1. Prior commitments
LANDMARQ was formed in 1990 out of the ashes of English band Quasar, by Steve Leigh (keyboards) and Uwe D’Rose (guitar), after teaming up with ex-Quasar vocalist Bob Daisley. Steve had previously worked with Tamarisk and Chemical Alice, taking over in the latter from Mark Kelly who had left to join Marillion. Uwe had previously worked with numerous heavy-rock bands in Berlin and later in London, primarily with Relay.
Next to join was bassist Steve Gee, one time member of 1970's Progressive band Artemis who had supported other such 70's bands including Camel, Capability Brown and Pacific Eardrum. He is a veteran of the UK Country music circuit and has also lived in Paris, France, recording and also working with French-Armenian pop star Danyel Gerard. Steve Leigh and Uwe had been writing together for some while and thought it was time to get out and ‘gig’ the material, calling on another ‘Quasarite’ - drummer Dave Wagstaffe - who was just off to Europe with the band.
On returning, Dave, along with vocalist Tracy Hitchings, decided to call it a day and left Quasar, Dave being just in time to play some initial low-key gigs with Landmarq (as Steve Gee had christened the band). Prior to Quasar, Dave had worked with many bands since the ‘70's, amongst them Argus, who toured with Thin Lizzie, Pink Fairies, Lindisfarne and many others; he also played with jazz-rock band Anaconda and early ‘80s Heavy-Metal band Gaskin.
2. Early days
IN 1991 Landmarq recorded some demos for the Dutch ‘S.I.’ label who asked the band to contribute one of the tracks (‘Suite: St. Helens’) for their tenth anniversary compilation CD. (Note: This was an abridged version, the full song being released on the bands debut album ‘Solitary Witness’). Bob Daisley had decided to return to simpler rock roots and actor-singer Rob Lewis-Jones was recruited for the recording. Rob was, however, reluctant to turn his back on his busy acting career and chose to stay with that. It was at this point that S.I. offered the band a deal to record their debut album. Only problem was the band was singer-less! Tracy Hitchings was approached and was very keen to join but S.I., having just released her own debut solo album, thought it imprudent and vetoed the idea. Fortunately, Karl Groom (who was brought in to engineer the album) recommended Damian Wilson with whom he was working on the Blue Heat project. On hearing Damian, the band immediately asked him if he would like to do the album; on hearing the band, Damian immediately said "yes" and got straight on with it. Previously, he had been working with the very savory Orphic Soup as well as appearing both as a solo artist and duetting with brother Paul. ‘Solitary Witness’ was finally released in 1992 and Landmarq’s first European tour followed, after which Damian added his voice to the first “Threshold” album, no doubt helping him win the Classic Rock Society’s ‘Male Vocalist Of The Year’ award.
3. New album, new singer?
THE end of 1992 saw the recording of the second album, ‘Infinity Parade’, also for S.I., with another tour to promote it. There then followed a period of upheaval for the band when Damian was offered a very lucrative deal to join Luxembourg-based band LaSalle, who had a major recording deal behind them. The rest of the band agreed it seemed too good an offer to refuse and gave him their blessing while also realising the daunting task ahead of finding a replacement!
Numerous auditions later, the band found Ian ‘Moon’ Gould, whose powerful vocal style was rehearsed-in, just in time for a show at London’s Marquee with Pendragon and then on to Holland for the ‘2nd Uden Progressive Rock Festival’ with Steve Hackett, IQ, Porcupine Tree and many others.
‘Moon’ also took the CRS ‘Vocalist Of The Year’ award but, sadly, the marriage wasn’t to last as the good old ‘musical differences’ demon began to raise it’s ugly head. Once again, Landmarq found themselves voiceless as the third album loomed.
4. Visions and Coincidences
AT this point, S.I. were on the verge of a merger with Roadrunner Records, though rumours had already crept back to the band of the former’s financial problems. After considering alternatives, the difficult decision was taken to risk going with S.I. for the third album with the lure of the greater album sales that Roadrunner could bring. Co-incidentally, it was discovered that Damian was back in town and things in the LaSalle camp were not all roses! Landmarq asked if he would like to record the next album to which Damian jumped at the chance, securing a release from his contract to do so. ‘The Vision Pit’ came out on S.I./Roadrunner in 1995 and recorded, as with the previous two, at Thin Ice Studios with the production/engineering team of Clive Nolan and Karl Groom; in addition Rob Aubrey (noted for his work with IQ and Jadis) was brought in to record drums and guitars.
Mastering of 'The Vision Pit' was overseen by Clive Nolan at the world-famous Abbey Road Studios in London where head of mastering, Chris Blair, was at the controls.
Another visit would be paid to Abbey Road in 1998 to master Landmarqs' fourth album, 'Science of Coincidence', this time by Steve Rooke.
