Saturday, 19 March 2011
Interview with Fish December 2003
Fish as many will know was the singer with British Band Marillion between 1981 and 1988. During that time the band became one of the biggest British rock bands of the period scoring hit albums with Script For A Jesters Tear, Fugazi, Misplaced Childhood and Clutching At Straws. There were also hit singles including Kayleigh and Incommunicado to name just two. The band were also a big draw in the concert arena particularly in Europe so it came as a shock to some when in 1988 the band split and Fish left to pursue a solo career.
By the time of this interview in December 2003 Fish had recorded a number of albums and had a reasonable amount of success. Jon Kirkman was invited to Fish's home just outside Edinburgh to conduct an interview for the then forthcoming album Field of Crows. Following the interview it was suggested that John and Fish talk about Fish's previous albums and career. What followed was a lengthy and very honest interview.
It is fifteen years virtually since your solo career began and I was playing the track Big Wedge from the Vigil in the Wilderness of Mirrors album the other day and thought how relevant that track actually is these days.
There’s a couple of tracks on the Vigil album, my mother actually said to me a few months back about the track State of Mind that she had had a dream and she had heard this song coming out again and it had been a really big hit and it was really strange because State of Mind had been all about watching Colonel Oliver North lie his ass off In front of the state committee or whatever it was. Big Wedge was about the whole corporate involvement and what was the creepiest thing about the Big Wedge thing was the original single cover has got Uncle Sam holding all the money out and you’ve got the Twin Towers with a plane approaching it! When I saw that a chill ran up my spine.
It seems that there is a load of tracks; the term Vigil in the Wilderness of Mirrors came from the CIA for a period in the ‘50’s where there were so many Russian defectors that the Russians became worried. They started sending all these people out with misinformation. They would come out and say they wanted to defect and give all this rubbish across. The CIA called it wilderness of mirrors because they never knew who they could trust. They never knew what was true or what was lies. They never knew who was a double agent or who was a triple agent or whatever it was.
It intrigued me at the time and had a lot to do with the situation that was surrounding Marillion when I left. One of the really sad things about that album was that it was held back for too long after I left Marillion. I left the band in 1988 and the album never came out until 1990. It suffered from being held back. I think that if it had come out six or nine months before then it would have had a far greater impact. It was still a very successful solo album and it is still one of my favourite albums for a number of reasons including the fact that it was a big jump to leave the band and to put an album together on your own. I was helped my Mickey Simmonds and other musicians but still to have your own name on it meant as much to me as Script For A Jesters Tear which was the first Marillion album.
It encompassed a lot of feelings that were around at that time and if Vigil in the Wilderness of Mirrors had Marillion written at the top of it rather than Fish, I think it would have been a huge album. Fans were confused; there was a lot in the media about it. We went through a very messy and public divorce; we were all very young and very naïve in the way that we dealt with the press back then. A lot of that material had been about and ‘distilling’ for quite a while. Vigil was presented to Marillion as a contender for the album we were going to put together. That was going to be the title of the album as far as I was concerned. But eventually it got the tag of Fish on the top of it. There are a lot of very powerful songs and Big Wedge was the first time I ever went for brass and I loved it and it was something that I decided on the new Field of Crows album was something that I wanted to bring back in. I love the sound of that big band sax and I would love to make a big band album.
Walking out of a band like Marillion or when the band split, (at the time Marillion were one of the biggest bands in the UK.) How much pressure was actually on you to come up with the goods in terms of a successful album and your first album away from Marillion? How much pressure came from the record company and from you to perform was there?
Well there was a lot of personal pride involved. As you pointed out Marillion were a major band in Western Europe at that time and we had tagged a number of places worldwide although not really exploited them as far as we could. I think we had run into problems, which were mainly due to bad management. We had been over playing; we’d played far too many gigs in the same areas because the management was making money in those areas. Places such as North America we should have done a lot more work in but we were hindered by an ineffectual company and the fact that we couldn’t adjust from playing big gigs in Europe to playing club gigs in America, which we were at that time. We were kind of playing in a circle and when we really should have taken a year off, if the management had been strong enough and the band had understood it, it would have been a case of go away Fish and get your solo album out and I can get sorted out.
