It’s been a hard week in America. Most of them are but the national psyche took some concussive blows in the past seven days. It’s hard to keep pulling one’s self up from the mat after so much ugliness, violence and disappointment – not to mention all the travails and small travesties of our private lives this past week – but it’s important to keep believing in things larger than ourselves, stronger than a single stretch of days, more enduring than a news cycle or political campaign. We gotta find faith in one another or even something more skyward, and say, like Mott does on this mix, “God ain’t jive.” Dreams and love and other connections and joys – big, tiny and otherwise – remain alive and well despite the black wave that swept through recently. These are songs to keep us company as we claw our way to the light, together despite the fog and fear that makes us seem so distant at times.
Track listing below. If you experience playback problems pop over to the mix page and it should play fine.
Music put together under the influence for the edification and amusement of those both under the influence and otherwise…
This one began with pondering the many different interpretations of the expression “just one of those days”. It’s all a matter of perspective, one supposes, but the wide swing between negative and positive is particularly acute with this colloquialism. With that floating lightly in the background, this assemblage plays with POV, both our own and what others think of us, especially as it relates to feelings. But mostly it’s just songs that might sound nice if you’re a touch copacetic, so don’t over-think it too much and just get smoky, kids.
Track listing below. If you experience playback problems pop over to the mix page and it should play fine.
Pick up the new album here, here or at what’s left of brick & mortar record stores (heaven knows they need your support…)
This past month saw the worldwide release of Marillion’s 17th studio album, Sounds That Can’t Be Made. Well after most long-lived bands have ceased to fire creatively, Marillion offers a powerful argument for their continued artistic success as an independent minded entity with a work that melds melody and aggression with thought provoking ideas and downright gorgeous love songs that are equal parts classic and modern rock. As ever, it sounds like no one else but Marillion, who have hewed to their own course for decades with music that’s simultaneously sonically & technically rich and quite easy to get on with.
While many bands of comparable skill fly up their own navels, Marillion seems ever ready to extend a hand into the world, seizing on connections and pulling one into spaces we might not have gone on our own. Like much of their catalog, Sounds That Can’t Be Made is a grower, where the full reach of the song cycle only emerges over time, a sure grip we only realize has us once we’re securely in its hold. Dirty Impound makes no pretense to fully understanding the latest salvo from these U.K. survivors – talk to us in a year – but luckily we were able to chat with lead singer Steve Hogarth about the new album, the path to its creation, and some other fortifying topics.
Marillion by Josh Miller
One thing I’ve long wanted to talk with you about is how you have one of the most complicated relationships with God as a lyricist I’ve ever encountered. It’s something that’s drawn me into your work since the beginning of your time in Marillion. You don’t flinch from gigantic ideas.
I wasn’t aware of having a complicated relationship with God [laughs]. I do play with God a little bit, I suppose, in my words. “When I Meet God” is the obvious place to start with isn’t it? That lyric started with the idea, “How come so much is wrong with the world? If there is a God, why don’t you sort this out?” John Lennon said – and there’s a lot to be said for it – that God is a concept by which we measure our pain. The less pain we’re in, the less need we have for God and the more God slips from our minds. And when we’re in a lot of pain or in a fix, I think we need a friend, and if we haven’t got any then we look upstairs for one.
I don’t think I’m really a religious person, in the traditional sense. The other day I was looking at an amazing documentary Martin Scorsese made about George Harrison [Living In The Material World], and [George] gets asked about God and he says, “I left the whole man with a beard in the sky thing some time ago, but then the other week I kind of came back to it” [laughs]. He continues, “God is everything. God is everything that has life or spirit, so if for you God is a man in the sky with a beard that’s absolutely fine.” So, God can be a flower or a grizzly bear or forest in a mountain valley. Who’s to say God isn’t there? I think I’m more of a pagan, in that way, where God is a life force thing. God is what binds us all together. It’s the energy that makes us believe in the impossible.
