"9,000+ words in 55 minutes!" - Tony Banks in conversation with Stuart Barnes on Thursday 1st December 2022. Photos by Stuart Barnes.
TWR: How are you?
TB: I'm fine. Reasonably healthy. I think ‘adequate’ is what I normally say.
TWR: Let’s start at the beginning of the Last Domino tour. How did that all come about? Where did the thought first start?
TB: Well, I don't know...Mike had been quite keen on the idea. He did one of Phil’s shows and Mike & the Mechanics were supporting, he played with him and, thought the idea might be good, and then we met up with Phil. I wasn't sure he'd want to do it, because obviously, he's not physically as capable as he once was but he seemed very keen on the idea. I think a lot of the reason for that was because he wanted his son to be the drummer and we just questioned whether we're going to agree to that. And we did some preliminary rehearsals, to see how we felt about Nic and we thought it's fantastic and so that's when we decided we'd like to do it if everyone was up for it.
TWR: How different was this tour to other tours?
|TB: Obviously Covid was still a factor. When we announced the tour about a week later Covid suddenly struck as being a serious thing and you know, in all honesty, if we'd known it was going to happen, we probably wouldn't have announced anything at the time. The main difference being Phil not being able to do what he used to do. He can't drum so the double drumming thing was out, which I think was a shame, 'cause it was a very strong feature of the show. Also it's a question of how he was going to be on stage. We got very used to him being very active and very much a central performer and how it was going to work without, so we thought long and hard about the visuals to make certain visuals would be able to compensate for what he couldn't do, made certain all the songs were in keys that he could sort of cope with, which is always a factor with anybody as they get older. So those things were different. It was a sort of different kind of feel. It was a bit less social. We couldn't see as many people. On the road we weren't able to mix with people quite as much as we did on the previous tour, but yeah, it was fun to do. It's very satisfying to do. The audiences were very, very enthusiastic which to some extent surprised us, just how many people came to see us 'cause it's been a while since we did anything much. So it was gratifying from that point of view. The music I thought sounded really good. I think Nic fitted in really well, it was very easy for us to play. I found it was a very easy situation to play the songs we were doing.|
TWR: How did you choose the songs on the setlist?
TB: Well, yeah, we had quite a long list at one point. We wanted to try to do one or two things we hadn't done for a while. It was going to be the final shows we ever did, so we wanted to make certain we included old friends as well. One or two, I think, we just felt we couldn't face again. In The Cage was one, for example. Much as I love the song, we've done it so many times and it created a bit of space for other things. Phil and I have always been very keen on the song Duchess, so we kind of wanted to do that. After that it was a question of just fitting everything around it really making certain we did a few old things, getting a set that kind of worked. We wanted to start again with the Behind The Lines medley bit because we first saw that work really well on the previous tour and a lot of people obviously never saw that tour as we only did the two shows in the UK.
Everything took its own shape. We couldn't do the double drum thing and also we felt we couldn't end with Los Endos because it's so such a heavily instrumental piece, and without Phil being able to contribute it didn't seem right. I missed Los Endos, I have to say. We'd have liked that to have been there as well, but nevertheless, you know, it worked great.
TWR: Was there anything you rehearsed that didn't get through into the shows?
TB: Oh yeah, Abacab; we had it up to a certain standard. Misunderstanding, which we did do in a couple of shows in America because we thought maybe they'd prefer to hear that rather than Duchess. But as it turned out, they’d rather hear Duchess. I think we just thought Misunderstanding was a little bit tired. We took some things a little further. I mean, Nic rehearsed a whole load of songs. We had a very long list, and he rehearsed them all. We did vaguely consider doing perhaps the later part of Suppers Ready, but then decided perhaps that was going to not work. It's always difficult to do just a section of it rather than the whole thing, and we can't do the whole thing 'cause it takes up too much time. We did rehearse one or two other things as well. Abacab l thought sounded really good, but you can't do everything, so we left it out. So Jesus, He Knows Me. We did rehearse Jesus, He Knows Me as well, actually, for the sake of the visuals and everything, but it's quite a tough song to sing 'cause it's very fast and it requires we look quite a lot of you know… trying to get Phil up to speed was not… it seemed to not quite get there. He was always a little bit l kind of behind, and it's a song that really needs to pacy and everything, that we decided to leave it.
