"We were never motivated purely by money – that idea was knocked out of us many years ago!” Landmarq and the story of Entertaining Angels

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Back in 2012 UK prog rockers Landmarq released Entertaining Angels, their first new album for 14 years. It remains, this far, their most recent album. Prog spoke to the band about it when it was released. Since then lead singer Tracy Hitchings left the band in 2017 for a new life in Australia but sadly died in 2022, aged 60. The band continue to work on new material with her replacement Wolf Campen.

Lengthy absences between albums are a regular feature of the prog scene. Landmarq however have taken this to extremes, with their new studio album Entertaining Angels being their first in 14 years. Indeed it’s only the band’s fifth studio release in a career that has so far lasted over 20 years, with their silence punctuated only by a handful of live releases in the interim. 

So lengthy has Landmarq’s absence from the scene been that Spanish keyboardist Gonzalo Carrera, who replaced co-founder Steve Leigh, managed to spend three years with the band without ever contributing to a studio album. Some of the reasons for the lengthy delay since Landmarq’s last studio album, 1998’s Science Of Coincidence, are prosaic, with the availability of the studio the band had selected representing one limitation. Carrera’s departure was another. “As soon as we started doing the album we parted company with Gonzalo. Having recorded all his basic parts, we had to find a new keyboard player,” drummer Dave Wagstaffe explains. Keyboardist Mike Varty filled the gap. 

But considerably more drastically, and putting everyday trials and tribulations of band life into perspective, singer Tracy Hitchings was diagnosed in 2006 with breast cancer. And if that were not a sufficiently cruel blow, she was then diagnosed with ovarian cancer. “At that point I just felt that I couldn’t continue to perform,” Hitchings recalls. Recording then ground to a halt. 

Two-and-a-half years later, Hitchings was given the all clear and Landmarq were ready to resume. “Once I had got over cancer we were all really hungry to get the album done.” Even so, with Wagstaffe and Varty in particular having assorted other musical commitments – the former as drummer in Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash and the latter as keyboardist in Credo – the practical logistics of completing Entertaining Angels remained far from simple. 


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However Landmarq were fiercely resolute that they would complete the album. Many less committed bands would have been derailed by the combination of line-up changes and their singer’s health battles, but Landmarq are adamant that there was never any question of them calling it quits. “No, not at all,” states Wagstaffe without the slightest hesitation. “Landmarq is essentially a labour of love. We all get a lot out of it. It’s not all we do, but we were never motivated purely by money – that idea was knocked out of us many years ago!” 

“You do get disheartened,” Hitchings muses recalling her illnesses, “but because of the tremendous special bond that we all have together, I absolutely knew that the album was going to get done. I never doubted in my heart that we would get the band back, although it was a bit scary along the way. You do have days where you think: ‘oh my God, am I going to survive this?’”

Hitchings followed a less conventional medical path, choosing an alternative holistic treatment programme over more mainstream treatments. “I refused operations, I refused chemotherapy, I refused radiotherapy. I have got firm belief systems about health and spiritualising, and I was very interested by that whole concept.” 

Hitchings is sanguine about her illness. “I feel it happened for a reason. I have come out the other side now a lot stronger and with a lot more knowledge. I am at a very different place after overcoming cancer,” she says. Unsurprisingly given her experiences over the last few years, Entertaining Angels is rich in spiritual themes, and draws to a significant extent on her personal experiences. In 2012 Landmarq return to a musical world that is far more accepting of progressive rock. While numerous newer bands have found their footing in the last few years and begun to flourish, Landmarq have perhaps missed their opportunity at a time when prog’s stock has been generally rising. 

Varty is optimistic however that Landmarq has not been completely forgotten during their absence, and he draws some comfort from his experience within Shadowland who toured for the first time this millennium a couple of years ago. “I was very surprised when Shadowland went on the road and people piled out to support the band. And I think they are almost falling over themselves in a way for an older band that is back.” He believes that Landmarq also offer a distinctive progressive musical proposition in contrast to many newer prog bands. “I don’t think our music is much like the modern bands; it is much more mellow and sombre.”

