Marillion, founded in 1979, originally as Silmarillion, recently released the album F.E.A.R. (Fuck Everyone And Run) and it turned out to be one of their best studio albums ever. Lyrically it deals with up to date problems like de Brexit, immigration and the widening gap between the rich and the poor of this world. Musically F.E.A.R. is sheer and utterly bliss, a great musical experience and before the sold out back to back shows in Utrecht I had the chance to talk to Pete Trewavas.
Pete: “Lots of people say that F.E.A.R. is our best album and that really makes me feel great of course. We have done some great albums before but everybody, meaning the music critics and fans, seem to like and embrace the new album. It really got the attention of a wide public, particularly from a journalist point of view and a lot of journalists wrote great about it. It means that Marillion is still current and seems to be making ample statements, up to date statements. I really think that it is one of our best ones, but of course we already did some great albums, take Marbles or Brave and Afraid Of Sunlight has some great songs on it as well. You know, we try to be consistent all the time and to be honest; integrity is the key word for us here. Not just the music but also where we stand for.”
What was your personal contribution to F.E.A.R. and how did you guys work out your musical ideas for this album?
Pete: “I was of course part of the writing and composing team. We jam a lot in the studio and we write songs as a group and that has always been part of the interesting make up of Marillion; everything is a group process. When we are jamming away in the studio various chord structures are being tried, used, improved and defined and sometimes Mark will be playing chords and the other time Steve will be playing chords and the others will be layering things on top of those chords. It is kind of up to me to decide what those chords should be and how define they should be; how they should “move” or just stay put. We all have quite a big part to play in the structure of our songs; on top of that of course come the solos, the melodies, the verses, the choruses, etc. Having said all this I have to point out the role of Mark on this album, his keyboards are all over F.E.A.R. and he should get a lot of credit for his amazing work on this album. Furthermore I need to mention Mike Hunter as his production is extraordinary; in fact he became the sixth member of Marillion during the work on F.E.A.R. Mike contributed so much and he was responsible for pulling the whole thing together actually.”
The excellent, daring title of the album is of course from Steve (Hogarth), right?
Pete: “Yes, it is, you are right. It came from the song The New Kings and it is really something that we all feel we can relate to. It is alive so to speak for lots of people and very relevant for lots of people. It really is an up to date title, you know; companies, bodies, governments that SHOULD care, do not, they are just in it for themselves, to become richer and/or more powerful. In the box with the letter A you will see the symbol for gold and the cover of the album basically visualizes what is said in the lyrics, namely that the source of the world’s problems is sheer and utterly greed.”
Are you living in fear?
Pete: “Good one, no, I try not to. I think that I am a little too old to actually live in fear. When you are young tough I think you might feel that fear more obvious. The world has a way of just evolving and passing through all those things, so… But, yeah, I am shocked by the big decisions of this year, the Brexit, of course, Trump in power in America. Yep, I really was shocked as I didn’t expect either of those things to happen. I really could not allow myself to believe it all. People just voted, not actually for leaving Europe, but in England they voted for change and that is what probably happened in America as well. People are just so fed up with the political systems and I think that it is going to happen in France as well. But, you know people like Trump and so they are really charismatic and that can go a long way I am afraid. I hope, really hope that we will come to our senses and make some changes.”
F.E.A.R. is not a concept album?
Pete: “No, I think you are right, it is not a concept album in the true sense of the word. It has some recurring threads and similar messages in two or three songs, but that is about it.”
However, it is a very emotional album, just like Marbles was.
Pete: “Again, yes you are right; it is very much an emotional album. It actually started with the greedy bank businesses and the big money and with that everything started to unfold, Brexit, Trump, you name it. So, we thought, well this is happening and we want to sing about it and let people know how we feel about it. So, we released The New Kings early and everybody loved it and eventually everyone found the album amazing. So, yeah, we were and are in a great position right now.”
One of the great songs on the album is called The Leavers – my favorite track by the way - , how does it feel to be a leaver yourself?
Pete: “How does it feel to be a leaver…. Nice question, mate. Well, it does…it can define you, it can end up being who/what you become; what people expect you to become. So you have to guard against that, you know. I am very lucky to have a quite stable relationship and I am a grounded person anyway, so for me it is not so hard and I still loving going on tour. However, if you tour too much that can change you as you might lose touch with the real world. Lots of emotional stuff is going on while you are on the road, but good old Charlie Watts said something about being on the road which really nails it: “25 years of hanging about for 5 years of work”; that is so bloody perfect. On the road you lose things and relationships, and you really have to work hard for your relationship to survive.”
What has been the greatest accomplishment or success of Marillion so far?
Pete: “oh, my God, here we go, do I have to answer that one, ha ha…. In my current state of mind I would say: selling out the Royal Albert Hall, which we did on December 5 and for me that is a bit of an achievement, actually. I think it was sold out in hour or so and that is really amazing. When you grow up wanting to be a musician and you can play at that sort of pet store for musicians than that is great and it is something you will never forget. Of course we had some astonishing moments in history, e.g. playing with Queen when Freddy Mercury was still alive, playing with Deep Purple and with Foreigner this year.”
Pete: “Oh, dear, there have been lots….so many, we had some bad decisions been made on our behalf over all those years. When we left EMI, that was kind of a massive disappointment for us; they decided to drop us, yeah, that is how it went, ha ha.. We went through some difficult times with smaller record labels as they also tended to become accounted based and wanted to make as much profit as possible. Then we turned it around and when we started managing our own business it became better. We set up our own company, we became our own boss and we became successful, thank God. We have put far more money in Marillion than anyone else has ever done but it is money well spent. Fortunately we have lots of loyal fans and they actually make the difference. We would not be here without those fans and we know that and we appreciate that, very much. The music business is tough and it is hard to make ends meet for lots of bands out there as Spotify is still killing many great rock bands.”
Who is responsible for the set list?
Pete: “Not me, I have a little bit of input, but I think that the set list creates itself. There are three criteria for our set list: 1. Try to play songs we have not played for a long time, 2. Try to play the best songs and 3. Try to play new songs.”
Are there actually still Marillion tracks that you have never played live?
Pete: “Yes, I think there are at least two songs which we have never played live but do NOT ask me which ones…. Ha ha. However we must not become a band that plays the hits, as you know we had some and maybe we should make an album of that, ha ha…”
How many albums do you guys still have in you?
Pete: “I do not know, actually I thought that F.E.A.R. was going to be our last studio album, but now seeing the reactions I think there will be more to come. I will however be very tough to follow this new album, but then again it was also tough to follow up on Marbles, but we did, so let’s see what the future will have in store. We are still enjoying our company in the band and that is amazing after such a long time.”
Thanks for your time.
Pete: “Always a pleasure talking to you. Cheers."
Interview by: Martien Koolen