TWR: How do you get yourself 'match fit', or ready for a tour like this?
|TB: Well, this particular one I had to first of all find out whether my fingers were working and they sort of seemed to be, much the same as it always been, which is, you know, works some of the time not all the time and I just went through all the songs we were going to do. I had the original sounds as I did them on the previous tour of all the songs we've done then and was able to, with modern technology, transfer them to a slightly more modern system which didn't require me having millions of keyboards sort of stuck around everywhere and then just learned how to play them. I did actually learn how to play the Suppers Ready Apocalypse thing, which I haven't done for years, which is quite funny. But I also did the Cinema Show bits. The technical things took a bit of, you know… get your fingers back so they work. But I mean to be honest the main problem is always memory, I think, and as you get older and I'm not such a young man anymore, it's just remembering what comes next sometimes and you know you have blanks and stuff and you've got to somehow get through them. We had one or two little equipment problems, particular with the little acoustic bit we did in the middle. Sometimes my piano was a bit funny, but in the main everything worked pretty well and and most of the time we played alright. Everyone makes a few… there's a few duffers here and there, but that's why people come to the show, isn't? It's like going to watch motor racing and hoping for a car crash, isn't it? It's what makes it unique. If you play it all correctly, then everyone thinks you're just playing to the tapes anyhow, which we're not. And a lot of people I know do that, but we don't do that. It is quite a strain two, you know two and a half hours of music you, gotta remember it you, gotta play it all right, the equipment’s gotta work and you're relying on every else getting their bits right as well. That's half the fun really. You always feel a sense of achievement after you come off the stage, I think.|
TWR: So, it’s not that mistakes get made, it’s how you recover from them…
TB: Well, that is true. My best method, which normally works is if I make a mistake, I don't look like I’ve made a mistake. I don't do anything, you know, and sometimes it works very well because somebody else thinks they must have made the mistake and so you get away with it, if you like. Sometimes you play a brown note or about complete wrong note and you just have to sort of say, well, that's the game, you know, and then you, hopefully if you don't get out of sync, you can carry on where you were. If you make a couple of errors then that's OK. As long as it's, you know, hit a wrong note or something doesn't quite work, then you can pick up. As you say, though, sometimes that can put you right out or you just totally lose where you are. A couple of times I had a complete blank in the middle of Domino on one particular show, the ‘silence and darkness’ bit, I just suddenly couldn't remember what chords they were at all; it went completely, so I had to busk it. It was funny was because there was a strange note in the middle of all that and Daryl was playing the strange note, but I wasn't, so it sounded like Daryl was making the mistake, which I thought was quite funny. But you get through it and I say audiences who really know their stuff well, will know when you make a mistake. I think to a more casual audience, most of the time they don't notice anything anyhow. It's part of the game.
TWR: Let's get onto equipment now. You mentioned it earlier, in the past there were lots of keyboards and then gradually over the years it's got down to fewer and fewer keyboards and more modules, and so on. But this time there were even fewer modules.
TB: Yeah, well I got rid of the modules really 'cause half the modules I was only using for one or two songs anyhow and. I had put some of the old sounds I used to use like the the Synclavier sounds that were quite prominent on Home By The Sea and Mama and also things like the marimba that was on Tonight, Tonight, Tonight. On the previous tour they'd all gone onto Proteus’s and this tour I put them straight onto the computer and the Mainstage sampler, which is just a fantastic piece of kit; it's very cheap, it doesn't cost much and it’s got a fantastic sampler in it and it's also, you know, one button will change everything, all the notes, which works very well after all the transposing we had to do, you won’t want to learn all these songs in different keys and so with Phil, having to drop sometimes a semitone and then sometimes he’d say ‘I need to go down another semitone’. I didn't have to relearn all the songs which was great. The keyboards I was playing were never playing anything really. The one in front and is a sort of piano weighted keyboard. It's got no sounds in it at all. The one above was a Wavestation, but I wasn't using any of the Wavestation sounds. And the other one I had on the stage was the Oasys which I was using the sounds of, but never really playing it with the sounds that it was playing with. I was just using some of the sounds. I didn't see the point in putting all of those onto Mainstage, I had quite a few sounds on there, and they were all still sounding fine on Oasys, so I thought I'd just I just use that and make it part of the setup, which worked fine. It made it very much simpler and I have to say that apart from a couple of times I was using the second keyboard in the middle, you know when I was doing the acoustic stuff, it never went wrong. Well, there's this one time a little thing went wrong on one song, but most of the time it was incredibly reliable, and certainly by the time I did the second-half of the tourfrom America onwards, I don't think there were any errors at all in the equipment. So that was nice to rely on that because I was a bit worried beforehand. I've had a few. reports that sometimes Mainstage could be a bit funny, but Brad, who plays with Phil, had said he had a couple of problems with it but I think he was trying to do an awful lot of other things. He was controlling all the drum machines and everything as well, so I think he had a lot on his plate whereas I was just concentrating on the one thing and I found it all worked great.
TWR: There was still two of everything in the rack as well…
TB: Well, you to have to have that. I had two computers, and two of the things that make the computer work, and we had a spare Oasys which was off stage. Everything else was off stage and we had a spare of each one in all the main keyboards. I had a system so that with one button I could change over to the other computer. I never actually had to do it as it happened, so the other computer was effectively there all the time, it could have played the pieces, it was playing all the pieces, if you like, but it had no audio attached to it unless I pressed the button and then the whole thing would change over to an alternative setup. It was designed to be reasonably fail safe. It's a funny thing when one goes wrong, often two do as well, but we kept it so that we were always checking it. We check everything and make certain everything worked on the other thing. The Oasys we had to swap around a few times, did have a couple of moments when that went wrong. It would seem to be mainly in the early part of the tour. As I said on that first British leg, we had a few things... one time the Oasys suddenly decided to do something strange, but most of the time everything went fine and so by the end of the tour the equipment actually was all good.
