"A Trick of the Tail" - BBC Radio One interview with Phil Collins and John Peel broadcast as part of "The John Peel Show" in January/February 1976. Interview transcribed by Mel Horton. Press cuttings from the archive of Peter Gozzard.
JP: We're now going to play you, well I suppose at least two thirds of the new Genesis LP and we've got Phil Collins in the studio to talk about it with us. Before we hear any of the music; any general philosophical points you would like to make about the album and the state of the band...?
PC: Er... well it's the first new thing we've had out for over a year now... The last one was the double "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway" that was out at the end of 1974 so it's the first album for a year and a bit and it's the first one as a four piece really which is the sort of state of the band at the moment. It's a four piece group.
JP: Right. Do you see any major changes through the actual feel of the music before we hear it. I mean do you sense that the whole character of the band has changed in any way...?
PC: Well, I think it will change more visually on stage much more so that it will actually... well it has changed in the studio because we found it very easy working with the four of us in the studio everything was a lot quicker just because there were four mouths instead of five.
JP: Well, I must admit as I said earlier I've never been in the past, a great Genesis buff while appreciating the popularity of the band and the skill that goes into what it has done, but this album I found that I liked it very much when I listened to it last night. Anyway, we'll listen to the first track so listeners can assess a bit of it for themselves. This is called "Dance on a Volcano"...
PC: Jolly good...
JP: Yes, a thing of great beauty. Er well, from the new LP "A Trick of The Tail" this is the new Genesis as a quartet and that's "Dance on a Volcano". You were talking about the band's performance on stage, How are you going to cope with that?
PC: We're going to augment the group effectively for stage work because we couldn't find a singer that we liked. So as you see on the album I did all the singing which is all well and good in the studio, you know; tracking and all that but on stage obviously it's different and I can't really sing from behind a drum kit.
JP: So what are you going to do; find another drummer...?
PC: Yeah, we've got somebody playing while I'm singing although I'm not... I don't want to appear as though I'm abandoning my drum stool because that's really my first thing. So, I'll be playing on the instrumental passages and dashing backwards and forwards. It'll look alright I think.
JP: I think it will. Did you audition a lot of singers or was it just something you tried half-heartedly?
PC: We advertised in the papers for Yes/Genesis types and saw what we came up with and we got a lot of tapes and they were edited and we sorted out a handful of... well, about fifty people in all that we actually saw personally. And we were sort of rehearsing the album as we went along and they used to come down now and again in batches of two or three or four and we just used to have a bash. I used to teach them some of the songs and they'd sing. And we met a lot of nice people; quite a few good singers too but nothing that we really wanted to have in the group.
JP: Yeah, it's generally a fairly depressing business isn't it; auditioning people?
PC: Well yeah, because you never really know who is passing through your hands you know. I mean if we'd auditioned Peter as a singer he probably would have failed you know, because he's a very retiring sort of guy off stage and it's very hard to see the potential when someone is coming into the room where there's a band that's pretty well-known and they're from, like... Burnley or somewhere and they want to get in on it and err... it's very hard to sort of come in on equal terms straight at the beginning
JP: Yeah, because it's like an employer and an employee. Ok, well let's listen to another track from the album and then we'll talk a little bit more after that I think about the sundering of the original Genesis. The track we're going to hear is called "Squonk" and at least one review I've read reckons that the song concerns itself with Peter's leaving the group...?
PC: That is in fact an inaccurate remark. We didn't... well, in fact if you look at the lyrics I suppose there are quite a few things that could be taken both ways. The only conscious thing we did as a sort of little remark at the end of the album; at the end of "Los Endos" it's not on the lyric sheet but it's at the very end of the fade... there's a couple of quotes from "Supper's Ready" which is one of our sort of more well-known tunes. And we put a couple of lines in: "There's angel standing in the sun/Free to get back home" which was sort of a reference to him. But the other songs are... there was no real intention of little digs and all that. The song is in fact, just a regular story about a little animal.
JP: Well, people have never seen your kind of side of the story of the break up. Do you want to discuss it? I don't know if that's the sort of thing which is worth discussing or whether we should just listen to another track from the new album...?
PC: Well, suffice it to say; there was no animosity in the split. The other day myself and Mike and Peter were working on some demos for Peter you know, for his next thing so there's certainly no bad vibe there at all.
