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Friars Interviews

mick pointer
Marillion local legends

friars appearances 29/05/81  31/10/81   20/02/82  19/06/82  18/03/83

A determined band called Marillion put Aylesbury back on the musical map with their hard working approach to gigging. They eventually got a slot at Friars moving higher up the bill until headlining and selling out their home venue. They never looked back as the band got bigger and bigger and broke nationally. Mick departed Marillion in 1983 and stayed away from the music business for 10 years or so but now plays with his band Arena. We caught up with Mick at his home in Devon.

Mick Pointer today (copyright Mick's Verglas website)

Thank you Mick for talking to the Friars Aylesbury website. Aside from the obvious, with you being a local boy from Brill you must have attended Friars as a punter?

My history of Friars...well the first gig I ever experienced was probably at Friars. I have an older brother, eight years older than me who went out with a girl from Aylesbury and went to gigs because of that. I am sure my first gig was Hawkwind in 1972 at the Borough Assembly Hall. I must have been around 14 or 15. My brother took me along for a few gigs and they (the Friars gigs) do stand out. When I was older and could drive around, my memories then are of the Friars gigs at the Civic. The Kid Creole gigs in 1982 stick out. I never missed a gig and went every time regardless.

Those Kid Creole gigs were immense!

I never missed a gig and went every time regardless although some of the bands I didn't like. The experience of being at gigs was cool and I remember queuing up for Genesis on the night and I must have bought a black market ticket to get in. I had some magical moments at Friars and my history obviously ties in too.

You obviously had a healthy interest in music....all the live gigs you saw and such....was there one thing that made you decide that being in a band was the thing for you?

Again, it all leads back to my brother being that much older than me. I remember going round to his girlfriend's house and he sat me down and said listen to this...and he played Hawkwind's Lost In Space which I quite enjoyed but what really triggered it for me was Deep Purple's Machine Head and from that moment I thought wow this is brilliant and from then my interest in music opened up through listening to it, watching it and eventually playing it. A love affair with music really.

So really from your teens, did you feel destined for a career in music....?

No, not at all really. Kids from Brill don't get involved in music! (laughs)

No comment!

You know the area, it was a small village and the exposure you get to music is incredibly limited. I don't want to sound like an old fart, but there wasn't a lot of music on television and not a great deal of exposure on the radio either. I used to listen to Sounds of the Seventies which was on from ten till midnight at weekends and make a real point of listening to music. There wasn't a lot in print either but made a point of getting Sounds, Melody Maker and NME every week so I could consume as much music in any way I could. I used to love watching Sight and Sound in Concert on BBC2 where it was on Radio 1 as well.

One of those was from Friars!

That was incredibly exciting then whereas now everyone has access to whatever they want whenever they want. I remember going to Harlequin's in Oxford on a Saturday just to browse the records of bands I had heard about and to search out music that way. In Brill though there were two brothers, friends, Clive and Martin Butler and they started playing guitar. I watched them rehearse along with a mutual friend who had a crappy old drum kit and I was hooked. I remember taking the hi-hat and some drumsticks home and started playing and thought that was for me! I didn't pick the drumsticks up till I was 19 which is quite late really.

And you never looked back!

Not really. I just wanted to consume as much as possible and that's been my life really since.

So, with drums being your instrument of choice, you set about forming a band so how did the seeds of Marillion sow?

Normal process really. I formed a band with the Butler brothers and then moved on. I was doing an apprenticeship at Banbury college and met a guy there with similar musical feelings to me and he started playing bass, a guy called Philip Gleever. We decided we would get together and form a band. We tried various line ups which didn't really work. A year or so later my next door neighbour offered me the chance to audition for a band called Electric Gypsy. In that band was Doug Irvine on bass, Andy Glass who went on to Solstice on guitar and a guy called Alan Keel on vocals. We played many local gigs including on some ruins in Stone at a mini festival. I got on really well with Doug Irvine - we had very much similar musical understandings and we formed a band called Silmarillion. But as the band changed and leaving bits behind, the band name changed to Marillion. We put an advert in the paper and from that we recruited Steve Rothery on guitar and Brian Jelliman on keyboards. Doug Irvine started doing some of the vocals. I put an advert in the paper for a bass player who could sing and ended up with both a bass player and a vocalist in the form of Diz Minnitt and Derek Dick (Fish). That was the outline of Marillion. As you know Brian Jelliman left and (Mark) Kelly joined and Diz Minnitt left and Pete Trewavas joined. That line up is probably the one everybody knows.

Whilst there were some line up changes, it was well known locally that you were a hard working band and getting gigs off of your own back and Friars really supported you. You got a slot at the John Cooper Clarke gig in May 1981 and I saw you at Friars in October 1981 supporting John Martyn. I remember the gig vividly. I had gone to see John Martyn and to see what the fuss was about with Marillion. I remember this after 30 years as despite being third on the bill, you really made John Martyn and Bumble and the Beez work bloody hard for their encores. Considering you were third on the bill, and yes I know there was the local support, I have never ever seen this before or since. You could see something was going to happen - I couldn't see how you couldn't move forwards.

Yes, but it did seem to take some time and yes we were a hard working band. That's the only way you can do it. With the style of music we were playing we had to keep putting it in people's faces until they 'got' it really. Luckily for us, things really took off in 1982. That line up was working. I'm always proud of the fact I formed the band and named it and when people think of the band, they think of Aylesbury.

I saw your first headlining gig at Friars in 1982 with Cruise and Solstice, there's that great photo of all three bands on the website! But after that, Script for a Jester's Tear was the big one in 1983 - headlining Friars and Hammersmith Odeon - great gigs.

