Enjoying a renaissance, almost forty years into a career Marillion are currently at the top of their game. With a Top 10 album in 2016’s ‘F.E.A.R.’, some of the best reviews of their career, and an instant sell-out of their pending Royal Albert Hall show, it’s a good time to be in the former ‘best kept secret in music’. Adding a trophy to their list of recent achievements, the ‘UK Band Of The Year’, are preparing for that RAH show, as well as a just announced 2018 theatre tour. We caught up with the band at the Progressive Music Awards in London to talk ‘F.E.A.R’, fashion and fragility. Waking up in music; Eamon O’Neill.
Good evening guys; you’ve just received the UK Band Of The Year award; how does it feel?
Steve Hogarth: It’s flattering, very flattering.
Pete Trewavas: I mean, when you look at the people in the room; there’s a lot of people that I used to listen to when I was growing up, so yeah, it’s ridiculously flattering, really.
The band are currently enjoying one of your most successful periods ever, both commercially, and critically.
Steve: It seems to have resonated with the times, to some extent, I think. A lot of what I was banging on about when I made what I thought was this protest album, kind of happened the following year. A lot of what happened the year after, when viewed alongside what I was saying, just chimed.
Did you expect what followed; the five star Guardian newspaper review, and the Top 10 album?
Steve: No. It’s been a good year. It has been a good year.
Pete: I think all those things have made us more aware to the general public, if you like. Prog fans have always sort of known what we do, and either like what we do, or not so much, but there’s much more awareness, and much more interest in what we’re doing at the moment.
You’ve sold out the Royal Albert Hall in less than ten minutes; that must have taken you by surprise?
Steve: Well, a lot of people are travelling, and that’s probably what explains it. A lot more people are traveling from overseas to come here than we imagined would. We hoped it would sell out over time, but we couldn’t have imagined it would go in four minutes flat.
What does it mean to you to sell out such a prestigious venue?
Steve: I’m just glad that I persuaded them to do it! I’ve been banging on about playing the Royal Albert Hall since I joined the band; everybody was going; “What? Well, I’d rather do Wembley”, and I go; “No, we’ve got to do the Albert Hall! Wembley’s just Wembley; let’s play the Albert Hall”. It’s been a nag, like a twenty year nag.
Does success tend to come and go; ‘Brave’  for example is one of your most respected albums, yet it performed poorly, commercially.
Steve: Well, a lot of people never got ‘Brave’ and now come to us and say; “Oh, it’s a classic”. So I think ‘Brave’, it took a lot of people twenty years to really get onto that album.
Mark Kelly: It was probably the point where things started going down, commercially.
Steve: Then you lose the big machine that could have worked for you, had it tried, and you’re kind of cast away on your own boat then. But fortunately, we were up to the task, and we found new ways of doing business. We invented crowd funding in the late nineties, and that set us free all over again, to take our time over the music.
It seems that since those days, people are once again starting to wake up to Marillion.
Pete: There’s more of an awareness of progressive music, and that’s all thanks to the magazine [Prog, who host the Progressive Music awards], really, as much as the radio stations that are still playing the kind of music that we make.
Steve: It might also be the kind of increase in vacuousness of pop. It follows with every year; pop becomes more vacuous, loses more soul, and it almost ceases to be music. I was listening to something in the hairdressers today that I would have struggled to call music, and it was on the radio.
Mark: Last time I was in the hairdressers, Frankie Goes To Hollywood was in the charts!
Marillion have made some great pop singles in their career too.
Ian Mosley: Singles success is great; I mean, it gets the name up there and out to more people, and it means we can spend more money on production. But I think F.E.A.R., resonated with a lot of people, because there’s so many things that have been happening over the last two years.
As a lyricist, your words appear to be extremely personal, Steve; is it like inhabiting a role for you?
Steve: Yeah, it’s like revisiting some very difficult things that have happened in my life and difficult places that I was in. Most of what I write – the true things – are about where I’ve been, or what I’ve seen. It’s almost lunacy, to be honest, to expose that much of yourself. It can be quite, well, it’s difficult for the people you live with as well as yourself, because, you’re exposing your private life.
The Marillion audience really get on board with that side of things though.
Steve: The thing is if you tell the truth, people can sniff it; people can sniff truth, and it really moves them, and it moves them in a way that someone who’s just carefully crafted a love song; that can move people, but it can never quite move people like something true. So, it can be quite hard to spill some of the stuff I’ve spilled, but it does resonate deep with a lot of people.
Finally, and going back to singles, you’ve just announced plans to release a remixed version of ‘Living In F.E.A.R.’; are you hoping to repeat the success of ‘You’re Gone’ and get into the Top 10?
Steve: It would be great, wouldn’t it? If we could be Top 10 the week we played the Royal Albert Hall, that would be the cherry on the icing on the cake, on the shelf! We don’t want to tempt fate, but we’ll see.
Mark: it would be a nice way to finish off a good year.
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Marillion play London's Royal Albert Hall on 13th October 2017. The band's 2018 UK tour kicks off on 11th April in Gateshead. For a full list of dates see below.
Marillion 2018 UK Tour Dates:
Wed 11th April - Gateshead, The Sage
Fri 13th April - Cambridge, Corn Exchange
Sat 14th April - Birmingham, Symphony Hall
Mon 16th April - Brighton, Dome
Tue 17th April - Bristol, Colston Hall
Thu 19th April - Reading, Hexagon
Fri 20th April - Liverpool, Philharmonic Hall