Sickness, outdated age, loss of life, warfare. They don’t sound like probably the most promising substances for making what turned out to be one of the uplifting albums of the 12 months. However that’s what Fish has executed on his new – and, he says, remaining ever – album, Weltschmerz (literal translation from German: ‘world ache’, typically: world-weary).
There’s so much to unpack right here however let’s begin with the idea behind Weltschmerz. Ostensibly a double album – two CDs comprising 10 tracks, totalling round 84 minutes of music – the thought took maintain within the aftermath of the loss of life of Fish’s father, Robert, in 2016.
“You’ll be able to put together for any individual near you dying. You understand they’re going to go, and also you mentally construct all of the partitions to cope with this emotion that you recognize goes to come back at you. Then it occurred and it struck me in a totally completely different option to what I anticipated. I simply targeted, blocked all the pieces off. Then when the funeral was over I locked myself within the backyard for, like, seven months, simply doing nothing. I couldn’t write. Couldn’t do something. I didn’t get the very first thing written on paper till the top of 2017. That was Little Man What Now?.”
Speaking through Skype from his countryside residence outdoors Edinburgh the place he’s lived for 30 years, Fish goes on to elucidate how his father’s loss of life was adopted quickly after by his personal multiplying well being issues: operations in 2017 on his backbone and, individually, his shoulder, have been adopted extra just lately with operations on his coronary heart and his fingers, and a near-death expertise with sepsis (attributable to the physique’s response to an an infection).
“That was all throughout the tail of the comet of my father’s loss of life. I used to be out and in of hospital on a regular basis. I used to be simply conscious that I used to be getting outdated. I turned sixty in April 2018 and I assumed: ‘It’s time to go.’”
Different elements that contributed to Fish’s rising sense of mortality included the choice to place the album launch again for a 12 months whereas Mark Wilkinson recovered from most cancers.
“Mark has designed each album I’ve ever executed from [Marillion’s] Script For A Jester’s Tear proper via my whole solo profession. I wasn’t making a remaining album with out him.”
Throw within the persevering with fallout from Brexit, the shock and awe of Trump, and now the entire world compelled to the precipice of destruction by a worldwide pandemic…
“I believe I’ve at all times been in tune trying on the world round me. In the event you hearken to the lyrics of Vigil In A Wilderness Of Mirrors, it’s simply as related to now. It’s unusual, however I’ve at all times had that. Possibly when Kayleigh got here out in that summer season of eighty 5. It was on the radio, and it simply tuned in like some virus into individuals’s heads. That was the ‘now’ music then.
“That’s what I wished to do with Weltschmerz. I wished to take these those that had been in darkish and lonely locations, deliver them collectively and guarantee them there’s a magnificence in there, that there can come an odd magnificence out of all of it.”
When Fish first spoke of his intention to really retire from music, I assumed he would finally change his thoughts – particularly if the ‘remaining’ album turned out to be the jewel that the startling early demos he’d performed me then urged. As a substitute, the truth that Weltschmerz is his biggest file since Marillion’s towering Clutching At Straws, his final album with the band earlier than abandoning them on the peak of their powers in 1987, has solely bolstered his resolution to make it his fond adieu.
“The fact is I don’t need to be on a tour bus for the remainder of my life. I’m by no means going to be taking part in stadiums or arenas once more. And I undoubtedly don’t need to be on the chicken-in-a-basket circuit singing fucking Kayleigh. However all these operations and being conscious of the mortal coil and all the pieces else that got here in, the experiences, all of it simply fed into the album.”
You’ll be able to hear that from the ghostly chattering ambiance of opening observe Grace Of God. Impressed by a prolonged restoration interval in hospital following the second of two nasty bouts of sepsis – “I used to be laying there hooked as much as intravenous tubes, cannulas protruding of my wrists” – it units the scene for what, it shortly turns into clear, is a monumental physique of labor. Eight minutes of slipping out and in of consciousness, music as fever dream, disembodied voices, words-sharp and exact as a needle in a syringe.
