Although Landmarq has been around for 8 years now, it has been a bit silent for about 2 years. The sudden news of the departure of Damian Wilson was a shock to many, especially since The Vision Pit, their last studio-album had been well received. Landmarq found a new singer in Tracy Hitchings, known for her work with Clive Nolan in Strangers on a Train. Early September, Landmarq visited Holland for a gig as the support of Marillion on their fanclub-convention, where they played the new material of Science of Coincidence for the first time. I took the opportunity to have a conversation with Tracy Hitchings and bass-player Steve Gee on the past, the present and the future of Landmarq.
Steve and Tracy, to begin with, this album and this new line-up is it like a new step on the ladder or is it more a 'come-back'?
Steve Gee: Well, I think when the album came out, it was obviously a big step for us, in the sense that Tracy came in as a new front person, which we're all absolutely for, it felt really good, it felt right, because we've known Tracy for so long. And she was the original singer for Landmarq in the first place, but due to SI having her debut solo-album out at the same time as our debut, that wasn't to be.
But somebody said, after the release of the album, that it still sounded like Landmarq-music, but that there is a whole new energy. And that's how I feel about it, there's new energy and that is like a new band. We just intend to obviously carry on, we're not forgetting the roots of the band, but to me it's a new band for the most part. It's just that we've got a wealth of material that we can still feed from, which we're doing in terms of a medley and Solitary Witness. And that will change from time to time. We didn't want to give people too much opportunity to start making comparisons, but I think from the reactions we've had so far in various reviews, that hasn't really happened for the most part. I guess Van Halen had the same thing when David Lee Roth left and Sammy Hagar took over. And Sammy Hagar is a terrific singer, but you've got the old fans and the new fans.
And for you Tracy, is this like starting a new career, or like 'coming home'?
Tracy:In a strange way it is a coming home, because as Steve said, I was the original singer in Landmarq, although I strongly believe that it wouldn't have been right, even thought I strongly disagreed with a certain person from the record company I was with at the time, who said he would not allow it. But in retrospect I think he did the right thing there, but I was still hanging around. And I am glad that it has not happened until now, because I've had so much time in between to work with the likes of Clive Nolan and various people, Gandalf - I shared the same album with Steve Hackett - and so on. So I've learned so much more from the very early Quasar-days, dare I even talk about that? And that's not only singing itself, but also writing, because I have always felt creative and wanted to be on the writing side. But coming in now, I felt this is a perfect album, because when I heard the first stuff, although it's one-and-a-half year ago now, I thought: "this is the one album that I know I could write to". And the situation was that they were virtually folding, they were bored, because the didn't have a lead-singer who was able to be there all the time, so I said: 'what if you're gonna disband ? Why don't you use a singer that will be there?'. And because I have always loved them, it was just right, the situation was right. So for me it is like coming home.
Did you have to audition, Tracy?
Tracy: No, but I wouldn't bother. In a funny sense of a way you go along to make sure if it will work, so if you want to call that an audition... But it's not like that, like waiting in the hall, etc.
You talked about writing, can you explain the differences in writing between this album and the former albums? When you see the credits, it looks like Landmarq started as the Steve Leigh-project, featuring Clive Nolan, and now it seems everybody has an influence and everyone is involved in writing?
Steve: Basically, I've always written songs, I've been writing songs for the last 28 years for any band I've been involved with. The fact that the material in the early days seemed to mainly come from Steve Leigh and some of Uwe d'Rose as well, was because it probably did. Because the material was there in it's more basic form, before Landmarq even came to be Landmarq. We kind of knew where we were going but not so much what we were doing, and the likes of Forever Young was born from that beginning period when we were bringing out things like Killing Fields. And when we came to record the album we were still about 5 songs short of lyrics, which is were Clive Nolan stepped in, because he's very good at getting things together quickly, as well as anything else. The problem is, there's always a deadline until we're as big as Pink Floyd or Genesis, but it meant that we had to finish things quickly. And Clive was really into it, but we knew that for the second album it had to be completely Landmarq.
Are songs composed, written out or jammed? Are they ready when you go into studio?