The problem was that none of the other guys had anything to do and that is why my acting career never took off until I went solo because if I had wanted a month off to take on an acting role the band had to sit there twiddling their thumbs. That was never going to happen and on top of that the management was taking so much commission that we had to keep moving. It became the Woody Allen shark Thing. We had to keep moving all the time. Because we were moving in circles there was a lot more pressure on us to deliver another Kayleigh, to deliver another big hit single. There was a lot of pressure on the band from various sources to come up with something that was more in tune with the American market. I found that really difficult and I was writing songs like Big Wedge, which some people saw as being very anti-American, it wasn’t – it was very anti-corporate. But that was how I was feeling at the time and I was getting sick of the big music industry. I was tired of doing tours where you’ve got three trucks and a crew of forty guys and you don’t know all the names until you get to the end of the tour. Two years previously you had everybody’s wives and kids and you knew when the birthdays were and stuff like that. It all became very impersonal and there were so many leeches and so many parasites around the band that I really had to get out.
My decision was very impetuous. I walked out before a tour, I walked out before I knew what the financial situation was with the band and from the day I walked out my wages were stopped. Quite rightly so, I had left the band but I put myself under an awful lot of pressure to deliver. As I’ve said, from a point of pride, Vigil was important to put forward. There was a lot of very negative personal stuff around in the press alleging drink and drug problems and there was this thing about me only ever writing the lyrics and I wanted to prove that I could put a project together and I could deliver a quality project.
Vigil was a very quality project for a first album. It was a very powerful statement at the time. It was to suffer in the long run from a lack of long-term promotion, which was what it needed. By the time we got to January 1990 I had been sitting on the album since it had been finished in August 1989. We started the principle tour in the January of that year and in June/July I am being told by the record company that that is over now. I felt there was a lot more ground in the album and I wanted to do a lot more with it but we didn’t get the support. That resulted in the big EMI litigation, which was to prove darkly critical on my overall career. It put me in the wilderness myself; I am ironically Vigil in the Wilderness of Mirrors you know.
The aftermath of the album put me into my own personal wilderness where I wasn’t allowed to put anything out until we resolved the litigation. I didn’t have a studio at the time and no money to go on and make an album. So even if I made an album how would I have got it out? It was a high benchmark as I said; it was a great opening statement but the follow up that should have come along did not come along. It hasn’t really come along until recent years I think.
You left EMI following the release of Vigil in the Wilderness of Mirrors and had a reasonable amount of success but as you’ve said you don’t feel it was promoted properly. It seemed to have been over and done with very quickly and it is onto the next album. So you left EMI and went to Polydor. Your first album for them was Internal Exile, which had a nationalist feel but the actual title track went back to the Marillion days. Wasn’t that offered to Marillion at one point?
Yeah, the track was actually recorded during the Vigil in the Wilderness of Mirrors sessions and I think we put the original track we wrote back then on the re-masters together with all the B sides. You have to remember that as a lyricist you are always working a year and a half behind so that when an album is coming out certain things have happened. When Vigil was being put together a lot of the material had been around with the Marillion band in 1988 and obviously when I left I took the stuff that I had written.
