Interview Pete Trewavas (Marillion):

"We try to be consistent and honest, integrity is our key word"

(December 2016, text Martien Koolen, edited by Peter Willemsen)

Marillion was originally founded as Silmarillion in 1979. The first four albums they recorded with Fish as their lead singer were very successful. After Fish had left the band in 1988, Steve Hogarth became their new lead singer. The band was still successful, but gradually became a cultband after the departure from EMI. They recently released their 18th studio album F.E.A.R. (Fuck Everyone And Run) (see review) which turned out to be one of their best studio albums ever. Lyrically it deals with actual problems like the 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. Before the sold out back to back shows in Utrecht, I had the chance to talk to bassist Pete Trewavas.

Do you agree if I say that the new album belongs to the best ones you ever recorded?
Pete Trewavas: “Many people even say that F.E.A.R. is our best album ever 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 reviews about it. It means that Marillion is still current
Pete Trewavas
and seems to be making ample and up-to-date statements. I really think that F.E.A.R. is one of our best albums, but in the past we already recorded some great albums like Brave (1994), Afraid Of Sunlight (1995), Marbles (2004). These CDs have some great songs on it as well. You know, we try to be consistent all the time and to be honest, integrity is our key word. Not just the music but also where we stand for.”

What was your personal contribution to F.E.A.R. and how did you work out your musical ideas for this album?
“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. Sometimes Mark Kelly plays the chords on the keyboards and the other time Steve Rothery does the same on the guitar, while the others lay things on top of those chords. It's more or less up to me to decide what those chords should be and how they should change or just remain as they are. 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 and the choruses. Having said all this I have to point out the role of Mark on this album. His keyboards are all over the place on F.E.A.R. and he should get a lot of credits 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 putting the whole thing together actually.”

The excellent daring title of the album is from singer Steve Hogarth, I think. Am I right?
“Yes, it is, you are right. It came from the song The New Kings and it's really something that we all feel we can relate to. It's alive so to speak and very relevant for many people. It really is an up-to-date title, you know; companies and governments that should care don't. 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?
“Good one, no, I try not to. I think that I'm actually a little too old to live in fear. When you are young though 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'm shocked by the big decisions of this year, the Brexit, of course, Donald Trump in power in America. Yep, I really was shocked as I didn't expect either of those things to happen. I really couldn't allow myself to believe it all. People in England just voted, not actually for leaving Europe, but they voted for change and that's what probably happened in America as well. People are just so fed up with the political systems and I think that it's going to happen in France as well. But, you know people like Trump are really charismatic and that can go a long way I'm afraid. I hope, really hope that we will come to our senses and make some changes.”

Is F.E.A.R. a concept album?
“No, it's 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's about it.”

However, it's a very emotional album, just like Marbles, I think.
“Yes, I agree; it's a very 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 almost everyone found the album amazing. So, yeah, we were and are in a great position right now.”

Marillion 2016, from left to right:
Mark Kelly, Ian Mosley, Steve Hogarth, Steve Rothery and Pete Trawavas

In my opinion, one of the great songs on the album is The Leavers, which is my personal favourite. How does it feel to be a leaver yourself?
“How does it feel to be a leaver...? Mmm, nice question mate. Well, it does... it can define you, it can end up being who or what you become; what people expect you to become. So you have to guard against that, you know. I'm very lucky to have a quite stable relationship and I'm a grounded person anyway, so for me it's not so hard and I still love to go on tour. However, touring too much can change you as you might lose touch with the real world. Lots of emotional stuff is going on while you're on the road, but good old Charlie Watts, drummer of The Rolling Stones, said something about being on the road which really nails it: “25 years of hanging about for five years of work”, he said and that's so bloody perfect. On the road you lose things and relationships; you really have to work hard for your relationship to survive.”

What is in your opinion the greatest achievement or success of Marillion to date?
“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's a bit of an achievement, actually. I think it was sold out in an hour or so and that's 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's something you'll never forget. Of course we had some astonishing moments in history, like playing with Queen when Freddy Mercury was still alive, playing with Deep Purple and with Foreigner this year.”

You must have had some disappointments as well, I think?
“Oh, dear, there have been lots. There are so many disappointments; some bad decisions have 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's what happened. 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 record 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's well spent money. Fortunately we have lots of loyal fans and they actually make the difference. We wouldn't be here without those fans and we know that. We appreciate that very much. The music business is tough and it's 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 when you do live shows?
“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: trying to play songs we haven't played for a long time, trying to play the best songs and trying to play new songs.”

Are there still Marillion tracks that you have never played live?
“Yes, I think there are at least two songs which we have never played live, but don't ask me which ones....ha, ha. However, we must not become a band that plays all the hits. As you know we had some and maybe we should make an album of that, ha ha.”

How many albums do you intend to record in the future?
“I really don't know. I thought that F.E.A.R. was going to be our last studio album, but seeing the reactions I think there will be more to come. However, I will be very tough to make a follow-up to this new album, but then again it was also tough to create a follow-up on Marbles, but nevertheless we did, so let's see what the future will have in store. We are still enjoying our company in the band and that's amazing after such a long time.”

Well Pete, thanks for making time to do this interview.
“You're welcome. It's always a pleasure talking to you. Cheers.”

More info about Marillion on the Internet:

       CD review "Less Is More" (2009)
       CD review "The Official Bootleg Box Set, vol 2" (2010)
       CD review "Holidays In Eden Live 2011"
       CD review "Sounds That Can't Be Made" (2012)
       CD review "F.E.A.R." (2016)

       DVD review "Live From Cadogan Hill" (2010)
       DVD review "Holidays in Zélande" (2011)

       Concert review Oct 8, 2009 in Parkstad Theater, Heerlen (NL)

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