Music Critic Riley Wells catches up with Steve Hogarth from Marillion
‘Hello, is that Mr Steve Hogarth?’
‘What’s left of him.’
Marillion frontman Steve ‘H’ Hogarth is a natural storyteller, a trait which has most likely been a blessing in his long and tremendously successful career since joining the band in 1989. After 19 studio albums, Marillion have built up a cult following who are ‘nuts’ but love to be involved with the production process. In 1997, when the band were unable to tour the U.S. due to lack of funds, fans raised more than $60,000 through an online noticeboard; this is widely regarded as the world’s first instance of online crowdfunding.
Whilst the band have used this method throughout the twenty-first century to fund album production, they have now taken a slightly different route by asking fans to ‘insure’ their upcoming tour, ‘The Light at the End of the Tunnel’. Due to COVID-19, ‘nobody is prepared to insure’ artists on tour who may have to cancel due to a positive test result, and so fans are pledging money to help Marillion cover the costs of crew, lighting, tour buses and other expenses which would normally be covered by concert revenue. If the tour runs smoothly, the fans will receive refunds, but if not, the money will be used to help lessen the unavoidable losses of a cancelled tour.
Regardless of whether the money is used for the tour or not, those who pledge will receive rewards such as a fan’s name in the tour programme, a free download of a concert or even a personal Zoom meeting with the band. Everyone who pledges will also receive a raffle ticket in which they can win a full set of guitar picks, handwritten lyrics of their choice and shoutouts at concerts.
As always, Marillion fans are intent on helping their beloved band as much as possible. In fact, during the production of 2007’s Somewhere Else, the band did not organise a pre-order funding scheme because ‘[they] didn’t need the money’ – but this caused fans to be upset because they felt isolated from the band and the album production process, which is normally very interactive. ‘It’s not just about money, it’s about being involved,’ said Hogarth.
Of course, touring during a pandemic is bound to be extremely difficult. The band will be living, in Hogarth’s words, like ‘a bunch of nuns’ in their hotel rooms, because they are taking every possible precaution to avoid cancelling the tour. They will not be seeing friends and family for the duration of tour, are using different tour buses to crew and, on their days off, will be mostly staying inside, although they ‘might go for a walk.’ It sounds incredibly odd to organise a U.K. tour and not see any of the cities included in said tour, but it is a necessary evil that must be overcome in order to return to some sense of normality.
In the spirit of COVID-19, the band’s infamous Marillion Weekend, their annual convention, was renamed as the Couch Convention for 2021. Hogarth described the convention, thought up by manager Lucy Jordache, as a ‘big online party’ to ‘bring everyone closer together.’ The frontman laughed heartily as he recalled ‘one woman who even erected a barrier in front of her television… so she could feel like it was the front row.’ While the band are hoping to return to in-person conventions as soon as possible, the Couch Convention was a huge success. The best part was ‘feeling like it was live, even though I was at home,’ according to Hogarth, ‘[it was] great fun, everybody got into it.’
Marillion’s 19th studio album, An Hour Before It’s Dark, has finished production and will be released in early 2022. Everyone is incredibly proud of it, particularly Hogarth, who believes ‘it’s one of the best we’ve ever done.’
‘The Light at the End of the Tunnel’ U.K. tour begins on November 14 in Hull and ends with two shows in London on November 26 and 27.
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