An interview with Genesis - as broadcast on Radio Forth RFM November 1991. Transcribed by Peter Morton.
INT: With the imminent launch of the We Can’t Dance album, I presume that you must be very happy with it because I know, like the last three albums, you’ve been at that stage where you are still looking for that ultimate album and this might be the one, perhaps?
TB: Yes, we are very happy with the album.
INT: It’s been the longest gap between albums and I presume that you would have things said you weren’t going to come back and there wasn’t going to be another album, but it just seems to go from strength to strength. It surely must be down to the fact that you have all this space to go away and do your own things and then come back and do it.
MR: Yes, I think we’ve grown up in a Genesis situation and after a period of time we all kind of realised that it was a little bit narrow just ending up with the same three guys. It wasn’t pure frustration that drove us out, it was just the desire to see what’s outside the front door really. And I think it has been very healthy.
INT: I noticed that there were lots of subjects that you are dealing with on the new album - particularly Jesus he Knows Me, Tell Me Why and Living Forever. These seem to have a go at slimming and diets and all that kind of stuff.
TB: Yes, I think it ‘s a present day people’s obsession, diet and things like that, because you can do exactly what you like. It’s for the people who tell other people what they are supposed to be doing - that I object to most of all, because they’ve got this great new thing that they think is good. I’m so sceptical about this because there is no doubt that every five years the information gets reviewed and renewed and I don’t really like… I mean like when I was writing this lyric, the Labour Party brought out a plan of what you should be eating and what you should do for a healthy thing and then the Tories brought out their own one and I thought I don’t want to be told by the Government what I should be doing in a sense.. You know you have to use a bit of common sense.
PC: Because you know that if the Labour Party issue one thing then the Conservatives are going to issue the total opposite, so straight away you don’t know which one to believe.
INT: You mentioned earlier machinery and how in Genesis you are using drum machines - I’ve heard so many drummers who call it the devil and that you have to use live drums at the time, but you’ve found it a superb writing tool.
MR: Yes for us its great because I think its quite limited for us to play all the time without Phil singing because Phil seems to get some drum machine patterns up and then we just cruise along with new things, so it’s important with songs because the danger is that when you work instrumentally first without a vocal, you can sit on one chord for how many bars and because you’ve seen something interesting it sounds fine instrumentally but there’s no vocal on it…
TB: The other ting about drum machines is that it is relentless too, you can out them on loops so the mood stays the same. Whereas the drummer obviously gets tired of playing the same thing and that’s not really a good way of writing, it’s a simultaneous thing in that its going in and you can hold down chords and don’t feel as though you have to plonk all the time, and they often end up on the records. I mean we love the sound of them. The first song we used with drum machines was Duchess on Duke. I mean we got these drum machines the year before when we were in Japan made by Roland and these were the first ones to come across that they were actually useable. There were ones before but they just played sambas and things but with this one you could actually programme it and do things with it and it just had some lovely little sounds on it which one could incorporate and I think ever since then we have just sort of used them on their own and incorporated them with the real drums.
PC: Yes, I think a lot of drummers have taboo feelings about it because most drum machines are there just to recreate drums and that’s when I lose interest in them because s as soon as they begin to sound like the drums I have no real use for them, apart from as a writing tool and I will always replace the drums if they sound like drums whereas these Roland things, Roland being one of the best in terms of sound - are percussion and odd noises so you can actually play drums with it so they take a rather different territory. As soon as you hear a record with all that programmed bass drum and synth bass drum, I lose interest as well. I mean, I am the same as most other drummers in that respect but I think if you use the percussion end of it I think it can be very useable as a tool.
INT: You’d be writing Genesis songs in a completely different way, it’s literally like going into the studio as you are in a privileged position in that you have your own studio. I mean why did you decide on that and why do you think it works so well for you?
MR: Well, going back to the early albums, we used to write like that, because there was a large chunk of what we did over the years that was written together and then we seemed to react badly when Peter left, because one knew who wrote what and from And Then There Were Three I play on his song, he plays on mine - it was very much like why be in a band because you can do it on your own and then with Duke we kind of went back round again - let’s start writing together again - and we realised like with the solo stuff that it is the way to go because you have got a chance to do your own stuff somewhere else, so keep Genesis to what it does best which is the three of us in a room, writing together.