Some of the material went on Internal Exile but more importantly what was happening was that after 1988 I moved back to Scotland and the move back there was prompted by working for a few months in a castle in the Highlands whilst trying to put the elusive album together. I fell back in love with the country. When I left Marillion I really felt I had to come back up. I had to get away from London. I had to get away from this kind of poisonous circle I was in. There were people around me that were very negative and on top of that I felt there was a great danger of turning into the sad guy, the Marquee Bar that I had written about in Clutching at Straws where you’re sitting there talking about all the things you did and all the things you are going to do but never do. I really didn’t want to become that character. So I moved up to Scotland and got a place that was outside Edinburgh and outside where I was born in Dalkeith. I was able to afford a farmhouse, which had a lot of outbuildings that turned into rehearsal rooms and places to store gear etc. We had enough bedrooms to put up musicians that were up rehearsing and writing. That’s when I had the idea to build a recording studio. After the Vigil in the Wilderness situation, I realised that I was never going to allow myself to be put in a position where I was going to depend on somebody else to give me money to make an album. So I decided to build my own studio.
During the EMI litigation, we actually built the recording studio in the middle of paying all the lawyers. That put me under incredible stress. Just to add the cherry onto the top of the cake my daughter was born in the middle of it. There were a lot of emotions flying about. When Internal Exile came to be written there were a lot of situations that were crying for attention. Internal Exile ended up being an album that was made up of so many different styles of music that it didn’t really fit together as an album. Chris Kimsey came up to produce it and I was hoping that he could bring me some of the magic and the luck that we’d had on the two Marillion albums he had done. Of course we were working on the new studio, which pushed the stress button up just a little bit more. The album came out and it sounded disjointed. Polydor misjudged where my career actually was. Remember I said that there had been such a length of time between the Clutching Straws Marillion album and my first solo album and then the litigation, which dragged another huge expanse of time out so Internal Exile came out.
What it needed was a big burn out kind of promotion and we didn’t do that. Then the first single came out and it was Internal Exile the title track that, as you so rightly pointed out was leaning towards Scottish nationalism. This meant that the BBC really didn’t quite like it. I had also picked the perfect time; I was like Unlucky Alf in the Fast Show – “Oh bugger!” There just happened to be a general election on at the time and the Scottish National Party was doing rather well in the run ups. So what was not going to be played on a lot of stations was a song advocating how great it was for Scotland to be independent! It was just one of those things. I look back on it now and it is really funny but at the time it was a really dramatic set of circumstances that applied themselves and gave the album a death blow before it even came out.
With Credo, the second single, that did really well and again there are strange echoes of what is happening now. It was written about the original Gulf war, I had my daughter in my arms and I was watching the TV and thinking what have I done? What kind of place have I brought this child into? On the album there were songs like Dear Friend, a very kind of folky, bluesy kind of letter written to a friend. Then you have Just Good Friends, which eventually became a duet with Sam Brown later on. That had a very country and western feel; that was sitting next to Credo, which was a power punk rock. Internal Exile had this Fairport Convention, kind of folky, electric feel and to a lot of people it just didn’t gel.
At the time I said that the album was a collection of boys stories and that was the only way I could justify the album because it was a load of different pieces. It didn’t really work as an album and it didn’t really have anywhere near the impact that Vigil in the Wilderness of Mirrors had. But it is strange that out of all my albums Internal Exile has provided the absolute stalwarts of the live set. Songs like Lucky which should have been a single that Polydor missed, songs like Credo. Shadow Play is one of the most requested songs that we asked to play live. It comes up time and time again also Internal Exile itself and Just Good Friends. The people who have heard the version that I did with Sam Brown on the Kettle of Fish Best Of album that came out a few years back ask, why wasn’t the song a hit single? It is just one of those stories –the wrong place at the right time.
Well from an album that is perceived to be the wrong place at the right time you went on to make an album that must have had the executives at Polydor jumping up and down with glee – a Covers album. They were very popular in the ‘70’s; everyone had a go at them. In terms of consolidating your career I think you were quoted at the time as saying it was the worst decision you had ever made in your life.
It was the worst creative decision I ever made in my life but psychologically I needed to do it. One of the reasons Internal Exile was a kind of fragmented style was that I didn’t know what I was doing. Vigil as an album had already been concocted, it ended the Marillion epoch and went into a very new and exciting time which was a ‘I’m solo now, whoo!’ Internal came out of an era that was saddled with cynicism and bitterness and anger.
