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Interview with ex-Marillion singer Fish: ‘I don’t want to peter out’



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Ahead of releasing his latest album, Weltschmerz (‘world pain’) in 2020, Scottish singer-songwriter Fish – known for his solo work and successful stint with prog-rockers Marillion in the 80s – announced that it would be his last album.

Fish
Fish

The critically acclaimed new release came out exactly 30 years after Fish’s first solo album, Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors. The seasoned musician, whose real name is Derek Dick, will be performing songs from the album at the Junction tomorrow night (Thursday, November 18).

Expect to hear the likes of Man with a Stick, voted the best single of 2018 on Planet Rock Radio. When we spoke, Fish had recently started rehearsing with his band for the upcoming tour. “It was kind of strange. That would have been for the first time since March 2020,” he says. “That was very weird – quite emotional.”

Fortunately, the singer didn’t find the whole lockdown period too much of a struggle. “I’m lucky because we live in East Lothian, near Haddington to the south of Edinburgh,” he explains. “It’s in the country and I live on a farm so I’m lucky that we’ve got a big garden and my wife and I are both enthusiastic amateur gardeners and that kind of saved us, basically.

“I think mentally, having the garden as a kind of sanctuary and as a diversion from everything that was going around was great. It was tough, losing all the gigs... I think in total across the 18 months, including the stuff that I’ve lost this year. It’s something like 150 shows. My European tour was replaced and that was cancelled again...

“We got through it, and then I started doing a programme called Fish on Friday that I do on Facebook every Friday, as it says on the tin. It’s a two-hour show that I just started doing for free – playing music and talking about songs and about what was going on, and it became a great release for myself.

“I had to put my entertainer’s hat on and there’s nothing scripted, which meant that mentally I was keeping myself alert. It was like going down the entertainer’s gym, in a way, and then that really took off. I mean during the heart of lockdown, we were picking up 35,000 to 50,000 people around the world. We found that it meant a lot to people that were still stuck on their own so I’ve kept it going.”

Fish notes that Weltschmerz, his 11th studio album – of which he’s “incredibly proud” – was recorded well before the pandemic. “We started to record this together in 2018; we recorded stuff for the A Parley with Angels EP, which was the first three tracks, and then we recorded the rest at the end of 2019 and the vocals were all finished at the beginning of 2020, before the lockdown.

“The album was originally going to be coming out in about June 2020 and we just said well what’s the point of rushing it? So we held the whole thing back and put it out in October.”

Weltschmerz has received a great deal of praise right across the board, making a number of magazines’ Album of the Year lists for 2020. It would appear that Fish is going out on a high, therefore, as he is adamant that this will be his last album.

Fish
Fish

“I decided in 2015 that I had one more album left in me,” he says, “and the same reason I left Marillion with [1987’s] Clutching at Straws... I left that band with the best album that I thought we made together and it was at a high benchmark.

“I didn’t want to kind of peter out; I’ve never been the kind of person that throws a bit of plastic at loyal punters just to get some cash off them. ‘Oh, it’s Christmas, we’d better put an album out’ – I’ve never worked along that way, and I’ve got other things to do.”

He continues: “And music’s changed since I went into the industry. Nowadays if you want to make a living in the music business, you’ve got to go out live and I’m 63 now. I’ve got a farewell tour that I’ve got pegged for ‘23 and I’ll be 65 then, which is the correct age to retire!

“I’m a realist. It’s not going be where you’re playing stadiums and have an army of physios and lifestyle co-ordinators – we’re on a tour bus and we get on that tour bus every night after the gig and I don’t want to be doing that. I’ve got better things to do with my life than running about playing the same shows that I’ve been playing for the last 10, 15 years.”

Fish reveals that he doesn’t really listen to music these days, stating that he prefers Netflix. He’s catching up on Narcos Mexico at the moment. “I’ve always wanted to spend more time writing,” he says, when asked what he’ll do. “I’ve always wanted to get more involved with film work and especially scriptwriting, and there’s books to write and there’s gardens to be dug...

“There are a lot more things to do other than being on a tour bus going around in circles in Europe expelling fumes all over the place...”

Fish will be performing at The Junction’s J1 tomorrow (Thursday, November 18). For more information, go to junction.co.uk. For more on Fish, visit fishmusic.scot.

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