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”.

Classic Rock - - Contents - 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 Mar­il­ 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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