TWR: So I suppose that not having new material to promote and therefore a whole load of new equipment to drag around made things a bit easier…?
TB: Well, yes, I mean I always feel that people like to hear the songs as they were as they were, so that's why I've carried those sounds with me, you know, and I feel that the particular sound, say at the beginning of Mama, is very important, and then there's a koto in the middle, and everything you know, all these sounds. So with this system and be able to sample everything you know into the computer so you can play them just like they're any other instrument is incredible for assets I think. And as you say, I wasn't trying to get anything new, trying to recreate old sounds and occasionally trying to sort of maybe slightly improve on some of the old sounds you. Obviously I'm a long way now from the Pro-Soloist, for example, which I played the original Cinema Show stuff on on. I'm probably not trying to totally recreate the sound. I mean it was great fun at the time that instrument. It was a very simple monophonic synthesizer; you don't make it sound too different. You'd want to make it sort of slip in there. One of the things you have to do I found which was particularly with songs, lowering the tone, say on Domino we went down a couple of semitones some of the, you know when the cool shapes and everything start to come (on the video screens), I found by adding sort of a high octave in there, but quite quietly sometimes, it seemed to make it work. You know when we first tried it, something like the first part of Domino I thought we were never going to work this down like that, but just slowly just gave everything a little bit of an edge, the higher octave in it, and it suddenly sort of seemed to work OK. It was quite a bit of work. It was incredible amount of fine tuning as we went through; all the rehearsal period I was constantly fiddling with everything to try and get it right because it is it is slightly strange 'cause I'm playing just about all the songs in the key we originally wrote them in. I mean, Throwing It All Away and Invisible Touch; maybe I'll play in different keys, but I'm not sure I even play them in the key that we now play them in, I get lost now. I have no idea and there’s Mike saying ‘what bass notes should I be playing here?’ and I have no idea 'cause I don't want key I’m in. I don't have perfect pitch or anything, so that was quite funny really, but it sort of seemed to work. I mean it was an extension from what we did on the previous tool in terms of changing keys and stuff which we had to do on a lot of the songs. I mean, having the backing vocalists helped a bit too, because I mean on a song like Tonight, Tonight, Tonight which is always a bit of a struggle for Phil whatever key we do it in because you know, it's sort of when you build up a bit to the high notes, even though they're not that high and having the backing singers there, who could take over the chorus lines a little bit and help Phil, that really worked well I think. The song we really changed the key of was Fading Lights. I mean that was kind of down about five or six tones, I think. I mean, it was really halfway down the thing. It's a song that really didn't need the high note in that to be that high, really. It just happened that was what the melody was. So by taking it a long way down you didn't get that same problem and I think Phil could do the vocal a little bit more throwaway, not kind of being quite so precise. It’s also a lovely song to do that because it's very much a goodbye song, you know, you’ve done it all, this is it, goodbye people. And we really wanted to do that. We didn't want to do the whole song 'cause the instrumental part, although it's good, I think we felt maybe the instrumental parts we're doing on other songs were better and so we just cut it down to the two verses. And that was always moving for me. It was a lovely moment for me.
|TWR: Where I was sat at the O2 gigs this time around I had a very good view, from where I was sat, of your feet...
TWR: Don't take this the wrong way, but sometimes in some songs like Mama, your feet are almost as busy as your hands.
TB: Well, those things you have to do. Well, first of all, you got the volume pedals; I try to leave the volumes on ‘loud’ as much as I can because most of the time you can preset the volumes on Mainstage but the other thing is you've got to change over, you know. I mean on Mama, I'm playing the drone and when it's not there it's not got to be there, and I do that on the volume pedal and I have to kick the volume pedal down hard at the point it comes back in after the after the second laugh and things like that. It's just the way I've set it up. I wanted to try and do the whole of it without having too much fiddling on Mainstage so it just meant some things had to be a little trickier than other times and I had to make certain, you kind of bring in sounds like the second verse of Mama, the pad comes in, you know, but it's everything else is the same so I do that on a volume pedal. I mean, you do these things on your pedals and some things you've got to turn around and play the other keyboard for the big bit in the middle of Mama. I mean, in the old days I’d just do that sort of thing all the time, didn’t think twice about it, but now you don't do it as much really, so I'm tending to be using the two keyboards and front of me most of the time 'cause that's easier. You don't need all these keyboards all around you. I know visually it was always quite fun having these things around you but, at one point I had about 6 or 7 actual keyboards around me which was a nightmare. This way it’s a lot easier. But some songs you had, you kept it. So you didn't have quite so much electronic fiddling about. You could just keep the one sound on the one key and keyboard and all that.
TWR: How would you manage patch changes during songs like in Domino?