Good Times at the Village Green
You can define it however you choose, but for me, it has a lot to do with the kind of indescribable energy that’s contained in beauty and nature, and also in empathy and mutual understanding. I think God is in “live and let live.” I think God is in “do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.” God is in a flower and a tree, and if 15 people want to dance naked on my Village Green tonight wearing a sheet and circling around a goat’s head, well, that’s cool too as long as they’re having a good time [laughs]. That’s kind of where I’m at with God [laughs].
I grew up in a Roman Catholic family followed by a lot of conversions to Pentecostal Christianity, and had lost hold of the “bearded dude in the sky” thing by my teens. Once you’ve stepped away from organized religion it’s very hard to step back into it.
Maybe, maybe…well, that’s more about control than about God. It’s about keeping people in utter terror, and there’s no God in that for me. Maybe there’s a sense of betrayal when you see beyond something that you were so unquestionably fond of for such a long time.
The new album begins with “Gaza,” and just seeing that word brings up questions of identity, belief, God, territory, etc. No matter what your intentions were, there’s a powder keg inside that single word.
We started getting angry emails before the lyric could possibly have been seen anywhere, and certainly before the music was heard anywhere outside of our own studio. Just the fact that we called a song “Gaza” before people knew what we were going to say agitated certain people. It’s a hot potato, and I knew it would be a hot potato when I was writing it. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, there came a point when I was writing it where it was apparent that the music the band had started to wrap those words was so strong that there was no way I could bury it. So, I had to get my head around this one day being out there in the world and I better make damn sure I knew what I was talking about.
So, from the moment I realized this song was going to end up on the record, I had to take a long, hard look at these words and make sure it’s not a piece of naïve drama. I mean, what right does a white, middle class English boy who lives in the middle of England on a bloody Village Green got to write about the pain of a child growing up in Gaza? No right whatsoever unless that person has spent talking [to people], looking at the situation, researching, etc. So, I spent every free weekend I had from that point onwards Skype-ing ordinary Gazans. I was fortunate to have a friend of a friend working in Gaza, and I approached her about speaking to as many ordinary people as I could. I didn’t want to speak to members of political factions or anything.
I also wanted to know what does it smell like where they live? Is it too hot? Is it damp? Dusty? What are the sounds they hear walking down the street? What do they when they get up in the morning? Where do they sleep at night? I wanted to feel like I’d been [there] but I couldn’t go. Everyone I spoke to that knew anything said I might get a visa to get in but I might not get out again for weeks, and that could have meant blowing out the [recent] American tour or finishing the record. I dearly wanted to go because I felt I would be a charlatan just writing about the place, so I did the next best thing and got on the Skype and asked about their lives. I spoke to Israelis and Palestinians. I also had a friend who had been there doing diplomatic work on the peace process, and we had lunch and he gave me the low, low, low down on the political situation – what’s going on at the borders including the Egyptian border, what’s going on with Hamas, who’s firing the rockets and who isn’t, the whole thing. So, I did spend a lot of time looking into it even if I don’t live there and have to sleep in a bomb shelter. So, this song isn’t about Israel being completely wrong. This song is about how a child shouldn’t have to grow up like this, living like this, living in a place with a wall around it.
There’s a sigh in the middle of the song where you remind us, “Nothing’s ever simple, that’s for sure.” It’s a breath one needs to take as they step back from this situation to look at all the sides.
The problem with the situation is how each faction involved has its own truth. It’s not just a point of view but a long, firmly held truth, and they’re not the same truths. There’s a different truth for the state of Israel, a different truth for the Palestinian government, and a different truth for the Egyptians and a still a different one for Jordanians, and a different truth for the U.N. and the West. They’re all based on hard facts, history and statistics, and they’re all true things but they’re not the same. I respect that but all I’m saying is if you’re a child growing up in that place it’s not right and something must be done. Soon after this song was released, the U.N. issued a report that said the whole situation will be untenable by 2020. The infrastructure won’t be able to deal with the influx of people and there’ll be a crisis there.
