Anoraknophobia is the twelfth studio album by the British rock band Marillion, released in 2001. It is regarded as the first instance of a music recording completely financed by fans in a then-unique fundraising campaign, as more than 12,500 copies were pre-ordered before the album was even recorded.
In an attempt to depart from their neo-progressive rock past and create a contemporary sound, Marillion introduced elements of such genres as rap, groove, funk, trip hop, blues, jazz and dub. Although the album received several favourable reviews, it was not a significant return to commercial success, and its sole single, "Between You and Me", did not chart at all. The group supported Anoraknophobia with a six-month European tour.
In February 1997, when Marillion prepared for a European tour in support of their ninth studio album, This Strange Engine, Mark Kelly announced on the Internet that the group would not visit North America on account of insufficient support from their American record label, Red Ant. Then, devoted fans launched a fundraising drive and raised $50,000 to help their favourite band to cross Atlantic. Alliance Entertainment, parent company which owned Red Ant, filed for bankruptcy on 14 July 1997 and tried to sell off the label. As a result, additional $15.000 (money that would have come from Red Ant) was garnered to finally enable Marillion to undertake their 21-date North American tour, largest since 1991. The whole idea, known as crowdfunding, was conceived and realised by fans without any involvement from the band, and although music lovers had always backed their favorite performers in various ways, such a successful Internet campaign was unprecedented.
Having released marillion.com in October 1999, Marillion completed a three-album contract with Castle Communications. Although the band had a number of independent labels interested in signing a record deal, the group members wanted to have total control of their music and still be able to use distribution facilities of a major record company. This could only be achieved if the money to create an album was obtained from a different source, and Marillion came up with a radical decision.
As they had already learnt the dedication of the fanbase which had underwritten the North American tour, the band sent e-mails to over 30,000 subscribers to their official website, asking them whether they would buy an album which had not been even made yet. Within two days there were around 6,000 positive replies saying that the fans would pre-pay for the unrecorded album. In total, 12,674 copies were pre-ordered as the entire process raised more than £150,000 which exceeds an advance the band could have received if they had signed an ordinary record contract. For worldwide marketing and distribution purposes, an additional deal was concluded with EMI, and the album would be released for retail by their imprint, Liberty Records.
Being unexpectedly successful, this innovative pre-order venture has since been deemed as groundbreaking, and, thus, Anoraknophobia is considered to be the first crowdfunded album in the music industry.
Anoraknophobia was written, recorded and mixed at the Marillion's own Racket Club studio in Buckinghamshire, England, for the whole of 2000 and early 2001. To work on the album, the band chose Dave Meegan who had previously been an assistant engineer on Fugazi (1984) and had produced their last two recordings with EMI, Brave (1994) and Afraid of Sunlight (1995). Stewart Every assisted at mixing of the album.
Pete Trewavas, when describing the making of Anoraknophobia, claimed that the band had not had any tracks left over which could have been used, so the entire album had been written "from scratch". Since they had been unfashionable in the eyes of the media and had been largely ignored by the music press, Marillion deliberately attempted to create a modern sound and distance themselves further from their neo-progressive rock past. In an interview with the BBC, Hogarth spoke about the band's new musical direction and the album's diverse influences: "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." Thus, the songs "Between You and Me" and "Map of the World" have drawn comparisons to U2, while the nine-minute track "Quartz", which contains a rap section, has been compared to the sound of Massive Attack.
All the samples in "Separated Out" were taken from Tod Browning's horror film Freaks (1932). The line "Freaks!... Freaks!... Freaks!" at the ending of the track was used as a reference to Marillion's fans who sometimes refer to themselves as "freaks" after a Fish-era B-side. The phrase "She was only dreaming" in the song "If My Heart Were a Ball It Would Roll Uphill" is a sample from "Chelsea Monday".
According to Hogarth, the title of the album means no fear of anoraks ("anorak no phobia"), referring to the long running in-joke that Marillion fans are also sometimes called anoraks. The artwork for Anoraknophobia as well as some other related music releases and press materials feature cartoon graphics of a boy named Barry who wears a rain parka. Inside the liner notes for the pre-order edition of the album, there is a photograph of each of the band members posed in a similar manner and standing near a telephone box.
All who pre-ordered Anoraknophobia received a special 48-page digibook edition with a bonus enhanced disc. Those who pre-ordered before a set date also got their names printed in the booklet. First copies of the album were sent out on 23 April 2001, and since the end of the pre-order campaign the special edition has not been in print. The bonus disc contains the song "Number One" which has remained commercially unavailable. At one point considered for the album, it was put aside because it did not match the rest of the recording sonically. The standard edition of Anoraknophobia was released on 7 May 2001 through Liberty Records. As part of a series of Marillion reissues on the Madfish label, a division of Snapper Music, Anoraknophobia was re-released in 2012 in two variants: 1) compact disc packaged in a deluxe digibook featuring extra artwork, and 2) double heavyweight (180gm) vinyl in a gatefold sleeve.
