punk rock fan back then?
Andy: I have always had very diverse tastes in music. When I was very young I was listening to bands like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Pink Floyd. My earliest musical like and influence was The Beatles. Intellectual virtuoso prog bands like ELP and Yes left me completely cold. I could not connect with them at all. They say that the music that is around when you are between 14 and 16 stays with you for the rest of your life. That is certainly true in my case. At that time, I was reeling against everything. I wasn’t learning anything at school. I was constantly being told I was useless and stupid. Any chance of a future not underground, chiselling away at a coal face, was seemingly impossible to attain. Punk came along just at the right time to reflect the anger I was feeling. It was brutal, in your face, and designed to shock your parents. Just what I needed! The main bands I got into were The Stranglers, The Clash and Sex Pistols. I managed to see most of the punk bands at the time. Some of which really influenced my later musical choices.
MMM: I had a similar eclectic taste at that time, I’d say 77-82 was the most influential period on me until I discovered Marillion. I don’t think I recognised genres as such until it was pointed out to me, that’s probably still my favourite era for chart music. You live in the band’s home town of Aylesbury, has that always been the case?
Andy: No, not at all! This is just the town we ended up settling in due to circumstances. I came home from serving in Germany and was sent to a base near High Wycombe. My new wife had recently qualified as a radiographer and left her job in London to join me. She found a job at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury, so we bought a house and settled. I was very much aware that Aylesbury was the hometown of Marillion. However, this didn’t influence our decision to settle here, honest! I was actually born within a few miles of where Steve Rothery was and near where h spent his childhood. How odd that we all ended up meeting in Buckinghamshire!
MMM: Did you see any of the band’s iconic shows there?
Andy: I assume you are talking about the Friars shows in the early and mid 1980s? No, I was elsewhere when all that was going on. By the time we moved here in 1988 that phase of Friars was over. However, I did get to see many iconic Marillion shows like Lorelei, supporting Queen in Köln, the Wembley Arena Muscular Dystrophy gig and the Double O event at Hammersmith. I can’t tell you how huge Marillion were in Germany when I lived out there. I was there during that period of time around the releases of Misplaced Childhood and Clutching At Straws. I was also very lucky. Whenever I came home to see my future wife in London, Marillion happened to be playing Hammersmith…
MMM: As I said at the start, many fans will know you from your work with the band, at The Web, at Racket, on the merch desk and occasionally as Steve Rothery’s guitar tech. Can you give us a timeline as to how all this happened and how you got the job there?
Andy: I need to start this reply by making a very important point: I am not, never have been, and never will be Marillion’s guitar tech! That job is done by Pete Harwood. What I do is not the same and is hopefully a help to Pete in what he does. I have no ambitions to be a member of a big touring crew. That time window has passed for me while I was busy elsewhere. I am always happy to help out in any way I can, but touring on that scale is hard work that I just don’t need, and it’s not something I am particularly suited to.
My involvement can be traced back to an eventful meeting at a record fair at Wembley Arena. Bonnie and Wayne, who ran The Web (as it was called then) had a stall at the fair. We got chatting. I was asked if I would be willing to help out occasionally. I was happy to do so and became part of the backroom team who would operate behind the scenes packing mags, merch and such. This was around the time that Holidays In Eden was released. The members of the backroom team didn’t really know each other. Little did I know for instance that Lucy was also involved. I first met Lucy at The Web event for the screening of the Brave film in 1994. I later met my friend James, who was also part of the backroom team, at the AOS launch party in London. I was doing merch that night. In 1997, I ran The Web coach trip to Germany to see the band. I also met Steve Rothery at the time that TSE was being released, when I interviewed him about his guitars and equipment for The Web. Then, around 1998 the band made a decision that The Web needed revamping and relaunching.
