Fish

Hav­ing taken the de­ci­sion that his next record will be his last, Fish re­flects on his il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer, ex­plains why he is en­joy­ing bring­ing it to an end and looks at what his fu­ture might hold.

Classic Rock - - Contents -

The big man ex­plains why he is en­joy­ing bring­ing his il­lus­tri­ous mu­sic ca­reer to an end and looks at what his fu­ture might hold.

It’s a sunny day in June. Fish picks me up at Ed­in­burgh air­port in a Land Rover Free­lander 2. He tells me he has an old Volvo, 16 years old, in for re­pair. “Peo­ple say: ‘What are you driv­ing that old thing for?’ I say: ‘There’s noth­ing wrong with it. It may be old but it’s still go­ing strong’.”

It’s tempt­ing to draw a com­par­i­son here. Fish turned 60 in April. But, he in­sists, he is go­ing stronger than ever.

His driver takes us to the spa­cious bun­ga­low where he lives with his wife and step­son some miles out­side Ed­in­burgh. The last time I was here was in 1993 when he was record­ing Songs From

The Mir­ror. Dif­fer­ent days. He was mar­ried to the girl from the Kayleigh video and their daugh­ter was two years old. His daugh­ter is now 27, the same age Fish was when Kayleigh was a hit. The girl from the video is long gone.

In his loo, one wall is dec­o­rated with dozens of old con­cert tick­ets from Fish’s mis­spent youth – Gen­e­sis, Mott The Hoople, Camel, El­ton John, Yes etc – all with a price of £1.50, or 90p or there­abouts. Dif­fer­ent times.

He proudly shows me around his ex­ten­sive gar­dens – veg­eta­bles, fruit, herbs, the full pas­ture. He shows me into his home stu­dio, where he and his main mu­si­cal col­lab­o­ra­tor Steve Vantsis are work­ing on ma­te­rial for what Fish is claim­ing will be his last ever stu­dio al­bum. More of which shortly.

We’re here, os­ten­si­bly, to dis­cuss his solo ca­reer. Fish’s en­tire solo cat­a­logue is com­ing out over the com­ing months in var­i­ous re­jigged forms. There’s also the new an­niver­sary edi­tion of the fi­nal al­bum he made with Mar­il­lion, Clutch­ing At Straws, which is re­leased with an ac­com­pa­ny­ing DVD in Novem­ber. There will also be var­i­ous tours, in­clud­ing, he says, a farewell tour, some­time in 2020-21.

You of­fi­cially be­gan your ca­reer as a solo artist with the re­lease of your sin­gle State Of Kind in 1989. As a kid, though, buy­ing all those con­cert tick­ets now in your loo, did you fan­ta­sise about your fu­ture as a solo artist, or as the lead singer in a band?

I never thought about be­ing a solo singer. The ob­jec­tive was al­ways to find a band that I re­late to. I pre­ferred the kind of gang men­tal­ity of a band, which I re­ally en­joyed in the early years of Mar­il­lion. But that gang men­tal­ity went out the win­dow in 1985 be­cause we be­came vic­tims of our own suc­cess.

Was it just the suc­cess of the Mis­placed Child­hood al­bum that changed things, or was it go­ing that way any­way?

In 1985 I was re­ally happy. It was great. We were achiev­ing ev­ery­thing we set out to achieve – num­ber one al­bum, hit sin­gles, play­ing to big crowds. But at the same time, the de­mands I wasn’t en­joy­ing so much. You know, the suc­cess was start­ing to re­ally in­trude on ev­ery­thing I was do­ing in my pri­vate life. It was very dif­fi­cult to find spir­i­tual space. By the time we got to Clutch­ing At Straws [1987], I was past it. The guys that were the gang were now full busi­ness­men.

I wasn’t en­joy­ing the gigs. The gigs were get­ting big. There were times when you go: yeah, the pro­duc­tion was won­der­ful and it was great hav­ing loads of play­things. At the same time, as a front­man you were walk­ing out on stage and you had two Su­per Troupers [pow­er­ful spot­lights] in your eyes for the next two hours and you couldn’t see any­thing. You couldn’t re­ally in­ter­act with peo­ple. When you’re play­ing to ten thou­sand peo­ple a night, you couldn’t have any repartee, which we’d al­ways had be­fore. Then com­ing off stage, the peo­ple you wanted to meet you couldn’t meet, be­cause you were hav­ing to shake hands with the guy from the lo­cal re­tail place, or talk to this jour­nal­ist or this record com­pany ex­ec­u­tive. You no­ticed that all the peo­ple that were com­ing back­stage, two years be­fore they wouldn’t have had any­thing to do with you.

Be­hind the scenes, you were also un­happy? The man­age­ment thing was driv­ing me in­sane, the money side of things. We were play­ing huge gigs, and no­body in the band was liv­ing the life­style that you might think was re­flec­tive of the level we were on. I’d met my first wife as well, in 1985. She moved across [from Ger­many] in 1986. By the time we got to ’87, I re­alised I was re­ally fight­ing in a mar­riage. My wife wasn’t happy with me be­ing on the road. She didn’t trust me on the road. It was a very stress­ful sit­u­a­tion. That was part of the rea­son to bail [out of Mar­il­lion] and to move up here [to Scot­land]. To dis­lo­cate my­self from it all. I wasn’t en­joy­ing that level of fame. I still don’t like it. I played a gig with Mott The Hoople at the O2 arena and I hated it. I went on stage and I was re­minded of those days.

What would have you con­vinced you to stay with Mar­il­lion, in­stead of leav­ing when you did in 1988?

If they’d got rid of the man­ager. It wasn’t about any­body in the band. It wasn’t about get­ting rid of Mark Kelly [as was later ru­moured]. It was the man­ager. I wanted new man­age­ment.

So if the rest of the band had agreed to that, you would have stayed?

Prob­a­bly, yes. If we’d also had a break. We were for­ever scrab­bling to pay mort­gages and all the rest of it. But we were

“The gang men­tal­ity went out the win­dow in 1985 be­cause we [Mar­il­lion] be­came vic­tims of

our own suc­cess.”

In­ter­view: Mick Wall

Mar­il­lion in sum­mer 1988, work­ing on the fol­low-up to Clutch­ing At Straws shortly be­fore Fish’s de­par­ture.

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