Ramblin' Man Preview: Marillion's Guide To The Prog Stage

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“We know we have a dedicated fan base,” says Marillion bassist Pete Trewavas, currently busy working on the band’s new album, scheduled for early next year, “but the holy grail is having more people being turned on to us. That’s why Ramblin’ Man is such a great opportunity. We’re hoping that some of the more general rock audience will prick their ears up and wander over to the Prog Stage.”

As Sunday headliners on Ramblin’ Man’s Prog Stage, Marillion are ideally placed – both literally and figuratively – to attract both the curious and the converted. Trewavas isn’t giving too much away as to the Marillion setlist, though he does promise “lots of favourites, songs that we’re comfortable playing. A couple of years ago we did some touring in Germany with Deep Purple and tried to showcase some of the stuff we were more interested in playing, like The Invisible Man and Neverland, and we had an amazing response. So we’ve put a set together to show us off in a good light. It’s a cross-section from the last few years.”

Ramblin’ Man provides an opportunity for Marillion to get reacquainted with some old friends. Second on the bill on Sunday is Ian Anderson, whose recent shows have offered a tantalising mix of new solo work (Homo Erraticus) and classic Jethro Tull. “We go back a long way,” Trewavas says. “In fact, we played the Theakston’s Festival [in Wakefield] in 1982, when we were first introduced to Ian Anderson. He was playing The Broadsword And The Beast for the first time at that festival. Soon as I heard him do that, I rushed out and bought it. I grew up with Tull, nearly as much as Yes and Genesis. He’s written some fantastic work.”

Trewavas also reveals a soft spot for Saturday night’s headliners, the mighty Camel: “My first memories of Camel were when I was at college. I went into the refectory one day and Mirage was blaring out. I thought: ‘Who the hell is this?’ So I went to see them at Friars in Aylesbury when they played the Mirage album live [1974]. Then of course [Camel drummer] Andy Ward played drums for Marillion on tour in 1983.”

Another blast from the past comes in the form of Pendragon, whose early career was intertwined with that of Trewavas. The Gloucestershire neo-proggers toured with Marillion in 1982, including one breakthrough gig at the Marquee. “They used to support us when we were trolling around, before we got a deal,” recalls Trewavas.

Given Marillion’s “stupidly busy” schedule and the fact that he’s also been involved with side-project Edison’s Children, the bassist admits that he isn’t quite up to speed with some of the newer acts on the Prog Stage. The festival, he says, gives him an ideal opportunity to catch up: “I haven’t really come across [Warsaw’s] Riverside yet, so I’m looking forward to it. Knifeworld is a new one to me too, though the Cardiacs connection is interesting; I love the Cardiacs. One of the great things about these festivals is discovering stuff that you probably should’ve known.”

He’s also impressed with Somerset proggers The Pineapple Thief, who’ve shared bills with Marillion. “It’s bands like them that give so much life to new progressive music,” he posits.

“But it’s just great to be walking around and hearing good music. That’s the whole point of a festival like this. I’m really excited about it.”

Classic Rock 213: News & Regulars