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Steve Hogarth’s vision


“Singing is the most indecent thing ever. It’s even worse than striping off, since it makes you unveil your soul”, André Manoukian (French Music Producer) once said. We will not claim yet again thatwe never thought we would ever quote that kind of “celebrity” in one of our articles, otherwise no one would believe us anymore. And yet, Manoukian’s very relevant statement would enchant Steve Hogarth, Marillion’s singer, whose interview is available below. On the occasion of his new album with Richard Barbieri, an album he couldn’t wait to record, Hogarth discovered the pleasure of working by himself on his vocals, which enabled him to fully express himself. An intimacy so artistically and emotionally liberating that he hopes to experience again during the recording of Marillion’s next albums. And apropos of Marillion’s albums, it was a good opportunity for us to take stock of the band’s latest news.

Steve Hogarth’ writing has always been really personal and this new project with Richard Barbieri is no exception. Every song is an excuse to confide his opinions on our world, on human nature and psychology, or to tell an anecdote. By the way, the one which inspired the song “Your Beautiful Face” is really worth it.

Discover what Hogarth wants to tell us.

« Guns don’t kill people but people kill people »

Radio Metal: Apparently, you and Richard [Barbieri] had for a long time the desire to work together. Wasn’t it frustrating in a way not to be able to do it sooner because of your respective schedules?

Steve Hogarth (vocals) : It was frustrating. It used to bug me constantly if I’m honest, because I was a bit worried that I’ll never get it together and never have the chance to do it. I’m very conscious of the fact that when I was 22 or 23, if somebody had said to me back in the days when I was listening to Tin Drum I could be working with Richard, I would have been thrilled beyond measure. So it was frustrating not to just get on with it, but in a way it was a good thing because it gave Richard time to send me a lot of music. He would send me instrumental music every few months, and at one point, I think three or four came in right at the beginning of 2011. Quite a few came in at once, and I was listening to them all and there were all different to each other but all really brilliant. It was frustrating, but I made a CD nice to drive around in the car listening to his ideas, so I had plenty of time to live with the music before I’d really got around to developping it. That wasn’t a bad thing. Marillion decided to take a month off in August last year, and so I went, I made a little studio in the top of my house, went up and recorded all the vocals completely alone. It was a lot of fun. I’ve been making notes, I’ve been muttering and singing into my iPhone when I was driving around as well if ideas came to me, so that I was playing all those back to find out what I’d gotten and then trying all that is in the sound. So the time helps.

Didn’t you have to much ideas for this album since you’d wanted to do this for a very long time?

I always have ideas, and they all go in my laptop these days. It’s not like in the old days where you had books full of scribbles and toughts… I try to transfer anything I have now into the laptop so I’ve got them all in one place. I have, I don’t know, it must be 50 lyrics at least just floating around. The way I write with Marillion is we get together in our studio, the band jams and I look at lyrics and try to make them work. So some of what I used on this album were things that I’d even tried with Marillion and that didn’t work out. On certain instrumentals that Richard was giving me there was a really high energy, one that eventually became the song Crack. I’ve been adding to that lyrics for years, but I never found a way of using it. I found a way of using it in this, so it wasn’t like I got a lot of things specifically written for the case I have to work with this person or that person. That’s my inner thoughts really that create the lyrics, and then if I enter into a project with someone, I just have a look at what I’ve got. I also wrote some of the lyrics on this album that were directly inspired by the instrumentals themselves, like I was driving around listening to the music Richard had made and that became Red Kite. Those words grew out of listening to that music, it didn’t all come of the shelf.

By the way, will there be a second album?

I hope so. I wouldn’t want to start one now though, it would be nice to have a period of time that passes. Who knows what the futur brings? If Richard has the time at some point maybe in 2 or 3 years, if he has time again in the future just to send me some music, I would certainly make the time to work on it, because I’m conscious of what a success artistically this album has been. It’s been a real creative burst for me, and it was such a lot of fun writing this record that I’d certainly want to do another one if I could.

« I think conflicts between countries almost always come out of a failure to understand one another’s culture. »

This album is called “Not The Weapon But The Hand”. What do you mean with such a title? Is that some kind of a pacifist message?

Well it’s a little bit like that old cliché that guns don’t kill people but people kill people. Any weapon is only as dangerous as the hand that carries it. But it’s an extract from one of the lyrics for that album on the song called “Your Beautiful Face”. In fact the very last song is a reprise of that song which contains that line. I guess it’s not the weapon that does the damage but in whose hands it rests. I was thinking specifically of a woman who I encountered maybe 20, 25 years ago. She was incredibly beautiful and knew it. She was also very ambitious and quite cold and calculating, and she knew how to use her beauty to get what she wanted. Last year, at some point in the spring I run into her daughter who has more or less the same face right now, because she’s probably nearly the same age as the woman I encountered 25 years ago [laughs]. But she’s a very different person, she’s a much softer, sweeter character. She has the same weapon but she chooses to use it in a different way. That’s where the title came from.

