Steve Rothery

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Steve Rothery
Steve Rothery onstage with Marillion at their 2009 weekend festival in Montreal, Canada.
Steve Rothery onstage with Marillion at their 2009 weekend festival in Montreal, Canada.
Background information
Born (1959-11-25) 25 November 1959 (age 63)
Brampton, West Riding of Yorkshire, England
GenresRock, progressive rock, neo-progressive rock
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter
Years active1979 – present

Steven Rothery (born 25 November 1959) is an English musician. He is the original guitarist and the longest continuous member of the British rock band Marillion. Outside Marillion, Rothery has recorded two albums as part of the duo The Wishing Tree and an instrumental solo album, The Ghosts of Pripyat, released in September 2014. He also founded the British Guitar Academy in 2011.


Rothery was born in Brampton, then in the West Riding of Yorkshire, England,[1] and from the age of six he lived in Whitby, North Yorkshire. He began to play the guitar at the age of 15. In an interview for Johnnie Walker's Sounds of the Seventies on BBC Radio 2 in 2013, Rothery revealed that his musical tastes always differed from his friends, who were getting into punk rock while he preferred progressive rock, which he had been introduced to through the Alan Freeman show on BBC Radio 1.


In 1979, he saw an ad in the music press for a band called Silmarillion that needed a guitarist. He auditioned successfully for the band (19 August 1979). From this point he concentrated more on melody, composition and mood in his playing, and less on his technique. Later, Silmarillion shortened its name to Marillion.

Outside Marillion[edit]

The Wishing Tree[edit]

As well as work with Marillion, he started a solo project under the name The Wishing Tree (with Hannah Stobart providing vocals), and released two albums titled Carnival of Souls (1996) and Ostara (2009).

The British Guitar Academy[edit]

In 2011, Rothery launched the British Guitar Academy "to bring together some of Britain's top guitarists to pass on their hard won knowledge and experience to a wider audience through a series of workshops and masterclasses. The aim is to concentrate not just on technique but also creativity and individuality."[2]

Solo album The Ghosts of Pripyat (2014)[edit]

Rothery had been approached by EMI to make a solo album during the recording of Marillion's Misplaced Childhood (1985) and by Miles Copeland when Marillion were recording Brave in his castle in France in 1994;[3] he decided to join with Stobart and form The Wishing Tree instead.

On 25 November 2013, Rothery announced that he was working on a solo album to be titled The Ghosts of Pripyat and scheduled for a September 2014 release. The album's production was financed via the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter[3] and quickly reached almost double its target by 17 December.[4] The idea for the album was born when Rothery was rehearsing for a show at the annual international guitar festival in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, in October 2013, with a band including guitarist Dave Foster (of Mr. So & So), drummer Leon Parr (formerly of Mosque), and bassist Yatim Halimi (of Panic Room). An audio recording of the show was made available as a download from Rothery's website[5] as a first impression of the forthcoming album's direction, followed by a CD in February 2014. Steve Hackett (ex-Genesis) appears on two tracks and Steven Wilson on one. The album's cover was designed by Lasse Hoile.[6] The finished album was released on 22 September 2014.

Influences and style[edit]

Rothery has described his own style on the guitar as a mix of Andrew Latimer, Steve Hackett and David Gilmour.[7] He has also cited Joni Mitchell as an influence, especially her use of open tunings, which he believed created a very harmonically rich sound. He has cited Mitchell's "A Case of You" as one of the songs that had the biggest influence on him.[8] Rothery added: "I was also really influenced by George Harrison—the lesson there being to play just what’s right for the song."[9] According to Rothery: "When I was growing up, I was always drawn to players who had an atmospheric and emotional quality to their sound... I think the guitar has the power to communicate emotionally more than any other instrument, and you’re short-changing yourself if you focus on technique at the cost of emotion. You have to listen with your heart, as well as your ears."[9]

