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Just back home on Sunday and walked tall and proud back into the studio.
My beautiful, wonderful caring lady stayed by my side through the whole day at the hospital and was there when I woke up after a highly successful operation.I love this woman so much. A true reminder of the importance and value of family and good friends.
Thank you most sincerely for all your best wishes, support and advice, it meant a lot to us in what have been worrying times.
A huge thank you to Mr Demetriades who performed wonders and to all the staff at Spire Murrayfield who took great care of me during my stay.
take care and stay alive
Derek and Simone
Ok let’s not beat about the bush and I’ll tell you how it is.
Two days ago I saw a consultant re my shoulder that I had an ultra sound examination on in May. I’ve been waiting to hear back for months and finally have a diagnosis and remedy. It’s not good.
I knew I had a torn tendon and anticipated minor surgery and a few weeks recovery with physio. It turns out the tendon is badly torn at the point where it is attached to the bone and is close to detaching from it’s anchorage point. I am now being scheduled for an operation, probably in February through the NHS, only a couple of weeks after the designated recovery period from the spine operation I am having on Saturday.
The operation is a small keyhole procedure but the aftermath is truly a nightmare. I will have to have my right arm completely immobilised in a sling for 4 weeks, I can’t drive for 6 weeks and then have 6 months recovery with intense physio to fully recover. It’s going to be long and painful and if I don’t strictly follow the rules the tendon will tear again and may be irreparable. At the moment I am suffering extreme pain from certain movements and have been dealing with this for a few years although not in continual intensity.Recently it’s become agonisingly intrusive.
The original injury I think came from my arm being wrenched trying to pull myself up on a dive boat in Cuba in heavy seas back in 2010 and since then it has never completely healed. It was seriously aggravated on a tour bus in 2015 and recently I have strained it to the point where the cortisone injections I was taking make no difference apart from masking the problem.With the severe recurring pain I have no other option but to undergo surgery.
What this means is that there will be no festival shows next year and I will not be able to go on the road until October 2017 without risking further damage. This is a huge blow on a number of levels. I have no other option but to cancel all touring until then as I have to give this serious injury time to fully recover.
I am trying to find the yang in all this as it means no gardening all season, no writing or typing for 4 weeks as I am right handed, no lifting or any strenuous movements for 6 months and a rigid schedule of physio that will be extremely uncomfortable. It’s going to be an incredibly frustrating time.
I can only attempt to concentrate on the remasters and writing the new album to back me up. Thankfully I have a wonderful caring woman here who can look after me as in all honesty it would be incredibly difficult for me to get through this on my own and look after myself. Together we are strong enough to get through this but I have to admit it’s a crushing blow which has derailed all thoughts of retirement in 2018.
My agents and my team are completely understanding and supportive and we just have to adjust to the realities of the situation.
It’s not the greatest of news but by no means the worst. I can deal with it. After all the best plans of mice and men aft gang aglae!
Finally it’s complete bar some judicious editing and correcting I’ll embark on tomorrow morning. The ‘Field of Crows’ sleeve notes for the next remaster. 9089 words at the moment with 4000 written today. The most complex of the sleeve notes so far as so much has been left out in order to compress 3 years of a tumultuous period in my life into something relevant to the album and at that same time making sense of the period.It’s 2.20 am, I have severe indigestion from perhaps too much coffee and a school run in 6 hours.Tomorrow is going to be a long read and I hope it all makes sense.
The last section of the sleevenotes
“In 2014 I’d decided to embark on this remaster series and wanted to review the original recordings. There was an option for remixes but due to technical difficulties the only album that was possible to work on out of the 3 I felt could benefit was ‘Field of Crows’. At the time I’d bumped into my old and dear friend Chris Kimsey who’d produced ‘Misplaced Childhood’ and ‘Clutching at Straws’ for Marillion and my second solo album ‘Internal Exile’. Chris was at a loose end that summer and was looking for a project. I suggested ‘Crows’ and sent him down a copy to listen to. Like many others he had never heard it and I was surprised at his genuine enthusiasm for the material. We talked it over and I handed over a couple of multi tracks for him to play with. What he came back with brought an entire new energy to the songs and I really liked his approach, accentuating the horns, tightening things up and layering the sound into something a lot more dynamic than the originals. It was groovier and yet still had a rocky edge I always felt was missing from the 2004 release. I green lighted his remix and he went ahead and began work on the rest of the material. What he delivered surprised everyone who heard it. It sounded like a new album and I designated it as the primary disc on this remaster. It’s sat around for too long but I’m glad that this is now in the public domain and can be heard in all its glory. I loved it back then and I love it even more now. This is how it should have sounded.”
You’re probably well aware of my ongoing back and legs issues and the search for a solution. A week after I arrived home from Switzerland in a lot of pain I received a letter from the Edinburgh Spire hospital accepting the referral from my local doctor. I called them in the morning and that night I saw a consultant who set up an MRI scan which was organised for the next morning. The scan happened on the Tuesday and on Saturday I went in again to see my consultant Dr D.
When I saw the words ‘degenerative damage’ on the screen of his PC which had images of my spine in detailed display I knew I wasn’t going to be getting good news.As a layman I recognised that what I was seeing wasn’t a healthy specimen.
I took in as much as I could from the medical spiel and recognised that what I was hearing had already been mentioned by my Dutch consultants in April. Bulging discs, trapped nerves, bone growths, protruding vertebrae plus a host of other issues were discussed.