It’s adopted by Man With A Stick, instrumentally the closest descendent of rock, however thematically as angrily appalled but deeply empathetic as anything right here, a remembrance of issues previous that incorporates the bloodied sweep of the latter half Twentieth-century historical past
It’s the identical with each observe, the non-public as political, music as first memory-muscle shortly cascading out into flows of creativeness far past regular limits for this sort of factor. And that’s earlier than you come to the cornerstone epics like Rose Of Damascus, virtually 16 minutes lengthy but inconceivable to show away from. Ostensibly it’s the story of a younger lady refugee fleeing the Syrian warfare, however you don’t want a microscope to detect the extra subterranean themes additionally connected.
“When Mark Wilkinson and I first talked about it, he stated: ‘You must do that in third-person. You’ll be able to’t write it in first, it’s going to be too heavy, too private.’ In order that’s what I did. Then I came upon instantly, all that third-person stuff was simply utterly infused with me-ness. Once I began singing Waverley Steps in 2018 I went: ‘Fucking hell, that is me.’ I didn’t realise. There are among the songs on the album which can be much more of me than I meant to place in.”
Certainly, whereas the phrases – at all times Fish’s calling card – are extra acutely refined and loaded with poetic imagery than ever earlier than, it’s the astounding music, by Fish and long-time co-writer Steve Vantsis, that makes the deepest cuts run so crimson.
Prog followers will little question delight on the sheer scope of tracks like Rose Of Damascus, Little Man What Now? (10.54) and Waverley Steps (13.48). However they received’t discover any Marillion-era widdly keyboards and guitar solos. The sound on the album is daringly promiscuous: horns, strings, accordion, spoken-word passages, particular results all making for a cinematic expertise.
“Calum is the person,” he says of his long-time collaborator, keyboard participant, producer and mixer Calum Malcolm. “Steve Vantsis has additionally received a co-producer credit score on it as a result of that was the way in which we constructed it – me and Steve constructing the songs from scratch, then Calum taking it additional down the road. Calum was so versatile in the way in which that he handled our studio time. Steve and I each have our personal ‘private subject’ issues, however the three of us discovered away to completely merge collectively superbly.”
Fish says he resisted the temptation to herald some big-name company, as he did on his final album. “It might have diluted the soul of the album,” he says. “So all of the individuals which can be on it we already knew. Calum was over the water in Fife, Steve’s down in Birmingham. Calum can be sending the mixes, and as we’re listening he’s messaging: ‘I’ve received a greater one coming.’ He instructed us he by no means did greater than 5 mixes of a observe. However on this it was the seventh combine each time.
“I used to be fucking in tears after I first heard Rose Of Damascus. There have been moments at first the place I severely doubted we’d ever get it. Calum simply stored saying: ‘Don’t fear.’ And he was proper.”
The way in which Weltschmerz is offered additionally contributes to the immersive expertise it delivers: CDs, DVDs that includes an interview with Fish and Mark Wilkinson, 5.1 encompass variations, reside tracks, new observe movies… most spectacular of all, the 100-page booklet-box that incorporates the entire caboodle. Not simply all of the lyrics and data, but in addition Fish’s story of how the album got here to be. As refreshingly trustworthy as now we have come to anticipate from the man who has at all times worn his coronary heart like two upholstered pistols in his fingers, but in addition superbly written. All this set off by Mark Wilkinson’s beautiful and evocative photos.
“Mark did an excellent job,” Fish says. “As a remaining assertion it’s breathtaking. You’ll be able to see the journey he’s comprised of the unique jester picture on the primary Marillion information as much as this. The visible references to crops and backyard life can be one thing I requested him to think about, due to my very own affinity with my very own gardens. We develop our personal greens, fruit and naturally lots of of gorgeous crops and flowers.”
