COMPANY HOLLAND INTERVIEW


On Monday 18th of September i had an interview with Mark Wilkinson. Mark did the artwork for all the Fish-era Marillion covers and nearly all Fish solo-covers. I talked with Mark about the upcoming release of the famous Masque book and lots of other interesting topics.

How is The Masque book coming along Mark, is it finished?

Not yet, the deadline is the end of September. I'm currently finishing the scanning. Fish sent me his old lyric books before he left for the USA ( to play with the SAS Band ) We hope the book is ready to go on sale at the end of November.

The original idea for Masque dates back to 1988, is that correct?

Yes. Fish and myself had the idea already when he was still in Marillion. It's been 12 years since than, so we have an awful lot of material now. The problem is what the leave out of the book. I think we might even have enough to fill 2 books, which is not so bad.

Can you already tell something about the artwork for Fellini Days, the new album?

I haven't begun work on Fellini yet. The idea is to do something with Fellini in the last chapter of the Masque book. Masque will probably end with some rough sketches for Fellini. The problem is, the deadline is in 2 weeks, and Fish still hasn't sent me his idea for Fellini.

How do you work normally with Fish, does he send you lyrics or demo recordings?
Do you get together for each new album?

Normally i try and spend a few days at the Farm together. That's the way Fish likes to work. We talk a lot and watch some movies. I've been over for a couple of days for each album.

How do you like the music Fish makes nowadays, Raingods for example?

Fantastic, Raingods probably is my favourite album. I think that Plague Of Ghosts is a master-piece. In my opinion Raingods is even better than Vigil, which makes me part of a minority, i guess. Fish told me again and again that he considers Vigil as his master-piece.

The artwork on Vigil is brilliant, at least that's my opinion. The front, but especially The Hill drawing on the inside are so full of details. There should be some things in the drawing that refer to The Beatles Sgt Pepper's album. Can you tell something about that?

You’re the first person to ask me this. If you entered this question in The Masque competition you definitely would have won. I put in references to The Beatles in some of the covers, sometimes even without Fish knowing about it. We always played games when we talked about a new cover. We challenged each other to put symbolism and references in the covers. The barrel in the left corner on The Hill drawing has the text: Welcome Skyline Drifters. Marillion, in the early days, once in a while played warm-up shows under this name. On The Beatles Sgt Pepper's album there is a doll that has embroidered on its chest the text: Welcome Rolling Stones Good Guys. They did that to point out the rivalry between The Beatles and The Stones. I thought it was a nice idea to do that on Vigil, because it was Fish's first solo album since leaving the band.

On the Suits cover we see all kinds of tattoos on the skin. Every tattoo should point to a certain song. Can you tell something about that?

Not really, no. At least I don't remember it. The tattoos on Suits are not that well done. We were both not really happy with that cover. I was very limited in my time. On The Masque cover there will be a girl with tattoos, that's done far much better than on the Suits cover.

In November 1999 i visited The Baker's Arms Pub in Colchester, together with Harry & Astrid & Hindrik from The Company Holland. The cover photo's for the Clutching album were taken in this pub. Can you remember something about that photo-shoot?

The idea was to use drawings and photo's for this cover. We never were satisfied about the Clutching cover. The deadline was cut short, untill in the end i had about 10 days left to do the cover. Fish was furious about this, but the managment ( John Arnison ) decided this. John Arnison was already busy planning the tour and the artwork had to be finished. It was impossible. I had about one day per person in the sleeve. Fish's idea was brilliant, he wanted a sort of Great Bar In The Sky, where all these dead celebrities were at the bar. The people in the sleeve all kind of died from fame-related things. Alcohol and drug abuse, murder and accidents. Fish originally wanted about 20 or 30 persons in the sleeve. I called him that he had to cut down his list to his favourite 7. Fish for example also wanted: Jim Morisson, WC Fields and Tony Hancock. A lot of comedians were on his list actually. Torch is sort of like the guardian angel of the people in the sleeve. He is the patron-saint of the " drunken romantics " A friend of mine, Janus van Helfteren took the photo's.

In the early days, who came up with the Jester idea?