The main purpose of writing the song, from my point of view, is we have a lot of fans out there and it would be a good thing if they heard this song and checked out the situation. I don’t care if they say, “This is a load of shit,” just so long as they check it out. I just want people to think about Gaza and think about the place. I didn’t know there was a bloody wall around the place until five years ago! It was just a place on the news. If the only thing that comes out of this song and this album is some people who didn’t know there was a wall around the place now do. It’s worth writing it on its own for that reason, but I’d like to feel there’s a lot more to it than that. I feel it’s a metaphor for every child that’s caught in a war zone. It’s not just solely about that one kid sitting in that one place anymore than any of my lyrics have been about one thing and nothing else.
You’re very adept at holding up mirrors to the world. You seem unflinching in what the mirrors show you personally, and at the same time you’re offering this reflective surface to others as a tool. What we each see will be slightly different, but it begins with your own courage to not blink at what comes back at you.
Steve Hogarth by Josh Miller
That’s all you can hope for, and I think if you pass someone a mirror to have a look at something you know the light will catch it in a slightly different way and it will maybe make them think about this thing all over again. That’s enough of a reason for any writer to get out of bed in the morning.
There’s so much history to this band at this point, both before you joined and the 23 years since you came on board. How do you approach this thing that is Marillion at this point? What drives you to keep making these sounds that can’t be made? By the way, that’s a pretty ballsy title for an album, I must say.
I know, I know…it is a bit of a gauntlet in a way, but not really. We just thought it was a good title. So, what drives this thing along? Well, we can’t afford to stop – we’re not millionaires. You look at the bank account and say, “Shit, we better do something!” [laughs] On the other hand, there is an absolute refusal to compromise. If it ain’t flowing and we have to take a year off and live slightly less well then we will – and we did with this [new] album.
We all went off to Portugal for a few weeks to write, and nothing really came out of that. It became apparent right at the beginning of the process that we just weren’t ready. I didn’t really have anything to say…or whatever it was I wanted to say wasn’t what the band wanted to make music around. We just didn’t feel comfortable with each other or the process, and at the end of that place there are a lot of bands that would have split up. But there are people in our band who are wise enough – Ian Mosley, our drummer, has kind of held our band together. He’s sort of the Mick Fleetwood of Marillion [laughs]. In the end, we said, “You know what? We should just go away from each other for however many weeks or months it takes. We shouldn’t try and work together if we don’t feel like it just because we’re in this band and feel we should.” A) We’ll write rubbish, and B) we’ll split up and what’s the point then?
So, we split up, and I spent most of Year One renovating a cottage. That got my head away from music and everything, though I wrote a song called “This Week’s House.” We had to move so many times while we were renovating this cottage and I wrote a lyric about the house we were living in that week, which I thought was quite a nice subject for a song. When you’re living in places that don’t have your life in them they’re like blank pages. You move into these spaces that have nothing to do with you, and then a week later you move out again. It’s a lot of upheaval but it does give you something, especially if you’re creative. It makes you think about all sorts of things.
You’re not carrying around as much clutter. You can’t accumulate the same amount of junk in the corners when you’re a rolling stone.
I had a line that goes, “This week’s house has a pin board on the wall with absolutely nothing written on it.” I thought that was interesting – the blank page, no appointments, no history – along with no pictures on the walls or books on the shelves. That really got me going. I found it strangely uplifting where before I’d have thought it would be vaguely depressing. Suddenly there wasn’t baggage.
So, I renovated a cottage and that took six months or more, and then we finally got back together again and bit by bit we got there but this record was a really, really difficult journey. By the time we got it finished just hearing it stressed me out. Even the thought of putting it on and listening to it was stressful. The irony of it is now that we’ve released it everyone’s done back flips and said it’s the best thing we’ve ever done. You just never know how people are going to react, eh?
Join us next week for Part Two of Dirty Impound’s conversation with Steve Hogarth.
Marillion’s new album, Sounds That Can’t Be Made, will be released in the U.S. on October 2, and is available directly from the band here.
Steve Rothery by Josh Miller
Music undoes the lie of the Tower of Babel. We might not all speak the same tongue but there are languages that transcend grammar, syntax and colloquialisms. Just witness what happens when English speaking bands perform to throngs in Japan or Brazil, where a portion of what’s being said is fully comprehended but the impact – emotionally and experientially – lacks for nothing. Communication is obviously taking place but on a plain far from dictionaries. Steve Rothery plays in this place beyond words, a guitarist for whom descriptors like “eloquent” and “feeling-filled” were created.
