Bassist Pete Trewavas joined Marillion in 1982. He has played on every album the band has released including their latest entitled F.E.A.R. The latest offering is what many are calling the band’s best album in years. It also marks the band’s first album to crack the top 5 in the UK as well as their first top-5 album with Steve Hogarth who came aboard in 1989. We talked to Pete and he spoke about the making of the album and some of the other projects he is currently working on.
Rock Show Critique: Well F.E.A.R. is finally here! Album number 18. Tell us about the recording process and how you came about building the songs?
Pete Trewavas: We’ve got some ideas that were never really touched going back a few years. What we decided to do on this album was to go into the studio and be creative as we could. As soon as we are in the studio everything is recorded. We started off like that and made the decision to limit the jamming side of it to a half hour to an hour at a time because that seems to be more productive. We built up a library of ideas that we felt was special. Mike Hunter our producer, is the librarian of that. He catalogs everything and goes through it and anything he finds interesting he’ll put up on our cloud account. It was about spring of last year where it got up to hundreds of hours of music. We had about two weeks of music that we thought was exciting. We had so many ideas of things that were interesting that no one could keep down to a top 10. We whittled that down to what everyone was interested in. We had a lot of things where our ideas overlapped. So they started to become the building blocks to the songs. We’d look at song ideas and chorus ideas and ideas that were just great passages of music. Sometimes we would have an amazing kind of guitar sound or some weird keyboard thing that Mark would do. It’s like “I don’t know what we’ll do with that but it’s so good we’ll just keep it on one side and see where we could check it in.” From there we slowly started to arrange songs. A lot of the time while we’re jamming Steve(H) had lots of lyric ideas. He would try some lyrics over various different pieces of music. For example if you take “Eldorado” some of the lyrics were played over various bits of music. It was really where the lyrics fitted the music best. You tend to sense when something good is happening in a studio. Everyone gets the same shivers and we all start looking at each other and there is an excitement built in the room. So all those moments got captured thankfully and that’s essentially how we did it.
There was a time early on when we were somewhere between jamming and starting to come up with serious ideas for songs. Our producer Mike Hunter sat us down and said “Look we hadn’t really talked about this but if we are actually gonna do this and I’m gonna produce with you, it’s gonna be the eighteenth album, none of us are getting any younger who knows how many albums we got in us. Let’s make it count. I want this to be a believable album, I want everything to be real, everything to be meant.” I suppose in the back of our minds we were thinking about that but when its actually put out there. If this is gonna be our best work, if this is gonna be it, the ultimate album, then let’s start talking about what’s too weak to be considered. What we think shouldn’t even be looked at. That little pep talk from Mike empowered us to be ruthless with what we wanted to do. We worked on lots of songs. There were about ten song ideas all equally strong and valid. Four or five of those got cast aside because we had the nuggets for the pure gold for the album in three really strong ideas.
Late last year we went to Real World (studios) and spent a week over there with what we thought was gonna be the album. We had some other bits and pieces we wanted to do. We knew it wasn’t complete and finished but it was good enough for us to go in and focus our attention on the finer details. It’s at that point where we started to think about do we want a string section in certain bits. Is there anything we wanted to add to it. We added a few little sections that weren’t missing but were the icing on the cake. At the same time we arranged “White Paper” which we thought we were never gonna get around to doing for this album. I think with all five songs we’ve made a really strong statement.
RSC: What track will be the best to perform from a live standpoint?
PT: I think there’s two. “Eldorado” for me is just a phenomenal thing. It’s got a nice English, kind of Pink Floyd timeless appeal to it. Certainly the first section of it. I think the start of “New Kings” is quite slow and its deliberate that its like that. Sometimes live things can be a little difficult. Certain venues where you got a definite rock audience and people are wanting to go out for a rock night certain songs won’t necessarily come over as well as others. I think “Eldorado is a good pace because it moves along quite well. “The Leavers” which we are probably gonna leave for now. The first part of “The Leavers” is gonna be great live when we get around to playing it live.