They asked around and brought in a team of people who they felt could bring it back to life. I am pretty sure that Lucy, who was now at EMI, had a real input into who could fit the bill. The team was Me, James, Simon Clarke, Vicki Harding, Rob and Alexis Crossland, Pete and Lynne Wells. Together we launched what we renamed as The Web UK. Fast-forward to about 10 years ago. When Colin Price left Racket for his dream job teching for Iron Maiden there was no one on hand to look after the band’s guitars and basses. Steve Rothery found a Luthier in North West London and asked me to ferry his guitars between them. I was relaying the messages about Steve’s set-up etc. I think Steve saw that I had also started playing music seriously myself, and that I was servicing my own guitars and basses. I also started building them for fun. Steve asked me to take over servicing, repairing and setting up his guitars for him. At this point, I really should say what an amazing man Steve is. He has always been incredibly patient and encouraging to me. I was learning how to do all this as I went along. Consequently, some jobs took me a long time. He never waivered from his belief in me. I am very grateful to him for that. It is important to also state that I am not part of the team at Racket. That team consists of Lucy, Rich, Stephanie and Mark Kennedy. I help out when they need me, whether it be packing, heavy lifting, clearing out the loft space, whatever they need. When they need a guitar sorting, I go in and work on it in the workshop I set up there. It’s much easier to do it there, so I can get real time feedback on what I am doing. It’s very much a collaborative process. That said though, I can set up a guitar for Steve pretty much by eye and be confident it will feel right for him.
MMM: Thanks for clearing all that up for us, Andy! So how was your first day working with the band, I guess being a fan that must have somewhat scary?
Andy: I suppose the meeting when we were called to Racket to be introduced to each other and asked if we would be part of The Web UK team was the most nervous point. But they are human, and it would get pretty tiresome if I was all fanboy on them all the time!
MMM: Can you tell us about a typical work day at Racket? …and perhaps the pandemonium of getting ready for a new release?
Andy: Rich does all the logistical work and preparation. I might be called in to do some pre-packing of things like the signed prints etc. When the product arrives it is all hands on deck and Sheelagh, Alan and Lucy Jones from The Web UK also come in. It’s a well-oiled machine.
MMM: You’re a musician, too! Are you still playing in your own band at the moment?
Andy: I am between bands at the moment. I have been blessed to have been in two pretty good bands. I left the last one just before the pandemic because I was becoming frustrated by our lack of forward momentum and the performances of one member was below the standard I felt we were capable of. But, watch this space. Something else might come up soon. Post pandemic, I am sure there will be exciting opportunities opening for me.
MMM: Those who know you from Facebook will have seen your daily updates of the guitars you build from scratch. They are very beautiful and very colourful. I remember the Yellow Submarine one being a particular favourite of mine. How and why did you start building your own?
Andy: It all stemmed from having a really bad time at work. My struggles led me to seek help, and this led eventually to me being diagnosed as autistic. My employers’ response was to try to bully me into quitting. I eventually took early retirement on my terms. Following this, I asked my Wife what I should do in terms of finding another job. She told me to put myself first and make myself happy. So that is what I did. I had done lots of reading about Autism, and I knew that I had an artistic side that had never had an outlet. I decided to explore that. I combined what I was learning about how guitars work with building my own. The Yellow Submarine bass was my first ever build. It really seems to have captured people’s imagination. Every guitar and bass I build is unique. Some are faithful copies of real guitars, like my Joe Strummer Tele, Paul Simon on bass and Paul Weller Whaam! guitar. I am currently working on a Wayne Kramer (MC5) Strat. Among these, I also make them to my own design and try never to repeat myself. I love playing with colour and textures. I follow my muse, wherever it leads. Although they are all very high quality instruments, I think of them as individual works of art. Maybe one day I will exhibit them
MMM: I think we should address the issue of your autism, I think I’m right in saying, that you have done some speeches on the subject. I presume out of frustration with how those with autism are treated or misunderstood?
Andy: I came to terms with my autism, learning how to manage the mote challenging aspects, whilst being determined to find out and play to its strengths. This led me on to being an advocate and speaker for autism. I got involved in autism training for people who come into contact with autistic people in their jobs. I advise on course content etc from an autistic perspective, and I give a talk to each course. The organisation I work for has encouraged me to expand my role. I am currently studying for a teaching and training qualification that will allow me to teach the courses myself.