With the EMI case I didn’t even get my case heard because we didn’t have enough money to go to the High Court and we had to settle. The settlement was severe. My legal bills were huge. What annoyed me the most was that EMI was a company that I had been with for a long time and we had sold millions of albums with Marillion and what the litigation had been about and the way I had been treated had been unfair. I was a twisted wee man back then or boy I should say. It was really hard to write that album. On a song like Tongues on Internal Exile are some of the bitterest lyrics I have ever written about anybody in my life. When I went to Polydor and after delivering Internal Exile they wanted the next album. Internal Exile hadn’t done the number they thought it would and I was angry at them because I felt they hadn’t pulled out the stops that they said they were going to pull.
There were regime changes within the company, changes in the managing directors and changes in loyalties. The people who were fans were leaving and there was new people coming in so it was very much a state of flux. I needed to really get my head together but the cost of the EMI litigation had put me in a position where I was very close to losing my house. I needed to get an album out and I didn’t really trust the Polydor situation so I thought that I would go back and rediscover the reason why I fell in love with music in the first place. I picked out all these songs like Ape Man by the Kinks and T.Rex’s Jeepster and Boston Tea Party by the Sensational Alex Harvey Band. I made two great covers I thought which were Fearless which was the original Pink Floyd track and Solo, one of my all time favourite songs which was written by Sandy Denny that I wish I had written. It is the only track off that album I played on a near regular basis when I have done an acoustic set up. The album went into the charts with an anchor (laughs) and people didn’t understand it. Some of the versions in retrospect would have made great B-sides but they weren’t album tracks. It shocked people and it severely shocked Polydor. I was in a situation with Polydor where I could have taken another six/nine months to write the Suits Album and finish if off and deliver it to Polydor but I couldn’t afford another nine months with a band I knew. I needed to record it without sinking further into debt. At the same time if I had delivered the next album with Polydor and it didn’t work – and I wasn’t getting any assurances that they were going to take me on for another album.
If I had delivered the Suits album and it had sunk without trace my career was over. I would have lost the studio and everything. I had to put that album to them and say, “Okay, I’ll do Suits” after some discussion it was decided that they didn’t want me so I was dropped from Polydor. It was back to the stress and the drama again. How I managed to get albums out I don’t actually know!
Well you say you went back to the stress and the drama, you went from a major to being your own boss virtually. That has to be very fulfilling because it begins and ends with you, you make the decisions but ultimately that sometimes gets in the way of actually creating. Out of that came the Suits album. Were you happy with that as a start to your independent solo career?
I think so yeah. James Cassidy produced the songs for the Mirror album and we developed a relationship after working together on Geoff Wayne’s Spartacus debacle. James came up; he was working with a band and looking for a studio to record some of his stuff in. James helped me write the Suits album but the Suits album was still struggling to find a direction and recovering from Song from the Mirror.
Some of the reviews from Songs from the Mirror were like dagger to the heart my lord (Laughs) and it was cold poison indeed. My confidence was kind of low, having just been thrown off my second major label. I had never really worked in this situation before. Rob Ayling from Voiceprint got involved and we put up this plan. The first thing we did was release a load of official bootlegs, which were live albums. Those live albums, together with the first ever official Dick Bros. record company, which was named after my dad’s garage in Dalkeith. That was what I decided to call the label. The logo of the labels was actually the three brothers who formed the original garage back in about 1890. We hit the stores with Sushi which was a double live album recorded from the Songs from the Mirror tour. Ironically the Songs from the Mirror tour was the best solo tour I had ever had to date. It had a stronger kick back than the Internal Exile tour did. The gigs were amazing and the feel on the cover versions, the versions of Fearless on the Sushi Live album are stunning. It is still one I am often drawn to play after a bottle of Chablis or two at two in the morning to complete strangers!