RSC: F.E.A.R. has now became the biggest gap in Marillion studio releases.
PT: Really? (laughs) We’ve been busy touring around and doing lots of other stuff. At the start of this process we were still touring with Sounds That Can’t Be Made I suppose. Then we did a South American tour. Then we did a load of conventions. Then we took a bit more time out to write this. Then we did another South American tour. We were kind of finishing up the album while we were listening to stuff in South America. Sometimes you just need to spend the time and get it perfect.
RSC: Many critics are calling F.E.A.R. the best Marillion album in twenty years, what is your take on that statement?
PT: I think it’s about right actually. I mentioned we went to Real World which is Peter Gabriel’s studio. There was a moment while we were in there listening back to two of the songs that we’d been working on. We were all looking around at each other and Steve Hogarth said “is it just me or has this album become something really special?” We all just felt it was our strongest work. It’s made up of all the great moments that we’ve ever done on album. It’s got Marillion’s DNA running all the way through it. We’ve taken great moments we had and been inspired by those to do a more modern take on Marillion. Lyrically its so current. I think it probably is our greatest thing.
RSC: This will mark your first U.S. tour since 2012. Will the set lists vary from show to show as in 2012?
PT: It will vary a bit. Mainly it will vary in Chicago where we have two nights. It may vary night to night. We never really know. We always rehearse way too much stuff. So we have to leave songs out or we’ll be playing for three hours. We have eighteen albums so there’s always tons of songs we want to play. We all got our own favorites. We always rehearse too much which is why we change the set up night to night sometimes. It stops us from getting bored as well.
RSC: How have you guys been able to keep and maintain the same lineup for some 27 years?
PT: I know. The bottom line is we get on really well. We’re great friends and we all respect each other. We have mutual respect both as musicians and friends. We all appreciate that when we get in a room together something special happens.
RSC: Tell us about some of your projects outside Marillion and what else you may be working on.
PT: I’m currently working on an Edison’s Children album with Eric Blackwood. It’s actually coming on very slowly because I haven’t had the time to address it. We got together early this year and spent about a week together and we got the bare bones of an album together. Very rough demos, very rough ideas for songs. This album (F.E.A.R.) kind of took precedence obviously as Marillion always does in my life. We’re hoping at the end of the tour to spend a bit of time together. I’m also working with a good friend of mine Robin Boult. We just get together and write a few tunes. When we got four or five tunes that are similar we put out an EP and hopefully do a few shows. It’s a lot of fun. We were best buddies in school. It’s a good way for us to keep in touch. He plays guitar with Howard Jones and was a session musician in London and we kind of lost touch. Doing this project with Robin is just a way to keep our friendship alive which is nice. I am currently waiting for all the diaries of the various members of Transatlantic to align. It’s a bit of a spiritual thing you know, every once in a while. We never know when. Our calendars will be lined up and we can all get together and do something again. We’re all pretty busy at the moment. Roine has been working with Jon Anderson. Mike is off the Monster’s of Rock Cruise at the moment and doing stuff with Twisted Sister. Neal’s pretty busy with the Neal Morse band, Flying Colors and all that stuff. We’re all pretty busy at the moment. We’re all busy people. We’re hoping in a year or two’s time or three (laughs) that we can get together again and create something great.
RSC: Is there anything at this point of your music career that you still hope to accomplish?
PT: I’ve done a lot you know. There’s a lot that I can look back on. I’m of an age now where I’m just thankful. I get up and pinch myself every day cause I’m in a great position. I’m in a fantastic band. We’re in a situation where this album is having great acclaim from people like The Guardian and Classic Rock Magazine in the UK. I’ve got a lot to be thankful for. There are things that can frustrate you. You can go through your whole life thinking I should of done more. Then you miss the fact of what you did do. I’m at that time in my life where I can sit a bit and take stock in things. You know it hadn’t been so bad so far.