MMM: That sounds like very important work, Andy! Bravo to you for doing it. You’ve also worked at the Marillion Weekends, you were involved with the initial ideas around the Marillion Museum at Port Zélande. Sadly, I never got to see that! Can you firstly tell us about how that came about and what we may have missed?
Andy: In 1999 the Bucks County Museum here in Aylesbury were putting together an exhibition to celebrate the upcoming millennium. The idea was to highlight local people who had made a big contribution to the town. I contacted them and asked if I could help by providing a Marillion exhibit. They jumped at the idea. Marillion themselves were great. They loaned me some very precious items on trust. The exhibition was very popular, and some Marillion fans travelled specifically to see the Marillion exhibit I had helped create. I suppose that was the first Marillion Museum in essence. Then, when the first Marillion Weekend was planned at Brean Sands I asked if I could put on a full-blown Marillion Museum. I made a large display in one of the smaller halls on site. I continued this for subsequent weekends at Minehead and then Port Zélande.
MMM: I presume each year there was a theme for the museum, like album night or some such?
Andy: I tried to make every Marillion Museum new and fresh. I would have at least a partial exhibition on the chosen album for that weekend, and let my imagination come up with the rest. The band were brilliantly supportive and again trusted me with many precious items. Each museum had its own character. One year I had got fed up of asking people not to touch the exhibits, so the next time I made a tactile one. Where the fans could come in pick up and play the band’s actual instruments and try on the stage costumes. Another favourite was the TSE themed museum. h’s mum, Elaine was so sweet and helpful. She found family photos that illustrated the lyrics to the song TSE. I copied, printed and framed all these. They were displayed along with the TSE model and other items. I gave that frame to h afterwards.
MMM: So, how did the museum work in practical terms? I presume it was free entry to all fans? Was there a time limit, or could you linger and browse through the items?
Andy: There was nearly always a queue to get in, but I didn’t put any time limits on how long people could linger. It was of course free for those attending the weekends.
MMM: Why was it discontinued?
Andy: There is a finite amount of items that the band own or have saved. I got to the point where I was struggling to think of something new and exciting for the next one without me repeating what I had already shown.
MMM: Covid permitting… is there a chance the band will revive the museum at future weekends?
Andy: That depends on if I am asked, to be honest. Maybe, if the demand is there and Marillion/Racket would like me to revive it, I would. I feel that maybe now there has been sufficient time since the last one that the items can be viewed afresh. Plus, there are many fans who attend the weekends now who weren’t around when I was curating the museums before.
MMM: What’s the best thing about working with the band?
Andy: There are some wonderful people working for the band, and the band members themselves have always treated me very well. It’s nice to be recognised by someone for the skills and knowledge I have.
MMM: I would presume you’ve seen the band hundreds of times, is it ever possible to enjoy the shows when you are working?
Andy: I haven’t worked a show for a few years now. The last one was helping out when they needed a merch person at short notice for a German leg of a tour. Being merch usually means that you are far removed from the show, so don’t get to experience it. What I do with the Steve Rothery Band is always fun. Although there is a certain amount of pressure making sure everything is working and ready for a guitar change or whatever, the atmosphere and the mutual love and respect that the touring party all have for each other is wonderful. We have great fun together. I am sure that working a Marillion show in a tech role would be much higher pressure!
MMM: Getting back to the Racket Museum, what’s your favourite item that was displayed?
Andy: That’s a hard one to answer. I suppose the TSE exhibit I mentioned earlier and the original Holidays In Eden cover art painting.
MMM: As this is a collectors page, what are your favourite items from your own collection?
Andy; This might surprise you, but I don’t avidly collect Marillion. The Stranglers are the group that I obsessively collect. That said, I do have some wonderful and some unique items. I have some early and alternative mixes of tracks and albums that no one outside the band will have. Some white label test pressings. Though, I auctioned off quite a bit of my Marillion collection a few years ago for charity. I do enjoy owning the Brazil only release of Rich on CD single. That song means a lot to me, and that item is hard to find.
MMM: And finally… what are your favourite songs, albums or gigs from any era of the band?
