been in the business nigh-on 20 years, and he’ll never
be fashionable. Whether it was as the lead singer of
Marillion, or during his 10 year solo career, Fish has
always been unjustly looked down upon by the music press
at large. It’s their loss: as one of this country’s
most charismatic and versatile acts, Fish has produced a
body of work which rivals that of any contemporary.
been a busy 12 months for the absurdly tall Scotsman.
Having closed down his own independent record label, and
released what is arguably his finest solo album to date,
Raingods With Zippos (on new label Roadrunner), the
Artist Formerly Known As Derek Dick has also appeared in
TV’s The Bill, and Young Persons’ Guide To Being A
Rock Star. Right now he’s currently rehearsing in
preparation for his forthcoming European tour. Bubblegun
phoned him as he came up for air amidst this hectic
schedule (please note our hilarious use of an aquatic
bad. Getting there slowly but surely. We fell off the
table last year, but I just about managed to hold on
with one hand."
GOT PRETTY BAD FOR YOU, DIDN’T THEY?
was an absolute fucking nightmare. I lost something in
the region of seventy grand on the last tour. We had
five tour companies go down on us, which was another
eighty grand. It got to a point where I sat down at
Christmas, and I knew that when I woke up I’d be
staring at a one hundred and fifty grand loss. The bank
wouldn’t give us any more money, and wanted back what
they’d handed out. By January ‘98 my confidence was
at an all time low."
MADE YOU CLOSE YOUR RECORD COMPANY DOWN?
all honesty I can say that Dick Bros had no expertise
whatsover. We were just relying on luck and taking
gambles. The situation got so that that I had to get
back into bed with a record company. Polydor had given
me back Internal Exile and Songs For The Mirror, and we
had agents sniffing around, but I wanted somebody
who’d deal with the back catalogue as a whole, and
Roadrunner has given us that. We did a deal which has
given me the confidence, and opportunity to focus on the
creative side. Roadrunner has this real ‘indy’
ideal, which is great.
we can sell 600,000 copies of the new album then the
situation will have been rectified somewhat. I’ve been
banging my head against a lot of doors. Now it’s time
to start kicking those doors down."
SEEM TO HAVE BEEN COMING TOGETHER OVER THE LAST YEAR FOR
YOU. YOU’VE FLEXED YOUR ACTING MUSCLE MORE THAN ONCE.
The whole acting thing has been great for the profile. A
lot of people saw the Young Person’s Guide, or The
Bill, and were like ‘Oh yeah! Fucking hell - it’s
Fish!’. I got a lot of good notices for those roles.
I’ve had people mention sit-coms to me - I’d love to
get into comedy. And I’ve a couple of movie parts in
the wings. They’re just waiting on funding, but these
things can take years to get off the ground. I know
actors with far more experience than me who are
struggling to get roles. I’d happily get to the point
where the acting is as important a part of my career as
THINK RAINGODS WITH ZIPPOS IS THE BEST ALBUM YOU’VE
An artist will always say that, but it is the case here.
I think it’s a very brave album. Plus I wasn’t being
diverted by business issues. I had the freedom to focus
on what mattered. The reviews were fantastic. The worst
review we had was from Q magazine, and even that was a
good enough review, with a begruding three out of five.
I think it’s the album that fans have been wanting me
to make for five years or more. "
COLLABORATED WITH A LOT OF DIFFERENT PEOPLE. DURING THE
WRITING OF RAINGODS. YOU ATTENDED A WRITERS’ WEEKEND AT
MILES COPELAND’S CASTLE, DIDN’T YOU?
is what I love about being a solo artist. When Miles
called me up it was like a wake-up call. I was at my
lowest point and it gave me the incentive to get up and
go and do it again. It meant I could indulge the full
range of styles and influences. I’ve got a huge pool
of muscicians to draw from. No one who works with me is
on a retainer. At the end of a tour we go our separate
ways - we may meet up for a drink, or whatever - but
they’re free to do their own thing. It’s the guitars
and drums that are the most difficult positions to fill.
But I’ve got John Wesley playing guitar on the tour,
who’s superb, and Dave Stewart, who I think is the
most underrated drummer in Europe."
DID YOU DECIDE TO DO AN EPIC TRACK LIKE PLAGUE OF GHOSTS
AFTER ALL THIS TIME?
you’d asked me one year ago I’d have told you to
fuck off. I was paranoid that people would think I was
doing a Misplaced Childhood 2 or, God forbid, Grendle 2
(20-minute long B-side to Marillion’s first single).
The whole Castle Marouatte session gave me the chance to
flex my muscles. It was like a songwriters’ gym. I’d
been speaking to Mark Daghorn and Tony Turrel, The
Positive Light guys, who did some remixing for
Marillion, about them doing some remixes of my stuff,
but there wasn’t really the money for it. They
mentioned this twenty minute ambient piece, and we
talked about me putting some vocals over the top of it,
or reciting some poetry, or something, but when I heard
it we started talking about me using it. I thought it
could be heavier, and it needed a total redesign. But it
was the foundation and outline for what became Plague Of
Ghosts. It practically wrote itself, really.
the track I’m most proud of in my entire career. On
paper it shouldn’t work; it’s got trip hop, drum and
bass, rock, prog, but it all hangs together in a very
modern way. I think it’s as valid to a fourteen
year-old dance music fan, as it would be to fans of the
old Marillion prog stuff."
