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Progressive Rock Interviews

Steve Hogarth

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Steve Hogarth from 1998
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: The Early Years Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Where did the title Ice Cream Genius originate?
Producer Craig Leon is something of an eccentric. If he likes something he calls it "genius" and if he dislikes something he calls it "a torture". He expressed his opinions in this way during the entire project. If a particularly good take happened during recording, he would say: "I scream genius on that!" One day we were filling in the track sheets and there was a box at the top which said "Title of Album" and I filled in "Ice Cream Genius" and it just sort-of stuck. It was Craig`s idea to do the sleeve with the ice cream on the front and then with it squashed against my head on the back cover.
MSJ: The personnel choices for Ice Cream Genius are intriguing, how did that come about?
Dave Gregory tells me we first met many years ago in the Townhouse studios when I was in with the Europeans and XTC were in the studio next door. I don`t actually remember this. My first memories of Dave were when I was down in Bath with "How We Live" and we needed to hire various bits of equipment for the album. I was looking for a mellotron and David Lord, the producer said Dave had one and gave me his number so I asked if I could hire it for a couple of days and I went round to his house in Swindon to get it. Dave, being Dave, said not to worry about the money so I bought him a bottle of whisky instead and we sort of became chums. Incidentally, the same thing happened with Peter Gabriel from whom I also "hired" quite a few studio items, later to find that he never charged me a penny for any of it. . Nice people down in that part of the world! ...So Dave Gregory was the first musician I approached - I`m a big fan of XTC and particularly Dave`s jangly technique. I was determined to go to the opposite end of the musical universe from Marillion. I had been a fan of Japan in the eighties - Tin Drum was such an outstanding album - and so when I met Richard Barbieri at a gig where Porcupine Tree were opening up for Marillion we swapped numbers and I sent him my demos. He liked the songs, particularly the Deep Water, and said I could count him in. I originally approached Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth - The Talking Heads rhythm section and sent demos to them. Chris called me back to say that they were very busy with their "Heads" project but that if I could go to America with the tapes then they could perhaps record something for me at their own studio. As it turned out, I hadn`t the time or the budget to go over although I would have loved to have Chris and Tina play on "Really Like". Craig suggested Clem and Chucho. I had seen Chucho Merchan play live with the Eurythmics in 1990 in Brazil when we did a festival with them so I had a good idea what to expect from him - MAXIMUM VIBE and also a talent for upright string bass. Clem Burke, of course is a legend in his own right and I love the way his style treads that line between loose and tight. Percussionist Louis Jardim (originally from Brazil) has been London`s No.1 session percussionist for years - he did "Slave to the Rhythm" and all the "Frankie Goes To Hollywood" stuff. Nuff said!

MSJ: With what other musicians would you like to work?
When we toured here in Europe I did it with the same players. I needed a second guitarist and by chance I came across Aziz Ibrahim who I jammed with in a bar. Aziz had been with The Stone Roses and more recently co-wrote the Ian Brown album "Unfinished Monkey Business". His parents are from Pakistan although he grew up in Manchester, and he can play all the Indian and Chinese scales. He can make a Les Paul sound like a sitar or a koto and then a full on Les Paul rock guitar from moment to moment. He has this great chemistry with Richard Barbieri and I regret not meeting him until it was too late for him to be involved in the record. I`d like to revisit that chemistry on record at some stage. I really admire Björk as a musical talent. I`d love to collaborate with her. I`d love to sing with Brian Wilson.
MSJ: The animal within concept in The Evening Shadows reminds me a lot of the Clinton/Lewinsky situation. Has this thought occurred to you?
Well, most of the songs on ICG are about the psyche and about the questions of one`s own motives. "Are you proud of the way you`ve been behaving lately?" I think many of us have a dark side... or a side that others perceive to be dark. Actually I`ve been recently performing a Marillion song from Afraid of Sunlight called "Gazpacho". Every word of it resonates in the most excruciating way with Bill`s current position. You`d swear we wrote it last week specially for him! Personally, I have a lot more sympathy for Bill and Hilary than I have for Monica.
MSJ: What can you tell us about the new Marillion album?
It`s called Radiation and it`s very different from anything we`ve done in the past. Much more electric and raw than This Strange Engine. A lot of different influences from Lenny Kravitz to Living Colour to The Pogues to The Beatles to the "Blues" to Blade Runner to Apocalypse Now to Hare Krishna to Laurel and Hardy... I`m not lying - they`re all in there.
MSJ: What Marillion tour plans are in the works (European and/or US)?
We`ll be touring in Europe during November. There is also the possibility now of us coming to the US for some shows Jan/Feb of `99. Fingers crossed!
MSJ: Any plans to tour for the solo project?
I toured in Europe last year. Everyone concerned would love to do it again and I still have all the keyboard programs. That just leaves the money! I suppose it all comes down to how much success we can generate there with the release.
MSJ: What is the biggest Spinal Tap moment you have had?
When I was in the Europeans I once ran offstage and crashed out through some exit doors which slammed shut behind me leaving me out in the street in the snow on a cold winters night wet through with sweat from head to foot. I had to run round the building to the front doors where security refused to let me back in. I could hear the band back on stage for the encore as I shivered in the street. Oh no - there`s a worse one than that. It was with How We Live...I had been eating certain substances which are normally smoked in cigarettes. I wouldn`t advise you to do this. I ended up completely forgetting everything - my immediate past as well as my distant past and I had to go on stage at Edinburgh Playhouse (sold out) with no idea of how any of the songs went, or any of the words. Two minutes before stage time I was being heartily sick into the car park at the rear of the theatre. I was still outside on my hands and knees when I heard the band strike up. Walking to centre stage with the band already playing and no idea what I would do when I got to the mic. It`s one of the outstanding nightmares of my life.

MSJ: What was the last CD you bought?
Mezzanine by Massive Attack
MSJ: What was the last concert you attended?
Neil Finn last Monday in Oxford.
You'll find an audio interview of this artist in the Music Street Journal members area.
 
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