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Get-together with Marillion’s Steven Rothery

English rock band Marillion has been touring quite a bit over the previous years. And 2011 wasn’t an exception, with three conventions in the Netherlands, Canada and the UK and on tour with Saga last month.

Steinberg had the privilege to meet up with Steven Rothery, guitarist for Marillion, to talk about past, present and future projects.

Have there been any plans for the next studio album?
We’re in the middle of writing our next album (our seventeenth). We hope to have it recorded by the end of April as we start a world tour in North America in June 2012.

Alongside being the guitarist for Marillion, you seem to be working on several projects at a time. Can you tell us a bit about your solo project, The Wishing Tree? And how did the collaboration with Hannah Stobart come about?
I met Hannah in 1994 during the tour for the Marillion album Brave. I was looking for a female vocalist to work with and Hannah gave me a tape of herself singing a Tori Amos and an All About Eve song. I loved the tone of her voice.

Would you say that The Wishing Tree is completely different to what you do with Marillion?
It’s more varied, I suppose. There’s quite some strong English folk influences that come through at times. Also it’s a lot more guitar based than a lot of Marillion songs.

How do you begin writing a new song? Do you start writing music first, or does Hannah occasionally come up with the lyrics first?
On the first album I wrote all the music and all but one of the vocal melodies and John Helmer wrote most of the lyrics. On the second album Ostara it was a true collaboration with Hannah writing the lyrics and vocal melodies. I wrote the music first and we sent files back and forth (she lives in California).

Why the long hiatus between the debut album Carnival of Souls and the follow up Ostara?
We started work on a second album in 1999 and had some interest from Sony Records. Unfortunately, this led us down the path of trying to write more commercial songs. When the Sony deal didn’t materialize we listened through to the songs and decided that we didn’t like the direction we’d taken. We decided to have a break from working together but remained very good friends. In 2007 we tried writing together again and found that we really enjoyed the experience again.

I know there’s another project you want to talk about. British Guitar Academy (BGA) is one of your current projects. What’s it about?
The aim of the British Guitar Academy is to help players develop their technique, creativity and individuality. The instructors we use are all experienced professional musicians with many years both on the road and in the recording studio. On most of the days we run the format is that four different guitarists, each one an expert in their field, explains the evolution of their approach to playing the guitar. There’s also demonstrations of a range of techniques with tips on establishing your own sound and identity. Each player gives a master class of approximately 45 minutes followed by a short Q&A.

What features in Cubase do you consider extremely helpful?
I find Cubase/Nuendo easier to write with than the other software packages. I love using the arranger track to try different arrangements. It also seems to run more efficiently than most other music programs on my music PC when you’re hosting a lot of virtual instruments.

And the MR816 interface fits in nicely?
I was amazed by the quality of the converters and preamps in the MR816. My main recording path is usually a pair of Amek/Neve preamps into a Lavry Blue A/D and the MR816 holds up pretty well.

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