THE WHOLE ALBUM AS EASY TO WRITE?
months ago I was suffering that major male depression
thing of ‘I’ve fucked up big time’. My company had
gone under. I was in major debt. You know, I was really,
really low. To get away to Castle Marouatte and be a
creative artist again, it made me realise what I
enjoyed. That writing music is fun. I came away from
there with six songs and a sackfull of confidence. The
whole of the last year has seen a metamorphosis of my
entire business and artistic lifestyle."
OF THE LYRICS ON THE ALBUM ARE INTENSELY PERSONAL -
PARTICULARLY RITES OF PASSAGE. HOW DOES YOUR WIFE FEEL
heh. You mean my wife who’s standing right next to me
wrote that song around the line about ‘Living with you
is like being parked on double yellow lines’. It was a
case of, Where is this going to fit? Mickey Simmonds and
I put it together eventually. But my wife wasn’t
allowed to see the lyrics until the song was finished.
When we finished Rites Of Passage I took her into the
studio to play it back. The crew were keeping well away!
song on there which is about relationships is
Incomplete, which is about two people who live together
who find it difficult to get on. You know, I have to do
it, though. It’s like releasing the stress valves.
When my wife listened to Rites, it finished and we were
both a bit teary-eyed, but it was just a snapshot of how
we were at a moment in time, and we came through it. You
can’t possibly know everything there is to know about
somebody’s relationship from just one song."
YOU’RE UP ON STAGE, PERFORMING THESE SONGS NIGHT AFTER
NIGHT, ARE YOU ABLE TO DETACH YOURSELF FROM THE EMOTION?
have to, otherwise you’d go nuts, and have a
breakdown. Sometimes you can feel terribly exposed up
there, and it can have a tremendous effect on you. But
you have to be an actor."
OTHER LYRICISTS DO YOU ADMIRE?
quite like some of Alanis Morrisette’s stuff, the fact
that it’s agressive, but with a sort of feminine
approach. It’s not too macho. But I heard that it’s
a guy who writes her lyrics, so...! I think the Divine
Comedy guy, Neil Hannon, is incredible. Very, very
TO THE ‘MISSING’ TRACKS ON THE RECENT MARILLION
‘CLUTCHING AT STRAWS’ REMASTER, I T WAS SURPRISING HOW
LONG YOU HANG ONTO LYRICS FOR.
do you mean by ‘hang on’? They all lie in a little
black book, like crystals in a dish, and when the time
is right I’ll use them. I can remember writing the
lyrics to Fortunes Of War in American back in ‘87. The
interesting thing about those Clutching tracks is you
can see how we wrote. It disproves the established
history that the guys wrote the music, and I just came
in and sang over the top."
RECENTLY GOT TOGETHER WITH YOUR FORMER BANDMATES. HOW DID
THAT COME ABOUT?
become like ships manouvering in the night. It had come
to the point where we knew we’d have to face each
other. With the remasters there were sleeve notes flying
back and forth. As it got towards Clutching, we knew
we’d have to deal with it and get together. I spoke to
Mark Kelly on the phone, and we set it up. When we
finally met we got on as if we’d only been apart five
weeks. We were just five friends, five family guys,
sitting around a table. We have so much history. We did
so much back then that others can only aspire to, taking
a small Aylesbury band to world class status. We talked
and we could appreciate what each others’ positions
were back when we broke up, and all felt that we’d
been manipulated by outside forces.
had a brilliant time that night, because it was just
about friends. There’s no question of any sort of
musical reunion. There may be a situation in a year or
so where Mark (Kelly) comes up and does some keyboards
for me, or I’ll go down there and do some vocals with
Steve Hogarth (Fish’s replacement), but, you know,
Steve Hogarth has been singer with Marillion for longer
than I was, and the lad does a good job. He’s
Marillion’s singer now. End of Story."
WEIRD THOUGH, LISTENING TO THOSE MISSING SONGS?
know, we all agreed that we don’t remember them being
that good. But that said, I still have problems with the
tracks. Sometimes the changes are a bit too O.T.T. and
acute. They needed to be more gentle. Maybe if we’d
had a year to sit back... but it wasn’t to be. I
looked up our tour dates from back then, and realised
that we’d only had three months off in three years. I
got married in that time - the honeymoon ended up being
a promo tour of America. Somebody should have told me to
go off and make my solo album, and get it out of my
system, and for the others to go off and do their thing,
but the manager was making so much money from us
touring, that he wasn’t about to do that. But,
what’s the point in saying maybe? It’s history. You
can’t change it."
DO YOU MAKE OF BANDS LIKE KULA SHAKER AND RADIOHEAD - THE
SO-CALLED "NEW PROG"?
find Kula Shaker very plastic. When I was doing my radio
show up here I took great delight in playing Traffic
next to Kula Shaker: ‘This is where it comes from,
kids!’ But, you know, they do what they do. I just
found the first album very shallow. I enjoyed it on the
first couple of listens, but can’t listen to it again.
I’d hate to make an album like that. That’s why
I’m so proud of Raingods. When you ask people to point
out potential singles they name every track. That to me
is the mark of a great album."
WOULD YOU LIKE TO FIND YOURSELF IN TEN YEARS TIME?
goals have changed so much. At 21 I wanted the fame, but
what does fame give you? You get the best table at the
restaurant, but there are more waiters hanging around
looking for bigger tips. What I want now is to go and
watch the football on a Saturday afternoon, and go and
have a pint afterwards without being recognised, and
just talk about local matters. Then go home and do a
spot of DIY. Spend a couple of days a week writing a
screenplay, then a couple of days writing songs with
mates, and go out on a tour from time to time knowing
that I’m not running any risks. All I want to do is
provide for my family. They’ve been through a world of
shit over the last five years, but now I want to make
things happen for them."