“How I Came To Be Involved In Underwater Archery”. Anthony Phillips in conversation with Alan Hewitt and Ted Sayers at his home on Saturday 31st May 1988. (Part Two). Photographs by Ted Sayers.
TWR: In one of your all too rare interviews with Geoff Parkyn you mentioned that there problems with the American producers of the Invisible Men album. What was the reason behind the two different releases?
AP: In England we just couldn’t get anything going on it at all, actually and then John … I’ve forgotten his name! (laughs) but Street Tunes, his company picked it up and they wanted something different, some kind of different set up that would make it obviously a catch for the diehard fans so… there’s a different track I think…
TWR: That’s right; Exocet.
AP: Which one is It’s Not Easy on?
TWR: Exocet and It’s Not Easy. I think Exocet is on the US album.
AP: Right, so it was strictly because they picked it up later. We couldn’t get anything going over here.
TWR: And then you came out with the compilation; Harvest Of The Heart. Was that perhaps another attempt to broaden the…?
AP: Well, I mean perhaps we should go back. I have told you about the commercial albums and of course, sandwiched in between these were the Private Parts & Pieces albums. The thing about those was as you can probably understand was that I had to do there was keep them very simple and very cheap and this is why, this is my own analysis of them; this is why they are weak on development and strong on sort of atmosphere and vibe. For that simple point which is that I couldn’t really spend six months you know, or a loot of time on an album and do all the elaborate kind of structuring that you do when you conceive an instrumental piece by that stage.
It’s a case of do it very quickly really and therefore it was much more practical, it made more sense to use the friendly nice pieces and bits of music that I happened to have recorded and I put them together in some sort of order. I made sure the keys worked and maybe it flowed in terms of fast and slow stuff, a little bit of overdubbing and get a cover that seemed to work with it and it seemed to bring it all together. But those albums are very much done like that. The only one which wasn’t done like that was Antiques with Quique because some of those things had been written and then recorded. But most of them have tended to be, if you like, a kind of affectionate scrapbook.
TWR: That is the best way to describe them, I suppose. It’s just that there are so many questions asked about the individual bits of those albums. The key one which a lot of people who have got the albums ask is the one about Private Parts & Pieces One. Can you remember what the title was, the track is called Field Of Eternity on the album and in amongst it somewhere is a snippet of an old Genesis song. I’ve been told by people that it was Pacidy but…
AP: That’s right. Also one of the ones on Private Parts & Pieces III called Old Wive’s Tale was a Genesis song. It used to be called Little Leaf.
TWR: We have heard bits and pieces of these occasionally. Some of these tracks are mentioned in the books about the band in the early set lists. A lot of people are very curious, obviously enough, about these. How did you actually come to work with Quique?
AP: Well, actually the whole story with Quique was fascinating actually because he knew, no his girlfriend knew Rupert Hine’s girlfriend and he came along to the studios where we were doing Sides and we shook hands you know, and while the others were doing some overdubs or mixing. Didn’t I tell the story on the back cover of the album? But he suddenly started playing the guitar along to Collections off the Geese & The Ghost, sort of with the melody and the chords, sort of a proper performer. I mean, I have never considered myself a proper Kosher sort of guitarist. I have always considered myself as a composer who has acquired a certain amount of classical guitar technique but he was playing the stuff properly and I was sort of… (laughs). I couldn’t believe it and I used to go round to his place on a very informal level and we used to either just jam around a but or actually do duets and stuff but interestingly enough nothing happened until they were due to leave the country. It’s funny how when something is ending you get on and do something. You know if everything is open ended you often don’t do anything.
It was only because he was actually leaving that we thought we better do something and we thought let’s do a couple of tracks then it went so well, the most informal, easiest writing I have ever done with anybody. It was literally just after dinner, we just picked up guitars and it just kept coming. It was all so easy to do the whole album. But again, I was tending to think, I mean we wrote it in about two weeks, two weeks of evenings and I was thinking if we could really spend some time together what would we come up with? It was terribly frustrating because once he had gone, he couldn’t get back in!
