Fish out of…

Dave Woodhall talks to prog rock legend Fish.

You’ve said that you’re bringing your career to an end and your upcoming UK tour will be some of your final shows.

“This is my last album, but the last UK dates will probably be in 2021. I decided to do some full album shows, I did (Marillion’s) Misplaced Childood last time I was out, done Clutching at Straws and this one is Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors (the first solo album) so there’s a nice circle to it in that I’m playing the entire Vigil album and stuff from the new album Weltschmerz at the sam time.

“There’s a balance to it, and at the same time there’s a Script for a Jester’s Tear re-master coming out on Warner’s, and we play a couple of tracks from that on the tour. So you’ll have first Marillion, first solo and last solo.”

You said about five or six years ago that this was when you planned to finish and you’ve stuck to that.

“When I was doing the Misplaced tour I already had the idea of this. I’m 62 this year and I still enjoy being on stage but I don’t want to carry on. There’s a kind of sell-by date on it all; it gets harder and harder physically to be touring. Six weeks on a tour bus does take its toll.”

You also said at the time you spoke about retiring that you could tell your voice is starting to change.

“I’m 62 years old… It’s got deeper but I think it’s better, there’s a bit of soul to it. I listened to the Script remasters and I thought ‘Who the hell was singing that?’ I was singing unnaturally in the early eighties, I think if I’d gone to a voice coach they would have warned me that I was forcing thing too much and I paid the price later on. I’ve had two vocal operations so for some of the Marillion stuff we have to change the key. It’s easy for a guitarist to change strings but vocalists can’t change chords. It’s like football – you can’t play up front all the time, eventually you have to drop back. You might still be playing a great game but it’s different.

“My voice is a bit richer, more full than it was back then. We’ve dropped the keys for the Marillion stuff but nobody’s complaining other than a couple of nerds, and they were great shows. I loved it, because I was singing and I wasn’t straining.

“I felt a lot more confident, which is a great thing. Confidence is a big part of any singer, a lot of people can hit notes but confidence-wise very few can. “

Some singers from back then, their voices have completely go.e.

“It isn’t something I dwell on a lot, that’s just the way it goes and it’s one of the reasons why I’m retiring. I don’t want to be struggling away becoming a parody of myself. There’s a point where you say that’s it, I’m hanging up my suit. 2021-22, that’s it. That’s the last tour.”

It must have been a big strain, particularly touring for forty years.

“Yes. I’m just enjoying the moment. Weltschmerz is the best album that I’ve ever done and I’m not saying that lightly. It’s a very, very powerful album, it’s not like anything that’s out there and that’s the way I want to leave it. I left Marillion with the best album we ever did and I’m ending my solo career with the best album I’ve ever done. Leave peopla asking what would have happened next.”

You mentioned voice coaches. Is that something you wish you’d done in the early days?

“Not really, because what happens, happens. If I’d seen a voice coach during the Script era you’d probably never have had Script as it was. I’ve paid the price long-term but so what?”

“On the tour we’ve doing the Vigil album and a selection of tracks from Weltschmerz. The album probably won’t be out until June so we’ll be playing blind to a lot of people. One of the tracks will be available on download just before the UK tour, but a lot of the songs will be heard for the very first time. I’m confident that these songs are so very strong they’re going to tranlate live.”

And you’ll be playing a new venue to you, KK’s Steel Mill in Wolverhampton. Have you and Mr Downing much mutual history?

“I’ve met KK a few times; we didn’t see Priest much back in the days when we shared similar bills and I don’t really know much about them. We’d bump into them in a hotel bar, things like that”

And once the touring finishes, what then?

“Gardening, writing books, doing screenplays, just not music.”

You’ve done a fair bit of acting. Will there be any more of that?

“I hope so, but I’m more into writing than acting now. There’s only so much call for middle-aged Scottish businessmen or lawyers. I want to be at home, gardeing is more than a hobby with me. Ive got enough going on to be quite happy, if I feel the need to go on stage I can always click my fingers and do an acoustic gig. And my wife and i have got season tickets at Hibs so that’s every other Saturday sorted out.”

And of course, mention of Hibs leads us inevitably off on a tanget that inclded John McGinn, Des Bremner and Alex Cropley. But that’s for another day.

Fish plays KK’s Steel Mill in Wolverhampton on 26th March. Tickets