In short I was given 3 options which were quickly thinned down to the only one that offered me a relatively long term solution. Physio and other remedies were ruled out as were more injections as it had gone too far and it required a ‘mechanical’ intervention. I’d been told in Holland that this would eventually be the case as injections could only provide me with short term relief and they were only masking the real issues..
And so I am now looking at a small surgical operation in November ( if I go down the private medical route) with 6-8 weeks rehabilitation and lots of post op physio. Dr D has told me that this procedure will take all the pain from my legs and vastly alleviate my spine issues. It involves cutting away bone to allow the disc and nerves space and thus removing all the pressure that is giving me this hellish sciatica and knee problems. It won’t deal with all my back issues and I may need to have vertebrae fused together in the future but for now this is a welcome first step to having my movement returned and getting rid of the increasing pain.
I’m annoyed that I had an MRI scan done on the NHS a year ago when I first went to the doctors on the behest of the Dutch team. Whoever looked at those September 2015 scans must have seen the damage back then as all this didn’t happen in a year. I didn’t receive any contact from the NHS about those scans and if I hadn’t elected to take a private health route I could still be waiting on that consultation. I managed to arrange 2 consultations,an MRI scan and get a diagnosis in the space of 7 days but it’s not been cheap.
I am one of the lucky people who have the ability to pay for a private option and I genuinely feel for people out there who are trapped in waiting lists and unable to move forward and receive treatments because they can’t afford it.
If I continue down the private route and take the operation in November it’s going to be a hit and a half but I have to look at the long term and without remedial treatment I will probably be unable to tour again.
The prospect of being able to walk properly again and to get a decent night’s sleep without pain has no financial value as far as I am concerned and in all probability this means ironically that I may have to put my retirement plans back for at least a year.
It shouldn’t affect the album writing too much but I will lose a chunk of time at the end of the year. I’ve been told I will, be able to walk out of hospital next day but will have to take it very easy for at least the first 6 weeks. I’m just glad I have Simone here as I don’t think it would be easy to cope with the rehabilitation and recovery on my own. Thankfully my lady is a trained doctor’s assistant and I know she will take great care of me.
I knew on Saturday that there was a high probability that a surgical operation would be the only answer so I wasn’t particularly shocked at the news. I’m just glad there’s a way forward now.
I’m being positive and looking forward to getting down the gym, riding a bike, building up these leg and back muscles and getting back to some level of fitness again. Hillwalking is something else I’ve been unable to do for a couple of years but the grail of grails is the possibility of playing 5 a side football again.
one step at a time, one step at a time
When I settled on the working title for the new album a couple of years ago I had no idea how much things would change in that time and just how relative it would all become. It seems as if the world has gradually edged into a darkness that is touching us all in some way or another and I personally find it a lot harder to come to terms with what I read and hear and see around me. This year I’ve found myself retreating more into myself and focusing on my immediate surroundings, in particular the garden where I embraced the relative simplicity and the natural order of things. I found it reassuring and positive and felt a sense of control as I attempted to manage the ever changing environment and perpetual challenges. I found my mind drifting towards the album.
Trying to decipher the constant stream of pain, anger, injustice, hate and ignorance coming at us from so many different points on the planet and in so many guises I’ve found impossible to manage. Just watching Channel 4 news last night on the Syrian crisis when they attempted to unravel the multi faced fighting factions,their friends and foes, allegiances and supporting shadows was nigh impossible to fathom. My head was reeling from rewinds on the hard drive as I tried to unravel it all and even glimpse any solution. I couldn’t find any input balance from this constantly sprawling and engaging conflict with all it’s devastating worldwide consequences and was struggling to stop my mind from shorting out as it was reaching overload. I had to find a way to deal with this in the lyrics but I had no idea how to approach it. Add together the dark energies from natural disasters and the other manmade madness and It was all too big. Weltschmerz indeed.
When Romaine Thorel, keyboard player from ‘Lazuli’ had sat down with me in the control room just over a couple of weeks ago the first thing he wanted to know was what was the album about and how did I hear the direction. I’d just seen a story, again on Channel 4 news about an old man who operated the last “garden centre” as one of their series of articles on the besieged city of Aleppo. He worked together with his 2 sons trying to hold together a small corner of normality, pruning roses and growing lavender plants that he sold to people to put on the traffic roundabouts that were traditionally islands of flowers. The attempt to keep them planted up throughout the airstrikes and bombardments was an attempt to hold back the chaos and provide a reminder of what it used to be like before the war. The man was known as “The Guardian of the Flowers” and referred to the daily sound of conflict as like “listening to Beethoven”. He passed on many wise sayings dressed in gardening allegory and I was reminded of the Peter Sellers character in “Being There”. The article struck a chord in me and I was captured by the man’s story as it played out on screen. As you would expect there wasn’t a happy ending and at the end of the piece the broadcaster announced that the old man and one of his sons had been killed in an air attack 3 weeks after filming and the garden completely destroyed. I’d been genuinely touched by the film and was upset as the piece concluded with an interview with the distraught and confused younger son who had survived the bombing and who was now alone in the living hell of Aleppo.
