Editor’s Note: Today brings us the second and final instalment of Darrin Cappe’s world wide exclusive interview with Steve Rothery and Pete Trewavas of Marillion. You can read part one here. As a longtime fan of the band, and a musician himself, Darrin was obviously able to connect with Steve and Pete on a level that your average writer would never be able to. Suffice to say, many thanks to Darrin for sharing this revealing interview with Biff Bam Pop! Now, on to part 2!
Darrin Cappe: One thing I wanted to talk about was that apart from the band and that relationship, that in a lot of ways Racket Club (the band’s recording studio and home base) as a home base and that you all get along well, and have a place that you can go and create…that’s what a lot of bands lose as they move through their careers. Geographically they don’t have that interaction so much.
Steve Rothery: We’re incredibly lucky I mean all the musicians that have come in are so jealous of having somewhere where you can write, you can record, you can rehearse, store the equipment, run your web business and shop from. It is a perfect solution for a band in our position. I think a lot of bands have copied our approach. It’s one of the reasons we continue to do what we do.
Pete Trewavas: Also having our own studio has made us more relaxed in the studio environment.
S: We’ve made lots of albums where it has cost 1000 Pounds plus each day. There’s nothing worse than being in one of those types of places when you’re not finished writing.
P: Yeah we’ve been there before haven’t we? That is frustrating.
D: Well you are your own timekeeper and you aren’t bound by any schedules
P: Exactly and we’re empowered to do truly what we want to do.
D: It’s interesting though there is a gap in the last 3 years since your last album but if you look at the amount of material you guys have done since 2004 which is only 8 years, you’ve done 5 full albums of material – 6 with the album you are doing now.
P: Yeah there was a lot. We were all a little emotionally drained after that. It’s hard to know where you want to go to next and what you want to say. What is there left to present to people?
S: The more albums you make the more tough it is not to repeat yourself and more pressure for Steve to come up with an album full of lyrics.
P (laughing): Or repeat your self in a clever way
D: I think everyone is really looking forward to it.
P: It is going to be a special album.
D: Whenever you guys have talked about albums in that manner it has always come to fruition.
P: It is a relief as well. We’ve gone through all of the stages…we had a lot of fun with it as well. It was tough at times. I did wonder whether we’d get it finished. But it was a lot of fun going to Real World, Peter Gabriel’s studio.
D: Had you been there before?
S: I’ve been there once or twice to visit. It’s a great place to work; very inspirational. I think it is one of the reasons this album came together really. It gave us focus with two five-day blocks there.
P: It’s lovely having your own studio but it doesn’t mean you don’t go to other places. It can stop you being inspired. Sometimes new environments, new locations can just set something special off. And also all of us living together residentially all we were thinking about 24h a day were the songs. Particularly the song we had been playing the night before. You know you come down in the morning over breakfast and you can discuss it. It would give you at least twice as much time as we would normally spend together which really did help us focus and decide which songs were going to be on the album and how we were going to proceed with them.
D: What I wanted to talk about as well was how the fans have proactively been involved in your careers in a way that is very abnormal for bands and I’m curious of your take on that.
P: It is becoming more common…
S: A lot of people have adopted a similar relationship I suppose. I mean it can only REALY happen with an audience that is very passionate about what you are doing. I suppose it happened with the first pre-order Anoraknophobia. We had a history of releasing great music that our fans believed in us enough to do that. To make that leap of faith really in giving us their money a year before they would get anything in their hands. But with the growth of the Internet and social media, companies like Kickstarter…a lot of these things tie together. But in a way its only when the band’s been around and it’s established that you have enough of a fan base to do what we do that other bands have adopted similar principals to what we we’ve done. There’s a belief there…you find that with our audience wherever we play in the world there is a passion for what we do and a belief and I think in OUR passion and integrity in that we’ve never sold out and we always put the music ahead of any commercial consideration…as our bank managers can tell you. I think there is that mutual admiration and support for what we represent; one of the few bands making music in this genre at this level.
P: You know with Somewhere Else when we didn’t do the pre-order, fans were disappointed; they actually like to be a part of it. They feel like they are making a difference, not just to us but also to music in general and one better album to be out there.
D:I think it is a key thing though cause it allows fans..and it’s not just music…that as fans that involvement with being able to contribute you feel you are helping with the success…
S: It’s like a patron of the arts isn’t it? If you can support something that you love without your support or the support of people like you this wouldn’t exist in the world. I think that’s the thing, the direct correlation between that support and the freedom that we have to spend the time refining our ideas to the point where we’re happy. We could go and make an album in a week…but it wouldn’t be a very good album (laughing).
D: So you’re able to separate the sentiment from the things you do? There’s no burden of responsibility I’m imagining…
P: Um…you can’t allow there to be. I think that’s the thing. We have to be true to ourselves. To make the album we want to make. Luckily it’s worked so far. They get what we do and they get what we’re about and our responsibility towards music more than anything else really.