During 1982 we played Victoria Palace in London and there was a queue going round the corner and I remember thinking things were happening for us and I believe we were the first band to sell out two consecutive nights at Hammersmith Odeon with a debut album. There were a few firsts with Marillion and that was one I am very proud of.

What went wrong after the Script for a Jester's Tear tour?

I was shafted basically. As the band grew and became more and more popular, there's a lot of record company people, management and what have you who are always looking for reasons to change things and I was chucked out because as far they were concerned, I wasn't good enough. I always found that quite bemusing really because Derek Dick ain't no great singer, Steve Rothery is no great guitarist and Mark Kelly is no great keyboard player but they were good at doing what was good for the band at the time.

Basically, things going on in the background to change things...

There was only one person behind all of this and that was Derek Dick.

What was his problem?

Exactly - and what is his problem now?

I don't know but if we go back to 1983, what was his problem with you that he wanted you sacked from the band?

When he joined the band with Diz Minnitt who was apparently his best friend...they were in the band for some time and he decided Diz wasn't good enough and sacked him. Brian Jelliman was a perfectly good keyboard player and was sacked and alarm bells really should have rung at the time. What he should have done is formed his own band but he needed to join another band he could work through which he subsequently did and then went on to try to have a solo career which failed miserably. I don't know what makes people do things. Marillion was a really good band.

I've asked you to hear it from you because I have never really seen it documented properly anywhere. It makes it valid to hear your point of view for myself.

I've not read the book about the history of Marillion. I was told by some close people who heard it first hand that they said I was an alcoholic which is why I was chucked out of the band. If I ever heard anyone say that myself, I'd have them in court. Absolutely not true. There were other media stories thrown round that were very unpleasant. Regardless of what anybody feels about or what they say about it, they should have stood back a few seconds...and thought about the fact I named the band, formed the band and was there from day one up until the albums were going platinum. I thought I was due more respect. They obviously didn't think so. They even got the name trademarked so I couldn't cause any problems for them apparently. I had no intentions of creating any problems for them. But being shafted is the only way I can describe it.

It's not a unique story (in context of bands) but it sounds unpleasant and it happened to you.

It was very traumatic, so much so, that I never picked up drumsticks for another ten years.

You stepped right back from the music business completely after Marillion. What did you do?

As I'd done my apprenticeship as a teenager, I got into designing kitchens which is a very 80s things. I stopped going to gigs and reading about it. I went from being a complete obsessive to having no interest at all.

I was coming on to that because wasn't it a fluke/chance meeting that brought you back into music and sowed the seeds of what became Arena?

Yes. I was at McDonalds in Hemel Hempstead. There was a few guys in there with Marillion T shirts on who had just been to a Marillion gig in London. I said to these guys, 'was it a good gig' and they were all enthusiastic. I said to them basically, 'when you see the band, say hi to them for me' - they looked at me wondering who I was and I told them I was the reason they had Marillion on their T shirts. The penny dropped and they realised who I was. Anyway, one of those guys ran a prog rock fanzine who happened to know Clive Nolan and told him he's seen me and said he should write an album with me. Clive thought he'd never find me, but after phoning every kitchen design company in the Leighton Buzzard area, I was found and we set up a meeting....and still going strong. Out seventh album came out at the end of November.

And a big European tour you have just done to and the big gig at Leamington....

That went really well. We've done loads of European tours. It's taken me to north and south America as well, but not made it to Asia yet unfortunately or Australia. Hopefully somebody reading this can put that right! It's been a fantastic 20 years.

 I hope so! I've listened to some of the Arena stuff and you can hear nods back to your past, and the material is good. But the nods back remind me that you not so long ago toured Script for a Jester's Tear? How did that go?

Patchy! Petty good most of the time though. I got the idea after I had seen that Derek Dick had taken a Marillion album out on the road, I think it was Misplaced Childhood in its entirety. I was touring with Arena and I thought it wasn't far away from the 25th anniversary of that album. With every gig I ever do with Arena, someone always comes up to me with Marillion vinyl or a CD asking me to sign them and people ask me why don't I play this track or that track. In Arena, we don't do any Marillion tunes, but at the beginning when we didn't have enough material, we did do some Marillion stuff. So, I thought this is a good OK (doing The Script) until I looked into finding the people who could actually do it. I needed a vocalist and after a few false starts got a guy called Brian Cummings who also has his own Genesis tribute band called Carpet Crawlers and does a fantastic job of Marillion 1982-1983.

You said you had mixed reactions, presumably some of the purists were wondering why you were doing it and others thinking it was great?

Actually, I had a pretty unpleasant reaction from Marillion themselves. They objected to me calling myself 'Mick Pointer, ex-Marillion performs Script For a Jester's Tear' and they seriously objected to that believing that anyone coming to a gig may think they were seeing Marillion which is completely ludicrous. After they sent several letters to me making threatening noises, I ended up calling it 'Mick Pointer's Script For a Jester's Tour' but again amusing as I named the band. Maybe they thought a pound was coming my way rather than their way. Amusing at the time but not amusing really if you know what I mean.

As you probably know, Fish reunited Marillion in Aylesbury Market Square in 2007 to perform Market Square Heroes in the most appropriate fashion -  I think anyway - imaginable. You played on that song yet you weren't part of that reunion. Would you have done it which would have made it all the more authentic - just one afternoon, one song - if you had got the call?

Perhaps you ought to ask them why they didn't call!

Best wishes to you Mick from all of us here. As we discussed after this chat, when you next visit Aylesbury, you'll see a lot has changed - the venue you played is now a car park, so sad yet still great memories of the place.

Official Mick Pointer / Arena website

This interview and its content are 2011 Mike O'Connor/www.aylesburyfriars.co.uk and may not be used in whole or in part without permission.

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