Since the early 80s, the Marillion co-founder has etched his unique signature in rock’s big book, a voice as distinctive and difficult to duplicate as clear touchstones David Gilmour, Steve Howe and Mike Oldfield. While there is great intelligence and skill to Rothery’s work, what slices one to the core is the emotional verisimilitude of his guitar voice, a choice of notes and textures that translates emotional truth into sound, be it the longing of a lost love lament or the angry growl of righteous upset. Rothery plays to the song, rarely using the often elongated platforms in the Marillion catalog to showboat, nearly always a model of economy and pinpoint expression.
Few six-string wranglers can lay claim to such an unbroken chain of quality performances, especially given his continued evolution (to wit the Guernica-esque rawness and noise he exhibits on Sounds That Can’t Be Made opener “Gaza”). More than any single piece or even grand extended opuses like Brave, the take away from Rothery’s rich career is a musician of enormous honesty, craftsmanship, and above all, pleasure triggering style.
Here’s what Rothery had to say in DI’s ongoing survey of guitarists.
The Seasonal Mix Series is an inquiry in song about where we stand as the weather changes and the calendar pages leaf by.
Autumn is often when one’s thoughts turn to the greyer aspects of one’s life, a time of reckoning with the clinging might-have-beens and wish-we-had-hadn’t moments that one puts on in the morning with their clothes. The notion of “falling” is inherent in this season’s more common contemporary name, and being human, sometimes we want to stay down when we hit the ground hard. But it’s in the getting back up, the pulling one’s self from these states where we find our true metal. As one of DI’s favorite new bands of 2012, Field Report, observes here, “A bird in the hand is worthless if you’re too scared.” May we all be wise enough to recognize such creatures, and brave enough to ride their wings when they are close to us this autumn – which coincidentally officially begins on September 22nd.
It’s not uncommon for bass players to be overlooked. Few four (or five) string low end practitioners seize the spotlight like Chris Squire or Geddy Lee, and that makes sense given the stealthy weaving of elements that resides at the heart of really fine bass work. However, observant fans can often locate the beating heart of a band in this role, and that’s never more true than with Marillion’s hopping, always right-in-the-pocket Pete Trewavas. Set aside a smile that instantly makes one adore this music and the man making it, Trewavas possesses the wicked combination of crazy range, varied tastes & textures, and perhaps most importantly, the humility and wisdom to know when to keep things simple or let others shine while holding down his part of the enterprise.
As complex as Trewavas’ basslines can be (and given the 30 minute range of some epic pieces he can get out there sometimes), his playing remains steadfastly immediate, a presence felt, particularly within the larger structures (though there in a more taut version on singles and shorter material) that one can grab onto (or perhaps allow themselves to be grabbed by). A healthy measure of the richness of Marillion’s sound comes from Trewavas, whose bass inflections and harmony singing are often the ingredients that bind the whole together.
His bass voice is a fine mixture of schooled braininess and gut instinct that hunts down hooks with a tenacity and regularity that’s downright impressive. Take any given tune, not just the signature pieces – DI recommends close listens to Marillion.com’s “Go!” or Marbles’ “Drilling Holes” – and Trewavas is doing something interesting that serves the song in the larger sense. His skills could easily make him a showboat solo hero but he’s more interested in playing to the tunes, building muscle so they leap with strength and agility, comfortable sometimes being the invisible man in this gang just so long as they are delivering the best songs possible.
So, in an effort to make sure this particular bassist gets some part of the credit he’s due, Dirty Impound is raising the flag for Mr. Trewavas, who was kind enough to offer some insights about what he does.
Marillion’s new album, Sounds That Can’t Be Made, arrives October 2nd and can be pre-ordered here.
It’s a true pleasure to watch folks really, really good at what they do ply their craft. We get a palpable thrill seeing Olympic athletes strut their stuff, and the same goes for artists operating with hard won skill, obvious passion, terrific showmanship, and no small measure of x-factor (natural talent, charisma, etc.). Such was the case with Marillion at the tour ender at The Fillmore for their first North American tour in 8 years.