I knew then how I had to approach the lyric content of the album and told Romain that rather than attempt to encompass the big picture that I’d wrap it up into bundles of stories about people; individual characters with their own experiences and ways of dealing with Weltschmerz. I already had a few in mind. By patching together these tales I could employ different styles, influences and techniques and if there were 10 songs to be written I could work with different co writers on each one but use a core band to hold the playing together so it didn’t become too sonically diverse. I’d have to deliver my own take and comment and saw that as 2 “bookends”.
When I started writing the aborted autobiography back in 2009 when I was recovering from my second vocal operation I’d started to think about the spaces I’d grown up in and inhabited over the years. When I was about 4 years old my parents had moved my young sister Laura and I up to the converted attic space in our house in Glebe Street, Dalkeith. My grandfather had come to live with us and we didn’t have enough rooms. The attic would become my bedroom, playroom and den as I got older. It was my special place where I hid away and allowed dreams to take hold. I climbed up to it on an aluminium 2 section pull down ladder and through a hatchway that had a cover on it to stop us falling through it. My parents locked our doors at night to stop us wandering around and at the time I had no conscious thoughts about what could have happened if there had been a fire below. There were no windows only an iron opaque glassed skylight that for years I couldn’t lift and which became my spyhole on the small world I knew outside. It might sound claustrophobic but I loved that room and felt safe there. In 2009 when I started to think back I came to realise that in all the places I have ever owned I have had a “big room” and every one has been brightly lit through big windows or French Doors. Even the Studio renovation which created yet another big space had velux windows added. I’ve been recreating ‘the attic’ everywhere I have lived but I’ve added the components I missed including “escape routes” along the way. I’d been thinking again about the ‘Big Room’ and what it meant to me when my father died and I revisited a lot of memories around then. It had played a very important part in my development including being the environment where I first started listening to music and where I used to spend a lot of time reading. ( It doesn’t take much mental effort to join together the dots and see a version of the ‘attic’ on the first 3 Marillion album covers! ) I’m not exactly sure how yet but that’s where I can see the lyrical ‘bookends’ coming from.
The album was starting to take on a shape of sorts and there are enough ideas flying around to catch and nail down. The green book designated for this project’s scribbles and scratchings now lies on my desk and can be found next to me on the couch when I’m watching TV hoping to trap those fleeting moments of inspiration before the wine takes hold.The pages are filling and there are some interesting notes already.
Romain had asked for lyric ideas before he came over but I had only sketches. I’d bought a #Yamaha P115 digital piano on recommendation from Steve Vantsis as I needed a keyboard for Romain and others to play during the writing sessions. I’ve decided to take the same approach os on the ‘Feast’ sessions where the songwriting will come from basic instruments and not from copying and pasting on software programmes. Romain liked the idea and after our initial discussions in the control room he started to rummage around on the keys for ideas. We only had a couple of days but I felt that was enough for our introductory session.The Yamaha was inspiring being played through the studio #KEF LS50 monitor speakers and I let Romain find himself before we sat down and started to sculpt something together.
He came up with something inspired between early ‘Blue Nile’ and Erik Satie. A melancholy melodic piano piece that later grew into a slightly held back epic saturated with cross rhythms that had a tip of the hat to early ‘Yes’ and ‘Elbow’ as it suggested a lot of vocal cross play. At the moment it is a rough sketch but we were confident enough to nominate it as a potential final track on the album and as my ‘bookend’ lyric started to evolve, a title of “The Fat Lady Sings”. It’s early days and Romain and I plan to get together again later in the year in between his commitments to ‘Lazuli’. Steve Vantsis will be coming up here as well in that time and eventually we will bring people together to work on ideas in groups once the one on one sessions start providing basics. There are a number of people out there who I’d like to co write with, some past contributors others new faces I have to speak to. This album is going to take a while to write and I won’t commit to recording until I am sure it is ready to move to the next step. I’m lucky in that Calum Malcolm, who will be producing ‘Weltschmerz’, respects my idiosyncrasies and understands inevitable delays. We have penciled in studio recordings here for next May/ June for a potential album release in early September. It all depends on the writing and I really want this album, my last, to be special on all counts.
It could mean that we will be recording and playing festivals around the same time but that could be a positive as the early ‘Feast’ performances definitely helped us in the studio.
One factor which is coming more and more into the equation and which I have to seriously take on board is my physical health. As you have probably become aware in the last year I’ve had recurrent back problems and these have to be addressed sooner rather than later. Cortisone injections in my spine helped me get through the ‘Farewell to Childhood’ shows but as a long term solution are inadequate and are only masking the real problem. They last about 3 months and as I had my last injection in April I am currently in a lot of pain and discomfort as the spinal issues are manifesting themselves in my legs and I have trouble with balance and movement. I had MRI scans on my spine a year ago but heard nothing back from either that, the X Rays on my knees or the ultra sound on my shoulder in May when I was told I had a torn tendon by the operative who said a surgical operation may be required. I’ve become exasperated and told my local doctor that as much as I sympathise with an underfunded and overstretched NHS system which has been great to me over the years I have to look for other solutions as the bottom line is that at the moment I could not even consider touring. Somehow I have to manage this problem within the writing of the new album and find time for a potential operation and recovery before the intended shows next Summer. I have to admit that this is first and foremost in my mind just now as it’s debilitating me on a daily basis. I am seriously concerned as without a long term solution I may have to completely reconsider touring as part of my career. And that is a game changer. I have to look forward and stay positive about all this. Obviously I can still write and sing but the physical demands of touring on a bus are out of the question until I can find a solution either through extreme physio or an operation to deal with my spinal injury. The good news is that I’m not dead yet 🙂
The year, as I have mentioned in recent blogs , has been demanding and draining on every level and I am now in a position to address a lot of outstanding projects. Steve Vantsis has been an invaluable help and in the middle of his own ‘Tilt’ band project has managed to put together and engineer the live album from the ‘Moveable Feast’ tour from 2013/14. It’s been a very long time coming but we settled on 2 live shows, one from Wurzburg featuring Foss Paterson on the first incarnation of the touring band and the other from Karlsruhe featuring John Beck to give us 2 very different sets with vastly changed setlists to take in that extended event. They sound magnificent and Calum Malcolm will be mastering the recordings in the next month or so together with the ‘Farewell To Childhood’ recordings to give me 2 live releases to coincide with the “Field of Crows” remaster with the brand new Chris Kimsey remix of that studio album in November.