TB: It was great being able to set all those things. The actual keyboard in front of me in particular has about I don't know 8 or 9 different sounds on it. Obviously they can't all be out on the note that you're actually playing, so you have to know where they are. And most of the time that's fine unless you kind of lose your mind for a moment and then you can't remember where which what you're playing.
On Domino you've got obviously got the breathy sound, the little kalimba sound which is at the beginning, you’ve got the flutey sound at the beginning as well. And then you've got the big B-bmm, B-bmm, B-bmm bits you know which are all on different keys. They're all on there, so you just have all that set up so that you know which note you’re playing during the whole of that first half. If was quite funny in Domino because Mike just plays one riff all the way through Domino. My job in life was to make his riffs sound interesting, so I kind of worked on all the things I could do on it. And so the whole of the first half of Domino which he plays is one little riff. I did all these different things on it and I quite enjoy doing that sort of stuff. But it does mean that you’ve just gotta keep your head when you're playing. But it does mean when you're transposing everything this can be a problem because not everything transposes quite right. So with sounds rather than rather than a melodic sounds you can't necessarily change it in quite the same way. You've got to then re-sample it and redo it and you know there are the things like that are a bit more of a challenge I suppose, but I have technical help with Geoff Callingham around all the time and we worked out ways of doing everything 'cause some things were a bit more tricky than others.
TWR: What was it like being on the other side of the stage for the acoustic set?
|TB: Well, it's nice to move. I mean it's great 'cause it means people say I've actually got legs and can walk, you know? I did do one tour, the Mama tour, where I was sat in between the drummers, which was a complete nightmare, actually. We thought this would be a good visual thing but you try and play a set between two drummers who are both playing as loud as they can, and they've got speakers behind them which have got the other drummer coming through at an incredible volume so they can keep time. That was not a good move. So yes, moving to the thing we just wanted to get a different flavor and play two or three songs in a slightly intimate way, which would work. I think particularly Follow You Follow Me was always one that would work in that way. It was a very intimate song; and That's All was easy to do. The Lamb thing, when we first started doing it, we did it a little bit more like it was on the record. But then we thought we’d just try and do it a bit differently. I generally to just to try and do it with just the basic chord and not do too much. I introduce a sort of piano halfway through it, to give it a bit of… the chords on the chorus of The Lamb Lies Down bit, they’re kind of weird. They're very compound chords. They don't really settle at all but I do find playing them at half speed you've still got the same effect as you did when it was played at the double speed, which was on the record and that suited the way we were doing it. And I actually rather pleased that worked out. I was a bit worried about that all the way through. I thought ‘how am I going to do those things?’ 'cause they've got two chords going at the same time, and they change in this kind of strange way. So that worked quite well and I think I think that it was quite nice and people like to hear The Lamb, even if they hear it a bit strange like that.|
TWR: I must admit that one did catch me out.
TB: Well, you had no idea it was coming, did you? Well, that was half the idea, was to do it so when you when you first hear it, you don't know what it is and then you know. But then you can sort of recall. The chords on the actual verse part are quite simple, so you just you just can do them, and then a bit of Daryl playing guitar could give a bit of movement to it, and then I come in with the piano and carry on that movement a bit. It was nice to do it like that. Most of time we tend to do things very much like they are on the record. I'd get tend to get rather irritated when I see bands playing their songs differently. Sting did a very jazzy version of Roxanne and I thought ‘I don't like that. I want to hear it like it was’, so we don't do too much, but we just thought we'd do that little one 'cause it would be fun to do something different.
TWR: Phil was halfway through the first verse before I figured out that it was The Lamb...
TB: Well, he was probably probably halfway through the first verse when he figured out what he's singing as well, that's the trouble. That was kind of unfair. He was, you know, he was great. I mean, I think it was fantastic given you know he's not got, you know, quite the sort of physical thing he used to have. It was amazing to see how he rose to the occasion.
TWR: When in the tour did the mobile phone lights start in Follow You Follow Me? Were you expecting that?
TB: The first time it happened we saw I can’t remember where it was. It's a lovely thing from the stage. It’s the equivalent of cigarette lighters that people used to do. And the first time we ever saw the lighters being done, I can even remember that, that was in playing Bern in Switzerland, and it was at the end of Entangled, they suddenly did all that and it worked so well there, it was fantastic. It's one of those things. It does heighten an emotion and it was lovely for us. The first few times they did it spontaneously, then Phil did say something about it after that, so you can do it. It's encouraging people which I think was less good. I think it's better just to let people do it and it tended to happen and it was a lovely moment, actually.
