[Interview] With ... Marion

Marion at Night and Day Cafe / Photo Credit: Steve Hampson

Marion just completed their UK mini tour, playing live sets in Manchester, Edinburgh, Hebden Bridge and London. With a line-up comprising guitarist Andrew Tarling (Tom Hingley and The Lovers)drummer Blair Murray (Twisted Wheel), Andy McKerlie (Des Horsfall's Kuschty Rye) on bass, and of course singer Jaime Harding, it is an entirely new Marion setup, but it is an exciting one.

Hailing from Rusholme and Macclesfield, and attracting an obsessive fanbase at the time of Britpop, Marion were seen as the north of England's answer to Suede. However, there is good reason to see them as entirely different, and quite possibly better, than their London counterparts. Their debut album This World and Body came out in 1996, and it really stands the test of time. Johnny Marr produced the band's second album The Program released in 1998, and this is how he referred to it; 

"Jaime (Harding) was actually living the life that Brett Anderson was singing about and that Pete Doherty could only dream about, which was unfortunate for Jaime. He is such an incredible singer and an interesting writer; I wrote a few songs with him and I played on most of the tracks. It's a good record."

Having survived severe drug dependency, imprisonment and serious illness, Marion's charismatic singer and frontman is a genuine fighter and he has come through to the other side, and luckily his talent and creativity is now getting to shine through again. It's All Indie caught up with the singer during the band's tour to get some thoughts, impressions and a perspective on what the future might hold for the reinvigorated four piece.

What are some of the latest Marion news or announcements you can share with us?

“After this November tour (which is exceeding all expectations and my favourite tour yet), Marion are going to be focusing on all the new songs and the next chapter as we all have planned to become a full-time group in April 2019. My unnaturally talented and inimitable guitar player Andrew Tarling has been living in the Middle East and has flown back solely for these November shows, then is literally flying back to Nepal hours after the London O2 Academy Islington show has finished. He is then travelling until April when he will be moving back to Manchester, hence Marion becoming full-time in April 2019.”

What’s it like to be back on the road again? 

“I think I'm more excited about being back on the road again than Willie Nelson when he wrote On the road again. Considering all the previous tours I've done since and including 2006's year of sell-out shows, this tour is a completely new experience for me. I was never paid for the work I did in between 2006 and 2012 when I thought Marion should comprise of the original lads, out of what turned out to be misplaced loyalty.” 

Things are very different this time. You said the tour is exceeding all expectations, tell us about the response you have had

“This time around it involves a young accomplished group of musicians who I am proud to share the name Marion with. We all share the money equally (therefore all feel valued, which really is the point as it is so not about the money, despite it being our living) and the shows have already surpassed anything I have ever done with any other line up before."

"I have never been so proud and overwhelmed at the response and love from our Manchester show last night and Edinburgh last Friday. I find it hilarious that one of my mates had to queue up for almost an hour to speak to me after the show last night in the line of Marion fans wanting selfies or signed vinyl etc.”

What's it like to play those classic songs again? How did you go about pulling the setlist together?

“It's always a serious thrill to play songs you've written to an audience that is so hungry to hear them, but to play them like we are now doing has just stepped up the enjoyment to a level of pure divination. To be honest, myself and my partner Vic chose songs that the old line up had never or rarely played live before and also made sure that our favourites were in there too, then sent this list of around 16 songs to the Marion boys. It was in the rehearsal room that the order quickly became apparent.”  

Looking back on where the band were in the late 90s? How do you see all of that now?

“I look back with excitement, nostalgia and awe. The 90s were a sublime decade to have been a part of by creating your own world and sharing it with so many people.” 

Do you consider yourself responsible for Marion’s split in 2000?  

“No, I don't, absolutely not. I consider all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. One of my problems was that I was too young to have the wisdom to say no and subsequently endured horrendous alcohol and drug dependencies from over-work and isolation, which led to a complete nervous breakdown. Youth truly is wasted on the young and mine was spent working maniacally and constantly living under scrutiny, I think I didn't have enough normality in my life at that time. When you become famous, people always accuse you of changing, but I honestly think it's the other way around, I truly do.”

Photo Credit: Steve Hampson 

What are your thoughts on the Marion reunions? 

“It became apparent that their true motives for our sporadic reunions were, let's say, less than gracious or even fair. Although we wrote some great songs in between 2006 and 2012's Alive in Manchester live album and were still friends (creatively), I was definitely considered and treated like a second class citizen by them. Now I am not wanting to whinge and I can hold my own with anybody, but to be treated badly so blatantly was just a massive disappointment. As I'm not a quitter and just shrug off negativity, I made the best of those times and we played some storming shows.”

During the periods where you were away from the spotlight, did you still sing and write music?

“After Marion split up in 2000, I didn't even own a stereo until 2004. These were very dark and isolated years for me, but I fell in love with music again, more than I could ever have dreamt of, and was back writing Marion songs from 2005 onwards.” 

You were seriously ill at one point, that must have been scary. How are you feeling now?

“I guess you are alluding to when I had to undergo open-heart surgery in 2007. I was just absolutely gutted that what Marion had built up again in 2006 with a whole year of sold-out shows had to be brought to an untimely end again and instead of the golden ladder, I was back to falling down the greasy and malevolent black snake. Now, I am in a much better place and have finally become mortal.”

What was it like to work with Johnny Marr on The Program? 

Johnny Marr is a genius, I know this word gets banded around mostly undeservedly so, but in his case it is absolutely true. He transformed our early demos into an album full of songs that were ahead of their time and sadly missed by an awful lot of people. If The Program would have come out just a few years later than it did, as everyone knows, it would have been a smash.”  

Aware you working on new material, I can only assume it’s for an album due for release in 2019? 

“Well we will certainly have all the songs by the end of Spring 2019, so it depends which record label we end up working with and how fast we can get the album out, but I'd take a punt on yes.”

What bands or artists do you admire/listen to now? 

“ I'm still listening to all the music I used to listen to, for instance, Morrissey, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Nick Cave, The Doors and The Kinks, to name but a few. Some of my recent obsessions are Townes Van Zandt, Gram Parsons, Creedence Clearwater Revival, then there are more modern artists I adore such as Damon Albarn's The Good The Bad & The Queen, Lana Del Rey, Blossoms and far too many more to mention.”

The music industry has changed since Marion first broke through, how do you see it?

“It's changed completely since Marion signed to Rough Trade, Island Music, then London Records. Now music has temporarily lost a lot of its power by there being too much of it available to download or stream, especially for free. But! This new vinyl revival is the seed by which the music industry needs to keep encouraging and nourishing, then I'm pretty sure we could all be on the up again.

Are Marion likely to go on a full UK tour next year?  

“Do skallies wear hoodies and shout to anyone who doesn't wear a hoodie "Oi, you dirty mosher"? Absolutely and we all can't wait.”

How far are you looking to take the band this time?

“I could never step onto the stage without being a hundred percent invigorated and committed to the words I was about to sing to the music I had painstakingly built up around what it is I feel I've just got to say. So in answer to your question more directly, all the way and absolutely nothing less, I mean c'mon baby, think about it, it's the only way...