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Friars Interviews

mark kelly
Marillion local legends

friars appearances 20/02/82  19/06/82  18/03/83  29/12/83  22/12/84

 

Marillion are, of course, the band that after John Otway, not only put Aylesbury on the musical map, but have stayed in the mainstream for over 25 years. We spent some time at Marillion's studio in rural Buckinghamshire and Mark spoke to us about Friars and life in general Marillion wise. Again, thanks Mark for your time.

Have you the chance to look at the Friars Aylesbury website?

Yes, it was a trip down memory lane! I'll be honest with you. my first knowledge of Friars was after I joined Marillion. I joined in November 81 and Friars had been going a number of years. I married a local girl and there was there mystique about Friars. People would talk about their first gig whether it was Bowie, Genesis or Mott the Hoople. So it had a fantastic reputation amongst the people also with musicians who saw it as a target. In band conversations, playing Friars was definitely a target

It's like that Def Leppard situation where they famously wrote on the walls of Sheffield City Hall when they starting out "we will play here one day" It's like the local band made good and of course Marillion went on to headline Friars several times. I know you weren't there for the first few (Marillion) gigs, but what are your memories of playing in 1982?

Supporting Otway?

Yes

It was a big gig, we'd only played in pubs. It was a big gig and terrifying! It's weird when we went on to play much bigger places, but when you start out with a crowd of 20 people in a pub if your lucky, this was something else!

A big gig with big PA etc.

Yes, it's all suddenly very professional!

Nick Beggs said exactly the same thing to me - suddenly a big stage and terrifying!

I was never that comfortable with being on a stage then and it was dead exciting and we were getting somewhere. This was down to Dave Stopps who had a bit of a soft spot for us as we reminded him I think of early Genesis who he'd been associated with over the years. We did owe some our sound then to bands like Genesis before hand. Some people saw us a Genesis rip off but I didn't see it that way as I'd never even listened to Genesis. There was a warmth towards the band and people liked our stuff although it was unfashionable. Dave did us a huge favour putting us on with various acts, although I didn't play on the early ones. When I was thinking of joining the band, they came to see me in Chadwell heath in the band I was playing (Chemical Alice) and supported us. They said they'd played at Friars but it meant nothing to me as I wasn't from the area. My goal was Hammersmith Odeon as that was where I saw most bands play. But there was definitely this pride of having played the Friars stage.

Back in the early days of 1981/82 you were mentioned a lot on the Friars news-sheets as the big local up and coming band.

I remember that now. Anything that happened in the Marillion camp then was reported as if it was local news!

But I think it's accepted that Marillion went into another gear when you joined the band....

Yes, and Pete (Trewavas) joined the band just before. Up until then, a few members of the band weren't taking quite that seriously and treated it as a hobby

So there were commitment issues?

Yes..and I liked the fact that Fish and Steve (Rothery) were unemployed - they could be 100% focused on the music even if you had no money.

Am I right in saying that one member of the band was about to move up in his job and wouldn't give it up?

Brian Jelliman (original keyboard player) wouldn't leave his job in the unemployment benefit office whereas Fish worked there a few months and wanted to give it up to do the music. Steve was the same. Steve's job was making music even if it made no money. There was a change in attitude around the time Pete and I joined and we really started to get going. I don't think that was down to Pete and me joining but we came along at the right time we did need a new keyboard and bass player. The keyboard player wasn't my idea but I did say "what about this bassist?" (Diz Minnitt) As a newcomer to the band you could see where the strengths and weaknesses were.

By 1982, you were getting the interest and starting to go full time and committed. That first headlining gig in June 1982 must have been something else, actually headlining?

I remember it was a good turnout and we were also headlining residencies at the Marquee around that time. We were getting a buzz in London and in Aylesbury we were perceived as a big band.

You were getting noticed. You said earlier that people perceived you as ripping of Genesis, obviously Gabriel era. But then with Fish there was face paint added to that perception as that was what Gabriel did then (in Genesis). Fish's presence was huge physically and helped forge an identity perhaps?

