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25th June 2011
METAL DISCOVERY: In the History section of your website it says that the band “reluctantly” split in the 80s. Why was that reluctant?
NEIL: Because of the legal battle. It put such a strain. Some of us were tied in certain ways legally, some of us were tied in other ways, some of us could perform, songwriters couldn’t take their songs there. It was a nightmare and we were just kids. We were kids and we were being well and truly shafted, like people who didn’t give a shit because they’d moved on; they’d moved away from the trouble and we were still carrying the can and didn’t know what the hell we were doing. Seriously, absolutely seriously, I was sunning myself in Miami having done the most amazing tour playing to twenty thousand people every night in stadiums, and we were picking up the press in the States… we were just on the plane before Leppard and before Maiden. It was all – “these are the big boys; this is gonna happen” and, literally, four weeks later I was on the dole in Liverpool. And we’d been in jets, stretch limos, twenty thousand people a night, and then I was on the dole in Liverpool four weeks later. It was hideous. It was absolutely hideous. So this is unfinished business!
(Neil Buchanan on Marseille's original "crash")
"I was sunning myself in Miami having done the most amazing tour playing to twenty thousand people every night in stadiums...and, literally, four weeks later I was on the dole in Liverpool."
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
Official Marseille MySpace:
Official Marseille Website:
Red, White and Slightly Blue (1978)
Albums & EPs
Thanks to Marseille for taking time out for the interview
Marseille (1979)
Touch the Night (1984)
Rock You Tonight - The Anthology (2003)
FourPlay (2009)
Unfinished Business (2010)
MD: Cool. If I can run some quick things by you, some Marseille facts that are on the website… you were actually called AC/DC originally…
NEIL: Absolutely true. We did our first gig, ever, before AC/DC came over from Australia. I’m sure they were around in Australia but we’d never heard of them. And we did our first gig, ever, at the All Saints Church Halll in Crosby, Merseyside, and I have still got the poster.
MD: Wow! Get it up on the website!
NEIL: We should do that; we should get it up on the website. I’ve still got the poster – AC/DC, All Saints Church Hall.
PHIL: So I’m actually playing with AC/DC tonight!
NEIL: AC/DC are, therefore, a Marseille tribute band!
NIGE: If you go out in the pubs in Liverpool and see the old guys, as well as them telling stories that The Beatles played here, they also talk about AC/DC playing there but it wasn’t the AC/DC that you know. The old guys don’t know the difference, they just know it was AC/DC but it was actually Marseille!
MD: Another fact – you won a “Battle of the Bands” contest and beat Saxon in one of their previous guises in one of the heats…
NEIL: They were Son of a Bitch.
MD: And the finals were at Wembley judged by Brian May, Roger Taylor and Mick Ronson…
NEIL: Yeah, it was at Wembley Arena supporting Wishbone Ash. We only entered it to prove we were the best band in Liverpool and we won the Liverpool heat and they said to us, “you’re now going into the northwest heat and you’re playing the Manchester Apollo.” We won that and then the north half of England played at Birmingham Odeon, won that, got to the final, and the final was five bands all playing for fifteen minutes, supporting Wishbone Ash and those illustrious people were on the judging panel… plus Harvey Goldsmith was one of ‘em, and two record company executives.
NIGE: And Alan “Fluff” Freeman.
NEIL: Yeah, Fluff was there; he wasn’t a judge but he was there. And we won it. We won five grand for playing fifteen minutes way back in 1977.
MD: This is another reason why the story of Marseille needs to be made into a movie! And you were the first NWOBHM band to tour the States…
NEIL: Yes.
MD: Albeit not technically a NWOBHM band as such!
NEIL: If you use that label, NWOBHM, then we were the first NWOBHM band to tour the States. We were on the plane just before Lepps. We were touring and I’ll tell you who else was out there following us – Krokus. There was Marseille, Krokus were following, and then Lepps came over a couple of weeks later.
