Interview with Landmarq
DPRP’s Phil Chelmsford
We meet up with the band Landmarq in a pub in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, UK before the opening gig, of their mini Autumn tour, at The Riga Music Bar. We gather around a table in the corner of a noisy pub with the whole band no less…. Steve Gee, Tracey Hitchings, Uwe Drose, Mike Varty and new band member Danny Martin. We talk about the bands history, Tracey’s battle with cancer, the search for their new drummer, the latest album and had some laughs along the way.
PC: Hi guys thanks for asking us to come along for a chat.
SG: No problem… pleased we can finally chat.
PC: Well lets start back at the beginning… you guys have been going since 1990. So who out of you here are original members?
SG: Me and Uwe
TH: I was supposed to be… my record company, of the time, decided that I wasn’t allowed too.
SG: We were on the same label… SI Records and they said it was a conflict of interests considering Tracey’s solo album had just come out….
TH… plus I had just done Strangers on a Train with Clive Nolan but I wanted a full time situation where I was writing but they wouldn’t allow that.
PC: Didn’t SI Records go bust eventually?
UD: They got swallowed up by another record label in the US.
SG: Anyway… all that aside… we actually first started recording as a 4 piece band. We were then told about Damian Wilson who we spoke too, he subsequently joined the band and recorded the first 3 albums. He actually left twice during that time.
PC: So going from Damian to Tracey as singers… How did that change the dynamics of the band?
UD: The sensitivity of the music and singing changed
SG: Well by this time Damian had established himself as a Prog singer and we thought how are we going to replace him. Tracey coming in just meant that the the comparisons were almost impossible and she could put her own stamp and influenece on the songs. It meant it became very difficult for people to say ‘well she isn’t as good as Damian’ as it was more of a case that she was just different to Damian.
TH: I bloody hope so (laughs)
PC: So Tracey how did you approach the lead singing role? Did the music change?
TH:Yes I think it did. I really wanted to make sure that I put my stamp on it. That was encouraged by the rest of the guys and we all worked together to develop the music for the female sound as well as bringing in my influences from the likes of Kate Bush and Heart. The band just re-developed from there really and they made me feel very comfortable. I obviously knew the band previously anyway (as I should have been the original singer) and I used to quite often pop along to rehearsals and at times, when Damian didn’t turn up, I used to fill in so they could rehearse. In essence I think it was only a matter of time before I finally became a full time member of the band. SG & UD – Both agreeing
PC: So do you still play any of that Damian era material?
TH: At the moment we don’t as its all about the new album. We so are so happy with the direction we have taken and the material we have that we have no need to look back…. At the moment.
We have spoken about digging up some of the older stuff and would love revisit it at some point as I’m sure the fans would appreciate it. To be honest… what we do now sounds better with me on the vocals because its tailored for me.
PC: Of course it does… plus you are singing lyrics that you wrote or helped write.
TH: Absolutely… they have meaning to me which means you sing them with more emotion. I must say though I have enjoyed singing a couple of the songs Damian did… on the live album for instance… I gave them a different approach rather than just try to copy them. At this stage the band are discussing a particular Damian Wilson era song that Tracey has sang live but can’t remember the name… lots of humming, dum de dar’ing and puzzled faces. Then someone says ‘BORDERS…….
TH: Yes that’s it…. Borders…. I think Damian penned the lyrics for that. There was also Pinewood Avenue that I did pretty much as it was originally… but Solitary Witness I really loved playing around with that and doing something different.
UD: Yeah you make that song your own in a way a man couldn’t sing
PC: Lets just clarify…you have made 5 studio albums to date… correct?
SG: Plus the 3 live albums and not forgetting the Live DVD and all still available!!!
PC: You then had a huge 14 year break… and I know Tracey was ill… but that was not for that whole time period… what else stopped Landmarq recording?
TH: Well I had been ill for some of that time and then I got really ill with cancer (breast and ovarian cancer) as well so I did have a lot of health issues over a prolonged period of time.
PC: So was that the sole reason nothing happened?
TH: Well I suppose yes in a way because of the times when I was ok the guys were off with their other projects so it became difficult to get together.
PC: Did you guys ever think through that time that Landmarq wouldn’t see the light of day again?
UD: No not at all.. in fact we were still working as a band playing live etc when we could… just not recording. Actually truth be known we went off to the dessert to re-find ourselves (or maybe that was another band?? I dunno??) – Everyone laughing
SG: Well we still released those Live albums and the DVD. The next studio album was planned to be finished before the DVD release but that’s when Tracey really went out of the picture (around 2006 / 2007) and things then went on the back burner.
PC: So Tracey are you in remission now?
TH: Well I don’t call it remission… I like to say I’m cured. The reason it took so long is that I went the holistic way to fight my cancer. This is really important for me to say too… I don’t believe in the conventional way of cancer treatment hence why I went the holistic way. I refused radiotherapy, chemotherapy
PC: So what were the rest of you all doing in the meantime?
UD: We all did various things… I was personally involved in a Persian/ethnic style album which I really loved doing. Plus recording on various other projects here and there just waiting for the right time for Landmarq again.
