“The Meandering Mechanic” - Mike Rutherford interviewed on LBC Radio on 5th February 1992. Interview conducted by Michael Parkinson and transcribed for TWR by Alan Hewitt.
INT: Good morning Mike. You’re mainly here to talk not about Genesis but about your other band Mike & The Mechanics. What was the reason for forming the band? Anyone would have thought that Genesis was enough for any self respecting person?
MR: Well, it was for the first ten or so years, but we sort of found our own way. The idea that you play …look at jazz or folk music,playing with one or two other guys for twenty two years or so is a strange way to do it. So we found after ten or so years, not through any dissatisfaction with Genesis, you know, but you need time to get out and branch out and play with other musicians. We found the that the time was right for us to start doing more diverse projects ; solo albums and film music - so we kind of branched out.
INT: Doing that, do you actually cement the bond with the parent body, Genesis?
MR: I think so. it’s like the mistress, you get the freedom. You get the freedom and I am sure it has helped Genesis, you don’t get these frustrations, which you could be doing.
INT: How would you characterise the music you do with Mike & The Mechanics?
MR: I think the main difference is… it’s the same process, it’s just different people. I have the germ of an idea and I take it in and work on it with Phil and Tony in Genesis it will go a certain way. Take the same idea to the Mechanics, or to a producer I co-write with, like B A Robertson and that is going to come out very different. However much you steer it, it’s just gonna go the way it’s gonna go.
INT: Well, let’s talk about the new single from Mike & The Mechanics. It’s called Everybody Gets A Second Chance. Perhaps before we hear it, you could tell us a bit about it, how it started, how it was recorded basically how it was written?
MR: It was one of those songs …we had two cracks at it. I had a different version …you have an idea in your head on how a song is going to go and we put it down my way and it wasn’t working and then Paul Carrack who actually came in one day and fiddled about on the keyboard and tried it much more in the style of the old Tamla Motown sort of swing vein and suddenly it came to life. It is one of those moments in the recording studio where you got a bit of luck.
INT: So, it often happens rather by chance than by any sort of burning the midnight oil?
MR: Yeah. You have got to have a bit of hard work in the first place but I must admit as the years tick by I am becoming a great believer that an awful lot of luck goes into it.
INT: Let’s talk a little bit more about your background Mike, and about Genesis itself. The group came out of Charterhouse Public School. Was their first ambition to be rich and famous or to be revolutionary in the Sixties or what?
MR: Well , the funny thing was, going back to those days, I’m sure people don’t realise it now but the idea you could be rich and make a career out of pop music was not considered possible. No one had done it. My parents obviously had given me a nice education and thought ‘My God, he’s going to be in a group. He’ll spend his life in the back of a van and we’ll have to support him for the rest of his life’ I am sure they were groaning. There was no preconceived idea that you could make a living. Nowadays I am sure it’s interesting, parents will encourage children I’m sure some of them do, because they can see that if you do get successful and make a lot of money and get secure and do well… But in those days there was no security or any likelihood of that happening.
INT: It was a case of why don’t you find yourself a proper job sort of thing?
MR: Yeah, for about the first ten years.
INT: Were the initial responses from the music industry discouraging?
MR: Yeah. People often make fun of J K (Jonathan King) but in all fairness, he gave us our first break in the days when we were you know… four guys from Public School who couldn’t even play our instruments and he gave us an album to make in five days and at the time it was hard to get that kind of deal and it really got us going and set us off on the path.
INT: What was the actual breakthrough? Was there one moment in time where you actually made the quantum leap?
MR: I think Genesis’ history ha s never had that and possibly that’s why we are still going. There was never a sudden… There are moments which are more important than others when you had jumps but there was never… like so many artists today when they suddenly go from no success to mega success. It is a very slow process and in many ways it does help to keep you feet on the ground.
INT: You’re now very much one of the veteran acts of music. I mean, twenty five years on the road. Does it get more difficult going on the road, gearing yourselves up to go away and do a big tour?
MR: Things get harder, when you’re single and younger and you have got no ties, then when you go for a tour your whole life goes with you. Obviously, I have got a wife, Angie and three children and it gets harder to leave them, which is why I think this year we are doing a slightly shorter tour…not the whole year away.
INT: Let’s talk about the music a bit more. We’ve got a track here called Word Of Mouth on the CD, what’s the background to this?
MR: An interesting song that. We kind of half recorded it in the studio and half live just around the corner actually, at Barnes Village Hall. It was made to sound like it was in a huge stadium. And if you saw Barnes Village Hall… it’s hard to imagine it. We got a lot of friends and friends of friends to come along and sing on the chorus.
INT: Des it become more difficult as you get more comfortable in middle age to sustain the drive to go on creating music and to get on the roundabout all the time?
MR: No. I mean, the creative side for me I find very easy. I mean just writing songs and playing guitar and lyrics and putting them all together, I love it and I would do it even if I wasn’t paid to do it. I think what gets a little but harder and I have found over the years because it’s grown over the years as well; is the promotional side. Not so much the going on tour but going back fifteen or so years.. You did a day or so in London on interviews and that was the promotion done. Now it’s changed so much, there are so many more newspapers and radio stations, the media side of it has grown so much and that I find is the most tiring side of it.
INT: What about the tour that’s coming up? It’s going to be a foreshortened tour but what kind of preparations do you have to make for a tour like that? I mean, how long are you actually working on it before you set off?
MR: Well, we do three weeks’ rehearsal down at our studio in Surrey and then we go to the States and rehearse for another three weeks with the final stage production. We have got some very new ideas this time, not revolutionary but to take a big stadium gig and make it appear very different and I won’t know until I walk into the… it’s probably in an aeroplane hangar in Houston somewhere. I won’t know until the first day if it has actually worked. We have got the models and it all looks great on paper but until you walk in there on the first day and turn it all on… the visual ideas we’ve got, you’re just guessing really.
INT: It’s a very important area of rock industry these days isn’t it… this display and I suppose that it’s arguable that it is the most important contribution that music has made to the stage if you like… the lighting, the sound and the general imagination that has frequently gone into producing these shows?
MR: It is. It has happened by luck with us. I mean, we designed or co-designed a light called the Vari Lite, it’s one of those that moves around and changes colour and it was a special project for one of our tours back in the 1980’s and since then it has become a standard lighting. It was never our intention to get involved in the lighting department’s work, we just had the idea and developed it. I think the rock area can often produce something quite adventurous because they are more so at that stage.
INT: They have also redefined the quality and level of sound?
MR: Yeah, well as long as its level and quality and not just level you’re right! (laughs).
INT: Well, Mike thanks very much for being my guest this morning. The single is called Everybody Gets A Second Chance that is the new Mike & The Mechanics single. Mike Rutherford is going on the road with Genesis starting in…?
MR: May, the initial dates.
INT: Well, all the best with the tour and thanks once again for being my guest this morning.