The live albums will be in the same physical format as the remastered albums; hardback folder with 16 pages of images and sleeve notes incorporating photos from Kai R Joachim who shot both tours as well as my own backstage shots. “Moveable Feast” will be 4 CD’s of audio while “Farewell to Childhood” will have a live DVD from Berlin together with 3 audio cd’s. With both live releases the prices will be kept competitive and we will be offering free tour t shirts with multiple orders across the live albums and the remasters as part of the drive to finance the ‘Weltschmerz’ album.
The ‘Polska” DVD/ blu ray as part of an elaborate Fishheads Club acoustic set release will be put together some time this year and more announcements on fund raising for ‘Weltschmerz’ will be announced as the months go by. This will include the remasters of ‘Vigil’, ‘Internal’ ‘Songs from the Mirror’ and ‘Suits’.
‘Weltschmerz’ is going to be an important album for all of us I hope. It’s going to need your support on every level. It isn’t just another piece of disposable plastic. I would like to make a statement with this. It’s the last one I intend to write and it has to be special.
Indy and Proud
Just to give you an update as some of you have been wondering what has happened to the remasters release schedule. Between a combination of my touring commitments and Mark Wilkinson undergoing a serious health issue in recent months we had to postpone working on the remasters soon after finishing the last release ‘Fellini Days’. I am happy to say we are now back on the tracks and working on ‘Field of Crows’ which has the added bonus of being a complete remix by none other than Chris Kimsey.
We hope to have this available at the end of April after which I will be looking at the next set of 4 albums for a release date probably around August/September. For those of you who have already bought copies I am sure you will understand the amount of work that goes into the titles and I am in the process of writing the extensive sleeve notes for ‘Field of Crows’ that is already at 4000 words and requiring severe editing to fit on the 48 pages in the hardback booklet.
The albums will be available on Amazon on April 1st and are already being put up for pre order there. We have also rejigged the fishheadsclub.eu site as problems with postage prices were identified especially regarding vinyl. The remasters will also be available through our German based mail order system on April 1st together with a t shirt clearance sale!
The first 3 remasters will be available on the tour merchandise stall together with the ’13th Star’ and ‘Feast of Consequences’ vinyl albums and with great deals on the remaining t shirt stock from the ‘Farewell to Childhood’ tour.
Vinyl releases on the remasters are planned but at the moment all my resources are aimed at the CD releases and I can’t afford to fund a pressing across 4 titles. I hope to have all 8 of the remastered albums available on vinyl by late November and in all probability will have to create a pre order to assess numbers and fund the releases as it is a very expensive outlay for a small operation such as we have here.
Steve Vantsis is assembling the material for a definitive live album from the ‘Moveable Feast ‘ tour taking in the first section with Foss Paterson and the second with John Beck on keyboards, both of which had different set lists. I hope to have this out in the summer.
The ‘Farewell to Childhood’ live project which will include DVD’s and Cd’s should be ready for the Autumn once we have had a chance to review all the available recordings.
The documentary ‘Polska’ will also be put together with an array of recordings from the Fishheads Club tour and bonus footage in a special package with the film also on Blu Ray for the first time. There’s a lot of work to be put into this but again the end of the year is a likely release option.
Every project helps fund the next and ultimately goes towards the writing and recording of ‘Weltschmerz’ that will occur throughout this year and into 2017 when I hope to get the album out in April/ May just before we hit the open airs and the end of year tour with both the new album and the 30th anniversary performances of ‘Clutching at Straws’. It seems right that I’ll be performing the last album I made with Marillion and my last solo album on the same tour.
It’s a lot of work but I am confident it can be made to happen and that I can release a series of projects that maintain the high level of quality at the right prices that keep everyone happy and help me continue working as an independent artist. Thanks for supporting me. Without you I wouldn’t be here.
Having lost the 2 German shows at the beginning of the last tour due to viral infection and the 3 Dutch shows due to John Beck’s accident I had to find a way to fulfill the gigs and at the same time make sense of the logistics and expense of an awkward routing and venue availabilities. After discussion with Yatta and my agents I decided to add some shows to fill the gaps and give me a short run in the UK and into Europe. What we have come up with is 17 dates that fit in with the availability of the band members and the bus , as it comes from Northern Ireland, as well as get to some places we didn’t play on the previous tour.
Tony Turrell will be on keyboards as John Beck, although now with his plaster removed from his broken arm, is still not gong to be fit for the dates which begin on the 9th April.