INT: What to me stood out on first listening to the album is the last track which is Fading Lights that is like a kind of tribute to the kind of stuff Genesis have been doing over practically the last ten years as there’s the big instrumental break and there’s Genesis chords again, and it’s the kind of thing that Genesis fans of old will sit back and take note.
TB: Well, we put it right at the end of the album so that if they don’t want to hear it they don’t have to listen to it - well, that’s kind of my attitude a bit… the lyric is very reflective, it looks back on the past.. It doesn’t necessarily apply to the group although it obviously can do, but I think when you get to a certain age in life you find yourself looking backwards a lot and this song is very reflective also I thought it would be a very nice last word for an album to remember.
PC: I think as though the middle part could be called traditional Genesis instrumentally, the actual song part is very untraditional. I mean, I think that it’s very rare that we hang on a couple of chords…well four or maybe five chords on a very simple drum machine and a vocal - it’s rare that we do that and in some respects it has both ends that Genesis do.
INT: Was there a little bit of backlash from the fans at the point from Duke through Abacab to Invisible Touch. That sort of period where the fans were coming to the gigs as the diehard fans wanting to hear Supper’s Ready or In The Cage but were disappointed in that they were taking a back place and that the set would finish with the medley-covers of the classic Wilson Pickett number or whatever?
PC: On Turn It On Again I mean these are songs that we actually like - these were quite influential to us when we were growing up and almost as writers they are influential … so its relevant./
INT: You’ve had quite a hard time from the music press and it seems to be throughout the history of Genesis but I am amazed that you get so upset about it because if I was in your position I would be saying so what… We’re doing these albums, the albums are successful, everyone has been more successful than the last…
TB: It’s easy to sit back unless you actually read it, so my policy has been for about ten years not to read anything. I mean, people put things in front of your nose and think they are doing you a favour by saying this paper has reviewed your album and says its so bad …and it makes you think why do they need to do that. I don’t want to read about things that criticise me and even if people are being nice about you , there’s always a little undercurrent or something even if you are very sensitive you always find it. I think it is one solution that Phil reads it and just gets angry and writes letters.
PC: Yes, it has become a thing now because I have said lots of times now that it does get up my nose an awful lot, but having said that there are things that bug me now but there’s an awful lot that doesn’t. I mean there was a thing in the Melody Maker about Tony’s album coming out and I wrote to them in a humorous way. I mean, it was just to let them know that I was actually reading this stuff - in Melody Maker I hadn’t read until that particular issue. I hadn’t read it for years because it talks about nothing that I am interested in, but I tend to get upset and irritated less about the general stuff but every now and then one or two things will happen. One of the last things was in one of our fan magazines which is from people who supposedly actually like us, there was a bad review and I wrote to the guy what I thought of that, so I do pick up the pen and write just to actually let them know we are actual out there and we are people
INT: What about Jesus He Knows Me because I got the impression that that has been written on experiences of sitting watching the sort of evangelist American television programmes?
PC: Well, er yes, it is, because as soon as we went to America and you sift through the 30, 40 or 50 channels you come across on a Sunday, wall-to-wall evangelists and they’re all pretty awful, all fleecing people dry and it seems that most of middle America can’t understand that that is what they are doing. You know it is a less cynical country than Europe and England but it is quite amazing for a European to go over there and see this happening, but you know how can people take this kind of thing seriously, because it is not religion, it’s anti-evangelism.
INT: There is talk of a Genesis tour in 1992. How far is that going?
PC: Well, it is definitely happening.
INT: Is it going to be another massive tour?
PC: Well, it will be a massive tour all around America and Europe it won’t be a massive tour terms of length but it will be a stadium tour and we are mulling over the idea of maybe doing something after that, something shorter. It depends on exactly how we fell and also whether the time allows it, to do a theatre tour. We would like to do it but its just a question of life. If there’s enough time to do it. I think on the Invisible Touch tour we enjoyed every gig, they were great, but ten months was just too long to do it so we have gone the other end now and touring for just three or four months.
Editor’s Note: The fan magazine article Phil is referring to was in
the very pages of TWR (#18 to be exact)
and we allowed Phil his right to reply as you can read if you peruse that edition.