Fish reflects: loss, longevity and hanging in an unkind industry

In September 1998, Fish came off the back of his 1997 album Sunsets over the empirewhich he had largely co-written with a then relatively unknown Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree had only released their fourth album Mean in 1996, and a deal with Kscope was still over a year away).

Today, as the former Marillion frontman speaks with classic rock from his home studio, where he recorded what he says is his last album, Weltschmerz, and pondering what he will do next, he recalls the early days of the magazine. It seems that it was not a happy time for him.

“1998? ” he thinks. “I was about to go into the throes of a divorce. I lost my house and everything.

Fortunately, he seems much more satisfied with his life almost a quarter century later.


It looks a bit dark.

It was a difficult time for me during those years, late 90s, early 2000s. The hard and bitter blow of the reality of my situation.

do you really remember classic rock go out?

I have memories of it. I think I probably still have one of the first problems. I am one of those magpies who keep everything. I have everything Qs. I even [90s rival to Q] Voice, damn it. I remember that was all classic rock thing and it was like, I’m gonna move on from the Kerrang! days. It was against Q magazine too.

classic rock It was where the big rock bands came to roost.

I welcome it. By then, I had completely given up on Q. I had stopped buying it because it was too trendy. classic rock seemed to fill a need for rock fans whose tastes were ignored by other magazines at the time. When classic rock it felt like that’s where my fans should go, so that’s where we’re aiming. It was a godsend.

It was a bit like what Kerrang! was at Marillion in the early eighties. I think when Kerrang! came out, we found a bit of a niche in them. So what classic rock came out, and obviously Program the magazine followed. With Classic Rock, you were suddenly working with the journalists you knew before. It became a home for a lot of journalists that you respected, that you knew, that understood what we were trying to do as rockers.

It has been twenty-four years since classic rock happened and, aside from the great music, things changed almost beyond recognition.

This has changed drastically in terms of album versus streaming. General piracy has really affected us. You could tell by sales. Going to Russian torrent sites on the internet was very demoralizing. When Weltschmerz came out, we had something like 400,000 real album streams on streaming sites, and we did 30,000 album sales.

It shows where people have gone. People are used to receiving music for free. This is one of the major challenges. But I think I have the support of magazines like classic rock and Program magazine, and knowing that there were still people who were interested in your music kept me going.

Do you have any particular highlights that you would like to identify between 1998 and today?

Weltschmerz. I was very proud of this period. i think i will get Weltschmerz and having declared what I was going to do and achieve it, that was a highlight.

And on the other hand, what were the weak moments?

On a personal level, when the first marriage fell apart, at the same time I lost my house and moved here. But, as I said before, I built this studio, and in 1991, when I built it, it almost killed me. I was building a studio, fighting Marillion, all at the same time. I completely lost possession at that point. But I got away with it. I’m sitting here in the studio that I built in 1991. So, like I said, lows. I try to avoid saying that I have regrets. Retirement is coming.

But what if you were hit by a wave of creativity?

I will have a hook hitting me during the day. Or I might find myself listening to something and going, “Ooh.” But I avoid it. I went there, I don’t need it anymore. It’s something I don’t want to do. I put such a high benchmark up there with Weltschmerz. I did it, I did it. And now I want to write. I agree with that.

It’s cool to be old. He is. It’s good. And sometimes it surprises me when you meet someone who gives you such reverence and you ask why and they say you’ve been in the business for forty years. The reward of having been able to survive for so long in an industry that is not kind to individuals. I’m still hanging on by bloody fucking fingernails.

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