These will be the last shows on the ‘Farewell to Childhood’ tour and the last shows until at least next April when I intend to tour with the ‘Weltschmerz’ album which will be written and recorded between May 2016 and March 2017 and linked up with the 30th Anniversary final performances of the ‘Clutching at Straws’ album.
The dates I have confirmed so far are as follows
9th April Newcastle O2 Academy
10th April Nottingham Rock City
11th April Aylesbury Waterside
13th April Koln Essigfabrik
14th April Rendsburg Nordmarkthalle ( rescheduled German show)
15th April German date tbc
17th April German date tbc
19th April Amsterdam Melkweg Max ( rescheduled show , sold out)
20th April Tilburg 013 ( rescheduled show , moved to bigger hall and tickets available)
22nd April Groningen Oosterpoort ( rescheduled show now moved to bigger hall and tickets available)
23rd April Haltern am See ( rescheduled show now moved to bigger venue , tickets available)
24th April German show tbc
26th April Karlsruhe Tollhaus
27th April Luxembourg Centre Cultural Dudelange
29th April London Islington Assembly Rooms
30th April Salisbury Town Hall
1st May Bilston Robin ( sold out)
Before and after these dates band members are not available and some places we wanted to play such as Cardiff and Edinburgh among others had no suitable venues available or in other countries such as in Italy and Spain we did not get suitable offers and could not make the routing work within the time frame. Sorry.
Most tickets are already available from venues and ticketing outlets and I will put more details up when I get them. I know some people were disappointed to miss out on the last shows as they sold out very quickly and as these are the definitive last performances of the complete ‘Misplaced Childhood’ album I would advise anyone not to wait until the last moment to get tickets for these final gigs.
First of all a belated Happy New Year to one an all from the Balcony in Karlsruhe where I’m perched in a cold rainy drizzle trying to get back on my feet after a tour that was my most successful in years and also one of the most stressful for a very long time as we fought through a myriad of problems and events that at times threatened to derail us at every turn.
I will be writing up the blogs from the last section of the tour in the coming days but for now I’ll deal with the news as we enter another year that promises to hold a lot of new projects and opportunities and a new beginning.
On Christmas Day I proposed marriage to my wonderful and beautiful lady, Simone and can now announce we are engaged after 5 years together traveling back and forward from Germany to Scotland. Simone will be moving to Haddington this summer with her soon to be teenage son Liam. We’d been thinking long and hard about where we were going to live and after long and careful consideration and discussions with family we decided that for many reasons East Lothian was going to be our home. We weren’t sure for a long time and it wasn’t until Liam told us he wanted to live in Scotland last Easter that the wheels were set in motion. In November Simone was granted custody from a judge after consultation with Liam, his father and his mother and we were finally allowed to bring him over with us to start school in July. Simone’s 2 daughters are staying here in Karlsruhe and attending university and we will be in close contact and visiting each other regularly.
The girls knew I was going to propose to their mother as they had ‘stolen’ one of her rings in October to give to me so I could get the right size. They were sworn to secrecy. My daughter Tara helped me choose the engagement ring when we were in Birmingham on City Hall show day and we picked out a white gold design with an emerald and 2 diamonds as I knew Simone prefers simple jewellery. As the days went by the band and crew got to know but I kept the news within a tight circle of close friends. I wasn’t sure when the right time was to propose and had considered and rejected the idea of after the Glasgow show when Simone would be visiting for the weekend with all the kids. I showed her daughters the ring on the day they went home and they were beaming big smiles at the airport when we hugged our goodbyes.I decided to go for Christmas day.
My parents were having dinner with us and Tara was at her mothers in Edinburgh so I had a great opportunity. I picked up my Mum and Dad in North Berwick at midday and came back to the house with them to open presents by the Christmas tree Simone and I had decorated on the night she arrived 2 days before. I opened the gift Simone had given me to discover a white gold ear stud with a green tourmaline stone to replace an ear ring I’d lost months before. Seeing the same metal and green stone in the stud convinced me that she knew what I was planning and that the secret had got out.
I asked her what was her favourite spot in the garden and she said the Peter Pan pond area. We went out and I got down on one knee ,opened the box containing the ring and asked her to marry me. I thought she was going to faint as her legs started shaking. She didn’t expect it at all and it had come as a huge surprise. It had been a beautiful magical coincidence that we had both picked out the same white gold and green stoned jewellery and for both of us it was yet another sign we were totally in tune with each other and meant to be together. We went back into the house to tell my parents who were absolutely overjoyed and declared it their best Christmas present ever. Needless to say we are so happy together, very much in love and looking forward to creating our new home together with our extended families.
The announcement was delayed until the 2nd January as we had to inform our kids and other family members and with the sad death of Lemmy and then my daughters 25th birthday on New Years Day we didn’t feel it was the right time. It’s been great coming over to Durlach and meeting up with our friends here and we are both looking forward to Simone’s kids coming back from their holidays this weekend.
There’s a lot of organisation to take care of as I have to redesign the last remaining studio room and set Liam’s room up before they come over for Easter when we have to enroll him at the school. We then have the physical move of furniture and belongings to both the girl’s new flat in Karlsruhe and Liam and Simone’s to Scotland. With Liam starting school in July we both realise that our wedding will have to be put back until probably next year as I have to write and record the ‘Weltschmerz’ album and rather than try and cram our celebrations into an already crammed schedule we’d prefer to leave it until we have space and time to organise and enjoy the occasion. We are both just so glad that as of the summer we will finally be living together with Liam in Scotland in a house and garden we both love .