MD: ‘Do It The French Way’ was used on the soundtrack of a porn movie…
NEIL: Yeah, with Romy Schneider and… I can’t remember the other one. We went to the premiere and we thought – “Fuuuckk! Bring this premiere stuff on! We are so gonna be limoed up here, champagned up” and it was in a seedy little dive of a cinema in Soho!
NEIL: It was hideous! There was us sitting there in the middle and then a couple of raincoat guys at the back!
MD: Okay, the final question I wanted to ask – have you discussed within the band how long you want this reunion to carry on for?
NEIL: Yeah, simple answer, until one of us falls off the deck. As long as people turn up and as long as the music is respected… I don’t mean our music, I mean the genre.
NIGE: The genre’s going through a difficult time.
MD: I think there’s a big revival with NWOBHM and the whole retro thing at the moment though.
NIGE: There is, and bands are getting back together again but it is difficult, and you don’t want to sound disrespectful but while they’re doing that in this recession and people are not going to gigs, the Anvil gig tonight has been downgraded and it’s hard times.
MD: I think it depends though because in times of recession and general gloom, entertainment is the one industry that always seems to boom.
NIGE: It will always survive but we know some bands who’ve got back together again and we know what they’re asking to play and they won’t get it in this country. They’re saying, “oh, we’re not playing in this country then” even though they are British bands. They’ll play elsewhere and are chasing the money whereas we will play where people want us to play.
NEIL: It’s much better abroad as well. Abroad, they tend to look after their rock, they tend to look after their metal. It is an institution and it is respected whereas we’ve got long hair and we wear leather. Actually, we’re looked at as being semi-freaks in this country. Unfortunately, the UK doesn’t look after its heritage, I think, in any area of anything. You know what we do? We knock all our beautiful buildings and our wonderful places down and ten years later we’re panicking because they’re gone. And I think we do that with our music as well.
MD: Definitely, I think that’s true. There’s definitely a big apathy in this country.
NEIL: It’s not instant enough in this country, you know, the money makers…
MD: Maybe you should get on Britain’s Got Talent then I’ll interview you a year later and you’ll be saying, “Simon Cowell, what a great geezer!”
NEIL: All joking aside, every year I used to do the Child of Achievement Awards in London with celebs… we’d go into Westminster Abbey and they’d be bringing kids in that have done great feats where they’ve rescued their parents who have had a stroke or something…
MD: Simon Cowell was involved in that, was he? I’ve heard he’s a great charity kind of guy.
NEIL: Yeah, he’s actually a nice, nice bloke. He would be Father Christmas at these dos and they’d be bringing kids in… I mean, I’ve seen kids wheeled in plugged into machines, no legs, no arms and he’s Father Christmas… he’s awesome.
MD: I’ve heard before that he’s a very nice guy actually.
NEIL: My cynicism, if you like, is surrounding the fact that everything is sucked up by a money magnet and the bigger the money magnet gets and grows the fewer money magnets there are. In the end there are only two or three sucking everything up and if you’re not the right type of alloy to hit that magnet… So money makes the world go round and, especially on a small island, it’s like that. And another thing – when we were kids, music was a way of life. I remember… I’m showing my age here… you’d walk down the street with your plastic Virgin bag with your records in and everyone would go, “awesome” and they’d say, “what you got?” and they’d have their plastic bag and you’d pull out an Island sampler LP and say, “look, what you got here?” and, “Blodwyn Pig, Quintessence and Mott the Hoople”… “oh wow, man.” I used to smell albums as well! It was your way of life. Nowadays, with kids, it’s mobile phones… “what mobile phone have you got?”… “what games do you play?” It’s not music anymore.
ACE: Have I met you before?
MD: I don’t know.
ACE: You seem very, very familiar. Earlier, I was like, I’m sure I’ve met him before but…
NEIL: Mark… Ace… Mark… Ace… Ace…. Mark… Mark… Ace… Ace…. Mark… hiya!
ACE: Well, that’s my two pence worth!
MD: Anyway, those are good closing words for the interview… “have I met you before?”!
PHIL: Maybe at the beginning of the interview!
MD: Yeah, he’s still waking up! Well, thank you so much for your time.
NEIL: Thank you so much for your time as well and lovely to meet ya.