5. Full circle
LATER in 1995, Dave, Uwe and Steve Gee had the offer of forming John Wetton’s backing band for some dates in Holland and Germany, performing songs by Asia, King Crimson, UK, and John’s highly-acclaimed solo album ‘Battle Lines’. Martin Orford (IQ, Jadis) came in on keys and flute as Steve Leigh had been taken seriously ill. To complete the line-up, Tracy Hitchings joined on backing vocals (this was before she joined Landmarq). The band played some very successful concerts to conclude the 'final lap' of John's world tour. The set included songs by Asia ("Heat of the Moment", "Only Time Will Tell", "Sole Survivor", etc) plus material by King Crimson and UK as well as John's solo material (including "You're Not The Only One", "Crime of Passion", "Hold Me Now" and many others).
Two weeks after returning home, Landmarq were again in Europe to promote their third CD release, ‘The Vision Pit’.
It was at this point the rumours about S.I. became a reality; the label collapsed and for almost two years Landmarq were without a label or proper distribution while legalities were sorted out. Meantime, Damian had put the finishing touches to his solo album, ‘Cosmas’, recorded at drummer Kenney Jones’ studio, Steve Leigh became involved in writing film music and Steve Gee and Uwe continued writing material for album number four.
In 1998, things came full circle for Landmarq when Tracy Hitchings was asked to take over on vocals as Damian had become more centred towards a solo career. The fourth album, entitled ‘Science Of Coincidence’ was recorded with producer Mike Stobbie (Natalie Imbruglia, John Wetton, Pallas and many others) and released on the bands own newly-formed Synergy label. After playing dates in the UK and Europe in 1998/99, including gigs with Marillion and Threshold, Landmarq had amassed their collection of live recordings and released their first live album entitled 'Thunderstruck'. The album was a collection of new and old material taken from the afore-mentioned '98/'99 concerts with a couple of surprise extras thrown in. (Further live recordings had been retained for a second live set to be released in 2001 - this was the album 'Aftershock' - along with re-issues on Synergy of their first two CDs).
6. The Year Of Firsts
THE tenth year (2000) in Landmarq's existence proved to be one of 'firsts' as the band played for the first time at the Whitchurch Festival in Hampshire, England. Another first was the fact that they played a short acoustic set at Whitchurch.
They have also played a show for the first time in Italy (Milan) alongside fellow countrymen Jadis and Cast from Mexico who have since invited Landmarq to play (for the first time) at their own annual Baja Prog festival held this year in Mexicali, Baja California Mexico, from 28th February to 3rd March 2001. Landmarq's first ever trip to the USA took place in October 2000 for the ProgDay 2000 festival in North Carolina. The show had been promoted and organised annually by Peter Renfro and friends since 1995. Held over two days and featuring ten acts, Landmarq headlined the Saturday show and were extremely well-received.
On returning to Europe the band made an appearance at the Prog-Sud festival in Marseilles. Landmarq also played a special gig with re-formed classic 70's 'proggers', Greenslade, and also made a welcome return to Rotherham, England, for the Classic Rock Society's ‘Spring Rock Festival 2000'. The band also returned to Holland to play at a venue called 'De Lantaarn' in the small Dutch town of Hellendoorn. Again, a very successful and well-received concert. More photos and reports of the 'Y2K' gigs can be found elsewhere on the Landmarq website.
In 2001, drummer Dave began working with Ken Hensley (ex-Uriah Heep), appearing on his ‘Running Blind’ album and at his show at the 'Sweden Rock Festival', also recording a DVD with him.
On the CD front - the first two Landmarq CDs (Solitary Witness and Infinity Parade) had finally been re-issued, along with Landmarq's other CDs, on the bands new Cyclops label, part of GFT Ltd. The covers for these first two albums had been re-designed by GFT and a bonus track was included on each. (See Discography for more details).
THE end of 2002 brought a major change for Landmarq when co-founder keyboardist Steve Leigh made the decision to 'retire' from the band and move to Spain. In a slight twist of coincidence, Steve was replaced by Gonzalo Carrera – actually from north-west Spain! Gonzalo had previously worked with Spanish Prog-rock band Galadriel, ‘Yes’ tribute band Fragile, Huw Lloyd-Langton (ex-Hawkwind), Clive Bunker and Glen Cornick (both ex-Jethro Tull). At the same time, Dave Wagstaffe was invited to play on Oliver Wakeman’s ‘3 Ages of Magic’ CD with Yes guitarist Steve Howe.
January 2003, saw Landmarq embark on a UK tour, with further dates in Holland. Among these dates, the band double-headlined with legendary Dutch band Focus at The Underworld venue in London. Landmarq were fortunate to have a very special guest appear with them. Cellist Hugh McDowell (ELO and Wizzard). The band were also joined by French saxophonist Laurent Hunziker (who counts Supertramp among his many credits) for two UK dates including the previously-mentioned Underworld show.
