Interview By Robert Cavuoto
On September 23rd, legendary British innovators, Marillion, released their 18th studio album FEAR [Fuck Everyone And Run]. It’s arguably their most challenging sonic experience to date! FEAR consists of five multi-part suites forming a cinematic examination of the fears that infect the modern world. With signature Marillion flare, the dynamic set conjures dark and sinister themes, aglow in breathtaking, luxurious arrangements.
Marillion will premiere tracks from FEAR on their upcoming tour of North America, with dates later this fall. Following the tour, Marillion will embark on their traditional, bi-annual Marillion Convention, scheduled for March 23-27, 2017 in Port Zelande, Holland. For more information: http://www.marillionweekend.com
I was fortunate to speak with the legendary guitarist for Marillion, Steve Rothery, about the concept behind FEAR, the longevity of the band, and his new photography book Postcards from the Road.
Robert Cavuoto: I’m enjoying your new CD and from what the fans are saying this is your best to date, what’s your take on that?
Steve Rothery: I think it is definitely in the top three Marillion LPs. It’s very hard to judge your work. All you can really do when you finish an album is think what could we have done to change something or what would we have done differently. But this is pretty much as I wanted it.
Robert: If this new CD is one of your favorites, what are your other top two Marillion albums?
Steve Rothery: At this time I would say Marbles and Afraid of Sunlight.
Robert: Tell me about the concept or storyline behind FEAR as it’s quite interesting and unique.
Steve Rothery: “The New Kings” and “El Dorado” share a common thread. It’s about how wealthy individuals and corporations exploit the people of the planet for personal gain. That the super wealthy live above the law. Its talks about the banking crisis with the wealthy banks mismanaged the situation to such an extent that we have a global financial crisis. How those people walk away into the sunset with a golden handshake leaving the rest of the world to suffer the consequences of incompetence and greed. In a track like “El Dorado” there is a bit of disillusionment with Britain and how we are handling the immigration crisis. Many of these songs seem to be written about current events but they were actually written about 3 or 4 years ago. It has an almost Nostradamus-like foretelling.
Robert: How does the CD cover with letters FEAR stamped into the gold bar tie in?
Steve Rothery: In the box with the letter “A” you will see the symbol for Gold from the period element chart. The cover basically visualizes what is said in the lyrics, that the source of the world’s problems is greed. The super rich playing games with the government and politicians.
Robert: I love the guitar work on the song, “The Leavers”; tell me about the inspiration and feeling behind the solo?
Steve Rothery: I just kind of do what I do [laughing]. What’s interesting is the way we approached making this album in that we get original ideas by jamming together. We mic everything and put it all into ProTools. Then producer, Mike Hunter, will download everything to MP3s and put it into our own private Sound Cloud accounts to choose our favorites. It made things easy for me as I found inspiration from all the ideas on there. Sometimes you really struggle to pull something out that you think is interesting but on this album, I found it easy to apply my approach to playing the melody and give the solos a matching expression.
Robert: So all the solos were improvised on the spot?
Steve Rothery: Most of my solos come from improvisation. Sometimes you get it in one take other times you need 3 or 4 takes from different approaches to making a complication of the best ones. That’s how I tend I work these days. To get in the zone and let the music give you an idea where you it wants you to go. One of the things I try and do is weave the phrases around the vocal so it’s not fighting for attention and supporting it. It becomes more like an arrangement opposed to a battle.
Robert: For the US Tour in November; will you be playing the CD in its entirety live?
Steve Rothery: No, we played some shows this summer where we played about 3 to 5 new songs. The tracks we are going to be playing in America are the ones the fans selected in an online survey and put together a setlist from there.
Robert: Which country do you have the strongest presence?
Steve Rothery: It’s changed over the years; it really depends on the size of the population. We played a festival in Berlin Germany before the wall came down and Fish left the band to 100,000 people. That was a big show for us. In Holland, we play large venues 7,000 and in Paris to about 50,000 people. We tend to play two and a half to three hours. In South America, we do well in Santiago and playing to 4,000 people.
Robert: Let’s talk about the longevity of the band, does it feel like it’s been 40 years?
Steve Rothery: Sometimes it does. It’s been an incredible career we have had. To have the 18th album and for it to be this strong is pretty unheard of. We have incredible creativity in the band. We are getting old together and pretty eccentric fellows, not that we are old compared to the Rolling Stones [laughing]. We have been working together for a long time and we still enjoy working together which really a great thing after all these years.
Robert: What would you say is the crown jewel of Marillion’s accomplishment?
Steve Rothery: So many different things over the years. I would say the first time you hear yourself on the radio, having hit singles, and a number 1 album. Coming back as a band after Fish left and putting out with an album is something I’m particularly proud of. I also think this album as well! After 37 years since I’ve joined the band is something really special.
Robert: You also have a book of your photos, Postcard from the Road, tell me about that passion?
Steve Rothery: I have always taken photos as it’s always been the passion side of music for me. It’s more a photographic diary and documents all the different sides of being in a band. Everything is dated and marked throughout our career. It’s actually taken me a long time to get it together. We had a spontaneous Facebook campaign for pre-ordering about a year and a half ago which really gave me the impetus to move forward. This is the first of three volumes. The book is extremely high quality and there will only be 3,000 copies printed and I’ve sold about 1,000 copies already. I was going to try and bring some to America Tour but the shipping even by sea was so expensive because the books are so big. I will take some books with me so people can have a look at the merchandise table. Fans can buy it from Marillion.com.