“Views From The Three” - Mike and Phil in conversation about the And Then There Were Three album with Nicky Horne on BBC Radio One March 1978. Transcript by Vernon Parker.
NH: And Then There Were Three is the title of the new Genesis album with two major changes in personnel in a relatively short space of time, I first asked Mike Rutherford if the album was difficult to make?
MR: No, I don’t think it was difficult at all, we’re getting used to people dropping out on us. We survived after Peter left us, it gives a new challenge and different views in the studio, because there is a different atmosphere with less people. People have to work harder in certain areas.
PC: We all like the idea of the group, I think it is one of the reasons why Steve left - the group had outlived its userfulness to him. As a writer, each person is different, but we are all writing more individually and as he was writing more, the group was of no further use to him in that area but I think the three of us are quite into a corporate musical unit.
MR: I think something had to happen over the last three years as we have all been developing as musicians and writers. Writing more and more and I guess, needing more space so something had to give. For this album with the three of us, there was too much material. A couple of tracks didn’t get on and quite a lot of material that we didn’t even take to the studio. If there was four of us there would have been even more - it was part of the problem, there not being an outlet for four people with everyone developing as the years go by.
PC: Steve wanted to do another solo album which in theory, none of us was opposed to, it was just a question of when it was done because obviously everyone had a lot of material and its impossible to say ‘OK, there’s four in the group, so we’ll all have 25% of the material’. We’ve always used the material that we liked the most, Steve probably felt he wouldn’t get on all that he wanted to. There was some stuff from Voyage Of The Acolyte that we would probably have ended up using on a Genesis album had it been played to us, but some of the stuff Steve just kept and fair enough, with that kind of problem what do you do? Do Tony and Mike and myself give the best to the Genesis albums or what?
NH: I put it to Genesis that the songs on this album were much simpler…
MR: It was definitely a conscious effort to make songs shorter… On Wind & Wuthering we were definitely disappointed that we couldn’t get the EP on time wise, because it would have made a better balance, so we consciously cut down quite a few tracks which could have been anything from fiveminutes to eight minutes long, we kept them down to about five as we felt that the strength of the track came across and there was so much more variety on the album, eleven tracks that is quite a lot for us. It’s so easy for us to elongate things and we enjoy doing that, going off and coming back to themes at the end of a song, that it was quite hard for us to keep some of the songs a bit shorter.
PC: Instrumentaly the album is a lot tighter in terms of there being an instrumnental track or two, but for some reason nothing was written like that for this album. We’ve done some European pres interviews and people have asked if there’s going to be a marked change, and is this what we can expect from Genesis in the future? But this isn’t a precedent for the next album.
MR: The point is that every album has got to have something and nothing else, it can’t contain it all. We have a variety on our albums so that each will have certain aspects but not others, this one just came out the way it was at the time. The next one could easily be an instrumental four boxed set, it’s just that we really don’t have a pattern.
PC: The song is basically (Down & Out) one of the more instrumentally biased songs, it’s complex rhythmically, you can tap your foot through it, but it will come out somewhere else. Lyrically I wrote the words to it, that’s why my name is first. The idea was to have song about an American record company, no names just companies, that are quite prepared to toss you out when you become passe. The chorus is spoken form the artists’ point of view and the verses are from the company’s point of view, basically cut and thrust.
NH: The second track on the album is called Undertow…
MR: it’s a song of Tony’s, he’s got this Yamaha Grand piano which is the first decent amplified acoustic grand and we recorded it just the three of us. I think the guitar, piano and drums. .. And we were thinking of arranging it more, but it sounded so good with the three of us that we kept it simple, we overdubbed a bit more, but the actual basic sound was so good with the piano that we didn’t go to town on it.
PC: We make a big sound actually, the three of us. We rehearsed at Shepperton for about six weeks. We used to go in for rehearsals for much longer and spend a shorter time in the studio whereas now, it is nearly the other way round - we leave more to chance in the studio rather than playing a song to death. If Tony wrote a song on the piano before we got this Yamaha piano it was nearly impossible to get an acoustic sounding track to sound good. So we used to leave those tracks; One For The Vine, Mad Man Moon…tracks like that. But now it’s a bit different, because we have got this acoustic piano which can be amplified and still sounds nice. So I think we spent six or seven weeks really with the tracks that we had written, we rehearsed a couple of times so that we knew the chorus and knew the changes and the rest of the time we tried to put together several group tracks, putting someone’s verse with someone else’s chorus with someone else’s introduction, which we probably didn’t do as much on Wind & Wuthering. We’ve tried to get back to group tracks a bit.