2004 saw solely UK dates including more with Focus while the band also finished writing their new studio album. Steve Gee played on the new album of the re-formed pre-‘Yes’ band ‘The Syn’ originally featuring Yes-men Pete Banks and Chris Squire. Squire was unable to make the recording, so Steve stepped in and did the sessions. Chris Squire has since agreed to tour with the new line up of Syn, now featuring Francis Dunnery (guitar) and Gary Husband (drums).
In January 2005 Tracy, Steve and Dave offered their services toward the ‘Prog Aid’ charity single, ‘All Around The World’, with proceeds going to victims of the Asian Tsunami of 2004. Gonzalo and Dave were invited to work with ‘The Nice’, featuring original guitarist Davy O’List, and Landmarq started recording their new and fifth studio album, for the ‘Mystic’ record label.
Unfortunately, Gonzalo’s other musical commitments at this time were proving too difficult to continue with Landmarq so sadly the band were obliged to find a replacement. They were fortunate enough to find that an old friend from the past - Mike Varty - was free and was pleased to join the band and lend his talents, his first job being the new album. Mike first came to the notice of Prog-Rock audiences as the ‘live’ keyboard player with the band Shadowland. But his connection with Landmarq first came around seven years ago with a project called Syren, which had exactly the same line-up of musicians that is now Landmarq! A number of songs were completed at this time, the most notable of which, Entertaining Angels, has been played live by the band for a number of years and which is the opening track of the new album. Just before the ‘Syren’ project, Mike was the keyboard player and writing talent behind the Janison Edge album ‘The Services of Mary Goode’ along with vocalist Sue Element, on which album Dave Wagstaffe also played drums. The music from this album was the soundtrack for the film ‘Foiled’ in which Mike also acted.
During 2005 the band played some UK dates with Mike which included the band making their first trip to Poland to play a concert in the city of Katowice. This was filmed at the S. Wyspianski Silesian theatre in front of a capacity audience, the result being released on DVD in early 2006. Entitled 'Turbulence - Live In Poland', this features the full concert plus a wealth of bonus material including audio and video archive tracks, an interview with the band, a huge photo gallery and more.
A serious setback was to hit Landmarq in 2007 when singer Tracy Hitchings revealed she had been diagnosed with two forms of Cancer. This was a major blow for everyone – not least for Tracy herself – and the ongoing recording of the bands next album was put on hold.
Thankfully, following a strict regime of holistic and dietary treatments, plus sheer determination, Tracy was able to deal with her condition and following further tests was given the ‘all clear’. In the meantime, feeling better in mind, body and voice, she returned to the studio to lay down the final vocal tracks for the new Landmarq album.
2008/9 saw some of the members of Landmarq being involved with other projects including drummer Dave Wagstaffe joining Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash for some extensive touring in the UK and Europe. Keyboardist Mike Varty was also touring with ex-Marillion drummer Mick Pointer for his 'Script For A Jesters Tour' anniversary gigs.
In January 2012, Landmarq finally released their long-awaited fifth studio album, 'Entertaining Angels'. The new album was first issued as a Special Edition which included a bonus disc containing extra tracks. 'Entertaining Angels - Special Edition' is a limited release with the main album (minus the bonus disc) having been released in November 2012.
A major change for Landmarq then occurred in the middle of 2012 with the announcement that, due to a conflict of interests and live dates, original drummer Dave Wagstaffe would be leaving the band to join fully with Martin Turners Wishbone Ash. Although the band understood and respected Dave's decision, this was obviously a setback for Landmarq and they realized they needed to act quickly to replace Dave and continue with promoting the new album.
Following a series of auditions in London, the band finally recruited drummer Daniel Martin, a graduate of Drum Tech and a drumming prodigy. Though quite a bit younger than the rest of the band, Daniel was brought up listening to various Rock and Prog-rock bands and artists and has already proved himself a worthy replacement having learned the complete new album and fitted in very well as Landmarq embarked on a series of UK dates in November 2012. The very positive comments the band received both at their gigs and subsequently on Facebook, Twittter, e-mail, etc, bear testament to the fact that Landmarq have made a welcome return to the stage.
Following on from their gigs in 2012, Landmarq continued their live shows -- dubbed "Angels On Tour" -- with more UK and European dates through 2013, including the Cambridge and Summer's End rock festivals in the UK and the Rock Itervoort Festival in The Netherlands. (Live dates info)
Landmarq will be releasing new product throughout 2014/15, including "Entertaining Angels" on vinyl (a double-LP set). Also, a long-awaited compilation album will be released, entitled "Origins - A Landmarq Anthology - 1991-2014" (2-CD set). Featuring vocalists Tracy Hitchings and Damian Wilson, the album includes a brand new song, also entitled "Origins".
And finally -- currently in production is a new DVD/CD filmed at one of the band's European shows in 2013 at the Boerderij, NL.
Further details for the above releases will follow.
Landmarq - London, 2014
To be continued...
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