“From Artful Dodger to Buster” - Phil Collins interviewed on Radio Zurisee by Guido Truffer exclusively for The Waiting Room. Interview recorded in December 1988. Memorabilia: TWR Archive. Photograph: Ted Sayers.
GT: So, what is actually happening with Genesis?
PC: Tony Banks is recording as we speak. This week he started, so we are all doing different things. We are all very interested in solo projects. We are also very interested in keeping the group together but there won’t be another Genesis album for another two or three years because we all have things we want to do.
GT: What do you think of Mike Rutherford’s new album with The Mechanics?
PC: I’ve heard it. I have a copy of it and I’ve heard it quite a few times. I’ve got a gym at home and the wife usually puts it on, she’s in love with it! I like some of the songs quite a lot. The Living Years for instance is a wonderful lyric. There are some great songs on it, yeah. Good luck with it.
GT: Some of his songs sound similar to Genesis songs, does this bother you?
PC: Well, Mike and Tony … they are kind of … they have always been the strongest writers, you know, in Genesis so I think maybe their taste comes out more in Genesis than my taste although the last couple of albums have been pretty much democratically written. The three of us go into a studio, our studio and improvise until things happen. I just think that maybe when you hear a Mike Rutherford album or a Tony Banks album you hear a little bit more of Genesis in their albums than you hear in my albums, because maybe I like R & B more or whatever.
GT: Are you currently working on your next solo album?
PC: February (1989) I start. I’ve got the songs … fantastic…. No, actually it’s going to be awful! (laughs). I don’t know, it’s hard for me to say. You can’t pinpoint, it’s like this.. You can’t describe music like that. It’s just every time I try and do something I try to make it sound different. Some people think it sounds the same. I haven’t got any words, I wish I had the words. I’ve got the songs but I haven’t got any other words. I don’t think the first time anybody hears a new Phil Collins album it should be dome like this, you know what I mean? (laughs). I think I’d like it to be given a bit more of a clean break.
GT: Composer, lyricist, drummer. Singer, entertainer and actor - which does Phil Collins like best?
PC: Well, all of those really because the next thing I do is the music so I am not abandoning music for films but I would love to do another film because I had such a great time doing it. It was such a happy film to make, you know. It really was every day I used to look forward to going in to work and it was just a breath of fresh air to get away from music fro a while to do this. And now I have two careers running parallel with each other . I didn’t want to do the music for the film … I wanted to keep this film thing totally separate because I felt that people would find it harder to take the acting seriously if they heard my voice. So, I definitely … at the beginning of the film I said I don’t want anything to do with the music but towards the end of the film, Lamont Dozier who I’d got involved with the film people to write some songs had come up with a couple of songs that didn’t have words which I loved. I wrote the words and then I wanted to song them and so, piece by piece, I got involved but I would have preferred not to have got involved with the music at all.
GT: Groovy Kind Of Love was the main theme to the film. Why not record your own composition?
PC: Well, it’s been blown out of all proportion really. I mean, Groovy Kind Of Love… I said it to David, the director, listen, we were going to use that song anyway by the Mindbenders somewhere. So I said what if… it’s such a nice song done slowly what if I did a version? Just a couple of verses and it was on the radio in the background somewhere and you couldn’t even notice it was me singing it was so small, you know, because all the songs in the film are used quietly so it’d be on. So he said show me what you mean, so I went upstairs to my little studio and put down in about half an hour a little version, gave it to him and said maybe we can use that somewhere. Then I saw a rough cut of the film and it was over the arrest at the end and they’d used it and it was quite loud as opposed to quiet as I’d thought and I said, that works very well, you know.
GT: Do you, apart from your many activities find time for yourself? Your family and in particular, your hobby; the model railway?
PC: Yeah, my trains. I’ve got a box of stuff in my room that I bought in Hamburg. I like making the things. I’m not so interested in the trains as I am into the scenery and the building it’s like I can forget everything and I’ve only just had this consuming passion for about a year and a half but it’s great. I just wanted a hobby. I’ve never had a hobby, music has always been my hobby. It would be nice after the Genesis tour… I said, right, we’d been talking, myself and the wife and she said you should do something outside of music and so, Simon my son had this train set which I’d bought him and every time he would visit I’d say; set it up and then over the weeks it would come apart and I said it would be nice to have it set up properly, you know. And anyway, she said why don’t you clean the cellars out and get yourself a train set? So I did. The Genesis tour finished on July 4th and on July 6th, Monday, I went downstairs into my cellar and I didn’t come upo for three weeks apart from air and food (laughs). So, I loved it and I do get a lot of pleasure from it. So I do have time to myself in answer to your question .
