Darren Lovatt (Marillion Lyric Day)

Darren Lovatt - Port Zelande 2013

Darren Lovatt is an active and very visible member of the Marillion fan community. Originally from Stoke-on-Trent, he has lived in Jӓrbo,  Sweden with his partner Diana since 1994. I first met Darren in The Tara pub in Amsterdam, en route to the 2011 Marillion Weekend in Port Zelande. I caught up with him recently to chat about his love of Marillion, the Marillion ‘family’ and Marillion Lyric Day.

Hi Darren! First, tell us, why Marillion? Is it possible to say what their music means to you?
Boy, that’s a tough one. Why Marillion? If we had an answer to that one, we could bottle it and spread happiness throughout the planet. Their music means everything to me, it’s impossible to explain, you get that ‘goosebumps’ feeling when you listen to it. The music and lyrics seem to touch you on another level.  I really can’t explain it.

Are there any other bands who do that sort of thing for you?
No, not the way Marillion do.

So do you remember how you got into them in the first place?
Marillion - Punch and Judy singleAh, 9 Feb 1984 – ‘Punch and Judy’ was performed on BBC’s Top of the Pops. Marillion came on, with Fish punching the air as he’s singing the ‘Punch’ part of the line and lyrics about poisoning your wife. I thought that was very interesting. [Laughs] I remember a friend and I the day after discussing “the guy in the make-up who wanted to poison his wife?”

Did you buy the single?
No I didn’t. In fact I didn’t buy anything until the following year. My mother bought me Misplaced Childhood for Christmas, and it all went from there.

Darren and Mark KellyEver meet the band?
I’ve met the current line-up several times. I think I have exchanged most words with Steve Rothery [guitarist] or maybe Pete Trewavas [bassist]. I had a long chat with Pete in Oslo in 2007. I even chatted about marathon training with Mark Kelly [keyboard player] at the 2013 convention in Port Zelande, Holland. I do the fun runs with him. They are a great bunch of guys.

I seem to recall you interviewing Steve Rothery …
I did, for The Web UK Magazine. And I was terrified! [Laughs] I’ve still got the transcript of that somewhere, and, of course, it’s in the magazine as well.

They say it’s often a mistake to meet your heroes. I’m guessing your experience with Marillion has been different?
The only “mistake” is that I often get nervous and say something stupid. For example, I could have died when I first met Ian Mosley. I still can’t believe that the best thing I could say was: “I’ve got a set of your drumsticks at home.” So embarrassing!

He didn’t ask for them back, did he?
No! [Laughs] But that’s the worst thing I could have possibly said. It just fell straight out of my mouth.

What do you remember of your first Marillion gig?
Despite being a fan since 1984, I didn’t get to see the band live until 2004. My first gig was 12 May 2004 at the China Theatre in Stockholm. I sat in the front row and it was completely mind blowing.  Imagine hearing Marbles performed live and a 90 minute second set. That’s a gig! The crowd clapped so much after ‘The Invisible Man’ that I didn’t think they would let the band play on.  H [Steve Hogarth, singer] commented at the time that it had been a long time since they’d played Stockholm.  It had to be honest.  I saw them again in Malmo the very next day – an awesome experience!

What’s the best or most memorable Marillion gig you’ve been to, and why?
That would be the Friday night gig at Port Zelande convention in 2013. It was fabulous. They played the whole of the Radiation album. The performance was excellent in every way. They added a bit to the end of ‘Three Minute Boy’, and that was stunning. And H’s voice was just absolutely perfect all the way through, from the gentleness of ‘Now She’ll Never Know’ with the high falsetto to the scream at the end of ‘Cathedral Wall’. It was spot on. The second set was pretty special too – plenty of early tracks, which is always a nice treat.

Your top five Marillion albums?

Marbles
Marillion - Marbles album coverI’m not sure if I can put into words why Marbles holds a special place in my heart because the whole run up to that album was so exciting. We got to hear it in advance when Lucy [Jordache, Marillion Communications Manager] invited us to a Listening Party. We met H and Rothers at that event too. Then there was ‘You’re Gone’ charting at number 7 in the UK, which was very special, and we got to see the band live twice, including sound check passes – just wonderful. 2004 was a great year to be a Marillion fan.

Afraid Of Sunlight
It’s just a damn good album. There are so many strong tracks on it. There’s the title track, and then you’ve got ‘Out Of This World’. It’s just a really good album.

Holidays in Eden
Holidays in Eden often gets a lot of stick as it’s considered to be too commercial but again it’s such a good album from start to finish. It starts with ‘Splintering Heart’, I mean you can’t go wrong can you? And Rothers’ guitar in that is absolutely fantastic. Then you’ve got ‘The Party’, ‘Waiting to Happen’ and, of course, it finishes with the ‘This Town’ trilogy.

Misplaced Childhood
Marillion - Misplaced Childhood album coverAs I said, it was the first Marillion album I had, and again, it’s such a good album. A lot of people say that Clutching at Straws is the best Fish-era album and that Brave is the best H-era album but I don’t along with that. I think Misplaced … is the best Fish-era album by a long way.

Sounds That Can’t Be Made
I think Sounds … is the best album they’ve done in a very, very long time. After Marbles they sort of dwindled off a bit. I thought Somewhere Else was a bit hit and miss and is possibly their worst album ever. Although it has some very strong tracks on it, there’s a hell of a lot of very average stuff on there. And then Happiness is the Road, which again, is a bit hit and miss. There’s some really great stuff on there and then there’s some pretty average stuff. And then Sounds … comes along and it’s just brilliant! ‘Gaza’ is brilliant and the title track is absolutely superb.