I don't mind admitting that Fish was the reason the band was successful. You need something to set you apart from other bands. He had an unusual name and with his physical presence helped. Obviously you need the music to go with it. Without Fish's presence it would have been harder to get noticed.

So it wasn't a hindrance!

Absolutely not! What would we have been doing in the early days when we were all on the dole. We were looking for gigs anywhere and everywhere. We did a 30 date tour of Scotland in April 82. I was sharing a house with Fish in Aston Clinton. He got up, got the phone book, Melody Maker etc and organised a tour from the house. When he phoned people up, they remembered him when he phoned again! He never gave up. We did 200 gigs that year through sheer determination.

How did the deal with EMI come about?

We had done the Otway (Friars) gig and the Marquee gigs and it was growing to headline slots at the Marquee and we were invited to play at Reading (Festival) low down on the bill and the Theakston festival with Jethro Tull headlining (we were the opening act.) Ian Anderson was at the side of the stage and I was terrified. Not of the audience but of him! So it gradually built and during the summer, someone from EMI visited us and we were talking about publishers. Tony Stratton Smith took a shine to us probably because of the Genesis connection from the old days and he was keen to sign us to Charisma and he sent a guy to see us and wanted to sign us on a two single deal. Yes it was a record deal but we were a bit bolshie and said we didn't do singles, we did albums! So we turned him down. So someone from EMI came to see us at the Marquee and we did some demos at Manchester Square for EMI which we thought so terrible our manager wouldn't play them to anyone! They've never seen the light of day.

Wasn't Institution Waltz on that demo?

No that was on a cassette recorded in a scout hut in Aston Clinton and we never did it. It was never a studio recording and we never liked it.

Although Fish has subsequently done it one of his solo albums...

The EMI demo was Charting The Single, Market Square Heroes and He Knows You Know. We persuaded the EMI to come and see us and he signed us on the strength of the audience reaction. It was kind of "we don't really get this but we will sign them!" That was in September 1982.

The first single, Market Square Heroes was so perfect for an Aylesbury band!

Looking back it's obvious, but we weren't referring to ourselves. Yes it's about Aylesbury Market Square but it's about this guy who used to hang around Aylesbury called Brick...

I've heard of Brick..let me fast forward about a hundred years here. When you did that reunion at the Hobble on the Cobbles (with Fish) in Aylesbury, Fish was talking about Brick before he introduced you on stage and said he always wanted to do that song in the Market Square. It was so perfect

I don't know whether Brick was a leftie, a militant or a skinhead but he was the inspiration for the character singing "I'm a Market Square Hero"

The cover of the single dedicates the song to Friars Aylesbury and David Stopps. David managed you for a while in 1982?

For about five weeks! One of the first things when I joined the band was I was introduced to Stopps and we would go round with Fish to his house a lot. We were pally with him, Fish certainly was and would hint a lot at David becoming our manager. He kept saying no but Fish was very persistent and kept working at it and eventually he agreed around early summer 1982. He was doing all the right things going round the record companies, creating a vibe but Fish was getting very impatient and thought the chance of a record deal might pass us by. I said "he's only been with us a couple of weeks, give him a chance", but it came to a sticky end. Whilst David was managing us, we played the Marquee and he said he had a young lad from Wycmobe who he wanted to put on as the support act. We said OK no problem....it was Howard Jones! He wasn't managing him them but had an interest. Our audience hated him though as they couldn't get their heads round a one man act with Jed (Hoile) the mime artist. I didn't realise how bad it was for him until a few years later when he was a big star and in an interview and when asked for his worst experience and he said supporting Marillion!

After we sacked David, which was bad form really, he was like "fuck you, I'll show you" and went and managed Howard. And when he was Number One, we were also in the charts lower down and we thought "OK, you've made your point!"

We're joined by Ian Mosley

Ian: I played in the old hall!

You played with Darryl Way's Wolf in 1973!

Ian: I remember Le Orme supported.

It was clear after Market Square Heroes that the interest was there and with He Knows You Know, that was your first appearance on TOTP wasn't it?

