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Summer 2013 sees the release of Fish’s much anticipated new studio album “A Feast of Consequences”, his first since the much lauded “13th Star” in 2007 which took him on a World tour finishing at the end of 2008 when a problem with his vocal chords was identified and a hospital operation was required to remove a cyst resulting in a 6 month layoff from singing.
“It was a pretty traumatic time as you would imagine and I think I returned to the stage too early as a further operation was required at the end of 2009 after only a few gigs to remove what was discovered to be excessive cell growth on the site of the previous operation. My life was further complicated by the collapse of a difficult second marriage which had lasted only 6 months; a culmination of a lot of bad decisions and a feast of consequences that provoked me into a rethink on my approach to a lot of things!”
In June 2010 he came up with the idea to ease back into his voice with acoustic shows together with keyboard player Foss Paterson and guitarist Frank Usher. The ”Fishheads Club” tour began and 170 shows later in December 2011 the doors closed on one of his most successful tours to date.
“My confidence had been shattered by events in 2009. I wasn’t ready to write another album and I needed to find myself again. I renewed my interest in scuba diving after a few weeks escape in Costa Rica and picked up my SSAC (Scottish Sub Aqua Club) “dry suit ticket”, a qualification to enable me to dive in water where it’s too cold to dive in a wet suit. I took up hill walking and camped on the 100 mile long West Highland way. I was reinvigorated! I also needed to prove to myself and others that I still had a voice and the acoustic format offered me the way back in. The first shows in summer 2010 were a test on how the format would work and after a couple of weekends I decided to expand on the idea! I didn’t realise how popular they would become!”
Fish took songs from throughout his 30 year old career in the music business, picking material from his 4 highly successful albums with Marillion in the 80’s and his 9 solo albums, deconstructing them to a 3 piece acoustic format and in his own words “rediscovering the art of song writing”. The setlists would change every night and more often than not the fans attending would call out the songs resulting in a fresh exciting show that was amplified by the venues chosen, everything from down coal mines in Poland to churches in Germany. The shows were intimate but still retained the energy associated with Fish performances.
“My voice was back and the fans were amazed at what we were pulling off on the night with gigs over 2 hours long taking in songs as diverse as “Fugazi”, “Incubus”, “Jigsaw” and “Slainthe Mhath” from the Marillo days and “Raw Meat”, “ Vigil”, “Pilgrims Address” and “A Gentleman’s Excuse Me” from my solo years. It was a great balance of material. It was quite inspiring for the 3 of us on stage too!”
The fans however needed the “electric” fix and more importantly a new studio album. The roots had been planted and in 2012 ideas began to take shape. A decision was made in the summer after a few co headline UK shows with Glenn Hughes and some European festivals with a full electric band to advance the writing which had been slow after the come down from the lengthy Fishheads Club tour.
“It had been difficult getting focused on writing again and Frank and Foss, my intended co-writers, had been elusive, everyone readjusting to being off the road. I needed to bring someone else in to help me and having been reacquainted the previous summer with Steve Vantsis, my principal co-writer on “13th Star”, I decided to renew the partnership. It made sense to follow up on what had been my best received album to date with the same team but this time taking in the lessons I had learned from the acoustic format.”
Calum Malcolm, the producer of “13th Star” was also excited at being involved and initial recording schedules were put in place for the end of the year. Foss Paterson joined the writing team and material started to take shape, the initial idea being to preview the entire album at the biannual fan club convention at Leamington Spa in the Autumn to begin studio work in November for an album release early Spring.
“Although Steve, Foss and I had managed to put together around 6 new songs I was still well short of the album and I agreed a postponement with Calum. We debuted 4 tracks at the convention; Steve’s “Beautiful People/All Loved Up”, ”The Other Side”, “Feast of Consequences” and Foss’s “Crucifix Corner”, one of the 5 songs from “The High Wood” suite, and I must admit to being lifted by the response they received despite being “under construction.”
Although Frank Usher had played at the convention he hadn’t been involved in the writing sessions due to other commitments. Fish needed a guitarist to add to the creative process and approached Robin Boult who had come along to see the band in Leamington.
