With career spanning over 35 years, it could easily be expected that Marillion’s guitarist and founding member Steve Rothery would have release a debut solo album much earlier than 2014. But mostly channeling his inspiration into the work with one of the genre’s most influential acts, Rothery is set to release The Ghosts of Pripyat later in 2014.
The album release is funded after the successful Kickstarter campaign that was one of the most successful crowdfunding campaigns on the popular platform. The working on the album was directly inspired after Steve’s appearance on the 2013′s edition of the annual guitar festival in the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv, what resulted in releasing Live in Plovdiv, in both audio and video formats.
Prog Sphere Promotions has recently started a promotional campaign for Live in Plovdiv and the upcoming studio release The Ghosts of Pripyat, and that was the great opportunity to conduct an interview with Steve.
The Ghosts of Pripyat is the first album you are putting out under your own name. How did knowing you were going to attempt a solo record affect your writing for it?
It wasn’t really written as a solo album. I had to write an hour of original music for the Plovdiv International guitar festival I played last October. I had a few ideas already and so I got together with my good friend Dave Foster to write some more and arrange them. It was really just so we’d have a rough framework to jam over for an hour or so. Listening back to the live tape I realised that I’d created something very special and the musicians involved had really brought the music to life.
How did you approach the creative process for The Ghosts of Pripyat?
I approached the writing with the idea of creating a soundtrack to a movie that hadn’t been made yet, trying to convey moods and atmospheres by painting a picture with the music.
How the album’s name affects the material presented on it? Pripyat is an abandoned city in northern Ukraine, evacuated a few days after the April 1986′s Chernobyl disaster.
The title track came about after I wrote a section of music with a haunted children’s carousel feeling. I was searching on Google for abandoned fairgrounds when I came across the iconic images of the funfair in Pripyat. As I researched it’s history I became convinced that this was the way forward and that it should be the title track. I’m still writing the different sections but it could turn out to be an epic.
It’s been said that the album features guest appearances from some of your musician friends including Steve Hackett. Who else appears on the album? What is their impact on the final shape of the record?
Don Airey is going to play hammond organ on the end section of a track called Summer’s End and I’m hoping that my good friend Steven Wilson will play on a track or two. There are another couple of people in the pipeline but nothing else confirmed.
For the purpose of funding the release of The Ghosts of Pripyat you chose the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, what showed as a very good idea. The campaign was quite successful, are you satisfied with the response of pledgers?
The response to the Kickstarter campaign has been amazing. It has far exceeded my expectations. At one point it was the second most popular Music campaign on the whole of Kickstarter.
As an experienced musician, how do you see that particular segment of technology where fans can pledge and support an independent artist in order to fund a project?
My band, Marillion, has a long history with and is an acknowledged pioneer of crowdfunding. It is a very real alternative to signing to a label and giving away your rights. The fans can really support the artists they believe in.
What basically preceded to your call to make The Ghosts of Pripyat was the appearance at the annual Plovdiv guitar festival in October 2013. The concert was recorded and is available both as audio and video under the “Live in Plovdiv” title. Do you think that the Steve Rothery Band is something that you will give more attention and space in the near future?
Marillion will always be my first priority but I’d love to do more live dates with this band next year, maybe in the States and Japan. I’m also already thinking about a second album.
You will be playing few shows with the solo band in Italy (late February), there are also scheduled appearances at the Barcelona Guitar Festival on March 9th and an Oslo date for October 4th. What will the setlist consist of on these dates?
We’ll be playing the finished arrangements for the first time so expect an evolution from the Plovdiv versions of the tracks. We’re also going to play some Marillion songs in the encores with some guest vocalists.
Marillion is playing the Cruise to the Edge festival in April. What else is in the pipeline?
A tour of Mexico and South America in May and the Cropedy festival in the UK in August. The rest of the time we’ll be writing the next Marillion album.
How would you compare the experience of performing the solo band shows with playing with Marillion?
It’s harder work but at the same time more relaxed, if that makes sense. It demands completely concentration.
What is your way of channeling inspiration into writing?
You just have to be in the zone. New sounds and equipment usually inspire me but the right musicians can also help.
Though your career spans over 30 years, do you think that there is still space to learn new things and evolve as a musician?
Hopefully, I think there’s a progression in my playing over the years. Sometimes it’s the wisdom to accept your limitations and make the best of them.