PC: What about yourself Mike (Varty) sitting there all quiet… great time to bring you in..
MV: Wow!! What was I doing….. ermm!!!
PC: Well first tell us how long you have been with the band as you were not an original member
MV: Since 2005 if I remember correctly… Dave Wagstaff called me and said.. do you fancy joining Landmarq, we are doing a DVD in Poland. I thought about it for all of about 2 seconds and said… Yes of course (laughs).
TH: Although you had been involved before that.
MV: Well that’s true.. I met Steve and Tracey when I was involved with Shadowland. We performed a couple of gigs together on Holland. To answer your original question I was involved in a couple of projects but mainly Credo I suppose.
PC: So Mike you are no longer the new boy in the band as you now have Danny (Martin) here.
MV: Indeed… plus I’m no longer the youngest anymore.
PC: So Danny over to you… tell us a bit about yourself.
DM: I’m Danny… I’m the new drummer and I make the rest of the band look older… (laughs).
I moved to London about 5 years ago to study at Drum tech. I saw the advert online for the Landmarq drummer vacancy… my dad is a Landmarq fan (he loves his Prog).. so I thought I will give it a go. Steve emailed me back saying ‘I hope you realise we are a lot older than you do you think that will be a problem?’ of course it wasn’t as here I am.
PC: Is this the kind of music you are into anyway?
DM: Yes.. My dad, as I said, is a huge Prog fan so I was brought up on the likes of Marillion, Genesis, Pink Floyd etc etc so its always been a big part of my life.
PC: Well I think its great getting a younger person involved with the band (and I mean no disrespect to the other guys saying this) as It brings new life and energy and maybe a fresh perspective. A bit like The Tangent when they took on Luke Machin and then later Dan Mash. Also Pendragon taking on drummer Scott Higham. All younger band members than the originals but so good for the genre I think. Hopefully having a younger band member may well attract younger fans too.
MV: We were all really happy with getting Danny. We interviewed / auditioned 6 drummers in total, I think, across varying age groups and they were all bloody good. Danny stood out from the rest (although they were all exceedingly good) .
SG: It was clear that Danny had really done his homework, along with one other guy, but it was a tough choice actually as all the auditionee’s were very good.
MV: Well most of them actually knew most of the songs better than we did… (laugh).
PC: It must have been a difficult situation seeing Dave Wagstaff go as he was an original member.
TH: It was very hard for us when we first found out Dave would be leaving due to the fact we were a very close knit group in a ‘like’ family situation, just as Uwe said. We wondered how we could move on and that things could never be the same again. Move forward to today and we are very positive about the whole situation… we grasp it as an opportunity to move forward and freshen ourselves up as a band. We are really glad to have Danny on-board and what he can bring to the band moving forward.
UD: Change is good and we need to embrace it.
PC: OK.. I’m conscious of the fact you guys have to be on stage soon so lets have a quick chat about the album…. Entertaining Angels… Firstly do you all get involved as a band with the writing process?
TH: Absolutely… I do find as lead vocalist… steering melody lines and lyrics (as I can’t play any instruments).
PC: So with this album being a long time in the making… how many of these songs were written pre your illness.
TH: A lot of them were already done at that time…. Some lyrics have be changed here and there but that’s about it.
PC: So how does your writing work?
UD: We might come up with some music and then Tracey might write some lyrics or vice versa. However it works at the time. The title track, Entertaining Angels, came about because my father died. He had always loved the band, loved the music and took an interest in what we did and after he passed I had a dream about him where he tells me he is know ‘Entertaining Angels’. When I woke up I immediately got a pen and paper and wrote about my dream before I forgot. I asked the band what they thought of the title. Obviously they liked it and it went from there.
PC: There are a lot of references to angels in the various lyrics across the album.
TH: I definitely wanted to bring in my spiritual influence into the songs as it is something I feel very strongly about.
PC: The spiritual influence is very evident on the album. You can tell that just by reading through the lyrics…. Well we are running short of time so lets wrap it up with my traditional (for me) trivia interview closer… I have researched your birthdays (well those of you I knew of / could find) and I have listed some famous people and/or musicians that you share birthdays with…..
Uwe – 9th Oct
Brian Blessed (1937), John Lennon (1940), John Entwistle (1944) The Who, Sharon Osbourne (1952), David Cameroon (1966),
Tracey – 11th Oct
Henry John Heinz (1844) – Founder of Heinz Foods, Daryll Hall (1948) – Hall & Oats, John Moss (1957) Drummer Culture Club, Bobby Charlton (1937)
Steve – 13th Nov
Roger Steen (1949) Guitarist – Tubes, Bill Gibson (1951) – Drummer – Huey Lewis & the News, Whoopi Goldberg (1955), Aldo Nova (1956) Guitarist, Gerard Butler (1969) – Actor
Unfortunately I didn’t have Mike or Danny’s birthdays…….
PC: I think its easy to see who has the best birthday pedigree
UD: Well its got to be me just by virtue of the fact I share mine with John Lennon plus John Entwistle
Everyone else agrees at which point the band need to leave to prepare for the gig.