Steve: They work all different. I sort of wrote Solitary Witness for the most part, the basic within 10 or 15 minutes, because I had this title in my head and it just evoked so much imagery. But it took a few get-togethers with the rest of the band to come to the song that it is for the recording, also to credit Uwe who did the middle section for the original. And we re-arranged it several times, even to the extent that we dropped that middle part. Infinity Parade was another thing that was all mine, but that happens less than what normally happens. Most of the songs are developed in the beginning by one person or two, and then it's the band that takes over. But we still credit the majority writer, whether it's rather lyrics or music.
Tracy, your part in the writing, is it the vocals part or also other things?
Tracy: Yes, it is, that's mainly my area. Now, I've done quite a large amount of the vocal parts, 'cause I'm a singer, but we're always kicking around things and try like "do this or that, Trace". But generally I work with the backing tracks at home and sing around until I come up with something that I think "that's alright, that works" and then write the lyrics around those easy-word-sounds. And I suppose that's the difference with what it used to be before, because I've been there and crafted the lyrics after months and months of work, whereas before it wasn't done like that, was it?
Steve: Well, each number seems to take it's own form and even it's own life. I think we were more focused, and that's the difference, on this one, from an earlier point.
Tracy: The way you used to write before, Damian wasn't there with you as a group, working night after night, where I bring my ideas and take them home again to correct it and come back again.
Generally, I find it very difficult to sing other peoples stuff anyway, on a sort of vocal-level. It's not easy, because to get your own emotions out and use your voice as your spirit wants to, it's very hard when you're singing other peoples stuff. So hopefully, I am singing this coming across like it's been meant like that. But then you've got great writers like Steve, who wrote Solitary Witness, which is superb, to me it's one of the greatest Landmarq-songs among many other good ones. So everybody writes, but I have been sort of in charge of the vocal department.
Why did you break with the album-title tradition?
Steve: It was a kind of a mixed opinion as to whether we should. I wouldn't have mind to carry on, I would have carried on to the end of time with that.
With the result that you can never make a final album?
Steve: In a way, because it always leaves things open. But because it's a new band with new ideas and we'd get rid of a few old ideas, I mean it might be resurrected at some time, it's possible that we might just have a gap where it didn't happen and we instigate that particular tradition.
Tracy: But it wasn't a sort of a deliberate thing, was it Steve? It's just the way it happened...
Steve: Well, it didn't start that way. Solitary Witness was written when we did the first album...
Tracy: No, what I meant was, we didn't deliberately say "well, let's don't do it", it's about agreeing on titles that we felt were properly representing the album, that's the point where we didn't say "oh, we can't do this, because we've always done that". So there's no real reason.
Steve: Yes, as I was going to tell, Solitary Witness was when we recorded the first album, not entirely completed, it wasn't finished in time. So we always knew that it would go on the next one. And it seemed like a good idea to carry that over. So it became deliberate by accident.
And now, we came down to even drawing pieces of paper out of a hat with suggested titles. And in fact, because I came up with Science of Coincidence, that was around a couple of years ago, when we did The Vision Pit. So Science of Coincidence could have been on The Vision Pit, but the music wasn't ready, just the lyrics.
The lighthouse, which is also one of the songs on Science of Coincidence, also appeared on several covers in the past. Was that deliberate?
Steve: The lighthouse became a kind of a symbol, if you like. That was a bit more deliberate, by design, because a lighthouse is usually situated at the end of a coastline as a landmark in itself. All over the world there are landmarks and in London, there's one lighthouse, that's on the river Thames and that's quit near the Milennium Dome, which is almost finished. And it's a sort of slight coincidence that London's only lighthouse is very close to the Milennium dome, which we've used for the cover.
Your touring at the moment, but it's not really a tour, but gigs here and there. Is it difficult to combine that with everyday jobs?
Steve: We'd certainly rather be touring, and that's one of the main differences between Landmarq '98 as opposed to Landmarq '97 and before, this band will do a lot more live work. We're coming back to Holland in November and we're trying to set up plans at the moment, one in Belgium and possibly also in Germany. We're hoping to play in territories that we haven't covered before, due to maybe lack of time or whatever. So maybe France and Italy and there's talk of Canada, maybe next year but we're not absolutely certain.
There has also been talked about a live-album, what about that?