“Robin was in the original solo line up on the “Vigil” tour in 1989, had written with me on the second solo album “Internal Exile” in 91 and on the “Suits” album in 94 as well as playing on the 93 covers album, “Songs from the Mirror” and the “Yin/Yang” compilations in 95. He was in the touring band throughout that time and had last played with me on the tour supporting the “Sunsets on Empire” album I wrote with Steve Wilson from “Porcupine Tree” in 97. We had always stayed in touch. It seemed logical to ask him to help out as the pairing of Frank and Robin had always been a favourite of both me and the fans.”
The recording postponed, the writing continued and Robin Boult had an immediate impact on the chemistry. By Christmas there were another 3 songs co-written with Steve Vantsis in working order “Perfume River”, “Blind to the Beautiful” and “Thistle Alley”, another of the songs that made up the “High Wood”. Robin’s contribution was telling but again another studio rescheduling was necessary as it was obvious the album still required more work.
“The original intention had been to write the songs in a simplified manner as suggested by the Fishheads Club tour, embellish the arrangements in advanced demos, and then play them live before going into a full recording schedule. The new postponement actually helped us out. Calum’s schedule was full until June 2013, after the May UK tour which itself had already been moved twice. This meant I had ample time to finish writing and demoing and that I would have 13 shows to play the new material with the band that was going to record the album. It was, like the writing, an “old fashioned” approach which would mean we could record material we would know inside out as a full band and rely less on overdubs and more on live studio performances. Calum liked the idea.”
Song writing resumed in January and it came as no surprise to anyone that Frank Usher resigned from the line up to be replaced in the touring and studio band by Robin Boult.
“Frank hadn’t really taken any part in any of the writing sessions and I had rarely seen him. He had a lot of other commitments outside my own and in January when I had to really nail the schedules he decided to resign. I was disappointed, as were we all, as I’ve known him for over 30 years and he’s been in my band for the major part of my solo career. He has opted out in the past and re-joined and I have no doubt we will be playing together in the future sometime. I had hoped to have had both Frankie and Robin in the set up but I respect his decision and I am lucky that I have such an accomplished player and writer in Robin that can step into the position.”
The touring band in May in the UK will be Steve Vantsis, bass guitar, Gavin Griffiths, drums, Robin Boult, guitars and Foss Paterson on keyboards, all old accomplished hands in Fish’s line ups in the studio and on tour.
The tour will allow the album to be played in before recording but as Fish acknowledges himself the new material is unknown to fans and he will be balancing the sets out with older songs so as not to demand too much from the audience on the night.
“There’s no point in playing the entire new album live on a night as the fans want to enjoy themselves as well as discover what I have been up to for the last few years. To ask them to take in what is now over 70 minutes of new material in one sitting is too much so we will be playing different sets incorporating the new songs with songs they already know and love from throughout my career. I think it’s going to be really refreshing and I know we will be kept on our toes on the stage every night!”
“A Feast of Consequences” will be demoed in the studio where Fish lives and works in Haddington, East Lothian in April and will be able to be heard on Fish’s new official web site fishheadsclub.com before the tour to give fans an idea of what is coming at the shows and on the album to be released later in the Summer.
There are currently video clips filmed in the studio in recent months containing interviews with Fish discussing the new songs and providing an insight into the writing process available at fishheadsclub.com. These will continue to be added throughout the tour and the recordings.
“I decided to revamp the entire web site in 2012 to create something that was more manageable and integrated with my Facebook pages and twitter accounts which are updated on a near daily basis. With the help of John Reid, my IT consultant, the communication with fans is as never before and it plays an extremely important part in how I deal with my music career these days. This year we are adding download facilities for live concert recordings both from the UK tour and the 2 month European tour that will follow the release of “A Feast of Consequences”. I’ll be able to add historical recordings and other audio through the site as downloads, something I haven’t seriously considered in the past but which I realise is what a lot of fans want as well as albums with high quality and entertaining packaging. “
Fish’s entire solo catalogue will be repackaged and re-released over the next year and as with the new album contain bonus DVDs and other exclusive tracks and multi-page booklets. There are also plans for limited edition vinyl releases and reprinted T shirts to accompany them.