TB: Well, when we did this on the 80’s tour it didn’t sound very good. A lot of things weren't quite right about it. I mean, it was difficult to get the sound. I honestly don't feel Chester ever probably got the feel of it either. It was one of those things, you know. It was nice that we had, because obviously on that or we could do all that because it still was fiddling around with the drum box and you could get all that introductory stuff that we kind of left out when we did this version, but apart from that it's always been one of my favourite songs. I don't know why. It's just very simple, but it just kind of works. The idea of the song of obviously in this particular case of female star sort of, her rise and her fall, if you like, it never really quite happens like that as it happens, but you like to think it does and it could apply to the group as well. So it sort of fitted into the last you know last era of the group as well; I like that aspect of it and having the backing singers, obviously you could do the stuff that Mike and I used to try and do. Just trying to sing and do all the other stuff you know was always quite tricky and so it's nice to have to have those guys who could do it. The only problem they had a little bit was trying to sing the same lyrics as Phil was singing 'cause he sometimes got a bit muddled up as to which part of her story he was in and they had to carry on with whatever he was singing. I love doing that song. I think it's just one of those songs for me and to be able to do it live was great. It's a favourite from that era with fans as well, so it's nice to do it.
TWR: In terms of performing, what goes through your mind during a gig?
TB: Well, ‘how long is it 'til I get a glass of red wine down me?’ We did have a bit of a thing, actually… At what point do you start thinking about the glass of red wine? And I'm pretty good… Most of the time it wasn't until I got to Carpet Crawlers but sometimes you find yourself, you know… very early. Having the audience response was just was always just wonderful and it's such a lift, because when we first played this show, we weren't sure really about anything, you know, about how people would like it, who turn up, how it would go, COVID as well, that didn’t help. In the first show people had masks on. So it was all a bit strange. But I mean once it got going, it was good. I mean it does take a lot of concentration. I can't drink during the show really anymore. I mean in the old days maybe I would have a beer, but nothing more than that. You just gotta keep your mind on it all the time and there's quite a lot of technical stuff going on, not just the parts, but that all these changes you're doing and everything and you don't want to let anybody else down either, that's the other thing, so everybody keeps on the ball. You are concentrating intensely, but you've got to make certain that you also can get, feel, and feel good about it, because otherwise it's going to come across a bit stiff. So you try and relax as much as you can, but there are always bits you build up to and you anticipate a little bit, you know. I mean, there's. There's all the old friend like the Firth of Fifth thing which is fine, as long as you keep your head because time-wise if you go out of sync it's quite difficult to get back in sync again. So you have to just try and make certain you know what you're doing.
TWR: Do you ever catch yourself listening to the band as if you were in the audience?
TB: No, I don't do that really. I'm playing pretty much all the time so I suppose I just sort of know… I have a nice sound in my headphones. It's very keyboard dominated, which is of course lovely, but I have other people as much as I sort of need them on things. Having these in ears has made life so much better than having these speakers blasting out behind you which was quite difficult to work with. You’re more confident that the sound out front is good too 'cause you know the guys out front have got a much more sophisticated setup, also we've got people now who are more in tune with the way we play. I mean, sometimes in the earlier days we had people who perhaps weren't quite so suited to the kind of music we're doing, you know, whereas I think Michel, the mixer out front on this tour, is a very musical chap. We went through things quite closely with him. Mike and I would go out there and listen to the stuff and checking things were sounding right, and then we had Nick Davis coming in sometimes so he could make comments. So you want to feel confidence coming out front. I mean, occasionally in the old days I remember particularly on the Mama tour, for example, I know coming out, listening to the tapes I'm thinking I might not this one not have been there most of the time because it was all drums and voice. There's nothing else, you know, I mean that's not right. Genesis is all about the middle instruments, really, I mean the drums and voice are very important, but you know the kind of chords and the guitar playing and everything is so important to what we do. We are a middle instrument group. It's very much that you know some groups you don't need to hear much of the middle. A lot of it's kind of, you know what it's doing anyhow, really because it goes with the baseline and all that, but with Genesis doesn't happen. We have strange strange chords sometimes and strange things happen, and it's a very important part of the group, you know, and to be confident that that most of the time what you're playing is being heard correctly out front is an incredible bonus. It makes it all feel worthwhile, but it also does mean you’re quite tense. You know you're never going to be hiding inside the the general melée. We get very well rewarded for what we do and we try and do the best job we can.
TWR: So with the visuals for this tour were the screens 4K or 8K?
