By Alfredo Iraheta, exclusively for World Prog-Nation
On September 15, 2016, World Prog-Nation’s Alfredo Iraheta sat down, via Skype, with the legendary Ian Mosley, drummer for Marillion, for a conversation in anticipation of the release of Marillion’s 18th studio album FEAR (released on September 23rd OUT NOW!), and the North American tour to support the album. In Part 1 of this exclusive interview, Ian shares his thoughts about the new album, the creative and recording process and the upcoming (at the time) tour.
Ian, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today.
Oh, you’re very welcome! I’ve never been called a legend before! That’s fantastic!
You are! So, we’re good! How are you?
Very well, thank you. In fact, I saw the whole band this afternoon because we had a few meetings and whatnot. We just got back from Italy, we did a show in Verona last weekend in an amphitheater there which was fantastic. We are going to rehearse for the American tour next week.
I’m really looking forward to the tour and I’ll be there in San Francisco.
I’ve never played at The Regency Ballroom. We usually do The Fillmore. I have played there many times with Marillion and Steve Hackett before Marillion so it’s quite weird seeing a different venue on the itinerary. I am looking forward to it. It will be the first concert in America, the San Francisco gig.
You have a new album being unleashed on the world on September 23rd. Settle a question for me, is the album called FEAR, or is the album called F-E-A-R?
(Laughs) Well, it’s called FEAR, which is an abbreviation as you probably know: F*** Everybody And Run (editor’s note: the title is F*** Everyone And Run). I know that might sound shocking to some people, but it’s actually not meant as a shock. If you listen to the track that features those words, it’s called “The New Kings”, it’s actually sung with a lot of tenderness, it’s not in anger… you have to hear it really, but it’s sung with a lot of tenderness. Steve (Hogarth), over the years, he’s probably spent four years writing these lyrics… in the last three or four years there has been a sense of foreboding, that’s been coming on I think not just in England, but all around the world, all the stuff that’s been happening over the last two years. So that’s the reason for the title. It is not (meant) as a shock. We’re too old to shock people! (laughs)
You went into a little bit of detail about the album, about how Steve Hogarth has spent all this time writing thoughtful lyrics. What can you tell us about the album? I understand it has five suites. Tell us a little bit more about it.
Well, as I said, it’s taken four years for us to write this album. The Marillion method of writing has always been for the five of us to be in a room and just jam. We record every single thing that we jam, and that can be a very long, slow process because we can be in the studio jamming waiting for a little gem to happen, and it’s something it might not for a few days. So that’s the beginning of the writing process. Mike Hunter who’s our producer, he’s got the thankless task of actually recording every single thing and then sifting through everything that we’ve played, and compiling stuff that he thinks has got potential. So he’ll end up with, I don’t know, maybe a thousand pieces of music, maybe some of it only ten seconds long. In a nutshell, what happens, he’ll sift through it all. He’ll send us maybe 50 ideas to all of us and ask us to choose the ideas that we like individually out of those 50 or 100 ideas, so that’s what happened a little while back and then we all sit around and say “OK, which ideas do we want chosen?” and luckily most of us chose the same ideas! So we were all on the same wavelength. In the meantime, the process is for Steve Hogarth, all the time we’re jamming, he’ll be trying to marry out lyrics that he has to pieces of music trying to get the right atmosphere and the right feel of the music to go with the lyric. What kind of took the pressure off us a little bit in that process was that over the course of the last year we’d been doing some concerts and what we started doing was going into the studio rather than say, “here we go into the studio we’re going to jam all day”, we went in the studio to rehearse for the tours, for gigs, for whatever was coming up, and we decided just to jam for the first hour before we started to rehearse, so if nothing happened, then we knew that were going to rehearse anyway. And that kind of took the pressure of us because we were really productive in that hour before we rehearsed. That really sped up the process. So from that point once we got all the pieces together, then it’s down to us to start putting them together and making arrangements. And the way the recording process happens these days it’s not like it was 20 years ago where I’d go in and do the drum backing tracks in a week and then wait until they were done. We’re all in the same room and I’d say 95% of the jams are actually on the album, which is great! The problem being once we’ve done the basic track, when it comes to playing it live could be going and learning the whole thing again! (laughs). What’s really funny is that you know, Mike will play us a piece of music and say “what do you think of that?” “Yeah, that’s great! When did we play that Mike?” and he’ll say “last week” (laughs) “Oh really?” Because, you know, when you’re jamming, you’re free. You don’t have to worry about arrangements just worry about creating something magical and as I said, it can be a slow process, but when you hear the jam, a little bit of magic happens and it kind of makes it worthwhile.
Sounds like it’s a very collaborative effort. A very cohesive team you have there with the band and the producer as well, who is tasked with a big responsibility.
Yeah, I mean Mike Hunter, he really is a pretty far out musician himself really. He’s a professor of music and he just loves it. We just go in and play and he kind of has to sort things out. (Laughs)
Yeah, you take care of it. You’re the professor!
Yeah, and we’re kind of like that, but at the end of it we, as you say, we are a real band when the five of us are in a room playing. When I first joined the band, the first thing I noticed was some kind of chemistry between the five of us that just works. And it still works today, and that’s fantastic after 100 years together (laughs).
Has it been that long? Wow!
Well, it’s been 30 years, which is incredible really for any band. We still feel that we’ve got something to offer and that we’re moving forward really, so that’s a good thing.
The fact that after all this time you guys are still putting out really fresh, relevant and really great music is quite a feat.
Well, thanks Alfredo, that’s great.
I read that you recorded this album over at Peter Gabriel’s studio.
