Interview: Ian Mosley (Marillion)

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HIT CHANNEL EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: February 2012. We talked to Ian Mosley, the drummer of Marillion. Marillion is one of the greatest bands of the last 30 years. They were by far the best ‘80s progressive rock band and since then they have released many remarkable albums. Except for their impressive studio efforts, they are a really fantastic live band. Ian Mosley, their drummer since their second album, talked to us about Marillion’s upcoming album, his future projects, his views about the recording industry and many more. Read below the very interesting things he told us:


Are you satisfied with the feedback you got so far for the “Less is More” album?

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I’ m more than satisfied. We started this album just for fun and it developed as a kind of project. Then we thought we could do a tour with it and we did it. It seems that our fans liked it in an amazing way and we are really pleased with it. We just felt that we had toured a lot and we said “we can’t go in the studio and make a new album right now”. We thought we could look and work with some of our back catalogue, but of course we didn’t expect it would go so well and then we went on tour with it. So, we had good fun, it was a really fun album to make and the same happened with the tour as well.


Is the album cover of “Less Is More” a black and white tribute to The Beatles’ “Let It Be” album?

(Laughs) Looking about it and listening about it does reflect some of this sound. But no, we weren’t thinking about it at all. It was just the way it came out.


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How close is the new Marillion studio album to be ready? Can you give us a hint about its sound?

We have been working on it for a long time now and we have been touring as well. So, in between tours for the last 2-3 years, we are working on the new album. We just spent two weeks in Peter Gabriel’s studios. It was fantastic, we were very productive and now we’re back in our studios working on some of the stuff we worked in Peter Gabriel’s Real World studios and we had a good day today. We are working on a track right now, on a rock tune, on a funk tune. We are always doing streets.


Are you involved with any projects outside Marillion? You ‘ve done only “Postmankind” and the album with Iris.

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Yes, you are right. I wanted to tape something like “Postmankind” over the last two years. I always wanted to work with other people. I used to work with a guy called Steve Hackett, the ex-guitarist of Genesis.


Yes, I’ve talked with Mr Hackett.

He’s a good friend and he’s a really lovely guy. He just came in our concert just before Christmas and I spoke to him after the concert and I’m really pleased to work with him again at some time because Steve is a phenomenon as a guitar player. It’s great for a drummer to work with such a guy. So, when we will have a bit of a break and we will have a little break, possibly after this (2012) tour, I would love to sit and work with Steve Hackett again. That will be my next work, if that happens, I will do it.


You don’t belong to a major label for many years. Is this fact more liberating or more terrifying as far as the writing, recording and promotional process is concerned?

You know, we are very fortunate to have a very loyal fanbase and we are lucky for that. We have the complete freedom, more or less we always do whatever we want to do really, even when we were in some of the major labels. But now, we have control in everything we are doing and when we have finished the writing of an album, we can do some bilateral deals with major record labels about the distribution or so. We’re in a very good place at the moment. We record during the last 2 years and we had a really good contact with our fanbase. I don’t think we have been affected by the tremble the recording industry has at the moment.


You foresaw the impact of the Internet many years before anyone else.

(Ed: He interrupts me) Yes, yes we do!


Do you think that in the end, only good live acts like you, will survive?

You know that the things have changed very quickly in the last 10 years and the record companies still put money on commercial rap and to everything that has success. If there wasn’t the Internet, we wouldn’t be around now. You can use it to contact with the fanbase. If we want to do a project, we can ask the fans “what do you want?” Previously, the record label would finance and support the first full album of a newer band. So, a newer band should try to put everybody in the mail address and let them know what they are doing. If you won’t do it, they won’t follow you, because we are in a tough world.


The loyalty of your fanbase can be compared only with the Grateful Dead’s one.

(Laughs) We are a kind of mini version of Grateful Dead, yeah! Yes, we are similar, too. It seems that we have a massive family, the world-wide family. It’s incredible, we are really very fortunate.


Do you think you owe them your existence?

Absolutely, yes! Now when you put out the first single or album and you don’t have a success, the record label would drop you straight away. You can’t go on. Now, it doesn’t seem that a record company would keep a band for 2 or 3 albums. The whole foundation was built to make quick money. If the money can’t come quick, the band will drop. So, if you are a really good live band you have to go and play in the clubs, even if it ‘s a cottage. Even when you aren’t a big band and you haven’t a contract, you have to play gigs to keep the tradition.


Back in ‘80s, there were even mainstream radio shows and music magazines which featured Marillion music. Now, there aren’t. Do you think that except for the record labels, the quality of music journalism has also collapsed? I truly believe it!

Marillion have never been fashionable within any of the press. Even in the ‘80s we weren’t that fashionable.


Yes, but they played your music! BBC played “Kayleigh” and other singles.

They usually played “Kayleigh” but I think most of the commercial stations, the media, they thought Marillion would split up in the ‘80s (laughs). We are still oppressed by the media. It seems little competitive. If they think you don’t look well, they judge you by the look, they won’t review your album or your concert and they do it complementary. And I‘ll tell now the same you said earlier: if you are a very good live band, people don’t appreciate anything more than this.


How strange did you feel in 1983 when from a big name like Steve Hackett you joined a band which had done only one album?