TB: I don't really know exactly what the quality was, but it was high. Mike and I, particularly ever since Peter left, have really taken the main role in deciding how it looks and we obviously work with people outside, you know, Patrick Woodroffe, who is very important. And the people who do the videos; they did some fantastic stuff. You throw an idea out and they come back with ideas and some you think are great and some are not so great. Our songs lend themselves to visuals, they always have. Domino, I suppose being the best. You can do this wonderful graphic thing with that. When I originally did the lyric, my idea was we were in Beirut, 'cause that was the place that the time that was having the problems... the west and the east and essentially were causing incredible problems there, if you like. And so I felt the effect the outsiders were having on individuals in the city was interesting to write about. The thing about the Dominos is they can look like buildings. So the first part they look like buildings. And in the last part they looked like Domino's 'cause they were falling everywhere all the time, which was great. But one thing happened in the middle, which I hadn't really thought about too is they could look like gravestones. The middle, obviously, is the ‘silence and darkness’ bit and there's the idea that these people are still dying, and everything, and all the blood on the windows and things, and the idea of the of the tombstones as well was a very strong thing. It's a wonderful piece of film. I mean graphic 'cause it's totally graphic. There’s no reality to it, you know? And the one moment in the middle when the flower comes out is a beautiful, beautiful moment. We decided that with Land Of Confusion that because of the COVID thing, it could apply just as well to the current situation and the COVID situation seemed a very good one to concentrate on. So it gave us a chance to do something on that and these guys came back with a lot of ideas, the men in bowler hats and everything. So you throw the ideas out and then we go there and we think about the show; Mike and I watch everything as it happens and the operators throw up ideas as to what the lights can do. And they discover all sorts of things as you're going through it, you suddenly find that you can turn the screens round, and these sorts of strange things happen and we've got lights on the back of the screens which suddenly come out in the end of Domino and very effective moments. Some of it is serendipity. All the time we're checking it works and then we have to construct a show, which means that the visual bits are separated out in the right kind of way and you build up it. We do think about it quite a lot really. I mean, I've seen groups where they go out and from bar one everything is flashing away and you I'm like ‘please…’, you know? I do like the idea of a multimedia show where you actually build it. I've always enjoyed that a lot. When Peter was with the band, obviously he was a very strong element of that, and when he first started he wasn't sure about it at all. But then, once we started doing it, I realised how effective it could be. I got more and more involved then typically, once Peter had left, I think Mike and I very much took over that role of trying to get it, and over the years we've had lots of great people working with us and doing it. Things like Vari-Lite was obviously a very important thing which is now ubiquitous. Everyone is using them everywhere. A lot of them are copies of the original light, but when we first used that light, for example, back in the late 70s, it was stunning, really. It was the first time ever we’d seen a light where all the lights could change from red to green instantly and move all over the place and do all these things. I mean, they were incredibly unreliable. We had as many people working on the lights as we did lights! By the time we got to the last tour they worked wonderfully; so smooth and beautiful, so you can get fantastic lighting effects and many people have now used them very, very effectively, I think.
|TWR: Of course it's all LED now…
TB: That's right, everything is. It was discovered that you could do all this stuff with the LEDs. The main problem they (the LEDs) have... they don't cast out any warmth, so in the old days you used to be on stage, you’d have these hot lights shining at you, you'd sweat and you feel you're really doing something, whereas now these things are all cold. You have a couple of moments where there are hot lights you still use, to establish a different effect, like the end of Afterglow, but so most of the time what you're seeing is LEDs and they're wonderful, but they are cold.
TWR: Who came up with the idea of the toilet rolls in Land Of Confusion?
TB: That was very much the video people because there was this big thing about everyone going out and buying toilet rolls, so that was that was a bit of a joke thrown in there. The deserted streets was a fun thing to do. I don't know if you ever seen The Morning Show, the second series of that started off with New York and they had all these shots of New York done in lockdown. Everything was deserted and it's absolutely fantastic piece of footage really, because you never see it like that. Also what we had on stage was much smaller scale but that was the idea we were trying to have and and introducing things like the masks and then the toilet rolls is a bit of fun.
TWR: This was your first time at the O2, London. What did you think of it as a as a venue?
TB: I think it's more important what the audience thinks, really. From the stage point of view it's much like all the other shows. It's a big place and you're playing that and stuff. I've only ever seen one show there and that was I saw Led Zeppelin and to be honest, the sound was pretty bad in a way. I thought the guitar sounded fantastic, but that's all. The drums were OK, but the keyboards didn't really cut through on Kashmir which is my favourite of their songs; and the voice was always a bit low. It was OK, so I don't know. You have to tell me what it sounded like, if it sounded alright. Also these places never going to sound good everywhere.It’s a problem you have; they’re big places. Sometimes you get a good slot; if you’re near the mixer it's always going to sound pretty good, but anywhere else may not.
TWR: Is that every major London venue ticked off on the bucket list?
TB: Well, I don't know, you tell me! I don't know what other ones there are. I don't think we ever kind of really looked at like that. I mean, it's memorable playing places like the Marquee Club, 'cause that was an iconic place when we were kids, you know? And when we finally played there it was very exciting. The old Wembley stadium was a fun thing to do. I always feel that that probably was, in terms of our commercial appeal, the peak of our career. We did four nights at Wembley Stadium in 86/87, and Invisible Touch had been high in the charts for a year by that time and the sun shone too, which was extraordinary 'cause it didn't shine all the time. I remember thinking at the time that we can't go any further in this and we never thought we'd get anywhere like this at all. I mean obviously, at the time we started off as a very much an underground group and OK, I know we got better at doing the hits, but it's extraordinary how it snowballs. Because, you know, we're never kind of quite... we were never Madonna, you know what I mean. But I think we got known for the live show and everything and that meant people would come.
