TRUE pioneers in music are few and far between.
So no matter what your listening tastes plenty have a begrudging respect for Marillion, the alt-rock band who showed the record industry a trick or two.
Seventeen albums in, they remain self sufficient thanks to a fanatically-loyal fanbase which allows them to work outside the usual rules.
“The band has avoided fads and genre trends to remain fiercely independent,” says singer Steve Hogarth, who did much of his growing up in Doncaster.
“We are blessed by the fans we have – it goes beyond fandom and is more ‘family’. It’s a two way street and the internet has allowed us to create this unique relationship with our fans that we respect and nurture as best we can. It is never, ever taken for granted.”
The potent nature of that relationship revealed itself in tangible fashion when the band called upon fans to help finance 2001 album Anoraknophobia, their first full release away from a major label.
It was a business model since emulated by other acts in uncertain times.
For Marillion – playing Sheffield’s Corporation tomorrow – it has proved essential in following their creative hearts, as shown on latest album Sounds That Can’t Be Made.
“We are very proud of the music that we have created in the past but each album is a new journey that we take wherever it leads us, irrespective of where we have been before.
“For us, the process of writing music has never really changed. It is the five of us, all playing as a band and jamming in the studio, until some magic moments happen.
“It is always a long and arduous task when you are starting to write a new album and you just have a blank canvas.
“Having a studio actually makes it a harder and longer process as real life gets in the way and we don’t concentrate as much as we should, which is why we went down to Bath to Peter Gabriel’s studio for a couple of weeks to help speed up the writing process – somewhere where we could just concentrate on the music and not worry about shelves that need to put up in the kitchen.”
Potential delay could have come from Steve, however, as he pursued his album with former Japan star Richard Barbieri.
“We had already started work on Sounds That Can’t Be Made but I had also been working on Not The Weapon But The Hand,” says the singer, who replaced original Marillion singer Fish in 1988.
“I found a two-week window in November to finish off my album with Richard and then in the New Year went straight back into Marillion world.”
Diversifying and trying out different ideas presumably aids the process when it comes to the main band and avoiding previously trodden creative paths.
“We don’t tend to tread the same ground and we really like to try new ideas on every album. We like to experiment with different instrument sounds that we have never used before. As you can imagine occasionally we say ‘Have we played that before?’ and nine times out of 10 it turns out that we haven’t.
“Musically we don’t pursue an idea unless we are all ‘into it’.”
As for Steve’s Donny connections... well there have been various stories about his links, but we decided to get it from the horse’s mouth ahead of his Milton Street engagement.
“I was born in the Lake District, a lovely part of the country,” says Steve, “but my mum and dad decided not to stay there and moved to Doncaster which is where I grew up.
“I then went to college in Nottingham, moved down to Shepperton, Surrey, and stayed in that area for a while.
“I joined Marillion and after a short period we decided to set up our own studio in Aylesbury.
“That turned out to be too far for me to commute really, so I moved to where I am now and I’ve been here ever since.
“I don’t have any family left in Doncaster but it will always have a place in my heart.”