Marillion, a 30m selling ‘best kept secret’

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More than 30 years after forming, Marillion remain on a creative high, says founder member and bassist Pete Trewavas.

The band’s latest press pack suggests this outfit are one of the UK music scene’s best-kept secrets.

But how ‘secret’ you can be when you’ve sold 15m albums, released 17 studio albums, eight of which made the UK top 10, and played to more than 3m people is debatable.

Steve Hogarth has fronted an otherwise unchanged Marillion line-up since 1989, lead vocalist/lyricist on 13 LPs alongside Mark Kelly (keyboards), Ian Mosley (drums), Steve Rothery (guitar) and Pete Trewavas (bass).

Since 1999’s marillion.com album, the band has been free from outside record company pressure, launching their own label and never looking back.

Like the band’s original vocalist Fish, they’ve taken their independent model to a new level, with an intimate relationship with their fans.

So when we talk about crowd-funding, it’s worth noting Marillion led the way with 2001’s Anoraknophobia, possibly the first band to ask fans to pre-order an album 12 months before release, with 12,000 signing up.

“We asked our fans if they would contribute. The record company interest we had was not really sufficient to make the album we wanted.

“We wanted to do something bigger and better, and thought of going to a bank or asking people if they’d privately fund it, but Mark (Kelly) said, ‘Why don’t we ask fans to donate what they think?’

“That was borne out of an American tour a few years earlier where we couldn’t go because our record company couldn’t afford to fund us.

“Unbeknown to us, one fan opened a bank account, asking for contributions to ensure he brought us over. He said he’d rather us play over there than fly to Europe. That raised $70,000, $20,000 by the time we took over. We promised everyone who donated an exclusive live CD, the start of us thinking that way.”

While Pete also plays with Transatlantic, Kino and Edison’s Children, Marillion remain his priority, not least after reaction to 2012’s Sounds That Can’t Be Made.

“It was a while in the making, but even at that stage we played it to a few people and felt we had something special.

“The reaction on the road and from media seems to suggest it’s almost the start of a new era for Marillion.

“We’ve felt a rejuvenation, leaving us in a very exciting place… after 30 years!

“We’re a relaxed. Have a good business model, all get on well, still loving music and what we’re doing.”

So does being in Marillion in 2014 involve lots of scrabbling through diaries trying to agree on availability?

“It’s not quite that bad! The common love and bond is the music of Marillion, and the fact we’re so creative together.

“After all the good will and faith from fans, our name and good fortune we’ve had along the way, we’d be foolish to throw that all away.

“A strange thing happens when we’re in a room together, being creative, and it takes on its own identity.”

This year saw a Latin America tour and return to the studio for the 18th album.

“We’re a band that create in quite an organic, haphazard way. When there’s five of us together we like to jam and create whatever comes to mind.

“There’s a filtration process, and over a few months you realise this fits perfectly with that. At the moment we have a lot of ideas, next year we’ll put it all together.”

Meanwhile, the band are all set for their European tour, with the UK leg first.

“Writing is great, and if you’re a creative force you’re never going to stop. But being on the road is fantastic, especially around Christmas.”

What will we get on these shows?

“A bit of a party, with most of it light. A great show.”

Marillion play Manchester HMV Ritz on Wednesday, December 10. To book, head to www.ticketline.co.uk

For more on the band visit www.marillion.com.

Malcolm Wyatt