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Interview with Fish - September 2007

Image: Fish 2007Fish’s Star In The Ascendancy
By Chris High

With his thirteenth studio album, 13th Star, having been released on limited edition via his Website and at gigs earlier this month and on general release in January, the rock balladeer that is Fish hits Birkenhead’s Pacific Road Arts Centre on Tuesday 25 September, celebrating a former glory.

Clutching At Straws, released in 1987, was Fish’s final studio recording with his former band, Marillion, with whom he split a year later. However, despite the pressure surrounding Clutching At Straws, Fish still loves the album. ‘It’s my favourite Marillion album and the material of 13th Star sits really comfortably next to it because it has a similar kind of vibe and it works well as an entire set list,’ the Big Man explained.  ‘We’ve followed the same kind of pattern as we did on the last tour with Misplaced Childhood because it gives the chance for the people who come along to the gigs to get in touch with the old stuff. I hate it when bands go out and play their new album so the audience are standing around saying “what the hell is this” and having to really concentrate on what’s being played. This is an interesting way of doing it. The music industry has changed completely and you have to look around for new ways of marketing yourself and your work.’

Image: 13th Star13th Star has a far edgier, rockier feel to it than some of Fish’s more recent solo projects, with one or two quite anthemic-style songs in there, such as two of the album’s highlights, Zoë 25 and Arc Of The Curve. ‘Most of the album I co-wrote with my Bass player, Steve Vantsis, who approached me at the end of the Return To Childhood tour and asked if I fancied writing with him. I was a bit reticent, because you have Sting and McCartney, but Bassists aren’t really well known as writing partners. When he played me the ideas he had last January, I was really surprised. Steve’s influence are a lot more modern than mine and have a sort of Nine Inch Nails edge, so there was a natural enthusiasm and energy there. So when it was put together with my experiences in the industry and what I listen to, it made for an interesting combination. I was working as a DJ on Planet Rock at the time, too, so was listening to stuff I’d not listened to in a long time, so it was always going to lean towards the heavy side. There is definitely echoes of other stuff in there though like the Field Of Crows album and Fellini Days.’

After such a long and somewhat varied career, Fish finds that keeping things fresh only benefits the process of putting an album together. ‘I took a different approach with this. Previously I’d spend about three months on the writing and recording process. With 13th Star I took the old fashioned route of writing the thing completely before bringing in the band for pre-production and then record and bring in a main line producer. It took the pressure off the writing but made it a very intense period between January and June. I came straight of recording the album and right into rehearsals for the festivals in the summer. There was a lot of pressure but it was healthy pressure. The feedback from the gigs toward the new stuff has been great and, personally, I think it’s the best album I’ve ever made. Which has also been echoed by a lot of professionals. There’s not really a weak track on the album.’

Image: Fish Live in Concert 2007Fish still has the ability to write songs like authors write stories; there is always a definitive beginning, middle and end with very often a personal twist. 13th Star is no exception. ‘Lyrically it was difficult to write. I came out of a relationship in October and became very introspective. When it came to the theme of the album, three things came into play, really. It was my thirteenth studio album – thirteen has always been a lucky number for me – in total and looking back I realised that the closure of the relationship meant the closure of my twelfth serious relationship. Also, I’d been in Egypt and saw all these tombs painted blue with three brush stroke stars painted on the ceilings denoting heaven, which became the symbol on the cover. When I started writing, there was a cupboard full of lyrics available, because the relationship began again in January and a whole of romance crept in. Unfortunately, the relationship finally ended in May when the first week of recording was due to begin so it was like someone had pulled a carpet from underneath me, because we were talking about marriage and everything. So psychologically, the whole stance of the lyrics changed and other little intricacies came in on songs like Zoë 25 for instance.’

Fish has more than one line to his rod. His is also and established and respected actor and is now contemplating becoming a novelist. ‘I’ve recently found a lot of solace in writing,’ he said. ‘It’s a bit like going down the gym I’m actually getting excited about writing again, because song writing there are certain parameters you have to stick to. When you’re writing prose you can move where you want. Maybe sometime next year I’m looking at going away for about four weeks on my own and that would present the perfect opportunity to sit down and do some serious writing. I’ve no idea what genre, but probably something autobiographical in outlook, but fiction. A lot of people have talked about doing Misplaced as a sort of We Will Rock You style of show, but I’m not really interested in going back to do that type of thing.’

After nearly thirty years performing, it’s good to hear he still loves to tour. ‘At least I love it when my voice is good and I don’t have too many interviews to do. I had six hours of them to do the other day and it starts to not only wear me down, but also the voice. We had a gig last night that absolutely rocked and went to a bar afterwards where I had to speak in sign language virtually, just to save the voice. It doesn’t get any easier but that’s why I do blocks of gigs now, to rest up. These are very strong shows, very demanding and you always pay the price the next day. But when it’s on form I love the instant reaction you get from an audience who are into it.’

Image: Fish together with Helen RyanAnd fewer audiences are “into it” more than Merseyside audiences. ‘The Cavern gigs of a couple of years ago – when it was so hot inside we had to hand out bottles of water to stop people passing out – were brilliant. There are certain cities we get strong followings in and they all seem to be big footballing places, too for some reason with strong working class environs. Liverpool, and Merseyside in general, is always a special place to play because we have a lot of friends up there, such as the band, Rage, who used to support us, and our first tour manager, Paul Lewis, is from there We have a similar thing in Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle and Glasgow, but we don’t quite have it in London, so it seems to be the bigger industrial, working class cities we get a bigger response from. I don’t think I’ve played Pacific Road before but I’m certainly looking forward to it.’

