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25th June 2011
METAL DISCOVERY: There seems to be a fair bit of interest in Marseille since you reformed from the media and gig/festival promoters – did that level of interest take you by surprise and was it hard to try and get noticed again?
NEIL: I think the thing what happened is Andy and I, who I guess masterminded it the first time round, when we got together this time we said, “well, let’s try and do it with pride; let’s see if we can give it it’s full whack.” And so we got quality musicians in. We said, “if the other lads don’t want to do it, let’s get quality in so we then are forced to up our game” and we just thought that if we go for it properly we might stand a chance. We might just stand a chance. So that’s what the whole philosophy was.
(Neil Buchanan on the Art Attack affinity with some of Marseille's fans)
"We had a guy there with the studs and...the whole nine yards, one of the metal lads… he turned up as a wax crayon!"
Marseille in their dressing room, Rock City, Nottingham, UK, 25th June 2011
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
Photograph copyright © 2011 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
[Ace Finchum suddenly wanders into the dressing room]
NEIL: This is Ace, our drummer…
ACE: I can’t believe you took my fucking chair!
PHIL: Ace has entered the building! Flying in with his...
NIGE: He’s just woken up!
ACE: I’m fucking shagged, man! I’m trying to get a second wind going on.
MD: You’ve got a gig to play in an hour!
ACE: I know, tell me about it!
MD: So having been away from the scene for so long as a band, apart from changes in technology with the internet and digital media and so forth, and obviously you’re a little bit older now as well, are there any noticeable differences being in a band dealing with PR people, and promoters etc?
NEIL: Yeah, there’s no industry left. There’s two things left in this industry, in the music industry – Simon Cowell and Live Nation. And if you don’t belong to either of them, those entities, then you are gonna have to fight. What we’ve done, we’ve been very lucky because the Art Attack thing opened a few doors for us and got us into places where we said, “look, will you take a chance on us?” and they did. I was saying about me and Andy masterminding it together and we said - “This band has to stand on its own merit; it’s not gonna go on the back of the old Marseille and it’s not gonna go on the back of Art Attack. It’s not gonna go out on hype, it’s got to happen on merit.” So we worked hard on that and that’s what’s started to happen. There are a couple of little entities that are still surviving and we’re one of ‘em. Not only are we surviving but we’ve been very fortunate. The support for us has been amazing. It’s incredible. For the album, on the last count I think it was twenty three but it might have gone up, we had twenty three reviews and the reviews we had for the album, twenty two of them were outstanding. And it wasn’t as if we’d got some good ones and some iffy ones, they were truly outstanding. It bowled me over. We got one where we were completely stitched up by Classic Rock.
MD: Oh really, Classic Rock?
NEIL: Yeah, where we were stitched up by an old friend of the band because of some old school shenanigans…
MD: So it was very personal.
NEIL: Yeah, it was something to do with stuff that involved ex-members of the band and girlfriends/wives and their particular contacts and where they’re based in the industry. And it was very much an old school, old mates thing and stick a knife in.
NIGE: In the same issue as the review of the album, they put us at number thirteen in the office playlist. Because, as well, Classic Rock where most of the journalists are freelance, we got a call from another journalist within the same magazine and he said he couldn’t believe what had been said. He’d also written an alternative review that he wished would’ve been published because it wasn’t the same review.
MD: Classic Rock are heavily involved in High Voltage as well – has there ever been any talk about getting you on the bill? Marseille would be perfect for that fest.
NEIL: No, we’ve actually kept away from it. We thought just let the dust settle. Did you see us at HRH last year?
MD: I was at Hard Rock Hell but missed your set because it was a little bit too early and I was doing something else in my schedule, an interview or something.
NEIL: It was fantastic because it was packed.
NIGE: Yeah, for so many people to get up so early.
NEIL: It was midday and absolutely heaving. I think a lot of them, honestly, wanted to come and have a look at the TV freak just to see what was going on but that’s fine because, what we said, if the TV thing brings them in, if we deliver, they become Marseille fans.
