Formed in 1979, the English band Marillion has been delivering solid, progressive, thinking man’s rock ever since. But it hasn’t been easy. When they parted ways with lead singer Fish in 1988, it could have signaled the end of the band had not singer Steve Hogarth walked in to take the band to new heights in the ensuing decades.
Marillion has just released its 18th studio album, the appropriately titled “F*** Everyone and Run.” (Yes, the “F” stands for what you think.) In advance of the band’s coming to the 9:30 Club Saturday, guitarist Steve Rothery and keyboardist Mark Kelly discussed the long road to the new album.
Question: Why is the new album called “F*** Everyone and Run”?
Mark Kelly: It isn’t supposed to be an angry statement. It’s a comment on the behaviors and attitudes of certain people these days.
Steve Rothery: Wealthy individuals and corporations who exploit people and situations on the planet for their own short-term personal gains without any fear of consequences.
Q: Did you worry that putting the expletive in the title might turn people off or be misinterpreted?
SR: We debated it, actually.
MK: There was a worry that it would come off as sensationalist. That we were trying to be —
SR: Angry young men.
MK: Which we’re clearly not.
SR: We’re slightly cross old men. [laughs]
MK: But it seemed to be sort of appropriate for the album. We’ve gotten to the point now in our careers where we feel like we can say what we think.
Q: Is it protest album?
SR: Yeah. It has made some people take notice whereas they might have dismissed it as just another Marillion album. I don’t think it did us any harm. I don’t think it’s gonna be a habit where we have an expletive in the title of every album. [laughs]
MK: And not everybody is comfortable with it. But I think it’s good to challenge people.
Q: Did the upcoming U.S. election inspire the album?
MK: No, but maybe for the next one. [laughs]
SR: It took us nearly three years to finish this record, and the lyrics were written pretty early on. [Due to] some of the things that have happened since, it’s a bit of a prophecy album really.
MK: Everything from the whole Brexit thing. We have a song called “The Leavers” that isn’t about it, but the similarities are there.
SR: Rock ‘n’ roll Nostradamus. [laughs]
Q: Is it brave to make an album in a time of disposable singles?
SR: We make it for our fan base. We’ve shown a consistency over the 18 albums we made. New generations are always looking for something else, and I think as your tastes in music get more sophisticated or broaden, you are looking for things to excite you. There have been quite a few young people at our concerts around the world recently.
MK: Maybe as the protest album is coming back, so could the concept album. We’re just ahead of the curve. [laughs]
Q: How has the creative process evolved between you guys ?
SR: In the old days maybe one or two people would have ideas and bring them to the band. We would develop them and make them into songs. The last few albums we write by jamming. We all get together and make a terrible racket. After a few weeks we relax and the magic starts to happen.
It’s an incredible musical chemistry. We record all the jams into Pro Tools, then Mike Hunter, our producer, will listen through and mix down the magic moments.
MK: Technology has enabled us to work in a way we couldn’t have 20 years ago.
Q: With 18 albums’ worth of songs to draw from how do you decide what to play?
MK: Fistfight. [laughs] We have a conversation every day. Some bands go out and play the same songs every night. We try not to. We also take feedback from the audience. It’s hard to choose from 18 albums’ worth of songs.
SR: We did a poll of what North American fans wanted to hear and have incorporated that into the set.
Q: Do you think that had Steve Hogarth not come into the band it would have had the longevity it has?
SR: No. When Fish left after four albums, we were already growing apart musically. Had he stayed we would have possibly made one or two more records together and called it a day.
Because Steve is also a musician, there is a strong rapport.
MK: It’s fortunate that Fish left when he did, because the band was at its peak. We were able to survive him leaving. Had we been further down the road, not selling as many records, the departure of Fish would have seen the end of the band. We probably wouldn’t have been able to make that transition. It was fortunate. We were pretty confident that we would carry on.
SR: Blindly optimistic [laughs] Because we had always been responsible for the music. And that was still there. It was a case of finding another singer who was special in a different way that we could have chemistry with.
MK: It helps having an extra musician in the band, because Fish isn’t a musician. Great lyricist, but he didn’t contribute to the music. Steve does.
Q: Do you see a time when the band will call it a day?
SR: We don’t know how many more albums we’ve got in us. We’re all kind of in our mid-fifties to early-sixties. We’ve been doing this a long, long time. I’ve been in the band 37 years. It would be great to think we’ve got another 15 years in us, but who knows? At the speed we work, that might only be another two albums. [laughs]
MK: We don’t want to make anything that is just OK. We want to make everything great. You never know.
Marillion plays the 9:30 Club Saturday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $55 by going to Ticketfly.com.