Steve: Well, again it's a possibility, but it comes down to time and money, it's as simple as that. We'd like to record what we do later in the year. And it does look, for the first time, that Landmarq will release a single. We're editing Summer Madness. It started as a request from a couple of German radiostations if we wanted to have even more airplay than we already have. I actually spoke about Summer Madness and Science of Coincidence, so we've looked at those two numbers and Mike Stobbie, our producer agreed, and said "why don't you do it for whoever is interested, rather than for only one or two radiostations?".
Tracy, you did Solitary Witness now. Are there's any other songs that you'd like to sing, because you think they might feel right for you?
Tracy: Well, I like all the Landmarq-stuff, but because of the time we concentrated on the new stuff, because it a new Landmarq. It's not a case of me not wanting to do it, it's a case of "why do something that somebody else has done so well?". Damian is an amazing singer, so I will do my own stuff. But of course we'll do the old stuff, that works well, that I can put my stamp on and feel comfortable with. But to go out and do something that somebody else did so well, would lead people to wanting to compare.
Do any songs come to mind?
Tracy: When we actually go through the songs, which we did, there were certain ones that I could feel really comfortable with, because I could do something different with them, or to a certain extent mirror what Damian has done. Some things I have tried, but you can't change the key, because it loses its essence then. So we said "don't do that", or we found a completely different way of doing it, like with Solitary Witness. If people hear some songs done in the same way, but with some 'undercutting' it, it is better to leave. So I do hope that there are some more songs, that we can make it work.
What are the plans on the first two albums?
Steve: They should be re-released by the end of the year, on Synergy-records. And there will be a bonus track, Borrowed Mind which will probably be on Infinity Parade, because that's where it was on the Japanese release. But we do want to find something to put on Solitary Witness, maybe even something new, that was lying around from way back then, but hasn't been used. And we'd like to change the front cover at least.
You have been rehearsing, many years ago, the material from Tracy's own album, as a backing band. Is there any chance that you play anything from that?
Steve: We spoke about that only maybe in passing, but we haven't obviously done that is yet, but if it's something that's suitable... And we have played Tracy's material, because we were supposed to go out on tour with her not long after it was released. But the priority has to be the new material and looking forward, we don't really want to be looking backwards to much. It has to be a forward-looking process. But certainly it's a very valid point and I think there will be something coming in at some point from Tracy's own album....
Tracy: But to say something about that in an interview would be a bit unfair, because, as Steve said, we haven't gone into deep conversation on it. So we have to agree about it, as with the Damian-stuff, as I said, it has to be right. But not many of the fans have had the chance to hear that stuff, because when I was going to support IQ - with Landmarq as my backing band - I got into serious trouble with my voice.
And then it was a project that just sadly went on his way, although I performed a couple of the songs live with the Thin-Ice orchestra, but since then it has been left.
Steve: For me, if we're going back into Tracy's history, and pull out material, the track for me, that's one of the best things she sang on is The Vision Clears, and because I played on it on the first edition of Thin Ice Orchestra, I wouldn't mind covering that number.
Is there any chance of your solo-album to be re-released?
Tracy: Yes, it's going to be. On Verglas, of course. Clive talked about it quite a long time ago and he has released the two Strangers albums. I hope to have a couple of more tracks as a bonus, but I don't know if that's going to happen.
What other plans are there for the direct future of Landmarq?
Steve: A next album, hopefully next year. And lots of gigging, we want to catch up 6 or 7 years of missed opportunities. With all respect to Damian of course we now feel that it's a band again. He was mainly between Threshold and Landmarq for the most part and then recently, with his solo-album coming out... And we looked actually at combining the two with Landmarq and Damian solo-material and maybe giving him a solo-spot in a Landmarq gig. With him carrying a Landmarq-singer, but the logistics didn't quite work out and he really wanted to give it about 18 months to promote his solo-album. And I'm not really sure if he does that now, because of Les Miserables. So, even his own project wasn't sacred enough for him to commit to that, because something better came along. And that's fair enough, but we didn't want to hang around for 18 months while he did that. And finally we thought, for good or bad, we've got to be a complete unit and Tracy was the ideal choice, for me at least. And we are great friends and she knew all the Landmarq material. And also the fact that her being female, as someone might notice, it's much harder to compare a female voice with a male voice. People may compare performances, but that's why we have to stick to mostly new material.
Thank you very much !
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