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
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?
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
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
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
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
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
How did the deal with EMI
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
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
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
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
It was...I remember John
Arnison (then manager) coming on stage saying how much money had been
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
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
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
Maybe if you'd had that
We could have afforded a
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
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
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?
Marbles, Happiness Is The Road
At this point Pete
Trewavas has joined us and we talk to him
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.