TWR: So looking back on that last gig, I Can’t Dance… Were you expecting the crew to do the walk past…?
TB: No. I mean, the crew always do something and that that was a nice thing rather than some of the other things we've had in the past where people have done things that were totally inappropriate. No, it was a nice thing. It was a strange show that last one you felt every time you're playing a song it was the last time I’m ever going to do this, you know? And you get through to Carpet Crawlers, which is quite an emotional piece anyhow and you take hands off the keyboard, it's the last time, and it's quite a big thing. The chance of ever doing anything again is pretty slim so you know that was very much for me was the last the last thing and it was an emotional moment. It was kind of strange, really. And after the show it was a little bit a little bit odd in some ways. But there you go, that was it. It has to be, if you know it's going to be a last show.I never really thought before that it was the last show, even the time when we finished on the previous tour. Actually at that point I thought we were going to do more shows anyhow, but at that point, Phil didn't want to do anymore, so we didn't. So this is the only time I've ever really felt this was the last time.
TWR: Looking back at everything that you've done and achieved over your career is there anything that stands out that you are particularly proud of?
|TB: The thing about Genesis is that we got quite good at doing the shorter songs, but I would say that they are less distinctive, if you like. I'm very proud of songs like Land of confusion and Invisible Touch and everything, but they are less distinctive. What Genesis has done over the years, whether it be Suppers Ready, whether it be Domino, whether it be Driving The Last Spike, I don't feel anyone else has ever done anything like those pieces you know, so the uniqueness of those pieces I think is... I'm very proud of that and we managed to bring it to a big audience, rather than just being a niche thing which it might have been. I think it's quite an achievement, really. Uh it? It's sort of. Even though some of the shorter songs we've done have been quite distinctive, like Duchess like Turn It On Again, those are songs which are not like anybody else. I just don't think that they’re like anybody else. A lot of the commercial music tends to sound a bit samey to me, and also a little bit unadventurous. People tend to use four or five chords in a song and are happy to do that, you know, whereas I've always wanted to use... I mean, I called my CD collection A Chord Too Far because I always like to go a bit further than you should do really. And sometimes that works and some people follow me with that and other times you perhaps go a little too far. But that's OK too, in a way. I think it's best to fail through experimentation then just to try and do what everybody else has always done. So much music now just follows a pattern, it's very formulaic. And people like that. It’s no doubt audiences love it. But it's never what I was in the business for. I wanted to do things a bit different. You know once we worked out that we could do things a bit differently, when we first started off back in the Genesis to Revelation days, we were trying to write hit songs, but as soon as we started playing live you realised you could do a lot more with the music than is being done and that's what we tried to do, to varying degrees of success.|
TWR: So, Mike is still touring…
TB: Yeah, can't stop him. He said he wasn't going to tour and I said to him “you'd go out again” and he said “oh, I'm going to give up now” and I said “no, you won't. You’ll go out” and yes, he's going out.
TWR: Has he ever asked you to join him on stage with The Mechanics for a couple of songs?
TB: No, I don't feel comfortable doing that really. It's his thing, you know? Stage isn’t my favourite place as you know and to come on stage and play somebody else’s equipment for a bit would be quite difficult anyhow. I don't feel it’s needed really. It's not something I crave doing. I'm very I'm not very good at, you know, occasionally there's been people go on stage at the end of a party or something... I remember at Phil's wedding, his third wedding, we played a couple of things. We played I Can't Dance, which was terrible. I didn’t know what key it was in, and then we did Throwing It All Away, which I thought was probably not the perfect wedding song. But anyhow… I don't really like doing things like that. I'm one of those people; I like to be prepared. I mean, improvise as much as I possibly can when I’m writing and or rehearsing stuff, but once you get on stage, I like to be confident in what it is I’m doing. I'm not very good at, doing it any other way. The idea of going on stage in someone else's show doesn't really appeal to me at all, actually.
TWR: There's been a lot of finality regarding Genesis and things relating to the tour and Concord, etc, and now I’ve heard that The Farm is no more…
TB: The Farm doesn't exist. The studio is no longer a studio. I actually bought it off Mike because my son is converting the barn nearby and we thought we'd sort of do that. Basically, the idea is to strip it down and will be turned it into a residential place. So yes, the studio is no more. I mean really hasn't been used as a studio for quite a long time. We've done a lot of mixing and stuff there. Nick Davis and I have been doing quite a bit of stuff over the years, The last record to actually have been recorded there could have been Calling All Stations, maybe I did Strictly Inc. I can't remember actually. I've done a certain amount of work with my solo records, particularly the classical stuff. I've been there mixing it and adding a few bits and pieces, but it hasn't really been used at all. We did go commercial for a bit and a few people were there. NDubz were there for a bit, for about a year, I think, and one or two other people use it under those circumstances, but that's quite a long time ago now. And everything’s out of it now. All the equipment’s been sold and got rid of and the place is being dismantled, as it were.