Fish!! I got the job to do the sleeve for Market Square Heroes from a design firm called Torchlight. EMI had just contracted a new band called Marillion. Jo Mirowski, an employee from Torchlight showed my portfolio to the band, along with 3 others. They chose my work. Fish wanted a recognisable symbol in the sleeve that would represent Marillion. He came with the idea of a Jester, i think he got it from some kind of book. I don't exactly know anymore. The Jester as a symbol will always be related to Marillion and especially to Fish.

Who actually designed the famous old Marillion logo?

That was designed by Jo Mirowski of Torchlight.

Something i wanted to ask for a long time. The Jester on Script and Fugazi, the boy on Misplaced and Torch on the Clutching cover are all barefoot. Does this mean something?

Again there's a little reference to The Beatles. It's a reference to The Beatles Abbey Road album. On the sleeve of this album they walk over the famous zebra crossing. Paul McCartney is walking barefoot and it was rumoured that he was in a car crash and died. The story was that somebody had replaced him. In some religions there is a religious meaning when someone walks barefoot, i don't recall what meaning this is. As i said we played a lot of games surrounding the creation of an album cover. In those days i was sent a lot of manuscripts. I used to draw my raw sketches on these manuscripts and send them to Fish. He would not only look at the drawings, but also read the manuscripts. He thought that i was sending him hidden messages and secrets. We talk about this in Masque.

The Torch figure on the Clutching cover has some little marks of mascara and paint on his face. From his pocket we see the belled Jester cap. Is he a descendant of the Jester?

Fish thought it was time to say goodbye to the Jester and the Boy. Those 2 figures played a major role in the Marillion artwork. Still we thought that there had to be some kind of central character in the sleeve. Nobody knew exactly what we wanted. At a certain point in time Fish came with the idea of Torch, a figure he had already written a lyric about, Torch Song. Fish explained what Torch represented. Torch was the patron-saint, the guardian angel of the " drunken romantics " in the bar. We decided to do him as some kind of angel. John Arnison thought that this was fantastic, as he was planning the tour together with a Geman promoter. This German promoter told John Arnison about the Black Angel, a symbolic figure in German mythology. The Torch figure could be used on all the things surrounding the album and tour. John Arnison asked me to paint Torch as a black angel. The original drawing shows Torch as a black angel, and this drawing is actually better than the original sleeve.

The drawing will also be in Masque. If Torch is a descendant from the Jester?

We left that open for discussion. He could be seeing the belled cap from his pocket and the mascara on his face.

How did you meet Robert Mead, the boy on the Misplaced Childhood cover?
He lived next door to me. He comes over next week. I want to take some pictures of him as he is now, and combine these with some old pictures of him leaning against the Berlin Wall, when they were shooting the Kayleigh video. I want to use these pictures for Masque. Robert is 27 now, the age Fish was when Childhood was released. He is a journalist now and maybe he can get us some publicity.

On the Lavender cover we see the boy crown the girl with flowers. Who's the girl?

She's a fictive person.

What education did you have Mark?

I went to the art-academy in Watford. I did a course in graphic design. Here's The Beatles connection again: One day we had a lecture by someone called Graham Palfrey Rogers. He was the art-designer during The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour. We became friends and he encouraged me to take up illustrating. When i left school i went to work for him in his studio in Covent Garden in London. On his advice i carried on and began to work free-lance. He is now living in Spain and makes paintings.

Do you paint Mark?

Not much. I did some painting for Masque however. Almost all figures on the cover are painted and than scanned into the computer. It's quite a complicated cover. There are 5 persons, the boy from Childhood holding a moon-shaped mask, the Jester from Script, a figure in a chair resembling Torch holding a cockerel. There's a half nude woman holding a masque and there's the figure from Sunsets.

Why is the Torch figure holding a cockerel?

When Fish came with his idea, i got a book from the library about the history of Jesters and clowns. The idea for the Jester, or at least for his clothing and belled cap, dates back to the MiddleAges. People wondered why the first thing a cockerel would do in the morning and the first thing the people would hear was the crowing. The story goes that the cockerel told all of the peoples secrets before they were awake. In the book i got from the library there is a beautiful painting of a jester holding a cockerel. The jester has his finger to his lips, as if he is trying to say to the cockerel: don't tell all my secrets.

Will Masque also be available from book-stores?