Well it’s been a hectic last few days with big shows, big crowds and big performances.
Bristol was a stunner and I admit to being in tears at the end of ‘Misplaced’. The sense of relief after the Dutch debacle when the wheels were close to coming off the tour only saved by Tony Turrell’s availability and his ability to step in at such short notice was palpable.Tony T did a brilliant job on his first night and we all applauded him on stage at the end of ‘the Company’. It was a night of high emotions and the crowd were absolutely terrific. I could not have asked for a more supportive and energised audience for out first UK show.We all left the stage with massive grins and there were lots of hugs all round.
The stress had taken it’s toll on my voice a little bit and I was weak on the top end,cracking a bit on the big throat holds.With 2 London shows up next I was taking no chances and was in my bunk early all potioned up.I woke up outside the gig in Islington and decided I needed something extra to take down the swelling on my chords. I jumped in a taxi and headed down to Euston to the University College Hospital A an E department where I would spend the next 4 hours until I was sent by a lovely doctor who I filled in on my situation. She gave me a short course of steroid pills and I made sure this time I got some back up amoxcyllin anti b’s which I recognised could have been the issue in Poland when I got hit by the virus. I’d had the injections in Holland and I now think that my immune system got whacked and opened the door for a hit as I didn’t have a back up.
I knocked back the first load of pills in the taxi back to a soundcheck and an interview with Team Rock that I was now missing. The doc had told me they’d take 4-5 hours to kick in and I was crossing my fingers they would be reacting before the show. They did.The warm up went well but I paid a bit for a lost soundcheck as my onstage sound was all over the place under the high reflective roof that acted like an upturned empty swimming pool.The show however was superb and although not as wild as Bristol was a brilliant London reaction.
The hospital visit gave me an off the cuff and wonderful curve into the introduction to ‘Family Business’ after ‘Pipeline’ and ‘Feast’ had rocked the room. It started with a joke about how you always find a drunk Scotsman in an A and E ward and how I was praying he didn’t recognise me as he was babbling away to himself. He was bordering on the aggressive but the arm in a sling indicated he wouldn’t be much use in a rumble. Everyone was avoiding eye contact and it was obvious he wasn’t a stranger to the premises.After a while a woman came in with a 4 year old boy sporting a mean black eye.The drunk guy started to engage him as the wee laddie sat on the floor in reception wrapping himself up in his hoodie to avoid interaction. The guy kept talking to him and then uttered what was quite a chilling statement. “Did your stepfather give you one then?” It was out the blue and the boy slid behind his mother and hid himself, I used that final utterance as the point break to introduce ‘Family Business’. It was perfect and threw a curve ball at the audience. The performance was inspired by it.
The last part of the story I left out but the seer Scotsman went out for a cigarette just as his name was called to see a triage doctor. He’s probably still sitting there waiting.
The ‘Perception’ intro also hit a chord and it was a pretty aggressive rendition that I think took some people by surprise.
Of course everyone was waiting for the main event and ‘Misplaced’ drew a huge roar of approval as it opened.What can I say? It was majestic and we careered and soared through the album to a conclusion that was met with a wall of applause.
‘Market Square’ and ‘Company’ led us home and I’d probably got the finest reaction in London for quite a while.
Backstage was beaming and we had the company of old friends to celebrate. We continued the party in the ‘New Rose’ pub down the road a few pints of Guinness salved the throat which had held up well. As I hadn’t checked in the hotel down the road and couldn’t be arsed wandering with a full quota of luggage down Islington High street at 2am I elected to stay on the bus which we shared with Lazuli who we’d given bunks to. They’d had a terrible day after breaking down in central London and having to get gear crossloaded to a van to make the show. They had no hotel so least we could do was offer our mobile residence for the night. I actually slept well and deep and woke up as fresh as you’d expect for the second night.
I discovered that 30 years to the day Marillion were in Japan so it was quite Fellini that I met up with Mark Kelly and our lawyer friend Guy for a Japanese meal before the show. We had a great natter about our experiences in previous incarnations in Japanese restaurants and the shenanigans that went on. It seems my memories are rather more clear and he did squirm a bit at the recollections. Wild days indeed smile emoticon
The voice was recovering and I went on stage confident and buzzing. The warm sake had done a trick and a decent soundcheck rectified all the faults from the previous night and I was in a good place.We hit the stage with a positive and fired up attitude.
It all went according to plan plus. ‘Family Business’ intro was retained as a lot of people had commented on how well it had worked. Dark curves and humour and a drop launch before people had come to terms with it all.
‘Perception’ took a slightly different twist as I’d been told 120 ticket holders hadn’t shown up the night before. It had seemed a little bit spacious the previous night whereas the Saturday show as a lot more obviously attended. The promoter’s rep wasn’t sure if it was unsold tickets from online sellers that hadn’t been bought or whether it was the concern after Paris. She said it had changed since the Bataclan massacre and people were concerned about going out to public gatherings. I added the fact to the introduction and it was well received as it has been since I developed it. ‘Punter’ was even more powerful for it as we all understood the connections and ramifications.