We originally weren't quite sure whether to sell it as Genesis stuff. Then the people who took it away wanted to sell it as Genesis stuff. Some of the stuff is good stuff, you know, there's definitely good, usable stuff, other stuff is a bit more bit more dodgy. You know, a couple things we weren't quite sure what they were, but they sold anyhow.
|There's one or two other things to still go, but mostly it's all gone now. So yeah, you have to at some point admit it's over. If Phil wasn't, you know, the physical state he was, I think we would have kept the door just ajar, you know? I don't mind having a moment of saying, “well, that's it really”, because you know it's done a lot of stuff. I never really appealed to the idea of trying to do something new. I know some of these groups have got something out that that people seem to like a lot. If you’re a solo artist it’s slightly different, and as a solo artist I might do something more. I know Peter's got stuff coming up and everyone says it's very good. I think you can keep going, but as a group somehow, putting it all back together with all those things ingredients in place, trying to put yourself back to how you were when you were a bit younger is quite difficult to do.
TWR: So Phil's done it. Mike's done it. Even Steve has done it. Are you considering writing your memoires?
TB: Not really, no. I read Mike's one and I found it very depressing. I didn't like it. I thought he was particularly was a bit condescending about me. I found a lot of it was very inaccurate.
It would take a lot of time and I I'm not sure that I really I've got anything very interesting to say really. I don't really like the idea of using ghostwriters, which obviously the others have tended to do. There's lots of stories and stuff that would be funny and they would be quite good. I don't think I will, but I would never say I wouldn't ever do it. I just find in the end I think whether I want to put that much time into something like that I don't know. One thing I don't like about these books is that there's always an element of point scoring of some kind. We're all good, we all get on well, there's no problem with this sort of stuff, but you know, ‘who wrote what’ and ‘who did this’ and ‘who did that’, you know? You always overemphasise your own contribution, you're bound to. I don't feel totally comfortable with it, really. Autobiographies are a bit strange, anyhow. I think they're a bit self-important. Some people come out with them and you think “they haven't had a life yet” and they're still writing autobiographies. I know people like to read these things, so it's not quite the same as that. If you like a person then you like to read the the stuff I suppose. I don't really know. Richard MacPhail wrote one, didn't he? I haven't really read it. The only one I read was Mike’s and I didn't like that, so I decided I wasn't going to read it because I always get upset by things. I don't like reading reviews. I always try to avoid reading reviews, because even if they're good, they will say something I don't like. So that's been my general rule of thumb really. I just avoid it, avoid reading stuff about me. I mean, I know the truth, one way or another, what I think is the truth, anyway. My mind is as biased as anybody else’s probably. Sometimes you think, "if I'm the last one left standing, maybe I'll write a book and say actually I did it all and they just watched me", but who knows? I think people get a general idea, in terms of the musical point of view, they know roughly what's gone on over the years it's got pretty much out there and in terms of the rest of whatever else we did, we had a pretty good relationship between all of us all the time actually. I think I’ve been lucky with the people I’ve worked. They're very talented people, but also people who, kind of, work with me and plug my holes and hopefully I plug theirs. The luck involved in this game is quite extraordinary in a way. First of all having Peter Gabriel as my closest friend at, and how we started off together and persuaded each other to actually go into this. And picking up people along the way. But particularly Phil, I suppose, because he became the singer, something that was never even on the cards when we hired him. These these sort of things happen, and sometimes things work out really well. And you just have to stay with it if you get dealt a good hand and just try and enjoy it, and that's what I've done.
TWR: A final question... What are your plans now?
TB: I haven't written anything for quite a long time now actually, and I did 5 and all those pieces for that, and I wrote a couple of pieces, for this chap John Potter, which you may or may not have heard or come across. I quite like the idea of small scale things actually, in a way. Geoff round the other day we got all the stuff working again so I can actually sit down and play something and it will sound halfway decent, so who knows? Part of me would like never to do anything again. I hate what you have to go through when you do it. I love writing music, I love recording it, I love all that, so when you put the thing out then you’ve got to have other people’s opinions, and then you've got to try and talk to people about it and everything, and I don't really like doing that very much. I probably can't stop myself, so I may do it. Whatever I had before, I've still got it. So there's a part of me that says I would like to do it and part of me that says I won't. So We’ll see which bit wins, and if I wrote a book, then I wouldn't have time to do anything else. So maybe I should do that and that would stop me writing any more music. But who knows? But if there was anything else it probably won't be in the rock field. It'll either be the neo-classical or orchestral music or something, more in that direction. Much as I love the sound of drums and everything, I think I've probably put enough out there of my own stuff. I'm not sure the world is necessarily crying out for another Tony Banks rock album, you know? The classical, the orchestral stuff, it's done a lot better in a way and that's why I would consider that again I think.
And with that the interview finished. Yes, that really was nearly 3 words a second for the entire interview. You should try transcribing it! Many thanks Tony for his time and to Jo Greenwood for co-ordinating.
Merry Christmas Alan!