Yes, it would have been. An interesting experience, but Garden Party was more fun...you try dancing to that!

Yes, it's an interesting beat!

Yes, it doesn't follow any rhythm at all! We changed it slightly since so there isn't a pause. So seeing people (on TOTP) trying to dance to it was funny!

My abiding memory of that of Fish deliberately putting his hand over his mouth on the "I'm miming" bit (which had replaced the "I'm fucking" bit). I saw the Garden Party video the other day and that looked like fun (to make) and is clearly taking the piss out of the Oxbridge..!

We were just like school kids which is exactly what we looked like (in the video)

Again going back to the Friars news-sheets, at the end of 1982, they said where Swindon had XTC, we now had Marillion and you were going to be touring Script For A Jester's Tear and headlining at Aylesbury and Hammersmith. I remember that gig (March 83) and thought the only way is up!

Yes, and playing Friars after that was like coming home. The audience reaction was so great - super special. Strangely enough, after Friars when we have come back and played Aylesbury, the attitude has almost been "come on then, impress us" as they've seen us loads of times before. They're a hard audience these days! Whereas back then it was different.

I remember you playing two nights at the Civic in 1986 for a charity after Friars had gone..

I'm sure it was a good night...

It was...I remember John Arnison (then manager) coming on stage saying how much money had been raised.

I can't remember what charity it was for but when you're seen to do a charity gig, you try to help everyone but it gets out of hand.

Marillion played (till now) the last night at Friars in 1984 when you were probably too big to play.... you were in the multi nights at Hammersmith league. It must have been a great time especially leading up to Misplaced Childhood.

Yes that led to multiple nights at Wembley and the NEC

Must have been daunting!

That first night at Friars was more daunting! Even though we played to thousands in arenas and football stadia. Just another gig so I don't get nervous? Not really, in some of the big gigs, the people are further away, the smaller places with the audience in your face so it's different.

Did you feel slightly detached with the huge audiences?

It's great to have a huge audience but yes there is a certain detachment and we felt that in 1986/1987

Did playing those huge arena gigs contribute to the parting of the ways (with Fish)

There wasn't the fun aspect of it anymore as were getting detached from each other on stage. There was a lot of pressure. Fish felt it more as he was the one everyone wanted to talk to and he wanted to party more and we weren't so keen and found ourselves avoiding him! What do you mean you're going to bed? It's only 3am type of thing. It could be 5am. So we stopped socialising with each other during tours. We shouldn't have toured as much as we did and we should have taken a break from each other and touring. We didn't , we were strained and tried launching ourselves into another album and split.

Maybe if you'd had that break...

We could have afforded a year off.

Then maybe creatively and personally it could have been different?

Yes, (what we did instead) we locked ourselves in a castle in Scotland and tried to write another album. It was silly.

When Fish left, was it a surprise or a bolt out of the blue?

It was on the cards by then, we could see it coming. Oh, he's resigned! (laughs)

It was put down (in the press anyway) to musical differences....?

It wasn't really. Yes, there was a bit of that, but we just weren't getting on on a personal level. We were struggling a bit musically. But it happened and we set about trying to replace him.

Having such a focal point, it must have difficult to replace him, but you did and continue to be very successful.

We didn't think about it, we just got on with our jobs and knew we were going to continue. It didn't very long to find Steve Hogarth, about three or four months.

And 20 years later, it's still working very well!

Yes, we're going through a very good patch at the moment.

Marillion's music has evolved over this time.

Yes, but this would have happened and is not solely down to Steve joining the band

Your fan base has been incredible. For anybody reading this interview, go and look at Marillion's website. It is incredible. The cottage industry you've built round Marillion has gained you very favourable publicity and fans have part financed the last three albums?

Yes, Anoraknophobia, Marbles, Happiness Is The Road

At this point Pete Trewavas has joined us and we talk to him HERE.

Many thanks Mark.

Marillion's official website

This interview and its content are 2009 Mike O'Connor/www.aylesburyfriars.co.uk and may not be used in whole or in part without permission.

 
 
 

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