NIGE: The first two songs, we went from one into the other, I could see everybody staring at Neil but then, after the second song, it got better and better and people were really into it.
MD: I don’t know if you’ve heard of The Bad Shepherds, the band Ade Edmondson has on the go – I did an interview with him a couple of years ago and he said people turn up to their gigs because they’ve seen him on the telly, but then they end up really getting into the music anyway. A similar thing with you, I guess.
NIGE: Yeah, that’s what’s going down.
MD: You played Hard Rock Hell on the pub stage in 2009 but got promoted to the second stage last year – can we maybe see you on the main stage this year?!
NEIL: This year’s not gonna happen. Johnny said he had a bit of a backlash about having repeat bands on so he said, this year, he’s gonna rest all the bands that he’s had and he’s gonna go out with completely new bands.
MD: Have you encountered any veteran Marseille fans since you reformed, maybe by looking out into the crowd and spotting vintage Marseille t-shirts?
NEIL: Loads.
NIGE: Last night. There’s a guy who actually owns a printing company. He did ask us when we first got back together again about doing these old school t-shirts but we didn’t see any value in it because we knew we were going to rebrand ourselves so we didn’t want the old logo. But we told him to make some for himself and friends, and wear them at the gigs. He turned up last night and people were asking me where he got it from. So we might revisit that at some point and do a retro thing. But it’s good and the inventiveness some people show at the gigs as well – you get the Art Attack fans coming down with crayon suits…
MD: Bright red jumpers?
NEIL: Yeah, bright red jumpers…
MD: Seriously?
NEIL: Yeah.
MD: Fantastic!
NEIL: I thought you were talking from a standpoint of knowledge then! Especially if we do a university town, we always get ten or so of them in their homemade Art Attack t-shirts. We get ‘em on stage at the end to sing along. We had a guy there with the studs and the whole nine yards, in fact, he’s an HRH regular with the long hair and the whole nine yards, one of the metal lads… he turned up as a wax crayon!
NIGE: In the hottest venue on the planet! We were dying on stage so god knows what was happening inside that suit!
MD: Marseille were commonly referred to as a NWOBHM band, and you still are when people write about you, but you obviously pre-dated that whole movement. Bands like Praying Mantis spring to mind as well who pre-dated NWOBHM but got lumped in with that whole scene. Did you ever regard yourselves as a NWOBHM band?
NEIL: I, personally, have been called many things… including “dead”!
NEIL: We’ve been called everything. We’ve been called punk rock in our time, heavy metal, new wave, glam rock… we’ve been called everything, absolutely everything. It doesn’t offend and I don’t really take it too seriously.
NIGE: What we’ve recently said, what we actually are, is retro rock… if that exists. But that’s what we are.
NEIL: I sort of feel that if you want labels then go to Marks & Spencers!
MD: A very good answer to that question! So you were effectively a forerunner to the NWOBHM movement – do you feel you influenced any other bands that came after you?
NIGE: In terms of image, certainly. We know for a fact that Def Leppard used to come to Marseille shows to see what Marseille were wearing. If you look at the first Marseille album cover you’d think you were actually looking at Def Leppard, and that album was out before Def Leppard’s album. The thing is, when I first saw Marseille the NWOBHM thing hadn’t actually started, they were just a rock band. And then the NWOBHM thing started and because they were of the same age group as all those other bands, the press said they were NWOBHM. Steve Harris didn’t know that Iron Maiden were NWOBHM when he started Iron Maiden.
NEIL: We were a bit naïve when we signed our record deal; they signed us straight from school almost and we were completely ripped off. In the end, we spent two years trying to get out of it with a legal battle. But our record company, who were terribly misguided, we’d open the papers and there’d be an advert for us – “forerunners of New Wave”, and we’d go, “what?!” And that’s what used to happen. I think that used to offend people and then someone would call us NWOBHM, and then someone else would say, “no you’re not; I invented NWOBHM.” We just got caught up in this crap.