Sushi came out and that gig was there to set up the Suits album and to bring people in. Suits, again had a couple of great songs, 1470 is a song that often kicks back on a current live set and a song like Fortunes of War which I think is a great song and under other circumstances could have been a great single. Suits held the ship but it didn’t advance it and I was still sliding a little bit. It wasn’t until we did the re-mastering and I brought Callum Malcolm in who had worked in the Blue Nile and who is a great mixer of albums and producer as well to re-master the entire back catalogue. When he re-mastered the Suits album it was incredible how much the album came to life.
That was one of the albums that had been let down by the overall mastering. I don’t think it shone on the original recording but the re-mastering worked brilliantly and seemed to unzip it and it just sprung to life. One thing I did notice that the endings of the songs we were playing were going on for a very long time and could have done with quite a lot of editing but at that time I was finding a new direction. I think there was a soul and swing coming into me that I was finding more confidence in expressing. With songs like Jumpsuit City I like sitting there in the groove. I would definitely say that that was the next step back on the ladder after I fell off. I knew it was going to be a pretty big climb but I got back into finding a groove and finding a soul and finding something else that was exciting me again so it was an important album to do.
If you listen to the Raw Meat off the infill which is the final track of the album that was a song about the state of mind I was in at the time.
With your own record label and the inherent problems of having your own record label and being chief cook and bottle washer, the live albums kept things ticking over nicely and I would imagine it helped the financial situation because there are always people who want to have bootlegs. There seemed to be a long gap between that and your next proper studio album Sunsets on Empire. I was shocked when it came out because it seemed to be quite a raw and dark album.
Well what happened with Suits was we put the Suits album and fell into the old trap where we had to take on staff so I ended up having three members of staff here. There weren’t enough of us to really do the job properly. We didn’t have the international set up or the international reach as far as promotion went. It was very difficult to keep our fingers in all the different pies that were out there and as a consequence some of them got burned and some were hugely undercooked. I had to go on the road because I was having to generate finance to pay for the operation back here. I couldn’t afford at that time to take another year off to make an album. Even if I had taken a year off I would still be in the situation of having to pay the staff.
The other alternative was to get rid of everybody and I was trying to build it up. We put out a double album Best Of; we took a couple of months off and re-recorded a lot of Marillion tracks that I really liked. We re-recorded some of the solo stuff that I felt could have been done better and put together this double album set called Yin and Yang. We used that as like an international calling card because it had the Marillion stuff etc. We used that on that particular tour. We went into Singapore and Hong Kong, I was doing promo in Japan through the contacts we had down there. I was in South Africa; we were all over the place. At the same time, although we were generating money it was all disappearing and I kind of shot myself in the foot. It wasn’t really until we moved in the Sunsets and Empire album that I realised that we were going to have to change things. That was when I knew that the Dick Bros. label was going to have to change because I was finding myself, rather than being a creative artist but more of a businessman. I am not a particularly great businessman. It is not something I enjoy; the least enjoyable part of my life is dealing with business and financial stuff. I like to be creating and doing projects, the rest of it bores me, which is why I have no interest in it.
I was finding that most of my energies were following that route rather than making albums so I had to make a real decision. I went down to Midem to the big music convention in the South of France and I met some friends of mine from the publishing company and I told them that I really have to find something to do. It was suggested that I hook up with Steve Wilson from a band called No Man’s Land. I knew of his work with Porcupine Tree and Steve came in to correlate the album with me. It was an absolute breath of fresh air for me because I had been avoiding going back to the stuff that I obviously liked which was a style that I was known to play. Rather than follow this r ‘n’ b route, jazzy kind of route that was suggested to be some elements in Suits. Steve said he was brought up on old Marillion, he liked this stuff and he re-introduced me to a lot of those loose kind of proggy ideas. But he also had a further education and influences that took in a lot of modern grooves and things like that. It was combining his capabilities and my stuff and then opening up other doors suddenly we came up with an album, which was definitely the signal that Fish back on course again. I love that album; it’s a great album. It definitely was a major re-adjustment in people’s perception of where my career was. With songs like The Perception Of Johnny Punter were inspired by an awakening in a creative sense and as a person I think I really changed at that time.