‘Misplaced’ opened to a roar of approval and expectation and we didn’t disappoint. It was high emotions from the off , ‘Lothian’ exploding in raised hands and a highly vocal crowd.The second half attacked but when we reached ‘Mylo’ I choked and cracked a bit as I remembered that it was Mark Kelly and I in Toronto when the news broke that John had died that morning. With his picture on the screen I wondered what Mark was thinking out there in the crowd.
The lift was tremendous and we reached the outro on an amazing high. ‘Perimeter Walk’ dark, broody and pulsing, ‘War Widow’ detonated and ‘Childhood’s End’ and ‘White Feather’ was performed to an ocean of raised hands. It was incredible to watch this reaction.from stage.
‘Market Square’ tore it up and ‘Company’ had a raft of ballet dancers on the venue floor. I thought it was better than the previous night by a notch.
The only annoying downer was that I was told just before the encores that there was some drunken prick who’d been nausing people off and had deliberately thrown 3 pints of beer over a woman and her daughters who’d been having a great time but were in his way as he came back from the bar. They were distraught and soaking wet. It wasn’t the right time to ‘out’ him as it would have destroyed the beautiful and positive atmosphere in the crowd at that point. Security couldn’t get to him and I hadn’t seen the incident. Tara was fuming as she had been putting up with a lot of sexist shit on the merch stall from drunks trying to grab kisses. The guy in particular that had thrown the beer was one of them. She shouted him down as he left the gig and refused to sell him merch. I was quite proud of her as she dealt with the problem, drawing security to the situation and then gave the 3 girls free t shirts as they were totally drenched. If the guy in question is reading this you should be totally ashamed of your actions and should apologise in public to these ladies whose night you ruined.
Backstage we were unaware of the entire story and I was showered and welcoming guests after a truly magical 2 nights in Islington, one of my favourite venues in London with the most friendly and helpful staff you could wish for.
With the bus wired up outside and a leave for the day off in Cambridge around 6am for a hotel check in at 2 we had time on our hands.
We elected to head for the ‘Hope and Anchor’ pub up the road, the home of Stiff Records back in the 70’s and famous venue that had hosted the early London ventures of U2 and so many brilliant bands over the years. I took Tara downstairs to the gig space and even I was surprised at just how small and cramped it was. I couldn’t believe that a band I knew from the 80’s ‘Nakd Lunch’ were playing and only to a tiny audience of about 20 people. They were brilliant, ‘Joy Division’ before ‘Joy Division’. I was sad that we only caught the last 10 mins o their set but when we were offered to sty downstairs for the lock in with out own company we had a great time having a natter and I even bought a t shirt from their merch guy who I’d met through mutual friends and had correspondence with here on FB . To make it even more Fellini orientated the sound engineer and gig promoter I knew from Charisma days back in the 80’s. It was a fine wee reunion and I exited the club with a slight wobble after quite a few dark rums.
It was a fine feeling diddly bopping down the road to the bus in the wee small hours after playing 3 brilliant shows in a row with no casualties.
The day off here in Cambridge was exceptionally quiet apart and I was glad to just calm down and rest after all the recent dramas.
Backstage now, 30 mins to showtime and feeling good about everything.
30 years on the album is still resonating with people and it’s great to celebrate the moment. I was reminded of just how long ago it was when I met with Robert Mead, the model for the original album cover after the show at the Assembly rooms.He joined us in the pub after show and we had a good natter. Strange to think that 30 years ago he was chalk marking hearts on a Berlin wall.
How the world weaves and curves on us all
Day off in Birmingham after another great gig in Cambridge last night. I managed a laundry at the venue yesterday but got worried as it was over 4 hours in the washer dryer which had a broken door and was a bit worse for wear. It looks like some of my stage T shits could fit Action Man and I’m concerned the jeans may be a couple of sizes smaller too. At least I have clean underwear again but they may be a bit tight around the crotch! smile emoticon
The venue was packed last night and w had the added bonus of a great house lighting engineer who gave us the use of 4 CO2 cannon at the front of stage that had been left over from a corporate event at the weekend. Simon also hung a couple of mirror balls from the overhead truss to give us a bit of sparkle in ‘Lavender’. He put in a great shift for us and made the show a bit more special with added visual dynamics to play with.
‘Pipelin’ literll fired off with the CO2 eruptions and we locked into the set quickly with ‘Feast’ energised before the ‘Family Business’ intro and a bluesy performance that it the mark.’Perception’ and it’s intro went down well and again hit a chord with the crowd, Simon adding red, white and blue lights across the stage to back the tricolour on the projection screen.
TonyT is really getting to grips with the set now and he is putting in some great playing as the band settles into the new line up. He deserves huge chocolate medals as he drove down from a day off in Liverpool where he’s teaching at the university and then was driven back after the show for another stint today thanks to his lady, the lovely Diane. It’s well beyond the call of duty. He obviously missed soundcheck so we had Romaine from Lazuli up on stage checking TT’s gear out and playing along on ‘Pipeline’ and ‘Lavender’ at soundcheck which was filmed by his band mates on their ever present go pro’s on selfie sticks. It was a fun moment smile emoticon
‘Misplaced’ was as always special and was greeted with high emotions all round. I am amazed just how much this album touches people and as well as the old hands there were a lot of youngsters in the audience singing along with me.The reaction at the finale was immense and it carried into the encores with mass ballet dancing particularly enthusiastic last night during ‘The Company’.