I’m guessing you’ve got quite a collection of Marillion music and merchandise by now?
I have almost 700 items in my Marillion collection at present. Everything from vinyl, CDs, DVDs, t-shirts, posters.

Can you tell us about some of the more unusual items you’ve got, or the ones that have more significance for you?

Darren and Ian Mosley

Darren and Ian Mosley (Cheer up, Ian. It’s just a set of drumsticks!)

Apart from Ian Mosley’s drumsticks? [Laughs] I’ve got a few set lists that we’ve pulled off the stage at various concerts – there’s a few of them knocking about. The drumsticks are really funny because those were got for me by an Australian fan called Matt Coffey. He’s the guy who flew over from Australian to play ‘King’ with Marillion in ‘Swap the Band’ at one of the conventions. And he sold his drum kit to do it! Well, he was going on a bit of a Euro-trip and one of his ports of call was Oslo for the Less is More tour, so he was there two nights with us. And having played drums with the band he got a VIP pass. When I met up with him on the Sunday he’d got me the drumsticks. And with all that acoustic playing they’re really worn along the edges.

I’ve got around 100 t-shirts, and I’ve got quite a few autographed items. I’ve got Script for a Jester’s Tear autographed by Mick Pointer. The pride of my collection, though,  is Marbles on vinyl.

What about the Marillion fan community, the so-called ‘Marillion family’? What can you tell us about that?
The best bunch of people you could ever hope to meet. It’s like we are all on the same wavelength. I’ve made so many friends for life because of our shared interest in the band. When I take my car through Europe to the UK, I often make detours just to catch up with members of the Marillion family. They are very welcoming and friendly people.

Do you think the use of the term ‘family’ is apt?
A Thousand Nights - Marillion Weekends 2011It is, definitely. The first time I experience it was in Oslo. We must have 40 plus friends there now. Of course, Marillion don’t come here often and every time they do it’s usually Oslo. We drive over and stay over there. The Norwegians always make us feel welcome and there’s always a party afterwards. Drinking is really expensive but they are used to it, and half the time they won’t even let you buy a round because of the cost – they just keep buying us drinks! And then we really experienced the ‘family’ thing big time in Port Zelande in 2011, which was the first Marillion Weekend we went to. Just amazing. There were tears when we said our goodbyes on the Monday morning!

It’s fantastic. I’ve never heard of it with any other band, really. Not in the way it is with Marillion.
No, it’s really something special. And I think the band know it as well, and the way they’ve used the internet has helped strengthen the bond.

And I’ve got to ask you Darren, aren’t you the man responsible for Marillion Lyric Day?
Yes, that is me! Completely by accident! There were two or three of us talking about posting Marillion lyrics on Facebook simultaneously. So I created an event on Facebook and invited 200 people. The Web UK Magazine - Lyric Day editionThe next morning there were 300 taking part, because people had invited their friends. And then someone posted about it on the Marillion Online Forum, and I think it was Lucy who commented that it could be fun and posted about it on her page. Then Marillion posted about it on their page, and in the end about 12,000 people took part! It was mentioned on the radio as well, on BBC Radio 2 and Planet Rock, and I was contacted by The Web UK Magazine who wanted to interview me about it. There were that many posts that I couldn’t keep up with the Facebook notifications!

Later on I asked Lucy about it and she told me that the requests for the free sampler the band give out through their website increased substantially and seemed to have a knock-on effect on sales. So we’ve made it an annual event now. It first ran in 2011 and has run every year since. The next one is 30 June 2014.

I’ll make a note in my diary!
Don’t worry, you won’t miss it! [Laughs]

Anything Marillion-related you’re looking forward to in 2014?
Yes, we’re going to see Steve Rothery’s band in Oslo. And the night before we’re going to see a Norwegian tribute band called Misplaced Neighbourhood, who play mainly Fish-era tracks. They’re fronted by Rich Harding of Also Eden, and they’re absolutely fabulous. Steve Rothery is going to play a few tracks with them this year – so they’ll be Misplaced Rotherhood!

We’ve talked mainly, well entirely actually, about Marillion, but who else do you listen to?
Pink Floyd, The Who, David Bowie, RPWL, Sylvan, Also Eden, ELO, DeeExpus. David Bowie’s Station to Station was the first music cassette I ever played, around 1977.

Are you involved with any other bands or in music in any other way?
I managed Swedish progressive band Maze of Time during 2012, their music is just amazing. I’m currently planning to start my own business in 2014 dealing in second hand CDs, vinyl, DVDs and stereo equipment, turning my hobby into my job.

What can you tell us about the general importance of music in your life?
It means a great deal to me, there isn’t a day that I don’t listen to some form of music. I’ve been collecting music since I was about 10 years old and I’m still collecting it now.

Marillion - "Probably the best band in the world"

One from the t-shirt collection

CHEERS DARREN!

Related posts: the ‘Relics’ series

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2 Comments

  1. This is great, I really enjoyed this. I enjoyed the top 5 list of a fellow Marbles fan. I think Marbles in its full 2 CD glory is the peak (so far) of the Hogarth lineup and a simply outstanding piece of art that you can sing along to. And I also agree that Sounds That Can’t Be Made is the best shot they’ve taken since Marbles.

    I think that the Somewhere Else material sounded better live. I acquired that one on vinyl which has 3 live bonus tracks, and I think all are better than the studio counterparts!

    Reply
  2. I agree with you that the Somewhere Else tracks work better live.

    Reply

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