We did it with Sounds That Can’t Be Made as well. We get to a point where we get arrangements, or rough arrangements, and although we’re fortunate enough to have our own recording studio – we all live within, I don’t know, probably within 20 miles off the studio – so when we go into our studio, it’s great, but there are still many distractions. You know, someone might say “oh, well I got to leave at 3:00 to pick the kids up, or feed the cat” or whatever, so the idea was to go, we started to go down to Real World Studios, Peter Gabriel‘s place. It’s a residential studio, and just the band and Mike Hunter our producer, the six of us go down there and just lock ourselves away and suddenly it really becomes 24-hour band all together, we get up in the morning, have breakfast, go in the studio, just work all day, break for lunch, work all afternoon, break for dinner and then after dinner go back into the studio, and carry on creating. Now that would never happen at our own studio. And also if anyone wants a drink or whatever, they can do that because they don’t have to drive home.
No picking up the kids, right?
No! None of that! No distractions, you know? So it really is just us going back to basics and being a band. The band and the producer in the studio just concentrating totally on the music. We just find it very refreshing, plus it’s an amazing studio. It’s got every gadget you could ever wish for, and it’s a beautiful environment to work in, it’s beautiful. It’s an old water mill, it’s just lovely. Very productive place.
Yeah, and your approach, the whole band approach could be considered old-school at this point because nowadays you hear about bands being in different cities or different countries e-mailing their parts to each other, and somebody piecing them together in the studio.
We’ve done that in the past with Sounds That Can’t Be Made towards the very end of the album. The album wasn’t finished and we were on tour, so we were listening to bits and pieces in hotel rooms and you know, sending each other files, but it doesn’t work. For us it’s the old-school method of the band where we’re all playing together. I’ve got nothing against the other methods because there’s some fine music out there put together around the world in peoples’ living rooms, bedrooms, I don’t know, but for us, we’re still very much the band, and we need that to be spontaneous, which is all of us playing at once and getting off on each others’ playing.
Thank you for your insight on the album. We touched a little bit about this previously. You are embarking on a North American tour starting in San Francisco in October. What do you look forward to the most when touring?
I think I like to get the… usually it’s quite a shock to the system going on tour, and it can take a few days to get into any kind of routine, get your bearings if you like, but I really look forward to… we’re doing a warm-up show before we leave the UK just to try and run through some of the production and get a suitable set list together, which is a mammoth task in a way because of… we’ve done 18 albums! So unless we play a 10-hour set, you know someone’s going to be disappointed, so we try to make the set as balanced, and unfortunately it can take a few gigs for that set to materialize really, so we’ll get a set everyone thinks is good and has the right dynamics, and then we’ll have maybe 4 or 5 or 6 other tracks as floaters that we can go “wait a minute, it would be better if we put that track in there to lift it” or to whatever really. So I look forward mostly to, after the first few gigs, to settle down and know that everything’s working properly, everyone’s acclimatized and sort of get into a routine, but San Francisco should be good because we’ve been doing… we did the tour of Europe, which finished about three or four weeks ago, so the band is quite used to suddenly being onstage (laughs). And as I said, last weekend we played in Italy, and that was kind of a one-off gig. So we should be pretty well-prepared. I know everyone’s really looking forward to it. The thing we’re a little bit concerned about is that we’re playing New York on Election Day. That could be a little bit weird to say the least! (Laughs).
Yes! I’m really interested to learn how that will go. I assume most concert-goers will either cast their vote via mail, or go early because you can’t miss the show!
What is strange about the new album is that, you know, as I said, the lyrics have been around, or have been written over the last three or four years, yet when you listen to the album, everything in it seems very relevant today. Lots of unrest, lots of panic everywhere, lots of that sense of foreboding, and I think that’s worldwide, it’s happening in America with all the stuff that’s going on there now with the election, and I just hope that you don’t do what the UK has done and make protest votes without thinking really what you’re letting yourselves in for. We’re not really a political band at all but, as I said, everyone is being affected by the stuff that’s been going on.
Sounds like we’ll be hearing some favorites as well as the new album. Will you be playing the whole thing or most of it?
The European tour that we’ve just done, we debuted one track “The New Kings” from the new album.
Thank you! We thought it may be a little bit of a tall order in a way because we’ve been playing quite a lot of festivals, and we thought “well, let’s just do it!” and it’s kind of weird in front of a festival audience that we did some gigs with the band Queen, with Foreigner, Mike + The Mechanics, so not necessarily “our” audience. So it’s kind of “We’re going to play you this new song now, we hope you like it, it’s 16 minutes long!” (Laughs), but it went down a storm! It really did! The majority of people seemed to love it, so that really gave us a morale boost. So “The New Kings” is one track that we’ll definitely be playing, we’re rehearsing up another track, “El Dorado”, which is the first track, and maybe one or two of the others. There’s only five tracks on this album so I think maybe two or three tracks is probably enough. That will leave us ten minutes to do a couple of other things! (Laughs). If I get to a concert, I really want to hear stuff I know really, and I don’t know how many people will know this material by the time we’re touring. Hopefully a lot of people will know it. So, getting the right balance, we’ll know after a few gigs.
And as you’ve stated before, you have a pool of songs to dip into depending on how things are going.
Yes! It is difficult, as I’ve said because we’re not going to be able to please everyone, or else we’d be playing for days. I think probably “Invisible Man” will be in the set as well, so you got “Invisible Man”, “El Dorado, “The New Kings”, one other, that’s probably a couple of hours, isn’t it?! (Laughs). We plan to do a varied set across as many of the albums as we can.
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