TWR: Was this due to the Falklands conflict?
AP: He went in the summer if 1981 which was before it all started. Some of his friends were still here in fact and I had an Argentinian staying here who was working for the embassy and our ‘phone was tapped (laughs) and we had this crazy answer phone message that was… it amused me a lot to think of these guys at MI5 dutifully transcribing all this stuff thinking it was code (laughs). So anyway, Quique has… I think it is still difficult for them to get back in. I mean it is difficult for anyone to get in but especially for them it is still bad vibes.
TWR: It’s a shame because he did such a good job on the album.
AP: Well we always felt, we always said that it was good for starters. That was a nice kind of you know, well not proper but you know kind of developed and thought out. I mean on a larger scale.
TWR: A lot of people know you music through the 1984 album but not many of them know about the TV series you wrote the themes for: Rule Britannia. How did you come to do that?
AP: Just through this library company that I had.. I still do quite a lot of library music, just background stuff. But that was a commission piece. Someone actually came up to is and asked us to do it. Actually I had attempted to write a symphony, it sounds quite grand but it’s not at all. I never orchestrated it, the first attempt but it was kind of the first theme and I had this theme so I just used it and it was kind of weird because they had already shot the title music but they hadn’t done the incidentals and stuff. It was for six programmes and I was given a list of words to write moods to like “stings”, that’s what they call them, for the incidentals and I had never seen them. It was pretty weird I can tell you! You try writing a piece of music to “greedy” for instance! (laughs). There were some easy ones like “menacing” and there was “ironic” as well.
TWR: It’s just the way the music was used. The only other time I had heard any of the other guys from Genesis do anything like that was when Tony and Mike did the film The Shout and I saw that recently on TV and the end result was terrible. I don’t know how they got away with it. That was musical murder as far as I am concerned.
AP: I never really saw that. There is a lot of confusion there because Rupert was going to do it but their name carried more weight and he just got credited with “electronics” which he was pretty unhappy about actually. It was fun. What I liked about it was that I was able to use this mixture which I used to become a natural thing; a slightly kind of English choral sort of hymny area with a modern electronic edge and I thought it was really interesting and it was what they wanted.
They wanted the traditional stuff but with a skewer through it really which was what they were trying to say and I thought it was fun and they used it correctly although the first piece of Rule Britannia we had to record at ATV studios and it was just a complete nightmare actually. Recording in a big TV studio you have no idea what it was like. I mean, it was three guys doing badly what one engineer in the studio could normally do well. We turned up on the first day we had to finish at five or something and at about quarter past four blokes were saying “that’s it”. I think obviously they had some sort of union deal for an hour to take it and no one mentioned this and the following day we had two more days to get it done. We turned up an hour earlier and he turned up at half past and said; “What are you lot doing here? Why are you early?” (laughs). I just couldn’t believe it actually. Anyway, that’s by the by. You’d better not quote that last bit I suppose! (laughs).
TWR: It seemed such an unusual album at the time. We had just got used to the Private Parts & Pieces albums and all of a sudden, this complete change about. But going back slightly again, what can you tell us about the Radio Clyde session and in particular, Master Of Time. Was that written for the session or…?
AP: Oh dear. That’s a long story actually. Master Of time was written at the same time, just after I had left Genesis and I had an enormous burst of inspiration and I wrote so much. Basically I don’t think any of us had written anything for about eight months. That was the trouble. We got on the road and got stuck really. We couldn’t find the time to write new material and we got fed up with the old material and it was all very unfortunate really because I think new material would have possibly brightened the atmosphere up but that’s the way it is. Trouble is that stuff was complicated, you know you don’t just… it’s not a twelve bar, just gonna write a new number. It took a long time to get those things like Stagnation and stuff so when I left I had a complete… All the stuff like God If I Saw Her Now, Which Way The Wind Blows … there was a whole lot of other stuff written at the same time and Master Of Time was one of those. There was a lot of other stuff actually.