D: What I was thinking about is how historically the band started very much as a… there’s a youthful angry…
S: Naivety that comes from that
D: It’s something that is very nostalgic for fans to hold on to. When you grow up listening to something you always want to go back to that. What I find interesting is with Fish he has a great gift of how he writes words. He has a very interesting way of writing…very lyrical…but I think…and I might be inferring this…but the change with Steve H coming into the band that how you’ve developed since then as a band, and I’m not putting it on him as having necessarily driven this but, the way that he sings and what he writes about is something that as you get older you can relate to in a much more mature way that I think has extended the longevity why people are really interested in the band and what they get from it on an emotional level.
P: I think so
S: I think so…I think it’s a marriage of the music and atmospheres that we create and Steve makes a big contribution to the music as well. Musically the five of us there is a magic that happens. Great lyrics are very important. All my favourite songwriters are lyricists. But you have to have the whole package. You have great lyrics with so-so music it’s still not a great song. To have the combination of lyrics that are so heartfelt and powerful, and music that supports and enforces that…when you hit moments like that on songs like The Great Escape it’s just…..
D: That was actually my next point. Yes it’s a component of it, the lyrics and the vocal and the delivery but it’s the combination of that, with the fact that Steve you are very lyrical guitar player and Pete you are a very lyrical bass player…
P: And Ian as well…and Mark
S: It’s learning that you create the best music when it’s not about your own ego. It’s not about showing off your technical abilities.
P: Listening to everyone else really.
S: Yeah and having the sensitivity…it’s almost like a musical telepathy where when….Pete and I especially…
D: But is all very lyrical – like the bass line in Quartz. And the guitar riffs and even solos you play are such heavily emotional; you listen to them and you want to cry.
P: Like the solo towards the end of This Strange Engine, which is not a big rock, solo but it is so moving… it is SO moving.
S: You know all of my favourite players combine melody and emotion that resonate with me. Guitar can be many things, but the thing that behooves me is hearing the emotion. It’s what makes guitar such as special instrument, the fact that you can put your soul into it and squeeze every ounce of emotion from each note…it takes a lot of focus. That’s what I try and do.
D: It truly is that component in all of you that in combination with Steve as a vocalist.
P: I think we all try in our own kind of ways.
S: What’s interesting is that we all get off on working with different people and some amazing musicians but there’s a way that we create together. Sometimes it’s frustrating cause it’s very easy for us to be too familiar but at the same time there’s moments where only these five musicians could create it. You change anything even if it is a better musician then it wouldn’t be as good…It’s a strange, strange thing.
P: But it’s great it’s just something that happens.
S: It’s a magic.
D: It’s really rare in music.
P: How many years have we been sat opposite each other playing music? But when it happens we all get excited. We’re lucky on so many levels…we don’t murder each other (laughing).
D: The last question I have is did you ever imagine whey you were young being a part of such an awesome band?
P: No I never thought it would be approachable
S: I had a dream when I was about 16 about being on stage playing to an audience and having an amazing response. I had really just began playing the guitar then so it was a strange thing to dream at that age but it was remarkably close to how it does feel. From 15 that was all I wanted to do really was play the guitar.
P: You have to be single minded to actually get there. I used to spend all of my money on valves and strings. “What do you want for your birthday?” ..Money cause you need a new amp. You don’t go out, you don’t do stuff, you just sit there learning your craft.
S: You’re fixated and obsessed with it really.
P: And it’s not about wanting to be famous. It’s not about wanting to be a star. It’s about enjoying music and wanting to share it.
S: There are musicians where it is all about wanting to be famous and yet they’re usually the ones who give up after a couple of years of slog. They’re not dedicated. But music, you know, it’s almost like a calling. It fulfills you on a level that nothing else can.
D: Thank you very much guys it has been a real pleasure.
Several hours later Marillion took the stage in what was the single hottest concert I’ve ever attended. At 45C outside including humidity people would leave the venue to cool off. It must have been over 50C inside The Opera House. But true to form the band, dripping in sweat before the end of the first song, put on a two and a half hour show to a sold out crowd. Three people in the front passed out because of the heat and the band true to their nature handed out at least 25 bottles of water from the stage from their own rider. For many Marillion fans time tends to be measured in days or months until the next time they get the chance to see them live. For some it was 2 days until Chicago and for others nine months until the next Convention Weekend in Montreal in March 2013.
The setlist for the show was:
Cover My Eyes
Afraid Of Sunlight
Man Of A Thousand Faces
The Great Escape
No One Can
Three Minute Boy
Go to http://marillion.com/music.htm to get a free 10 song Marillion sampler CD called Crash Course. Thanks to Eric Heiss for his assistance.