After a career which has seen the singer experience the highs and lows, his views on new bands and the business today may not be that surprising.  ‘I’d hate to be starting out today. There are far too many albums and far too much crap out there so trying to get identified is just a nightmare. A lot of new bands today are lucky to get past the second album unless there’s some hint of celebrity attached to it. It’s very, very difficult to get established these days on merit.’

So would Fish consider doing a reality show? ‘No, I don’t think so. It would depend on what it was.’ And the acting? ‘I can’t even contemplate it at the moment because I’m locked into the tour until the middle of next year and, to be honest, I see it as more of a hobby than anything else. I think writing is going to be more me than the acting. At the end of the day, with acting, I’m a very small fish in a very big pond so when you go for an audition you tend to wait three months for them to say yes or no and then you’ve moved on and are doing an album or a tour or whatever. Maybe after this tour, I don’t know.’

The new Fish album, 13th Star, is available by mail order from Fish is playing Birkenhead Pacific Road Arts Centre on Tuesday September 25th. For Tickets: 0151 647 0752 OR

The “Clutching At Stars” Tour, 2007

September 21st - Festival (Guildhall): St Ives, Cornwall, England. Phone +44 (1736) 366077. Support: Stone Soul River

September 22nd - Phoenix: Exeter, England. Phone +44 (1392) 667080. Doors 20:00. Support: Stone Soul River

September 23rd - The Point: Cardiff, Wales. Phone +44 (2920) 230130. Support: Stone Soul River

September 25th - Pacific Road: Birkenhead, England. Doors 19:00. Box office +44 (151) 6470752 9:30 - 4:30 Monday to Friday. Railway station: Hamilton Square (3 minute walk from venue). Support: Stone Soul River

September 26th - The Junction: Cambridge, England. Phone +44 (1223) 511511. Doors 20:00. Support: Stone Soul River

September 27th - Shepherds Bush Empire: London, England. Phone +44 (870) 7712000. Doors 19:30. Support: Stone Soul River

September 29th - The Brook: Southampton, England. Tickets +44 (2380) 555366. Support: Stone Soul River

September 30th - Robin 2: Wolverhampton, England. Phone +44 (1902) 401211. Support: Stone Soul River

UK gig tickets from Seetickets, Ticketweb, Wegottickets or Ticketmaster

[RESCHEDULED] October 1st - Manchester Academy2: Manchester, England [Sept. 15th cancellation - all tickets/refunds valid]

[RESCHEDULED] October 6th - Boardwalk: Sheffield, England [Sept. 16th cancellation - all tickets/refunds valid]

October 8th - Oosterpoort: Groningen, Holland

October 9th - Effenaar: Eindhoven, Holland

The Company Holland is offering tickets for the Dutch gigs without a service charge. Please see their order form.

October 10th - Amager Bio: Copenhagen, Denmark

October 12th - Ricks: Bergen, Norway. Late show, for start time please check with the venue

October 13th - Rockefeller: Oslo, Norway

October 15th - Slowianin: Szczecin, Poland

October 17th - Kwadratowa: Gdansk, Poland

October 18th - Stodola: Warszawa, Poland

October 19th - Dekompresja: Lodz, Poland

October 21st - Filharmonia: Bydgoszcz, Poland

October 22nd - WZ: Wroclaw, Poland

October 23rd - Graffiti: Lublin, Poland

October 25th - Mega Club: Katowice, Poland

October 26th - Studio: Krakow, Poland

October 27th - Dom Muzyki - Bielskie Centrum Kultury: Bielsko Bia a ul. S owackiego 27, Bielsko-Biala, Poland

Poland gig tickets from Metalopolis

October 29th - Rock Cafe: Prague, Czech. Tickets

October 30th - Kleine Elserhalle: Munich, Germany

October 31st - Hall Fondouq: Route de Thionville, Dudelange, Luxembourg [Venue change]

November 14th - Staatstheater: Oldenburg, Germany

November 16th - Gewerkschafthaus: Erfurt, Germany

November 17th - Colos Saal: Aschaffenburg, Germany

November 18th - Live Music Hall: Koln, Germany

November 20th - KUZ: Mainz, Germany

November 21st - KUFA: Krefeld, Germany

November 23rd - Halle: Winterbach, Germany

November 24th - Tollhaus: Karlsruhe, Germany

German gig tickets available from WIV Entertainment

November 25th - Le Kursaal: Limbourg, Belgium

November 27th - Z7: Pratteln, Switzerland

November 29th - Transilvania Club: Milan, Italy. Tickets

November 30th - Stazione Birra: Rome, Italy

December 1st - Estragon: Bologna, Italy

December 3rd - L'espace Julien: Marseille, France. Tickets from Ticketnet (in French, or in English) or from fnac

December 5th - Aula Magna: Lisbon, Portugal

December 6th - Europarque: Porto, Portugal

Portugal tickets from Ticketline

December 8th - Havana Cafe: St Agne, Toulouse, France. Tickets from Ticketnet (in French, or in English) or from fnac

December 9th - La Locomotive: Paris, France. Tickets from Francebillet or from fnac

[RESCHEDULED] December 20th - Rescue Rooms: Nottingham, England [Sept. 19th cancellation - all tickets/refunds valid]

[RESCHEDULED] December 21st - Picturedrome: Holmfirth, England [Sept. 18th cancellation - all tickets/refunds valid]

[NEW] December 22nd - The M Club: Crewe, England. Box Office: 0161 832 1111. Tickets

Parts of this interview have, or will, appear in other publications and in other formats.

If you would like to comment on this interview with Fish, please feel free to contact me - GUESTBOOK

“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
© 2007 all rights reserved