MARILLION “Constant Progression” 

By Dark Starr

Marillion were at the forefront of the renaissance of progressive rock in the twentieth century. With their original singer Fish they were responsible (along with bands like Spock's Beard, Dream Theater and The Flower Kings) for helping to make prog "cool" again. Fish was only with them for a few studio albums, replaced by Steve Hogarth. That lineup changed triggered some real stylistic changes, but the band have always stayed true to their vision of progressing their music over the years. Perhaps that's the one real constant within Marillion. I got to chat with Mark Kelly, Steve Rothery and Pete Trewavas about all things Marillion and more recently. 

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES:What has been going on in the world of Marillion lately that still has you excited? 

STEVE ROTHERY: Well after an amazing 2017 (including our sell out show at the Royal Albert Hall) we’re about to start rehearsals for our appearance on Cruise to the Edge followed by two weeks of touring North America. We have a pretty full 2018 including shows in the UK, Holland, Scandinavia and Germany. At some point we’ll start work writing the next studio album.

WC: What is coming up that generates a similar response for you? 

PETE TRAWAVAS: Well it’s pretty hard to beat the feeling of playing the RAH and the on going success of FEAR,  but playing we have a pretty full  year or so ahead, with new places being scheduled in to our touring calendar along with the next convention to think about and another album on the horizon. With all these things going on it’s always pretty exciting to be honest. 

WC: I know there are a lot of projects outside of Marillion involving various members of the band. Would any of you like to talk about the ones you are involved with? 

SR: I’ve got several projects on the go outside of Marillion, I’ve just returned from a very successful South American tour with the Steve Rothery Band. I’ve started writing the follow up to my Ghosts of Pripyat album and I’m also working on a space themed album. I’ve also started writing with Steve Hackett for an album we’re doing together.

PT: So I basically work on three to four things outside of Marillion which are always ongoing. Kino with John Mitchell and John Beck which are about to release a second studio album through InsideOut which is now part of Sony. Transatlantic which is probably the best known side project with Mike Portnoy, Neal Morse and Roine Stolt. Edison’s Children with Eric Blackwood. Both of which are on the back burner at the moment which means nothing’s going on there.  

Last but not least I have an ongoing project with Robin Boult which is very different to anything else I do. Our first record  was an EP of acoustic tracks aptly called "Acoustic Industry." The second one which should be out by now, is more song based but still more folky or Indie based.

WC:What's the best thing that's ever been said about your music? 
MARK KELLY: We often get emails from people to tell us about the profound effect our music has had on their lives. It’s quite humbling to think that our music can play such an important role in some people’s lives, but it’s hard to pick one single thing that’s been said about our music as the best. 

WC: I know many artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?

PT: Yes they do.....
Okay then...lyrically it’s very approachable. Steve H sings about people, relationships, the state of politics in a way that draws you in and gets you involved.

Musically, funnily enough if you listen to our last two albums Sounds That Can’t Be Made and FEAR (which is where I would urge anyone reading this and not familiar with our music to start) it seems to be getting more progressive again, but in quite an experimental way. There is a real mix of lots of good music from all over, but underlying that is a Pink Floyd/Radiohead vibe with many other bands and styles of music thrown in to the mix. But it is very British sounding, I think. Even our Eastern musical influences are very British sounding, much like The Beatles did, I suppose. Having said all that, we have a wealth of music spanning 30 odd years with lots of chart success to boot, so there is something for everyone.

WC:If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why? 

PT: My nemesis would be Ice Man as I hate the cold. I have a condition in my hands which makes then physically hurt when cold for any length of time.

SR: It would have to be a shredder. I think of myself as the anti-shredder!

WC:If you were to put together your ultimate band (a band you'd like to hear or catch live), who would be in it and why? 

PT: I can’t answer this. The stage would not be big enough.

SR: Of musicians currently alive:
Omar Hakim on drums
Paul McCartney on bass
Tori Amos on keyboards
Kate Bush on vocals

WC: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately? 

PT: The last tracks I bought were an old Bee Gees song called "Red Chair Fade Away" - a psychedelic thing from the sixties.But I work on so much music that I don’t really sit down and listen to albums these days. I hate to say it. I find myself listening more and more to classical music as I get older and a bit more big band jazz.

WC: Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?” 

PT: Good pop music and some classic reggae 

WC: Do you think that illegal downloading or streaming of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?
MK: These days there is no excuse to download music illegally when there are so many good free services out there. There is a real cost to making good music, so if you value music you should be prepared to pay for it or at least use a legal means to listen to it. In answer to your question, I think illegal streaming or downloading is harmful to musicians.

WC: In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them or posting them online? 
MK: We try to discourage the use of smartphones at gigs because it affects the enjoyment for others when somebody is holding up a screen in front of them. There seems little point in people making an audience recording when we usually make the desk recording for most shows available online shortly after the gig. Having said that, we don’t object to fans trading recordings as long as they aren’t trying to profit from our work.

WC: Have you read any good books lately? 

SR: Terry Pratchett - The Shepherd's Crown was probably the last book I really loved. 

WC: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment? 

SR: Low Roar in Brighton

WC: Do you remember the first concert you attended? 

MK: It was the Loving Awareness Band at the Marquee Club in London in 1976. The LA band were sort of a manufactured band to promote the hippie ideas of the owner of Radio Caroline (A pirate radio station I used to listen to when I was a teen). They sounded a lot like the Beatles but were actually quite good. A few years later the band members went on to back Ian Dury as the Blockheads. 

WC: Have you come across any new gear recently that you love? 

SR: The Specular Tempus delay/reverb pedal

MK: My new gear these days is usually in the form of software instruments. My favourite by a long way is Omnisphere 2 by Spectrasonics. 

WC: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment? 

MK: I once tried to wear a mini-moog around my neck on a guitar strap. As I jumped off the riser ready to take a solo, the mains plug was pulled out and it stopped working. I threw it on the stage in disgust and skulked back to my keyboards - never again! 

WC: If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining? 

SR: Joni Mitchell, Carl Sagan, Robin Williams 

MK: Abraham Lincoln, Adolf Hitler and Jesus 

PT: Isaac Newton, George Harrison and George Best. 

WC:What would be on the menu? 

SR: A good steak and Argentinian Malbec

MK: Lots of meat and wine. Hitler was a vegetarian. Jesus liked a glass of wine. 

PT: Modules Mariniere, Lobster Thermadore, sticky toffee pudding and custard.

WC: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there? 

SR: It feels like the band is in the middle of a true renaissance. It’s a strange feeling when I’ll have been in the band for forty years next year!