Again and again one was struck by how absolutely together, how completely on it in every way this band of veterans were, commanders of the stage and their intricate but rarely unapproachable catalog. This last point is important. For all its complexities and long form expression, this music is laced up with gorgeous melodies, hooks galore, memorable choruses, air guitar inspiring riffs and more that make it so easy to like, so easy to see just how fundamentally great what they do truly is. The world is cruel and this is just another example when a band this terrific isn’t a chart-topper everywhere. In many respects, Marillion are too good for the charts as they exist in the early 21st century. Firmly entrenched in prickly, truth-telling environments like “King,” “The Invisible Man” and “Man of a Thousand Faces” it struck me how Marillion might be the rock band Carl Jung might have formed if he’d come of age in the time of The Beatles and other great 60s pop culture pioneers. And this is perhaps not the vibe one wants if they intend to compete with Justin Bieber and Maroon 5. So be it. The less traveled path suits them better anyway.
There are great depths to this group but never offered in a way that one can’t still just bob their head and grok in an immediate way, a layered thing to be experienced in multiple ways that will likely shift over one’s life. And it was clear that most of the people inside the storied San Francisco venue were Marillion lifers, this music the soundtrack to their coming of age, to marriages and divorces, to significant moments that might only have occurred between them and these songs yet a relationship as meaningful and substantial as one built in fleshly real time, that strange, beautiful alchemy that sometimes miraculously occurs between musicians and their fans charging the air.
Marillion by Josh Miller
The connectivity and hyper-awareness of nuance in the room was a real joy. Too often we go to see live music and find ourselves surrounded by chatter that has nothing to do with what’s happening onstage, a glaring disconnect that interferes with one’s ability to rise and fall upon a collective tide. Not so at Marillion’s farewell to America for 2012, where all the key lines were punched with authority, the band the recipients of much visible love, the many hours we’d spent with their work glowing on our faces and cracking our voices as we sung of Easter and the happiness of the road. Even the few folks that seemed to be there to see a band that disappeared in the late 80s (seriously, the guy who screamed out a request for “Grendel” needs to get a time machine and join us in 2012) ultimately came around, the quality and reach of the band’s recent material doing the trick even for the chunk of the audience that seemed unfamiliar with newer jewels like “The Other Half”.
Marillion appear unfazed by this dynamic, moving onward with what they do in a way that makes them relevant and a peer to critic’s darlings like Radiohead and Beck rather than some dodgy “prog-rock band” still lumbering around and trotting out early favorites for an increasingly paunchy, beardy core constituency. In some ways, Marillion seems as surprised as anyone that their strange engine keeps turning over and carrying them further down the creative highway. It’s a happy surprise to be sure and one that makes one curious but also wonderfully uncertain where each new chapter will take them [check out the first finished track to be shared from their forthcoming Sounds That Can't Be Made below and pre-order the album here]. Having boarded in the days of Fugazi and really committed myself to the cause once Steve Hogarth was firmly entrenched, I can only say that I’m along for the distance, lads. Wherever you want to go, especially based on what I experienced in SF, is somewhere I want to be.
Splintering Heart, Cover My Eyes (Pain and Heaven), Slàinte Mhath, The Other Half, Fantastic Place, The Great Escape, Easter, Afraid of Sunlight, Power, King, Sugar Mice, Man of a Thousand Faces, Neverland.
E1: The Invisible Man
E2: This Strange Engine
E3: Happiness Is the Road
Josh Miller – worth noting, a first time Marillion concert attendee that was fairly smitten with what he saw – brings us these fabulous captures from the night.
The third installment in our series of mixes focused on songs about being in a band, the recording industry, and the ins & outs of the life of a rocker is super sized for yo’ pleasure. Now, the crowd without a face begins to fill the space in the arena…
Listen to this mix by popping over here. Embeds from 8tracks.com still not working. We’ll be looking into a new source for our mix player soon. In the meantime, thanks for clicking over.