Yes, Rob Ayling from Voiceprint will take care of that. He also finances the book. ( last thing i heard is that Fish is now financing the book himself? WL )

On the Warm Wet Circles cover we see a drop of blood running from the eye. Is there a reason behind this?

It has the same reason and reference as the bullet hole. Both things refer to the murder of John Lennon. John Lennon was shot dead by crazed fan Mark Chapman on 8th December 1980 in front of his appartment in the Dakota building which overlooks New York's Central Park. In the lyrics of the song there is the line: Like a bullet hole in Central Park. The idea for this cover was mainly left to me to decide, because the band was in the USA at the time. At the bottom of the sleeve there is a lipstick which also gets mentioned in the lyric: "Rolled from stolen lipsticks across the razored webs of glass" It's always meant as a lipstick, although Fish thinks it's a penis.

On the Vigil cover the man carries an hourglass. The hourglass shines, why?

I was very impressed by a drawing called The Light Of The World by William Holman Hunt. I mixed this idea with an idea i got from a book called Bearing An Hourglass by Piers Anthony. In this book the main character holds an hourglass. On the Vigil cover i used the hourglass, but the idea had always been in my head as a lantern from the Light Of The World drawing. Probably it all happened a little subconscious, i can't explain everything. Sometimes a drawing takes on a life of his own, tells it's own story. What i really like is the glow from the lantern that falls on the cape. The two figures on top of the Hill should look innocent. You have no idea how they got there. The rest is fighting and clambering to get to the top. The whole idea behind the Vigil cover was time ticking away. The idea that we are 2 minutes away from Doomsday.

On the left side of The Hill drawing we see 3 crucified figures. Is this a reference to the crucifixion in the Bible?

Yes and no actually. They hang from telegraph poles. This refers to the Big Wedge lyric of religion being spread by all kinds of media. The crucifixion reference is also there. There's blood running from the crosses, down the hill. The blood in the middle represents Jesus’ blood.

Also on the Hill drawing we see light fall through the windows of the cathedral. The light falls on some people, who are they?

These are African refugees. They are the innocent ones in the whole story.

The woman at the bottom of the Hill has red hands. Does this have a meaning?

No, she wears red gloves, that's all. Fish wanted the drawing to represent chaos. He wanted the idea of the Tower of Babylon. A scene full of figures.

Can you tell something about the different drawings for Plague. Are these all Fish's ideas, or is there also something personal in it?

He left it completely to me. Fish's idea for the Raingods cover was also very different from the final sleeve. He wanted a photo from him with his reflection in a gold Zippo lighter. He should be under an umbrella, and a storm should rage there. He called me and said that he booked a photographer, and that i should instruct the photographer, David Darling, on how to position Fish for the picture. I called David Darling and told him about an idea i got from an old album by Weather Report called Heavy Weather. In promotion campaigns for this album you see a drawing of a man with a hat and a raincoat on. Where his face should be a storm is raging. I told David Darling to position Fish in the same way as in this drawing. Afterwards the sleeve had to be ready in 1 weekend, which was nearly impossible. Again i had far to little time to work on the cover. If you compare that to Vigil, back than i had almost 6 months and a much bigger budget to work with.

What do you consider to be your best work to date for either Fish or Marillion?

I think i like Script best. It was the first album sleeve i did for them, and bringing back memories for Masque was a lot of fun. Fugazi and Clutching are my least favourite sleeves. Misplaced is also a great cover in my opinion. Regarding Fish solo, Vigil stands out. Fish shares this opinion, luckily.

The inside of the Clutching cover shows a cocktail glass. Wasn't this originally meant to be the cover for the album?

That's interesting. Fish also mentioned this. Back than he wanted this as the cover for the album. When we talked about ideas for the artwork he always made raw sketches of his ideas. I can remember that he once made a drawing of a cocktail glass with the world floating in it. The band rejected the idea, and Fish came up with The Great Bar In The Sky theme.

The clown on the painting in the Fugazi sleeve, is this Joey Grimaldi?

No, i have heard of him, but that isn't him. At least i can't remember, maybe it is, i don't know. All i remember is that Fish wanted some paintings in the sleeve. On the wall are two painting my wife Julie did, called Ressurection and Temptation.

Does your wife still paint?

Not much, she does a lot of photography. We worked on different projects together, she is a really talented artist.

Do you have children Mark?