Andy: Oh wow! You are not going to make this easy for me, are you? How about I tell you some of the songs that have connected with me emotionally and why? I mentioned earlier about how Script was very much describing the life I was leading at the time. The same happened again when I was living in Germany and Misplaced Childhood was released. We played that album to death in the barrack blocks and in our cars. The lyric that resonated was "I see Convoys kerb crawling West German Autobahns trying to pick up a war, they’re going to even the score." I sometimes wonder if one of the military convoys I was in was seen by the band and inspired that bit. If I was to pick one song from the post 89 era it would be This Strange Engine. Everything about that song is perfect to my ears. I think Brave is a classic album viewed as a whole, something they managed to achieve again with F.E.A.R. The sentiments expressed in the songs on F.E.A.R. certainly reflect my view of the world.
MMM: Andy Rotherham, thank you for being so open and available to chat, I enjoyed that.
The interview was conducted in April 2021
Simon Hanhart(Sound Engineer, Producer – 1982-1984)
Simon Hanhart worked as engineer on Script For A Jester’s Tear and Fugazi and producer on Real To Reel and also worked as producer with Mick Pointer in Arena. He also produced the much loved B-side Cinderella Search. With the impending release of Fugazi deluxe edition, Simon’s recall of this time is a fantastic insight into this era of the band, and I can’t thank him enough for sharing his thoughts.
MMM: Hi Simon, I guess we should start at the beginning! So how did you get into music production and sound engineering? Was there a particular record or studio experience that made you think, “that’s the job for me!”?
Simon Hanhart: I was always into music! I started playing the guitar when I was about twelve and was in a number of bands as a teenager. Although I liked playing live it was recording that always fascinated me, and I was lucky enough to do quite a bit of recording with those bands – at CTS in Wembley, Surrey Sound Studios (where The Police recorded their first two albums) and other smaller studios. I always wanted to see what the engineer was doing, so after I’d recorded my parts I’d hang around trying to learn as much as I could.
MMM: You’re known for producing, audio engineering and mixing. Do you have a preferred discipline of the three?
Simon Hanhart: Not really. Sometimes it’s nice not to have the responsibility of producing, which involves administration and people managing, and just concentrate on putting the recording together. But that said, I love working up a track as a producer from the demo stage to the final master and realising an overall vision. The lines between the three are becoming more blurred though and the process is much less linear these days. Even when officially just engineering, I find there’s always room for creative input. When I mix I usually mix remotely, on my own, at my home studio, and so I’m making production decisions and shaping the track without any input from others even when I’m not the producer.
MMM: Am I right in saying your first job was at Marquee Studios in London? Any Memories of that first job? Was it there you first encountered Nick Tauber?
Simon Hanhart: Yes, that’s correct! I wrote to loads of studios looking for a job as an assistant. Eventually the Marquee Studios wrote back offering me an interview. I knew Phil Harding, who went on to have success at PWL, who was an engineer at the Marquee at the time – he’d engineered a session for a band I was in. I called Phil and told him about the interview and asked him to put in a good word for me. The Marquee Studios was great, it had some big names recording there, and the club was right next door, so it was easy to nip in and see gigs. Also, we could record the bands on stage in the club from the studio. We recorded U2, Iron Maiden and many others – and of course Marillion. The first major session I assisted on was Status Quo. Nick came into the studio with a few projects and I assisted and engineered for him on some of those, including the Toyah sessions. Just before the Script sessions, I’d become his go-to engineer.
MMM: You’ve worked as an assistant to quite a few legends of production, including Mutt Lange and Gus Dudgeon, is there one that helped or inspired you the most along the way?
Simon Hanhart: I’d listened to Gus’ Elton John productions as a kid and loved them. It was amazing to meet him and work with him. He and I became quite good friends. I used to visited him at his beautiful studio, The Mill in Berkshire, and went on to work with him later at other studios. Mutt came in to mix a Boomtown Rats album, The Fine Art Of Surfacing. I remember they wanted to overdub some handclaps – so there I was with Mutt and Bob Geldof (this is when I Don’t Like Mondays was at #1) standing in the stairwell at the studio hand-clapping away while Tony Platt engineered… most surreal! I’m learning all the time, and I nearly always take something away from every situation. You’re never too old to learn something new!
