Bridging the gap between punk rock and progressive rock, Marillion were one of the most iconic rock bands of the 1980s, writes Kevin Cooper.

Formed in 1979 with lead singer Fish, they have been helmed since 1989 by Steve Hogarth, and went on to clock up 20 UK Top 40 singles, including four which reached the Top 10

After something of a hiatus they came back three years ago with their first Top 10 album for 22 years – nudging their album sales to over 15 million worldwide. Tonight they take to the stage at the New Theatre, proving beyond doubt that they are back.

Steve has spent 30 years in the band – compared to Fish’s seven years – yet he still gets referred to as ‘the new guy’?

“It doesn’t bother me now, but I did go through a phase when it annoyed me, probably about 10 years in,” he laughs. “Once you have been in a band for 30 years, and people are still saying stuff like that, it becomes too daft to be offensive really.

“I have recorded God knows how many albums with them, I have actually lost track. It’s 12, 13 or 14... something like that.”

He goes on: “I’m a bit like Ronnie Wood in The Rolling Stones; I guess that I will always be the new boy until God knows how long. The fact of the matter is that I have been in the band three times longer than Fish was; I have made more than three times as many albums as he made with the band, so get over yourself!”

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He adds: “The thing is that it is not about time, it is about the big hits and if a band has had big hits, they are a bit like photo flashes, and that is the bright light that will forever engrain an image into the photographic paper or the minds of the media – the minds of the casual fans. That is what you will always be about and there is no getting away from that.

“But I have to say that there is more to life than having hits. At the end of the day it is really all about the music you make, how much that music means to you, how honest that music is, and feeling creatively free. Me and the boys feel incredibly privileged that after all these years; we are as free as we ever were to do whatever we want.

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“Also, we have got enough fans out there in the world to be able to do it at a serious level. I honestly feel incredibly privileged because it doesn’t matter how much talent you have got, if you haven’t got a little bit of luck with you, then you are not going anywhere. We all need that little bit of luck and luckily, Marillion have had some.”

The band tour hard and in 2008 were ranked 38th in Classic Rock’s ’50 Best Live Acts Of All Time’. So after 30 years is Steve – who was formerly keyboard player and vocalist with the Europeans and singer with How We Live – still enjoying the ride?

“What can I say?” he laughs. “I am certainly enjoying it far more than I enjoyed my first day with the boys.

“I must be honest and say that on my very first day with the band it felt weird. I am a good deal more relaxed now than I was back then (laughter). I am enjoying the ride immensely; we are free to make the music that we chose to make whenever we are in the studio writing, so we don’t really have to give a damn about anyone else.


“We have got some of the best fans in the world, although we don’t really give a damn about them either. Whenever we are writing it is for us, nobody else. There aren’t that many artists who can honestly say that they feel that way, and that they have that degree of freedom to do what they do, whilst at the same time, strongly suspecting that they will get away with it!”

So when he received the call to join Marillion back in 1989, just how long did it take him to say yes?

“To be totally honest with you it took absolutely ages.

“I really was quite hard to get because I had received a phone call earlier that very same week from Matt Johnson who had put together a band called The The (I had previously played the piano with The The on the Infected album).He said ‘I have got this band together with Johnny Marr on guitar, David Palmer on drums, James Eller on bass, and we are going to go out and tour the Mind Bomb album in the summer. Do you want to come along and play the piano’ and I said ‘yes, I would love to’.


“At that time my band had just split up, and I was thinking of getting out of the music business, and then I thought that touring with The The could be the very best thing for me. I thought that if I went on tour with them, I would be playing the piano, I would be at the back of the stage out of the way, I wouldn’t be in the spotlight, I would be in this amazing band, touring the world, having a great time. It really could re-energise me completely.

“I met up with Matt at his flat in Shoreditch and made a commitment to do the tour in the summer. And then the phone rang, and it was Marillion’s management saying that they would like to meet me.


“However, I kept putting them off but eventually I did go along and meet the boys. They were inviting me to just be me. There was no reference to the past, how many records they had sold, who used to be their singer... there was no thought given to that. It was just future, future, future. That was very hard for me to turn down, but I still did.

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“They were all amazed that I was being so reticent, because they had already auditioned a lot of people who would have cheerfully chopped off a limb for the gig. I was a little bit backwards in coming forward simply because I didn’t want to blow out my gig with The The. However, in the end I decided that it was the right decision and the rest is 30 years of history.

Having recently toured with Trevor Horn, Steve is now back on the road with Marillion, and releasing his 15th album With Friends From The Orchestra.


“Life at the moment is treating me very well if I am honest,” he says. “I’m fit and healthy, and I’m still getting away with being a musician for all these years. My career has lasted far longer than I ever thought it would.

“We are very pleased with how the album has turned out,” he says. “In fact, all five of us are well chuffed. I personally feel that the new recordings of Estonia and The Sky Above The Rain are arguably better than the originals. So, it is wonderful for me to be able to make a statement that bold about something that I was already happy with in the first place. It all sounds fantastic!”

  • Marillion play the New Theatre Oxford tonight.
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