Classic Rock

Steve Hogarth

Marillion’s vocalist Steve Hogarth talks about the band members’ campfire musical choices, why playing the Royal Albert Hall is special and how Classic Rock “changed a bad smell in the media”.

- Words: Dave Ling

It’s been a successful year for Marillion, the cherry on the cake perhaps being walking on to the stage at the hallowed Royal Albert Hall for the first time. Frontman Steve Hogarth looks back over the past 12 months, and also at how some things have changed over the past 20 years.

When Classic Rock launched 20 years ago you faxed us a good-luck message.

I thought news of the magazine was a good thing. Back then the music press seemed to be a bitter bunch of know-it-alls. They were also extremely cliquey. There were artists you were supposed to like and those that you shouldn’t. It made musicians very, very wary of the press and more than a little cynical.

Apart for the odd exception, the industry laughed at the news of a magazine filled with the likes of Genesis, Marillion, Manic Street Preachers, Iron Maiden, Mott The Hoople… There will always be hipsters who’ll stand on their soapboxes and tell you what to like, but never, ever forget the many more to whom those same opinions mean absolutely nothing.

What do you remember the musical landscape in Britain being like back then? Very little rock music was being played on the radio. Although of course whether or not there’s an outlet for it, music remains in people’s hearts. Something appears to go away but that’s just a perception. It’s like when the BBC deigns to speak to you after a decade of being ignored. You sit down on the sofa on Breakfast Time and they say: “Ooh, isn’t it great that you’re back.” The egoism in that is: “We’ve allowed you back in – ergo you were out in the cold.” You want to slap them.

Within a couple of years the scene was reinvigora­ted. Do you think Classic Rock changed anything?

I think that you did. You perhaps changed the bad smell that existed in the media. Anything that asks people to reconsider their views is always a good thing.

How have Marillion changed over the past twenty years?

A better question might be how we are perceived to have changed [laughs]. A lot of people probably believe we sit around the fire at night playing old Genesis records. But even in 1998 that was never the case. Steve [Rothery] would sit around a campfire listening to Sigur Rós, Pete [Trewavas] would play The Beatles, Ian [Mosley] would be playing Magma, Mark [Kelly] would have Joni Mitchel or Rufus Wainwright, and I’d be listening to Massive Attack. For the media, that makes it very hard to find a box to put us in.

But I’m happy to say but we’ve had the most amazing year. I mean, the last album [Fuck Everyone And Run (FEAR)] was a total political protest record that could have ended it all but, to our relief, was very well received.

From to FEAR, which was the best Marillion album made during Classic Rock’s lifetime?

I’m a father, you can’t ask me to choose between my children. I can tell you the ones that everybody else thinks are the best: Marbles and FEAR. Whether or not I agree with that, I wouldn’t be able to tell you.

And which do you think was the least good? [After a few seconds of considerat­ion] No, I just can’t do it. They’ve all got crackers on them. Some were deemed more successful than others, but to me each was a little musical adventure.

Besides selling out the Royal Albert Hall so quickly, what was the most satisfying aspect of Marillion headlining there?

Walking into such a beautiful building, with all its magic and history and thinking: “Christ, we’re actually going to play this place.” You wonder how you made that happen with your rock’n’roll band. The awareness that it was being filmed only ratcheted up the pressure further still. Marillion aren’t usual nervous before a show, but at the RAH all five us were feeling that.

And next November you’re playing there twice on a thirteen-date orchestral UK tour.

I had fought very hard for us to play the Albert Hall. Ever since I first met the band I’ve consistent­ly flown that banner. The guys just didn’t get why

I was so passionate about the idea. I was like: “Whaddya mean why? Eric Clapton plays there, the Stones played there.” There’s such a beard-stroking process that precedes a band being allowed to appear there. On our way out the old fuddy-duddys in the back room asked us when we were coming back. It was lovely to see that sea change.

Marillion’s With Friends From The Orchestra Tour begins in Liverpool on November 1.

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