The album was ineligible to chart in the UK for the following reasons: 1) The pre-order sales were direct through the band's website and as such could not be counted; and 2) The retail version contained a sticker of Barry within the jewel case making it exempt from charting due to the inducement of a free gift, even though anyone purchasing the compact disc would not be aware of the gift until opening up the packaging. In mainland Europe, Anoraknophobia was not a chart success and has stayed among the lowest selling albums in the Marillion catalogue.
The only single from the album, a double A-side "Between You and Me" / "Map of the World", was released on 10 September 2001 and did not chart. It was available exclusively via the band's website and was sold with an additional free copy along with a letter and biography provided by Marillion. The fans who bought the single were asked to pass the free copy to their local radio stations to encourage its airplay. Radio edits of the both songs were used in April 2001 as a two-track promo sampler.
In 2003, Marillion launched an experimental contest to remix the content of the album and the song "Number One". Anyone interested could buy a copy of the mastertapes and rebuild the tracks at one's own discretion. Selected winners from over 500 participants were awarded a cash prize and their remixes were included on a double album which was released in August 2004 by Racket Records as Remixomatosis.
As Marillion had been constantly meeting with the hostility of the music press, in a press release for Anoraknophobia, Hogarth issued the following statement: "This is an important and contemporary album that is light years removed from anything the band have created in their past. It deserves to be reviewed in a manner that is both accurate and fair. So, our challenge to you is to firstly listen to the album. Then write a review without using any of the following words: 'Progressive rock', 'Genesis', 'Fish', 'heavy metal', 'dinosaurs', 'predictable', 'concept album'. Because if you do, we'll know that you haven't listened to it".
AllMusic reviewer Andrew Hamlin criticised the band for "high 'pricing' of their new project" and called the above-mentioned "challenge" imperious. He has admitted that "this odd poise of seeming to snap on feeding fingers carries over to the record on several levels". Philip Wilding of Classic Rock magazine awarded the album a four out of five star rating and described it as "a collection full of grace and tenacity, thoughtful and thought provoking and not without moments of real clarity and beauty". Hogarth was complimented for his vocals which had "rarely sounded better". In the opinion of Catherine Chambers from Kerrang! magazine, it was shocking that Anoraknophobia, conjuring up "a pretty contemporary feel with its classy mix of blues, country, and even trip-hop stylings" proved to be "actually pretty damn good" after Marillion had delivered many poorly received recordings. Stuart Maconie was more critical of the album in his review for Q magazine, awarding it just two stars out of five. He wrote: "Steve Hogarth is way funkier than Fish but the tone is still as arch and self-important as a lower-sixth poetry mag". He praised "Between You and Me", comparing it favourably with Crowded House and U2, but criticised the band for musical self-indulgence, especially on the 11-minute "This is the 21st Century". Maconie concluded: "Clearly Marillion can play. If only they wouldn't play so much of it".
To promote the album, Marillion immediately launched their Anoraknophobia tour across Europe. Lasting from 4 May until 26 October 2001, and including 39 performances, it consisted of the spring leg (from 4 May to 6 June, 16 concerts), appearances at two summer festivals in Switzerland (21 and 22 June), and the autumn leg (from 15 September to 26 October, 21 concerts). Recordings drawn from three UK shows in May were documented on the live album Anorak in the UK (2002). For the October leg of the tour, the band held a vote, asking fans what they would like to hear played. The final set lists were based much on this vote.
Anoraknophobia was played live in its entirety during Friday night shows of the Marillion Weekend 2015 events, which took place in the Netherlands, the UK, and Canada. In November 2016, three separate 2-CD albums commemorating the concerts recorded at Center Parcs village Port Zelande in the Netherlands during 20-22 March 2015 were released. The Blu-Ray and DVD sets Out of the Box hit the stores a month later.
All lyrics written by Steve Hogarth, except "Map of the World" by Hogarth and Nick Van Eede; all music composed by Marillion.The total length for the pre-order edition bonus disc is shown for the audio only part.
Credits are adapted from the album's 2001 and 2012 liner notes.Steve Hogarth – vocals, additional piano and percussion
Steve Rothery – guitars
Mark Kelly – keyboards
Pete Trewavas – bass, additional guitar (on "When I Meet God") and vocals
Ian Mosley – drums
Stephanie Sobey-Jones – cello
Dave Meegan – production, recording, mixing (at The Racket Club, Buckinghamshire)
Stewart Every – mixing (at The Racket Club, Buckinghamshire)
Simon Heyworth – mastering (at Chop 'Em Out, London)
Carl Glover – booklet graphic design
Matt Curtis – outer cover graphics
Jill Furmanovsky – photography
Fernando Aceves – photography