"In The Beginning: There Was Smallcreep" - Mike Rutherford
in conversation with Alan Hewitt about his first two solo albums.
We will begin with your first solo album: Smallcreep's Day. What actually prompted you to start writing solo work?
I think… I'm a bit shaky on what happened then but I think the feeling was that it was about the right time to do it. Steve (Hackett) was a little bit unlucky; he left before the band reached the stage where the band was successful enough for us to take a year or so off and it just felt right to have a break from each other and to do some solo stuff.
Where did you discover the book on which you based the album concept?
I found it in a shop… I just found it and it had a nice story line really.
You divided the album into two halves; why didn't you expand the concept more thoroughly over the entire album?
I think probably, looking back I wish I did actually. Maybe that was the better side, I was also thinking about writing some shorter songs as well and I was worried that a whole concept might be too stodgy... too heavy in a sense.
It was a lot more acoustically based after the last couple of Genesis albums. Did you view that perhaps as almost a return to your roots?
I never really noticed it was actually. I think it wasn't intentional but I suppose the trouble was… looking back, when we started moving away from that with Genesis, and people weren't even talking let alone playing ,and of course that affected me.
You used Anthony Phillips on the album for the keyboard parts. Why did you use him for that rather than for the guitars?
I guess I hadn't planned to use Ant actually but by then he was also a very good keyboard player, and I thought this was something new having Ant on keyboards, and I was looking to try new and different things.
How did you find Noel McCalla as a singer. Was it by recommendation?
The funny thing was with this album; at the time Paul Carrack came down and he was going to be the singer and I am not even sure why he didn't do it. Maybe he was away or something. And Noel came down and he had a wide range of vocal styles and I felt he was right for the job. He had been in a couple of bands but not very well known bands.
The singles… there were two released but only one had a non-album B Side: Compression, were there any other tacks left over from the sessions?
I can’t remember; that's the honest answer. But there might have been.
Were any promotional videos made for either single?
No. No that I know of. I don't think anybody really thought of videos for these.
Your next release: Acting Very Strange came out in 1982 and was a totally different album; heavier and with your own vocals. Why did you decide to take on the vocal duties this time round?
I think it is something you have to do once in your career. Looking back on the album; bits weren't great but probably what made me realise after that album became a struggle was that as a songwriter, if you want the best voice in the world to sing you can get someone in to do it. So, I thought I probably got it out of my system and I did it once and it made me decide I would never do it again.
I can't really sing and with someone who can’t really sing… well you know… it was a bit frustrating. There were nice bits but I think it lacked what I had with The Mechanics later on where someone was co-writing and would say…. "That's nice" or whatever and that would give you direction, but there are some very nice bits on the album.
Did you ever consider the opportunity of touring for that album?
I can't remember. It didn’t do that well and you need an album to do well before you can really consider touring.
What made you change to WEA for this album, that was what surprised many people more so even than your singing?
WEA liked it and that is what you do, you play it to people and see what the reaction is and it was never a question of "I chose them".
Did you have any vocal coaching?
I didn't really. I saw a guy at the time but it's fine to take a reasonably good voice and work on it, but in this case the material wasn't great to start with! (laughs).