FOR an album that’s been years in gestation and taken months of hi-tech studio time, Marillion’s latest record, Sounds That Can’t Be Made, has an ironic title.
But its title isn’t about music, or indeed sound.
During their 30 year-career, over the course of 16 albums, Marillion’s lyrical themes have spanned drug abuse, prostitution, alcoholism and vanishing youth. But this year, for their 17th album they’ve taken inspiration from that special connection that exists between two people, as bassist/acoustic guitarist Pete Trewavas explains.
“The title’s the name of one of the songs. It’s about two people having a connection romantically and being so close with an energy that goes backward and forward between them. The song’s trying to explain that.”
It’s a lyrical conundrum that’s hardly lofty – it haunts the 18-year-old manufactured pop act as much as middle-aged, lyrically adept songwriters like Marillion’s Steve Hogarth.
As Trewavas says, it’s the crux of human existence. “It’s the driving force of everything ultimately,” he says. “People want power and wealth but ultimately these things are to attract a partner, or make them attractive to prospective partners.
“Everything’s connected to that special connection – it’s the reason we are here.”
But Sounds That Can’t Be Made isn’t just about love. Gaza, as the name suggests, takes a humanitarian stance on the Middle East, although Trewavas is cautious not to give too much away.
And musically too, the album’s an agile, varied piece of work, moving from heavy distorted rock-outs in some numbers to crisp, delicate melodies in others.
This variation, both in lyrics and sound, is a testament to Marillion’s determination to keep things fresh.
“There’s been a long gap between the last album and this one and the reason for that is because we didn’t want it to feel like a treadmill of writing, studio, tour. We wanted to take our time on this one.”
During their recording hiatus Marillion headed up a world Marillion convention, toured with Deep Purple and recorded an acoustic album.
“We wanted to sit back and take stock with this album.
“We’re always exploring new avenues but always try and keep the strength we have.”
So how, after 30 years, do they keep on producing fresh material? “I think you have to let go of your latest achievement and rely on your natural talent.
“You could be kicking around the studio for months thinking ‘this is rubbish’ and then hit a creative patch. You have to trust your creative instinct.”
But the creative burst can happen at any time.
“You have to be aware when inspiration is taking place. It can be two or three o’clock in the morning and I’ll be scribbling away.
“I have an American friend who’s a religious man and and a musician and he believes that inspiration is God communicating with him.
“He’s a prolific writer, he can walk downstairs and by the time he’s at the bottom of the stairs he’s got a complete song in his head.
“But I don’t know where inspiration comes from, who knows.”
Inspiration has been hitting Marillion since it formed in 1982 and in 1985 the band burst into the mainstream with Kayleigh.
The song not only broadened the band’s fanbase several-fold, it also impacted on the naming of British girls from 1985 onwards. In 2005, a survey showed that 96 per cent of Kayleighs were born after the song was released.
That was 27 years ago. Since then the band has gone through several musical reinventions, with each album being a reaction to its predecessor.
They have developed a reputation for being a spectacle live, with Classic Rock magazine ranking them as one of the UK’s must-see live acts and now, the band are honing their live repertoire for a show in Sheffield.
Marillion play at Corporation, Milton Street, on Friday September 14.