That 1996/7 period was a major eye opener. I went to Bosnia to perform shows for British troops there and spending a couple of weeks there having seen the pictures on the TV was a major re-adjustment. My personal life was changing as well. All together I think I grew up and I had to really re-focus on a lot of stuff. Sunsets and Empire was also very much rooted in the huge Yin and Yang tour. I think we did something like a hundred and fifty shows or something on that tour; it was massive.
Sunsets On Empire was aptly named because it was going to be the last shot for Dick Bros. I knew that if this album didn’t sell in big quantities then Dick Bros. was over. The Dick Bros. Empire faded into the sunset itself. It was game over after that. We lost a fortune on the Sunsets tour. We got badly done over by quite a few companies, which we had no come back on. We were torpedoed below the water line. It was a case of the captain must go down with the ship sir (Laughs).
Let’s look at the album Rain gods with Zippos. It is a very interesting and quite an exciting album for you as an artist and creative person. Some of the people you wrote with on that album would not be the people that some of your fans would ordinarily put you with in a writing situation.
Well it happened because I was invited by Miles Copeland to the Marouatte which was a castle in the South of France. There were about twenty odd people there and every day there was writing teams and Miles had publishing company Rondor were involved in it. So there was always one Rondor artist, one Miles Copeland artist and one independent artist and I was asked as an independent. So every day when you went to breakfast it would be like – “You’ll be working with so and so today”. You would be working people you didn’t know. You wouldn’t know what they did or their styles. It was very exciting and a very important period in my life because it gave me my confidence back in my writing, in what I could write and how I could write. You would be doing a song a day, songs like Tilted Cross, Incomplete, Mission Statement and Chasing Miss Pretty. We used that one on another Best Of that came out on in about 1998. All the songs were made in one day and you were working in different styles. You would be working with country and western people, and then you would be working with say Rick Astley. It was really interesting. When I came back to do the album I wanted to use some of the tracks, Tilted Cross and Incomplete I loved. Mission Statement was a strange kind of song, it would not be out of place on Field of Crows, my new album but at that time I was not quite ready to sing that kind of song.
I had the basis of the Rain Gods with Zippos album but it was Tony Turrell and a guy called Mark Daghorn who presented me with this piece of music that they wanted me to write lyrics for and it suddenly metamorphosized into why don’t I try and use it. I had never worked on a twenty off minute piece of music before and suddenly we had an album that was really in two halves. The first half of the album has a song called Tumble Down, which was written by my old writing partner Mickey Simmonds and then you had the three songs that came from the Marouatte sessions together with a stunning kick off version of Faith Healer, which I adored.
Again that was a song that should have been on Songs from the Mirror but I couldn’t put two Sensational Alex Harvey Band songs on that one. So Faith Healer came out and it was a really strange album because you had Mission Statement, Faith Healer cover version, a really serious be-bop song then a beautiful ballad Tilted Cross, a lovely duet with Elizabeth Antwi, Incomplete which was a single. That one again should have happened but never. There was a song, Rites of Passage that I did with Mickey that glides into the big epic Plague of Ghosts. It was really strange how the album divides into two pieces.
Plague of Ghosts I intend to play on the next tour because I think it is time it was re-visited and I loved singing it. I love the drama of it; it was like doing theatre on stage without the costumes. The way the character changes and the different emotions that come under the different sections, again like the Field of Crows vibe. I was really pleased with the album and Plague of Ghosts reinforced the faith that the fans had. They know I am still capable of doing big epics and delivering them as well as delivering great ballads that the customers have loved since Kayleigh days.
From an album you describe as having two sides to it, we’re into the new millennium now, Fellini Days. It is very much in the tradition of Fish albums, a very solid piece of work which ultimately transferred very well live.
