“In conversation” - Genesis interviwed by Chris Tarrant on GLR Radio on 1st January 1992 (pt1)
INT: It’s going to be quite a year for Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks. They’re celebrating the success of the biggest selling Genesis album ever. We Can’t Dance went double platinum within six weeks of going on sale, selling more than 600,000 copies! This summer they will playing their first live dates on their first tour in five years. The solo members have all pursued successful solo projects but they always come back to Genesis - why?
P C: We all see each other pretty regularly. We all live pretty close to each other near to our studio and we meet and discuss the studio and other things that need to be talked about, so it’s not as if we saw each other on 4th July at Wembley and said “See you guys around… maybe”. We’ve stayed in touch and we wanted to do another album. Maybe a little earlier than this maybe in 1990 but we have all been doing outside projects, none of us has been hanging around. It just happened to be March 1991 before we all got into the studio to start writing.
INT: Do you feel the need to be Genesis anymore? Your solo careers are all so well do you still feel the need to be together as three guys?
M R: The fact that we do it says that we want to do it really. The question is almost the answer because there’s enough going solo wise for us not to do it. I think there’s something we get out of Genesis that we don’t get on our own.
T B: We came in with a blank sheet of paper, that’s how we do it and we really just start improvising. It can happen lots of different ways. The songs all sort of emerge at the same time really over a period of two months and at the end of the first week we might have a few bars here and there that we know will grow into something. Some of the work after that… you’ve just got to work at it.
INT: How many songs on the new album are sort of personal to you?
P C: Not many, we’ve already gone into the way we write and most songs come out of jams around the material.
INT: Do you have any preconceived ideas of how you want an album to go? This time the lyrics seem a lot harder.
M R: We start with the music first of all and on that level we don’t have any ideas and I think it’s good that we don’t. I think that people don’t imagine as Tony said, it’s completely free like trying to write improvised film music. The good bits come out of it.
INT: Over the last five years, certainly for you, Phil, now possibly the most famous man in the world - is that hard for you Mike and Tony for you to relate to Phil as just part of Genesis now?
T B: I don’t think that people realise. I mean if you met him for the first time today, you’d probably think “Christ, this is Phil the star” but we’ve known him for too long - we’re not in awe or anything, he’s just a friend. Nothing has really changed at all. The thing that has changed over the years is that Phil has got more self confident as a writer. He didn’t contribute that much to the writing because he didn’t believe he could and obviously later times have taught us that he can. But from everything else it makes no difference.
INT: What was he like when he first appeared - little Phil Collins with his drum kit?
M R: Pretty confident then in fact. We had four or five guys down to Peter Gabriel’s house and he was listening to all the mistakes that they were making and I think as a drummer he came across. I think that they have to because they give that edge to the band - he fooled us!
P C: I always felt that the drummer was the engine room of the group and any group was as good as its drummer which I still believe to be true. You can have a good band with a lousy drummer and it doesn’t sound as good as a lousy group with a good drummer. When I started singing I said; “look, I’m not very good at this”. The physical aspect of singing is not a problem for me although I will get better I was thrown in at the deep end with a band that was very well know all over the world and fortunately because I came from within the band, fans accepted me. If I had come from outside then I probably would have had a hard time but I have got better and now the bum wiggling is at a pretty negligible state really.
INT: I am going to ask you a bit about Peter Gabriel who left in 1975 after The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. The split was fairly amicable and the album was a mega concept album which sums up what Peter seemed to be about and some of his stage costumes are almost legendary. Things must have been very strange - how do you look back on those days?
M R: It’s funny you can leave it behind, but in this business you can’t, you still see pictures of Peter in the fox’s head. I’m sure he has a chuckle too. Some of the things in context worked very well, they were very theatrical and he carried it off. Other things, you tend to forget, those and remember the odd moments - Peter being lifted up in a white sparkly suit at the end of the set at the Drury Lane Theatre for the grand finale …. Facing the wrong way (laughter) and his legs sort of kicking… you can always remember the bits where it goes wrong.
INT: What are Genesis fans like? I mean do you have an image of who’s out there?
P C: They change, you know the caricature of the old Genesis fan was the fishing hat and the coat and the albums under the arm saying; “Can I have an autograph, Phil?” We used to appeal to a very male album collecting type of audience. Now our audience has definitely widened - kids that are very young have found and got turned on by the music, obviously their parents or… I don’t know how they’ve come across it, because God knows we didn’t get that much play on the radio. Then there are older fans who have stuck with us, so a cross section at the gig would be quite wide.
INT: It was Italy really that was the first place to take to Genesis, wasn’t it?
M R: Italy and Belgium. Our first foreign trip was to Belgium and having just been there everyone we meet was at that first gig.
T B: It was a club that only held 25 people!
M R: I’ve met thousands who were at that first gig (laughter). The Italians were a big help to us in the early days, there wasn’t much here and the reaction in Italy kept us going.
T B: Well before we’d done anything we were still playing in clubs and dances for the likes of GKN Screws and things to an audience that didn’t want to hear us at all and then we would go to Italy and play Rome to an audience of twenty thousand people - it was incredible. Very peculiar for us - a different world. It gives you confidence - if you can do it there then there’s a chance you can do it anywhere.
INT: Do you ever think back to the Charterhouse days and wonder how it all happened?
T B: Yes, in those days the last thing was… I had a dream of being in a rock band when I was at school and I loved music and writing music but coming from the kind of background that we came from it was virtually unheard of.
INT: You are going back on the road this summer for the first time since the 1987 tour. That was incredibly successful, it was enormous, it was the biggest earner in the US that year. You went to 59 cities, 16 countries with three million fans coming to see you. You all admitted at the time it was incredibly gruelling and the last five years have been very successful for you. Why do you want to put yourselves through it again and how long are you going to do?
M R: We are rehearsing in March and then start the tour in May and at the moment we are going until the beginning of August and we have put a question mark around doing some English theatre dates after that.
T B: We want to do a tour for a week and then our manager wants us to do one for a year so we compromise and do one for about four months. We want this time around instead of flogging ourselves into the ground to try and keep it to the level where we are still interested and excited when we do the last gig and we feel by keeping it down a bit we will do that.
INT: You’re not going to do night after night are you? You are going to have big breaks?
P C: Night after night after night and then a break. I mean, four shows on the run is about all my voice can take nowadays. It will for some reason last that long and some people say that’s a long time anyway. When we start we’ll just keep going. It’ll be big shows though; stadiums which is what we why we would like to do although we are not committing ourselves… we would like to think about doing a theatre tour because that’s what we would like to do but of course, you can’t do that otherwise you are going to have to be on the road for two or three years at a time to fulfill the demand for tickets. People want to see you at the big place, and they’ll be the first people to complain if they couldn’t get tickets for the small place and so you’ve got to do and that means play these big shows and try to make it work as a show and if what we’ve got planned comes off, then the shows will look very different to anyone else’s.
INT: The feeling that comes from the three of you is that you do what you do because you still genuinely love what you do?
M R: What has made it hard for us over the years is the balance of actual recording and writing and touring and the promotion side - things have grown a lot. We have to try and find a balance between what they want us to do and what WE want to do.
And there we take a break from this interesting interview - look out for part
two next time. Special thanks to Vernon Parker for sending in the recording
of this interview