"Taking the M6 to Manchester" - In conversation with Mike Rutherford about the new Mike & The Mechanics album. Interview conducted by Alan Hewitt at the Apollo Theatre Manchester, Friday, May 14, 1999. Photographs by Esther Jameson and Jill Walker.

AH: So, Mike, another album and tour. Can you tell us a little bit about it? When did you start to put it together?

MR: After the "Hits" tour in 1996 we had a period away from The Mechanics because of the new Genesis project and so we managed to get it done quite quickly, over a three month period between December 1998 and March of this year. During the final couple of weeks, I was working up to twenty hours a day to get it finished!

AH: Unfortunately, Mike we haven't heard the album yet, so can you tell us a bit about some of the tracks...?

MR: Sure. "Whenever I Stop" which is the first track on the album was also the first one to be written and I think this time round we have gone for more of the guitar element on this album. "Now That You've Gone" which is the first single...

AH: I have heard that and tome it sounds like Everything But The Girl's "Miss You"...

MR: Oh, really? I like that track and I suppose you could say it is our attempt at a dance track.

AH: Do you select the singles or are they selected by the record company, and will there be more than one from this album?

MR: I should think so. We have a say but I don't know what a single is anymore, and The Mechanics don't sell that many singles; that's not what this band is about. "Ordinary Girl" is a rather Beatle-y number which Paul Carrack and Paul Young had a hand in writing. "All The Light I Need" was one I co-wrote with B.A. Robertson.

AH: Having heard that in concert on Monday, that one struck me almost as a latter-day "Living Years", is there any particular story attached to that one?

MR: No, not really. It is more actually in the mould of "A Beggar On A Beach Of Gold" really, you know. We never know what we have got until we lose it.

AH: I gather that there are a few producers involved on this album. Why so many?

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Mike enjoys a comfy sofa at the Apollo

MR: Well, it's not actually that many. Brian Rawling, who produced Cher's latest single, Believe, produced "Now That You've Gone", and Nick Davis produced a few because he is always at the studio and he does such a good job. And I produced a few with Nick. Nick is a pleasure to work with because he is good on guitars, and drums, you know?

AH: Have both Pauls been more involved with the song writing this time round and do you think this helps to give the group more of a 'Band' feel?

MR: Yes, Paul Carrack has written a great deal on this album and Paul Young has done some writing as well as B.A. Robertson and Chris Neil, so it does feel very much like a band.

AH: There's a new face in the band this time, where did you find Jamie?

MR: I had played with Jamie at a couple of charity gigs we did down at the Chidd Club (Chiddingfold Working Men's Club) and he was in the SAS Band and he does a great job. I have no problems with Tim (Renwick) in fact, we are still good friends... I hope we are, but it was great to bring in some fresh blood if you like.

AH: Tell us about a couple more tracks on the album...

MR: What's the fourth track? Oh... "Open Up", that's a nice track, written with Paul Carrack. It has got a nice energy although I find that funnily enough it is already sounding better live than it did in the studio, and it is now four minutes longer; you know it a sort of twelve-string-y jangly driving sort of thing and a quite interesting instrumental as well. This programmer, Jamie... he fills more of the keyboard gaps a little bit more with weird sounds and stuff, and in fact, Nick Davis wanted to give him a credit an din fact he split his royalty with him on "Open Up". "Listen To Your Heart" was another one he played quite a big part in as well. In all there were eighteen tracks although not all of them were finished tracks.

AH: Why no European shows?

MR: Well, we normally do the festivals, but this year the festivals have gone a bit "younger"; they have gone for the young bill of The Manic Street Preachers, Placebo and that sort of band and we are a bit cold. It is always hard coming back to The Mechanics. It is always a bit cold until they hear some music and trying to pre-sell The Mechanics is impossible until they hear some music and they go "Oh, yeah" and attitudes change.

AH: Having said that, it seems to be exactly the same problem that you had especially in the States with Genesis last time round... which brings us back to the 'other' band. Are there any plans in the pipeline at the moment for Genesis?

MR: Yeah, we are intending to do it, but we never fix a date really. We said September but I am not sure if it is going to happen. You canít tell how long a Mechanics album will last - it might be over in a couple of months, or it might run on a bit, you just donít know, and so it is kind of hard to fix a date, and Ray is on tour now I think in Germany. We have always been a bit loose about dates because we go with the flow a bit and things have their own life, and you canít make them longer or shorter than they are going to be really... They are mixing that "Carpet Crawlers" thing, Trevor Horn is mixing it...

AH: Is that going to be included on the "Greatest Hits" package...?

MR: I would think so, it is sounding... it got so much better than it was a year ago! (laughter) Peter has done some re-singing and now we have got Phil to sing the third verse and it sounds great actually, and to have the two voices side by side works really well. Phil sings the high verse; it's different but there is no point in doing the same version again...