Robin set off home into the night with Tony close behind him. Steve and Vince are back home today leaving us with a depleted circus. The Lazuli boys joined us on the bus last night for some wine and pizza as we had to hold off on our journey as per usual as hotel check in was at 2pm leaving us with hours to spare on these short UK hops.
I wasn’t up late and left the wine rats in the downstairs bus lounge. It meant I woke up earlier than I wanted and found myself parked up by the canal. I opted for the walk along the tow path as it was a nice morning and the hotel was somewhere in the distance. After about 15 mins laden down with luggage I was regretting the adventure but it was a beautiful walk and I needed the cardio especially if I’m going to fit in my new shrunken jeans.
4 shows to go and the next run of 3 will be a toughie that I’ll have to take care with to reach Glasgow in good shape. The voice is holding up and I feel pretty fit these days. A lot more fit than I was a few weeks ago. I’m looking forward to getting dropped of at the farm on Saturday morning as the tour bus passes by the studio on the way to Glasgow. Simone and her kids are all across for the weekend and arrive Friday night in Scotland. It’s going to be fantastic having them all over for the last show and it’s the first time Simone’s 2 daughters have been at the studio for quite a while and they are all excited to be coming to Scotland again.
But today is chill out and rest and take the deep breath before the spurt to the finish line in Glasgow on Sunday. I can sense the end of the tour now and will be glad to step off the bus for the last time on Sunday night with all my detritus picked up over the last weeks.I might just even manage to hold back a couple of bottles from the wine rats for Christmas.Doubtful though.
It’s been a tough last few days in the circus as I keep on searching for silver linings in the dark clouds that passed over us.
Tomorrow we reassemble on stage in Bristol at the 02 with Tony Turrell on keyboards. He’s been doing his homework and arrives for rehearsals at midday. Robin and Steve have filled him in on all the keys and sounds etc so we will be edgy but confident as we all know Tony T more than capable of learning and playing material at short notice.
It was sad to say goodbye to John Beck who was a forlorn figure on the ferry over to Dover. Watching him weave his lonely way along the upper decks that were rising and falling in the heavy Channel sea raked by 70 mph winds you couldn’t but help feel for him.
We’d been stuck in Calais for over 4 hours waiting to board and cabin fever was setting in having been trapped on the bus for the last 16 hours with only very occasional pauses in truck stops for relief and basic foodstuffs. It was a tough day for everyone and we all tried to mask our severe disappointment at losing the 3 Dutch shows.
The announcement of the replacement dates in April with the Groningen show moving to the bigger hall as it was now available gave me a lift as did the chance of 5 days to rest my voice before the UK shows.. With 5 shows to be replaced I’ve decided to extend the tour by adding a few more dates in areas we missed on this run to take it up to around a month on the road from 18th April onwards.
I have already asked Tony Turrell to continue on keyboards as John Beck is at least 3 months in recovery and will need extensive physio on his hand to get back to full fitness. We both agreed that banking on him being able to play by April was too much of a gamble.
He left the bus at 6am on Monday morning after we had parked up in Folkestone around 2 in a coach and lorry park where we could get power to the bus for the night’s stopover. Alastair, Vince and Robin left with John for the rain up to London and beyond while Steve, Gavin and Angus came with us to Bristol for their trains home for the couple of days we had off before the 02 rehearsals and gig.
Only Tara, Yatta and I stayed in the Travellodge and we were all desperate for a shower to get rid of the second skin that had grown under our grimy clothes.My throat was scratchy and my nose blocked from the near 36 hours of traveling in the bus which by the time we arrived in the city felt like a submarine. I walked up the corridor to my room still anticipating the swell of the ferry deck and the rolling of the bus in the winds that battered us along the motorway.
The shower was pure ecstasy and I ignored the box that would be home for the next couple of days focusing on the welcoming double bed and the promise of star shapes later. None of the remaining trio fancied going out in the rain and cold and we elected for the basic hotel fare of pie and mash and a bottle of wine ( a lot cheaper than the £40 for the same meal for Tara and I on the midnight ferry ).
A catch up on ‘I’m a Celebrity’ in my room with a bottle of wine from the hotel bar before the eyelids collapsed and I slipped under the heavenly duvet. I hoped that I’d be waking up in the morning to no more dramas and a relatively stress free day for a change.I needed some chill time and rest.
Tara makes her hotel room her home. I’m truly amazed at just how much stuff she carries around.
First day off lunch at 3 with Tara and Yatta on the Glassboat restaurant up from hotel. My first turkey dinner of the season. Barbers for a trim then holed up in hotel until later when a windswept Lazuli arrived to take us out for a fantastic curry in town.
The evening came to a close after meeting up at the hotel with my dear friend Andy Fox for an interview together with Romaine and Dom from Lazuli for his GTFM/BCFM Rockshow.
Bed around midnight then up at 1 next afternoon again. Felt a bit throaty so a long trudge up town to pick up supplies from Holland and Barrett to ward of any potential incoming. Bought some Christmas presents with Tara before some ramen noodles and another hole up in the hotel room.
It’s the first time I’ve actually had a chance to have a decent wander around this city despite visiting it on tours over the years. It’s a really beautiful place especially around the market areas where I could have spent hours investigating the stalls.
Really wary of keeping myself in shape for the next 8 gigs and trying not to get stressed out about them. Not sure whether to head out for food tonight or just eat in and have a really early night. Pressure is most definitely on to get through these UK shows in style.