“I still write and record albums not tracks! I approach my writing in the same way I did with Marillion in the 1980’s in that when I start writing it is to create a volume of material that hangs together and reflects a particular period in my life. In 2010 I needed to move forward from the darkness of the previous year and the Fishheads Club tour acted as a barrier and allowed me to approach “A Feast of Consequences” with a different perspective. I think the turning point was in January 2011 when I went to Cuba for 6 weeks on my own. As well as racking up 35 scuba dives I found the time to think and write, taking in new experiences and observations, tinkering with ideas and getting used to putting thoughts on paper again. The title of the album came from a book I was reading about global resources that referred to a quote from Robert Louis Stevenson; “Everybody, soon or late, sits down to a banquet of consequences”. I twisted it into my album title but the meaning was retained. It’s born from a similar mind-set as I was in during my first solo album “Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors” in that it deals with issues outside my own personal life, more worldly issues, but still links them together. The lyrics and songs, the feel and direction of the album are all co-related .Yes the individual tracks all stand on their own but they are designed to work together. I always used to say I was designing roller coasters when I worked on an album. The dynamic works and delivers best when you listen to the entire album together as a continuous experience.”
A major element of the new album is the 5 song suite “the High Wood” that was inspired by a visit to the Somme battlefield on his birthday in 2011. It’s a combination of songs about World War One, a subject a young Derek Dick studied at Dalkeith High School and which continues with his love of history to this day.
“I ended up in the Somme almost by accident as I was at a loss on what to do on my birthday. A good friend of mine, Simon Moston, a WW1 battlefield guide suggested I visit as I was in Paris after a Fishheads Club gig and had a couple of days to spare before the next one in the UK. I travelled to Beaumont Hamel and actually woke up on my birthday in a bed and breakfast place built on what was “no man’s land”. It later turned out that I had been sleeping just a few hundred metres away from where my maternal granddad, William Paterson, had built trenches while serving with the 8th Battalion Royal Scots back in 1916. I also discovered I was staying on the night of my birthday in Arras where my paternal granddad had been stationed as RFC ground crew at the same time. Needless to say it was a coincidence of extraordinary proportions. During my trip I visited the High Wood, a scene of desperate battles over a 3 month period the same year. For some reason it had a profound effect on me and when I discovered weeks later that William Paterson had fought there and helped dig a trench system called “Thistle Alley” I knew I had to write about it.”
“The High Wood” is a suite of songs in true progressive rock style that takes in events from the warfare and history of the period and ties them in with modern soldiery, paralleling experiences in a story wrapped in worldly and personal experiences, the thread that holds “A Feast of Consequences” together.
“It’s been a very complicated album to write and I think when people finally hear it they will understand why it has taken so long to bring together. Balancing planetary observations, world issues and big pictures with a frayed personal life, reflecting on the darkness and finding the positive amongst it all is demanding. I think we have managed to create something special and worth waiting for. It’s a maverick approach but what else would you expect from me?“
Fish is on tour in May in the UK and in Europe from September. Dates are available on the official web site fishheadsclub.com
His latest release is a double DVD from the Fishheads Club tour featuring a full acoustic set from University of Derby and an intimate recording in front of invited guests at his studio earlier this year.
Fishheads Club Live is available with other titles and a full range of merchandise through the web site.
“Gone Fishing – Leamington Spa 2012 Sunday Night” will be released as a DVD to coincide with the UK tour and features the full performance from that show including live performances of material from “Feast of Consequences” as well as his first performance of “Grendel” since Reading festival with Marillion in 1982.
The audio from both of these DVDs will be available as downloads through the official web site in May together with other live shows and studio albums.
“A Feast of Consequences” will be available for advance order in different formats from 1st May through the web site.
For more details on these releases and other up to date information on Fish please visit fishheadsclub.com
You can also follow him on Twitter – @FishDerekDick (https://twitter.com/fishderekdick)
Or on Facebook- Fish musician/band (http://www.facebook.com/derek.dick)
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