On the last tour I did with Steve Hackett after a show, I signed autographs for fans and I remember many of those fans came and asked me what I think of Marillion and what I know about Marillion members. And I said “I don’t know Marillion” and they answered “But they sound a lot like Genesis” and then I checked them up. A few months later, Steve Hackett stopped touring and I hadn’t a band anymore and Marillion were looking for a drummer. It looks really strange that I finally heard what the people were talking about this band. They had done an album and I came to record with them in the second one as a session, as a studio drummer. I came along well with everyone in the band and I felt relieved and very special about that. They weren’t a small band then, they were going well, they always were selling over shows since their first album. I’m very lucky that I didn’t have to do hundreds and hundreds of club and pub shows before fitting in that outset. I think they were pretty successful, really.


Are you happy that progressive rock has returned or would you say “where were all those people when we were alone for so many years ”? It’s more acceptable to say now that you like progressive rock more than 5, 10 or 20 years ago?

We had noticed that progressive rock was really fashionable in the ‘70s and then in the late ‘70 and the ‘80s, it wasn’t and Marillion weren’t expected to have success at all, they were out of fashion, maybe because of the punk revolution. Yes, you are right. During the last 5 or 10 years there are more fans who like progressive, heavy progressive rock which are great live and bands like Porcupine Tree, Dream Theater and one of my favourite, System of A Down. They are more fashionable, they write rich music, but from the other side, I’m not quite sure what progressive means to be. It seems like a music that is longer than 2 minutes, people would think it’s progressive.


I think it’s about the imagination and not about the length of a composition. I mean “A Day In The Life” (The Beatles) is progressive. Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree, solo) told me that. It’s one of the first progressive rock songs.

Yes!! But we are always doing what we are doing, whether it’s 2 minutes long or whether it’s 10 minutes long. We’re lucky because we don’t have those boundaries, really, and do what we really want to do. We don’t get in the “longer” trap , but I don’t know if the records with the long tracks are really moving forward all the time.


What kind of music are you listening this period?

Me? I don’t listen to a lot right now. From a period of 2,3 or 4 years back I really wanted to listen to System of a Down a lot. I really enjoyed their albums. I think they are a real, real band. I’m still listening to old stuff, like Led Zeppelin, the 70’s magic music, I’m listening to Steven Wilson solo albums, especially the latest one. I really like Steven Wilson, he has an AMAZING musicianship.


And a nice person! Great guy!

He’s a very nice person. I’ve met Steven a few times. He’s actually very modest, he’s very humble and as a person he’s great. I’ m listening to everything, pop, electronic, anything (laughs). I’m not proud to listen to anything (laughs).


Which music dream you haven’t fulfilled yet?

I would like to play again with Steve Hackett, at the moment (ed: long pause. He’s thinking).


Maybe someone like David Gilmour (Pink Floyd guitarist)?

David Gilmour?! Yes!! I would love to play with him. He is one of the best guitarists, you know! He’s so good on guitar. Yeah, I would love to play with him. (ed: pause) I don’t know. It’s so difficult for me to think of people.


What was it like to back Fish for the song “Market Square Heroes” in 2007?

That was quite funny because we didn’t plan anything. We didn’t plan that at all. Fish had to play 4 miles from my home and someone told me “Why don’t you go?” and I said “Yeah, I might do”. I went along, Mark Kelly (ed: keyboards) went along, I think Steve Rothery was one mile from there and said “Come on, let’s join”. We live all very close to each other and suddenly we came on stage with Fish. We did “Market Square Heroes” because we were in Market Square. It was really fun, it happened with our willingness, but it was like sleeping with your ex-wife.


(Mad Laughs). David Gilmour said exactly the same after Pink Floyd reunion in 2005 Live 8!

(Laughs) He said that about how he was playing again with Roger Waters (laughs).


And I was wondering if that was good or bad (laughs)..

Now, us and Fish we are a little older and a little wiser -not much wiser, but a little- and we now get on ok. But we won’t go play again together, because it’s about.. different priorities, a different band. Marillion now is a very different band really from what it was in the ‘80s.


Marillion haven’t played in Greece. Is it possible to happen soon?

Oh, listen: I always hear “You have never been to Greece” and it’s such a beautiful country. I haven’t been to Greece. Of course, if it would be possible, we will come, that’s all I know.


Looking your touring schedule, I think that’s impossible during 2012.

It wouldn’t be 2012, but it would be the year after. It’s not something impossible to be.


You have many fans, I have a friend who travels and visits you in Marillion Weekends, in shows all over Europe, and many, many other fans. But I think the Greek music press promotes bullshit. You have fanbase, but you haven’t coverage.

In Greece we have a fanbase?


Yes, yes!! A very active one. With a fansite too. I have a friend, Marinos, who have met all of you and Steve Hogarth especially. Fish played a sold-out show some years ago with very little press coverage.

It’s down to a Greek promoter and to contact with our management. We really want to make it happen.


The show will be a success, there is no question. The difficult thing is for the promoters to think to bring Marillion.

Look that, I have never been to Greece. I can’t believe that I have never been to Greece. Is one of those countries that you have to go in your life. We want   to come and we would love to play a gig.


A huge “THANK YOU” to Ian Mosley for his time and the great answers. Also, I would like to thank Lucy Jordache for her valuable help .

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