JP: What was it exactly that he didn't like doing; was it touring...?
PC: I don't think it was anything like that really. I think he wanted to get back more into writing and less performing. We did prior to him leaving the group actually officially leaving the group; we were working seven months on the road promoting "The Lamb lies Down On Broadway" in Europe and America and it took a lot of energy out of everybody and I think he'd just had a baby; well his wife had just had a baby! And it seemed more sense to try and concentrate more on the writing. Of course, he could probably come back and say 'that's not entirely true' but that's the gist of it.
JP: Because the road work is not nearly as romantic as people imagine...
PC: Not really, no. well, I mean especially we have our families travelling with us you know. Travelling that much you come across, once a week maybe, a dice with death either on the road or in an aeroplane and it just makes you think: well it's not really worth that kind of hassle.
JP: What are the band going to be doing in the immediate future?
PC: Well, towards the end of March we're off to America for a brief rehearsal out there and then we start touring on 1st April and we're going out there first primarily because we haven't been out there since January of last year and they're the country that's seen us the least in the last year or so. We're gonna start off there and then hopefully come and do a European tour which will include England in July or August and that'll be the first time you know, for this band.
JP: Yes, so that'll be the first time we've had a chance to see you for a couple of years almost; well, a year and a half...
PC: Well, we played Wembley last May which is best forgotten really you know, it was probably the worst gig we did in England because that place... it was just very disappointing. I built it up to be a great gig and when it turned out it was a bit of a wish-wash. So we're going to go back into a theatre for four or five nights next time.
JP: Good, that's nice. I prefer that actually, that kind of...
PC: We come across better in a theatre.
JP: This next track is also going to be... it's the title track of the LP and it's also going to be the single...?
PC: Yeah, it should be out in March I think. We've made a couple of films as well. There was one for "Robbery Assault and Battery" and err... we're making a cartoon for "A Trick of the Tail" so maybe that will surface at some point...
JP: Is that hopefully to be shown on television.. I mean, unlike...?
PC: We've done one for "Ripples" which was another contender for a single. We've done the three films because obviously we'd like to get the television exposure but we've never been satisfied with the way we've been treated on television both in Europe and America.
JP: That's a fairly commonplace complaint actually...
PC: I mean, some bands say go into maybe a Whistle Test studio and just play live but we sort of like to think that we will come over better.
JP: Are there any other little projects that you yourself are getting involved with outside of the band?
PC: Yeah because we spend a lot of time, well an equal amount of time on and off the road at the moment because it's a six month period like; when we might not be working and I play in another group: which is a kind of free jazz thing called Brand X and we're doing some dates this weekend in fact; up North. And that sort of takes care of my frustrations because you know; Genesis aren't really that kind of band, and I've got... I'm very happy playing different types of music.
JP: Because obviously the Genesis things are all fairly tightly arranged so there's not a lot of room...?
PC: And it's kind of songs too; like arranged songs whereas with the Brand X thing it's more blowing off the top of your head and I also do sessions and things. I work as much as I can because people ring me up and say 'can you do this?' and I can't really... I haven't the guts to say 'No'.
JP: Do you find that when you go off and do gigs as Brand X that people come along expecting to see something in the Genesis mould...?
PC: A few people have, yeah. Some people have come along and said they didn't like Genesis but they like Brand X. I mean, the two don't cross, I suppose the people who like what I do with Genesis specifically the drummers or the actual musical side rather than the visual side, those kind of fans would probably like Brand X. It's not that "Far Out" as it were; it's quite easy to understand.
JP: Who else is in the band with you?
PC: Well, there's Rob Lumley who wrote "Peter and the Wolf" and Percy Jones who used to be in "The Liverpool Scene" he's fantastic; he plays fretless bass and there's a guitarist called John Goodsall who was in "Atomic Rooster" for a while but basically everybody has been doing sessions and that is how we came together via "Peter and the Wolf" really. That was the first time we worked together.
And that brings this extremely interesting interview to a close. It is interesting to hear Phil's comments about venues (some things never change and Wembley Arena is still a dump!) and his comments on Peter's departure also make interesting reading especially given recent developments within the Genesis camp.