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25th July 2010
Most people probably recall Marillion from the '80s with their hit single 'Kayleigh'. Fast-forward twenty years and Marillion are a completely different machine, replacing their emotive, '80s influenced prog rock by successfully upgrading their sound in line with a more modern, streamlined rock outfit borrowing a variety of leanings from plenty of other musical stances, including pop, alternative and indie. Metal Discovery are fortunate to put bassist Pete Trewavas in the hot seat at the first High Voltage festival and quiz him on recent happenings in the world of Marillion and his role as bassist in the prog-rock supergroup Transatlantic, and hear how well their recent tour went.
METAL DISCOVERY: How are you, Pete?
PETE TREWAVAS: Good, yeah.
(Pete Trewavas on Marillion's autonomy)
"...we've deliberately set up the way we do business so it's a personal thing. We don't have things farmed out to other companies to do on our behalf. We do it ourselves. If you phone us up, there's a good chance you'll get one of the band answering!"
Marillion - uncredited promo shot, 2009
Photograph supplied by, and used with permission from, Lucy Jordache
Interview by Elena Francis
MD: How are you finding the festival?
PT: Really really good acutally. It's a nice choice of bands for me, seeing Focus and I know the guys in Asia so there's lots of people that I know. I never got to see Focus when I was a kid so it's a really good festival.
MD: So you've been watching loads of bands?
PT: I've managed to see bits of lots of bands.
MD: Marillion did a warm up gig two days ago. How was that?
PT: That was amazing. It was really really good. It was in Leamington Spa, just up the road, and it was a good show. The band was playing well, the aim was to get ourselves prepared for today. The audience were really good. We're lucky; we've got a great audience. Very loyal fanbase. They give us a lot and we hopefully give them something back.
MD: You played a good two hour long set. It's great when you get older bands with so much material playing longer sets as obviously you want to see a bit of everything.
PT: Yeah, the thing about a festival like this is that you get to see a lot of bands. The downside is that you only get to see an hour of them. It's give and take.
MD: It's a shame with the clashes as well because Transatlantic were in the unfortunate spot of clashing with Heaven and Hell.
PT: I know, I know. It's funny because I was talking to Glen [Hughes] this morning actually, we were staying in the same hotel. I wanted to catch some of that but I was unfortunately too busy. There's been a few issues like that. I think we're playing when ELP are on as well.
MD: 'Happiness is the Road' is a really interesting album in that it's split into two and they're both very different. Has one been receiving more attention than the other?
PT: That's a question I don't really know the answer, really.
MD: Do you have a personal favourite of the two?
PT: I do. You know what, I prefer the second album. I like the songs. I love the first album and I think conceptually it works really well and spiritually it has a good vibe to it but the second album, musically, is more interesting to me. Songs like 'Thunder Fly', 'Planet Marzipan' - I know it's my bass line but I love the bass line on that. I was really pleased when I came up with that.
MD: In your own words, how would you describe it as different from your previous effort, 'Somewhere Else'?
PT: I think it's more involved. We went for more intensity and we tried to be a little more creative. 'Somewhere Else' was a funny album because it didn't really get well received by the fans when it came out but when they saw it live, they kind of got it a bit more. We're showing people what we're going to be doing for the next album with songs like 'A Voice from the Past' but a lot of the album is quite rocky and straight forward which we thought was a nice departure from 'Marbles' but, having seen how the reaction was, we thought we'd dig a bit deeper next time and try and become a little more involved. Our fans are used to our music working on lots of different levels and I think we needed to get the intelligence and integrity back into our music.
MD: I think Marillion is such a varied band that there's something for everybody but everybody's not going to like everything.
PT: Exactly. The problem we have really is that it's so varied that Marillion can be anything. We have songs like 'Most Toys', which is straight-ahead Iggy Pop-y rocky and then we've got the stuff which is almost Zappa-complex.
MD: You do a DVD for every tour now and the latest is the 'Out of Season' DVD. How did the recording go? Were you pleased with it?
PT: Yes, I think so. Yeah. I'm trying to think what that is! You know, we have so much stuff, it's hard to keep track. Was that the DVD from the convention? Oh my god! I think it was from last year's convention. I'm terrible. I should know these things! But it's great. Every year, or every two years roughly, we do our worldwide convention. We have people from all over the world fly in. We do three nights. We do three completely different sets so we learn about ten hours of music, which actually helped me when I was learning Transatlantic material because I have to retain so many notes in my head. We film it and it's an opportunity to have a really good lighting rig in a good venue. We had a guy called Tim Sidwell edit it for six months and our producer engineer Mike Hunter playing around with the audio to make it sound as good as it can sound. I think it's been received really well. On the back of it, we've sold out the next convention about six months away. In this current climate, you never know if the pound in the pocket is just going to stretch to buying something from you anymore. It's tough out there in the real world.
MD: Marillion are such a powerhouse name now. Do you struggle to keep up with the fans' expectations with your new releases and prove that you're worthwhile now there are so many bands thanks to the Internet?
PT: The good thing about the Internet is that we're in touch with our fans on a very one-to-one basis and we've deliberately set up the way we do business so it's a personal thing. We don't have things farmed out to other companies to do on our behalf. We do it ourselves. If you phone us up, there's a good chance you'll get one of the band answering! It's really quite personal. Obviously, we're very aware of what the fans would like from us but we have to please ourselves first and foremost. Musically, we only do things that excite us. Just to demonstrate that, we're in the middle of writing at the moment and we went to Portugal with a view to write through the summer. But we decided that the time wasn't right at the moment. Steve Hogarth is building a house, I was doing things with Transatlantic, Steve Rothery was doing things with a guitar builder and basically we decided this isn't a good time to be writing so we decided to wait until we're inspired to do it. Luckily, we're in a privileged position to do that where we don't have record labels, we don't have management deadlines, we do it all ourselves. Providing we don't run out of money, we're doing okay [laughs].
MD: Do you find that you have to compete more against newer bands?
PT: We don't. As I said, we have a loyal fanbase but we're picking up new fans. I think old fans drop off but we pick up new fans all the time.
MD: So you're not playing different sized venues?
PT: I think we're playing to more people, to be honest. That's probably due to Classic Rock and the progressive rock magazine that's making people realise that genre of music is still around and there are a lot of interesting bands that you don't necessarily hear on the radio that will not be playing Marillion or most of the bands at this festival.
MD: It's fantastic. You're always on the road as well.
PT: That's the thing. We've streamlined the way we tour and touring is probably financially very viable compared to record sales. You can sell downloads of the show on the road, which is a cheaper option than pressing CDs. There are lots of ways you can make it work if you put the right mindset to it.