Do you think that too much conflict are solved with weapons instead of talking, shaking hands etc.?

I think we all do that, don’t we? We all get ourselves into a kind of hot or angry state about something or someone when really if we were just to go and talk to them then we might save ourselves and them a lot of conflicts. I think most conflicts come out of a failure to understand another person, and I think conflicts between countries almost always come out of a failure to understand one another’s culture. So stupidly you go and wage war against another human being when everybody knows we’re all the same, we’re all made out of the same flesh and bones, and we all have basically the same needs. You know, I have written about this many times as well.

« Everything that we do and everything that we are comes through a kind of filter or a veil of fear, self-defense, and self-consciousness. […] There’re only two real emotions, love and fear, and everything we do is a result of one or the other. »

It also looks like it’s a very personal album, you’ve got some intimistic songs like “Naked”, am I right?

Yeah, you’re kind of right… “Naked” is really about the fact that everything that we do and everything that we are comes through a kind of filter or a veil of fear, self-defense, and self-consciousness. In fact perhaps the underlying theme in this album is that as I say, only love’ll make you free. There’re only two real emotions, love and fear, and everything we do is a result of one or the other. Everything we do is either out of love or either out of fear. That’s probably the underlying theme in this album. All my works are personal, I mean they’ve been for 25 years… I don’t really write fiction. I write about my innermost feeling, things that has been happening to me, my own love and fear I guess.

« As there’s another human being in the room, you will be conscious of them hearing and making a judgement, maybe hearing something that isn’t right yet, or isn’t finished yet, as well as when you’re on your own, you don’t show anything to anyone until you feel you’ve arrived at the vision. »

Do you think that you have more freedom to write personal lyrics than with Marillion since it’s kind of a solo project?

No, it’s exactly the same. I have total freedom within Marillion to write whatever I choose to, and I have had ever since I joined the band in 1989. They just let me do what I feel like doing. And you know, the five of us then become a judge of what is and isn’t working, so that’s slightly more… The quality control for us in Marillion is quite involved and sometimes it’s a bit frustrating. Whereas the process with Richard was very different. He would send me an instrumental piece of music just by email and I would live with that for a while, then in August last year I would settle in my room on my own with a microphone and just experiment with words and approaches. Sometimes I’d just be talking or whispering or screaming or singing, and in some songs all of those things at once! So it was great fun just to be completely alone. I suppose that’s a kind of freedom that you have when you’re alone, that you don’t have if even one another person in the room, no matter who it is, because as soon as there’s another human being in the room, you will be conscious of them hearing and making a judgement, maybe hearing something that isn’t right yet, or isn’t finished yet, as well as when you’re on your own, you don’t show anything to anyone until you feel you’ve arrived at the vision. So that was very liberating, and I’d like to work like that again, I might even work like that in the future with Marillion. Why should I stand in a studio with a producer and sing the vocals? Why not take it all home and do it on my own? I think I’ll definitely do that.

By the way, can you update us on Marillion’s future? The latest Marillion album was an acoustic record, Less Is More, and was released three years ago. The last real studio album was released four years ago, so… Why such a long time?

Well there’re probably two reasons: first of all, the way everything worked out over the last two or three years… We’ve been touring when perhaps at one time we wouldn’t have toured. We were offered the tour in Germany with Deep Purple the November before last one, and we decided we would take a break from writing to do that tour. Then we had a convention, we decided to take a break from writing to do our convention in Holland and so… We kept being dragged out onto the road where maybe in the past we’d said “no, we’re not coming up, we’re not doing anything, we’re making a record.” So that dragged the whole thing out a bit. Also, I think back in 2009 when we first started jamming for the next studio album, we weren’t really ready, but we’ve been working in between the touring. We’ve been jamming, working and arranging, and we had a meeting in December and had a listen through what we’ve got so far. We have some really strong things, I’m excited about what’s gonna happen now. We’re actually going down to real work to studio, to Gabriel’s place on January the 30st to live and work together for a while, to pull all of these songs together a bit. Then we’ll go back to our own studio and I’m pretty confident that by the summer, we’ll have an album recorded and ready for release in the autumn. So it’s going well, it’s sounding great.

Interview conducted on january, 20th, 2012, by phone
Transcription : Chloé (with Julia)

Steve Hogarth’s Website : http://stevehogarth.com/
Marillion’s Website : www.marillion.com



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