The entire turns into an anomaly within the digi-streaming age: a piece of musical and visible artwork that you just really need to spend time on: to hearken to, to learn, to soak up, to type a significant relationship with. Some tracks, similar to the delicate piano ballad Backyard Of Remembrance, are so lovely they grew to become virtually painful to hearken to.
“I didn’t need to exit with a completely duff album. I assumed there’s sufficient in me to actually go for it and simply make one thing actually particular. Let’s put all the pieces into one final large effort and do it and name it.
“I used to be operating out of subject material to write down lyrics about. I’ve executed heartbreak. I’ve executed the futility of warfare and the soldier’s promise. I’ve executed the connection stuff. I simply went: ‘What the fuck am I going to sing about? And the place are these melodies going to come back from?’
“On the identical time, the world moved on, from the Syrian civil warfare right into a full Center Japanese disaster. We moved into dramatic climate-change points. We moved into Trump, Brexit. We moved into so many world points that had been overwhelming. I felt fucking helpless, however I may really feel it and I wished to vary it, which I believe got here up within the title observe. However Weltschmerz, a ache of the world, it’s grow to be overwhelming now. I may’ve known as the fucking factor Zeitgeist, as a result of the sensation of the album is completely in tune with now.”
Then there’s the voice. The Marillion heydays when Fish sang like a cross between 70s-era Jon Anderson and Genesis-era Peter Gabriel are lengthy gone. Now, together with his mumbles, whispers and virtually walking-pace vocals, he sounds extra like Leonard Cohen.
He laughs. “I’ve at all times stated I’m a author who can sing; I’m not a singer who can write. And my voice has modified due to what’s occurred to me through the years. I’ll hearken to Script or Fugazi now and I don’t even establish with the one that sung that. It looks as if it’s any individual else.
“I had large vocal operations in 2009. I needed to retrain my voice. I had to return into the fitness center once more with the voice. By doing that it made me look at the mechanics of songwriting. I discovered my actual voice after I wasn’t shouting over electrical devices. Nevertheless it’s discovered a extremely good place, as a result of when Steve and I put the keys collectively, he is aware of that I would like the ceiling, he is aware of that I would like house to play about in.”
He remembers listening to the completed album for the primary time, and experiencing a form of epiphany. “I didn’t have a drink for 5 months, and one of many first bottles of wine that my spouse and I opened, we sat on the sofa and listened to the ultimate mixes. We really listened to it thrice. I assumed: ‘That is fucking sensible. I really like listening to this.’ That is the album that I at all times wished to listen to after I was seventeen. That is the album I at all times wished to make as a musician.
“On the identical time, it was a reduction that I’d completed it. I’d executed what I got down to do: to make an album of the calibre of Weltschmerz. And there was an added euphoria as a result of that is the top of my recording profession. That is it. There’s no extra songs. I’m now shifting into the start of one other life.”
So what does the longer term maintain for Fish, the now ex-rock star? Does he nonetheless write songs?
“I nonetheless decide up issues. There are nonetheless moments the place I’m listening to the TV and any individual will say one thing and I’m like: ‘Oh wow, that’s a good suggestion for a music.’ Or I’ll hear a phrase and I’ll go: ‘I may use that.’ However they’re fleeting. They’ll fizzle down. They only run by and I’m not noting them down. As a result of I’ve received different issues I’m occupied with now. Screenplays. I at all times wished to be an actor, however I’ll by no means be an actor now. I’d get bit components or no matter, character roles. However I really like films. I believe Weltschmerz could be very affected by my expertise in films and why I like films and what I like.”
Fish’s greatest materials has at all times been cinematic. “The pure step to take is to go screenplay writing. As a result of each a kind of songs on Weltschmerz, you could possibly make a brief movie about them or a movie. I’ve by no means written a screenplay earlier than, however in 1981, after I joined Marillion, I’d by no means written a music earlier than. I don’t perceive music. I don’t know all of the technicalities. I’ve simply received a really feel for it. It’s the identical with films. I’ve simply received a really feel for it, particularly via phrases. And I’ve had tons of concepts for screenplays over the past twenty years.