The wife and I, we do all sorts of things. We are very self contained, we don’t really go out to a club and that kind of thing. We don’t go out to clubs not at all. There is more time to myself than people think. Also I only need a little bit of time to myself. I get enjoyment , it’s not a grind for instance if I’ve got a day off I get up and think to myself shall I… Shall I go and muck about in the studio and maybe I will write something or maybe I will go down with my trains or build a car. I only need that to happen two or three times a week for me to keep sane. The rest of the time I work. I enjoy work. And also in July and August of every year, my kids come over from Canada for summer and I always tend to have that time off. So, therefore I don’t mind working the other ten months of the year as long as I have those two months off, full-stop, you know.
GT: We actually see Phil Collins as the train robber in Buster in the film. Are you a naturally talented actor or did you take lessons?
PC: No. When I was fourteen I did some acting for about three or four years I did some stuff in the West End stage in London. I did some TV plays, I did all kinds of things you know; knitting patterns; mail order catalogues, all kinds of weird things. But really I just wanted to be in a band, I’d been playing drums since I was five so that’s really what I wanted to do. I concentrated on just that and I had no intention of doing any more acting until Miami approached me to do a cameo part in an episode and everybody was doing cameo parts you know, every week they had a guest. And so I thought if I was good that would be good and if it was bad it was such a small part that I’d be the same as every other rock star really. Anyway, when I got the script they’d written a very big part for me to do and I was a bit scared because I didn’t know whether I would able to do it or not. So I went to Miami, spent a week and a half there and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a wonderful time. And I said to my manager, if any other scripts come in I wouldn’t mind having a crack at a film because I enjoyed myself so much and I found that it was like a breath of fresh air.
You know, I was music, music, music all the time and suddenly there was this other career that might be opening up and I was very excited by that. So he sent me some scripts that had come in to his office and I read a few and didn’t really like them. Then Buster came up. In fact that came up as a result of Miami Vice; the director saw that and said this guy could play Buster. He sent me the script and I read it and I really enjoyed it. It’s the first script that I have read and finished, the rest I have got a little bit bored with.
GT: Is it possible to combine the two activities of musician and actor? How easy is it for you to interchange the roles?
PC: Yeah, it wasn’t hard for me to do it. I slipped into it very easily. I mean maybe the experience that I gained when I was fourteen, maybe that helped. I think being in front of an audience with Genesis and my things.. You get not to be shy with people so obviously that helped. But really I was asked to do so many different things in this film that I’d never done before especially in front of the camera, you know, things like the romantic scenes; screen kisses, that kind of thing. It’s not the kind of thing I’d do on film you know. I’ve never been in one of those films.
GT: The part of Buster shows you as a comedian, wouldn’t that be the perfect job for Phil Collins?
PC: Oh comedy, yeah. I would like to do another film with Julie. I think Julie and I work very well together and we are believable as a couple.
GT: Is the film producer’s role something you see as a challenge?
PC: Ah, funny you should say that. It appears to be a sort of megalomaniac role but I am not really a megalomaniac but I would like to have more control over every aspect of it which is very hard to do because it is a huge can of worms. With music I am in control of everything I do to the album cover, to the poster, to whatever, you know it usually gores through me and I say ’yes’, ’no’, ’no’. yes’. Now with films its not that easy because you have got so many people involved so you are just a cog in the machine. I would like to be more in control so that I can say’ ’that’s definitely the best take of that scene’ so that I can see that at some point maybe when I learn more I would like to direct but I’ve only done one film so I am not suddenly saying I want to direct but I CAN see that as an area that I would like to get into.
Well, that gives us a bit more of an insight to Phil Collins the actor, musician and train driver (perhaps in later life, eh Phil?). Thanks to both Phil and Guido for providing us with it.