In truth Landmarq have never enjoyed a particularly high profile, even within the prog scene – well regarded, yes; prominent, no. After releasing a patchy debut album in 1992’s Solitary Witness, they then followed it up swiftly with 1993’s more consistent Infinity Parade and 1995’s The Vision Pit before peripatetic singer Damian Wilson decamped permanently from the band. Varty agrees that 2012 is a more promising era for Landmarq to enjoy greater success than in the past. “Certainly 10 years ago prog was in decline. Now, provided you put out a decent quality product, most people will appreciate that. There are a fair few not-so-good products out there, and bands who sell themselves in another way by their charisma. But I think we have got a good product which will stand us in good stead, so we can’t lose.”

Without doubt Entertaining Angels is the strongest album of their career. It may not reside at the cutting edge of the prog spectrum, but conversely it is the band’s most polished effort to date. Given the album’s lengthy gestation period, Landmarq had a wealth of quality material to choose from. Indeed the special edition features four tracks that would comfortably have sat on the main album. Wagstaffe readily admits that previous records suffered time and budget constraints. “With past albums we always had to cut corners to get it done on time and on budget. We weren’t so tied to those things this time round. We took more time with it, and I think we have created a better album as a result.”

Varty was preceded by Spanish keyboardist Gonzalo Carrera who spent three years with the band. “Gonzalo was with us a relatively short space of time, but he made a great contribution. Gonzalo is a great all-rounder who adapts to any situation very well.” But with his other musical commitments, Landmarq found tying him down for rehearsals challenging at times. “I think we are a band who rehearse a lot more than Gonzalo had planned for,” Wagstaffe diplomatically notes. 

Carrera is however credited with co-writing credits on two of the bonus tracks. Additionally, the Spanish keyboardist was the catalyst for the appearance of some-time Supertramp associate Laurent Hunziker, whose sax lends another dimension to a number of tracks. Also appearing on the album is former ELO cellist Hugh McDowell. 


(Image credit: Press)

After such a lengthy silence, Landmarq paradoxically now find themselves spoilt for choice with material to play live, with Entertaining Angels itself lasting well over an hour, in addition to almost 30 minutes of bonus material. The band toyed with the idea of releasing a double album before ultimately deciding against it. While all the musicians in Landmarq have other musical commitments around which to plan the band’s schedule, they unanimously declare themselves keen to play live as much as possible. “Any date we can do, I want to do,” the eager drummer proclaims. 

“We are all committed to going out there and playing to as many people as we can,” Varty concurs. “It is always tricky to book gigs and persuade promoters that people are going to come to see us.” Much of the promotion of Entertaining Angels has been through Facebook, and the band declare themselves pleasantly surprised with sales of the album so far. Again Varty points to his recent experience playing live with Credo as a positive indication of what may await Landmarq. “Credo seem to have got some bigger gigs, certainly in the last year on the back of our last album. I am hoping to use all those contacts and opportunities for Landmarq as well and piggyback Landmarq and Credo.”

After so long out of the prog spotlight, Landmarq are determined to maximise their opportunities going forwards, not only playing live, but also releasing new music considerably more frequently. “Now that Tracy is firing on all cylinders we need to keep the momentum going,” Wagstaffe enthuses. “Hopefully we can get a lot of miles out of this album and increase our profile.” 

Given the curveballs that fate has thrown them, Landmarq deserve both that higher profile and some better fortune. 

Nick Shilton

Nick Shilton has written extensively for Prog since its launch in 2009 and prior to that freelanced for various music magazines including Classic Rock. Since 2019 he has also run Kingmaker Publishing, which to date has published two acclaimed biographies of Genesis as well as Marillion keyboardist Mark Kelly’s autobiography, and Kingmaker Management (looking after the careers of various bands including Big Big Train). Nick started his career as a finance lawyer in London and Paris before founding a leading international recruitment business and has previously also run a record label.