“I used to be speaking to a movie director buddy of mine. He works up in Scotland, does quite a lot of unbiased stuff. I stated: ‘I’ve received this concept.’ So we sat and talked about it, and he goes: ‘That is sensible. It is a Netflix pitch!’ So I’ve been engaged on that. And it’s a severe fucking pitch. It’s a giant historic drama. Though it’s so left-field it embraces a lot stuff.
“I’m researching that for the time being. That’s why I’m preserving it very near my chest. I’ve received shitloads of books that I’ve received to undergo, to seek out out what angle I’m going to take, the way it works. Will Smith the author is a giant buddy of mine. We’ve been speaking about this for years and he’s been pushing me and going, you bought to get into this, you bought to maneuver into it. And that’s what I need to do.
“I’m scared as a result of I may fall flat on my face. However then once more, fuck it. My strategy has at all times been the identical as with Weltschmerz. I by no means at any level thought: ‘Are individuals going to love this?’ I prefer it, that is what I need to do, that’s sufficient. That’s at all times been my benchmark.”
It’s an assertion born out of a profession through which Fish achieved probably the most success by intentionally railing towards regardless of the acquired knowledge was on the time. Most eventfully when Fish fought for Misplaced Childhood, Marillion’s third album, to be promoted as an idea album comprising one steady piece of music.
It was an concept so discredited within the 80s that even his staunchest supporters, together with this one, thought he was out of his thoughts. Outcome: the band’s first No.1 album, first large hit singles, first US success, first style of the millionaire rock star way of life.
“Misplaced was important for me not due to the industrial success, however as a result of I had the arrogance ultimately to precise myself brazenly. Earlier than, I hid with the songs. They had been wordy, they had been flowery and I sang them whereas hiding behind the face make-up. However on Misplaced I went: ‘That is me.’ That had so much to do with that album. And on Clutching I adopted it on, and I opened myself up much more.”
Do you bear in mind the primary time you went on stage with out the make-up? “Effectively, I didn’t go on with out it. I phased it out. By 1984 it went from full-face make-up to actually simply the eyes. Then it simply grew to become eye shadow with a few bits on it, after which it was gone. Nevertheless it was as I grew up I grew to become extra assured. I bear in mind assembly Paul Stanley in a membership in New York and he went: ‘Gene actually preferred your make-up, man. You’ve received all of it copyrighted?’ I went: ‘No.’ I by no means considered it like that. It was completely different each night time, relying on the temper.
“I’d by no means sung my very own songs earlier than Marillion. And I used to be hiding. Like: ‘It is a man known as Fish. This isn’t Derek. It is a man known as Fish behind a masks.’ And if I fucked up I may take the make-up off and stroll away and be like: ‘Oh, the opposite man did that. Massive man did it and walked away.’”
He nonetheless insists he has no regrets about leaving Marillion when he did – simply as they had been about to signal a million-pound publishing deal, on the verge of changing into large in America. However he’s sufficiently old and man sufficient now to remorse the way of the divorce. He and Tammy – the woman from Berlin within the Kayleigh video, who he would marry after which separate from only a few years later – “weren’t in good condition by any stretch of the creativeness. And there have been medicine and alcohol round everyone, you recognize?”
The band was being mismanaged, in his view, being stored out on the highway too lengthy due to the cash. He smiles ruefully and lights one other smoke. “I used to be very impetuous. The me at the moment, if I used to be in a state of affairs like that, would in all probability have tried to speak it via. However me again then was like: ‘Fuck it. I’m out!’
“In the end I actually, truthfully consider that I did the proper factor. I’ve had a terrific life, and I’m nonetheless right here and I’m fortunately married. I’m the singer with a studio. Christ, I’m the final particular person in Marillion that ever ought to have had a studio, proper? I ought to have had a pub.”
It might make a terrific film.