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Friday, 11 May, 2001, 23:53 GMT 00:53 UK
Marillion fans to the rescue
Marillion shot
Anoraks ahoy: Marillion are back with a new album
By BBC News Online's Tim Masters

When rock band Marillion's latest album Anoraknophobia hit the shops this week it was the culmination of a unique funding campaign that started with a simple email.

Marillion had already discovered the dedication of their fanbase when $60,000 was raised to help finance a North American tour 1997.

The fact the fans financed this record gave us a warm feeling inside when we were making it

Steve Hogarth
"The band became aware for the first time that there were fans who would put the money where their hearts are," says Marillion singer Steve Hogarth, who replaced Fish at the end of the 80s.

"It came as a bit of a shock all five of us - even though we knew about strength of feeling from the atmosphere at the shows."

Sales pitch

After fulfilling a three-album deal with an independent label Marillion were not keen on the new deals on offer and came up with a radical idea.

Steve Hogarth
Steve Hogarth: Rock rapper
"I wrote an e-mail with words to the effect of 'how would you guys feel about buying a record we haven't made yet - because if you did we'd be really grateful'," says Hogarth. "That was my sales pitch."

There were 6,000 replies within two days.

Hogarth points that in order for this remarkably simple idea to work the band needed to be out of contract and have a huge amount of dedicated fans.

In the end some 12,000 fans pre-ordered at 15 a go and Marillion's 12th studio album was born.

An addition deal was struck with EMI to market and distribute the album.

"The fact the fans financed this record gave us a warm feeling inside when we were making it. And it gave us a feeling of responsibility to make something special."

Hogarth adds: "Without them we would cease to exist overnight."

Rap track

But has this way of financing the album changed the relationship between the band and their fanbase?

We couldn't have done what we've just done without the internet

Steve Hogarth
"We're not Britney Spears, we're not the new kids in town," says Hogarth.

"We've always met the fans after shows, even when I first joined what struck me it wasn't the big rock star trip - that's down to the personalities within the band."

Marillion, who shot to the top of the charts with 1985's Kayleigh and Lavender singles, are keen to shake off labels like "progressive rock" or "heavy metal dinosaurs".

On a new song Quartz, Hogarth breaks into a rap - which will come as a shock to anyone who's expecting self-indulgent 20 minute epics about goblins.

"With this album there's been a massive invasion of black influence - there's rap, there's groove, there's funk, there's trip-hop, blues, jazz, dub - and yet everyone says it still sounds totally like Marillion!"

But will Marillion fund the next album in the same way?

"It's most definitely an option - and I think it would have a bigger response next time round," says Hogarth .

"But we can't really put it on sale now - realistically I can't see a new record release until 2003."

The web

Hogarth says the internet has been an essential ingredient in Marillion's continued existence. The band's last album was called

Anoraknophobia logo
Barry, Marillion's Anoraknophobia logo
"It's saved our bacon - I even said in a song on the last album, Thank God For The Internet.

"We couldn't have done what we've just done without the internet. We could have put 20,000 letters in the post, but it would have taken a month and cost a fortune."

The Marillion website was set up in 1996.

"In those days everyone was pointing and laughing and calling us nerds. Now it's the trendy thing to do," says Hogarth.

For the latest publicity pictures the band dressed in anoraks covered in badges. But are any of them genuine anoraks?

"I've done gigs in the anorak - it's very hot - I'm not sure yet if I'll wear it for the upcoming tour.

"The publicity photo was a bit of fun, but our bass player Pete Trewavas was a bit too convincing for comfort..."

Marillion's Anoraknophobia (EMI) is out now. The UK tour starts in Manchester on 19 May.

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