Radio City interview with Anthony Phillips. Broadcast on 2nd December 1990. Interview transcribed by Alan Hewitt.
As some of you may be aware, Anthony undertook a short radio promo tour last December to promote his new album Slow Dance as well as the initial re-issues from his back catalogue. This is what he had to say to the interviewers at one of our local radio stations here in Liverpool…
INT: Peter Gabriel and Mike Rutherford founded the band along with our next guest: Anthony Phillips. He has just arrived, hello Anthony. So, you were a founder member of Genesis? Were you at Charterhouse with the boys?
AP: Yeah, along with Peter Gabriel and Tony Banks.
INT: What year was this when it all started?
AP: Heavens, 1967 was when we became a fully fledged band. I was sort of in and out of minor groups with the others before that.
INT: So you were at school there, at Charterhouse and you decided to get together. What did you call yourselves first?
AP: Well, we did one actual gig at school where we were called, I think, The Garden Wall, but we weren’t really a group. I mean there was a group called Anon at school because we could not think of a name and the music master insisted on calling us “The Anon” which sort of ruined the idea (laughs).
INT: There you are, a bunch of public schoolboys, going into the music, business, forming a group. What did you parents think of it?
AP: I think the parents thought it was all rather fun to start with and we signed this publishing contract with Jonathan King’s company and all the fathers had to come along because we were all minors.
INT: Was her the first person you signed with?
AP: yeah, his publishing company. He was a Charterhouse old boy and he came down. He was a flashy guy with the sports car and all the rest of it and in a way he was the most accessible. There he was in front of us. WE were all too cowardly to do it and we gave the tape to someone else; a friend of ours who went up and gave him the tape. He liked the songs and signed us.
INT: That’s incredibly easy isn’t it?
AP: It did get a bit difficult after that actually, the first album with him which did very little, we were haunting the corridors of the BBC and earnestly trying to press copies of things into people’s hands and so it wasn’t all one way traffic.
INT: What did you do after school?
AP: Well, after that, that was the year of actually going on the road. We had done one album but now we had to become a fully fledged band and so we then did the “getting it together” in a country cottage, in inverted commas business and we used to work at it fourteen or fifteen hours a day trying to turn from some pretty basic schoolboy players who wrote quite nice songs into a proper sounding band and getting on the road was a shock.
INT: What at that time were your favourites, who did you think ‘God, they’re great’?
AP: Oh yeah, very much so. We were graduating from the kind of… I suppose The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, a sort of best of that and people were listening to more sophitisticated music in terms of the way it was played in stereo, suddenly everybody had stereo and it was a kind of underground period. We were never sort of underground but there were bands like Yes, King Crimson, people like that who were going out and playing kind of slightly more classically orientated things which were very exciting and we were sort of in the vanguard of that.
INT: Did Jonathan King give you the name Genesis?
AP: He did. There was an American band called Genesis as well which is why we had to call ourselves “Revelation” for a while and it all got rather confusing and I didn’t know what we were called, actually.
INT: You have watched the band grow and grow. How long were you with them?
AP: Not very long to be honest. I was the classic idiot that left early on
and I am saying that against myself. The situation in Genesis at the end of
that first year was that we were top heavy with strong minded composers and
somebody had to go, and we were also a bit young to know that you actually have
to get well away from work. You can’t work fourteen or fifteen hours a
day in the same country cottage and not get away from each other. I actually
found the touring life quite tough as well.
INT: Did you? Because you went off then and were solo. Did you immediately go off to America and Europe because you have been quite well known there?
AP: Well, better known because I had along standing record contract whereas here things were always slightly more difficult. I also studied and taught music for about five years and I just sort of edged back into it in the mid to late Seventies but unfortunately when I started to edge back into it Punk was on its way in and because I wasn’t established it wasn’t easy if you were doing anything sort of classical . It wasn’t cool to be classical at that stage so it wasn’t that easy. In America it was a bit easier, we got a little narrow over here I think.
INT: Aficionados of the band, I mean Charterhouse in the late Sixties … a long history and the aficionados haven’t forgotten you. You’ve got your own unofficial fan club, haven’t you?
AP: Yes I have. What’s very nice is that young people …we are told by the press that the stuff I do is for people who are too tired and sick back in armchairs and the music does defy this attempt to categorise it. I was approached earlier today by a fan (yes, Gary your moment of fame has come!) who was clearly younger than twenty.
INT: he knew who you were?
AP: He had actually come especially to see me so it does seem to appeal to people of all ages.
INT: That’s why you have had to re-issue some of your earlier stuff, haven’t you?
AP: Well, it has been a very stop/start affair, my record career in England, different record companies. Now we are getting the whole lot out on Virgin, all on CD properly available at a decent price because in the old days… I mean ironically these are going to be cheaper than the old imports which were very expensive so it is really ironic (laughs).
INT: You have been very busy doing a lot of other things as well, haven’t you? A lot of TV and film soundtracks?
AP: I haven’t done a fully fledged film but I have been doing a lot of television music and a lot of what we call “library” music, just the standard background stuff you hear all the time. I have done three or four Channel Four plays one of which was with Pauline Collins and Michael Gambon funnily enough. They were mucking around in rehearsal. I mean, I didn’t get to know them well enough I mean, I am just the composer who is wheeled in and you sit at the back of the rehearsal room and when the director says “go” you go away and do it. When Pauline Collins asked me what scarf I was wearing! (laughs).
INT: What sort of public performances do you do?
AP: To be honest after my Genesis experience, I have stuck to being a composer who is lucky enough to make albums in that respect. I have never wanted to be up front. I am not a sort of up front singer-type man and I have rather tended to shy away from public performances. I think if there was a big demand I would sort of be seduced into it (readers of TWR take note: write to Alan and perhaps we may persuade Ant to put on a show yet!).
INT: I’ll just mention, because you prefer your acoustic guitar and piano, I know you are a man of many talents, but you do like your acoustic guitar and piano?
AP: I think that acoustic is more my strength over the years. I play electric OK but the two twelve string sound that I did in Genesis with Mike Rutherford is something that I have concentrated on.
INT: Do you still see them?
AP: Yeah. I do a certain amount. Mike Rutherford lives relatively close, he is in Surrey and I am Godfather to his daughter.
INT: Any regrets about leaving the band?
AP: Well, there are bound to be some but on the other hand, regrets are easy really, but if you remember what the situation was like at the time. The situation was untenable really so things have to change. I mean, I would have liked to have worked with Phil Collins in the band obviously which I didn’t.
INT: You have got a new album out?
AP: I have got a new album out which is all very orchestral stuff in fact, quite filmy. What I am going to play is a piece from one of the re-issues which is called Private Parts & Pieces which is a sort of generic title for acoustic albums and this particular piece… I’ll play just a little bit of it, is called Reaper..
And with that, Ant launched into an abridged version of that acoustic masterpiece. Thanks to all at Radio City for finally getting Ant to Liverpool where I had failed. Here’s hoping that he has the success he deserves with Slow Dance and many more releases in the future!!