We had played a lot of that material live before we took it into the studio so there was an edge to it in the same way as on Field of Crows. When we did Fellini Days we had the Fellini Days track itself and we had a couple of other ones that benefited from taking out and playing in. Again it helped the fans because by seeing it in early stages we knew we were all going in the right direction here.
Fellini Days really came out at a strange period in my life. I had moved across to a Dutch record company, which was a travesty of a decision. I ended up in the position of being an artist who had a great fan base but wasn’t going to get the promotion I really needed. That meant that once again I was coming out on a label; the approach to Fellini Days was be published and be damned, it was like I am just going to do what I want to do. There was never going to be any single released from it – it was always ‘an album’. I had already accepted the fact that I am never going to have a million selling album. Forget moving into Bruce Springsteen’s shadow never mind territory, you know! It was always going to be an album that would be relatively selfish. That worked for it because I just said what I wanted to say and did it in my own way. I am really proud of some of the songs on that one. When I have a bad day on a tour there is nothing better than going up and singing Long Cold Day in the middle of a tour; you just feel so good. Maybe when I die there will be a big rush and people will say that guy was a song writer somebody will put out a cover version and Robbie Williams will sing it and it will be a huge hit and people will ask, “Why didn’t we recognise him when he was here?” I am going to laughing up there because my kid will be getting all the royalties.
Well here we are at the end of 2003 bringing the story right up to date – Field of Crows. Again it is another album I can tell you are going to enjoy playing live and I think the fans are going to enjoy hearing the songs live too.
I am not really into studio construction and I don’t like putting songs together in a studio that are going to be really awkward to play live. I am a songwriter in a classic sense. I still believe that you still be able to interpret any decent song using an acoustic guitar, a piano and a voice. With Field of Crows, working with someone like Bruce Watson from Big Country has meant that he has had as big an impact on my career as Steve Wilson did on the Sunsets and Empires album in that Bruce, who is into the Who and Zeppelin, is a rock guitarist and who wrote some brilliant songs with Big Country that were melodic rock songs. Putting the two of us together has been a match made in heaven as far as the fans are going to react. They will say this is a great writing team. I added Tony Turrell to the team who worked on the Plague Of Ghosts which was like one of the most favoured epics that the fans have gone for the live experience.
There was always going to be a lot of magic there and as I said the live thing is going to be important. It is interesting because we are selling the album at the gigs and you go up there and playing stuff that people have never heard which is a great feeling to play because there is a certain amount of ‘we know it is good and you are now going to discover it is good’. Playing something like innocent party on guitars on stage is going to be extremely exciting for audience and band alike. On the stage you thrive on the excitement and the feedback you get.
At the end of the night if someone walks out with an album in their hand because they really want to hear it in the car on the way home that is a really good moment. It is going to be interesting. I accept the reality of where I am and I just want to make great albums that I am proud of and deliver quality songs in my own inimitable, maverick style. It would absolutely ironic if something like Zoo Class suddenly got picked up and became a hit. It would be the worst thing to happen to me because I want to be in my garden now (laughs). Seriously, I like the state I am in where people discover you and write emails. It is good to find that people are still discovering your music and appreciating it. I don’t have the hassle of that media onslaught and intrusion into your privacy that goes with the current status of being a rock star. I am privileged and humbled by the fact that I have been there, done it, ticked it off and got a wardrobe full of t-shirts. Now I just like making music and I like having a laugh making music.
I think the best thing that was said during the recording of Field of Crows was by two or three members of the band who said that it had been the most fun they had ever had in a studio and that it had been such an easy album to make, everybody was smiling, happy and positive. There was no friction, no egos, no backbiting, just everybody walking around with smiles having a great time. I think that is the kind of atmosphere you have got to make music in and I think that's the reason why Field of Crows sounds so good.
© Jon Kirkman December 2003 and 2011
The above interview was made into an extended radio special and this can be heard in full here: