Sunday, 12 February 2012

Sunday 12th Feb

It's been over a week since my last update and that's because there hasn't really been much to report. Actually, one really good thing is my tuning has returned to normal. My left ear and right ear are in tune. It's something I've always taken for granted in the past, but I won't from now on. I did a hearing test a few days ago and my hearing is normal up to around 1 KHz. After that it drops sharply to nothing. Not great but so much better than no hearing. The biggest challenge I face will be playing live gigs because I am still very sensitive to loud noise. It makes the tinnitus much worse and can be physically painful at levels I found comfortable prior to the SSHL. Fortunately, Marillion don't have any gigs until June when we are touring the USA and Canada. That's over four months away and I'm hoping that my sensitivity to loud noise will decrease. These days when we perform at gigs we all wear in-ear monitors to hear what's going on during the show. Prior to the invention of these systems every band used monitoring systems that consisted of individual floor speakers for each band member. In the case of Marillion we had2 each for stereo and Ian had the equivalent of a huge PA system positioned behind his drum kit. The overall effect of this was a sonic arms race where we got louder and louder in an effort to hear ourselves better over the noise coming from the rest of the stage. In the immortal words of Ian Gillan, we tried to make "Everything louder than everything else" In-ear monitors block out a lot of external sound so they don't have to be as loud to be heard. Also, as there are less speakers on stage the overall noise level is much less to begin with. Of course, certain things can’t be quieter. A drum kit is a noisy piece of equipment and drummers like to bash fuck out of their kit. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Guitarists need loud amplifiers to excite the strings on their guitars. This creates a feedback loop causing the notes to sustain longer than they would naturally. Essential if you want that Steve Rothery sound. My aim when we next go out on tour will be to position myself as far as possible away from Steve R and Ian while still being on the same stage, so expect to see a change to our usual positions. It's about time we had a different look anyway.

Some of you may be aware that I am also playing keys with DeeExpus, and we have a new album "King of Number 33" out now on Racket Records and in the shops on Edel Music next month (shameless plug over)There are 3 UK shows planned for April and one in the USA in May. I have decided to not do these gigs with the band. I'm very concerned that because DeeExpus don't use in-ear monitors and the stages will be a lot smaller compared to the Marillion gigs that overall sound levels will be unmanageable for me. Also, in order to prepare properly for these gigs I would need to start rehearsals with DeeExpus soon. I suspect that sound levels in rehearsals will be similar to the onstage levels. I'd like to leave it for a few more months before exposing my ears to that sort of punishment.

I really enjoyed working on "King of Number 33"and have no intention of quitting the band. I'm looking forward to starting work with Andy (Ditchfield) on the follow up at some point and sincerely hope that I will be able to join the band onstage at some future date. I will have a better idea of when that might be after a few more months have passed and hopefully my sensitivity to loud noise and tinnitus has reduced further. Also, how it goes with Marillion in the USA will give me a better idea of what’s possible.

I'm still waiting for the follow up MRI scan. Despite chasing the consultant and the hospital I'm still without an appointment. Clearly going private doesn’t guarantee immunity from waiting lists or incompetence. I'm not the worrying sort but I would like to put the possibility that my hearing loss was caused by something abnormal in my brain behind me.


  1. Wishing you the best of luck, Mark and I really hope things will improve for you! It's true that we take things like hearing and seeing for granted. I always said I'd prefert to be blind, rather than deaf, but I can imagine in your case it is a bigger issue, as it is your bread!

  2. Sorry to learn of your probems Mark. I have been enjoying your playing since seeing you at Luton Tech in 1981, and I am now careful with my own hearing when I attend gigs , never mind play at them. I have recently trained as a teacher of the Deaf, so I know there are some pretty remarkable things technology can do with a high frequency loss. It sounds like you have had some excellent advice about dealing with live playing, fingers crossed it works for you. It happened to Beethoven too, and he was quite a useful pianist too apparently!

  3. Thanks for the update and hang in there! We're all thinking about you and hoping for the best.

  4. Surely there's room for tighter controls at rock concerts. Recently went to my first stadium gig in about 15 years and was bowled over by the loudness (indoor sound in an outdoor venue, basically) - can't help thinking that the guys on the mixing desks must have impaired hearing after so many years on the job, and they compensate by turning it up to 11..

    Have the health controls been keeping up with improvements in the amplification systems?

    Even when I took my kids to see Selena Gomez I assumed that for a kiddie audience they would keep a closer eye on the volume level, but no such luck. Regretted not packing ear-plugs in fact (ok, partly due to the choice of music admittedly!)

    Hoping to rectify that last point if Marillion can make it to Chile. Hint, hint..

    And of course, wishing Mark a rapid and complete recovery, Best Phil A