Barry Cleveland of Guitar Player stated that Rothery "specializes in crafting lush sonic atmospheres with layered guitars and effects processing".[10] Rothery was hailed by Scott Kahn, the Editor in Chief & CEO of the website, as one of the great progressive rock guitarists, comparing him favourably with John Petrucci, David Gilmour and Alex Lifeson. Kahn described him as "an incredibly talented player", whose tone "is sure to appeal to fans of diverse guitar sounds", with "guitars drenched in shimmering chorus, sparkling delays and cavernous reverbs", "spacey sounds and blues sections" as well as "acoustic rhythms that anchor the melodies." Kahn identified Rothery as having "three distinct trademark sounds": a "sparkling clean arpeggio tone draped in digital delays", "soaring melodic lead tones" and a "classic blues tone." Kahn said Rothery was "never one to go for major flash, he always plays for the song and not his ego, but when he shines, he shines brightly."[11]

Rothery's process for creating his guitar solos is improvisation. He was quoted: "That has always been the way I’ve done things, and some of my favourite leads—such as 'Sugar Mice', 'Easter', and the last break in 'This Strange Engine'—were composed on the spot."[9]

In 2001, Rothery was voted Yorkshire and Humberside's best guitarist in a poll in Total Guitar magazine with 65% of the vote, beating David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust-era guitarist Mick Ronson into second place.[12]


In the 1980s, Rothery used various guitars, including a Yamaha SG-2000 and Fender or Squier Strats. For amps he employed Marshall amps, for overdriven sounds, and Roland Jazz Chorus 120 amps for more effects laden sounds.[13] When interviewed in 2010 he mentioned using a Blade Stratocaster-style guitar with Lindy Fralin pickups, and a signature model by luthier Jack Dent. His guitars are equipped with MIDI. He makes extensive use of loops, via a setup that includes TC Electronic 2290 Dynamic Digital Delays, an AdrenaLinn III, and a variety of other effects all routed through controller made by Gig-Rig.[10]

On 8 November 2017 Rothery was presented with his new Blade RH-4 signature guitar by guitar manufacturer Gary Levinson at a promotional event in the Albert Halls in Bolton.


With Marillion[edit]

Steve Rothery appears on every Marillion release since their 1982 debut single; see Marillion discography

With The Wishing Tree[edit]


  • Live in Plovdiv (December 2013)
  • Live in Rome (August 2014)
  • The Ghosts of Pripyat (September 2014)

Guest appearances[edit]


  1. ^ Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Eighties Music. Virgin. p. 308. ISBN 9780753501597. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  2. ^ "British Guitar Academy masterclasses". MusicRadar. 3 February 2011. Retrieved 17 May 2017.
  3. ^ a b Steve Rothery Launches Kickstarter Campaign For Solo Album Archived 17 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine, 25 November 2013, accessed 17 December 2013.
  4. ^ Steve Rothery – The Ghosts of Pripyat by Steve Rothery — Kickstarter. Retrieved 17 December 2013.
  5. ^ Steve Rothery band Live in Plovdiv, accessed 17 December 2013.
  6. ^ STEVE ROTHERY NEW SOLO ALBUM — | NEWS | The Official Marillion Website, 25 November 2013. Retrieved 17 December 2013.
  7. ^ Blake, Mark (22 March 2017). "Steve Rothery: "People still think Marillion are a Scottish heavy metal band"". Louder. Retrieved 26 August 2019.
  8. ^ Interview with Steve Rothery. Johnnie Walker's Sounds of the Seventies. BBC Radio 2. 24 March 2013
  9. ^ a b c DeMasi, Vinnie (16 March 2017). "Steve Rothery: The Prog Legend Discusses Marillion's 'FEAR'". Guitar Player. Retrieved 26 August 2019.
  10. ^ a b Cleveland, Barry (2 February 2010). "Marillion's Steve Rothery Talks Tones and Effects". Guitar Player. Archived from the original on 8 March 2015. Retrieved 16 April 2012.
  11. ^ Kahn, Scott. "Steve Rothery: Marillion's King of Guitar Town". Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  12. ^ "Total Guitar July 2001". Retrieved 27 August 2017.
  13. ^ "Script for a Jester's Tear". The Marillion Discography. Retrieved 16 August 2017.

External links[edit]