You talked to one of them when you called me. We have a 15 year old son and a 12 year old daughter.

What's your opinion about the current Marillion sleeves and would you consider doing a sleeve for them?

I don't think they would ask me. They tried real hard to get their own identity after Fish left. Regarding the Marillion albums with Steve Hogarth, I really like the Brave album. The whole concept of it. It's by far my favourite Hogarth album, and i play it regularly. The last two Marillion albums i don't like that much. They have the same problem Fish has i think. They reached a certain level of fans and sales. The time they sold millions of albums is long gone. What i don't understand is, Marillion made a great album with Brave, Fish did the same with Raingods and Sunsets, but the albums don't sell that much. It's quite frustrating for them, i guess. Childhood sold over 2 million copies, nowadays they should be glad to sell hundred thousand. Plague Of Ghosts is a master-piece in my opinion, but Raingods didn't sell that great, i don't understand that.

Plague is a master-piece indeed, i agree. Fish did so much brilliant music and it frustrates me as a fan that he doesn't sell more. Nowadays i guess you have to take a lot of money to the radio stations to get your music played. What's your opinion on this?

I don't understand it really. Incomplete and Change Of Heart are great songs. The same goes for Easter by Marillion. All these songs have done nothing on radio, unbelievable. I thought Fortunes Of War was great, but that song also didn't do much. Fortunes Of War comes of my least favourite Fish album, Suits. I like Fortunes, Raw Meat, MR1470, Lady Let It Lie and Emperor's Song, but the other songs aren't that great. Still Suits sold more copies than Raingods I believe, I don't understand this.

Can you tell something about The Outpatients sleeve?

The studio was than called The Funny Farm. In Britain they called mental hospitals sometimes Funny Farms. On the cover you see the suits, the bussiness-man taking the musician with them, to lock him up in a Funny Farm.

Did Fish ever discuss a sleeve for a project called Geistfahrer?

Yes, he did. This came up in 1988. Actually there was the plan to make Geistfahrer the next project after Raingods, but he changed his mind for some reason. He is now going for Fellini Days. In the last chapter of Masque he explains waht a Fellini Day is. It's about a certain day in Kopenhagen, i believe.

What is your opinion about the Interal Exile sleeve?

I wasn't to thrilled to use a photo again, like we did on Clutching. Nowadays the techniques are far better than back in those days. The Sunsets sleeve is quite good i think, although Fish has a different opinion. He wanted to do a sort of art-deco 1930 style poster. That requires a certain style, which is different from what i normally do. I think Sunsets turned out great.

Why the different logo on Sunsets?

A promoter in South Africa told Fish that the old logo wasn't clearly readable from a distance. Fish asked me to change the logo, which i was not thrilled about. Sunsets became the first sleeve i actually got back from Fish for changes. The logo had to be changed and he wanted more cannabis leaves round the edges.

Which logo do you prefer, the round or the oval one?

The oval one. It's the best logo to work with and it looks more contemporary. The only minor problem is, that it resembles the Ford logo.

The Masque is almost finished, when will it be released?

December probably, at least that's the plan.

In 1988 you already had a cover design for Masque. Is the current cover much different from that old one?

Yes, completely different. The old black and white drawing is on my website. We now have enough material to fill 2 books. The Masque is containing the best material we had. Maybe some day there will be a part 2, who knows.

Why was there never a picture-disc release for He Knows You Know?

No idea!!

Do you collect something by a certain artist or group?

I used to have quite a big Pink Floyd collection. I sold a lot of it to purchase my first computer. Among the items i sold there were a few posters, which turned out the be quite valuable. I always regreted it. Maybe if i make some money with Masque, i will buy some things back. I never sold any of my Marillion or Fish stuff though, or other things I worked on.

On the Gentleman's Excuse Me cover we see Tammi, Fish's wife. Did she model for you or did you draw her from pictures?

No, she didn't model for me. I used pictures of her to work from. Actually it's only Tammi's face. Tara, Fish and Tammi's daughter, considers this song as her favourite.

This was the interview i had with Mark Wilkinson on the 18th of September. After thanking him for his patience and his time, he told me he had send me a picture of the cover for the Masque book. The cover is absolutely brilliant in my opinion, and if the rest of the book has the same quality, we have definitely something to look forward to.

Wilco Lathouwers

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