TWR: I am aware of the non-album stuff now, especially on the B sides of singles and once again, going back to Wise After The Event and the track Squirrel, the lyrics for which are printed in the album sleeve. Is there any kind of conservationist theme behind that album because it seems to have very strong ideas…
AP: Yeah. Actually I shot a squirrel once and went through this great kind of (laughs) road to Damascus and actually I have become a vegetarian and all sorts of stuff happened after that. I became pretty militant. By the time of that which was ’76 or ’77 I was really… I wouldn’t go out with the saboteurs and stuff but I was extremely. That’s right because in the middle of writing Tarka The Otter which, presuming we will get on to and talk about at some stage, I was down in Devon with my friend Harry Williamson and we came across a hunt and it was just so ghastly. So awful in every way and it really made me want to get something out of my system. I had seen the guys on TV clubbing seals and so on.
That was a truly emotive sort of song to sing although Rupert Hine was very good at letting you do a kind of performance and stuff. I mean, we all knew mine wasn’t the best voice in the world but the important thing on a song like that was the emotion and the end bit which I haven’t heard for years and years I admit, but that end bit was always very hard.
The balls-up on Wise After The Event was because the record company changed their minds and so we had to move all the tracks around. It was a lesson in not doing the cover too early and so the lyrics were already set and the track had to go and it had to be “available on the forthcoming single”. There were a couple of other tracks particularly with Genesis that really should have been recorded but they just got blitzed and we ended up by doing the sort of quiet songs. Dusk and stuff like that. They didn’t get the best reaction. There were quiet songs which were better, definitely better although they kind acquired an edge to them on the road. I mean, White Mountain you could be a bit more pushy on those. I mean there were others which were more unabashedly romantic which you couldn’t really, there was no dramatic edge to them of you like, and those ones tended to die.
TWR: There were two I think in one of the magazines we reproduced a review of one of the gigs from 1969 at the Gin Mill and it mentioned two tracks which were referred to as Moss and Light. Do you remember anything about those?
AP: No, that was after me. But I remember Light. I remember doing Light because I used to, just after I had left I used to go and see them quite a lot. That was very good actually. I couldn’t tell you much about it but I remember it being very good. Light was quite up tempo and melodic but not terribly dramatic. You would have to ask one of the Genesis boys themselves.
TWR: Going back to the Invisible Men album again, several of the songs were written with a very strong visual image in mind, were any promotional videos done for the album?
AP: No, because no one was prepared to put any money into it. We felt that there were a couple that could have been alright actually. I mean, things like Love In A Hot Air Balloon were thought of in a light, humorous standard sort of pop video way. But no, he record companies didn’t see it way I’m afraid.
TWR: While on the subject of video, going way back again I read a while ago that the band did a BBC session for The Old Grey Whistle Test in 1970, is that right?
AP: They may have done but that was after I left. There were no films made while I was with them but that sounds like it could have been at the end of 1970.
(Editor’s Note: The recording being referred to here is in fact the Disco Two recording from 14th November 1970 which featured the band performing The Knife.)
TWR: Moving slightly forwards and bit more up to date. You mentioned the Tarka The Otter and other projects. That one and the Alice musical, what happened with those?
AP: Alice was a good first effort really in a medium which is terribly different to anything I had ever done. I did it with Richard Scott, the guy who I had worked with on Invisible Men and he did the book and the script. We had a pretty good shot at it but it wasn’t quite there. That’s what they said. It sold to packed houses up there and it got pretty good reviews. It got a lot better reviews than the new Andrew Lloyd Webber one. But the theatre managers; the London boys, those responsible for taking it that one stage further didn’t think it had quite what it took. Musically it was very frustrating actually because there was so little time to arrange the music. It all existed on piano scores; rehearsal scores and you would go over it with the singers and the dancers. What it needed was a lot of careful time.
And it is there that our time has run out yet again, folks. Due to other demands
on space we have had to curtail this part of the interview and carry it over
to the next issue. Our thanks once again to Ant for persevering with us and
we hope that you found the end result interesting. Look out for part three next