MMM: As a teenager I did think about record production briefly as a career, but had second thoughts as I thought I may have to work with musicians or music I didn’t like, was this ever an issue for you?
Simon Hanhart: I have a fairly eclectic taste when it comes to music, luckily. I’ve worked on industrial metal, hard rock, pop, reggae, crossover and classical, and I’ve enjoyed it all. As long as the songs or compositions are well crafted, and the musicianship is good and characterful, there’s always something to enjoy and learn. When the material and/or playing is lacking, then it becomes tedious. Luckily, I’ve rarely been in that situation.
MMM: Marillion signed to EMI in 1982. How did you and Nick get the job to record with Marillion? Did the band or John Arnison approach you, or was it EMI?
Simon Hanhart: Nick was approached by EMI. He’d had success with Toyah and I think EMI felt that getting a little bit of a pop edge into the Script production would be a good thing commercially. I went with Nick to The Venue in Victoria to see Marillion play soon after we heard that we’d got the gig and was blown away – I was very excited about making the album.
MMM: Did you have any reservations recording with unfashionable proggers?
Simon Hanhart: Not at all. I was in an unfashionable prog band just before I went to work at the Marquee Studios. I love prog and I think that’s why the guys in Marillion and I got on so well, we had the same influences and spoke the same proggy language.
MMM: What memories do you have of the recording of Script For A Jester’s Tear?
Simon Hanhart: It was a very special time for me. My career was just starting to take off and to be involved with the Script album was a gift. I loved the music and the band, we got on really well. There was a feeling of camaraderie between us and that we were creating something special and important. We finished He Knows You Know and Charting The Single before the rest of the album, so they could be released as an early single. I remember us all being at the studio on a Sunday and waiting for the singles chart to be announced on the radio. The only radio we had was in my car, so we piled in to listen. He Knows You Know was played and was in the top 40! It was a buzz for all of us. One evening, Steve Hackett visited the studio to listen to some of the tracks. I remember we played a work in progress Forgotten Sons to him. The track must have been nearly finished because I remember the children’s choir was already recorded along with all the “prayer” voices.
MMM: In my museum I have most of the session sheets from Marquee Studios from October 82 to June 83, they are full of detail from the Script sessions, there are also a few that state they were video sessions? Any thoughts what these might be? Did you also do work on the promo videos or perhaps the recording of Recital Of The Script video from Hammersmith?
Simon Hanhart: I recorded Marillion live several times – at the Marquee club Christmas 1982 (those recordings have now been released I think), at The Hammersmith Apollo (that recording was used for the Recital Of The Script video), The Edinburgh Playhouse, The Montreal Spectrum (that recording was part of the Real To Reel album) and for the BBC’s Sight & Sound program. I mixed the Recital Of The Script video at the Marquee Studios sometime in 1983 – that would be the video sessions on the session sheets.
MMM: On the Marquee website there’s an interview with Fish where he says the Marquee studio you recorded in was in the basement, and it was built over an ancient plague pit! He remembers feeling a disturbing presence during one session, can you remember this story or if others had ever had that feeling?
Simon Hanhart: I do remember that story. The Marquee Studios and the club were right in the middle of Soho, London. Sometimes I would be there on my own in the middle of the night, which could be a little unnerving, particularly when you’re sleep-deprived. Nothing ever happened though, fortunately. Almost every studio has its stories about hauntings etc. Maybe there’s something in it, who knows?
MMM: In the recent Script deluxe set, the band were very complimentary about yourself and Nick. Mick Pointer was particularly impressed with your work, he said you seemed to be doing the Lion’s share. I guess that’s why he asked you to work with Arena. My question is do the lines of demarcation between producer, engineer and mixer differ from one session to the next?
Simon Hanhart: Yes, I’ve worked on a few of Arena’s records over the years, great band, and they’re lovely chaps. I bumped into Mick in, I think, 1996 at a Marillion gig in London. He reminded me that I’d borrowed an album from him around the time of the Script sessions and never gave it back (the album has now been returned!). We stayed in touch after that, and the rest is history. As I said before, the lines are becoming more and more blurred, especially with home recording and remote recording. So yes, roles can and do vary from session to session.