MR: This was obviously a harder album with only the three of us. A lot of things you had to wait and put on some overdubs before you could really tell. The basic tracks on some of the songs that we had to follow through our ideas.
NH: The third track is Ballad of Big…
PC: This is one of the songs that was born out of one man’s verse and another’s chorus and someone else’s intro. It’s a great tune. It’s just a humorous thing about a chap called Big Jim Coolie - it was just a name really, an American Marshal who was challenged in a bar one night to take a herd of cattle over the plains and ended up getting dunn in!
MR: We did it very much in the studio, it sounded fair in the rehearsal room but it clicked when we recorded it.
NH: Another track is called Snowbound…
MR: we tried to make this song a bit different, a verse/chorus romantic acoustic song and the drums were slowed down, if you listen, they have a funny sound. It was an easy one to record, a romantic song about a guy who gets inside a snowman outfit to hide from everybody, he was paranoid, and he gets stuck!
PC: We have never really, apart from perhaps this album, written love songs. We have always shunned away from them for some reason, a subconscious thing. It’s getting to the point now when most of the songs can be taken as love songs - Snowbound for instance is very romantic.
MR: Lyrically this album is a lot easier.
NH: Another track is called Burning Rope…
MR: This one came together in the studio, it’s a piano track, a fairly long track. It’s one with a lot of movements. In rehearsal we couldn’t even play it right! This is the kind of track where Tony built up on a lot of different keyboard sounds. The music track sounded basic.
NH: The next track is Deep In The Motherlode…
MR: A little soft, acoustic ditty, a rhythm we hadn’t done before.
PC: A rock-a-boogie tempo really. That’s one of the things we try to do, take a song which can be played in various ways and we try to pick feels which we haven’t used before, we’ve got a catalogue of rhythms we haven’t used before and this is definitely uncharacteristic of the things we would do.
MR: The reason that we were less worried about the changes than other people is that no one really knew what I did, whether I played a bit of bass guitar or guitar. I’ve never really played lead for years. Apart from lead which is often with us playing a melody that is written, all the other guitar work is soft stuff and the fairly heavy chord stuff is an area I have been doing for a long time. No one really knows, they tend to think - Mike, bass, Steve lead guitar. It worried us because we knew exactly how much work I did.
NH: The next song is called Scenes From A Night’s Dream…
PC: Tony wrote the music and lyrics. We always write then music first and lyrics come after, and a couple of weeks before we were due to go into the studio, we usually panic. Tony wrote some words and we tried it in Holland. We put down a guide vocal of Tony’s lyrics and it didn’t seem to work very well - too many words, so the track was going to be scrapped. In Trident, while mixing, there’s a lot of doing nothing, so rather than do nothing I said I’d finish my lyrics and have a go with that. Last year I bought my brother a book of cartoons about a chap called Little Nemo from the New York Post a round the turn of the century, it was very surreal and psychedelic stuff. Basically every day he would have a dream, you would think it was really happening but in the last frame he would be woken up by his mum because he had been shouting. I said, ‘why not have a bash?’ A bit psychedelic I suppose, a but trippy … There has been a long gap between recording and releasing this album more than ever before and that’s a bad sign in some respects, because you have to live a bit longer before anybody else hears it. On A Trick Of The Tail, as soon as you’d done the tracks and they were mixed and we listened back to it, I wanted to sing it again as I knew I could sing it better.
MR: Basically I am happy, but I could have done a lot more lead playing since then and obviously making an album, you have to turn up your playing, get into practice. I’m a lot superior now, still pretty bad but I have learnt a lot in the making of this album.
PC: Growth as well, the songs with two drummers are already sounding stronger. We’re happy with the album but one feels already before it comes out that the songs have developed a stage further. It’s impossible to cut out the middle stage which is always going to be the recording, we write, rehearse, record and then play it, and that’s why the live album was so good, the versions had a bit of the old songs in them but had developed into new song.