MMM: Were you or Nick asked to get involved with the Script or Fugazi deluxe editions?
Simon Hanhart: I wasn’t asked and neither was Nick as far as I know. Word got back to me that it was down to budgetary constraints.
MMM: Yourself and Nick were asked back for Fugazi! We’re you guys impressed with the development of the band on this album?
Simon Hanhart: The band had matured since the first album and of course Ian Mosley was now involved, which changed the sound and the character to a degree. I think “difficult second album” problems crept in a little. After the success of Script the pressure was on and perhaps there was some “overthinking”. The recording overran, and we ended up having to work in many different studios, seven in total I think, which made the process somewhat disjointed (The Manor, Sarm East, Eel Pie, Maison Rouge, Odyssey and the two rooms at Wessex). I mixed the album in four different rooms, which isn’t ideal. (Maison Rouge, Odyssey, and both rooms at Wessex). But the band were definitely on an upward trajectory and the new line-up was working well – amazing things were on the horizon!
MMM: Was there ever any pressure from EMI or management on yourself or Nick to find a hit within the prog epics?
Simon Hanhart: Singles of course were important, but I don’t remember anything being written or produced specifically as a single. One of the more immediate tracks, Garden Party, Assassing for instance, would be edited down for a single release.
MMM: Some sources say Emerald Lies was mooted as a single at one point. Can you remember if this was true and if any remixes were done?
Simon Hanhart: I don’t know. No remixes were done at the time, as far as I know.
MMM: Cinderella Search is still one of the fan’s favourite tracks! Wonderful music, lyrics and production. It was your first full production with the band, any memories of this recording session?
Simon Hanhart: We recorded and mixed Cinderella Search at Sarm West Studios, Studio 1, in Notting Hill. That was a fabulous room – no longer there, sadly. Dave Meegan was assisting me. It was a great session. There are some pictures from those sessions in Steve Rothery’s book Postcards From The Road. I have some photos somewhere, too.
MMM: Were there any unreleased recordings from either Script or Fugazi?
Simon Hanhart: No, I don’t think so. As far as I can remember, everything we recorded was released.
MMM: The band were obviously happy with your work, as they gave you the job of producer on the live album Real To Reel? Any memories of these sessions?
Simon Hanhart: Making Real To Reel was exciting. It involved my first trip to Canada and the USA. I went with the band to Montreal and recorded them at The Spectrum Club for the album. The club had a little studio attached to it which was ideal. After that show the band had a couple more gigs to do in Canada and the US, so I flew straight to New York and did some sightseeing and then met up them a few days later when they played their New York date at The Ritz. Once back in England, we went to Rick Parfitt’s studio in Weybridge for a few days to do some touch ups to the tracks. And then we mixed at the Marquee. There are some photos taken during those mixing sessions.
MMM: You’ve worked with a host of great musicians, you co-produced the famous number One Perfect Day, where you worked with Lou Reed, David Bowie, Elton, Bono etc, and you recently had the number one Christmas album in the UK with Alfie Boe and Michael Ball, congratulations on that achievement! Do you have a favourite artist you have worked with, and is there one you’d still like to work with?
Simon Hanhart: I’ve worked with some amazing and talented people. There are some others I would like to have on my CV, but sometimes it’s better not to work with your heroes – it keeps the mystery alive!
MMM: In the Fugazi remasters, there was mention that Incubus had the female vocal removed at the request of a band member? Fish was annoyed by that, as he wasn’t there when the decision was made? Do you remember this by any chance? Reasons for it?
Simon Hanhart: That does ring a vague bell. I think we recorded a female vocal, but the guys felt it didn’t fit with the band image and album vibe.
MMM: Final question! As this is a group for collectors, I have to ask if you have any interesting memorabilia from your time with Marillion?
Simon Hanhart: I have some photos from the Fugazi sessions at The Manor, cassettes of work in progress from all of the albums, acetates of the albums, singles and 12” singles from the mastering rooms, some limited edition picture discs, industry awards etc. I used to have some tour jackets, but they’ve long gone, sadly.
Interview was conducted on 4th February 2021